Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The IMF Is Coming for Your Social Security

The Attack of the Real Black Helicopter Gang: The IMF Is Coming for Your Social Security

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A few years back, there was a fear in some parts about black UN helicopters that were supposedly taking part in the planning of an invasion of the United States. While there was no foundation for this fear, there is basis for concern about the attack of another international organization, the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Last week, the IMF told the United States that it needs to start getting its budget deficit down. It put cutting Social Security at the top of the steps that the country should take to achieve deficit reduction. This one is more than a bit outrageous for two reasons.

First, the IMF deserves a substantial share of the blame for the economic crisis that gave us big deficits in the first place. The IMF is supposed to oversee the operations of the international financial system. According to standard economic theory, capital is supposed to flow from rich countries like the United States to poor countries to finance their development. In other words, the United States should be having a trade surplus, which would correspond to the money that we are investing in poor countries to finance their development.

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However, the IMF messed up its management of financial crises so badly in the last 15 years that poor countries decided that they had to accumulate huge amounts of currency reserves in order to avoid ever being forced to deal with the IMF. This meant that capital was flowing in huge amounts in the wrong direction. One result of this reverse flow was that the United States ran a huge trade deficit instead of a trade surplus.

The trade deficit in the United States was a big part of the story of the housing bubble. The trade deficit cost millions of workers their jobs. This was one of the main reasons that economy was so weak coming out of the 2001 recession. This weakness led the Fed to keep interest rates at 50-year lows, until the growth of the housing bubble eventually began to generate jobs in the fall of 2003.

The IMF both bears much of the blame for the imbalances in the world economy and then for failing to clearly sound the alarms about the dangers of the bubble. While the IMF has no problem warning about retired workers getting too much in Social Security benefits, it apparently could not find its voice when the issue was the junk securities from Goldman Sachs or Citigroup that helped to fuel the housing bubble.

The collapse of this bubble has not only sank the world economy, it also destroyed most of the savings of the near retirees for whom the IMF wants to cut Social Security. The vast majority of middle-income retirees have most of their wealth in their home equity. This home equity largely disappeared when the bubble burst. Maybe the IMF doesn't have access to house price series and data on wealth, because if they did, it's hard to believe that they would advocate further harm to some of the main victims of their policy failure.

The other reason that the IMF's call for cutting Social Security benefits is infuriating is the incredible hypocrisy involved. The average Social Security benefit is just under $1,200 a month. No one can collect benefits until they reach the age of 62. By contrast, many IMF economists first qualify for benefits in their early 50s. They can begin drawing pensions at age 51 or 52 of more than $100,000 a year.

This means that we have IMF economists, who failed disastrously at their jobs, who can draw six-figure pensions at age 52, telling ordinary workers that they have to take a cut in their $14,000 a year Social Security benefits that they can't start getting until age 62. Now that is real black helicopter material.

Wealthy Reap Rewards While Those Who Work Lose

Wealthy Reap Rewards While Those Who Work Lose

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Boston - Times are tough for workers in the U.S. where a recession has a stranglehold on much of the economy, but life is perfectly rosy for those at the top.

The riches of the wealthiest North Americans grew by double digits in 2009, primarily from interest their money earned when it was invested in the stock market and elsewhere, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group.

Millionaires in the U.S. and Canada saw their wealth increase 15 percent in 2009, to a total of 4.6 trillion dollars, the report found.

Worldwide, 11 million - or less than 1 percent of all households - were millionaires in 2009. They owned about 38 percent of the world's wealth or 111 trillion dollars, up from about 36 percent in 2008, according to Boston Consulting Group.

About 4.7 million millionaires live in the U.S., four percent of the population and more than anywhere else in the world. Japan, China, Britain and Germany followed the U.S. in the number of millionaires.

Their fortune is a stark contrast to the lives of more than 15 million people in the U.S. who are unemployed and searching for work, and the eight million more who are just getting by with a part-time job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than two million more people were working prior to the recession but have now dropped out of the labour force.

Apart from the newly unemployed, about 39 million people in the U.S. are chronically poor and do not have enough food to eat, according to the U.S. Census and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"The nation's jobs crisis is so catastrophic that, unless Congress acts on the scale of the New Deal, millions of Americans will experience extremely long periods of unemployment for many years ahead," Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, told a panel of the Committee on Ways and Means recently.

Not so for millionaires and the uber-rich.

The uber-rich, those with more than 30 million dollars, are on the rebound. They spent more money in 2009 on fancy cars, yachts and jets compared to 2008, according to a study by Merrill Lynch-Capgemini. They bought fine art, expensive jewelry, gems and antiques, items that are likely to increase in value over time, so they can sell them later and make more money.

The recession isn't hitting those at the top as it has workers. In fact, many wealthy people benefited from the stock market's ups and downs, said Mike Lapham, director of the Responsible Wealth Project at United for a Fair Economy, an NGO in Boston.

"Folks at the top have a cushion, a disposable income to fall back on. Maybe their portfolios took a hit but they didn't lose their jobs and their homes. If they had losses, they can deduct them from their taxes," Lapham told IPS.

"Some people bet successfully on the financial system going under," he said. "The stock market went from 10,000 to 6,000 and back to 11,000. That's a big jump for people with significant portfolios."

"The people at bottom who've lost work, it'll be years before they get back to where they were before the crash," Lapham said.

The U.S. average national unemployment rate is 9.7 percent. Only those who are actively looking for work are included in this statistic. Among Black Americans, the rate is 15.5 percent and Latinos, 12.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that unemployment will remain almost unchanged in 2011, about 9.5 percent.

Many families have been surviving on small, weekly unemployment checks provided for 26 weeks by their state government, and an additional 73 weeks by the federal government. The first group of unemployed to run through both benefits hit that point Jul. 1, and today about a million people are receiving no assistance at all. About nine million more are still receiving unemployment payments.

Congress is considering extending federal assistance for another 20 weeks. The House approved the legislation, but the Senate did not. Congress left town for its holiday break until mid-July without passing the legislation.

In the Senate the issue fell almost precisely along party lines, with all but one Democrat for extending the benefit, and all but two Republicans against it, saying the 34- billion-dollar cost was not worth adding to the federal deficit.

Without the vote of Democratic Senator Ben Nelson, of Nebraska, the bill was one vote short of the 60 needed for passage.

"I think we're going to see a new wave of heartache here in Rhode Island," with the end of the federal assistance, Kate Brewster, executive director of the Poverty Institute, a Rhode Island NGO, told IPS.

The small, northeastern U.S. state, a former manufacturing centre whose jobs moved offshore, has struggled with higher unemployment and low-wage jobs for years. Most recently, it was hard hit by the foreclosure crisis and the downturn in the construction industry.

The ongoing unemployment and low jobs creation nationwide is helping to fuel the millions of foreclosures sweeping across the nation, according to a report by the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies.

The nation's anemic jobs creation, high foreclosures and weak consumer spending has convinced Mishel and many economists that the U.S. is in for an extended downturn. Just 83,000 jobs were created in June, instead of the 150,000 needed for robust employment, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

"The United States is undergoing the worst economic downturn in 70 years, and the damage and suffering it is causing will last many years beyond the official end of the recession," Mishel said.

Rhode Island's future is uncertain.

"We've consistently had one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country," Brewster said. Today, in the midst of the recession, more people are showing up at soup kitchens for free meals and dialing in to a toll-free, crisis phone service for families in dire circumstances, she said.

"They've had an enormous influx of calls in the past 18 to 21 months," she said. Fewer services are available to help them.

"Within last five years the state cut back work support programmes like child care assistance and funded health insurance," Brewster said. "The cruel irony is that when families really need help, less is available."

US and Israel Quietly Announce Plans to Reconstitute Their Nuclear Stockpiles

Threatening World Order: US and Israel Quietly Announce Plans to Reconstitute Their Nuclear Stockpiles

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The world looks like it's about to become a more dangerous place. A recent report from Israel's newspaper Haaretz finds that the United States is moving forward with plans to strengthen Israel's nuclear weapons stockpile. The report, exposed within the last few days, originated from Israel's Army Radio, which sent along a secret document chronicling the nuclear cooperation between US and Israeli leaders.(1) Israel has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), meaning that it is not technically violating international rules under the NPT regarding the development and reconstitution of nuclear weapons, despite longstanding efforts of the international community to establish a "nuclear weapons free zone" in the Middle East.

Part of the fear of those advocating nuclear abolition in the Middle East is that the United States will agree to send nuclear materials - extracted from its own civilian nuclear power plants - to Israel, much as it did for India, another country that refuses to sign the NPT.

The Obama and Netanyahu governments are seeking to obscure their contempt for nuclear abolition by calling for "nonproliferation" in the Middle East, while Israel simultaneously boycotts New-York-based discussions (at the 2010 NPT conference) of the need for a "nuclear free" Middle East.(2) "Nonproliferation," within this context, can be understood to apply only to other countries such as Iran, which has long been a target for US and Israeli military planners.

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The Obama and Netanyahu governments recently announced that they will oppose efforts at singling Israel out in any "nuclear weapons free" Middle East discussion. The problem with this announcement is that Israel is the only country in the Middle East to currently have nuclear weapons. In light of this fact, any attempts to shield Israel from being "singled out" will inevitably prevent progress in moving toward nuclear disarmament in the region.

Much is made of Iran's alleged efforts to develop nuclear weapons by Israel and the United States. This propaganda campaign appears to be paying off in light of Iran's recent announcement of its planned opening this September of a nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.(3) US and Israeli officials maintain that Iran is enriching uranium under the auspices of a civilian nuclear program, while secretly using its uranium stockpile to develop nuclear weapons. Those who make such claims are at a loss to explain why the International Atomic Energy Agency - in addition to the US National Intelligence Estimate - found no evidence of nuclear weapons development in Iran, despite countless inspections by international observers.(4) Those claiming that Iran is a threat are also unable to explain why inspectors are unable to uncover any evidence that Iran is producing highly-enriched uranium (of a quality suitable to develop a nuclear weapon), but instead only produces low-enriched uranium suitable for use in nuclear power plants.(5)

Despite the critical evidence above, the US-Israeli propaganda campaign is succeeding in obscuring Israel's and the United States' own open contempt for nuclear disarmament. It should be remembered that the US openly violated the NPT late last year when it announced it would extract plutonium from its own nuclear reactors in order to create a new generation of nuclear weapons (for more see the original news report here).

