Thursday, January 27, 2011

US pursues two-track policy to suppress protests in Egypt and Tunisia

US pursues two-track policy to suppress protests in Egypt and Tunisia

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The United States is working intensively to suppress mass protests in both Tunisia and Egypt and prop up the local ruling elites that are entirely subordinate to American imperialism. It is using different tactics in the two countries, dictated in large part by their relative strategic importance to US ruling class interests in the Middle East.

In Tunisia, Washington backed its long-time asset Zine El Abidine Ben Ali until it concluded that his position could not be salvaged despite weeks of violent repression against anti-government demonstrators. Just days before Ben Ali was driven from the country, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States was “not taking sides” between the dictator and protesting workers and youth.

It has been widely reported that the US instructed the Tunisian military to refuse Ben Ali's orders to fire live rounds into mass demonstrations in Tunis and other cities, effectively pulling the rug out from under Ben Ali and making the military leader, Gen. Rachid Ammar, the political arbiter within the country.

The US undoubtedly engineered the formation of a so-called interim unity government following Ben Ali’s January 14 flight to Saudi Arabia. This government, dominated entirely by political henchmen of the ousted dictator, has since been the target of popular demonstrations demanding a government free of former members of the ruling party.

The Obama administration has sent its assistant secretary of state for the Near East, Jeffrey D. Feltman, to Tunis to “confer with the interim government.” With the promise of elections in six months, Washington is backing in all essentials the old regime minus Ben Ali, and calling this cynical fraud “democracy.”

It is portraying General Ammar as the “protector” of the “democratic revolution,” even as the interim government sanctions increased police repression against the protests, which are increasingly dominated by impoverished workers and youth from Tunis and the blighted central and southern parts of the country where the revolt began in December.

Al Jazeera reported Wednesday that riot police in Tunis used tear gas to disperse protesters who have camped out in the city center in defiance of an 8 PM curfew to demand the sacking of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi and the other Ben Ali cronies. Numerous injuries were reported.

Earlier in the week, the army for the first time since Ben Ali’s ouster used tear gas against anti-government protesters.

Nevertheless, the protests continue in Tunis and elsewhere. Al Arabiya reported Wednesday that several thousand demonstrated in Sfax, in eastern Tunisia. On Tuesday, university lecturers joined teachers in a nationwide strike.

Tuesday’s momentous events in Egypt have complicated Washington’s efforts to contain the upsurge of popular opposition in Tunisia and other Arab countries, including Algeria, Yemen and Jordan. An estimated 50,000 people, predominantly young unemployed workers and students, defied the police dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak, routinely described as a “staunch ally of the US,” to demand his resignation and the lifting of emergency rule.

It was the biggest popular movement in Egypt since food riots swept the country in 1977, four years before the military installed Mubarak as president. In the midst of the regime’s savage police repression—using tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and truncheons—US Secretary of State Clinton Tuesday afternoon declared her government’s support for Mubarak.

It had already been reported that two protesters in Suez had been killed by the police and countless more arrested when Clinton told reporters at the State Department: “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

This was an unmistakable signal that the United States was drawing the line in Egypt and would not withdraw its support for Mubarak. It was tantamount to a green light to the regime to employ any degree of force necessary to crush the popular uprising.

This did not take long. In the early morning hours of Wednesday, riot police violently dispersed several thousand demonstrators who had camped out in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square. Plain clothes police beat demonstrators and reporters were attacked and jailed.

This was followed by a government decree banning further demonstrations and warning that protesters would be immediately arrested. Later on Wednesday, police used rubber bullets and batons to disperse 2,000 protesters in Suez. Some 350 people were reportedly injured.

In central Cairo, dozens of people gathered in an attempt to continue the protests and Egyptian journalists demonstrated outside of their union building.

Al Jazeera reported a protest in Assuit in northern Egypt and the claim by the Muslim Brotherhood that as many as 121 of its members had been detained in the town.

There are reports that a third demonstrator has been killed by police. The Egyptian government confirmed Wednesday that 860 had been arrested since Tuesday.

This was the context in which President Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was asked Wednesday if the US supported Mubarak. Gibbs answered in the affirmative, saying that Egypt remained a close and important ally, according to the French press agency AFP.

The administration’s open backing for Mubarak exposed the hollowness and hypocrisy of President Obama’s declaration in his State of the Union address Tuesday: “Tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.”

US imperialism believes that the stakes are too high in Egypt to permit the ousting of Mubarak in a similar manner to the toppling of Ben Ali in Tunisia. Egypt is the most populous and politically important of the Arab states and the recipient of tens of billions of dollars in US military aid. It is the main bulwark of US domination in the Arab world.

As a 2009 report by the Brookings Institution put it: “Egypt is America’s closest Arab ally, a key strategic support for US military operations in the Middle East and a central player in Arab-Israeli peace efforts.”

The New York Times explained the different tactics being pursued in Tunisia and Egypt with cynical bluntness in a front-page article on Wednesday. Washington “is proceeding gingerly,” it wrote, “balancing the democratic aspirations of young Arabs with cold-eyed strategic and commercial interests. That sometimes involves supporting autocratic and unpopular governments—which has turned many of those young people against the United States.

“President Obama called Mr. Mubarak last week, after the uprising in Tunisia, to talk about joint projects like the Middle East peace process, even as he emphasized the need to meet the democratic aspirations of the Tunisian protesters…

“An uprising in Tunisia, a peripheral player in the region, is not the same as one in Egypt, a linchpin. The Egyptian government is a crucial ally to Washington…”

The widening movement in Northern Africa and the Middle East is a powerful demonstration of the entry of the masses into revolutionary struggle and the social power of the working class. However, the movement confronts great dangers at the hands of imperialism and all factions of the national bourgeoisie, as well as those political forces that seek to subordinate the working class to the so-called “democratic” bourgeoisie.

The working class in the Middle East must recognize in the Obama administration and US imperialism its most determined enemy, and understand that the American working class—itself facing massive attacks on its living standards and democratic rights—is its greatest ally. American workers must come to the defense of their Arab brothers, and the Arab masses should make a direct appeal to the US working class.

Obama evades the crisis

Obama evades the crisis

The 25 million to 30 million unemployed and underemployed workers in the U.S. who might have listened to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address could not have found a single word in it to relieve them of their plight. The same can be said for the millions facing foreclosure as well as the 47 million people officially living in poverty.

What they did hear was a call for lowering the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years. Obama also proposed a five-year freeze on domestic spending in order to make “painful cuts.” He alluded to cuts in Medicaid and Medicare to solve the deficit problem. He glorified the Race to the Top program, which is a blueprint for privatizing the educational system and undermining teachers’ unions.

