Tag Archives: United Nations

Regime Change: A Criminal Calamity for Iraq

By Hans von Sponeck
Global Research, April 11, 2015
Al-Araby

 

US soldiers in IraqThe US invasion of Iraq was based on lies and has lead to unspeakable horrors. It is time for accountability, says former UN representative to Iraq, Hans von Sponeck.

The books of the UN contain no reference to “regime change”, nor is it in the law books. Regime change is a term coined by western governments, especially the US, to describe a policy that has no basis in international law.

Externally induced regime change has never solved international conflicts. On the contrary, it has intensified them wherever they have been attempted. Innocent civilians are invariably the victims. There are many examples, with Iraq being the most prominent.

Following years of clandestine co-operation between US spies and Iraqi opposition groups, the US Congress came out into the open by approving the Iraq Liberation Act, which stated that US policy should seek to “support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein”.

The act was signed by Bill Clinton on 31 October 1998. Five years later, in March 2003, Clinton’s presidential successor, George W Bush, sent in the troops.

The US legitimised this invasion by insisting that Saddam’s Iraq harboured weapons of mass destruction and cooperated with terrorism networks, including al-Qaeda.

The politics of fear

US think-tanks promoted fear. Statements released to the public included:

“Because of the limited capability of Iraqi conventional military forces, its WMD programmes loom even larger,” and “there is… a general suspicion that Iraq is working on a variety of terrorist contingency plans in case Saddam finds it necessary to strike the United States.”

The Bush administration welcomed wholeheartedly such insinuations advanced by alleged scholars including  Kenneth Pollack, a fellow for the US Council on Foreign Relations, who is identified on the cover of his 2002 book, The Threatening Storm, as “one of the world’s leading  experts on Iraq”.

It is now a fact of history that Iraq had no WMD, as Iraq’s deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, told various UN chief arms inspectors including Richard Butler and Hans Blix, the former a henchman for US interests. Some UN arms inspectors had indeed confirmed that since 1995 Iraq was not a threat.

Links with terrorist groups also went unproven, and many knew the claims to be false even before the invasion. Iraq, a secular republic, had no interest in allying with fundamentalist groups like al-Qaeda.

Facts are stubborn things. Thirteen years of sanctions had kept the government of Saddam firmly in place, the UN “oil-for-food programme” had become a political tool and the people of Iraq were being exposed to “unavoidable collateral damage”.Without these WMD and terrorist fabrications, there would not have been any basis for US authorities to argue that Iraq posed “a threat to many of its neighbours in the absence of US forces”.

John Negroponte, the US ambassador, did not hesitate to confirm this to the US Senate in April 2004: “Although the flow of humanitarian and civilian goods to Iraq was a matter of strong interest to the US government, it should be emphasised that an even greater pre-occupation throughout the period of sanctions was to ensure that no items be permitted for import which could… contribute to Iraq’s WMD programme.”

Following the 2003 invasion and the lifting of sanctions, the full scale of human misery became known. In 2002, 132 of every 1,000 Iraqi babies died before the age of five, according to Unicef – second only to Afghanistan.

Relief goods imported to Iraq in the oil-for-food programme, which ran from 1996 to 2003, amounted to a mere $185 per person a year.

The UN estimated at the time that about 60-75 percent of the population had been dependent on UN support.

Warnings ignored and unheeded

The tragedy for the Iraqi people, international law and the standing of the UN is that the voices from within the UN secretariat in both Baghdad and New York, as well as some members of the UN Security Council, had been warning of the consequences of such policies.

They were drowned out by Washington and London in favour of an uncompromising bilateral regime change dictated by pure self-interest.

To ensure as tight a cover-up as possible, no means were spared:

* The falsification of facts was encouraged, a severe hindrance for the UN in Iraq;

* political support was often bought with bribes;

* obtaining supplies was turned into a tortuous bureaucratic process to ensure long delays;

* ordered goods were often blocked on spurious grounds;

* agents were sent to infiltrate the UN Iraq operations;

* UN staff who opposed US/UK policies were threatened.

Brazil’s courageous ambassador to the UN in New York, Celso Amorim, used Brazil’s presidency of the security council to review the human conditions in Iraq.

He convened in 1999 an Iraq panel on the adequacy of the oil-for-food programme. Soon after the Amorim, under strong pressure from Washington, was transferred out of New York.

Following the release of the panel report, the permanent representative of Malaysia to the UN, Dato Agam Hasmy, addressed the security council in a speech that will remain forever an honourable and powerful testimony of courage:

“How ironic is it that the same policy that is supposed to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction has itself become a weapon of mass destruction.”

In 2003 the government of Saddam had been eliminated and Iraq had been “liberated”. According to US authorities, Iraq was finally eligible for democracy. In 2015, 12 years after the invasion and four years since the end of occupation, Iraq is facing myriad difficulties at national, regional, local and personal levels.

While the Islamic State group is featured as “the” issue in Iraq, there are other serious problems. Wars, sectarianism, civil conflict and crime are shaking the country’s foundations.

Those responsible have refused to accept responsibility. They have become either mute or insist that the infamous “bigger picture” justified the means.Many children are not in school, the education system is permeated by religious divisions, Iraqi academics have been subjected to abductions, extortions and random killings, Iraq has become one of the transit points for opium and cannabis, millions of Iraqi children are orphans and there are an estimated one million female-headed households.

They absolve themselves of today’s conditions in Iraq. They ignore their part in the destruction of Iraq’s physical and social infrastructures, for the use of proscribed munitions such as depleted uranium and white phosphorous, for brutality and horrific torture during eight years of occupation.

Torture and lies

No one can forget the photographs of Satar Jabar, the “hooded man of Abu Ghraib”.

The US Senate assessment of CIA torture released in December 2014 by US senator Diane Feinstein – a brave act of necessity – confirms in intricate detail that so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” were widely used.

The report corroborated that deliberate misrepresentation of facts and events by US authorities, especially the CIA, intensified after 9/11.

The torture report points out that much of the so-called US ”war on terrorism” was justified and legitimised by entirely false claims.

The release of the torture report has encouraged the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission to submit two volumes of torture evidence to the recently appointed new chief prosecutor of the ICC in the Hague.

This information has been collected from prisoners who were tortured in Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo.

With reports like these laying bare the crimes committed in the name of “regime change” and the “war on terrorism”, now is the time for political accountability.

Thirteen years after the invasion there has been a shift from US unilateralism to multi-polar international decision-making. This provides important new perspectives for the end of impunity.

World Misses Its Potential by Excluding 50 Percent of Its People

Ahead of global summit, experts note progress made on equity for women is not outweighed by the enormous gaps that remain

By Thalif Deen, IPS News
Common Dreams
March 6, 2015

 

Photo: Advocacy Project/flickr/cc)

 

UNITED NATIONS – The meeting is billed as one of the biggest single gatherings of women activists under one roof.

According to the United Nations, over 1,100 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and more than 8,600 representatives have registered to participate in this year’s session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Described as the primary intergovernmental body mandated to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, the 45-member CSW will hold its 59th sessions Mar. 9-20.

About 200 side events, hosted by governments and U.N. agencies, are planned alongside official meetings of the CSW, plus an additional 450 parallel events by civil society organisations (CSOs), both in and outside the United Nations.

Their primary mission: to take stock of the successes and failures of the 20-year Platform for Action adopted at the historic 1995 Women’s Conference in Beijing. The achievements are limited, say CSOs and U.N. officials, but the unfulfilled promises are countless.

The reason is simple, warns Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “We cannot fulfill 100 percent of the world’s potential by excluding 50 percent (read: women) of the world’s people.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein says the U.N.’s 193 member states have to go beyond “paying lip service” towards gender equality.

They should “genuinely challenge and dismantle the power structures and dynamics which perpetuate discrimination against women.”

But will they?

Yasmeen Hassan, global executive director of Equality Now, told IPS in the Beijing Platform for Action, 189 governments pledged to “revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex”.

Twenty years later, just over half of the sex discriminatory laws highlighted in three successive Equality Now reports have been revised, appealed or amended, she said.

“Although we applaud the governments that took positive action, we are concerned that so many sex discriminatory laws remain on the books around the world,” Hassan noted.

Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, international coordinator at Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, a programme partner of the International Civil Society Action Network, told IPS she was happy to see the latest draft of the Beijing + 20 Political Declaration, presented by the Bureau of the CSW, expressing “concern that progress has been slow and uneven and that major gaps and obstacles remain in the implementation of the 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action.”

“And it [has] recognized that 20 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women [in Beijing], no country has achieved equality for women and girls; and that significant levels of inequality between women and men persist, and that some women and girls experience increased vulnerability and marginalization due to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.”

“This is a reality check on the part of the member states, which is welcomed by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders and the rest of civil society,” she added.

Speaking specifically on reproductive health, Joseph Chamie, a former director of the U.N. Population Division, told IPS the work of the CSW is important and it has contributed to improving women’s lives.

Pointing out the important areas of health and mortality, he said, when the CSW was established seven decades ago, the average life expectancy at birth for a baby girl was about 45 years; today it is 72 years, which, by any standards, is a remarkable achievement.

With respect to reproductive health, he said, great strides have been achieved.

In addition to improved overall health and lower maternal mortality rates, most women today can decide on the number, timing and spacing of their children.

“Simply focusing attention, policies and programmes on the inequalities and biases that women and girls encounter, while largely ignoring those facing men and boys, will obstruct and delay efforts to attain true gender equality and the needed socio-economic development for everyone,” Chamie warned.

According to U.N. Women, only one in five parliamentarians is a woman.

Approximately 50 per cent of women worldwide are in paid employment, an increase from 40 per cent more than 20 years ago, with wage inequality persistent.

