Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Protest Movement in Egypt: "Dictators" do not Dictate, They Obey Orders

The Protest Movement in Egypt: "Dictators" do not Dictate, They Obey Orders

Go To Original

The Mubarak regime could collapse in the a face of a nationwide protest movement... What prospects for Egypt and the Arab World?

"Dictators" do not dictate, they obey orders. This is true in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria.

Dictators are invariably political puppets. Dictators do not decide.

President Hosni Mubarak was a faithful servant of Western economic interests and so was Ben Ali.

The national government is the object of the protest movement.

The objective is to unseat the puppet rather than the puppet-master.

The slogans in Egypt are "Down with Mubarak, Down with the Regime". No anti-American posters have been reported... The overriding and destructive influence of the USA in Egypt and throughout the Middle East remains unheralded.

The foreign powers which operate behind the scenes are shielded from the protest movement.

No significant political change will occur unless the issue of foreign interference is meaningfully addressed by the protest movement.

The US embassy in Cairo is an important political entity, invariably overshadowing the national government. The Embassy is not a target of the protest movement.

In Egypt, a devastating IMF program was imposed in 1991 at the height of the Gulf War. It was negotiated in exchange for the annulment of Egypt's multibillion dollar military debt to the US as well as its participation in the war. The resulting deregulation of food prices, sweeping privatisation and massive austerity measures led to the impoverishment of the Egyptian population and the destabilization of its economy. The Mubarak government was praised as a model "IMF pupil".

The role of Ben Ali's government in Tunisia was to enforce the IMF's deadly economic medicine, which over a period of more than twenty years served to destabilize the national economy and impoverish the Tunisian population. Over the last 23 years, economic and social policy in Tunisia has been dictated by the Washington Consensus.

Both Hosni Mubarak and Ben Ali stayed in power because their governments obeyed and effectively enforced the diktats of the IMF.

From Pinochet and Videla to Baby Doc, Ben Ali and Mubarak, dictators have been installed by Washington. Historically in Latin America, dictators were instated through a series of US sponsored military coups. In todays World, they are installed through "free and fair elections" under the surveillance of the "international community".

Our message to the protest movement:

Actual decisions are taken in Washington DC, at the US State Department, at the Pentagon, at Langley, headquarters of the CIA. at H Street NW, the headquarters of the World Bank and the IMF.

The relationship of "the dictator" to foreign interests must be addressed. Unseat the political puppets but do not forget to target the "real dictators".

The protest movement should focus on the real seat of political authority; it should target the US embassy, the delegation of the European Union, the national missions of the IMF and the World Bank.

Meaningful political change can only be ensured if the neoliberal economic policy agenda is thrown out.

Regime Replacement

If the protest movement fails to address the role of foreign powers including pressures exerted by "investors", external creditors and international financial institutions, the objective of national sovereignty will not be achieved. In which case, what will occur is a narrow process of "regime replacement", which ensures political continuity.

"Dictators" are seated and unseated. When they are politically discredited and no longer serve the interests of their US sponsors, they are replaced by a new leader, often recruited from within the ranks of the political opposition.

In Tunisia, the Obama administration has already positioned itself. It intends to play a key role in the "democratization program" (i.e. the holding of so-called fair elections). It also intends to use the political crisis as a means to weaken the role of France and consolidate its position in North Africa:

"The United States, which was quick to size up the groundswell of protest on the streets of Tunisia, is trying to press its advantage to push for democratic reforms in the country and further afield.

The top-ranking US envoy for the Middle East, Jeffrey Feltman, was the first foreign official to arrive in the country after president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted on January 14 and swiftly called for reforms. He said on Tuesday only free and fair elections would strengthen and give credibility to the north African state's embattled leadership.

"I certainly expect that we'll be using the Tunisian example" in talks with other Arab governments, Assistant Secretary of State Feltman added.

He was dispatched to the north African country to offer US help in the turbulent transition of power, and met with Tunisian ministers and civil society figures.

Feltman travels to Paris on Wednesday to discuss the crisis with French leaders, boosting the impression that the US is leading international support for a new Tunisia, to the detriment of its former colonial power, France. ...

Western nations had long supported Tunisia's ousted leadership, seeing it as a bulwark against Islamic militants in the north Africa region.

In 2006, the then US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, speaking in Tunis, praised the country's evolution.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nimbly stepped in with a speech in Doha on January 13 warning Arab leaders to allow their citizens greater freedoms or risk extremists exploiting the situation.

"There is no doubt that the United States is trying to position itself very quickly on the good side,..." " AFP: US helping shape outcome of Tunisian uprising emphasis added

Will Washington be successful in instating a new puppet regime?

This very much depends on the ability of the protest movement to address the insidious role of the US in the country's internal affairs.

The overriding powers of empire are not mentioned. In a bitter irony, president Obama has expressed his support for the protest movement.

Many people within the protest movement are led to believe that president Obama is committed to democracy and human rights, and is supportive of the opposition's resolve to unseat a dictator, which was installed by the US in the first place.