Obama dangled visions of future jobs based upon future plans to develop high-speed railways, high-speed Internet, biomedical technology, and more research and development, but there was not one word about a concrete jobs program or any other form of relief for the masses whose suffering is growing.

The president conjured up the era after 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first space satellite. The Eisenhower administration, the Pentagon and the ruling class went into a complete panic over the prospect of falling behind the socialist USSR in technology. What followed was a massive investment in U.S. education, especially in the sciences and math. It was subsidized by the government and led to the beginning of the scientific-technological revolution.

Obama cited the present situation, pointing to China, which now has the world’s longest high-speed rail network and the world’s most powerful computer, and other countries that have also adapted to the new technological era, to the detriment of the U.S. He basically blamed China, India and other countries for the jobs crisis here. He called this “our Sputnik moment” and put forward visions of a new scientific-technological revolution to meet the challenge to U.S. business and to create jobs. He wants to “make America the best place on Earth to do business.”

But early in his speech he inadvertently contradicted his fundamental argument. He reminded the audience that once upon a time workers here could get good jobs with good benefits for life. Then he brutally reminded the workers that “the rules have changed.” Technology has transformed the situation. “Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100.”

In other words, the scientific-technological revolution of the past has led to a vast speedup in productivity and a similar reduction in the needs of capital for labor. This is what is behind the present jobless recovery, the massive unemployment and the economic crisis of capitalism.

Obama’s plans to invest in high-speed rail, high-speed Internet, green energy, etc., are all technology-intensive industries that cannot put the tens of millions back to work. The advance of technology is what is leading capitalism toward an impasse and further crises.

The bosses are still sitting on $2 trillion in cash because of capitalist overproduction, money they refuse to invest in production because they can’t make profit without a market for their goods. Neither Obama nor the ruling class has any answer to this fundamental contradiction. Only the struggle of the working class to get rid of capitalism can overcome this long-term crisis for the workers.

Reports of ‘massacre’ in Suez as protests in Egypt move into third day

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Anti-government protests in Egypt moved into their third day early Thursday, with unconfirmed reports of police "massacres" of civilians in the port city of Suez.

In Cairo, protesters "played cat and mouse with police" into the early hours of Thursday, Reuters reported. Opposition groups reported on their websites that electronic communications had been cut off in the city center, and parts of the city were experiencing blackouts.

The official death toll stood at six over the first two days of protests, but social networks were abuzz with claims of police shooting at protesters, many of those reports focusing on the city of Suez, where protesters torched a government building on Wednesday.

"Security forces are committing heinous massacres and there is zero media coverage," read an update on the web page of Suez from Egyptian Association for Change - USA, an opposition group that had joined the call for an uprising starting on January 25.

"Government is trying to cover up what happened in city of Suez. Media banned from entry," read another update. "Reporters from Suez, Al Jazeerah, Dream and Al Mehwar were prohibited from entering Suez to enforce a media blackout on the subject."

Others reported on the web page that a curfew was placed on the city and police were using "live ammunition."

Yet another update asserted that communications and electricity in Suez had been completely cut off, something also asserted by the We Are All Khaled Said protest group, which didn't report a "massacre" but did warn of an impending one.

Suez is completely cut off. Police has been evacuated. Protesters there are very angry. The army is being brought in according to reports. Some sad speculations say that a massive crackdown will take place in Suez on protesters which could end up with a REAL Massacre.

Some 130 people were reportedly injured in clashes between protesters and police in Suez on Wednesday. Officials confirmed that more than 1,000 people have been arrested in protests around the country.

Anti-government protesters appeared to be encouraged by news that Mohamed El-Baradei, a former chief UN weapons inspector and prominent figurehead for Egyptian opposition groups, would be returning to the country amid the protests.

Others noted a significant "shift in tone" in Washington towards the government of President Hosni Mubarak, whom the US has long supported with billions in foreign aid. Reuters reported:

The United States bluntly urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday to make political reforms in the face of protesters demanding his ouster, in a shift in tone toward an important Arab ally.

In issuing a fresh call for reforms after a day of clashes between Egyptian police and protesters, Washington appeared to be juggling several interests: its desire for stability in a regional ally, its support for democratic principles and its fear of the possible rise of an anti-U.S. Islamist government.

Although Western observers have been cautious thus far not to declare the protests a Tunisia-style uprising, the mood among opposition groups suggested they believe that this is a seminal moment in Egyptian history.

"Egyptians' desire for freedom has reached the point of no return," We Are All Khaled Said declared. "Egyptians have said their word. They want change ... freedom and justice ... There is no coming back. They had their chance."

"Protesters are being released. They say will not stop. Change has come to Egypt. There is no going back. The people have spoken and their demands must be met," the Egyptian Association for Change declared.


The protests in Egypt have taken a particular toll on reporters covering the conflict, with the Committee to Protect Journalists reporting that security personnel beat at least 10 reporters in the first two days of protests.

Egyptian authorities have blocked access to at least two websites of local online newspapers: Al-Dustour and El-Badil, the CPJ stated.

Guardian reporter Jack Schenker described in detail being beaten and arrested by Egyptian security forces.

Other protesters and I were thrown through the doorway, where we had to run a gauntlet of officers beating us with sticks. Inside we were pushed against the wall; our mobiles and wallets were removed. Officers walked up and down ordering us to face the wall and not look back, as more and more protesters were brought in behind us. Anyone who turned round was instantly hit.

An Associated Press cameraman and his assistant were arrested while filming clashes between protesters and police in Cairo on Tuesday, the first day of protests, and had not been released as of this report.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the US was putting pressure on Egypt to release the AP staffers. "We have raised this issue already with the ministry of foreign affairs and we will continue to monitor these cases until they are successfully resolved," he said

Pentagon Inc.

Cow Most Sacred

Why Military Spending Remains Untouchable

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In defense circles, “cutting” the Pentagon budget has once again become a topic of conversation. Americans should not confuse that talk with reality. Any cuts exacted will at most reduce the rate of growth. The essential facts remain: U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without precedent in modern history.

The Pentagon presently spends more in constant dollars than it did at any time during the Cold War -- this despite the absence of anything remotely approximating what national security experts like to call a “peer competitor.” Evil Empire? It exists only in the fevered imaginations of those who quiver at the prospect of China adding a rust-bucket Russian aircraft carrier to its fleet or who take seriously the ravings of radical Islamists promising from deep inside their caves to unite the Umma in a new caliphate.