According to Fox News polling, as recently as April 2010, 65 percent of Americans support "the United States taking military action to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons."(6) This represents a four percent increase since September 2009. As of late 2009, CNN polling found that an astounding 88 percent of Americans believed that Iran is developing nuclear weapons - a 27 percent increase since December 2007.(7) Similarly, a poll from the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University found that 81 percent of Iranians believed Iran will develop a nuclear bomb, according to polling done in mid 2009.(8)

Recent revelations that Israel is moving forward with US help in reconstituting its nuclear weapons program are ignored in the US press. At the same time, the United States' own efforts to redevelop its nuclear stockpile are completely suppressed, despite the obsession of both the United States and Israel with Iran's fictitious nuclear weapons. The Obama administration and the mass media are now promoting a false narrative depicting the US as committed to nuclear transparency and disarmament, and its enemies as opposed to such practices. Nowhere is this strategy more evident than in the Obama administration's continuous attacks on Iran's "nuclear threat," pursued alongside Obama's announcement of a new commitment to "nuclear transparency." More specifically, the Obama administration publicly disclosed the (previously classified) total number of operational US nuclear warheads in existence today - which stands at just over 5,000.(9) While this step was a move in the right direction in terms of drawing attention to the United States' massive stockpile, it was cynically pursued alongside a quiet announcement by the Department of Energy (originally made in September 2009) that the US is moving forward with developing a new generation of nuclear weapons, rather than working toward nuclear disarmament as legally required under the NPT.(10)

The Obama administration makes Orwellian claims that it is moving toward disarmament - when in fact it's doing the opposite by reconstituting its aging arsenal. At the same time, Obama demonizes foreign nations such as Iran, which international inspectors and US intelligence agencies concede is not developing nuclear weapons (at least according to all available intelligence).

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced, following the administration's report on the US nuclear stockpile, "We think it is in our national security interest to be transparent as we can be about the nuclear program of the United States ... the important part is that the US is no longer going to keep other countries in the dark."(11) Such statements are disingenuous at best when the US decides to redevelop its aging weapons, while any discussion of this is omitted in media and political discourse. Instead, readers are subject to reporting from The Associated Press that frames the Obama administration as "serious about stopping the spread of atomic weapons and reducing their numbers."(12)

US attention to Iran's nonexistent nuclear weapons program is all the rage in the US media. According to a comprehensive search of the Lexis Nexis database, the words "Iran" and "nuclear weapons" appeared in nearly 1,000 stories across The New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox and MSNBC from January through June 2010. In contrast, the United States' own openly declared "Complex Modernization" program - in which the US allocated $55 billion to extracting plutonium pits and enriched uranium from existing nuclear power plants to place in new nuclear warheads(13) - received not a single mention in any of the above media outlets from September 2009 when the plan was first announced, through June 2010, shortly following Obama's announcement of his renewed commitment to nuclear "transparency" and "disarmament."

It is disturbing that the US plan for nuclear weapons production is completely censored from public discourse. Obama promised to "seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." The Department of Energy's plans clearly violate this promise, and run counter to US obligations under the NPT to pursue US nuclear disarmament, rather than rearmament. It is no surprise that the US media establishment is ignoring this story, considering that American journalists are heavily reliant on official sources to write their stories and since journalists see US foreign policy as benevolent and humanitarian in intent. By ignoring the United States' contempt for nonproliferation, the mass media is guaranteeing that Americans will remain ignorant of the United States' brazen commitment to power politics at the expense of global security and stability.

Footnotes:

1. Barak Ravid and Reuters, "Report: Secret Document Affirms US Israeli Nuclear Partnership," Haaretz, 8 July 2010.
2. Mark Weiss, "Israel to Boycott Nuclear Free Middle East Plan," Irish Times, 31 May 2010,
3. DPA, "Iran Says Bushehr Nuclear Plant to be Ready by September," Haaretz, 7 July 2010.
4. Sylvia Westall, "No Sign Iran Seeks Nuclear Arms: New IAEA Head," Reuters, 3 July 2009.; Mark Mazzetti, "US Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work," New York Times, 3 December 2007.
5. BBC, "Iran Claims Higher Enriched Uranium Production," BBC, 24 June 2010.
6. For the figures provided on public opinion of Iran, see the poll aggregator, Polling Report.
7. Ibid.
8. Djallal Malti, "Israel Keeps Anxious Eye on Iran Turmoil," Agence France Presse, 24 June 2009.
9. Associated Press, "US Releases Details of Nuclear Weapons Inventory," Foxnews.com, 3 May 2010.
10. Matthew Cardinale, "US Nukes Agency Pushes New Bomb Production," Truthout/Inter Press Service, 30 September 2009.
11. Associated Press, "US Releases Details of Nuclear Weapons Inventory," Foxnews.com, 3 May 2010.
12. Ibid.
13. Matthew Cardinale, "US Nukes Agency Pushes New Bomb Production," Truthout/Inter Press Service, 30 September 2009.

The Militarization of the Gulf Oil Disaster

The Militarization of the Gulf Oil Disaster

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In the Gulf, the forever spill has become the forever war. A calamity of untold magnitude is unfolding and, alongside it, a strange militarization has emerged, as the language for managing the crisis becomes the language of war.

War-talk is firing from the mouths of local officials, TV pundits, the Coast Guard and journalists. Campaigning frantically to protect Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal urges the TV cameras: “We need to see that this is a war….a war to save Louisiana…a war to protect our way of life.” Billy Nungesser, indefatigable President of the Plaquemines Parish, implores anyone who will listen: “We will fight this war….We will persevere to win this war.” For Ragin Cajun, Democratic strategist, James Carville: “This is literally a war... this is an invasion…We need to hear someone say ‘We’ll fight them on the beaches.’” Retired Gen. Russell Honore, who oversaw the Katrina debacle, insists: “We need to act like this is World War 111. Treat this like it’s an invasion...equal to what we decided about terrorists. We’ve got to find the oil and kill it.”

This is truly strange talk, this talk of war and killing oil. Even President Obama tried to fire up the nation by invoking 9/11, couching the spill as an invasion, a siege, an attack by terrorists. The militarization of the disaster has become the invisible norm, so much so that it is hard to see how misplaced and dangerous the analogy to war actually is.

Visit the BP site (one of the more surreal Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass internet experiences) and you will see the word “kill”--BP’s favored, faux-techno buzzword--appearing with ritualistic incantation. Kill the well, kill the leak, kill the oil, which morphs into “kill mud” (the mud that will kill the leak) and “kill lines” (the lines that follow the pipes to kill the leak). All this kill-talk has a jaunty, we-know-what-we-are-doing tone, but accumulatively it borders on the bizarre, culminating in the “junk shot”--the slurry of car tires and golf-balls that BP fired at the leak to ‘kill’ it--as if, by throwing enough sacrificial detritus of our oil-soaked leisure activities into the maw of the oil-god, we could stop it spewing death.

There is a lot of verbal killing going on here, and indeed the Gulf does seem to be bleeding: a vast, streaky, orange-red smear stretching to the horizon. Seventy days and counting, and the oil eruption gushes unstoppably past 100,000 barrels (BP’s secret, original estimation), past 400,000 barrels and up…We haven’t a clue how much, really. In this, our summer of magical counting.

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer gazes at the grey Louisiana horizon and declares: “It looks like a military campaign…heavy lift helicoptors taking sand to the frontlines of the battle against the oil.” I do look, but it doesn’t look like a military campaign to me. Certainly, a few Blackhawk and Chinook helicoptors drop sandbags into a filthy, yellow-brown sea overflown by a few hapless gulls, but a war front it really isn’t. This is, in fact, as unlike a war front as one can imagine. The Louisiana marshes lap quietly with brown ooze; solitary birds heave and flail in the middle of nowhere under the oil’s slow embrace; dolphins gape open-mouthed on beaches; a dead whale washes ashore. No, this is not a war. Only a tremendous failure of the imagination can see this as a war.

So why are people calling the calamity a war and why does it matter that they do?

Calling the oil the ‘enemy’ helps us not to question who was culpable in the first place. Calling the response ‘a battle front’ helps us not ask who, other than the military, should be in charge. Calling the spill an ‘invasion’ helps us not to see that our global culture of militarization is what got us into the mess in the first place. Calling the spill a ‘war’ only fuels the pervasive militarization that produced the crisis in the first place. And calling the oil the enemy helps us not
admit how much we, the consumers, having awakened the oil from its ancient slumber to fuel our gas-greedy lives, are the most complicit of all.

A fateful circularity takes shape as the spill is managed in the same terms that produced the spill: that of war. Most critically, militarizing the environmental catastrophe as a war becomes a cover-up for not seeing the environmental catastrophe of war.

An unsettling verbal alchemy is at work in all this military talk. “Jindal has declared war!” cries the Florida Pundit. But on whom has Governor Jindal declared war? The murderously irresponsible BP? The Obama government for failing, really, to do anything? The increasingly invisible, but culpable Halliburton? (Wherever there is Halliburton, there is pain). The Sunday Herald, for one, pleaded with Congress not to blame BP: “The oil is the enemy,” it urged, “not each other.” Admiral Thad Allen described the oil as “an insidious enemy that keeps attacking in different places.”

Viewed through the prism of war, oil and nature are seen as the enemy, for they have erupted beyond our control. Adopting a warlike stance toward nature is not new. A long-established figure of conquering the wilderness is ready to hand to justify our rapacious assault on the life-forms around us. Drill, baby, drill. Then, when it all goes horrendously wrong: kill, baby, kill.

And if all this seems merely metaphoric, there is Rush Limbaugh to rely on, for whom the doomed rig explosion was not just a metaphor, but an actual act of war. Limbaugh saysthe rig was probably attacked by “a foreign government,” with culprits ranging from “Muslim terrorists to the Red Chinese, Venezuela and beyond.” Michael Savage began simultaneously peddling the same story, but with North Korea behind the ‘attack.’ Cherry-pick your terrorist of choice; no matter, it is war.