Cooptation of Opposition Leaders

The cooptation of the leaders of major opposition parties and civil society organizations in anticipation of the collapse of an authoritarian puppet government is part of Washington's design, applied in different regions of the World.

The process of cooptation is implemented and financed by US based foundations including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Freedom House (FH). Both FH and the NED have links to the US Congress. the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and the US business establishment. Both the NED and FH are known to have ties to the CIA.

The NED is actively involved in Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria. Freedom House supports several civil society organizations in Egypt.

"The NED was established by the Reagan administration after the CIA’s role in covertly funding efforts to overthrow foreign governments was brought to light, leading to the discrediting of the parties, movements, journals, books, newspapers and individuals that received CIA funding. ... As a bipartisan endowment, with participation from the two major parties, as well as the AFL-CIO and US Chamber of Commerce, the NED took over the financing of foreign overthrow movements, but overtly and under the rubric of “democracy promotion.” (Stephen Gowans, January « 2011 "What's left"

While the US has supported the Mubarak government for the last thirty years, US foundations with ties to the US State department and the Pentagon have actively supported the political opposition including the civil society movement. According to Freedom House: "Egyptian civil society is both vibrant and constrained. There are hundreds of non-governmental organizations devoted to expanding civil and political rights in the country, operating in a highly regulated environment." (Freedom House Press Releases).

In a bitter irony, Washington supports the Mubarak dictatorship, including its atrocities, while also backing and financing its detractors, through the activities of FH, the NED, among others.

Under the auspices of Freedom House, Egyptian dissidents and opponents of Hosni Mubarak were received in May 2008 by Condoleezza Rice at the State Department and the US Congress. They also met White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, who was "the principal White House foreign policy adviser" during George W. Bush's second term.

Freedom House’s effort to empower a new generation of advocates has yielded tangible results and the New Generation program in Egypt has gained prominence both locally and internationally. Egyptian visiting fellows from all civil society groups received [May 2008] unprecedented attention and recognition, including meetings in Washington with US Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor, and prominent members of Congress. In the words of Condoleezza Rice, the fellows represent the "hope for the future of Egypt."

Freedom House, (emphasis added).

Political Double Talk: Chatting with "Dictators", Mingling with "Dissidents"

The Egyptian pro-democracy delegation to the State Department was described by Condoleezza Rice as "The Hope for the Future of Egypt".

In May 2009, Hillary Clinton met a delegation of Egyptian dissidents, several of which had met Condoleezza Rice a year earlier. These high level meetings were held a week prior to Obama's visit to Egypt:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the work of a group of Egyptian civil society activists she met with today and said it was in Egypt’s interest to move toward democracy and to exhibit more respect for human rights.

The 16 activists met with Clinton and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman in Washington at the end of a two-month fellowship organized by Freedom House’s New Generation program.

The fellows raised concern about what they perceived as the United States government distancing itself from Egyptian civil society and called on President Obama to meet with young independent civil society activists when he visits Cairo next week. They also urged the Obama administration to continue to provide political and financial support to Egyptian civil society and to help open the space for nongovernmental organizations which is tightly restricted under Egypt’s longstanding emergency law.

The fellows told Clinton that momentum was already building in Egypt for increased civil and human rights and that U.S. support at this time was urgently needed. They stressed that civil society represents a moderate and peaceful “third way” in Egypt, an alternative to authoritarian elements in the government and those that espouse theocratic rule. (Freedom House, May 2009)

During their fellowship, the activists spent a week in Washington receiving training in advocacy and getting an inside look at the way U.S. democracy works. After their training, the fellows were matched with civil society organizations throughout the country where they shared experiences with U.S. counterparts. The activists will wrap up their program ... by visiting U.S. government officials, members of Congress, media outlets and think tanks." (Freedom House, May 2009, emphasis added)

These opposition civil society groups --which are currently playing an important role in the protest movement-- are supported and funded by the US. They indelibly serve US interests.

The invitation of Egyptian dissidents to the State Department and the US Congress also purports to instil a feeling of commitment and allegiance to American democratic values. America is presented as a model of Freedom and Justice. Obama is upheld as a "Role Model".


Egyptian dissidents, Fellows of Freedom House in Washington DC (2008

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks with Egyptian activists promoting freedom and democracy, visiting through the Freedom House organization, prior to meetings at the State Department in Washington, DC, May 28, 2009.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks with "Egyptian activists promoting freedom and
democracy", prior to meetings at the State Department in Washington, DC, May 28, 2009.

Compare the two pictures 2008 delegation received by Condoleezza Rice versus 2009 delegation
meeting Hillary Clinton in May 2009

Hillary Clinton and Hosni Mubarak in Sharm El Sheik, September 2010

Condoleezza Rice chats with Hosni Mubarak? " Hope for the Future of Egypt".

Condoleezza Rice addresses Freedom House. 4th from left

The Puppet Masters Support the Protest Movement against their own Puppets

The puppet masters support dissent against their own puppets?

Its called "political leveraging", "manufacturing dissent". Support the dictator as well as the opponents of the dictator as a means of controlling the political opposition.