What are Americans getting for their money? Sadly, not much. Despite extraordinary expenditures (not to mention exertions and sacrifices by U.S. forces), the return on investment is, to be generous, unimpressive. The chief lesson to emerge from the battlefields of the post-9/11 era is this: the Pentagon possesses next to no ability to translate “military supremacy” into meaningful victory.

Washington knows how to start wars and how to prolong them, but is clueless when it comes to ending them. Iraq, the latest addition to the roster of America’s forgotten wars, stands as exhibit A. Each bomb that blows up in Baghdad or some other Iraqi city, splattering blood all over the streets, testifies to the manifest absurdity of judging “the surge” as the epic feat of arms celebrated by the Petraeus lobby.

The problems are strategic as well as operational. Old Cold War-era expectations that projecting U.S. power will enhance American clout and standing no longer apply, especially in the Islamic world. There, American military activities are instead fostering instability and inciting anti-Americanism. For Exhibit B, see the deepening morass that Washington refers to as AfPak or the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of operations.

Add to that the mountain of evidence showing that Pentagon, Inc. is a miserably managed enterprise: hide-bound, bloated, slow-moving, and prone to wasting resources on a prodigious scale -- nowhere more so than in weapons procurement and the outsourcing of previously military functions to “contractors.” When it comes to national security, effectiveness (what works) should rightly take precedence over efficiency (at what cost?) as the overriding measure of merit. Yet beyond a certain level, inefficiency undermines effectiveness, with the Pentagon stubbornly and habitually exceeding that level. By comparison, Detroit’s much-maligned Big Three offer models of well-run enterprises.

Impregnable Defenses

All of this takes place against the backdrop of mounting problems at home: stubbornly high unemployment, trillion-dollar federal deficits, massive and mounting debt, and domestic needs like education, infrastructure, and employment crying out for attention.

Yet the defense budget -- a misnomer since for Pentagon, Inc. defense per se figures as an afterthought -- remains a sacred cow. Why is that?

The answer lies first in understanding the defenses arrayed around that cow to ensure that it remains untouched and untouchable. Exemplifying what the military likes to call a “defense in depth,” that protective shield consists of four distinct but mutually supporting layers.

Institutional Self-Interest: Victory in World War II produced not peace, but an atmosphere of permanent national security crisis. As never before in U.S. history, threats to the nation’s existence seemed omnipresent, an attitude first born in the late 1940s that still persists today. In Washington, fear -- partly genuine, partly contrived -- triggered a powerful response.

One result was the emergence of the national security state, an array of institutions that depended on (and therefore strove to perpetuate) this atmosphere of crisis to justify their existence, status, prerogatives, and budgetary claims. In addition, a permanent arms industry arose, which soon became a major source of jobs and corporate profits. Politicians of both parties were quick to identify the advantages of aligning with this “military-industrial complex,” as President Eisenhower described it.

Allied with (and feeding off of) this vast apparatus that transformed tax dollars into appropriations, corporate profits, campaign contributions, and votes was an intellectual axis of sorts -- government-supported laboratories, university research institutes, publications, think tanks, and lobbying firms (many staffed by former or would-be senior officials) -- devoted to identifying (or conjuring up) ostensible national security challenges and alarms, always assumed to be serious and getting worse, and then devising responses to them.

The upshot: within Washington, the voices carrying weight in any national security “debate” all share a predisposition for sustaining very high levels of military spending for reasons having increasingly little to do with the well-being of the country.

Strategic Inertia: In a 1948 State Department document, diplomat George F. Kennan offered this observation: “We have about 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population.” The challenge facing American policymakers, he continued, was “to devise a pattern of relationships that will permit us to maintain this disparity.” Here we have a description of American purposes that is far more candid than all of the rhetoric about promoting freedom and democracy, seeking world peace, or exercising global leadership.

The end of World War II found the United States in a spectacularly privileged position. Not for nothing do Americans remember the immediate postwar era as a Golden Age of middle-class prosperity. Policymakers since Kennan’s time have sought to preserve that globally privileged position. The effort has been a largely futile one.

By 1950 at the latest, those policymakers (with Kennan by then a notable dissenter) had concluded that the possession and deployment of military power held the key to preserving America’s exalted status. The presence of U.S. forces abroad and a demonstrated willingness to intervene, whether overtly or covertly, just about anywhere on the planet would promote stability, ensure U.S. access to markets and resources, and generally serve to enhance the country’s influence in the eyes of friend and foe alike -- this was the idea, at least.

In postwar Europe and postwar Japan, this formula achieved considerable success. Elsewhere -- notably in Korea, Vietnam, Latin America, and (especially after 1980) in the so-called Greater Middle East -- it either produced mixed results or failed catastrophically. Certainly, the events of the post-9/11 era provide little reason to believe that this presence/power-projection paradigm will provide an antidote to the threat posed by violent anti-Western jihadism. If anything, adherence to it is exacerbating the problem by creating ever greater anti-American animus.

One might think that the manifest shortcomings of the presence/power-projection approach -- trillions expended in Iraq for what? -- might stimulate present-day Washington to pose some first-order questions about basic U.S. national security strategy. A certain amount of introspection would seem to be called for. Could, for example, the effort to sustain what remains of America’s privileged status benefit from another approach?

Yet there are few indications that our political leaders, the senior-most echelons of the officer corps, or those who shape opinion outside of government are capable of seriously entertaining any such debate. Whether through ignorance, arrogance, or a lack of imagination, the pre-existing strategic paradigm stubbornly persists; so, too, as if by default do the high levels of military spending that the strategy entails.

Cultural Dissonance: The rise of the Tea Party movement should disabuse any American of the thought that the cleavages produced by the “culture wars” have healed. The cultural upheaval touched off by the 1960s and centered on Vietnam remains unfinished business in this country.

Among other things, the sixties destroyed an American consensus, forged during World War II, about the meaning of patriotism. During the so-called Good War, love of country implied, even required, deference to the state, shown most clearly in the willingness of individuals to accept the government’s authority to mandate military service. GI’s, the vast majority of them draftees, were the embodiment of American patriotism, risking life and limb to defend the country.

The GI of World War II had been an American Everyman. Those soldiers both represented and reflected the values of the nation from which they came (a perception affirmed by the ironic fact that the military adhered to prevailing standards of racial segregation). It was “our army” because that army was “us.”

With Vietnam, things became more complicated. The war’s supporters argued that the World War II tradition still applied: patriotism required deference to the commands of the state. Opponents of the war, especially those facing the prospect of conscription, insisted otherwise. They revived the distinction, formulated a generation earlier by the radical journalist Randolph Bourne, that distinguished between the country and the state. Real patriots, the ones who most truly loved their country, were those who opposed state policies they regarded as misguided, illegal, or immoral.