The war talk of Limbaugh, Savage & Co would be laughable if it didn’t converge with the broader militarization of the spill. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) is calling for the actual military to take charge. But what part of the military’s mission and expertise, I wonder, leads Nelson to believe that the army could stop the oil billowing from the ocean bed, let alone take charge of the massive response? Do we actually have the military hardware to stave off this thing in the first place? Sure we do. We can send in a Predator Drone, point the Oil Vaporizing Missile at the leak, hit the “If-we-dream-hard-enough” button and…hotdamn. Thing works like a charm.

A painful irony is obvious: we can’t send in the army because it is already overstretched by fighting two ruinous wars abroad, both wars fought precisely to secure the dwindling oil we need to lubricate our profligate lifestyles and keep our global military mobile. But the military can barely manage these wars abroad, let alone cope with environmental catastrophes back home, stretched so thin as it is that, according to the Veterans Association, returning soldiers from all US wars have post-traumatic stress so severe they commit suicide at the harrowing rate of eighteen a day.

Couching the catastrophe in the language of war conceals the political void at the heart of the clean-up. The administration’s systematic failure to regulate BP, Halliburton et al before the explosion is matched only by its stunning impotence after the explosion. We’re into the second month and Nungesser is still begging to know who is in charge. Even Admiral Thad Allen told reporters: "To push BP out of the way would raise the question of: Replace them with what?" The robust, accountable civilian agencies that should be responsible have been gutted by decades of deregulation. This is what the far right wants. In the last decade, Republican calls for limiting government have given way to calls for dismantling government, in favor of a system run and policed by the very rapacious energy and corporate barons who caused the crises in the first place.

In a world of promiscuous deregulation, oil giants like BP take obscene risks and rake in undreamed-of bonanzas. BP, the third largest oil company in the world, has an annual profit of $14 billion; it made $17 billion last year, and $9 billion in the first quarter of this year alone. BP’s top CEO before Tony Hayward, Lord John Browne (at $11 million a year the highest paid CEO in the UK) was so addicted to profit that he cut safety costs at all costs. BP has long been known as the top-ranking safety violator globally. Last year alone, according to OSHA, BP racked up over 700 violations. BP’s Regional Oil Spill Response Plan for the Gulf was so makeshift it included references to walruses and sea-otters, neither of which inhabit the Gulf.

The oil bonanzas are so vast that when the companies are fined for spills, the fines often amount to just a few days annual profits. Exxon Valdes’s fines were reduced by Justice Roberts’ Supreme Court from $5 billion to $500 million and not one company official saw the inside of a jail. So why bother following safety regulations? And when safety regulations are systematically violated, well, stuff happens. Like a dead ocean.

And when stuff happens, what do we do? Who is in charge? Gov. Jindal cries out again: “This is a war. We’ve got to be adaptable.” The trouble is, there is precious little to be adaptable with. Skimmers, sandbags, shovels. Antiquated barges with makeshift vacuums trying to suck up an ocean that is turning black. On TV, I watch men in white overalls hold a puny vacuum-cleaner nozzle to the gargantuan oil slick. Cajun engineering, some wryly call it.

The wildly unregulated oil industry is profit-driven to such a degree that no R and D has gone into developing any clean-up technology for the last forty years. Not since the Santa Barbara disaster in 1969, that is. Not since everyone was still using typewriters. The oil industry has the technology to drill to fabulous, sci-fi, Jules Verne depths, but is still using hopelessly outmoded methods like booms, wetmats, and spades to clean-up after them. Skimmers lumber ineffectually back to shore carrying only 10% oil to 90% water. Kevin Costner’s save-the-day machines are not yet in action. The booms get tangled up in every squall and are laid out with little or no knowledge of the shoreline. I watch as men swirl mops in the ooze.

Where is the R and D for clean-up technology? As I write this, I wonder: I can touch my i-pad and in a few seconds beckon from the ethers an invisible book that speeds unseen through the starry skies to materalize magically into print between my fingers. We can pull off this breathtakingly wondrous stunt, but are stumped by the task of scooping up the oil we ceaselessly spill? Why?

It’s not as if there aren’t enough bad spills to warrant spending some serious R and D cash. The sheer untruth of Obama’s claim in April that “oil rigs generally don’t cause spills” could hardly be rivaled. In fact, as much oil is spilled in the world every seven months as was spilled from the Exxon Valdes. In Nigeria’s oil-devastated delta alone, where oil companies operate outside the law, where writer-activist, Ken Saro Wiwa was executed for opposing them, more oil is spilled every year than so far in the current Gulf spill.

But who cares? These spills occur slowly, every day and far away, out of range of the U.S. media’s sensation-driven gaze, evading the disaster-packaging of prime time news. So that Doug Suttels, BP chief, could lie to NBC’s Tom Costello, saying that BP hadn’t developed any remedial spill technology because “there have been so few big spills.” And when warned by a BP engineer that the Deep Horizon was a “nightmare rig,” another BP official responded in an email: “Who cares? It's done... We will probably be fine.”

We aren’t fine, but perhaps by calling this a war we stave off feelings of helplessness by giving familiar symbolic shape to an unforeseen chaos. Perhaps fear is militarized and given a reassuringly violent form. Certainly, Americans are particularly prone to deploying the language of war to deal with social crises. We pretend to wage war on a lot of things that we can’t wage war on: the war on drugs, on crime, on poverty, on AIDS, the forever War on Terror, and now on oil. The militarization of our culture has become so pervasive that every crisis of neo-liberal capitalism rolling in is seen as the next war.

Very early into the spill, the militarization of the Gulf extended even to journalists prevented from covering the disaster by a motley alliance of BP contractors and Coast Guards, on the grounds that the Gulf was a war zone. After protests, Admiral Allen assured the media that they would have “uninhibited access,” but the blockades only increased, flyover permits were revoked, photography on public beaches was banned, and cleanup workers were silenced. National guardsman blockaded even CNN from filming oil-damaged birds. The question remains why President Obama, who campaigned on the promise of government transparency, would collude with BP in the media blackout, refusing to let even the New York Times fly over “Ground Zero”--a blatantly militarized reference to an industrial disaster? One Coast Guard official referred to journalists as “media embeds,” but embeds in what, precisely?

All this war talk would be understandable, defensible even, were it not for a fatally circular, feedback loop. BP would not be in the Gulf drilling deeper than it knows how to drill were it not for its uniquely profitable relation with the US military war machine. The United States Department of Defense buys more oil than any other entity on the planet. The protection of overseas oil is now so unquestioned that even Defense Secretary Gates warned against the “creeping militarization” of U.S. foreign policy. And to fuel this militarization, the Pentagon uses 75% of the oil bought by the DOD for its jets, bombers, drones, tanks, and Humvees. And in order to keep buying this oil, the military has to keep protecting our regional oil interests, two thirds of which are now in conflict prone zones. US military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan use a staggering ninety million gallons a month. And to garrison this vast, global gas-station, the DOD keeps expanding, which means buying more oil.

From whom? In 2009, BP was the Pentagon’s largest contractor at $2.2 billion. The DOD has a longstanding, multimillion dollar business relation with BP, which it says it has no intention of relinquishing, even now, in the aftermath of the Gulf disaster. Despite knowledge that BP has racked up 97% of all flagrant safety violations. In 2005, the DOD paid BP $1.5 billion. Indeed, last year 16% of BP’s profits came from sales to the Pentagon alone.

Keeping this in mind, we would do well to remember that militarization is the number one cause of environmental destruction in the world, and that military production facilities, which are exempt from environmental restrictions, are the most ecologically devastated places on earth. We drill, we spill; nature pays the bill.

Blaming BP means we don’t have to admit our complicity as consumers in the slow-mo, chemical slaughter we have unleashed on the planet. Blaming BP means we don’t have to look too hard in the rear-view mirrors of the cars we drive, or too deep into the plastic water bottles we drink. Last year Americans drank enough plastic water bottles to stretch around the world one hundred and ninety times. Blaming BP means we don’t have to admit how our oil-addiction keeps U.S. foreign policy in thrall to petro-despots and oligarchs.

BP would not be drilling in the Gulf in the first place were it not reaping ungodly, monster profits from our luxurious oil-bingeing. A gas-pedal-to-the-metal nation, we American consumers are especially complicit, our profligate lifestyles devouring 30% of all raw materials used by people globally every year. We Americans siphon 25% of all the earth’s black oil into our cars, trucks, airplanes, helicopters, mega-malls and military bases. Every one of us who drives one, two, three cars is complicit. Every one of us who shops with plastic bags is complicit. Every one of us who strolls through malls heated to a permanent tropical summer in winter, is complicit. We are all complicit in this calamity. We are all BP now.

G20: Paving the Way for a New Great Depression?

G20: Paving the Way for a New Great Depression?

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At the G20 summit in Toronto, world leaders agreed to halve deficits in three years. At least one prominent economist says spending, not cuts, is what's needed.

Washington - World leaders have pledged to slash the government deficits of industrialized countries by half over the next three years. Is that goal, set at the just-concluded G20 summit in Toronto, fiscal prudence – or the prelude to the next Great Depression?

Paul Krugman believes it’s the latter. In a widely read Monday New York Times column, the Nobel Prize-winning liberal economist writes that he fears the world is in the early stages of a third depression, an economic downturn as dire as the years that followed the Panic of 1873 or the Great Depression of the early 20th century.

The problem, according to Mr. Krugman, is that governments are obsessing about inflation and debt when the real threat is deflation and unemployment. The world does not need more belt-tightening, he writes. It needs more stimulus programs.

“The real problem is inadequate spending,” writes Krugman.

That’s not the way European leaders see things. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others see budget retrenchment as the industrialized nations’ top priority. Otherwise, they feel, the world risks spending itself into insolvency, and credit crises won’t be limited to Greece, Spain, and other nations on the periphery of the Euro zone.

The goals set at the just-concluded G20 summit in Toronto are not exactly a return to Herbert Hoover-style austerity, point out other analysts. There is enough wiggle room in the wording of the agreement for nations to go their own ways, within limits.

The G20 endorsed a goal of cutting government deficits in half by 2013 and stabilizing the ratio of public debt to gross national product by 2016. But the goal was expressed as an expectation, not a firm deadline. And the final communiqué said deficit reduction would be “tailored to national circumstances.” In other words, the US and other nations still have the flexibility to implement vastly different national policies.

“The communiqué produced by the G20’s Toronto summit on June 27 mustered all the blandness that is typical of such documents,” writes Sebastian Mallaby, a senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, in an analysis of the summit’s outcome.

