Wednesday, July 20, 2016

FBI Greenlights Crackdown on Black Lives Matter Protesters

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The violent events of the past week have placed the country at a decisive moment. Words matter but deeds matter more. Leadership matters. President Obama spoke about the need for real change and new "practices" following the murders by police officers of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
He followed that by stating last weekend, "One of the great things about America is that individual citizens and groups of citizens can petition their government, can protest, can speak truth to power. And that is sometimes messy and controversial but because of that ability to protest and engage in free speech, America over time has gotten better. We've all benefited from that."
But the real truth is that federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, under the Obama administration, are continuing to fuel and encourage a repressive crackdown on peaceful demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights and moving for social change in America.
Last weekend, Baton Rouge's African-American community was repeatedly assaulted by the police as people attempted to peacefully protest the killing of Sterling. The Baton Rouge police were given the green light by President Obama's FBI to approach this peaceful protest as they would an enemy force. This has been the dangerous pattern of the FBI and other federal law enforcement efforts in the past few years: to suppress social movements in coordination with local police departments.
While the arrests were carried out by local police, federal law enforcement agencies facilitated and laid the groundwork for the anti-free speech crackdown.
The suppression and dispersal of a peaceful protest is emblematic of the methods used to extinguish free speech rights of those communities seeking to redress issues of racial and economic inequality.
Here's what happened and why:
More than 100 peaceful protesters were arrested by police on Saturday. Police repeatedly swept into the crowd like a paramilitary force dressed as robots, giving no audible instructions and snatching people for arrest. More were arrested on Sunday by police who moved in wearing riot gear and plastic face masks, and banged their batons against riot shields in threatening unison.
By 12am on Sunday, July 10, the city was under a virtual lockdown. Businesses closed down early in response to the police actions in the streets. Local law enforcement had clearly received the go-ahead to suppress those in the community who were demanding justice.
The police treated Baton Rouge's black community like an enemy rather than Americans exercising the cherished rights. President Obama spoke about the right to assemble and redress grievances, but the message that the protestors were the enemy was broadcast by the FBI.
The FBI's New Orleans Field Office circulated an alert to local law enforcement on July 7 titled "Violence Against Law Enforcement Officers and Riots Planned for 8-10 July 2016." This document consisted of a few unsourced and inflammatory images that appear to be screen grabs from random social media postings. No such riots took place anywhere over the weekend, and despite widely circulating that the peaceful demonstrators were bent on violence, not a single law enforcement entity cited any credible evidence of such a threat or plot. But the bulletin gave local law enforcement -- implicitly or explicitly -- the green light for repression.
The message of repression is clear: If you rise up and protest against police abuse in Baton Rouge, be prepared to go to jail, be assaulted, have to come up with hundreds of dollars in bail money, find a competent attorney, and then to go through the system and endure the consequences of having a record marked by arrest and possible conviction. Many individuals who don't have the resources end up having to plead out and accept some fine, probation or even jail time.
The Partnership for Civil Justive Fund's (PCJF) Freedom of Information Act investigations carried out over the last five years in particular have shown that the FBI, DHS, Fusion Centers and other federal law enforcement agencies regularly label peaceful protest as terrorist activity, and also concoct violent potential scenarios to justify the widespread surveillance of and crackdown on the social justice movement and dissenters. Such an abuse of counter-terrorism authority, it should be noted, is accompanied by a wide abuse in counter-terrorism funding, in the form of billions of dollars in agency budgets and private federal contracts.
Relating directly to Louisiana, a PCJF investigation into federal monitoring of the Occupy Wall Street movement discovered that the ATF and US Marshals Service were both actively involved in stimulating an "extremism" scare among local law enforcement. After soliciting 70 State Fusion Centers for information about violence stemming from the Occupy movement, the New Orleans ATF Field Intelligence Group received "overwhelming negative responses." The agency nonetheless manufactured "several scenarios where escalation to violence could occur."
A similar PCJF investigation found such conduct from the FBI in its decade-long monitoring of School of the Americas Watch, a human rights organization founded by pacifists aiming to end the US role in the militarization of Latin America. Despite internal FBI reports admitting the "peaceful intentions" of the SOA Watch leaders, the agency justified their work on the basis that "a militant group would infiltrate the protestors and use of the cover of the crowd to create problems." Yet they admitted that, "at this time, there are no specific or known threats to this event."
PCJF exposed the role of the FBI in a national operation that involved field offices across the country targeting the peaceful Occupy movement, which was ultimately extinguished in cities and towns across the United States with more than 7,000 arrests.
Now that playbook is being followed with the Black Lives Matter movement. While the Justice Department and President Obama have repeatedly spoken of building unity between local police and the black community, and claim to be in favor of the right to dissent and protest, in practice the FBI, which is under their control, is ratcheting up tensions and laying the groundwork for repression.
The pattern is clear: Federal and local law enforcement target the First Amendment-protected activities of social justice movements because they pose a political threat, not a violent one. Regardless of the fact that the activities of these movements are constitutionally protected, US domestic and federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies operate with a methodology that helps justify repression and a false media presentation. It also contributes to the right-wing and racist smear against the BLM movement amplified by talk radio and politicians.
The people of this country should not allow the Dallas shootings, which local and federal law enforcement all agree were carried out by a deranged lone gunman, to be manipulated into an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement.
PCJF demands that the FBI and other intelligence entities stop treating peaceful protesters as potential violent threats. It is well past time for the Obama administration and Congress to reign in the unchecked abuse of power and authority that lead to the circulation of last weekend's false bulletin about Black Lives Matter protests. The federal agencies that are carrying out fear-mongering and circulating exaggerated and concocted reports about Black Lives Matter free speech actions are effectively giving a green light for local law enforcement to sweep protests off the streets.
It is not too late for President Obama, in his final months in office, to have his deeds match his words. In his speech last week, he reiterated that "America over time has gotten better" because people have taken to the streets to protest and "speak truth to power."
No one should believe for a second that that this vital tradition of protest is going to stop. On the contrary, it is growing. The question is whether the FBI and other federal government law enforcement agencies are going to use their vast authority and power to set up pretexts justifying one confrontation after another with grassroots movements seeking change. That path will succeed only in intensifying polarization and ever-graver conflicts. Such tactics will not succeed in extinguishing social movements, whose existence is caused by unmet needs, racial and economic disparities, and the absence of justice for so many.
Note: As of Monday morning, the police have not filed charges or bail amounts for the release of many of those arrested. Loved ones of those arrested over the past two nights have been gathering in front of the Parish Prison to receive word. The National Lawyers Guild in Louisiana is playing a major role in defending those arrested.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Legalized Murder and the Politics of Terror