In many respects, the soldiers who fought the Vietnam War found themselves caught uncomfortably in the center of this dispute. Was the soldier who died in Vietnam a martyr, a tragic figure, or a sap? Who deserved greater admiration: the soldier who fought bravely and uncomplainingly or the one who served and then turned against the war? Or was the war resister -- the one who never served at all -- the real hero?

War’s end left these matters disconcertingly unresolved. President Richard Nixon’s 1971 decision to kill the draft in favor of an All-Volunteer Force, predicated on the notion that the country might be better served with a military that was no longer “us,” only complicated things further. So, too, did the trends in American politics where bona fide war heroes (George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John Kerry, and John McCain) routinely lost to opponents whose military credentials were non-existent or exceedingly slight (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama), yet who demonstrated once in office a remarkable propensity for expending American blood (none belonging to members of their own families) in places like Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It was all more than a little unseemly.

Patriotism, once a simple concept, had become both confusing and contentious. What obligations, if any, did patriotism impose? And if the answer was none -- the option Americans seemed increasingly to prefer -- then was patriotism itself still a viable proposition?

Wanting to answer that question in the affirmative -- to distract attention from the fact that patriotism had become little more than an excuse for fireworks displays and taking the occasional day off from work -- people and politicians alike found a way to do so by exalting those Americans actually choosing to serve in uniform. The thinking went this way: soldiers offer living proof that America is a place still worth dying for, that patriotism (at least in some quarters) remains alive and well; by common consent, therefore, soldiers are the nation’s “best,” committed to “something bigger than self” in a land otherwise increasingly absorbed in pursuing a material and narcissistic definition of self-fulfillment.

In effect, soldiers offer much-needed assurance that old-fashioned values still survive, even if confined to a small and unrepresentative segment of American society. Rather than Everyman, today’s warrior has ascended to the status of icon, deemed morally superior to the nation for which he or she fights, the repository of virtues that prop up, however precariously, the nation’s increasingly sketchy claim to singularity.

Politically, therefore, “supporting the troops” has become a categorical imperative across the political spectrum. In theory, such support might find expression in a determination to protect those troops from abuse, and so translate into wariness about committing soldiers to unnecessary or unnecessarily costly wars. In practice, however, “supporting the troops” has found expression in an insistence upon providing the Pentagon with open-ended drawing rights on the nation’s treasury, thereby creating massive barriers to any proposal to affect more than symbolic reductions in military spending.

Misremembered History: The duopoly of American politics no longer allows for a principled anti-interventionist position. Both parties are war parties. They differ mainly in the rationale they devise to argue for interventionism. The Republicans tout liberty; the Democrats emphasize human rights. The results tend to be the same: a penchant for activism that sustains a never-ending demand for high levels of military outlays.

American politics once nourished a lively anti-interventionist tradition. Leading proponents included luminaries such as George Washington and John Quincy Adams. That tradition found its basis not in principled pacifism, a position that has never attracted widespread support in this country, but in pragmatic realism. What happened to that realist tradition? Simply put, World War II killed it -- or at least discredited it. In the intense and divisive debate that occurred in 1939-1941, the anti-interventionists lost, their cause thereafter tarred with the label “isolationism.”

The passage of time has transformed World War II from a massive tragedy into a morality tale, one that casts opponents of intervention as blackguards. Whether explicitly or implicitly, the debate over how the United States should respond to some ostensible threat -- Iraq in 2003, Iran today -- replays the debate finally ended by the events of December 7, 1941. To express skepticism about the necessity and prudence of using military power is to invite the charge of being an appeaser or an isolationist. Few politicians or individuals aspiring to power will risk the consequences of being tagged with that label.

In this sense, American politics remains stuck in the 1930s -- always discovering a new Hitler, always privileging Churchillian rhetoric -- even though the circumstances in which we live today bear scant resemblance to that earlier time. There was only one Hitler and he’s long dead. As for Churchill, his achievements and legacy are far more mixed than his battalions of defenders are willing to acknowledge. And if any one figure deserves particular credit for demolishing Hitler’s Reich and winning World War II, it’s Josef Stalin, a dictator as vile and murderous as Hitler himself.

Until Americans accept these facts, until they come to a more nuanced view of World War II that takes fully into account the political and moral implications of the U.S. alliance with the Soviet Union and the U.S. campaign of obliteration bombing directed against Germany and Japan, the mythic version of “the Good War” will continue to provide glib justifications for continuing to dodge that perennial question: How much is enough?

Like concentric security barriers arrayed around the Pentagon, these four factors -- institutional self-interest, strategic inertia, cultural dissonance, and misremembered history -- insulate the military budget from serious scrutiny. For advocates of a militarized approach to policy, they provide invaluable assets, to be defended at all costs.

Obama outlines right-wing, pro-corporate agenda in State of the Union speech

Obama outlines right-wing, pro-corporate agenda in State of the Union speech

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In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama outlined a reactionary political agenda that amounted to a full-scale embrace of the policies of the incoming Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

The speech was a demonstration of the bipartisan consensus of the American ruling elite. Both Democrats and Republicans serve the interests of the financial aristocracy, from whom they are taking their marching orders to cut domestic social spending and enact further tax breaks for the wealthy.

Obama displayed utter callousness and indifference toward the social distress of tens of millions of Americans. There was virtually no reference to unemployment or the staggering growth of economic inequality, and no proposals for creating jobs for the 17 million workers who are jobless or forced to subsist on part-time and temporary work.

The words “poverty,” “foreclosures,” “hunger” and “homelessness” were not uttered, despite sharp increases in all four during the first two years of Obama’s tenure.

Listening to Obama’s desultory remarks, one would never have guessed that just 28 months ago the American financial-corporate elite brought the American and world economy to its knees, precipitating the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The speech was a paean to American capitalism and the very financial bandits who are chiefly responsible for the catastrophe facing the American people.

Obama boasted of the good fortune of corporate America, which is making more money than ever. “The stock market has come roaring back,” he declared. “Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.” Under conditions of near double-digit unemployment, he claimed to have “broken the back of this recession.”

There was no acknowledgement that the revival of the financial sector and corporate profits is the byproduct of shoveling trillions in public funds to bail out Wall Street. Now Obama is joining with the Republicans in a bipartisan drive to force the American people to pay the price for these bailouts—and the ensuing record federal deficits—by slashing spending on vitally needed social programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

“Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation,” Obama declared, and proceeded to argue that government intervention was necessary to subsidize corporations that otherwise would not invest in basic research because it is not profitable. Aside from maintaining the military and national security apparatus, Obama suggested that propping up big business with taxpayer funds was virtually the only legitimate function of the federal government.