President Obama, for his part, said he was in agreement with the need to reduce debt over time. But he and other US officials remain at least as concerned about continued efforts to stimulate job growth.

The problem for the White House is that Congress is increasingly leery of spending money on any new large programs. That’s why legislation that would extend unemployment benefits, among other things, is currently stuck in the Senate.

“America is itself – through congressional inaction – on the verge of reversing its domestic fiscal stimulus,” writes Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Center for International Economics, in his own G20 analysis.

The New York Times’ Krugman sees in all this parallels with the past. Following the Panic of 1873, unemployment remained stubbornly high for years. In 1933, US economic activity turned upwards, and the US government cut stimulus activities – and the Great Depression came roaring back.

However, these periods aren’t exactly analogous to today, says Scott Nelson, a professor of history at William and Mary and an expert on past US depressions.

In 1873, for instance, joblessness remained high on the East coast, as immigrants flooded into the US from Europe. But out in what was then the US West, and is today the Rust Belt, new industries were beginning to emerge.

As to today, it remains unknown just how much Obama’s big stimulus package contributed to the ongoing economic recovery, says Nelson, author of the forthcoming book “Crash: An Uncommon History of America’s Financial Disasters.” That means it is not necessarily foreordained that another such effort is necessary.

“I’m not sure I quite believe that’s right – that we just need more stimulus spending,” he says.

Pentagon Provokes New Crisis With China

The Drums of War? Pentagon Provokes New Crisis With China

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Three news features appearing earlier this week highlight tensions between the United States and the People's Republic of China that, at least in relation to the language used to describe them, would have seemed unimaginable even a few months ago and are evocative more of the Korean War era than of any time since the entente cordiale initiated by the Richard Nixon-Mao Zedong meeting in Beijing in 1972.

To indicate the seriousness of the matter, the stories are from Global Times, a daily newspaper published in conjunction with the People's Daily, official press organ of the ruling Communist Party of China, and Time, preeminent American weekly news magazine. Both accounts use as their point of departure and source of key information a July 4 report in Hong Kong's major English-language daily.

On July 6 writer Li Jing penned a news article for Global Times called "US subs reach Asian ports: report," which detailed the following recent developments:

"Three of the largest submarines of the US Seventh Fleet surfaced in Asia-Pacific ports last week, the South China Morning Post reported Monday [July 5]. The appearance of the USS Michigan in Pusan, South Korea, the USS Ohio in Subic Bay, the Philippines, and the USS Florida in the strategic Indian Ocean outpost of Diego Garcia was a show of force not seen since the end of the Cold War, the paper said, adding that the position of those three ports looks like a siege of China." [1]

The piece from the Hong Kong newspaper cited was entitled "US submarines emerge in show of military might: Message unlikely to be lost on Beijing as 3 vessels turn up in Asian ports," and was in fact dated July 4.

The author, South China Morning Post Asia correspondent Greg Torode, described the simultaneous arrival of three "Ohio-class submarines" equipped with "a vast quantity of Tomahawk cruise missiles" as a reflection of "the trend of escalating submarine activity in East Asia...." [2]

He further added this noteworthy data: "Between them, the three submarines can carry 462 Tomahawks, boosting by an estimated 60 per cent-plus the potential Tomahawk strike force of the entire Japanese-based Seventh Fleet - the core projection of US military power in East Asia."

The author quotes without identifying his name or nation a veteran Asian military attache with reported close ties to both Chinese and U.S. military officials: "460-odd Tomahawks is a huge amount of potential firepower in anybody's language.

"It is another sign that the US is determined to not just maintain its military dominance in Asia, but to be seen doing so...that is a message for Beijing and for everybody else, whether you are a US ally or a nation sitting on the fence." [3]

On July 8 Time magazine's Mark Thompson elaborated on the earlier report with language, including that of his title, "U.S. Missiles Deployed Near China Send a Message," derived from the South China Morning Post piece, which Thompson claims contained information planted by "U.S. officials...on July 4, no less" [4] in a clear signal to the government in mainland China.

The Time journalist added details, though, not in the original story, replete with a good deal of editorializing that perhaps serves the same source he attributes the contents of the Hong Kong article to and for the same reason: As a shot across the bow to China.

His account of last week's deployments included: "A new class of U.S. superweapon had suddenly surfaced nearby. It was an Ohio-class submarine, which for decades carried only nuclear missiles targeted against the Soviet Union, and then Russia."

The U.S. has eighteen nuclear-powered Ohio class ballistic missile submarines, fourteen still armed with nuclear warhead-tipped Trident missiles and four which "hold up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, capable of hitting anything within 1,000 miles with non-nuclear warheads."

"The 14 Trident-carrying subs are useful in the unlikely event of a nuclear Armageddon, and Russia remains their prime target. But the Tomahawk-outfitted quartet carries a weapon that the U.S. military has used repeatedly against targets in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq and Sudan." [5]

With the arrival of the USS Ohio in the Philippines, the USS Michigan in South Korea and the USS Florida "in the strategic Indian Ocean outpost of Diego Garcia" [6] on the same day, "the Chinese military awoke to find as many as 462 new Tomahawks deployed by the U.S. in its neighborhood." [7]

The Time report also revealed that all four Ohio class Tomahawk-armed submarines were operationally deployed away from their home ports for the first time.

Thompson wrote that the coordinated actions were "part of a policy by the U.S. government to shift firepower from the Atlantic to the Pacific theater, which Washington sees as the military focus of the 21st century."

Regarding the submarines still carrying Trident missiles, he rhetorically added, "Why 14 subs, as well as bombers and land-based missiles carrying nuclear weapons, are still required to deal with the Russian threat is a topic for another day." [8]

All three journalists cited - Jing, Torode and Thompson - place the U.S. submarine deployments within a broader and also a more pressing context.

The South China Morning Post writer stated: "In policies drafted under then-president George W. Bush, a Republican, and continued by the administration of his successor, Democrat Barack Obama, the Pentagon is shifting 60 per cent of its 53 fast-attack [as distinct from ballistic and guided missile] submarines to the Pacific - a process that is now virtually complete.

"But the presence of the larger cruise-missile submarines shows that, at times, the US forward posture will be significantly larger."

The USS Ohio, for example, "has been operating out of Guam for most of the last year, taking advantage of the island's expanding facilities to extend its operations in the western Pacific.

"It is due to return soon, but the Florida and the Michigan are likely to remain in the region for many months yet, using Guam and possibly Diego Garcia for essential maintenance and crew changes."

Additionally, "The presence of the Florida, based on the US east coast, appears to confirm the US is still routinely bringing submarines under the arctic ice cap to East Asia." [9]

Just as the Pentagon is moving nuclear submarines under the northern polar ice cap to the Indian Ocean, so it has recently reached an "agreement [that] will allow troops to fly directly from the United States over the North Pole" to Afghanistan and "the region" by way of Kazakhstan, which borders China as well as Russia. [10]

The U.S. military "siege of China" is proceeding on several fronts, on land as well as under water and in Central as well as South and East Asia. But what primarily had been a policy of surveillance and probing China's perimeter is now entering a new phase.

That the U.S. currently has over 60 per cent of the Tomahawk cruise missiles assigned to its Japan-based Seventh Fleet near China emphasizes the qualitative escalation of Washington's show of strength vis-a-vis Beijing. One related to, as was seen above, a strategic shift of attack submarines nearer China and also to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula that was exacerbated by the sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, in March.

There has even been speculation that U.S. submarine deployments and other "messages" delivered to China of late were designed to pressure Beijing into taking a tougher stance toward North Korea over the Cheonan incident. What journalists have been referring to as messages would in an earlier age have been called saber-rattling and gunboat diplomacy.

U.S.-China relations sharply deteriorated this January when the Obama administration finalized an almost $6.5 billion arms sales package for Taiwan which includes 200 Patriot missiles. [11] An article on the subject in the New York Times on January 31 was titled, revealing enough, "U.S. Arms for Taiwan Send Beijing a Message."

China suspended military ties with the U.S., and bad blood has persisted throughout the year, resulting in Secretary of Defense Robert Gates scrapping plans to visit Beijing early last month when he was effectively disinvited by Chinese officialdom on the prompting of the military.

The White House and the Pentagon have been sending a number of unequivocal - and increasingly provocative - messages to China this year.

The new U.S. administration signalled a confrontational approach early on. In May of 2009 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, barely three months in her post, stated, “The Obama administration is working to improve deteriorating U.S. relations with a number of Latin American nations to counter growing Iranian, Chinese and Russian influence in the Western Hemisphere....” [12]

Later in the year then Director of National Intelligence (and retired admiral and former commander-in-chief of the Pacific Command) Dennis Blair released the latest quadrennial National Intelligence Strategy report which said “Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea pose the greatest challenges to the United States’ national interests. [13]

While Blair headed up the Pacific Command (PACOM) from 1999-2002, his role included overseeing a vast area of the planet that includes China (since the Ronald Reagan administration assigned it to that military command in 1983).

Arrogating the right to divide the entire world into military zones, areas of operation, has never been attempted by any other nation, any group of nations, not even all the nations of the world collectively (in the United Nations or otherwise). But the U.S. has and does do just that. It has even added two new Unified Combatant Commands - Northern Command and Africa Command - in recent years, in 2002 and 2007 respectively.

The Pacific Command is the oldest and largest of the six current regional commands (the others being the Africa, Northern, European, Central and Southern Commands), and was formed during the dawning of the Cold War in 1947. Its area of responsibility takes in over 50 per cent of the world - 105 million square miles - 36 nations and almost 60 per cent of the world's population.

300,000 troops from all major branches of the U.S. armed forces - the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy - are assigned to it, 20 per cent of all active duty American service members.

Pacific Command is in charge of military defense treaties with Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea.

The U.S. is also alone in assigning the world's oceans and seas to naval commands. Washington has six naval fleets - the Fourth Fleet (the Caribbean, Central and South America) was reactivated in 2008 after being disbanded in 1950) - and just as Pacific Command is the largest unified, multi-service command, so the Seventh is the largest forward-deployed fleet, with 50-60 warships, 350 aircraft and as many as 60,000 Sailors and Marines at any given time. It is based in Japan and its area of responsibility includes over 50 million square miles of the (largely western) Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The U.S. also has eleven aircraft carriers, ten of them nuclear-powered and all eleven part of strike groups. [14] (China has no and Russia one carrier.)