These actions on the part of Freedom House and the National Endowment for Democracy, on behalf of the Bush and Obama administrations, ensure that the US funded civil society opposition will not direct their energies against the puppet masters behind the Mubarak regime, namely the US government.

These US funded civil society organizations act as a "Trojan Horse" which becomes embedded within the protest movement. They protect the interests of the puppet masters. They ensure that the grassroots protest movement will not address the broader issue of foreign interference in the affairs of sovereign states.

The Facebook Twitter Bloggers Supported and Financed by Washington

In relation to the protest movement in Egypt, several civil society groups funded by US based foundations have led the protest on Twitter and Facebook:

"Activists from Egypt's Kifaya (Enough) movement - a coalition of government opponents - and the 6th of April Youth Movement organized the protests on the Facebook and Twitter social networking websites. Western news reports said Twitter appeared to be blocked in Egypt later Tuesday." (See Voice of America, ,Egypt Rocked by Deadly Anti-Government Protests

Reads; Kifaya (Enough)

The Kifaya movement, which organized one of the first protests directed against the Mubarak regime in late 2004, is supported by the US based
International Center for Non-Violent Conflict . Kifaya is a broad-based movement which has also taken a stance on Palestine and US interventionism in the region.

In turn, Freedom House has been involved in promoting and training the Middle East North Africa Facebook and Twitter blogs:

Freedom House fellows acquired skills in civic mobilization, leadership, and strategic planning, and benefit from networking opportunities through interaction with Washington-based donors, international organizations and the media. After returning to Egypt, the fellows received small grants to implement innovative initiatives such as advocating for political reform through Facebook and SMS messaging. (emphasis added)

From February 27 to March 13 [2010], Freedom House hosted 11 bloggers from the Middle East and North Africa [from different civil society organizations] for a two-week Advanced New Media Study Tour in Washington, D.C. The Study Tour provided the bloggers with training in digital security, digital video making, message development and digital mapping. While in D.C., the Fellows also participated in a Senate briefing, and met with high-level officials at USAID, State [Department] and Congress as well as international media including Al-Jazeera and the Washington Post. emphasis added

One can easily apprehend the importance attached by the US administration to this bloggers' "training program", which is coupled with high level meetings at the US Senate, the Congress, the State Department, etc.

The role of the Facebook Twitter social media as an expression of dissent, must be carefully evaluated in the light of the links of several Egyptian civil society organizations to Freedom House (FH), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US State Department.

BBC News World (broadcast in the Middle East) quoting Egyptian internet messages has reported that "the US has been sending money to pro-democracy groups." (BBC News World, January 29, 2010). According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, quoting a secret US embassy document (Jan 29, 2011):

"The protests in Egypt are being driven by the April 6 youth movement, a group on Facebook that has attracted mainly young and educated members opposed to Mr Mubarak. The group has about 70,000 members and uses social networking sites to orchestrate protests and report on their activities.

The documents released by WikiLeaks reveal US Embassy officials [in Cairo] were in regular contact with the activist throughout 2008 and 2009, considering him one of their most reliable sources for information about human rights abuses." (emphasis added)

The Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt constitutes the largest segment of the opposition to president Mubarak. According to reports, The Muslim Brotherhood dominates the protest movement.

While there is a constitutional ban against religious political parties Brotherhood members elected to Egypt's parliament as "independents" constitute the largest parliamentary block.

The Brotherhood, however, does not constitute a direct threat to Washington's economic and strategic interests in the region. Western intelligence agencies have a longstanding history of collaboration with the Brotherhood. Britain's support of the Brotherhood instrumented through the British Secret Service dates back to the 1940s. Starting in the 1950s, according to former intelligence official William Baer, "The CIA [funnelled] support to the Muslim Brotherhood because of “the Brotherhood’s commendable capability to overthrow Nasser.”1954-1970: CIA and the Muslim Brotherhood Ally to Oppose Egyptian President Nasser, These covert links to the CIA were maintained in the post-Nasser era.

Concluding Remarks

The removal of Hosni Mubarak has, for several years, been on the drawing board of US foreign policy.

Regime replacement serves to ensure continuity, while providing the illusion that meaningful political change has occurred.

Washington's agenda for Egypt has been to "hijack the protest movement" and replace president Hosni Mubarak with a new compliant puppet head of state. Washington's objective is to sustain the interests of foreign powers, to uphold the neoliberal economic agenda which has served to impoverish the Egyptian population.

From Washington's standpoint, regime replacement no longer requires the installation of an authoritarian military regime as in the heyday of US imperialism, It can be implemented by co-opting political parties, including the Left, financing civil society groups, infiltrating the protest movement and manipulating national elections.

With reference to the protest movement in Egypt, President Obama stated in a January 28 video broadcast on Youtube: "The Government Should Not Resort to Violence". The more fundamental question is what is the source of that violence? Egypt is the largest recipient of US military aid after Israel. The Egyptian military is considered to be the power base of the Mubarak regime:

"The country’s army and police forces are geared to the teeth thanks to more than $1 billion in military aid a year from Washington. ... When the US officially describes Egypt as “an important ally” it is inadvertently referring to Mubarak’s role as a garrison outpost for US military operations and dirty war tactics in the Middle East and beyond. There is clear evidence from international human rights groups that countless “suspects” rendered by US forces in their various territories of (criminal) operations are secretly dumped in Egypt for “deep interrogation”. The country serves as a giant “Guantanamo” of the Middle East, conveniently obscured from US public interest and relieved of legal niceties over human rights." (Finian Cunningham, Egypt: US-Backed Repression is Insight for American Public, Global Research, January 28, 2010).