The State of the Union speech exemplified the state of contemporary American politics, where neither the representatives of the two big business parties nor the commentators in the corporate-controlled media can speak honestly about social reality. There were constant invocations of the greatness of America and its exceptional character, which contrasted absurdly with Obama’s scattered allusions to the devastating failures of the United States in all social spheres.

Thus, for instance, Obama appealed to the idealism of young people, urging them to become teachers, ignoring the fact that public schools are being closed down all over the country, tens of thousands of teachers are being laid off, and teachers are being scapegoated by the White House for the government’s policy of starving and undermining the public school system.

He pledged to make the United States number one in the world in the proportion of the population with a college degree, even as state colleges and universities are raising tuition rates and fees and financial aid is a major target of both state and federal budget-cutting.

He called for investment in infrastructure programs such as high-speed rail and nationwide wireless access, without providing any explanation for the devastating decline in the country’s basic infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, for which, he admitted, “engineers now give us a D.”

The actual policy measures proposed in the speech were right-wing and pro-corporate. Obama called for lower corporate tax rates, a five-year freeze in annual domestic spending to be carried out through “painful cuts” in social programs, and a bipartisan effort to slash spending on the major entitlement programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Equally significant were the policy issues Obama avoided. There was no mention of the budget crisis in the 50 states, where Democratic and Republican governors alike are proposing unprecedented cutbacks in public services, from education to mental health.

He made no reference to the catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but instead reiterated his desire to join with the Republicans in a crusade to free the giant corporations of regulations that in any way inhibit their ability to increase their profits.

Above all, he covered up the responsibility of the capitalist system for the economic devastation of the last three years. He hailed the United States as “the largest, the most prosperous economy in the world,” although living standards for working people in the US have fallen sharply and now trail significantly behind those of workers in Western Europe and Japan. He declared that the goal of his administration was to make America “the best place to do business.” And he suggested that unemployment was the fault of the unemployed, since in the new global economy it was no longer possible for American workers to find good-paying and secure jobs if they lack sufficient education.

The general tone of the speech was at once complacent and provocative. It was a demonstration that the vast majority of the American people, those whose focus is the labor market, not the stock market, are entirely disenfranchised by the two-party system.

Obama made a series of appeals to the Republican Party. He began with a declaration that “the people” had decided that the Republicans should share responsibility for determining government policy, although the election debacle last November was the product of a collapse in the Democratic vote. It was a manifestation of disappointment and disillusionment with the Obama administration because of its right-wing policies, not an expression of confidence in the reactionary nostrums of the Republicans.

Obama called for intensifying the assault on education conducted under the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” law and his own “Race to the Top” program, both of them predicated on promoting charter and private schools, undermining public schools, and driving down wages, working conditions and job security for teachers.

He invited the Republicans to propose changes in the healthcare program adopted by the Democratic Congress last year, and endorsed the traditional right-wing hobby horse of “malpractice reform”—i.e., depriving patients of the right to sue over injuries inflicted by drug companies, medical equipment companies, hospitals or doctors.

He fully embraced the Republican claim that deficit reduction is the central issue facing Washington. “Now that the worst of the recession is over,” he said—a remarkable statement with nearly ten million people unemployed for six months or longer—the “final critical step” was to address the federal deficit. He declared that his proposed five-year freeze on annual domestic spending would save $400 billion.

This is only the opening bid for much larger cuts. Only a few hours before Obama’s speech, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution endorsing a rollback of current domestic social spending to 2008 levels, a cut of almost $100 billion this year.

Towards the end of the speech, Obama devoted a few minutes to foreign affairs, which was confined to salutes to American troops (producing a series of bipartisan standing ovations) and pledges to continue the war in Afghanistan and US threats against Iran. He made reference to the rescinding of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” hailing the right of gays to enlist openly in the military, and used this to demand that all college campuses open their doors to military recruiters and ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) programs.

Turkey releases report on flotilla incident, accusing Israel

Turkey releases report on flotilla incident, accusing Israel

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Turkey publicizes its internal report on the flotilla debacle in response to Israel's Turkel Commission investigation report on Sunday.

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In this May 31, 2010 file photo the Mavi Marmara ship, the lead boat of a flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip which was stormed by Israeli naval commandos in a predawn confrontation, sails into the port of Ashdod, Israel. Turkey released its own internal report on the incident, which blames Israel for the confrontation's deadly outcome.
(Ariel Schalit/AP Photo)

Antagonism between Turkey and Israel is being reinvigorated as each nation's report about the lethal storming by Israeli commandos of the Mavi Marmara ship last May is made public.

Eight Turks and an American citizen of Turkish descent were killed during the 4:26 a.m. raid on the humanitarian aid flotilla, which was cruising 72 miles off the coast in international waters on its way to break Israel's Gaza blockade.

The Turkish report found that Israeli units shot dead two people from their helicopters before fast-roping onto the deck, where they battled passengers armed with sticks, clubs, and knives mostly drawn from the ship’s eight kitchens.

What Turkey found

Turkey’s report on the incident was submitted to a United Nations investigation last September, but is now being made public after Israel on Sunday published its own report, which cleared the Israeli military and government of any wrongdoing.

“The attacker can’t claim that he is defending himself,” a senior Turkish foreign ministry official said Tuesday. “Our aim was not to demonize Israel or the Israeli people [or] to tarnish the Israeli nation…. But Israel has not come to terms with their injustice.”

The report of Israel’s Turkel Commission – which is to be the basis of Israel’s findings for the UN investigation – affirms Israel’s official declarations that its units killed in self-defense. Turkish officials have dismissed it as “flawed” and a “whitewash.”

Outrage in Turkey over the incident has deeply damaged Israel’s relations with one-time close ally Turkey, which has demanded an apology and reparations.

The Turkish report said that Israel mounted a “full-fledged and pre-meditated attack” by heavily armed soldiers with live ammunition that used “excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate force … against the civilians on board,” the Turkish report said.

Once the Israelis took over the vessel they “continued to brutalize and terrorize the passengers, abusing them physically and psychologically,” the report found. During interrogation that lasted days in Israel, all passengers were “forced to sign incriminatory statements” in Hebrew, while “evidence of critical importance to shed light on the attack was destroyed, tampered with or despoiled.”

Some findings of the Turkish report echo those from the UN Human Rights Council, whose fact-finding mission last September concluded “a series of violations of international law … were committed by the Israeli forces during the interception of the flotilla.”