At the present rate of progress, said U.N. Women, it will take 81 years for women to achieve parity in employment.

In 2000, the groundbreaking Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security recognised the need to increase women’s role in peacebuilding in post-conflict countries. Yet, from 1992 to 2011 only 4 per cent of signatories to peace agreements and nine per cent of negotiators at peace tables were women.

Hassan told IPS there are still laws that restrict women’s rights in marriage (women not allowed to enter and exist marriages on the same basis as men; appointing men as the head of a household; requiring wife obedience; allowing polygamy; setting different ages of marriage for girls and boys).

There are also laws that give women a lower personal status and less rights as citizens (women not being able to transmit their nationality to husbands and children; women’s evidence not equal to that of a man; restriction on women traveling).

And women being treated as economically unequal to men (less rights to inheritance or property ownership; restrictions on employment); and laws that promote violence against women (giving men the right to rape their wives; exempting rapists from punishment for marrying their victims; allowing men to chastise their wives).

“The fact that these laws continue to exist shows that many governments do not consider women to be full citizens and as such it is not possible to make progress on the goals set 20 years ago,” Hassan said.

Cabrera-Balleza told IPS the CSW political declaration also states that member states reaffirm their “political will and firmly commit to tackle critical remaining gaps and challenges and pledge to take concrete further actions to transform discriminatory social norms and gender stereotypes,” among other very good promises.

This is where the crux of the matter lies, she said.

“We’ve heard these promises many times before from past CSW sessions and yet recent data, such as those from the World Health Organisation (WHO), indicate the following:

– 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime;

– on average, 30 percent of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner.”

Globally, she said, as many as 38 percent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.

She predicted that issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights will remain contentious in this CSW, as in previous years.

“It also worries me that while thousands of women have died and many more continue to suffer because of ongoing conflicts as well as violent extremism around the world, none of this is addressed in the political declaration.”

Sadly, the U.N. continues to operate in silos, she said. The Security Council remains disconnected with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) under which the CSW functions.

“Having said all of this, I want us, in civil society, to push the envelope as far as possible in this 59th CSW session,” she added.

Top UN Official Says ‘Global War on Terror’ Is Laying Waste to Human Rights

Battling terrorism shouldn’t justify torture or mass surveillance, says Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein

By Thalif Deen, IPS News
February 6, 2015
Common Dreams

 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein. (Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré)

 

The United Nations, which is the legal guardian of scores of human rights treaties banning torture, unlawful imprisonment, degrading treatment of prisoners of war and enforced disappearances, is troubled that an increasing number of countries are justifying violations of U.N. conventions on grounds of fighting terrorism in conflict zones.

Taking an implicit passing shot at big powers, the outspoken U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein of Jordan puts it more bluntly: “This logic is abundant around the world today: I torture because a war justifies it. I spy on my citizens because terrorism, repulsive as it is, requires it.

“I don’t want new immigrants, or I discriminate against minorities, because our communal identity or my way of life is being threatened as never before. I kill others, because others will kill me – and so it goes, on and on.”

Speaking Thursday at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., Zeid said the world needs “profound and inspiring leadership” driven by a concern for human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people.

“We need leaders who will observe fully those laws and treaties drafted to end all discrimination, the privation of millions, and atrocity and excess in war, with no excuses entertained. Only then, can we help ourselves out of the present serious, seemingly inexhaustible, supply of crises that threatens to engulf us,” he declared.

Last year, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was accused of subjecting terrorist suspects to “enhanced interrogation techniques”, including water-boarding, sleep deprivation and physical duress.

The Western nations, who have been involved in air attacks inside Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, have both justified and dismissed thousands of civilian killings as “collateral damage” – even as they continue to preach the doctrine of human rights and the sanctity of civilian life inside the General Assembly hall and the Security Council chamber.

And, meanwhile, there are several countries, including Jordan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which continue to justify the death penalty in the execution of terrorists and the public flogging of bloggers and political dissenters – as part of the war against terrorism.

Last week, the Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL) was accused of brutally killing a Jordanian air force pilot because Jordan was part of a coalition launching air attacks on ISIL forces.

In return, Jordan reacted swiftly by executing two convicted prisoners – with links to al-Qaeda – as a retaliation for the killing of the pilot.

“It was an eye for an eye,” a Jordanian was quoted as saying.

Last December, 117 of the 193 U.N. member states adopted a General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. But the executions have continued.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has publicly opposed capital punishment, says “the death penalty has no place in the 21st century.”

Javier El-Hage, general counsel at the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), told IPS his group applauds the high commissioner’s call for ‘better leadership’ and a ‘global rethink on education’ as the two main weapons the world could benefit from in the struggle against the ‘causes of the worst conflicts and atrocities across the world,’ present and past.

Specifically, on the area of leadership, Prince Zeid called for leaders that are ‘driven by a concern for the fundamental freedoms of all people,’ who fully observe international human rights treaties.

On the educational front, he said children everywhere should be taught what ‘bigotry and chauvinism are,’ the ‘terrible wrongs they can produce,’ and that ‘blind obedience can be exploited by authority figures for wicked ends.’

“As the high commissioner suggests, the worst atrocities of human kind have in fact been caused by bigoted, chauvinist authoritarian leaders representing a fraction or even a majority of a country’s population, but who, through achieving a monopoly in education and information by cracking down on dissent and independent media, pushed radical economic, nationalist, racist or religiously extremist agendas in a way that trampled the rights of minorities and dissenters of all kinds,” Hage added.

For example, nationalist, racist or religiously extremist agendas were used against Jews in Germany, Ukrainians in the Soviet Union, Kurds in Turkey, and against blacks until recently in apartheid South Africa and even most of the Western World until the abolition of slavery.

These discriminatory agendas are still being pushed today against the Uyghur and Tibetan peoples in China and against Christians and different Muslim faiths under theocratic dictatorships across the Middle East, including the ones like Saudi Arabia or Jordan that are friendly to Western democracies, as well as the ones like Iran or Syria that aren’t.

Zeid said international human rights law represents a distillation of humanity’s experience of atrocities, and the remedies to prevent them. But today, leaders are too often deliberately choosing to violate those laws, he complained.

“In the years after the Holocaust, specific treaties were negotiated to cement into law obligations to protect human rights. Countries the world over accepted them – and now alas, all too frequently, ignore them in practice.”

He pointed out that forceful reprisals against atrocities – including attacks on children and “the savage burning of my compatriot the pilot Mu’ath al Kassassbeh” by ISIL – are having limited impact.

“Just bombing them or choking off their financing has clearly not worked… for these groups have only proliferated and grown in strength. What is needed is the addition of a different sort of battle-line, one waged principally by Muslim leaders and Muslim countries and based on ideas.”

Zeid noted a knock-on effect on key civil and political rights in other countries: “The space for dissent in many countries is collapsing under the weight of either poorly-thought out, or indeed exploitative, counter-terrorism strategies. Human rights defenders are therefore under enormous pressure in many parts of the world today…They risk imprisonment or worse in the peaceful defence of basic rights.”

HRF’s El-Hage told IPS throughout the 20th Century, leaders of the Soviet Union and its satellites around the world installed single-party state apparatuses — with strong propaganda machineries and no independent media, instead of open education — that advanced radical economic agendas to the detriment of the majority of their populations.

This not only triggered atrocities, such as mass starvation, which were not a result of direct physical repression of minorities (like the Ukrainian famine), but instead of an economic policy that rejected individual rights and limited the ability of small farmers and business owners to provide for themselves by controlling their own mobility, access to resources, property rights, freedom of information and their ability to associate with others in mutual cooperation.

While promoting the idea that they could help the masses, these authoritarians let the individual members of such masses suffer—even starve, he added.

UN Security Council Rejects Palestinian Statehood Proposal

Led by U.S. opposition, resolution put forth by Jordan fails to pass. Following vote, Palestinian Authority looks towards International Criminal Court.

By Jon Queally
December 31, 2014
Common Dreams

 

A UN Security Council meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, Dec. 22, 2014. (Photo: AP)

 

A proposal that called for a full military withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied West Bank and international recognition of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders within three years was rejected by the UN Security Council  Tuesday evening.

Though its failure was not wholly unexpected, the proposal, put forth by the Jordanian delegation, failed to gain the nine affirmative votes needed to pass the council. While both the U.S. and Australia voted against the measure, the eight nations who voted in favor were: Argentina, Chad, Chile, China, France, Jordan, Luxembourg, and Russia. Five nations—the U.K., Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Rwanda and Lithuania—abstained.

As summarized by Al-Jazeera, the Jordanian proposal called for:

  • Two sovereign states living side by side; Israel and Palestine
  • End of Israeli occupation and establishing the Palestinian state within a time frame of no more than three years
  • East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine which will be established on 1967 borders
  • Settle the refugees’ question according to UN resolution 194
  • End settlement activities in West Bank and East Jerusalem and to release all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails

Riyad Mansour, Palestinian ambassador to the UN, chastised the council members for their collective failure to pass the resolution.

“The Security Council has once again failed to uphold its charter duties to address this crises and to meaningfully contribute to a lasting solution in accordance with its own resolutions,” Mansour said. “This year, our people under Israeli occupation endured the further theft and colonization of their land, the demolition of their homes, daily military raids, arrests and detention of thousands of civilians including children, rampant settler terrorism, constant affronts to their human dignity and repeated incursions at our holiest sites.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power defended her nation’s position by calling the proposal “deeply imbalanced” and said it did not do enough to address Israel’s ongoing “security concerns.”