The Time magazine article quoted from earlier mentioned that the deployment of four U.S. guided missile submarines to East Asia and the Indian Ocean is not the only development that China needs to be concerned about. The U.S. is simultaneously presiding over six-week biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military exercises in Hawaii with over 20,000 troops, 36 warships and submarines (25 American) and 180 planes and helicopters.

This year's RIMPAC, which began on June 23 and is to be completed by the end of July, includes for the first time the participation of France, Colombia - with which the U.S. has recently concluded an agreement for the use of seven of its military bases [15] - and the Southeast Asia nations of Malaysia and Singapore. The other countries involved are Australia, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, Peru, South Korea and Thailand. The five-week war games involve "missile exercises and the sinking of three abandoned vessels playing the role of enemy ships." [16]

The combined task force commander for RIMPAC 2010 is commander of the U.S. Third Fleet, whose area of responsibility is approximately 50 million square miles of the eastern Pacific, Vice Admiral Richard Hunt, who stated, "This is the largest RIMPAC that we've had," and one which "clearly focuses on maritime domain awareness dealing with expanded military operations across the complete spectrum of warfare." [17]

Time's Mark Thompson also wrote: "Closer to China, CARAT 2010 - for Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training - just got underway [July 5] off Singapore. The operation involves 17,000 personnel and 73 ships from the U.S., Singapore, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

"China is absent from both exercises, and that's no oversight." [18]

This February Cobra Gold 2010, "the largest multinational military exercise in the world," [19}, was launched in Thailand (separated from China by only one nation, either Laos or Myanmar) and as with all previous Cobra Gold war games was run by U.S. Pacific Command and the Royal Thai Supreme Command. Joining the U.S. and Thailand in this year's exercises, designed "to build interoperability between the United States and its Asia-Pacific regional partners," [20] were the armed forces of Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and, for the first time, South Korea.

From June 8-25 the latest U.S. Air Force-led Red Flag Alaska air maneuvers were held near the eastern Pacific. "The Red Flag exercises, conducted in four-to-six cycles a year by the 414th Combat Training Squadron of the 57th Wing, are very realistic aerial war games. The purpose is to train pilots from the U.S., NATO and other allied countries for real combat situations." [21]

Over a thousand airmen from five nations - the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Romania and Belgium - assembled at Alaska's Elmendorf and Eielson Air Force Bases for air combat training which "unites forces from all over the world."

"South Korea, a country already accustomed to working with U.S. troops, is also in Alaska to strengthen the two nations' ties after the sinking of a South Korean warship by a North Korean submarine.

"'We have the American Air Force in Korea, and the coalition and the combined working environment is very important,' said Lt. Hoon Min Kim, a member of South Korea's air force. 'And being able to perform under a combined environment is therefore essential as well.'" [22]

The incorporation of progressively more Asia-Pacific nations into what has been referred to as an Asian NATO is by no means directed solely at North Korea nor is it understood as such by officials in Beijing.

Participants in that arrangement, among them Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Mongolia, have troops serving under NATO in Afghanistan. Recently 140 new South Korean forces arrived at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to reinforce a base in Parwan province recently subjected to repeated rocket attacks. Seoul's troop strength in the war zone is now at 230.

This month the government of Singapore announced it will increase its soldiers in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to "a record 162, from 97 last year."

"Next month, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will send a 52-man unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) team - its biggest deployment to Afghanistan - to Oruzgan [Uruzgan], one of two provinces where Singapore has troops." [23]

Earlier this year NATO announced that Mongolia and South Korea have become the 45th and 46th nations to provide it with troops for the war in Afghanistan. Mongolia borders both China and Russia and is the object of intense efforts by the U.S. to increase military cooperation and integration. [24] On July 6 NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy Dirk Brengelmann paid a two-day visit to South Korea, where he stated, "Our security interests and security interests of countries like Korea coincide today more than ever."

A news report of his visit paraphrased his comments as asserting that "The world's biggest military alliance, NATO, is looking to increase cooperation with South Korea and other partners beyond Europe and North America," and added that "Speaking of cooperation, Brengelmann noted NATO's show of support for South Korea in light of the sinking of its warship Cheonan....The diplomat said some NATO members also serve on the U.N. Security Council and that the NATO members will try to ensure any Security Council action on the Cheonan sinking will represent their views expressed in the NATO statement." [25]

Another country that shares borders with China and Russia, Kazakhstan, has allowed the U.S. and NATO transit and overflight rights for the Afghan war and last week the nation's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, signed a law permitting the Pentagon to ship "special cargo" - armored vehicles - through his country.

The U.S. and NATO have transited hundreds of thousands of troops through the Manas Air Base (now Transit Center at Manas) in Kyrgyzstan, which also borders China, since 2001 and in recent months troops have passed in and out from Afghanistan at the rate of 55,000 a month, 660,000 a year. [26] Washington has announced plans to open new training bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the second nation also adjoining China.

With Afghanistan and Pakistan, which also have borders with China, the U.S. and NATO have a military presence in five nations on China's western flank and a foothold in Mongolia. The U.S. and NATO war in South Asia will enter its tenth year this autumn with no sign of Western military presence departing from China's backyard.

The U.S. military remains ensconced in Japan and South Korea, has returned to the Philippines (including camps in Mindanao), is solidifying bilateral and multilateral military relations with practically all nations in Southeast Asia, and for the past five years has cultivated India as a military partner. [India is currently an observer at the RIMPAC exercises.) Japan, Taiwan and Australia are being integrated into a U.S.-designed regional and broader global interceptor missile system.

The U.S. is conducting regular military exercises, building military partnerships, stationing troops and opening bases around China's periphery, in addition to the positioning of warships, submarines and aircraft carriers in the waters off its coasts.

What alarms China most at the moment, though, is a proposed joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise in the Yellow Sea, enclosed by both Koreas to the east and China to the north and west.

China's Global Times recently quoted Xu Guangqian, military strategist at the People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Sciences, issuing this warning: "China's position on the Yellow Sea issue demonstrates its resolution to safeguard national rights and interests. It also reflects that China is increasingly aware of the fact that its strategic space has confronted threats from other countries." [27]

China, which just concluded six days of naval drills of its own in the East China Sea, had more reason to be concerned when it was disclosed earlier this month that a U.S. aircraft carrier would join the maneuvers off its Yellow Sea coast.

On July 8 China renewed its opposition to the planned U.S.-South Korean war games, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang telling reporters, "China has expressed its serious concerns with relevant parties. We are firmly opposed to foreign military vessels engaging in activities that undermine China's security interests in the Yellow Sea or waters close to China." [28]

An unsigned editorial in the Chinese Global Times of July 8 stated, "Beijing sees the joint exercise not only as being aimed at Pyongyang, but also as a direct threat to its territorial waters and coastline," and blamed South Korean President Lee Myung-bak for worsening relations between the two nations:

"It is not known whether Lee had thought of China's reaction when he announced in May the drill with the US.

"Did he foresee Chinese people's anger? Or, did he intend to provoke the country on the other side of the Yellow Sea?

"It is a shame and a provocation on China's doorstep.

"If a US aircraft carrier enters the Yellow Sea, it will mean a major setback to Seoul's diplomacy, as hostility between the peoples of China and South Korea will probably escalate, which Beijing and Seoul have been working for years to avoid." [29]

President Lee met with his American counterpart, Barack Obama, on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Toronto late last month, during which a previous arrangement to transfer wartime command of South Korean forces to the nation in 2012 were postponed if not abandoned. In Obama's words, "One of the topics that we discussed is that we have arrived at an agreement that the transition of operational control for alliance activities in the Korean peninsula will take place in 2015." In the five-year interim "if war were to break out on the Korean peninsula the United States would assume operational command of South Korean forces." [30]

If Washington is planning direct intervention on the Korean Peninsula as its military buildup in the region, including off China's shores, might indicate, the words of former South Korean president Kim Young-Sam a decade ago are worth recalling. Two years after stepping down as head of state, Kim revealed to one of his nation's main newspapers that he had intervened to prevent a second Korean war, that his government "stopped US President Bill Clinton from launching an air strike against North Korea's nuclear facilities in June 1994."

He initiated a last-minute phone conversation with the U.S. president which "saved the Korean peninsula from an imminent war," as "The Clinton government was preparing a war" by deploying an aircraft carrier off the eastern coast of North Korea "close enough for its war planes to hit the North's nuclear facilities in Yongbyon."

Furthermore, Kim warned the U.S. ambassador in Seoul that "another war on the Korean peninsula would turn all of Korea into a bloodbath, killing between 10 and 20 million people and destroying South Korea's prosperous economy." [31]

Any catastrophic event on the Korean Peninsula, and war is the ultimate cataclysm, could lead to hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees fleeing to Russia and millions to China.

The nearly nine-year war in Afghanistan being waged by the U.S. and NATO has led to an explosion of violence and destabilization in three nations flanking China: Afghanistan itself, Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Also, since 2001 Afghanistan has become the world's largest producer of opium and hashish, flooding the European and other drug markets. A forum entitled "Afghan Drug Production - A Challenge to the International Community" was held in Moscow a month ago.

A Russian report on the meeting stated "The situation around drug production in Afghanistan has gained a catastrophic character. Some 100,000 people died globally from Afghan drugs in 2009 alone. In all, Afghan-made opiates have claimed one million human lives in the past decade, and 16 million more ruined their health." [32] 30,000 of the drug-related deaths occurred in Russia. The United Nations estimates that Afghanistan currently accounts for 92 per cent of world opium cultivation.

China and Russia are viewed as, if not challengers to U.S. global dominance, impediments to its further consolidation. And not in the military sphere but in the fields of economics, trade, energy and transportation. Destabilization of their neighborhoods and frontiers is one manner of limiting competition.

All means fair and foul are employed to eliminate obstacles to uncontested supremacy, and what the world's sole military superpower (the term is President Obama's from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech) truly excels at is expanding its international military machine with an unflinching willingness to use it.