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Police officers carry out random acts of legalized murder against poor people of color not because they are racist, although they may be, or even because they are rogue cops, but because impoverished urban communities have evolved into miniature police states.

Police can stop citizens at will, question and arrest them without probable cause, kick down doors in the middle of the night on the basis of warrants for nonviolent offenses, carry out wholesale surveillance, confiscate property and money and hold people—some of them innocent—in county jails for years before forcing them to accept plea agreements that send them to prison for decades. They can also, largely with impunity, murder them.

Those who live in these police states, or internal colonies, especially young men of color, endure constant fear and often terror. Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” calls those trapped in these enclaves members of a criminal “caste system.” This caste system dominates the lives of not only the 2.3 million who are incarcerated in the United States but also the 4.8 million on probation or parole. Millions more are forced into “permanent second-class citizenship” by their criminal records, which make employment, higher education and public assistance, including housing, difficult and usually impossible to obtain. This is by design.

The rhetoric of compassion, even outrage, by the political class over the police murders in Baton Rouge, La., and near St. Paul, Minn., will not be translated into change until the poor are granted full constitutional rights and police are accountable to the law. The corporate state, however, which is expanding the numbers of poor through austerity and deindustrialization, has no intention of instituting anything more than cosmetic reform. 

Globalizationhas created a serious problem of “surplus” or “redundant” labor in deindustrialized countries. The corporate state has responded to the phenomenon of “surplus” labor with state terror and mass incarceration. It has built a physical and legal mechanism that lurks like a plague bacillus within the body politic to be imposed, should wider segments of society resist, on all of us.

The physics of human nature dictates that the longer the state engages in indiscriminate legalized murder, especially when those killings can be documented on video or film and disseminated to the public, the more it stokes the revenge assassinations we witnessedin Dallas. This counterviolence serves the interests of the corporate state. The murder of the five Dallas police officers allows the state to deify its blue-uniformed enforcers, demonize those who protest police killings and justify greater measures of oppression, often in the name of reform.

This downward spiral of violence and counterviolence will not be halted until the ruling ideology of neoliberalismis jettisoned and the corporate state is dismantled. Violence and terror, as corporate capitalism punishes greater and greater segments of the population, are, and will remain, the essential tools for control.

No one, with the exception of the elites, champions neoliberal policies. Citizens do not want their jobs shipped overseas, their schools and libraries closed, their pension and retirement funds looted, programs such as Social Security and welfare cut, government bailouts of Wall Street, or militarized police forces patrolling their neighborhoods as if they were foreign armies of occupation—which in many ways they are. These policies have to be forced on a reluctant public. This is accomplished only through propaganda, including censorship, and coercion.

Unfortunately, all the calls by the political class for reform in the wake of recent murders by police will make things worse. Reform has long been a subterfuge for expanded police repression. This insidious process is documented in Naomi Murakawa’s book “The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America.” [Click hereto see excerpts at Google Books.]

Murakawa wrote that lawmakers, especially liberal lawmakers, “confronted racial violence as an administrative deficiency.” Thus, they put in place “more procedures and professionalization” to “define acceptable use of force.” They countered the mob violence of lynching, she points out, with a system of state-sanctioned murder, or capital punishment. “The liberal’s brand of racial criminalization and administrative deracialization legitimized extreme penal harm to African-Americans: the more carceral machinery was rights-based and rule-bound, the more racial disparity was isolatable to ‘real’ black criminality.” In other words, the state was “permitted limitless violence so long as it conformed to clearly defined laws, administrative protocol, and due process,” while those who were the victims of this violence were said to be at fault because of their supposed criminal propensities.