As a permanent member of the Security Council the U.S. could have blocked the resolution’s  passage by asserting its veto power, but reporting indicates that intense lobbying preceding the vote as the U.S. attempted to convince enough nations to abstain so that such a move would not be necessary.

As the Guardian reports:

Palestinian officials and other observers had thought Nigeria would back a Jordanian-tabled resolution, thereby delivering a nine-vote majority on the council which would have required a US veto to be blocked. Washington had been working strenuously to avoid having to use its veto.

Until shortly before the vote on Tuesday, council diplomats had expected the resolution to get nine yes votes. But Nigeria abstained, with its ambassador, U Joy Ogwu, echoing the US position in saying that the path to peace lay “in a negotiated solution”.

One Palestinian source involved in the negotiations told the Guardian: “Even half an hour before the vote, Nigeria indicated it was committed to voting for the resolution. We knew that Rwanda, South Korea and Australia would not back it, but we believed Nigeria was on board.”

The apparent change by Nigeria, which is a rotating member of the council, came after both the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the US secretary of state, John Kerry, phoned the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, to ask him not to support the resolution.

Though a disappointment for those who supported the Jordanian plan, not all backers of Palestinian rights believed the proposal was the right approach.

As a consistent critic of the Palestinian Authority’s position on a lasting settlement and the concept of the so-called “two-state solution,” outspoken Palestinian activist and editor of the Electoronic Intifada Ali Abunimah is among those who have repeatedly condemned the resolution because it would codify within the United Nations the same failed mindset that has for so long blocked the full aspirations of the Palestinian people.

“This was a terrible resolution which was unanimously opposed by every major Palestinian faction, it contained so many compromises in an attempt to avoid a US veto that it was weaker than existing UN resolutions,” he told Al-Jazeera English following the vote.

And in a recent blog post, Abunimah explained:

This resolution tries to [undo the death of the “two-state solution”], except in a more legally binding and therefore dangerous manner. It makes the claim that “a just, lasting and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved by peaceful means, based on an enduring commitment to mutual recognition, freedom from violence, incitement and terror, and the two-state solution.”

It insists that the entire question of Palestine be reduced to the question of the 1967 occupation and that merely ending this occupation would effectively end all Palestinian claims.

The resolution uses vague, deceptive and in some places outright dishonest language that would enshrine in international law the “liberal” Zionist two-state solution and deal a devastating blow to Palestinian rights, particularly the right of return for refugees.

Following Tuesday’s failed effort, the Palestinian Authority immediately turned towards new avenues of seeking justice against what it calls international crimes perpetrated by Israel.

According to various sources, PA President Mahmoud Abbas may sign official documents as early as Wednesday to join the International Criminal Court, a move that would allow it to file official charges against the state of Israel for war crimes related to its occupation of the West Bank and its attack on the Gaza Strip this summer which resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Palestinians, a large majority of whom were children and other non-combatants.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters that Palestinian officials will hold a “very serious meeting” later on Wednesday in a bid to set a date for applying for membership to the ICC and other international agencies.

“There will be no more waiting, no more hesitation, no more slowdown,” Erekat said. “We are going to meet and make decisions.”

A Straightforward Chronology of the Sony Hacking Incident

Security geeks reveal government disinformation

By Gary Leupp
December 28, 2014
Dissident Voice, December 27, 2014

 

In January 2013 Google CEO Eric Schmidt visited North Korea with an aide and his daughter, as well as frequent DPRK visitor, former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson. He was of course given VIP treatment by his hosts in Pyongyang, and taken to Kim Il-song University to view students studying on the Internet. It was a private visit and the U.S. State Department did not endorse it any more than it endorsed Dennis Rodman’s trip the following month.

In April in a Wall Street Journal interview Schmidt questioned whether those he had viewed at the university were really students (as opposed to actors whose presence was staged to impress outsiders) and generally pooh-poohed the DPRK’s cyber competence. And after all, while the U.S. has 150,000 BGP routes, and South Korea has 17,000 BGP routes, North Korea has only four. While about two million North Koreans now have cell phones (imported from China), most have never had access to the Internet.

The average North Korean consumes 738 kilowatt hours of electric power per year, as opposed to the average South Koran who consumes 10,162 or the U.S. resident who consumes around 11,000. While the DPRK’s education system implants strong math skills, it does not emphasize computer science. The Pyongyang University for Science and Technology provides all of 30 computers for graduate students’ Internet use.

Nevertheless, U.S. planners and “security experts” have warned for years of the formidable capabilities of the DPRK army’s Unit 121, formed in 1998 and comprising at that time a force of 17,000 hackers. (This at least according to a report by defensetech.org on Military.com posted in 2007.) North Korea was supposedly the 8th ranked cyber–spying-capable country on earth.

Now the FBI confidently attributes what has been described as the most sophisticated cyber-attack in history, on the Japanese-owned Sony Pictures Entertainment Corporation, to this high-tech backwater. And President Obama has proclaimed that he knows who’s responsible.

But some considerations about the Sony hacking affair:

1. The U.S. government, including the security apparatus and the State Department, have a long history of bald-faced lies, and the corporate media has a long history of taking its talking points from the State Department. I don’t even want to waste time reprising the litany of lies that accompanied the preparations for the criminal assault on Iraq. Anyone paying attention knows what happened.

2. U.S. policy has long been to produce “regime change” in North Korea. Dick Cheney famously said in regards to North Korea “we don’t negotiate with evil, we defeat it.” (Recall how Dubya lumped Iraq, Iran, and North Korea together in his 2002 State of the Union speech as members of an Axis of Evil?) John Bolton so enraged the North Koreans, as a participant in talks over its nuclear program, that it labeled him “human scum.” (This could be dismissed as typical DPRK vituperativeness were it not for the fact that the British felt the same thing when he was involved with them in talks in Libya and it was felt by the UN in general when Bolton served as UN ambassador.)

George W. Bush dismayed then-South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung in 2001 when he refused to endorse Kim’s “sunshine policy” vis-à-vis his northern neighbor. As in most things, the Obama policy has been a continuation of the Bush policy.

Put these two together and what do you have, but the real possibility of a calculated effort to use the Sony hacking incident to advance the cause of regime change, regardless of what is actually true?

Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief-of-staff, actually implied to an interviewer December 23 that he saw parallels between the campaign to charge the North Korea with the Sony hacking and the Bush-era neocon-led effort to smear Saddam Hussein with the false charges raised against him. That–from such an establishment figure–should make everybody think.

I don’t know much about hacking, data detection malware, hard coding of paths and passwords, time-stamped data, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, etc. These are just terms to me. I find some of the claims and critiques of the claims difficult to follow. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, and the tendency of many will be to simply rely on the “experts” (like those in the FBI, who are supposed to know this stuff) to assign blame.

But whenever there’s a contemporary controversy that puzzles me, my impulse is to create a timeline, a simple, straightforward chronology. Sometimes that alone helps to clarify the issue. So here’s my timeline on the Sony hacking incident, offered as a study aid, with minimal commentary.

*****June 11, 2014: In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the North Korean government denounces the Hollywood film The Interview as “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism, as well as an act of war.” Pyongyang, well known for its bluster, promises “decisive and merciless countermeasure [if] the U.S. administration tacitly approves or supports” the movie.

late June: Sony CEO Michael Lynton consults with Bruce Bennett, a “senior defense analyst” at the RAND Corporation, author of Preparing for the Possibility  of a North Korean Collapse, about the  film. He particularly asks his opinion about the final scene in the “comedy,” in which Kim Jung-un’s head is blown off by U.S. journalists working with the CIA. (He perhaps asks whether or not this might threaten U.S. national security.)

(The RAND Corporation is a government-linked think tank whose trustees have included Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, and whose researchers have included Francis Fukuyama and Zalmay Khalilzad. During the 1980s RAND researchers were deeply involved in the effort to vastly exaggerate Soviet military strength to undo détente and justify Reagan’s massive military buildup. )

June 25: Bennett emails Lynton: “I… thought a bunch more about the ending [of the film]. I have to admit that the only resolution I can see to the North Korean nuclear and other threats is for the North Korean regime to eventually go away… I have been clear that the assassination of Kim Jong-Un is the most likely path to a collapse of the North Korean government. Thus while toning down the ending may reduce the North Korean response, I believe that a story that talks about the removal of the Kim family regime and the creation of a new government by the North Korean people (well, at least the elites) will start some real thinking in South Korea and, I believe, in the North once the DVD leaks into the North (which it almost certainly will). So from a personal perspective, I would personally prefer to leave the ending alone.”

June 25: Lynton emails Bennett: “[I] [s]poke to someone very senior in [the] State [Department] (confidentially). He agreed with everything you have been saying. Everything. I will fill you in when we speak.  (This may have been Daniel R. Russell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs.)

Comment: In other words, the State Department agreed that it would be good to have the comedy conclude with Kim Jong-un getting his head blown off by U.S. agents. It would set of “some real thinking” among North Koreans viewing DVDs of the film smuggled into the DPRK.

Late June: Lynton arranges a screening of a rough cut of The Interview to at least two U.S. government officials who approve the film, including the ending.

Around this time:  U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues (Robert R. King) is also consulted by Sony on the film.

June 27: North Korean ambassador to the UN Ja Song-nam requests that the Security Council adopt the DPRK’s statement against the film.

–Five months pass by–

November 21: A person or group of persons identifying as “God’s Apostles” (“God’sApstls”) sends an email to Lynton and Amy Pascal, co-chairman of SPE, threatening to hack Sony Pictures Entertainment and demanding money. “We’ve got great damage by Sony Pictures. The compensation for it, monetary compensation we want. Pay the damage, or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as a whole. You know us very well. We never wait long. You’d better behave wisely.”