Notes

1) Global Times, July 8, 2010
2) South China Morning Post, July 4, 2010
http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCMP/menuitem.2c913216495213d5df646910cba0a0a0/?vgnextoid=6c48dbee25999210VgnVCM100000360a0a0aRCRD&vgnextfmt=teaser&ss=Asia+%26+World&s=News (Subscribers only)
3) Ibid
4) Time, July 8, 2010
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2002378,00.html?xid=rss-topstories
5) Ibid
6) South China Morning Post, July 4, 2010
7) Time, July 8, 2010
8) Ibid
9) South China Morning Post, July 4, 2010
10) Kazakhstan: U.S., NATO Seek Military Outpost Between Russia And China
Stop NATO, April 14, 2010
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/kazakhstan-u-s-nato-seek-military-outpost-between-russia-and-china
11) U.S.-China Military Tensions Grow
Stop NATO, January 19, 2010
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/u-s-china-military-tensions-grow
12) Associated Press, May 1, 2009
13) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, September 16, 2009
14) U.S. Consolidates Military Network In Asia-Pacific Region
April 28, 2010
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/s-consolidates-military-network-in-asia-pacific-region
15) Colombia: U.S. Escalates War Plans In Latin America
Stop NATO, July 22, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/colombia-u-s-escalates-war-plans-in-latin-america
16) Time, July 8, 2010
17) Navy Times, July 6, 2010
18) Ibid
19) American Forces Press Service, January 13, 2010
20) Ibid
21)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Flag_(USAF)
22) KTUU TV, June 24, 2010
23) AsiaOne, July 1, 2010
24) Mongolia: Pentagon Trojan Horse Wedged Between China And Russia
Stop NATO, March 31, 2010
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/mongolia-pentagon-trojan-horse-wedged-between-china-and-russia
25) Yonhap News Agency, July 6, 2010
26) Kyrgyzstan And The Battle For Central Asia
Stop NATO, April 7, 2010
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/kyrgyzstan-and-the-battle-for-central-asia
27) Global Times, July 6, 2010
28) Agence France-Presse, July 8, 2010
29) Global Times, July 8, 2010
30) Agence France-Presse, July 27, 2010
31) Agence France-Presse, May 24, 2000
32) Itar-Tass, June 9, 2010

Which Infant Formulas Contain Secret Toxic Chemicals?

Which Infant Formulas Contain Secret Toxic Chemicals?

And just how guilty should I feel about not breastfeeding exclusively, anyway?
Links:
[1] http://www.motherlove.com/category/00006.html
[2] http://www.kellymom.com/herbal/milksupply/fenugreek.html
[3] http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/
[4] http://www.noevalley.com/
[5] http://www.naturesone.com/dairy/
[6] http://www.earthsbest.com/products/product/2392310040
[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684040/
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docosahexaenoic_acid
[9] http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/InfantFormula/ConsumerInformationAboutInfantFormula/ucm108101.htm
[10] http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2009/04/rocket-fuel-found-infant-formula
[11] http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/efan02001/efan02001d.pdf
[12] http://similac.com/baby-formula/?wt=products1
[13] https://www.enfamil.com/app/iwp/enfamil/enfHome.do?dm=enf&ls=0&csred=1&r=3456147262
[14] http://similac.com/baby-formula/about-similac-infant-formula
[15] http://www.mjn.com/app/iwp/MJN/guestHome.do?dm=mj&ls=0&csred=1&r=3456146979
[16] http://www.ewg.org/book/export/html/27772
[17] http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Industry/Water-is-to-blame-for-perchlorate-in-infant-formula-says-industry
[18] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A
[19] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/10/world/asia/10china.html?_r=1
[20] http://www.infantformula.org/news-room/press-releases-and-statements/infant-formula-and-melamine
[21] http://www.fns.usda.gov/cga/PressReleases/2008/Johner_120308.pdf
[22] http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/default.aspx
[23] http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/04/breastfeeding-non-compliance-costs-us-13-billion-year
[24] http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Where-We-Stand-Breastfeeding.aspx
[25] http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/pages/Breastfeeding-Benefits-Your-Baby's-Immune-System.aspx
[26] http://www.askdrsears.com/html/2/t020200.asp
[27] http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/04/the-case-against-breast-feeding/7311/
[28] http://similac.com/baby-formula/ready-to-feed-formula
[29] http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/pages/Relactation.aspx

The EU Banking System Is In Big Trouble

The EU Banking System Is In Big Trouble

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The EU banking system is in big trouble. Many of the Union's largest banks are sitting on hundreds of billions of euros in dodgy sovereign bonds and non performing real estate loans. But writing down their losses will deplete their capital and force them to restructure their debt. So the banks are concealing their losses through accounting sleight-of-hand and by borrowing money from the European Central Bank. This has helped to hide the rot at the heart of the system.

Presently, 170 banks are having difficulty accessing the wholesale markets where they get their funding,. Financial institutions are wary of lending to each other because they're not sure who is solvent or not. It's a question of trust.

ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet has tried to keep the problems under wraps, but markets aren't easily fooled. Stress gauges, like euribor, have been rising for the last two months. Investors smell a rat. They know the banks are playing hide-n-seek with downgraded assets and they know that Trichet is helping them out.

A week ago, stocks rallied on news that EU banks would repay most of the €442bn one-year emergency loan from the ECB. The news was mainly a publicity stunt designed to hide what was really going on. Yes, the banks borrowed significantly less that analysts had predicted (another €132bn), but just two days later, 78 banks borrowed another €111bn. The additional loans makes it look like Trichet cooked up the whole thing to trick investors.

EU banks were engaged in the same high-risk activities as their counterparts in the US. They were playing fast and loose on speculative trades that were ramped up with maximum leverage. Bankers raked in hundreds of billions in salaries and bonuses before the bubble burst. Now the securities and bonds they purchased have plunged in value, so they've turned to the ECB for a bailout. Sound familiar?

Trichet is a banking industry rep, much like Geithner and Bernanke. His job is to maintain the political and economic power of the banks and to dump the losses onto the public. Presently, the ECB provides "limitless" loans to underwater banks so they can maintain the appearance of solvency. Trichet has lowered rates to 1 percent, provided a safe haven for overnight deposits, and begun an aggressive bond purchasing program (Quantitative Easing) which keeps prices of sovereign bonds artificially high. Valuations on bank assets are supported by a central authority and do not reflect true market pricing.

The wholesale-funding market (repo) has not shut down. Banks can still exchange their sovereign bonds and real estate securities for short-term loans. It merely requires that they take a haircut on the value of their collateral, which would then have to be recorded as a loss leaving them capital impaired. This is how markets work, but the banks are not required to play by the rules.

From Bloomberg News: "European lenders had $2.29 trillion at risk in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain at the end of 2009, including loans to governments, according to the Bank for International Settlements...German banks’ writedowns on loans and securities will probably reach $314 billion by the end of 2010, with state-owned lenders and savings banks facing the bulk of the losses, the International Monetary Fund said in a report in April."

See? The ECB is not buying Greek bonds because of a "sovereign debt crisis". They are buying them so the banks won't lose money. The "sovereign debt crisis" meme is all public relations hype. If it becomes too expensive to fund government operations, Greece can leave the EU and return to the drachma which would give it greater flexibility to settle its debts. That would increase demand for Greek exports and improve tourism. This is the best solution for Greece. So, where's the crisis?

If Greece, Portugal and Spain, leave the EU and restructure their debt, banks in Germany and France will default and bondholders will lose their shirts. In other words, the investors, who took a risk, will lose money---which is how the system is supposed to work.

Bloomberg again: "The region’s banks have written down a proportionately lower percentage of their assets than their U.S. counterparts. U.S. banks will have written down 7 percent of their assets by the end of 2010 and euro-area banks 3 percent, according to the IMF. European banks still haven’t shown analysts they have completed their writedowns." (Bloomberg)

So, the banks are underwater, but nothing has been done to fix the problem. Where are the regulators?

On Tuesday, euribor hit a 10-month high. The pressure is building despite Trichet's emergency programs. ECB bank lending is nearly €800bn while overnight deposits are roughly €240bn. Trichet is willing to drag the EU through 10 or 15 years of subpar growth and high unemployment (like Japan) to keep a handful of bankers and bondholders from accepting their losses. If things get bad enough, Trichet might invoke the "nuclear option", that is, allow a major bank to implode "Lehman-style" so he can extort hundreds of billions of euros from the EU member states. It's been done before; just ask Bernanke or Paulson.

The "Stress Test" Fraud

The bank stress tests in the US were organized by the Treasury as a "confidence-building" measure. They allowed the banks to use their own internal-models to determine the value of complex securities. The same rule will apply to EU banks. The Daily Telegraph reports that some of the banks will actually test themselves. As least that removes any doubt about the results.

From Bloomberg News -- "European stress tests on 91 of the region’s biggest banks drew criticism from analysts who said regulators are underestimating probable losses on Greek and Spanish government bonds. The tests are designed to assess how banks will be able to absorb losses on loans and government bonds, the Committee of European Banking Supervisors said yesterday. Regulators have told lenders the tests may assume a loss of about 17 percent on Greek government debt, 3 percent on Spanish bonds and none on German debt, said two people briefed on the talks who declined to be identified because the details are private.

Credit markets are pricing in losses of about 60 percent on Greek bonds should the government default, more than three times the level said to be assumed by CEBS. Derivatives known as recovery swaps are trading at rates that imply investors would get back about 40 percent in a Greek default or restructuring." (Bloomberg)

The tests are a joke. The banks will continue to use accounting-rule changes and other gimmickry to obfuscate their losses. Trichet will use the tests to step up his bond purchasing program (QE) which will transfer the banks losses onto the member states. Many of the banks are insolvent and need restructuring. But they are in no real danger, because they still have a stranglehold on the process.

Israel: No ship allowed to reach Gaza

Israel: No ship allowed to reach Gaza

Go To Original

Israel insists it will not allow any seaborne convoy to reach the Gaza Strip, which it has kept under an all-out siege for more than three years.

"I say very clearly, no ship will arrive in Gaza. We will not permit our sovereignty to be harmed," Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Army Radio on Sunday, Reuters reported.

The comments came following the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla aid convoy, which resulted in the death of nine Turkish activists, and as the Libyan Amalthea has set sail to break the Gaza siege.

"I hope very much that common sense will prevail and the ship will go to (the Egyptian port of) El-Arish, or that it will obey the Israel Defense Forces and eventually go to (Israel's port of) Ashdod," Lieberman said, referring to the Moldovan-flagged Amalthea.