The so-called “professionalization” of the police, the standard response to police brutality, has always resulted in more resources,militarized weaponsand money given to the police. It has been accompanied, at the same time, by less police accountability and greater police autonomy to strip citizens of their rights as well as an expansion of the use of lethal force.

If the state of siege of our inner cities were lifted, if prisoners were allowed to return to their communities and if evictions, which destroy the cohesion and solidarity of a neighborhood, were to end, the corporate state would face a rebellion. And the corporate state knows it. It needs to maintain these pod-like police states if it is to continue the relentless drive to further impoverish the country in the name of austerity. The continued cutting or closing of the few social services that keep people from facing total destitution, the massive unemployment that is never addressed, the despair, the hopelessness, the retreat into drugs and alcohol to blunt the pain, the heavy burden of debt peonage that sees families evicted, the desperate struggle to make money from the illegal economy and the forced bankruptcies all are about social control. And they work.

The state insists that to combat the “lawlessness” of those it has demonized it must be emancipated from the constraints of the law. The unrestricted and arbitrary subjugation of one despised group, stripped of equality before the law, conditions the police to employ brutal tactics against the wider society.

“Laws that are not equal for all revert to rights and privileges, something contradictory to the very nature of nation-states,” Hannah Arendtwrote. “The clearer the proof of their inability to treat stateless people as legal persons and the greater the extension of arbitrary rule by police decree, the more difficult it is for states to resist the temptation to deprive all citizens of legal status and rule them with an omnipotent police.”

The miniature police states are laboratories. They give the corporate state the machinery, legal justification and expertise to strip the entire country of rights, wealth and resources. And this, in the end, is the goal of neoliberalism. 

Neoliberalism, like all utopian ideologies, requires the banishment of empathy. The inability to feel empathy is the portal to an evil often carried out in the name of progress. A world without empathy rejects as an absurdity the call to love your neighbor as yourself. It elevates the cult of the self. It divides the world into winners and losers. It celebrates power and wealth. Those who are discarded by the corporate state, especially poor people of color, are viewed as life unworthy of life. They are denied the dignity of work and financial autonomy. They are denied an education and proper medical care, meaning many die from preventable illnesses. They are criminalized. They are trapped from birth to death in squalid police states. And they are blamed for their own misery.

Disenfranchised white workers, also the victims of deindustrialization and neoliberalism, flock to Donald Trump rallies stunted by this lack of empathy. The hatred of the other offers them a sense of psychological protection. For, if they saw themselves in those they demonized, if they could express empathy, they would have to accept that what is being done to poor people of color can, and perhaps will, be done to them. This truth is too hard to accept. It is easier to blame the victims.

Our political elites, rather than addressing the crisis, will make it worse. If we do not revolt, the savagery, including legalized murder, that is the daily reality for poor people of color will become our reality. We must overthrow the corporate state. We must free ourselves from the poisonous ideology of neoliberalism. If we remain captive we will soon endure the nightmare that afflicts our neighbor.

US Income Inequality Reaches Highest Level In History

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Income Inequality
A new study by economist Emmanuel Saez claims that the top 1% income earners in the United States hit a new high in 2015. The study used data from the IRS to show “families at or near the top of the income ladder did substantially better in 2015 than those below them. The share of income going to the top 10 percent of income earners—those making on average about $300,000 a year—increased to 50.5 percent in 2015 from 50.0 percent in 2014, the highest ever except for 2012.”
Saez concludes that the 2013 tax increases had no substantive effect on reducing inequality beyond a “dip in pre-tax income earned by the top one percent in 2013” as “by 2015 top incomes are once again on the rise—following a pattern of growing income inequality stretching back to the 1970s.”
In other words, while President Obama claimed in 2013 that income inequality was the “defining challenge of our time,” his policies have made no meaningful contribution to addressing it.
Economic inequality is not only getting worse, but it may arguably be worse than it has ever been. At least that is the conclusion of economists Peter Lindert and Jeffrey Williamson, who write in a new book that income inequality today is the worst it has ever been in all of American history.
The larger historical argument is problematic, as it starts with colonial America and goes through the time of slavery, where the analysis includes food and shelter for slaves as compensation, but the trend is undeniable. With a few exceptions, contemporary America is unrivaled in its level of economic inequality.
Lindert and Williamson come to conclusions through their long-view historical analysis similar to those of other scholars, restricting their study to the previous decades. Rent-seeking through the financial system provided the rich of America—old and new—with break away wealth. In earlier periods, it was the industrialists and land speculators running away with the gains, whereas today it is derivatives traders and hedge fund managers.
At least the robber barons of old left a railroad or two when the bubble burst. The plutocrats of today leave nothing but heartache once the pillaging is done.
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The police killings in Louisiana and Minnesota: The class issues