November 24: All employees at Sony Pictures Entertainment headquarters in Culver City, California see the image of a skull and long skeletal fingers on their computer screens and the message: “This is just the beginning… [W]e’ve obtained all your internal data” and warn that they will release Sony’ “top secrets” unless the company agrees to “obey” their demands. The hackers identify themselves as “Guardians of Peace.” But since they also say, “We’ve already warned you, and this is just the beginning” we can probably surmise that they are the same as “God’s Apstls.”

November 25: Cyber-security experts Jacob Kastrenakes and Russell Brandom see the hacking as an inside job, and post the article “Sony Pictures hackers say they want ‘equality,’ worked with staff to break in,” on ”The Verge” website.

November 28: Appearance of the first news reports that North Korea may have been responsible. Technology news site Re/code report is picked up by Reuters and other news agencies.

December 3: Skeptics emerge. “Sony Hack: Studio Security Points to Inside Job,” in The Hollywood Report, questions North Korean responsibility.

December 3: In an interview with Voice of America an unidentified North Korean diplomat denies any involvement in the hacking.

December 4: Associated Press reports some cyber-security experts say they’ve found “striking similarities between the code used in the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment and attacks blamed on North Korea which targeted South Korean companies and government agencies last year.” Experienced hackers say this proves absolutely nothing since such codes are easily stolen, sold, or shared.

December 5: A message from hackers claiming to be Guardians of Peace is emailed to SPE employees: “Many things beyond imagination will happen at many places of the world. Our agents find themselves act in necessary places. Please sign your name to object the false of the company at the e-mail address below if you don’t want to suffer damage. If you don’t, not only you but your family will be in danger.”

December 7: North Korea denies involvement calling the charge “a wild rumor.” But it calls the hacking a “righteous deed.”

December 8: On a file-sharing site GOP warns Sony to “Stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism which can break regional peace and cause the War!” This is the hackers’ first apparent implicit reference to The Interview.

December 15: Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton tells employees that the ongoing investigation is being handled at the “highest level” of the FBI.

December 16: GOP makes their first direct reference to The Interview, 25 days after the first threat sent to Lynton and Pascal. Reporters receive an email declaring: “We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places The Interview be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to. Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.”

December 16: The FBI states, “We are aware of the threat.”

December 17: Sony Pictures scraps the planned Christmas Day release of the film.

December 17: Professional computer security experts begin to weigh in on the Sony hacking story. Kim Zetter, senior staff writer at Wired (a well respected news site and magazine covering technology), writes the article,  “North Korea Almost Certainly Did Not Hack Sony. ”

December 17: Jason Koebler, Motherboard, posts article, “Reaction to the Sony Hack Is ‘Beyond the Realm of Stupid.’”

December 17: Jeffrey Carr (cybersecurity expert, CEO of Taia Global),  posts “Why You Should Demand Proof Before Believing The U.S. Government On North Korea and Sony,” on Digital Dao.

December 18: White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest tells reporters: “I can tell you that, consistent with the president’s previous statements about how we will protect against, monitor and respond to cyber incidents, this is something that’s being treated as a serious national security issue.”

December 18: More computer security specialists question allegations of North Korean responsibility. British security blogger Graham Cluley writes, “US reportedly blaming North Korea for Sony Pictures hack. But why?”

December 18: Marc Rogers–director of security operations for DEF CON, the world’s largest hacker conference, and the principal security researcher for the world’s leading mobile security company, Cloudflare–writes: “Why the Sony hack is unlikely to be the work of North Korea.”

December 19: Sony announces it will completely cancel the film’s release. Hackers contact Sony, praising the pulling of the film as a “wise decision.”

December 19: FBI publicly fingers the government of North Korea as the instigators of the hack and threats towards moviegoers.  “As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other U.S. Government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions…. North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves.”

(It has been suggested that the “other U.S. Government departments and agencies” include most significantly the National Security Agency or NSA.)

December 19: At his year-end press conference President Obama repeats the FBI’s allegation and decries Sony’s decision to pull the film. U.S. media universally accepts without question the U.S. charge that North Korea hacked Sony.

December 19: More critical analyses appear. These include Jeffrey Carr, “Sony, the DPRK, and the Thailand – Pyongyang Connection,” on Digital Dao and Paul Wagenseil, “North Korea Hacked Sony? Don’t Believe It, Experts Say,” on Tom’s Guide.

December 19: Reuters reporter Julie Noce briefly interviews convicted hacker and security expert Kevin Medwick who questions North Korea link and suggests Sony was hacked by insiders.

December 20: North Korea again denies responsibility, demands the U.S. agree to a joint investigation.

December 20: Further critiques of the FBI story. Robert Graham (CEO, Errata Security), “Sony hack was the work of SPECTRE,” Errata Security; Christina Warren, “How the FBI says it connected North Korea to the Sony hack — and why some experts are still skeptical,” Mashable; “Lets blame our perennial adversary!,” the grugq; “Fauxtribution?” at Krypt3ia (pseudonymous hacker).

December 20:  First piece of mass media journalism to question North Korean responsibility: Michael Hiltzik’s piece “These experts still don’t buy the FBI claim that North Korea hacked Sony” in the Los Angeles Times.

December 20: CCTV (Chinese government-sponsored English-language cable TV) report from Los Angeles notes that many cyber experts doubt the North Korea link.

December 21: More questioning: a Comment by Marcus Ranum, e-security expert, posted at Free Thought Blogs; Marc Rogers, “Why I Still Don’t Think Its Likely that North Korea Hacked Sony,” on Marc’s Security Ramblings.

December 22:  The U.S. rejects the joint investigation proposed by Pyongyang. State Department spokeswoman tells reporters: “The government of North Korea has a long history of denying responsibility for its destructive and provocative actions, and if they want to help here, they can admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damage they caused.”

December 22: North Korean internet is shut down for 9 hours. U.S. does not comment. U.S. mass media states that the problem is mysterious and avoids blaming U.S. government.

December 22: Expert criticism continues, although largely ignored by the mass media. Bill Blunden, “The Mighty Wurlitzer Plays On: Sony Propaganda,” on Counterpunch;. Jason Ditz, “Lacking Evidence, Obama Mulls Action Against North Korea,” on antiwar.com. Also Charles C. Johnson, “BREAKING: We Can Conclusively Confirm North Korea Was Not Behind #Sony Hack” on gotnews.com.

December 22: Small media breakthrough when news anchor Chris Hayes interviews Marc Rogers briefly on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. Hayes begins: “But here’s the thing. There are some very smart people out there including computer security experts and hackers with no allegiance to North Korea and no dog in this fight who say they just aren’t necessarily buying that North Korea did this either.” The interview is short and cut off, but at least begins with this noteworthy admission by Hayes.

December 23: Sony announces it will release the film after all and Obama praises the decision. The entire corporate mass media rejoices in the triumph of free expression versus North Korea’s attempt to suppress our free speech.

December 23: Col. Larry Wilkerson is interviewed by Paul Jay on Real News. Jay asks him “Why do you think President Obama is so out front on this when the evidence seems so flimsy?” Wilkerson replies, “I’m confused about it myself. I think the media have made a mountain out of a mole hill.”1

Asked: “And is there another agenda with North Korea here? Or is this mostly a PR exercise by the president?” Wilkerson replies: “I certainly hope there’s not another agenda, but I smell one, because in the summer of 2001, as the Bush administration was laboring over who in the axis of evil it was going to take on, Korea was first and foremost in many people’s eyes. Once they were sobered up by the military and others, including yours truly, about what it would mean to have a war on the peninsula… they sobered up quickly. They didn’t want anything to do with that. And, of course, we know where they turned. They turned to the low-hanging fruit of Iraq.”

(In the interview Wilkerson says he has no trust in the national security circle around Obama.)

December 24: Marc Rogers again lays out the case against North Korean involvement in the hacking, in the eminently respectable mainstream website The Daily Beast, in a piece entitled “No, North Korea Didn’t Hack Sony.”

Again: Rogers is director of security operations for the world’s largest hacker conference, and the principal security researcher for the world’s leading mobile security company. This appears to be the most definitive, authoritative debunking of the NSA/FBI/State Department/Barack Obama claim.

(You would hope that this sharp critique would incline the official press to back off from its knee-jerk acceptance of the Obama version of reality, and to abandon its weasel words like “It is thought that…” You’d hope that the talking heads would shift towards a more nuanced approach, such as, “While security analysts widely dispute the charge, the Obama administration claims that…” But no, this is not happening.)

December 24: New York Times’ Nicole Perlroth, “New Study May Add to Skepticism Among Security Experts that North Korea Was behind Sony Attack” reports that computational linguists at Taia Global, a cybersecurity agency, have concluded the hackers are more likely to be Russian speakers than Korean.

December 25: Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich states in a press briefing that the U.S. has failed to offer any proof of North Korean involvement in the Sony hacking.

December 25: Film critic David Edmund Moody, on Huff Post Entertainment, writesThe Interview — Painfully Bad.” Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter, calls it “an intensely sophomoric and rampantly uneven comic takedown… doesn’t rate anywhere near Borat or Team America: World Police.”

December 26: CNN suddenly reports that the North Korea hacking story appears to be very questionable. This should be the end of the story. But neither the FBI nor Sony when asked for comment has answered calls.

*****It’s as though the managing editors of the entire corporate press, deferring by habit or inclination to the pronouncements of the FBI, had for weeks instructed their talking heads and print journalists to spin the story as they did–as a clear-cut case of North Korean “cyber-vandalism” if not “cyber-terrorism.”