What Israel found

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Israeli commission findings, which stated that Israeli soldiers acted appropriately on the ship after they “encountered a real resistance force, armed with clubs, iron rods, chairs, etc.”

The report stated that the “largest group” among the 600 on board was made up of “peace activists,” and that an order went out over the Mavi Marmara’s public address system telling all passengers to return to their seats.

The commission stated that passengers who were “direct participants in hostilities” could legally be considered combatants.

It also found that Israeli soldiers “acted professionally and in a measured manner,” though their actions “had the regrettable consequences of the loss of human life and physical injuries.”

"I hope all those who rushed to judgment against Israel and its soldiers will read these reports,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “The truth is that our soldiers were defending our country and defending their very lives. This is not only their right; it is their duty.”

Loopholes and whitewash?

The Israeli position has prompted fury in Turkey, where President Abdullah Gul said Israel’s report “isn’t worth the paper it is printed on – it has no credibility, legitimacy, or plausibility.”

“It’s full of legal loopholes, it’s distorting facts, and unfortunately it whitewashes the Israeli military,” said the senior Turkish official in Istanbul. “Our conclusion is it’s shielding those people who are responsible … from international prosecution in the future.”

Turkey’s report confirmed initial autopsies, noting that “most suffered from multiple shots at close range.” Witnesses reported shortly after the event that Israelis used laser sights on their guns in some cases; one of the dead was shot between the eyes.

The Turkish report also details what it called efforts by Israel to complicate any Turkish forensic examination. Bodies had been washed and “gunshot residues were removed” before being repatriated to Turkey.

The ship itself had been held in the Israeli port of Ashdod for 66 days, and when handed back to Turkey had been “scrubbed down thoroughly, blood stains completely washed off, bullet holes painted over; ship records, Captain’s log, computer hardware, ship documents seized, CCTV cameras smashed, all photographic footage seized and presumably destroyed or withheld.”

“If you try so hard to hide evidence, it means that psychologically you are under pressure, that you committed something,” said the senior ministry official.

He also echoed the conclusion of the Turkish report, that Israeli forces had a number of nonlethal ways of stopping the Mavi Marmara, but chose not to use them.

“Israel prepared for a combat operation and refused to deviate from this strategy," the Turkish report stated. “The tragic truth is that civilian casualty [sic] could have been avoided if Israel had sought [an] alternative non-violent plan of action.”

9/11 Truth Is No "Parlor Game"

9/11 Truth Is No “Parlor Game”

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A disturbing article on, “The 9/11 Truth Parlor Game” (15 January, updated 16 January 2011), by Robert Parry, advances the indefensible theory that the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was affected by the shooters interest in 9/11 truth. While there are good reasons to suspect that the political climate nurtured by the right wing may have influenced him (by targeting a series of representatives using the cross-hairs of a telescopic site, for example), there is no reason to believe than anyone associated with the 9/11 truth movement has targeted any members of Congress—other than attempting to expose them to the evidence that research has unearthed, which has shown that virtually every claim the government has made about 9/11 is provably false.

As the founder of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, a society of experts and scholars from many different disciplines, including pilots, physicists, structural, mechanical and aeronautical engineers, we have established more than twenty refutations of the government’s official account, including what NIST has had to say about these events, which does not satisfy even minimal standards of scientific acceptability.

In this article, for example, Perry maintains that the collapse of the Twin Towers was assured “effect once the beams were weakened by the impact of the planes and the heat from the fires.” But NIST studied 236 samples of steel it selected from the debris and discovered that 233 had not been exposed to temperatures above 500*F and the other three not above 1,200*F, temperatures far below what would have been required for the steel to weaken, much less melt.

One of the most remarkable features of the destruction of the Twin Towers is that the top 30 floors of the South Tower began to pivot before the building was blown to pieces, floor by floor. This refutes the claim that they were “collapsing”, insofar as those top 30 floors were not in the position to exert any downward force that might have brought about a collapse. The South Tower was hit second but was the first to be demolished after only an hour of exposure to fires at 500*F, which is the temperature of ordinary office fires.. If that were enough to cause steel and concrete buildings to “collapse”, there would be no need for resorting to controlled demolitions. In fact, no steel structure high-rise ever collapsed due to fire before 9/11 or after 9/11. And if our research is well-founded, that did not happen on 9/11 either. It is part of the mythology of 9/11 brought to us by Philip Zelikow, whose area of academic specialization is the creation and maintenance of public myths.

Since Underwriters Laboratory had certified the steel used in the buildings to 2,000*F for three or four hours without incurring any adverse effects by either weakening or melting, the fires could have burned forever and not have caused the towers to collapse. Jet fuel is made of kerosene, which burns at a lower temperature than propane; yet, as Jesse Ventura has observed, his camping stove, which burns propane, does not melt when he uses it. Since the fires were asymmetrically distributed, moreover, if they had burned hot enough or long enough to have caused the steel to weaken, the result would have been some asymmetrical sagging and tilting, not the complete, abrupt and total demolition that occurred. Which means that Parry is trading in 9/11 fiction, not 9/11 fact.

He also denies that WTC-7, a 47-story skyscraper that came down at 5:20 PM, seven hours after the Twin Towers were destroyed. It fell in approximately 6.5 seconds, which is about the speed of free fall, a classic indication of a collapse that was brought about by a controlled demolition. Many experts have found the pattern of collapse supports that conclusion. A very nice video that demonstrates this to be the case, “This is an Orange”, refutes his allegation that it was because the building had a large atrium that it collapsed as fast as free fall. That ignores the fact that the entire building was extremely robust in construction, having been erected over two massive electrical generators providing back-up electricity for lower Manhattan. This building obviously came down as the result of a controlled demolition, which is why so many in the 9/11 truth community emphasize WTC-7.

He also talks about a vast number of witnesses seeing a Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon and talks about phone calls that were made from the planes. David Ray Griffin, however, has discovered that all of the alleged phone calls from all four of the planes were faked. None of them were real. And Pilots for 9/11 Truth had studied the black box data provided to them by the NTSB and discovered that a plane corresponding to the data would have approached on an easterly trajectory, been 300 feet in the air approaching the building (too high to have taken out any lampposts) and was still 100 feet higher than the Pentagon at one second from impact, which suggests that it flew over the building and did not hit it. Indeed, the absence of massive debris from the plane, including the absence of the wings, the tail, bodies, seats and luggage—not to mention that the massive engines, which are virtually indestructible, were never recovered—indicates that, once again, it is Parry who is propagating myths about 9/11, not 9/11 experts.