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Millions of people around the world have reacted with shock, outrage and revulsion at the latest videos and images of police murder in the United States. Thousands of people took part in demonstrations throughout the US Thursday, with more scheduled today.
The final horrific moments of Alton Sterling, 37, and Philando Castile, 32, have been watched and shared millions of times on Facebook and other social media. On July 5, Sterling was shot by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at least three times at point-blank range as he was pinned down to the ground. The next day, Castile was shot at least four times during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, as his girlfriend and child watched helplessly. Both Sterling and Castile were African American.
Less publicized in the media were two other killings that underscore the pervasiveness of police violence in America, and the fact that it is not only African Americans who are targeted. On Thursday, a cell phone video was published by the Fresno Bee showing the police killing of 19-year-old Dylan Noble in Fresno, California on June 25. Noble, who was white and unarmed, can be seen lying on the ground motionless as police fire multiple bullets downward into his motionless body. This past weekend, police in Fullerton, California shot and killed 19-year-old Pedro Erik Villanueva, a Hispanic youth who was also unarmed, after a car chase.
The killing of Sterling and Castile, like almost all of the other 600 police killings that have taken place so far this year, and the thousands since the Obama administration took office, would have been “swe[pt] in the dirt” (to use the phrase of Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of one of Mr. Sterling’s children) had they not been recorded by bystanders on cell phone cameras.
It is now nearly two years since the killing of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014 sparked nationwide protests against police violence. However, despite the pledges of “reform” and cynical professions of concern from the political establishment when one or another killing sparks protests, the reign of violence continues unabated. Indeed, the number of killings so far this year exceeds the number of Americans killed up to this point in 2015.
Certain conclusions must be drawn. It is impossible to understand the epidemic of police violence without understanding the reality of American capitalism. The United States is characterized by vast and growing social inequality, in which mass poverty and joblessness coexist with the almost unfathomable enrichment of a financial oligarchy. While one in seven Americans falls below the official poverty line, 400 individuals control $2.34 trillion dollars.
The same ruling class that is waging a relentless war on the working class is engaged in unspeakable violence all over the world. Domestic and foreign policy are not separated by an iron wall. The methods used abroad are increasingly being deployed to deal with the social crisis at home. Within the overall apparatus of state repression, the police, armed to the teeth with the most modern weaponry, play a central role.
Police violence is essentially a class question. Understanding that opposition to police violence threatens to become the catalyst for a broader mobilization of the working class, politicians and the media have rushed to present the killing of Sterling and Castile as motivated exclusively by racism.
Racism no doubt plays a role in many police killings. However, the claim that police violence can be solely explained in racial terms is self-contradictory and untenable. While African Americans are disproportionately victimized by of police violence, half of those killed by police are white, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. In many cases, such as in the killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, the officers themselves are black or Hispanic. In some cities with the worst police violence, such as Baltimore and Philadelphia, a majority of police officers are minorities, and local governments are headed by black police chiefs, black city council members and black mayors.
Perhaps most significantly, the unending stream of police murders has taken place under the presidency of Barack Obama, an African American. The Obama administration has used federal investigations to whitewash police killings, has sided with the police in every use-of-force case brought before the Supreme Court and continues to oversee the transfer of military weaponry to local police forces throughout the country.
The Obama White House presided over the deployment of militarized police and National Guard to crack down on demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 and Baltimore, Maryland last year following the killings of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray.
Speaking in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday, Obama defended the police while seeking to present the killings in racial terms. He pointed to “biases across the criminal justice system” that make it so, “black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents.” He added, “If communities are mistrustful of the police, it makes the officers—who are doing a great job—that’s making their jobs harder.”
Obama’s statements came the same day that the New York Times, which has in recent weeks stepped up its campaign to bury the issues of social inequality in the United States, ran a column entitled “Alton Sterling and When Black Lives Stop Mattering,” presenting the killings as the result of a “world where too many people have their fingers on the triggers of guns aimed directly at black people.”
Another column, posted on the Times’ web site Thursday night, insisted that “white America” will “never understand” the experience of “a nation of nearly 40 million black souls inside a nation of more than 320 million people.”
Such statements are aimed at undermining the instinctive feelings of solidarity felt by workers of all races to the events of this past week, while at the same time channeling opposition along channels that pose no threat to the ruling class and the economic system that it defends.
The United States is on the verge of major social and political convulsions. Over the past year, the growing political radicalization of workers and young people has found reflection in the support for Bernie Sanders, who presented himself as a socialist and focused his campaign on questions of social inequality and the power of the “billionaire class.” As Sanders moves to endorse Clinton and seek to convince his supporters to back the candidate of Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus, the media and Democratic Party are seeking to change the subject: from social inequality to race and identity politics.
The speed with which the media and political establishment have sought to present police killings as merely a matter of race reflects the fear that widespread opposition to police violence might be linked up with the growing social and political radicalization of the working class.
But this is precisely what is required. The fight against police violence, like the defense of all democratic rights, can only be taken forward on the basis of a struggle to unify the working class of all races and ethnicities in a common struggle against the capitalist system.