America is no "Role Model" of Democratization for the Middle East. US military presence imposed on Egypt and the Arab World for more than 20 years, coupled with "free market" reforms are the root cause of State violence.

America's intent is to use the protest movement to install a new regime.

The People's Movement should redirect its energies: Identify the relationship between America and "the dictator". Unseat America's political puppet but do not forget to target the "real dictators".

Shunt the process of regime change.

Dismantle the neoliberal reforms.

Close down US military bases in the Arab World.

Establish a truly sovereign government.

Egyptian masses against the U.S.-backed Mubarak regime

Egypt: US-Backed Repression is Insight for American Public

Egypt: US-Backed Repression is Insight for American Public

Go To Original

As thousands more Egyptian citizens take to the streets in anti-government protests, the country is in danger of witnessing a bloodbath – at the behest of Washington.

Defying a ban on public demonstrations by the government of President Hosni Mubarak, tens of thousands of Egyptians have for the fourth consecutive day rallied on the streets of the capital Cairo and other major cities calling for his abdication. Inspired by the mass uprising in neigbouring Tunisia earlier this month, which forced its president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile, the protesters in Egypt are likewise demanding Mubarak and his government to quit.

Mubarak’s military apparatus has so far shown brutal determination to suppress the uprising. As many as seven civilians have been killed by heavily armed riot police, hundreds are reported injured and more than 1,000 arrests have been made by secret security agents who were videoed bundling protesters into unmarked vehicles. Now the country’s formidable military forces are reported to have taken up positions in public places in Cairo and elsewhere.

But it is Washington’s latest intervention that could trigger an escalation of Egyptian state violence against its people. Speaking to media, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs described the Mubarak government as an “important ally” and that the US “expects” the 30-year-old regime to remain intact. Forget the hollow and cynical plea by Gibbs to the Egyptian government and protesters to refrain from violence, the key message is continuing US support for the regime. In other words, the US is assuring Mubarak that it stands full-square behind his bid to stay in power. Given that the already-lethal response of the Egyptian state did not draw a word of condemnation from the White House nor that the population’s demands for democracy and social justice were unequivocally endorsed can only send the following code to Mubarak: do whatever you must to get these people off the streets.

Meanwhile, an Israeli cabinet minister probably voiced the unvarnished essence of the US position when he was quoted in Israeli media as urging the Mubarak to use lethal force to quell the protests. “They will have to use force, power in the streets…” the unnamed minister said.

Make no mistake. The Mubarak government – which can only be described as a repressive military dictatorship – is well-placed and willing to do its worse, no matter the cost to civilian life. The country’s army and police forces are geared to the teeth thanks to more than $1 billion in military aid a year from Washington. The North African country and the Arab region’s most populous is the second highest recipient of US military equipment after Israel. It has also one of the worst human rights records, routinely detaining and torturing thousands of its citizens, earning itself the reputation as a “torture chamber”. When the US officially describes Egypt as “an important ally” it is inadvertently referring to Mubarak’s role as a garrison outpost for US military operations and dirty war tactics in the Middle East and beyond. There is clear evidence from international human rights groups that countless “suspects” rendered by US forces in their various territories of (criminal) operations are secretly dumped in Egypt for “deep interrogation”. The country serves as a giant “Guantanamo” of the Middle East, conveniently obscured from US public interest and relieved of legal niceties over human rights.

In collaboration with Israel, and openly described as an “ally” by Tel Aviv, Egypt has shown itself to be the anvil to Israel’s hammer against the Palestinian people. In keeping the Raffah Crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip closed, thus denying badly needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the aftermath of Israel’s murderous 2009 assault, Mubarak has shown unspeakable callousness and willingness to collaborate with the criminal US/Israeli policy of “collective punishment” of this civilian population.

The importance of Mubarak’s Egypt to the US government can be illustrated in another way. Imagine the repercussions for Washington if the Egyptian people were to succeed in overthrowing this military state and establishing genuine democracy, one where the abundant resources of that country are used to lift the mass of the population out of grinding poverty instead of serving to enrich a corrupt elite and its masters in Washington. Imagine a country that refuses to continue to be a US garrison and staging post for criminal wars in the region. Imagine the catalytic effect for democracy across the region and likewise the demise of other US puppet regimes.

When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, this is the “vital interest” of the US executive – as opposed to the US public interest. Indeed, the stance by Washington over events in Egypt and elsewhere across North Africa and the Middle East should serve as a salutary insight for the US public of where their own pressing interests really lie and how they are best served. Their government is for dictatorship and repression and steadfastly against democracy, economic justice and human rights – at any human cost. All of which is beginning to sound uncomfortably familiar – and closer to home.