It’s been oh, so typical! After the sarin gas attack in Syria on August 21, 2013, the Obama administration declared that the government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible, although that allegation was questioned then and now, by the Russian Foreign Ministry and investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, among others.

After the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the U.S. State Department immediately blamed pro-Russian separatists and by association Moscow for the tragedy. But Robert Parry, another award-winning investigative reporter, has questioned this and suggested that the Pentagon actually suspects that Ukrainian government forces are responsible, as intimated by the Russians. The latter have provided some of their surveillance data while the U.S. has provided none.

It’s still not really clear who’s to blame in either episode. What is clear to thinking people (a category excluding most bought and paid for cable news anchors) is the U.S. proclivity to fix intelligence around policy–to lie to the people to justify aggressive moves, whether against Serbia or Iraq or Syria or Libya or Iran or Russia or North Korea.

Sooner or later the truth will out, as it did in the case of the S.S. Maine, the Tonkin Gulf attacks, or Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Those who’ve studied the episodes realize that “genocide” charges against Serbian forces in Bosnia (1995) and Kosovo (1999) were hyped in order to establish NATO hegemony over what was once the proud neutral country of Yugoslavia, and that allegations that Muammar Gadafy was about to annihilate civilians in Benghazi (2011) were pulled out of thin air.

But the truth usually comes out after it’s too late to make a difference, and the liars responsible for high crimes against peace sleep peacefully in their beds. Milosevic died in prison while fighting charges of war crimes. Saddam Hussein was hanged. Gaddafi was murdered, sodomized with a knife. But Bill Clinton is lionized by the Democratic Party establishment and his bloodthirsty wife will likely become the next president. Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz live in comfort and are treated as elder statesmen by much of the media.

Those perusing an agenda for North Korean regime change (as “smelled” by Col. Wilkerson) could feel free to cherry-pick intelligence just as the neocons did so systematically before the invasion of Iraq. That’s the system under which we live, especially post-9/11, and it will not die easily. But fortunately in this instance a Big Lie is dissolving as we speak, thanks to the honest geeks in the cyber security industry. It may be harder to justify further measures against Pyongyang after this.

To paraphrase RAND’s Bennett quoted above: The only resolution I can see (for the regime of lies under which we suffer) is for the regime to eventually go away. I believe that talk about its removal, and the creation of a new government by the people of this country, might start some real thinking.

I myself will not propose any particular dramatic “ending” to the tragicomic drama in which we live. And I wouldn’t endorse a light-hearted sophomoric farce about an Obama assassination (although I see absolutely no legal nor moral difference between such and the State Department-endorsed Sony film). But I’d hope that at minimum the farce of the North Korean “cyber-terrorism” accusations further undermines–in the minds of many of its own subjects–the credibility of the world’s most consistently violent, destructive regime.

  1. For more on Wilkerson analysis, see “Media Bias against North Korea.” []

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu. Read other articles by Gary.

UN Security Council Prepares to Lynch North Korea. Manipulation to Justify Aggressive War?

By Carla Stea
December 27, 2014
Global Research

 

north korea flag globalresearch.caProbably the most serious and alarming recent development at the UN is the deadly process by which North Korea was referred to the Security Council for “human rights abuses”, and this subject was adopted for the agenda of the Security Council, against the opposition of Russia and China. Meanwhile the Senate torture report is dismissed. 

The double standards are glaring, in this, but even more dangerous is the probable motivation for the demonization of the DPRK.  It is imperative to expose the reasons for this focus on the DPRK, and its relevance for US/NATO’s agressive agenda toward Russia, and especially China.

What is at stake is another example of the surreptitious manipulation of the UN to facilitate (and if possible, justify) aggressive war.

Double Standards. Security Council Dismisses UN Report on Senate Torture Report

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, Ben Emmerson, stated that senior Bush administration officials who planned and authorized crimes must be prosecuted, along with CIA and other US government officials who committed torture.  “As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice,”  Emmerson said in a statement issued in Geneva.  “The U.S. Attorney General is under a legal duty to bring criminal charges against those responsible.”   To date, the United Nations has taken no action whatsoever in response to Emmerson’s explosive charges.

On Wednesday, December 10, 2014 the front page headline of The New York Times stated:

SENATE PANEL FAULTS CIA OVER BRUTALITY AND DECEIT IN TERRORISM INTERROGATIONS.

At no point in the United Nations Third Committee human rights debates was the United States held responsible for now documented institutionalization of the most heinous torture of human beings, although newspapers worldwide reported the most horrific criminal actions committed by the C.I.A. against helpless, defenseless prisoners, many of whom they knew to be innocent.  The Torture Report further acknowledges that no terrorist act was prevented by the use of torture, and that torture is a failed method of obtaining accurate information.  According to The New York Times on December 10, (and multiple other sources):

“At the Salt Pit, outside Kabul, a junior officer ordered a prisoner, Gul Rahman, shackled to the wall of his cell and stripped of most of his clothing.  Mr. Rahman was found dead of hypothermia the next morning, lying on the bare concrete floor.  Four months later, the junior officer was recommended for a cash award of $2,500.00 for his ‘consistently superior work.’”

On October 4, 2005, The Washington Post’s Dana Priest reported that Mandouh Habib, pulled off a bus in Pakistan, and eventually delivered to Bagram and Guantanamo, ‘during interrogations, Habib was sometimes suspended from hooks in the wall, and repeatedly kicked, punched, beaten with a stick, rammed with an electric cattle prod and doused with cold water when he fell asleep.  He was suspended from hooks, with his feet resting on the side of a large cylindrical drum attached to wires and a battery.  When Mr. Habib did not give the answers his interrogators wanted, they threw a switch and a jolt of electricity went through the drum.  The action of Mr. Habib ‘dancing’ on the drum forced it to rotate, and his feet constantly slipped, leaving him suspended by only the hooks on the wall.  This ingenious cruelty lasted until Mr. Habib fainted.  Habib says he gave false confessions to stop the abuse.’

In his book, “The Reluctant Spy,” (published in 2007) CIA officer John Kiriakou confirmed that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, “raising questions about how much useful information he actually supplied.” (p. 191).  Kiriakou states (p. 140)

“Even if torture worked, it cannot be tolerated – not in one case or a thousand or a million.  If their efficacy becomes the measure of abhorrent acts, all sort of unspeakable crimes somehow become acceptable.”

Keriakou is currently serving a prison term for having leaked information to the press about the U.S. systematic use of torture.

One prisoner was waterboarded more than 183 times,  “The report said the agency had evidently forgotten its own conclusion, sent to Congress in 1989, that ‘inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers.    The Democratic Senate staff members who studied the post-Sept.11 program came up with an identical assessment:  that waterboarding, wall-slamming, nudity, cold and other ill treatment produced little information of value in preventing terrorism.  The report spends little time condemning torture on moral or legal grounds.  Instead, it addresses mainly a practical question:  Did torture accomplish anything of value?  Looking at case after case, the report answers with an unqualified no.

For perhaps the first time, the Obama Administration acknowledged that the US Government was responsible for institutionalizing torture.  According to the spokesman for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “The prohibition against torture is absolute.”  Under no circumstances is torture permissible or justifiable.  The December 10, 2014 New York Times report of U.S. perpetrated gross human rights abuses states:

“In exhaustive detail, the torture report gives a macabre accounting of some of the grisliest techniques that the C.I.A. used to torture and imprison terrorism suspects.  Detainees were deprived of sleep for as long as a week, and were sometimes told that they would be killed while in American custody.  With the approval of the C.I.A.’s medical staff, some prisoners were subjected to medically unnecessary ‘rectal feeding’ or ‘rectal hydration,’ a form of rape, – a technique that the C.I.A.’s chief of interrogations described as a way to exert ‘total control over the detainee.’  C.I.A. medical staff members described the waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed as a series of ‘near-drownings.’”

Although efforts were made by other UN member states, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to raise the matter of systemic torture perpetrated by the U.S. government, these efforts were completely ignored.  By stark contrast, the resolution adopted by the General Assembly, on December 18, 2014, after referral by the Third Committee, not only condemns the DPRK for human rights abuses, but this condemnation is based almost entirely on an unreliable report by the “Commission of Inquiry,” led by Michael Kirby.  The “Commission of Inquiry” based its dubious report upon interviews with some defectors from North Korea.  Kirby never actually entered the DPRK, nor interviewed any citizen currently living in North Korea.  Indeed, Assistant Secretary-General Simonovic admitted, at a stake- out following the December 22 Security Council meeting, that the Kirby report did not meet the threshold of admissible evidence, and would not hold up in a court of law.

On December 18, and in the subsequent December 22 Security Council meeting, the double standards within the United Nations are shockingly visible, and one can only gasp at the arrogance of the blatantly biased and politically motivated resolution A/69/488/Add.3 which “condemns the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in the DPRK.”  The resolution condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is clearly an attempt to eviscerate the socialist government of North Korea.

The use of allegations of human rights abuses by the United States, the world’s most powerful country, and the powerful country whose own documented record of criminal human rights abuses has just been published, causing revulsion and horror throughout the world, constitutes an assault on justice which so dishonors the United Nations that the adoption of this resolution condemning the DPRK can only be described as shameful.  Operative paragraphs 7. and 8. of this resolution are infamous:

7.  “Acknowledges the commission’s finding that the body of testimony gathered and the information received provide reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State for decades.

8.  Decides to submit the report of the commission of inquiry to the Security Council, and encourages the Council to consider the relevant conclusions and recommendations of the commission and take appropriate action to ensure accountability, including through consideration of referral of the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court and consideration of the scope for effective targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for acts that the commission has said may constitute crimes against humanity.”