US planners prepare air war on China

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A report published this month by the US-based Mitchell Institute has provided details of US Air Force (USAF) plans to use sophisticated “fifth generation” stealth aircraft in combat operations in an all-out war with China. These preparations are part of a far broader US military build-up throughout the Indo-Pacific that envisages the basing of 60 percent of warships and aircraft in the region by 2020.
The authors of the report are serving USAF officers directly engaged in strategic planning, including for the deployment of “fifth generation” aircraft, particularly the F-22 Raptor and different versions of the F-35. Major General Jeff Harrigian currently heads the Air Force F-35A Integration Office at the Pentagon, having previously served as assistant deputy chief of staff for operations. Colonel Max Marosko, a F-22 pilot, is the deputy director of air and cyberspace operations at Pacific Command in Hawaii.
The report entitled, “Fifth Generation Air Combat: Maintaining the Joint Force Advantage,” declares that these aircraft are “a key element in US power projection in the 21st Century.” The F-22 and F-35 are designed to not only evade detection but “provide situational awareness of a conflict that is unparalleled in modern war, and lethal tools that enable both aircraft and capabilities in other domains to perform at a higher level.”
The war planes are packed with sensors and advanced electronics that provide greater “situational awareness” to their pilots, and to those of less-advanced fourth generation aircraft. The F-22 and F-35 are also able to jam or confuse enemy defence systems, enabling them to operate effectively “in highly contested combat environments, defined by the presence of the most capable current air and ground threats, and those reasonably expected to be operational in the foreseeable future.”
Air Combat Command chief General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle declared last year that the F-22, which became operational a decade ago, “has even exceeded our expectations.” He boasted that the fifth generation aircraft gave the US “the asymmetric advantage we need to win our nation’s wars.”
In July 2013, Foreign Policy reported Carlisle’s plans for a huge build-up of US war planes and personnel throughout Asia, including in northern Australia, “Changi East air base in Singapore, Korat air base in Thailand, a site in India and possibly bases at Kubi Point and Puerto Princesa in the Philippines, in Indonesia and Malaysia.” The article also pointed out that old World War II bases in the Pacific, such as on Tinian Island in the North Marianas, were in the process of refurbishment.
Carlisle said the Air Force would “rotate” its “most capable platforms” into the Pacific, including F-22s, F-35s and B-2 stealth bombers. He noted that the first permanent deployment basefor the F-35 would be in Asia.
The Mitchell Institute report spells out in greater detail how the fifth generation war planes will be deployed and used in combat. While China is not named, no one is in any doubt that it would be the chief enemy. In a section entitled, “Seizing the Advantage,” the report outlines a war scenario set in 2026, in which F-22s and F-35s would be rapidly dispersed to “numerous military and civilian airfields” throughout the region so that the enemy is unable to deliver a “knock-out” blow.
“As combat operations begin, US military fifth generation aircraft, along with F-35s from coalition countries effectively integrate and collaborate in the opening phase of operations,” the report explains. “[F]ighting focuses on the battle for air superiority as aircraft from both sides clash over contested territory … As the operations continue, it becomes apparent stealth aircraft like the F-22, F-35, B-2 and B-21 are the only aircraft capable of operating over the contested territory in the conflict due to the large number of adversary mobile advanced Surface to Air (SAMs) deployed …
“As the conflict continues, fifth generation aircraft seek out, degrade and destroy SAMs in contested territory, creating a more moderate threat environment. This enables legacy [older] aircraft to operate alongside their fifth generation counterparts. The mature integration and full operational capacities of fourth and fifth generation aircraft working together proves the turning point in the conflict.”
The scenario makes clear the critical role of allies and strategic partners in the Asia Pacific, not only to provide access to air bases and ground support for the USAF, but also in the case of countries like Australia and Japan, to join the US in carrying out combat operations with their own fifth generation war plans. The report as a whole stresses the need for the close integration and “interoperability” of the US and its allies, including regular war games to ensure their militaries can function seamlessly together.
The report highlights the key role of northern Australian airfields in providing a relatively secure rear base to maintain and repair fifth generation aircraft. Its scenario declares: “In one instance, a USAF F-35 is forced to recover at an Australian F-35 airbase after an inflight malfunction makes it impossible to return to its original deployment location. Royal Australian Air Force maintenance technicians are able to quickly repair, rearm, and refuel the USAF F-35 in a manner similar to US maintenance and regeneration practices. The F-35 in question rejoins combat operations the next day.”
The scenario outlined is for nothing less than a massive air attack on the Chinese mainland, spearheaded by stealth war planes, and operating in intimate collaboration with allies like Australia. A relentless air assault is one component of the Pentagon’s AirSea Battle strategy for fighting a war with China. The air attacks would be complemented by missiles fired from bases, warships and submarines based off the Chinese mainland with the aim of destroying much of the Chinese military, communications, command centres and key industrial sites. AirSea Battle also envisages a naval blockade designed to cripple the Chinese economy.
The Mitchell Institute report underscores the advanced nature of US preparations for war with China. While the scenario is set a decade ahead, many of the measures advocated by the report—joint training, access to numerous airfields, the stationing of advanced aircraft, warships and submarines in the Asia Pacific—are already well advanced. Having immeasurably heightened tensions throughout the region over the past six years, the US determined to be able to take advantage of any incident in the regional flashpoints, which it has deliberately inflamed, to advance its aims of subordinating China to American interests.