The Tripoli-based Gaddafi International Charity and Development Association have organized the Libyan initiative. It is carrying 12 crewmembers and 2,000 tons of relief supplies from Greece to Gaza.

The pro-Palestinian campaigners behind the move, however, have said the group is committed to its humanitarian cause.

Mashallah Zwei, one organizer, said on Sunday, "We are heading for Gaza. We will not change direction." "For the time being our only thought is delivering the aid to Gaza…We are supported by the international community, who, we hope, will help us reach our goal."

Youssef Sawani, executive director of the Libyan charity, clarified earlier that the convoy simply intends to transfer supplies to the impoverished coastal sliver. "It's not to make an event or a show in high seas or somewhere else."

America's Ongoing Support of Israeli Military and Intelligence Operations

The Siege against Gaza: America's Ongoing Support of Israeli Military and Intelligence Operations

Go To Original

Perdana Global Peace Organization

International Conference on Gaza: Breaking the Siege

In the Spirit of Rachel Corrie and Mavi Marmara

11, July 2010, Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


We are dealing with a carefully planned military operation.

The Israeli Navy Commando which attacked the Marvi Marmara on May 31st had prior knowledge of who was on the Turkish ship including where passengers were residing in terms of cabin layout. According to Swedish author Henning Mankell, who was on board the Marmara , "the Israeli forces attacked sleeping civilians."

These were targeted assassinations. Specific individuals were targeted. Journalists were targeted with a view to confiscating their audio and video recording equipment and tapes.

"We were witnesses to premeditated murders," said historian Mattias Gardell who was on the Mavi Marmara.

"...Asked about why activists on the Turkish ship had attacked the Israeli soldiers, Gardell stressed "it is not as if Israel is a police officer whom no human being has the legitimate right to defend him or herself against":

"If you are attacked by commando troops you of course must have the right to defend yourself ... Many people on this ship thought they were going to kill everyone. They were very frightened ... It's strange if people think one should not defend oneself. Should you just sit there and say: 'Kill me'?" he said." (See Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Detailed Compiled Eyewitness Accounts Confirm Cold-Blooded Murder and Executions by Israeli Military, Global Research, June 1, 2010)

“They even shot those who surrendered. Many of our friends saw this. They told me that there were handcuffed people who were shot,” (quoted by Press TV)

The Israeli Commando had an explicit order to kill.

What was the role of the United States?

The raids on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, bear the mark of previous Israeli operations directed against unarmed civilians. It is a well established modus operandi of Israeli military-intelligence operations, which is tacitly supported by the US administration.

The killing of civilians is intended to trigger a response by Palestinian resistance forces, which in turn justifies Israeli retaliation (on "humanitarian" grounds) as well as a process of military escalation. The logic of this process contained in Ariel Sharon`s "Operation Justified Vengeance" (also referred to as the "Dagan Plan" named after Sharon's National Security advisor) was initiated at the outset the Sharon government in 2001. This Operation was intent upon destroying the Palestinian Authority and transforming Gaza into an urban prison. (See Michel Chossudovsky, "Operation Justified Vengeance": Israeli Strike on Freedom Flotilla to Gaza is Part of a Broader Military Agenda, Global Research, June 1, 2010).

"Operation Cast Lead" resulting in the December 2008 invasion of Gaza should be understood as part of the logic of "Operation Justified Vengeance". In turn, the Israeli attack on the Flotilla must be viewed as a continuation of "Operation Cast Lead" which seeks to enforce the Siege on Gaza.

The attack on the Flotilla bears the fingerprints of a military intelligence operation coordinated by the IDF and Mossad, which is now headed by one of the main architects of "Operation Justified Vengeance", Meir Dagan. It is worth recalling that as a young Coronel, Dagan worked closely with then defense minister Ariel Sharon in the raids on the Palestinian settlements of Sabra and Shatilla in Beirut in 1982.

The Role of the United States

There are indications that the US was consulted at the highest levels regarding the nature of the military operation directed against the flotilla. Moreover, in the wake of the attacks, both the US and the UK unequivocally reaffirmed their support to Israel.

There are longstanding and ongoing military and intelligence relations between the US and Israel including close working ties between various agencies of government: Pentagon, National Intelligence Council, State Department, Homeland Security and their respective Israeli counterparts.

These various agencies of government are involved in routine liaison and consultations, usually directly as well as through the US Embassy in Israel, involving frequent shuttles of officials between Washington and Tel Aviv as well as exchange of personnel. Moreover, the US as well as Canada have public security cooperation agreements with Israel pertaining to the policing of international borders, including maritime borders. (See Israel-USA Homeland Security Cooperation, See also Michel Chossudovsky, The Canada-Israel "Public Security" Agreement, Global Research, 2 April 2008)

Several high level US-Israel meetings were held in the months prior to the May 31st attacks.

Rahm Emmanuel, Obama's White House chief of Staff was in Tel Aviv a week prior to the attacks. Confirmed by press reports, he had meetings behind closed doors with Prime Minister Netanyahu (May 26) as well as a private visit with President Shimon Peres on May 27.

May 26 meeting between Rahm Emmanuel and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Official statements do not indicate whether other officials including cabinet ministers or IDF and Mossad officials were present at the Rahm Emmanuel-Netanyahu meeting. The Israeli press confirmed that Rahm Emmanuel had a meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whose Ministry was responsible for overseeing the Commando attack on the Flotilla. (Rahm Emanuel visits Israel to celebrate son's bar mitzvah - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News, 23 May 2010). The White House also confirmed that Rahm Emmanuel was to meet other high-ranking Israeli officials, without providing further details. (Rahm Emanuel in Israel for Son's Bar Mitzvah, May Meet With Officials)

"Our Man in the White House"

While born in the US, Rahm Emmanuel also holds Israeli citizenship and has served in the Israeli military during the First Gulf War (1991).

Rahm is also known for his connections to the pro-Israeli lobby in the US. The Israeli newspaper Maariv calls him "Our Man in the White House" (quoted in Irish Times, March 13, 2010). Rahm Emmanuel gave his support to Obama in the November 2008 presidential elections following Obama`s address to the pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC.

At the time of Rahm Emmanuel's confirmation as White House chief of staff, there were reports in the Middle East media of Rahm Emanuel's connections to Israeli intelligence.

The exact nature of Rahm Emmanuel's ties to the Israeli military and intelligence apparatus, however, is not the main issue. What we are dealing with is a broad process of bilateral coordination and decision-making between the two governments in the areas of foreign policy, intelligence and military planning, which has been ongoing for more than 50 years. In this regard, Israel, although exercising a certain degree of autonomy in military and strategic decisions, will not act unilaterally, without receiving the "green light" from Washington. Rahm Emmanuel`s meetings with the prime minister and Israeli officials are part of this ongoing process.

Rahm Emmanuel's meetings in Tel Aviv on May 26 were a routine follow-up to visits to Washington by Prime Minister Netanyahu in March and by Minister of Defense Ehud Barak in late April. In these various bilateral US-Israel encounters at the White House, the state Department and the Pentagon, Rahm Emmanuel invariably plays a key role.

While the pro-Israeli lobby in the US influences party politics in America, Washington also influences the direction of Israeli politics. There have been reports to the effect that Rahm Emmanuel would "lead a team of high octane Democratic party pro-Israel political operatives to run the campaign for the Defense Minister Ehud Barak" against Netanyahu in the next Israeli election. (Ira Glunts, Could Rahm Emanuel Help Barak Unseat Netanyahu? Palestine Chronicle, June 2, 2010)

Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barack in Washington

The April 27 meeting between US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Defense Minister Ehud Barak pertained to "a range of important defense issues" directly or indirectly related to the status of the Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation:

"As President Obama has affirmed, the United States commitment to Israel's security is unshakable, and our defense relationship is stronger than ever, to the mutual benefit of both nations. The United States and our ally Israel share many of the same security challenges, from combating terrorism to confronting the threat posed by Iran's nuclear-weapons program.

For years, the United States and Israel have worked together to prepare our armed forces to meet these and other challenges, a recent major example being the Juniper Cobra joint exercise held last October. Our work together on missile-defense technology is ongoing, and the United States will continue to ensure that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge." (Press Conference with Secretary Gates and Israeli Defense Minister Barak, April 2010 - Council on Foreign Relations April 27, 2010)

These consultations pertained to ongoing military preparations regarding Iran. Both Israel and the US have recently announced that a pre-emptive attack against Iran has been contemplated.

Washington views Israel as being "'integrated into America’s military architecture,' especially in the missile defense sphere." (quoted in Emanuel to rabbis: US 'screwed up' Jerusalem Post, statement of Dennis Ross, who is in charge of the US administration’s Iran policy in the White House, May 16, 2010).

Targeting Iran

The attack on the Freedom Flotilla, might appear as a separate and distinct humanitarian issue, unrelated to US-Israeli war plans. But from the standpoint of both Tel Aviv and Washington, it was part of the broader military agenda. It was intended to create conditions favoring an atmosphere of confrontation and escalation in the Middle East war theater;

"All the signs are that Israel has been stepping up its provocations to engineer a casus belli for a war against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Tel Aviv sees as unfinished business its inconclusive wars: the first in Lebanon in 2006, and the second in Gaza in 2008-09." (Jean Shaoul Washington Comes to the Aid of Israel over Gaza Convoy Massacre, Global Research, June 4, 2010)

Following Israel's illegal assault in international waters, Netanyahu stated emphatically "Israel will continue to exercise its right to self defence. We will not allow the establishment of an Iranian port in Gaza," suggesting that the Gaza blockade was part of the pre-emptive war agenda directed against Iran, Syria and Lebanon. (Israeli forces board Gaza aid ship the Rachel Corrie - Telegraph, June 5, 2010, emphasis added) .

Moreover, the raid on the Flotilla coincided with NATO-Israel war games directed against Iran. According to the Sunday Times, "three German-built Israeli submarines equipped with nuclear cruise missiles are to be deployed in the Gulf near the Iranian coastline." (Israel Deploys Three Nuclear Cruise Missile-Armed Subs Along Iranian Coastline).