On November 18, 2014, in the Third Committee, Cuba proposed an amendment to draft resolution A/c.3/69/L28 which stated:

“Delete operative paragraphs 7 and 8 and insert a new operative paragraph reading as follows:

“decides to adopt a new cooperative approach to the consideration of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that will enable (a) the establishment of dialogues by representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with States and groups of States interested in the issue; (b) the development of technical cooperation between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; and (c) the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the country.”

The government of the DPRK had already agreed to all these conditions which would have  provided reliable, factual evidence of the reality of the human rights situation within the DPRK, and would have defused a potentially combustible problem.  Clearly neither the European Union nor Japan nor the U.S. had an actual interest in resolving this questions.  Human rights is merely a subterfuge concealing their actual agenda.

The Cuban delegate, representing the Non-aligned Movement, stated that politicization and double standards motivated resolutions against countries belonging to the Non-Aligned Movement.  Many delegations, including Cuba expressed alarm at the

“trigger mechanism by which the Human Rights Council was becoming a tool for some countries, who were not interested in dialogue, to use to attack other countries.  The resolution was being used to establish a pattern that would permanently endanger all developing countries.  We are trying to insure that a precedent is not being set here.”

China was opposed to making human rights a pretext for political gains, and stated differences on human rights issues should be resolved through constructive dialogue, and the Council was the wrong forum for dealing with such issues.

The Cuban amendment was rejected.  The representative of the U.S. hypocritically opposed the Cuban amendment, stating the Cuban amendment would “‘strip the resolution of crucial language regarding accountability.”  The U.S. representative must at that time, have been fully aware of the U.S. Senate’s imminent release of The Torture Report, and her sanctimonious demand for “accountability” hoists her, and her own government on their own petard:  as UN Special Rapporteur On Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism Ben Emmerson stated:  former President Bush and Vice-President Cheney must be held accountable for crimes against humanity.  Torture is an international crime and perpetrators may be prosecuted by any other country to which they might travel,” Emmerson stated.

India voted in favor of the Cuban amendment and stated:

“India was unable to sign the statute of the International Criminal Court because the statute did not allow the court to be free from political interference.  It also gave the Security Council powers that went beyond international laws.  In the current resolution, operative paragraphs 7 and 8 were the very reasons that prevented India from joining the Rome Statute.”

Pakistan stated:

“As a firm believer in the universality of human rights, Pakistan emphasizes that efforts to advance the agenda of human rights at the global level should be pursued in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation.  Human rights violations are not confined to a single country.  Pakistan is opposed to the practice of ‘naming and shaming’ through country-specific resolutions.  Referring matters to the International Criminal Court would further complicate the situation.”

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea stated:

“The report of the Commission of Inquiry (the Kirby report) was based on fabricated testimonies by a handful of defectors who had fled the country after committing crimes.  The report is a compilation of groundless political allegations and has no credibility as a U.N. document. “

His country has consistently prioritized dialogue, but the EU and Japan are provoking confrontation by pushing ahead the draft resolution.  People around the world remember how the United States unleashed a “war against Yugoslavia” in the name of “humanitarian intervention.”  The sponsors of the draft should be held responsible for destroying the opportunity for human rights cooperation.”

The resolution was adopted by the Third Committee: 111 in favor, 19 opposed, 55 abstained.  Those opposed included Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela, China, the Russian Federation, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Belarus and Egypt.  On December 18, the UN General assembly adopted this resolution 69/188:  in support 116, opposed 20, abstaining: 53.  With incredible speed, four days later, on December 22, 2014 “The Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was placed on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council, against the opposition of China and Russia.

During the December 22 Security Council meeting, in a melodramatic diatribe, the U.S. Ambassador’s lurid litany of alleged atrocities by the DPRK included a defector’s description of the cooking of a newborn infant, spawned of the rape of its mother.  This Ambassador is evidently oblivious or indifferent to the current U.S. Senate Torture Report, and the fact that for two decades (1973-1990) the U.S. installed and supported a regime in Chile whose standard method of torture included forcing live rats into the vaginas of female political prisoners, and the drenching with gasoline of teen age political protestors, who were then set on fire, dying in agony.  This is documented and published on November 23, 1986 in The Washington Post, in an article by David Remnick.  The New York Times had reported these crimes the previous August.  As Orwell might have phrased it, all victims of torture are equal, but some are more equal than others.  The U.S. Ambassador’s speech to the December 22 Security Council is the grossest example of double standards, and impunity for crimes committed by U.S. client states.

Paragraphs 7 and 8 remained intact:

“Deciding to submit the report to the Security Council, and recommending referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court,..and consideration of the scope for effective targeted sanction.”  This ostracizing and demonization of the DPRK slides down the “slippery slope” that leads to military action, regime change, and the destruction of the socialist government and economic system of the DPRK.

Although within the same week the Obama Administration “normalized” relations with Cuba, in The New York Times coverage of the event, on page A17 of its print version, Rick Gladstone’s article is headlined:

“Blacklist shrinks, leaving North Korea as the last Cold War Pariah.”

“The normalization of the diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than a half-century of enmity would leave only North Korea on America’s Cold War blacklist.”  Obama’s “normalization” of relations with Cuba, reported, coincidentally on the day the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution virulently attacking the core integrity and legitimacy of the DPRK can be seen as another subterfuge, welcome, perhaps, but also distracting attention from the Resolution’s (69/188) importance for the geopolitical goals of the U.S. “pivot to Asia.”

CHINA IS NOW THE WORLD’S NUMBER 1 ECONOMIC POWER

In its January issue, Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz writes in “Vanity Fair”:

When the history of 2014 is written, it will take note of a large fact that has received little attention: 2014 was the last year in which the U.S. could claim to be the world’s largest economic power. China enters 2015 in the top position, where it will likely remain for a very long time, if not forever.  In doing so, it returns to the position it held through most of human history…..Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States then made two critical mistakes.  First, it inferred that its triumph meant a triumph for everything it stood for.  But in much of the Third World, concern about poverty – and the economic rights that had long been advocated by the left – remained paramount.  The second mistake was to use the short period of its unilateral dominance, between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Lehman Brothers, to pursue its own narrow economic interests – or more accurately, the economic interests of its multinationals, including its big banks – rather than to create a new, stable world order…….The rise of China also shines a harsh spotlight on the American model.  That model has not been delivering for large portions of its own population.  The typical American family is worse off than it was a quarter-century ago, adjusted for inflation;  the proportion of people in poverty has increased.  China, too is marked by high levels of inequality, but its economy has been doing some good for most of its citizens.  China moved some 500 million people out of poverty during the same period that saw America’s middle class enter a period of stagnation. An economic model that doesn’t serve a majority of its citizens is not going to provide a role model for others to emulate.  America should see the rise of China as a wake-up call to put our own house in order.”

Stiglitz’s excellent article would have been enhanced had he included the fact that capitalism obeys its own inexorable dynamic, based on maximization of profit and the concentration of capital in an oligarchy, whose profits are maximized by war, and depend on the military-industrial complex, the oil industry and imperialism.  To sustain this irrational and inhumane system, torture is necessary, not as a means of extracting information to “protect” its citizens, but as a means of intimidating its citizens and insuring their submission to this brutally unjust economic order which protects the privileges of the most rapacious and unscrupulous.  Unable to change, it can only resort to domination and confrontation with any economic system which, by contrast, provides a more just and equitable economic model.  China is precisely this  competitor, and cooperation, advocated by Stiglitz, and by the Chinese, themselves, is precluded.

And in multiple ways, the U.S. has been attempting to undermine and destabilize China since 1949.  Both the violent Uighur separatist movement, based in Northwest China’s Xinjiang, but whose increasingly frequent terrorist suicide bombings have reached as far as the heart of China:  Beijing’s Forbidden City; and the more recent “Umbrella Revolution,” destabilizing Hong Kong, but spawned with the support of Washington’s National Endowment of Democracy,” are efforts to fragment China, incite chaos, impeding China’s ability to govern effectively, and contribute, ultimately to “regime change.”  On October 2, 2014, page A8 of The New York Times quoted Lisa Bao, 26, from Zhejiang Province questioning “why Hong Kong people had not staged democracy protests against their former British colonial rulers.  ‘In the past they had the British choose their leaders, and they weren’t terribly upset.  Now they’re part of China and under our socialist system, and they choose to stand up.  I’ve heard that the United States is influencing this.”

In his 2007 book, “Legacy of Ashes, The History of the CIA,”  Tim Weiner describes (p. 301)

“In the name of combating Chinese communism the CIA had spent tens of millions of dollars parachuting tons of weapons to hundreds of Tibetan guerrillas who fought for their spiritual leader, the fourteenth Dalai Lama….The agency set up a training camp for the Tibetan fighters in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  It had paid an annual subsidy of some $180,000 directly to the Dalai Lama, and it created Tibet houses in New York and Geneva to serve as his unofficial embassies.”

From the moment of its inception, in 1949, the destruction of the Communist government in China has been one of the highest priorities of the U.S. government.  According to Jung Chang, author of a biography of Madame Sun Yat-sen (known as Soong Ching-ling in China) (Page 109)  “Just when China desperately wanted a period of peace to rebuild its war-ravaged economy, the Korean War broke out in 1950.  The Chinese thought that the Americans were attempting to use Korea as a springboard for the invasion of China to restore Chiang Kai-shek to power.  The nation was filled with indignation….Soong Ching-ling attacked the U.S. intervention in Korea and was prominently involved in the international left-wing peace campaign (duly recorded in her FBI dossier).  In 1952, when a volume of her texts was published in English in Beijing, Ching-ling dedicated it ‘To the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers.’  In December that year she headed the Chinese delegation to the Congress of Peoples for peace held in Vienna.  There she sat on a platform with Brecht, Sartre, Aragon, Ehrenburg and other radical luminaries.  She took an active part in the campaign denouncing America for using germ warfare in Korea and north-east China.  She said:  “I firmly believe that in the future socialism and ultimately communism will become universal social systems.’”