Inequality In America Is Worse Than In Egypt, Tunisia Or Yemen

Inequality In America Is Worse Than In Egypt, Tunisia Or Yemen

Go To Original

Egyptian, Tunisian and Yemeni protesters all say that inequality is one of the main reasons they're protesting.

However, the U.S. actually has much greater inequality than in any of those countries.

Specifically, the "Gini Coefficient" - the figure economists use to measure inequality - is higher in the U.S.

[Click for larger image]

Gini Coefficients are like golf - the lower the score, the better (i.e. the more equality).

According to the CIA World Fact Book, the U.S. is ranked as the 42nd most unequal country in the world, with a Gini Coefficient of 45.

In contrast:

  • Tunisia is ranked the 62nd most unequal country, with a Gini Coefficient of 40.
  • Yemen is ranked 76th most unequal, with a Gini Coefficient of 37.7.
  • And Egypt is ranked as the 90th most unequal country, with a Gini Coefficient of around 34.4.
And inequality in the U.S. has soared in the last couple of years, since the Gini Coefficient was last calculated, so it is undoubtedly currently much higher.

So why are Egyptians rioting, while the Americans are complacent?

Well, Americans - until recently - have been some of the wealthiest people in the world, with most having plenty of comforts (and/or entertainment) and more than enough to eat.

But another reason is that - as Dan Ariely of Duke University and Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School demonstrate - Americans consistently underestimate the amount of inequality in our nation.

As William Alden wrote last September:

Americans vastly underestimate the degree of wealth inequality in America, and we believe that the distribution should be far more equitable than it actually is, according to a new study.

Or, as the study's authors put it: "All demographic groups -- even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution such as Republicans and the wealthy -- desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo."

The report ... "Building a Better America -- One Wealth Quintile At A Time" by Dan Ariely of Duke University and Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School ... shows that across ideological, economic and gender groups, Americans thought the richest 20 percent of our society controlled about 59 percent of the wealth, while the real number is closer to 84 percent.

Here's the study:

norton ariely in press -

BREAKING: Cairo Is Falling

BREAKING: Cairo Is Falling

Go To Original

eports emerging from Cairo, Egypt, make clear a Mubarak regime in downfall. Apparently the airport in Cairo is jammed, and Mubarak family members are reported to have arrived in London.

The pattern for Egyptian Army units has been one of peacemakers and non-opposition to the protesters. The Egyptian Army appears neutral, but unwilling to crush government opposition.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is reported to have named as first-ever vice president, his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. Suleiman appears positioned for a bid as successor to Mubarak. Whether or not such a succession would be viable in light of opposition developments is unclear. Observers speculate that Suleiman may conversely be focused on preserving the Mubarak regime's control even if Mubarak himself flees.

Multiple reports of government-loyal family members fleeing Egypt for safe havens in Europe and the Middle East paint a portrait of a regime in its last throes.

For Mubarak, whose regime has enjoyed staunch Western - particularly American government - support, recent events, apparently inspired by the uprising in Tunisia, strike an ominous tone.

In a stunning departure from previous American administrations, the Obama White House has distanced itself from the Mubarak regime, choosing rather to sound a note of caution on human rights transgressions. Stopping short of statements by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who have called in a release for a "process of transformation," the Obama administration's position is nonetheless far removed from the unequivocal support Mubarak has enjoyed in the past.

Striking a more cautious tone, a senior US administration official expressed a preference for "managed change" and "adjustments over a fairly extended period of time."

Events in Cairo are moving and developing rapidly. It is far from clear what course power will take. What is clear is that the Mubarak regime is in retreat.

Fear Extreme Islamists in the Arab World? Blame Washington

Fear Extreme Islamists in the Arab World? Blame Washington

Go To Original

In the last year of his life, Martin Luther King Jr. questioned U.S. military interventions against progressive movements in the Third World by invoking a JFK quote: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Were he alive to witness the last three decades of U.S. foreign policy, King might update that quote by noting: "Those who make secular revolution impossible will make extreme Islamist revolution inevitable."

For decades beginning during the Cold War, U.S. policy in the Islamic world has been aimed at suppressing secular reformist and leftist movements. Beginning with the CIA-engineered coup against a secular democratic reform government in Iran in 1953 (it was about oil), Washington has propped up dictators, coaching these regimes in the black arts of torture and mayhem against secular liberals and the left.

In these dictatorships, often the only places where people had freedom to meet and organize were mosques -- and out of these mosques sometimes grew extreme Islamist movements. The Shah's torture state in Iran was brilliant at cleansing and murdering the left - a process that helped the rise of the Khomeini movement and ultimately Iran's Islamic Republic.

Growing out of what M.L. King called Washington's "irrational, obsessive anti-communism," U.S. foreign policy also backed extreme Islamists over secular movements or government that were either Soviet-allied or feared to be.