The Chilcot verdict on Iraq: A war crime by British and US imperialism

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The report of the Chilcot inquiry into the role of the British government in the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, released Wednesday, provides devastating confirmation of the illegal character of the war and the criminal role of those officials, both British and American, who organized and led it.
The conclusions of the investigation headed by Sir John Chilcot were issued seven years after the inquiry was first convened. The 2.6 million-word, 13-volume report covers the policy decisions made by the British government, military and intelligence services between 2001 and 2009. The inquiry has no legal powers, and any finding on the legality of the invasion was specifically ruled out by the Labour government of Gordon Brown that established it.
Nonetheless, the report provides conclusive proof that those responsible for the war have the blood of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, on their hands.
This applies not only to then-Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, who functioned in Britain as liar-in-chief for the invasion and, as such, features heavily in the report. By extension, it is also an indictment of the principal architects of the war in the United States: former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others, as well as all those leading officials who supported it, including the Democratic Party’s current presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Personal testimony, confidential documents and private memos confirm that Blair opted to support a US-war against Iraq that was prepared at least from the start of 2002, all while publicly claiming that there were no such plans.
The invasion that began on March 20, 2003 took place before “peaceful options for disarmament” had been exhausted, Chilcot notes. Damningly, he states, “Military action at that time was not a last resort.”
Iraq’s Saddam Hussein did not present an “imminent” threat at the time, and claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction were “not justified.” The invasion was launched on the basis of “flawed” intelligence assessments that were not challenged when they should have been, Chilcot states.
These facts in and of themselves demonstrate that the invasion was a brazen violation of international law. But the reality is far more incriminating.
The Chilcot report includes a declassified version of the so-called Downing Street Memo, memorializing a July 2002 meeting between Blair and other top officials in which the head of British intelligence explicitly acknowledged that “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
In other words, a false pretext was being manufactured to justify an unprovoked war, and they all knew it.
The legal case for UK military action was “far from satisfactory,” Chilcot states. Moreover, while Blair was attacking France for failing to support a second United Nations Security Council resolution authorising military action, “we [the inquiry] consider that the UK was, in fact, undermining the Security Council’s authority.”
The report finds that the invasion failed in its stated objectives. It notes, “The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional instability, and al-Qaida activity in Iraq were each explicitly identified before the invasion.”
Not only were 176 British soldiers killed (along with 4,491 US troops) and many thousands horribly wounded, “The people of Iraq have suffered greatly.” According to the most reliable estimates, the number of Iraqi lives lost as a result of the war stands at roughly 1 million. An estimated 5 million more people were driven from their homes. The country remains embroiled in bloody sectarian conflict and extreme economic and social hardship.
Of all those arraigned before the International Criminal Court Hague over recent years, such as Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, none are responsible for even a fraction of the deaths caused by Blair and Bush.
The Chilcot inquiry is an indictment of the policy pursued by US and British imperialism over the past 15 years. Its genocidal dimensions are made apparent from the catastrophes inflicted on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, which have served only to strengthen sectarianism and Islamic fundamentalism.
The verdict should be clear enough: Blair, Bush, et al are war criminals. They, along with their co-conspirators, should face immediate trial.
The Nuremberg Trials convened following the Second World War were clear and unequivocal in their principal conclusion: the use of war to achieve political ends that cannot be justified by imminent threat of attack constitutes the most heinous of war crimes. Bush and Blair are as culpable as the 12 Nazi defendants sentenced to death by hanging.
The Chilcot findings include previously secret memos from Blair to Bush (those sent from Bush to Blair were kept secret at Washington’s request) that make clear that the real motive behind the war was not the threat of weapons of mass destruction or terrorism, but, as was the case with the leaders of the Third Reich, global domination. Within days of the invasion, Blair exulted in the act of military aggression, declaring it a chance to establish “the true post-Cold War world order.”
The reactions of many of the families of British soldiers killed in the Iraq conflict bear repeating. Sarah O’Connor, whose brother Bob died in Iraq in 2005, said, “There is one terrorist in this world that the world needs to be aware of, and his name is Tony Blair, the world’s worst terrorist.”
Roger Bacon, whose son Matthew was killed in Basra, said, “Never again must so many mistakes be allowed to sacrifice British lives and lead to the destruction of a country for no positive end.”
Mark Thompson, father of Kevin, killed in 2007, said Blair “should be stripped of everything he has for what he’s done. It was an illegal war. My son died in vain. He died for no reason.”
Blair knew “he was manufacturing and massaging” intelligence, said Reg Keys, whose son Thomas was killed, while Eddie Hancock, whose son Jamie also died, called for Blair to “be banned from any form of public office for life, at the very least.”
Such honest and heartfelt statements stand in stark contrast to the response of the powers-that-be, who are trying to conceal the implications of the inquiry and turn it into a framework for waging more efficient wars in the future.
Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that, whatever the consequences of Iraq, it is “wrong to conclude that intervention is always wrong.”
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was the most craven apologist of all. Lamenting the “disastrous decision” to invade Iraq, he said it had left a “stain” on the Labour Party. Not so much of a stain, however, that Corbyn felt obliged to even mention Blair’s name, let alone moot his expulsion from the Labour Party.
This cleared the path for Blair’s arrogant and belligerent response to the report, in which he sought not only to defend past crimes, but to justify new ones. “The world was and is, in my judgment, a better place without Saddam Hussein,” he said.
In a statement issued from his Texas ranch, ex-US President George W. Bush echoed Blair’s remarks, declaring that “the whole world is better off without Saddam Hussein.”
What these murderous sociopaths are saying is that the “world is better off” without the 1 million people annihilated by their war.
The response to the inquiry’s findings by not only Bush and Blair, but the entire political establishment on both sides of the Atlantic, makes plain that the fight for truth and justice—and compensation for the Iraqi people—can proceed only in struggle against the capitalist ruling class.
The Chilcot report has been released against the backdrop of an escalation of imperialist militarism, not only in the Middle East, but increasingly against Russia and China as well. The preparations for a Third World War have advanced rapidly during the seven years of the commission’s deliberations.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Fukushima Apocalypse: Here’s How You Are Being Poisoned