Soong-Ching-ling was the daughter of the richest man in pre-revolutionary China.  She was one of three sisters, (Ai-ling and May-ling) of whom it was said:  One loves money, one loves power and one loves China.  Soong Ching-ling could have lived in pomp and luxury in exile in Europe or the USA.  Instead, she committed her entire life to the well-being of the Chinese people, and her courageous devotion remains an inspiring and sacred example in China today.

The wheel has come full circle.  The destruction of the socialist government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is still a top priority of US/NATO, as UN General Assembly Resolution 69/188 made clear on December 18, 2014.  The destruction of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, spearheaded by US/NATO powers would result, most probably, in a unified, capitalist  Korean peninsula, once again a “springboard” to force “regime change”in China, an insane fantasy.  For today, China is a great nuclear-armed superpower, though vulnerable to destabilization and disintegration by separatist movements in the Northwest, Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

With indefatigable intelligence and courage, the Chinese leadership and people have endured and overcome almost insurmountable hardship from 1927 through today.  They may have to overcome future obstacles, once again, a fact of which they are, no doubt, supremely aware.  Historically China has not been expansionist. And following the collapse of the Soviet Union, they could only have shuddered as they witnessed the expanding and seemingly unlimited dominance of the United States, over the Middle East, with the first Gulf War, shamefully endorsed by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, and soon thereafter the US/NATO propaganda and military support for the independence of Kosovo, culminating in the bombing of Belgrade, during which the Chinese embassy was also demolished by bombs. (The US claimed this was an accident because their maps were out-of-date).

According to Aaron L. Friedberg in his recent book “Beyond Air-Sea Battle,”

“A much higher percentage of the weapons delivered against targets in Serbia were ‘smart,’ precision guided munitions, as opposed to ‘dumb’ unguided bombs.  Most impressive of all, the US-led coalition achieved its strategic objectives primarily through the use of air power without suffering a single casualty.  Ironically, it was the precision of most allied air operations that made it virtually impossible to convince Beijing that a misguided strike on its embassy in Belgrade was an accident.”

“Startled by what they perceived as a new level of American aggression, some Chinese analysts began to question whether peace and development were truly prevailing trends in world affairs.  If the First Gulf War revealed the potentially devastating impact of the US technical edge, and the Taiwan crisis (1995-1996) highlighted its apparent proclivity for intervention, the 1999 war in Kosovo reinforced both concerns.  This time Washington did not go to the UN for approval, instead rounding up a few of its NATO allies to provide a cloak of international legitimacy.  In the First Gulf War, the Americans could at least justify their actions by pointing out that Iraq had invaded another sovereign state;  in Kosovo, they were openly supporting what could only be regarded as a separatist movement.”

THE RUSSIAN WARNING

In a historic act of almost unprecedented criminal irresponsibility, Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the destruction of  the Soviet Union, which had, for the 70 years of its existence, been one of the great engines of progressive human development, creating the infrastructure necessary to provide a decent standard of living for the citizens of its fifteen member countries.  Following the destruction of the Soviet Union, its fifteen member countries were left destitute.  As was said to me by a great diplomat of Tadjikistan:  “The destruction of our countries, as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, was as complete and terrible as it would have been if the Nazis had won World War II.”

Today, US imposed sanctions and the manipulation of the price of oil are pulverizing the Russian economy, and threatening the destabilization of the Putin government.  This quickly followed the US instigated destabilization and overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Yanukovich, and the installation of a nazi inspired puppet regime in Kiev, which is embarking on “ethnically cleansing” pro-Russian East Ukranians.  Putin is in the process of abandoning allies in East Ukraine, to avoid internecine warfare with Ukraine, one of the deadliest form of slaughter, which will further bleed the Russian economy and decimate both countries.  China needs no further evidence of what is imminent.  Alert to the juggernaut of US/NATO aggression, and its obvious global intent, China recently offered a bailout to the Russian government.

In a brilliant essay entitled “Russia’s Vulnerabiity to EU-US Sanctions and Military Encroachments”, recapitulating recent history, Professor James Petras wrote:

“Over the past quarter century, several trillion dollars worth of public property in every sector of the Russian economy was illegally transferred or violently seized by gangster-oligarchs acting through armed gangs, especially during its ‘transition to capitalism.’  From 1990 to 1999 over 6 million Russian citizens died prematurely as a result of the catastrophic collapse of the economy;  life expectancy for males declined from 67 years during the Soviet era to 55 years during the Yeltsin period.  Russia’s GNP declined sixty percent – a historic first for a country not at war.  Following Yeltsin’s violent seizure of power and his bombing of the Russian parliament, the regime proceeded to ‘prioritize’ the privatization of the economy, selling off the energy, natural resources, banking, transport and communication sectors at one-tenth or less of their real value to well-connected cronies and foreign entities.  Armed thugs, organized by emerging oligarchs ‘completed’ the program of privatization by assaulting, murdering and threatening rivals.  Hundreds of thousands of elderly pensioners were tossed out of their homes and apartments in a vicious land-grab by violent property speculators……Meanwhile, living standards collapsed, impoverishing two thirds of Russian households, suicides quadrupled and deaths from alcoholism, drug addiction, HIV and venereal diseases became rampant.  Syphilis and tuberculosis reached epidemic proportions – diseases fully controlled during the Soviet era reemerged with the closure of clinics and hospitals.”

Currently, as Petras continues,

“In the face of Western sanctions Putin’s leading oligarch-allies are his weakest link in formulating an effective response.  They press Putin to give in to Washington as they plead with Western banks to have their properties and accounts exempt from the sanctions.  They are desperate to protect their assets in London and New York….This highlights the contradiction within Putin’s strategy of working with the ‘economic’ oligarchs who have agreed not to oppose Putin within Russia, while transferring their massive wealth to Western banks, investing in luxury real estate in London, Paris and Manhattan and forming loyalties outside of Russia.  In effect, they are closely tied to Russia’s current political enemies.  Putin’s tactical success in harnessing oligarchs to his project of growth via stability has turned into a strategic weakness in defending the country from crippling economic reprisals.   It is not enough to claim that oligarchs who remain in Russia and declare loyalty to the Putin administration are legitimate economic agents.  They have generally disinvested from Russia, transferred their wealth abroad and have questioned legitimate state authority under pressure from Western sanctions…Russia needs a new economic and political revolution – in which the government recognizes the West as an imperial threat and in which it counts on the organized Russian working class and not on dubious oligarchs.”

Further weakening Russia is another current trend, (which would have been unthinkable during the Soviet Union) which Russia may justify as “realpolitik,” but which can also be regarded as unprincipled opportunism, alienating Russia’s  most loyal friends, allies and “strategic partners.”  An example of this is Russia’s recent behavior toward Armenia, one of its staunchest and most loyal allies.  While discussing building a nuclear power station in Armenia, which desperately needs this as its only source of energy, Russia offered to invest one billion dollars in the construction of this power plant.  Although the construction required a 5 billion dollar investment, Russia claimed it could only afford to invest one billion dollars to help Armenia.  Soon thereafter, Russia agreed to invest 20 billion dollars in Turkey to build a huge nuclear power plant, an act that Armenia could only regard as treacherous, considering the trauma of the Turkish genocide of Armenians, an ineradicable part of the historic memory of Armenians today.  Russia’s betrayal of its promise to Armenia, and its unprincipled investment in Turkey drives a knife into the hearts of almost every Armenian.

Prior to that, Russia had sold Bal E rocket system, with immense destructive capacity, to Azerbaijan – weapons which would inevitably be used against Armenia.  In desperation, Armenia then bought weapons from China and Iran, infuriating Russia by their independent action, which had actually been precipitated by Russia’s own unprincipled behavior, however rationalized.  According to one reliable source, Russia did not want a strong, self-sustaining Armenia, they wanted to enforce Armenia’s dependency upon Russia, in a form of semi-feudal relationship reducing Armenia to the status of a vassal.  These actions, unthinkable in the Soviet Union, may be the result of Russia’s desperation, as it embraces a ruthless economic system which is driving it into the abyss, adopting unprincipled policies which are alienating loyal allies.

These tragic developments are largely the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which destroyed the viable infrastructure for human development…  China has observed this with alarm, and alerted by this “cautionary tale,” seeks to avoid this catastrophe.

The Security Council meeting on December 22, 2014, on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with its attempt to refer the DPRK to the International Criminal Court, is menacing, and a very serious cause for alarm for both China and Russia.

The session, itself, bore an ugly resemblance to the beating of drums of war which preceded the Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 1973, which authorized the bombing of Libya in 2011, and the beating of war drums which preceded the UN Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 678, in 1990, which authorized the ultimate destruction of Iraq.  It will require the greatest skill and strength to circumvent this monstrous outcome.

US feels the heat on Palestine vote at UN

by Jonathan Cook
December 16, 2014
Dissident Voice

 

The floodgates have begun to open across Europe on recognition of Palestinian statehood. On Friday the Portuguese parliament became the latest European legislature to call on its government to back statehood, joining Sweden, Britain, Ireland, France and Spain.

In coming days similar moves are expected in Denmark and from the European Parliament. The Swiss government will join the fray too this week, inviting states that have signed the Fourth Geneva Convention to an extraordinary meeting to discuss human rights violations in the occupied territories. Israel has threatened retaliation.