While the thrust of Parry’s piece is clearly intended to discredit 9/11 research, he makes at least one important point, which is that we have not yet succeeded in sorting out exactly how all of this was done. The Twin Towers appear to have been taken out by some novel form of demolition from the top down, where, in contrast to WTC-7, each floor remained stationary waiting its turn to be blown to Kingdom come. They, too, came down at approximately free fall speed, which is simply astounding since, in the case of the South Tower, everything below the 80th floor was stone cold steel, as was the case for the North below the 94th floor. There was no reason for them to collapse at all, where their destruction involved the astounding conversion of two massive, 500,000-ton buildings into millions of cubic yards of very fine dust. While the use of thermite has been advanced to explain it, Parry appears to be correct that thermite does not have the explosive

properties that would be required to effect this dramatic physical tranformation.

Persons like Parry and others, such as Michael Shermer, would have the public believe that conspiracy theories are almost always false, as though the United States were an exception to the experience of other nations. What would William Shakespeare have had to write about were it not for plots against the kings and queens of England? What 9/11 apologists like Shermer and Parry do not point out is that conspiracies only require two or more persons acting together to bring about an illegal end. If the official account of 19 Islamic fundamentalists seizing control of these four aircraft, outfoxing the most sophisticated air defense system in the world, and perpetrating these atrocities under the control of a guy in a cave in Afghanistan were true, it would be a conspiracy theory, too. Indeed, it appears to be the one that is the most easily falsified of them all. So if we are going to discuss “the pivotal event” of the 21st Century, we are going to have to study conspiracy theories to determine which of them is true and which are false.

Parry claims that the Tucson gunman was affected by 9/11 truth and became enraged at images of Bush and Cheney, who, as we all know, lied to us about the reasons for attacking Iraq and later Afghanistan. There were no weapons of mass destruction; Saddam was not seeking yellowcake from Niger; and Iraq was not in cahoots with al Qaeda. Indeed, Bush himself would eventually admit that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, just as our own FBI had acknowledged that it has “no hard evidence” connecting Osama to the 9/11 attacks. For those who want to learn more about the truth of 9/11, I arranged for a symposium in London this past summer, which was held at Friends House on 14 July 2010. You can view our presentations, including “Are Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan justified by 9/11?”, here. Everyone who knows the truth should be angry with the Bush and Cheney administration, which has lied to us about it. But there is no reason to think that any of this had had anything to do with the Tucson event, where the difference between someone's interest in 9/11 and their reasons for acting as they do requires more careful discrimination.

Jim Fetzer, a former Marine Corps officer who earned his Ph.D. in the history and the philosophy of science, is McKnight Professor Emeritus on the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota. He co-edits with John P. Costella and is, most recently, the editor of The Place of Probability in Scienceˆ, his 29th book.

Washington facing the ire of the Tunisian people

Washington facing the ire of the Tunisian people

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While western media are celebrating the "Jasmine Revolution", Thierry Meyssan lays bare the U.S. plan to curb the anger of the Tunisian people and salvage this insconspicuous CIA and NATO backwater base. According to him, the insurrectional process is still ongoing and could rapidly give rise to a real Revolution, to the great dismay of Western capitals.

The big powers abhor political upheavals that escape their control and thrwart their plans. The events that have electrified Tunisia for the past month are no exception, quite the contrary.

It is therefore rather surprising that the international mainstream media, staunch cohorts of the world domination system, should suddenly acclaim the "Jasmine Revolution", churning out reports on the Ben Ali family fortune which they had up until now turned a blind eye to, despite their ostentatious luxury. Western countries are chasing after a situation that has slipped from their hands and which they are trying to rein in by painting it as it suits them.

First and foremost, what must be borne in mind is that the Ben Ali regime was supported by the United States, Israel, France and Italy.

Regarded by Washington as a country of minor importance, Tunisia fulfilled a security role more than an economic one. In 1987, a soft coup d’état deposed President Habab Bourguiba in favour of his Interior Minister Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, a CIA agent trained at the U.S. Army Intelligence School, Fort Holabird, Maryland. According to revelations that have recently come to light, it would seem that Italy and Algeria were akin to that power takeover [1].

The minute he settled into the Republican Palace, Ben Ali set up a military commission in conjunction with the Pentagon, which has met in May of each year. Wary of the army, he relegated it to a marginal role, keeping it under-equipped with the exception of the Tunisian Special Forces which train with the U.S. military and take part in the regional "anti-terrorism" device. The ports of Bizerte, Sfax, Sousse and Tunis host NATO vessels and, in 2004, Tunisia joined the "Mediterranean Alliance" under NATO auspices.

Not expecting anything in economic terms, Washington allowed Ben Ali to systematically bleed his country. Every expanding firm was requested to yield 50% of its capital plus the accompanying dividends. However, things turned sour in 2009 when the ruling family, which jumped from greed to cupidity, intended to impose their extortion racket also to U.S. firms.

For its part, the State Department began to prepare for the inevitable demise of the president. The dictator meticulously eliminated his rivals and had no heir. A solution had to be found and some sixty figures apt to play a political role in the future were brought on board. They each followed a three-month training at Fort Bragg and received a monthly salary [2].

Although President Ben Ali parroted the anti-Zionist rhetoric prevailing in the Muslim world, Tunisia extended several facilities to the Jewish colony of Palestine. Israeli citizens of Tunisian descent were authorised to travel to and trade in the country. Ariel Sharon was even invited to Tunis.

The revolt

The desperate act on 17 December 2010 of Mohamed el-Bouzazi, a street vendor who set himself on fire after the police confiscated his cart and produce, touched off the initial protests. This personal drama, which resonated with the Sidi Bouzid residents, sparked a general uprising. The clashes spread to several regions before engulfing the capital. The General Union of Tunisian Workers, best known under its French acronym UGTT, and lawyers’ groups joined in the demonstrations, thus sealing spontaneously an alliance between the popular and middle classes around a structured organisation.

On 28 December, President Ben Ali attempted to regain control of the situation, making a bed-side visit to young Mohamed el-Bouazizi and addressing the nation that same evening. Yet his televised speech exposed his obliviousness. He treated the protestors as extremists and paid agitators, promising a ferocious crackdown. Instead of appeasing the people, his intervention transformed a popular revolt into an insurrection. The Tunisian people are not only mobilised against social injustice, they are also questioning the political power system.

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Producer and Nessma TV magnate Tarak Ben Ammar is an associate of Silvio Berlusconi and the uncle of Yasmina Torjman, wife of French Industry Minister Eric Besson.