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It's been 5 years since an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0-- the greatest in the country's documented history and among the five most powerful recorded ever around the globe-- and subsequent tsunami ruined parts of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, eventually killing more than 20,000 men, women and children; displaced over 200,000; and brought untold scary and suffering to many survivors. The Fukushima nuclear catastrophe on March 11, 2011, led to huge radioactive contamination of the Japanese mainland, along with it brought to the forefront the threats of around the world of nuclear radiation. Five years later on, after-effects of the disastrous event continue to plague the world, making it the biggest environmental disaster in recorded history. Here are 10 terrible truths about the ongoing Fukushima nuclear holocaust that will terrify you...  

# 1 300 tons (272,152 liters) of radioactive water, enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool every 8 days goes into the Pacific Ocean. Harvey Wasserman, journalist and supporter for sustainable energy, told RT:
“This is an apocalyptic event. This is something that could contaminate the entire Pacific Ocean. It is extremely serious. The reality is that Tokyo Electric does not know what is happening and does not know how to control what is going on. Our entire planet is at risk here.”

# 2 The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant holds 11,400 fuel rods. Fukushima reactor No. 4 alone has 1300 fuel rods kept in a leaking pool. These fuel rods have to be by removed manually, in addition to 6,300 fuel rods stored nearby. Given that the fuel rods, which radiation levels are comparable to 14,000 times the quantity released when the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima at the end of World War II, need to be drawn out manually to prevent an even worse disaster than the March 2011 crisis, even the smallest error could cause a chain reaction.

# 3 In 2013, TEPCO, the Japanese power company accountable for the Fukushima reactor, confessed that radiation levels in its groundwater observation hole on the east side of the turbine buildings had reached 310 Becquerels per liter for cesium-134 and 650 Becquerels per liter for cesium-137. According to the World Health Organization, drinking water at 300 Becquerels per liter is comparable to one year direct exposure to natural background radiation, or 10 to 15 chest X-rays.  

# 4 In the immediate after-effects of the catastrophe, the plant was spewing an approximated 5,000 to 15,000 terabecquerels (trillion Becquerels) of cesium-137 a month. According to Jota Kanda, an oceanographer at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Innovation, the plant continues to leak 10 billion Becquerels of cesium-137 per day into the Pacific Ocean.


# 5 Within 2 years of the disaster, TEPCO confessed that they had actually spotted the extremely toxic strontium-90, a byproduct of nuclear fission that can cause bone cancer if consumed, at levels 30 times the permitted rate. It also openly admitted that an advancing 20 trillion to 40 trillion Becquerels of radioactive tritium had actually leaked into the sea given that the disaster.

 # 6 Apart from Cesium-137 and Strontium-90, the plant continues to leak huge amounts of Iodine-131 into the air. Because the thyroid rapidly soaks up Iodine-131 in a radioactive event, the resultant internal contamination damages the thyroid, leading to hypothyroidism, cancer and death. Harvey Wasserman states:
Iodine-131 can be ingested into the thyroid, where it emits beta particles (electrons) that damage tissue. A plague of damaged thyroids has already been reported among as many as 40% of the children in the Fukushima area. That percentage can only go higher. In developing youngsters, it can stunt both physical and mental growth. Among adults it causes a very wide range of ancillary ailments, including cancer.”
# 7 Experts call it the greatest release of radiation to a body of water in the history of the world, much worse than Chernobyl. They forecast that the entire Pacific Ocean will have Cesium levels 5 to 10 times higher than what they were at the peak of atomic bomb testing decades ago.  

# 8 Radiation from the Fukushima disaster has currently spread out across the world. Last December, researchers found a spike of cesium-134 off the coast of California-- about 11 Becquerels per cubic meter of water. They also found about 10 Becquerels per cubic meter of water 1,500 miles north of Hawaii-- a level around twice as high as levels they found on previous missions.  

# 9 According to Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Market (METI), more than 1,100 square kilometers of villages, mountains and forests remain uninhabitable; totally cleaning up the site will require half a century.  

# 10 We have endless releases into the Pacific Ocean that will be ongoing for not only our life times, but our children's lifetimes, concludes scientist Christina Consolo. She tells RT:

…The worst case scenario could play out in death to billions of people. A true apocalypse… A weather event, power outage, earthquake, tsunami, cooling system failure, or explosion and fire in any way, shape, or form, at any location on the Fukushima site, could cascade into an event of that magnitude as well.”