While Israeli naval deployments were underway in the Persian Gulf, Israel was also involved in war games in the Mediterranean. The war game codenamed "MINOAS 2010" was carried out at a Greek air base in Souda Bay, on the island of Crete. Earlier in February, The Israeli air force "practiced simulated strikes at Iran's nuclear facilities using airspace of two Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, which are close territorially with the Islamic republic and cooperate with Israel on this issue." Ria Novosti,War Games: Israel gets ready to Strike at Iran's Nuclear Sites,, March 29, 2010)


Also, in the wake of the final resolution of the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation directed against Israel's nuclear weapons program, the White House has reaffirmed its endorsement of Israel's nuclear weapons capabilities. Washington's statement issued one day before the raid on the flotilla points to unbending US support to "Israel's strategic and deterrence capabilities", which also include the launching of a pre-emptive nuclear attack on Iran:

"a senior political source in Jerusalem said Sunday that Israel received guarantees from U.S. President Barack Obama that the U.S. would maintain and improve Israel's strategic and deterrence capabilities.

According to the source, "Obama gave [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu unequivocal guarantees that include a substantial upgrade in Israel-U.S. relations."

Obama promised that no decision taken during the recent 189-nation conference to review and strengthen the 40-year-old Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty "would be allowed to harm Israel's vital interests," the sources said. Obama promised to bolster Israel's strategic capabilities, Jerusalem officials say - Haaretz Daily Newspaper)


Robert Gates and Israel's Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, Press Conference, April 27, 2010

The Turkey-Israel Relationship in Jeopardy?

The actions of Israel against the Freedom Flotilla have important ramifications. Israel's criminal actions in international waters have contributed to weakening the US-NATO-Israel military alliance.

The bilateral Israel-Turkey alliance in military, intelligence, joint military production is potentially in jeopardy. Ankara has already announced that three planned military exercises with Israel have been cancelled. "The government announced it was considering reducing its relations with Israel to a minimum."

It should be understood that Israel and Turkey are partners and major actors in the US-NATO planned aerial attacks on Iran, which have been in the pipeline since mid-2005. The rift between Turkey and Israel has a direct bearing on NATO as a military alliance. Turkey is one of the more powerful NATO member states with regard to its conventional forces. The rift with Israel breaks a consensus within the Atlantic Alliance. It also undermines ongoing US-NATO-Israel pre-emptive war plans directed against Iran, which until recently were endorsed by the Turkish military.

From the outset in 1992, the Israeli-Turkish military alliance was directed against Syria, as well as Iran and Iraq. (For details see See Michel Chossudovsky, "Triple Alliance": The US, Turkey, Israel and the War on Lebanon, Global Research, 2006)

In 1997, Israel and Turkey launched "A Strategic Dialogue" involving a bi-annual process of high level military consultations by the respective deputy chiefs of staff. (Milliyet, Istanbul, in Turkish 14 July 2006).

During the Clinton Administration, a triangular military alliance between the US, Israel and Turkey had unfolded. This "triple alliance", which in practice is dominated by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, integrates and coordinates military command decisions between the three countries pertaining to the broader Middle East. It is based on the close military ties respectively of Israel and Turkey with the US, coupled with a strong bilateral military relationship between Tel Aviv and Ankara.

Starting in 2005, Israel has become a de facto member of NATO. The triple alliance was coupled with a 2005 NATO-Israeli military cooperation agreement which included "many areas of common interest, such as the fight against terrorism and joint military exercises. These military cooperation ties with NATO are viewed by the Israeli military as a means to "enhance Israel's deterrence capability regarding potential enemies threatening it, mainly Iran and Syria." ("Triple Alliance": The US, Turkey, Israel and the War on Lebanon).

The Issue of Territorial Waters: Gaza's Offshore Gas Fields

Israel's blockade of Gaza is in large part motivated by the broader issue of control of Gaza's territorial waters, which contain significant reserves of natural gas.

What is at stake is the confiscation of Palestinian gas fields and the unilateral de facto declaration of Israeli sovereignty over Gaza's maritime areas. If the blockade were to be broken, Israel's de facto control over Gaza's offshore gas reserves would be jeopardy. (See Michel Chossudovsky,War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza's Offshore Gas Fields, Global Research, January 8, 2009. See also Michel Chossudovsky, The War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, July 23, 2006)

British Gas (BG Group) and its partner, the Athens based Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) owned by Lebanon's Sabbagh and Koury families, were granted oil and gas exploration rights in a 25 year agreement signed in November 1999 with the Palestinian Authority.

The rights to the offshore gas field are respectively British Gas (60 percent); Consolidated Contractors (CCC) (30 percent); and the Investment Fund of the Palestinian Authority (10 percent). (Haaretz, October 21, 2007).

The PA-BG-CCC agreement includes field development and the construction of a gas pipeline.(Middle East Economic Digest, Jan 5, 2001).

The BG licence covers the entire Gazan offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities. (See Map below). It should be noted that 60 percent of the gas reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to Palestine.

The BG Group drilled two wells in 2000: Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2. Reserves are estimated by British Gas to be of the order of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, valued at approximately 4 billion dollars. These are the figures made public by British Gas. The size of Palestine's gas reserves could be much larger.


Map 1

Map 2

Who Owns the Gas Fields

The issue of sovereignty over Gaza's gas fields is crucial. From a legal standpoint, the gas reserves belong to Palestine.

The death of Yasser Arafat, the election of the Hamas government and the ruin of the Palestinian Authority have enabled Israel to establish de facto control over Gaza's offshore gas reserves.

British Gas (BG Group) has been dealing with the Tel Aviv government. In turn, the Hamas government has been bypassed in regards to exploration and development rights over the gas fields.

The election of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 was a major turning point. Palestine's sovereignty over the offshore gas fields was challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court. Sharon stated unequivocally that "Israel would never buy gas from Palestine" intimating that Gaza's offshore gas reserves belong to Israel.

In 2003, Ariel Sharon, vetoed an initial deal, which would allow British Gas to supply Israel with natural gas from Gaza's offshore wells. (The Independent, August 19, 2003)

The election victory of Hamas in 2006 was conducive to the demise of the Palestinian Authority, which became confined to the West Bank, under the proxy regime of Mahmoud Abbas.

In 2006, British Gas "was close to signing a deal to pump the gas to Egypt." (Times, May, 23, 2007). According to reports, British Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened on behalf of Israel with a view to shunting the agreement with Egypt.

The following year, in May 2007, the Israeli Cabinet approved a proposal by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "to buy gas from the Palestinian Authority." The proposed contract was for $4 billion, with profits of the order of $2 billion of which one billion was to go the Palestinians.

Tel Aviv, however, had no intention on sharing the revenues with Palestine. An Israeli team of negotiators was set up by the Israeli Cabinet to thrash out a deal with the BG Group, bypassing both the Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority:

"Israeli defence authorities want the Palestinians to be paid in goods and services and insist that no money go to the Hamas-controlled Government." (Ibid, emphasis added)

The objective was essentially to nullify the contract signed in 1999 between the BG Group and the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat.

Under the proposed 2007 agreement with BG, Palestinian gas from Gaza's offshore wells was to be channeled by an undersea pipeline to the Israeli seaport of Ashkelon, thereby transferring control over the sale of the natural gas to Israel.

The deal fell through. The negotiations were suspended:

"Mossad Chief Meir Dagan opposed the transaction on security grounds, that the proceeds would fund terror". (Member of Knesset Gilad Erdan, Address to the Knesset on "The Intention of Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Purchase Gas from the Palestinians When Payment Will Serve Hamas," March 1, 2006, quoted in Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon, Does the Prospective Purchase of British Gas from Gaza's Coastal Waters Threaten Israel's National Security? Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, October 2007)

Israel's intent was to foreclose the possibility that royalties be paid to the Palestinians. In December 2007, The BG Group withdrew from the negotiations with Israel and in January 2008 they closed their office in Israel.(BG website).

December 2008 Invasion Plan on The Drawing Board

The invasion plan of the Gaza Strip under "Operation Cast Lead" was set in motion in June 2008, according to Israeli military sources:

"Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago [June or before June] , even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas."(Barak Ravid, Operation "Cast Lead": Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning, Haaretz, December 27, 2008)

That very same month, the Israeli authorities contacted British Gas, with a view to resuming crucial negotiations pertaining to the purchase of Gaza's natural gas:

"Both Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler agreed to inform BG of Israel's wish to renew the talks.

The sources added that BG has not yet officially responded to Israel's request, but that company executives would probably come to Israel in a few weeks to hold talks with government officials." (Globes online- Israel's Business Arena, June 23, 2008)

The decision to speed up negotiations with British Gas (BG Group) coincided, chronologically, with the planning of the invasion of Gaza initiated in June. It would appear that Israel was anxious to reach an agreement with the BG Group prior to the invasion, which was already in an advanced planning stage.

Moreover, these negotiations with British Gas were conducted by the Ehud Olmert government with the knowledge that a military invasion was on the drawing board. In all likelihood, a new "post war" political-territorial arrangement for the Gaza strip was also being contemplated by the Israeli government.

In fact, negotiations between British Gas and Israeli officials were ongoing in October 2008, 2-3 months prior to the commencement of the bombings on December 27th.

In November 2008, the Israeli Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Infrastructures instructed Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to enter into negotiations with British Gas, on the purchase of natural gas from the BG's offshore concession in Gaza. (Globes, November 13, 2008)

"Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler wrote to IEC CEO Amos Lasker recently, informing him of the government's decision to allow negotiations to go forward, in line with the framework proposal it approved earlier this year.

The IEC board, headed by chairman Moti Friedman, approved the principles of the framework proposal a few weeks ago. The talks with BG Group will begin once the board approves the exemption from a tender." (Globes Nov. 13, 2008)

Gaza and Energy Geopolitics

The military occupation of Gaza is intent upon transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel in violation of international law.

If this were to occur, the Gaza gas fields would be integrated into Israel's offshore installations, which are contiguous to those of the Gaza Strip. (See Map 1 above).

These various offshore installations are also linked up to Israel's energy transport corridor, extending from the port of Eilat, which is an oil pipeline terminal, on the Red Sea to the seaport - pipeline terminal at Ashkelon, and northwards to Haifa, and eventually linking up through a proposed Israeli-Turkish pipeline with the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Ceyhan is the terminal of the Baku, Tblisi Ceyhan Trans Caspian pipeline. "What is envisaged is to link the BTC pipeline to the Trans-Israel Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, also known as Israel's Tipline." (See Michel Chossudovsky, The War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, July 23, 2006)



Map 3