In Afghanistan, beginning before the Soviet invasion and evolving into the biggest CIA covert operation of the 1980s, the U.S. armed and trained native mujahedeen fighters -- some of whom went on to form the Taliban. To aid the mujahedeen, the U.S. recruited and brought to Afghanistan religious fanatics from the Arab world -- some of whom went on to form Al Qaeda. (Like these Washington geniuses, Israeli intelligence -- in a divide-and-conquer scheme aimed at combating secular leftist Palestinians -- covertly funded Islamist militants in the occupied territories who we now know as Hamas.)

Most of this is not obscure history.

Except in U.S. mainstream media.

One of the mantras on U.S. television news all day Friday was: Be fearful of the democratic uprisings against U.S. allies in Egypt (and Tunisia and elsewhere). After all, we were told by Fox News and CNN and Chris Matthews on MSNBC, it could end up as bad as when "our ally" in Iran was overthrown and the extremists came to power in 1979.

Such talk comes easy in U.S. media where Egyptian victims of rape and torture in Mubarak's jails are never seen. Where it's rarely emphasized that weapons of repression used against Egyptian demonstrators are paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Where Mubarak is almost always called "president" and almost never "dictator" (unlike the elected president of Venezuela).

When U.S. media glibly talk about the Egyptian and Tunisian "presidents" being valued "allies in the war on terror," it's no surprise they offer no details about the prisoners the U.S. has renditioned to these "pro-Western" countries for torture.

The truth is that no one knows how these uprisings will end.

But revolution of some kind, as King said, seems inevitable. Washington's corrupt Arab dictators will come down as surely (yet more organically) as that statue of Saddam, another former U.S.-ally.

If Washington took its heel off the Arab people and ended its embrace of the dictators, that could help secularists and democrats win hearts and minds against extreme Islamists.

Democracy is a great idea. Too bad it plays almost no role in U.S. foreign policy.

Supreme Court Rules for Banks, Against Consumers

Defunct Credit Card Statute Places Supreme Court in Banks' Corner Against Consumers

Go To Original

The Supreme Court ruled today in Chase Bank v. McCoy in favor of Chase Bank’s right to impose retroactive interest rate increases without notice on consumer credit cards under an overturned law. The replaced statute, and the Federal Reserve’s bank-friendly interpretation of it, essentially dictated the unfavorable outcome.

The Truth in Lending Act required credit card companies to provide written notice prior to the effective date of an interest rate change, but allowed an exception where the fine print of the credit card agreement specified events that would trigger an increase, including failure to make a payment. In this case, Chase’s credit card agreement with the plaintiff gave the bank broad discretion to increase interest rates up to a maximum rate based on various factors, and when the plaintiff missed a payment, Chase Bank dramatically increased his rates, applying those rates retroactively to his existing balance. Chase defended plaintiffs’ class action lawsuit on the grounds that a regulation under the Truth in Lending Act, as it was interpreted at the time, allowed this practice.

The Court held that the Federal Reserve Board’s regulations implementing the Truth in Lending Act were too ambiguous to determine whether notice was required in this situation. Therefore, the Court deferred to the Federal Reserve’s position as to how it interpreted those regulations at the time the plaintiff’s complaint arose. Ironically, the Federal Reserve’s interpretation of the Truth in Lending Act began to change in consumers’ favor after Mr. McCoy's complaint, but this new interpretation was not applied retroactively, whereas Chase Bank is allowed under this decision to apply huge rate increases retroactively to consumer credit card balances.

In May 2009, Congress enacted the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act. The Act increases to 45 days the amount of time required for notice of interest rate increases. In addition, it explicitly applies to increases that result from delinquency, default, or “events specified in the account agreement, such as making a late payment…” The new Obama era statute protects consumers from sudden and retroactive rate increases hidden in fine print. Unfortunately, today’s Supreme Court decision provides no assistance to individuals who suffered large interest rate increases under the previous law.

New-home sales in 2010 fall to lowest in 47 years

New-home sales in 2010 fall to lowest in 47 years

Buyers purchased the fewest number of new homes last year on records going back 47 years.

Sales for all of 2010 totaled 321,000, a drop of 14.4 percent from the 375,000 homes sold in 2009, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It was the fifth consecutive year that sales have declined after hitting record highs for the five previous years when the housing market was booming.

The year ended on a stronger note. Buyers purchased new homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 329,000 units in December, a 17.5 percent increase from the November pace.

Still, economists say it could be years before sales rise to a healthy rate of 600,000 units a year.

"The percentage rise in sales looks impressive but 10 percent of next-to-nothing is still next-to-nothing," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, referencing the December increase. "New home sales are bouncing around the bottom and we see no clear upward trend in the data yet."

Builders of new homes are struggling to compete in markets saturated foreclosures. High unemployment and uncertainty over home prices have kept many potential buyers from making purchases.

Home prices fell in November in 19 of 20 major cities measured by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index, and nine of those cities fell to their lowest point since the housing bust.

Economists expect prices will keep falling through the first six months of this year.

Poor sales of new homes mean fewer jobs in the construction industry, which normally powers economic recoveries.

On average, each new home built creates the equivalent of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Associated of Home Builders.

The median price of a new home rose to $241,500 in December, up from a November median of $215,500. For all of 2010, the median sales price was $221,900, up 2.4 percent from the 2009.