Economic inequality soars in US

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Economic inequality leapt ahead in 2015 in the United States, with the average incomes of the top 1 percent rising twice as fast as the incomes of the remaining 99 percent of households, according to a study released Friday for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. The top 1 percent had an average income of $1.4 million last year.
By far, the largest growth in incomes came in an even narrower section of the super-rich, the top 0.1 percent of households. These one-in-a-thousand households saw their incomes rise by nearly 9 percent to an average of $6.75 million.
The top 1 percent increased its share of total US household income from 21.4 percent to 22 percent. The top 10 percent collected more than half of all US household income, 50.5 percent, up from an even 50 percent in 2014. This was the highest figure for any year in US history, except for 2012.
These figures are based on an analysis of tax data by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who is well known for groundbreaking research into income and wealth inequality. The data from the Internal Revenue Service gives a more accurate picture of the growth of income inequality than US Census data, which exclude capital gains and other sources of non-wage income, which go almost entirely to the wealthy.
The year 2015 was unusual compared to the rest of the period since the 2008 financial crash in that the wealthy did not monopolize all of the gains in real income. Average income for the bottom 99 percent rose by 3.9 percent to $48,768, the biggest annual increase since 1998, but only half the rate of increase enjoyed by the top 1 percent. This still left the bottom 99 percent of US families below the level of 2007.
“It is indeed the best growth year for the bottom 90 percent and bottom 99 percent since the late 1990s,” Saez told the Associated Press. “At the same time, top incomes grow even faster, leading to a further widening of inequality, which continues an alarming trend.”
The analysis by the Berkeley economist disproves claims by the Obama administration that the 2012 tax increase on the highest-income households, the result of a bipartisan deal with congressional Republicans, has had a significant impact on income inequality. Instead, the wealthy shifted income between years in order to avoid the impact of the higher tax rates.
“This suggests that the higher tax rates starting in 2013 will not, by themselves, affect much pre-tax income inequality in the medium-run,” Saez wrote, adding, “it seems unlikely that US income concentration will fall much in the coming years, absent more drastic policy changes.”
The Saez study gives the US side of a global phenomenon—the rapidly increasing economic inequality generated by the capitalist system on a world scale and exacerbated by the impact of the 2008 Wall Street crash.
A second report issued this week, by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, examined social polarization within the United States from the standpoint of access to a college education. While 14 million new jobs have been created over the past 68 months (more than five-and-a-half years) of “economic recovery,” it is well known that the vast majority of these jobs are lower-paying and more precarious than the jobs they replaced.
The Georgetown study found that these newly created jobs have been filled almost entirely by college-educated workers. Of the 11.6 million jobs created between January 2010 and January 2016, 11.5 million went to people with some form of college education. Some 75 percent of new jobs went to workers with a bachelor’s degree or better, and fully 99 percent went to workers with some college training. This left few or no new jobs available for those without a college education.
The report argued that “workers with a high school diploma or less hear about an economic recovery and wonder what people are talking about. … Of the 7.2 million jobs lost in the recession, 5.6 million were jobs for workers with a high school diploma or less.”
The study found that high school-educated workers have recovered only about 1 percent of those lost jobs over the past six years, and have seen virtually “no growth among well-paying jobs with benefits” during that period. There are 5.5 million fewer jobs for workers with no more than a high school education than there were in December 2007.
This continues a longer-term trend, with a decline of 13 percent since 1989, a loss of 7.3 million jobs, available to those with only a high school education. The number of jobs held by college-educated workers has doubled during the same period, with the result that “In 2016, for the first time ever, workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher comprise a larger proportion of the workforce than those with a high school diploma or less.”
College graduates comprise 36 percent of the work force, while 30 percent of workers have some college education, and 34 percent have only a high school education or less.
The Georgetown study demonstrates that, despite incessant claims that education is the road forward for working class youth to escape a life of economic deprivation, there is really no way out under capitalism.
Those who have not gone to college face a future of long-term unemployment, with little prospect of the decent-paying jobs their parents and grandparents once held. Those who have gone to college are employed, for the most part, in dead-end jobs for which they are overqualified, and where the wages are too low to allow them to repay their college loans. This year, student loan debt reached another all-time record, at $1.35 trillion.
These two reports underscore the objective, class basis for rising social discontent among working people and youth in the United States, discontent that finds only the most distorted expression within the political system, controlled by a two-party monopoly in which both parties represent the interests of the super-rich.
In the Republican Party, billionaire Donald Trump appealed to the discontent, particularly of older and less-educated workers, offering them the poison of economic nationalism and anti-immigrant racism.
In the Democratic Party, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won support, particularly among young people, for his condemnation of the “millionaires and billionaires” and his call for college tuition to be free at all public universities. But Sanders is now fulfilling the basic political aim of his campaign—to serve as a lightning rod for social discontent and channel it back behind the Democratic Party. He is folding up his campaign and shifting to support for Hillary Clinton, the candidate of Wall Street, the military-intelligence apparatus, and the bulk of the US political establishment.