It became clear to Washington that "our agent Ben Ali" had lost the reins. The National Security Council, Jeffrey Feltman [3] and Colin Kahl [4] concurred that the time had come to drop this spent dictator and to organise his succession before the insurrection could morph into a genuine revolution, i.e. a challenge to the system.

The media were enlisted, in Tunisia and the rest of the world, to circumscribe the insurrection. The attention of the Tunisian people would be focused on social issues, the corruption of the Ben Ali family, and press censorship. Anything to stave off a debate on the reasons that, 23 years earlier, had prompted Washington to invest the dictator and to protect him while he pilfered the country’s economy.

On 30 December, private Nessma TV channel defied the regime by broadcasting protest reports and organising a debate on the need for a democratic change. Nessma TV is owned by the Italo-Tunisian group of Tarak Ben Ammar and Silvio Berlusconi. The message rang out loud and clear for those who were still sitting on the fence: the regime was split.

Concurrently, U.S. experts (as well as Serbian and German) were detailed to Tunisia to channel the insurrection. Exploiting the collective emotional wave, they attempted to plant their slogans during the demonstrations. Attuned to the techniques of the so-called "coloured revolutions", fashioned by the Albert Einstein Institution of Gene Sharp [5], they shone the spotlight on the dictator to forestall a debate on the country’s political future: "Ben Ali, out" [6]

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(Screen still capture) On 2 January 2010, the group Anonymous (a CIA front) hacked the official website of the Prime Minister, inserting an ominous message in English on the home page. The logo corresponds to the international Pirate Party, whose Tunisian member Slim Amanou will be propelled by the U.S. Embassy within the "national unity government" as Youth and Sports Minister.

Hidden behind the pseudonym of Anonymous, the CIA cyber-command - already deployed against Zimbabwe and Iran - hacked Tunisian official sites, implanting a sinister message in English.

The insurrection

The Tunisians continued to spontaneously brave the regime, stage massive street demonstrations, and set fire to police precints and shops owned by Ben Ali. Courageously, some have even shed their own blood. Pathetic and overtaken by events, the dictator stiffened without understanding.

On 13 January, he ordered the army to open fire on the crowd, but the Army Chief of Staff refused. Having been contacted by Africom Commander General William Ward, General Rachid Ammar informed the President that Washington was enjoining him to flee.

In France, kept in the dark about Washington’s decision, the Sarkozy government failed to analyse the various repositions. Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie set out to save the dictator by dispatching law-enforcement specialists and equipment, enabling him to hold on to power through more orthodox means [7]. A cargo plane was chartered on Friday the 14th. By the time customs formalites were completed in Paris, it was too late: Ben Ali no longer needed the aid; he had already taken flight.

His erstwhile friends, in Washington and Tel-Aviv, Paris and Rome, denied him asylum. He ended up in Riyad. He is said to have taken with him 1,5 tons of gold stolen from the Public Treasury, which the authorities still in place have denied.

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Marketing : the logo of the "Jasmine Revolution" is unveiled at the exact moment of Ben Ali’s flight. In the center, a raised fist, which is the ex-communist symbol used in all the "colour revolutions" since Otpor in Serbia. From Washington’s perspective, what is important is to affirm that the events are over and that they are part of a liberal international order. Also, the title appears in English and the Tunisian flag has been reduced to a simple ornament on the letter R.

A bit of jasmine to calm the Tunisians

The U.S. communications strategists tried next to blow the whistle to call the end of the game, while the outgoing Prime Minister was assembling an interim government. It is at this juncture that the press agencies launched the "Jasmine Revolution" mantra (in English, if you please!), assuring us that the Tunisian population had just lived through its "colour revolution". A national unity government was on the rails ... and all is well that ends well!

The epithet "Jasmine Revolution" evokes bitter memories to Tunisians of older generations: it is the same one alread used by the CIA in its communications at the time of the 1987 coup that placed Ben Ali in the seat of power.

The Western press - henceforth better controlled by the Empire than its Tunisian counterpart - turned its floodlights on Ben Ali’s doubtful fortune. No mention was made of the report by IMF Managing Dominique Strauss-Kahn commending Tunisia’s decision-makers in glowing terms just a few months after the 2008 hunger riots [8]. Nor was any mention made of the latest Transparency International report stating that Tunisia was less corrupt than certain members of the European Union, such as Italy, Romania and Greece [9].

The regime militia which had terrorised the civilian population during the riots, forcing it to organise through self-defense committees, disappeared from the scene overnight.

The Tunisians, considered as depoliticised and malleable, proved to be extremely muture. They realised that the Mohammed Ghannouchi cabinet is tantamount to the earlier version without Ben Ali. Despite some cosmetic changes, the bosses of the sole ruling party (RCD) held on to the key ministries. The UGTT trade unionists refused to be associated with the U.S. manipulation and walked out of the coalition government.

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An opponent "made in the USA".

With a little help from Nessma TV magnate Tarak Ben Ammar, film director Moufida Tlati was nominated Culture Minister. Less in the limelight, but far more significant, Ahmed Néjib Chebbi, a National Endowment for Democracy pawn, was given the Ministry of Regional Development. The obscure Slim Amanou, a blogger familiar with the methods of the Albert Einstein Institute, filled the slot of Youth and Sports Secretary under the label of the shadowy Pirate Party attached to the self-proclaimed hacker group Anonymous.

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The real of power is no longer the Republican Palace, but the Embassy of the United States. This is where the Ghannouchi government was concocted. Located on the outskirts of Tunis, in a vast gated campus, the Embassy is a gigantic bunker that houses the main CIA and MEPI functions for North Africa and part of the eastern Mediterranean.

Needless to say, the U.S. Embassy did not invite the Communist Party to be part of the so-called "government of national unity".

On the other hand, preparations got underway for the return of Rachid Ghannouchi (unrelated to the Prime Minister), a legendary leader of the Rennaissance Party (Ennahda) who was exiled in London. A Muslim (formerly of the Salafist tendency), he extols the compatibility between Islam and democracy and has been preparing a reconciliation with the Democratic Progressive Party headed by his friend Ahmed Néjib Chebbi. In case of a coalition government breakdown, this pro-US duo could offer an illusion of change.

Tunisian street power is still alive, with the people expanding the slogan that had been handed down to them: "RCD, out!". In the villages and workplaces, they stalk the collaborators of the fallen regime.

On the road to Revolution?

Contrary to what has been reported by the Western media, the insurrection is not yet over and the Revolution has not yet commenced. It is clear that Washington has channeled nothing at all, except for western journalists. Today, even more than last December, the situation is out of control.