For December, sales rose in all parts of the country except the Northeast, which saw a 5 percent decline. Sales surged 71.9 percent in the West and were up 3.2 percent in the Midwest and 1.8 percent in the South.

12 Depressing Facts About The Massive Housing Slump That Just Won't End

12 Depressing Facts About The Massive Housing Slump That Just Won't End

The data on the 2010 housing market is in, and it doesn't look good.

High unemployment, record bankruptcies and dropping prices are just a few of the issues nagging home sales. Thus 2011 might not be the year the recovery finally comes.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, Americans bought 63 times more iPads than they did homes

Americans bought 65,000 new homes in this time period, the lowest total in decades.

Meanwhile they bought 4.19 million iPads.

December 2010 new home completions were the lowest since 1975

Source: U.S. Census

12 months from today, an estimated 20 million people will be underwater on their mortgages. That's 28 percent of all homes

12 months from today, an estimated 20 million people will be underwater on their mortgages. That's 28 percent of all homes

Image: ap

Source: AOL Real Estate

At the peak, you could get a home with a credit score of 550. Today you need 760 or higher

At the peak, you could get a home with a credit score of 550. Today you need 760 or higher
Now used by Transunion and Experian, VantageScore 2.0 ratings are based on consumer credit behavior from 2006 to 2009. Described as a more accurate indicator of risk, scores range from 501 to 990.

2010 foreclosure filings were up 23 percent from 2008

Source: RealtyTrac

There are 5 million delinquent loans not yet in foreclosure -- which are projected to drive foreclosures 20% higher than they were in 2010

If home prices return to the 60-year trend line, they've got a long way to fall

Despite recent deleveraging, Americans still carry historically ridiculous levels of debt

Despite recent deleveraging, Americans still carry historically ridiculous levels of debt

Image: TECB

Source: The Federal Reserve

100 million Americans think buying a home today is a bad investment


14 million more people are unemployed today than at the height of the housing boom (POTENTIAL HOMEBUYERS LOST)

The end of the first-time homebuyer tax credit resulted in a 30 percent decline in applications -- despite record low mortgage rates

Including shadow inventory, it might take 44 months to get through the glut of homes on the market

Including shadow inventory, it might take 44 months to get through the glut of homes on the market

Image: KMCB

Source: CNN Money

Dramatic Pictures From Riots In Egypt

Dramatic Pictures From Riots In Egypt

Protesters in Cairo ignored today’s curfew and continued to demonstrate on the streets against President Mubarak after darkness fell.

Al Jazeera has been showing live footage of angry crowds setting vehicles alight and attempting to push an abandoned police van into the River Nile.

Gunshots and some explosions were heard and crowds shouted “illegitimate.”

The headquarters of the ruling party were set alight by protesters earlier this evening. "Police appear to be absent from key areas in Cairo," Al Jazeera reported tonight.

Amin Iskandar of the opposition Al Karama Party told Al Jazeera that he felt victory against Mubarak’s “regime” was coming and he predicted that those involved in that regime would have to face trial for corruption during their tenure.

Yesterday there were widespread reports of disruptions to internet service in cities across Egypt.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. urges “the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests” and to reverse the steps it’s taken to cut off communications. She said: “Violence will not make these grievances go away. As President Obama said yesterday, reform is absolutely critical to the well-being of Egypt.”

The EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton condemned the violence and yesterday extended her sympathies to the families and friends of the people who had been reported killed in the demonstrations. At least four people were reported to have been killed yesterday.

Reuters reports this evening that 410 people have been injured today, with a number of people in serious condition after receiving gunshot wounds. Other reports suggest that up to 800 people were injured today.

Anti-government protesters took control of the Corniche, an area in downtown Cairo, Friday.

Anti-government protesters took control of the Corniche, an area in downtown Cairo, Friday.

Image: AP

(AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Fires from burning buildings are seen on the Corniche Friday night.

Fires from burning buildings are seen on the Corniche Friday night.

Image: AP

(AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

An Egyptian policeman escapes after protesters set fire to his vehicle during a protest Friday.

An Egyptian policeman escapes after protesters set fire to his vehicle during a protest Friday.

Image: AP

(AP Photo/Ahmed Ali)

Buildings burn in downtown Cairo after Friday's mass rally.

Buildings burn in downtown Cairo after Friday's mass rally.

Image: AP

(AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

Egyptian protesters pray on the middle of a bridge Friday.

Egyptian protesters pray on the middle of a bridge Friday.

Image: AP

(AP Photo/Ahmed Ali)

Protesters gather outside Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party headquarters as it is engulfed by flames Friday night.

Protesters gather outside Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party headquarters as it is engulfed by flames Friday night.

Image: AP

(AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

An Egyptian activist uses his coat to carry away a tear gas canister fired by riot police officers during clashes in the Egyptian capital.

An Egyptian activist uses his coat to carry away a tear gas canister fired by riot police officers during clashes in the Egyptian capital.

Image: AP

(AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

‎36,000 troops set to deploy in 2011, permanent war on the horizon?

36,000 troops set to deploy in 2011, permanent war on the horizon?

Go To Original

As the US war in Afghanistan spreads toward Pakistan and the strategy drifts to Counter Terrorism (CT), there is no deescalation in sight. In fact, it is increasingly clear that the White House has little intention to significantly draw down troops in July of this year, as promised in President Obama’s West Point speech.

Approximately 36,000 troops will be deployed to Afghanistan in 2011; 28,900 -80%- of those will deploy before July-the first month of President Obama’s promised transition and draw down phases. The deployments are part of the regular troop rotations, but what might this mean for the July 2011 draw down?

Here is a list of deployments compiled by my fellow anti-war organizer and writer Ryan Harvey:

FORT KNOX, KY – Early Winter 2011 (February)
3,500 soldiers
3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.

FORT CAMPBELL, KY – Early 2011 (February)
2,700 soldiers
159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.

FORT HOOD, TX – Late Winter/Early Spring 2011
3,500 soldiers
1st Cavalry Divison’s Air Cavalry Brigade

FORT CARSON, CO – Spring 2011
3,800 soldiers
2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

FORT DRUM – Spring 2011
3,500 soldiers
3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, HI – Late March/April 2011
3,500 soldiers
3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

FORT LEWIS, WA – Early Spring/Summer 2011
800 soldiers
I Corps Headquarters, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

GERMANY – Spring or Fall 2011
3,500 soldiers
170th and 172nd Infantry Brigade Combat Teams.

FORT BRAGG, NC – Fall 2011
2,800 soldiers
82nd Airborne Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division.

3,500 soldiers
1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

3,600 Soldiers
37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

3,500 soldiers
27th Brigade Combat Team.

1,400 Marines
26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

As long as this list is, it is not exhaustive. For example, several thousand Marines will deploy from Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune throughout 2011. This kind of war planning is not uncommon. The underlying point is that President Obama and General Petraeus know exactly now many troops they plan to bring home in July of this year.

What exactly do these impending deployments mean for the July 2011 draw down date in Afghanistan? Most likely that the draw down-deployment combination will represent a net troop withdrawal of only a few Brigade Combat Teams- approximately 9,000-12,000 troops. Could this mean that U.S. is planning an extended engagement in Afghanistan?

Indeed, with the November NATO announcement to end operations in Afghanistan by December 2014, the military seems to be abandoning July 2011. Vice President Joe Biden, an advocate of a more CT centered strategy, has sent mixed messages about both July 2011 and December 2014. Most recently, VP Biden stated that “if the Afghan people want…” the U.S. will “not leav[e] Afghanistan” in 2014.

Just how long will the U.S. stay, Mr. Biden?

If Senator Lindsey Graham has his way, the U.S. might just stay forever. Recently on Meet the Press, Sen. Graham said, “a couple of [permanent] air bases in Afghanistan” could “Change [Pakistan's] behavior.” Sen. Graham also believes the presence of a few air bases would help Afghan security forces edge out the Taliban. Al Qaeda, the given reason for the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, did not even receive mention by the Senator.

Could permanent bases really be on the U.S. agenda in Afghanistan?

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 5136) explicitly states:

“None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act may be obligated or expended by the United States Government to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Afghanistan.”

However, this bill passed the House, but did not make it through the Senate. A Continuing Resolution (CR)-a bill which extends current funding -was passed to cover funding through March 4th, 2011. There is currently no protection by law preventing the Department of Defense from establishing permanent bases in Afghanistan.

Most alarming, yet, is the Pentagon requested much more money for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 than it is currently spending. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), average DoD spending in September 2010 reached $5.7 billion per month, a 63% increase over September 2009. At this pace, FY 2011 should cost U.S. taxpayers around $68 billion. The Pentagon actually requested $119 billion to fund Afghanistan war for FY 2011.

The $119 billion request for Afghanistan was granted by Congress in December. As per current monthly spending, that’s somewhere between $40-50 billion more than the General Petraeus should need. As the CBO report says, the FY 2011 request is most likely “overstated.” One Congressional Staffer told me, Congress has “repeatedly overfunded the war.”

This is unconscionable as state and local governments around the country are taking bitter budget medicine-jeopardizing our safety by laying off our police and our future by laying off our teachers; ending the war in Afghanistan is certainly one quick way to free up capital that can then be reinvested back into our communities.

The Los Angeles Times, commenting on Vice President Biden’s recent visit to Afghanistan, said:

“We worry that the administration’s more ambitious goals — a credible government in Afghanistan, the permanent defeat of the Taliban — may prove elusive even after three more years of military involvement, let alone a presence beyond that. We hope that isn’t the case, but regardless of what happens, the United States and NATO should take their own deadlines seriously. That means a significant withdrawal this year and an unambiguous completion of the mission in 2014.”

The American people cannot afford permanent war in Afghanistan- not morally, or financially. Extending the war until 2014 will not deliver the Obama administration’s stated objectives and will cost the American taxpayer nearly half a trillion dollars more. Help FCNL make sure the 112th Congress knows that permanent bases and unending deployments to Afghanistan are unacceptable.

UPDATE: the numbers in this article were updated on January 24th to reflect the additional 1,400 Marines deploying in early 2011.