But while Europe is tentatively finding a voice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, silence reigns across the Atlantic. The White House appears paralysed, afraid to appear out of sync with world opinion but more afraid still of upsetting Israel and its powerful allies in the US Congress.

Now there is an additional complicating factor. The Israeli public, due to elect a new Israeli government in three months’ time, increasingly regards the US role as toxic. A poll this month found that 52 per cent viewed President Barack Obama’s diplomatic policy as “bad”, and 37 per cent thought he had a negative attitude towards their country – more than double the figure two years ago.

US Secretary of State John Kerry alluded to the White House’s difficulties this month when he addressed the Saban Forum, an annual gathering of US policy elites to discuss the Middle East. He promised that Washington would not interfere in Israel’s elections.

According to the Israeli media, he was responding to pressure from Tzipi Livni, sacked this month from Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, triggering the forthcoming election, and opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog, of the centre-left Labor party.

The pair recently made a pact in an effort to oust Netanyahu. Their electoral success – improbable at the moment – offers the White House its best hope of an Israeli government that will at least pay lip service to a renewal of peace negotiations, which collapsed last April. They have warned, however, that any sign of backing from the Obama administration would be the kiss of death at the polls.

US officials would like to see Netanyahu gone, not least because he has been the biggest obstacle to reviving a peace process that for two decades successfully allayed international pressure to create a Palestinian state. But any visible strategy against Netanyahu is almost certain to backfire.

Washington’s difficulties are only underscored by the Palestinians’ threat to bring a draft resolution before the UN Security Council as soon as this week, demanding Israel’s withdrawal by late 2016 to the 1967 lines.

Given the current climate, the Palestinians are hopeful of winning the backing of European states, especially the three key ones in the Security Council – Britain, France and Germany – and thereby isolating the US. Arab foreign ministers met Kerry on Tuesday in an effort to persuade Washington not to exercise its veto.

The US, meanwhile, is desperately trying to postpone a vote, fearful that casting its veto might further discredit it in the eyes of the world while also suggesting to Israeli voters that Netanyahu has the White House in his pocket.

But indulging the Israeli right also has risks, bolstering it by default. That danger was driven home during another session of the Saban Forum, addressed by settler leader Naftali Bennett. He is currently riding high in the polls and will likely be the backbone of the next coalition government.

Bennett says clearly what Netanyahu only implies: that most of the West Bank should be annexed, with the Palestinians given demilitarised islands of territory that lack sovereignty. The model, called “autonomy”, is of the Palestinians ruling over a series of local councils.

The Washington audience was further shocked by Bennett’s disrespectful treatment of his interviewer, Martin Indyk, who served as Obama’s representative at the last round of peace talks. He accused Indyk of not living in the real world, dismissively calling him part of the “peace industry”.

Bennett’s goal, according to analysts, was to prove to Israeli voters that he is not afraid to stand up to the Americans.

Given its weakening hand – faced with an ever-more right wing Israeli public and a more assertive European one – Washington is looking towards an unlikely saviour. The hawkish foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman used to be its bete noire, but he has been carefully recalibrating his image.

Unlike other candidates, he has been aggressively promoting a “peace plan”. The US has barely bothered examining its contents, which are only a little more generous than Bennett’s annexation option, and involve forcibly stripping hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Israel of their citizenship.

Lieberman, however, has usefully created the impression that he is a willing partner to a peace process. At the weekend he even suggested he might join a centre coalition with Livni and Herzog.

Lieberman is cleverly trying to occupy a middle ground with Israeli voters, demonstrating that he can placate the Americans, while offering a plan so unfair to the Palestinians that there is no danger voters will consider him part of the “peace industry”.

That may fit the electoral mood: a recent poll showed 63 per cent of Israelis favour peace negotiations, but 70 per cent think they are doomed to fail. The Israeli public, like Lieberman, understands that the Palestinians will never agree to the kind of subjugation they are being offered.

The Israeli election’s one certain outcome is that, whoever wins, the next coalition will, actively or passively, allow more of the same: a slow, creeping annexation of what is left of a possible Palestinian state, as the US and Europe bicker.

• First published in The National

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan’s website.

Who Owns the Earth?

Part 2: People versus Power

By Lesley Docksey
December 12th, 2014
Dissident Voice

 

We are now living outside of the laws of nature where nature is now turning against man and becoming the enemy.
— The Kogi Mamas

Last week the latest efforts to head off climate change started in Lima, Peru.  The aim of this latest conference (the twentieth, would you believe) is to produce a draft agreement on action, to be finalised in Paris next year.  With time running out it doesn’t look hopeful.  The world is silent.

In 1990 Alan Ereira made a film for the BBC, The Heart of the World: Elder Brother’s Warning. After so many years of it being available online, in the last week this film has become unavailable due to “copyright issues”. Had it suddenly been resurrected by climate campaigners, and has been taken off by the powers that be because of the Lima Climate Conference?  In it the Kogi people of Columbia, having seen serious signs of climate change in their territory, issued a plea to the rest of us: stop living in our thoughtless, selfish way and wake up to what we were doing to the Earth.

Apart from a procession of New Age eco-tourists flying out to Columbia thinking, wrongly, that the Kogi would welcome them, few took any real notice and they were soon forgotten.  Some years later Alan visited Glastonbury with an updated film.  The Assembly Rooms were full; almost all were young people asking questions about the Kogi’s sex lives.  What?  The Earth is being ruined and they wanted to know how the Kogi people screwed?  I despaired.

I still despair at times, because the indigenous people of Central and South America are showing us the way ahead, if only we’d listen.  Many of their countries have been paupered because of corporate-friendly interventions by the IMF and the World Bank.  The result, to the annoyance of the US, is an increasing number of left-wing, socialist governments.

Indigenous people have died in their hundreds trying to protect rain forests from ranching, illegal logging, and mining, oil and gas companies, the latest death just days before a planned protest at the Lima talks.  How convenient.

In 1994, in the Chiapas region of southern Mexico, the Zapatista revolution took place.  These indigenous people objected to powerful outsiders taking control of their land via the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – ‘free trade’ standing for corporate profit.  They haven’t yet won their battle.  On the other hand the Mexican government has failed to control them.  The Zapatistas govern by consultation.  The decision to take up arms was a collective decision.  They do not elect leaders; they select those who will best voice community views, something the government could not understand, as the film A Place Called Chiapas showed.

The US has tried to extend NAFTA into the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).  There were massive demonstrations.  Over 10 million Brazilians voted to withdraw from the negotiations.  While governments negotiate, the people know that such deals will damage their lives and their beloved Earth.  There are current trade agreements and almost all of them sideline the US and its corporate plans.

The Campesinos have created a worldwide movement of peasant farmers, indigenous peoples and fishermen from small beginnings in Paraguay, where they ‘illegally’ took over land in order to grow their food.  Workers in Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere took over factories closed by absentee owners.

Many ‘peoples movements’ started in the Americas and right now members from across the world are attending the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change, running parallel to the UN climate talks in Lima, parallel because their voices won’t be heard at the ‘big table’.   Neither will young people be heard even though they will suffer more from climate change than those producing all the hot air.  Other activists were prevented from attending but then, even the UK climate change Minister, Amber Rudd, has been barred from going.

And the talks themselves are almost invisible in the mainstream media.  Apart from the environment-friendly Guardian, only the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times featured articles about it in the first week.  Obviously the ‘economics’ of climate change are more important than the future of the planet.

The LA Times limped in with a story about clashes between rich and poor nations slowing down the talks.  But that was basically it.  The UN News site had several items, it being a UN Conference.  All other news came from activists’ websites.  The message?  People care; power and politics don’t.  They will simply go on making money as long as they are able

To see how determined indigenous people can be in trying to protect their resources and the Earth, one should look at Bolivia.

In 2000 many Bolivians fought against a private water company taking control of their water.  The Water War lasted for four months, at the end of which the company fled and later presented a large bill (compensation for lost profits) which remains unpaid.  This was followed in 2003 by a Gas War, when the Bolivians resisted the corporate interests that wanted their vast natural gas resources.

This conflict rumbled on until 2005, when the millionaire President, known for speaking Spanish with an American accent, resigned.  An indigenous left-wing politician, active in the Water and Gas Wars, was becoming prominent – Evo Morales.  He was elected President and a whole new agenda appeared.  Suddenly people were demanding rights for Mother Earth.

In 2009 Morales, backed by other nations, addressed the UN General Assembly in a heartfelt speech, pointing out that it is no use discussing the effects of the financial, energy, food or climate change crises, without ever looking at the cause:

The origin of this crisis is the exaggerated accumulation of capital in far too few hands.  It is the permanent removal of natural resources and the commercialization of Mother Earth…  Mother Earth gives life, water, natural resources, oxygen and everything that supports the well being of our people.  If we talk, work and fight for the well being of our people we first have to guarantee the well being of Mother Earth; otherwise it will be impossible to guarantee the well being of our citizens.  Mother Earth, Planet Earth, will exist without human life, but human life cannot exist without Mother Earth.

He sought a UN treaty that gave legal rights to Mother Earth.  He asked for three things: that developed countries pay the climate debt they owe; that there should be a Court of Climate Justice; and that nations must declare and expand the rights of Mother Earth’s natural regeneration.  We’re still waiting on all that, but the UN did designate 22 April as International Mother Earth Day.  So that’s okay then.

In April 2010 Bolivia hosted a World Peoples Conference in Cochabamba.  35,000 people came from all over the world.  It produced a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.  This was followed by an international gathering in Ecuador at which the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature was formed.

In 2011 Bolivia passed into law an act protecting the rights of Mother Earth.  It then took a draft treaty to the UN, prompting outrage among all the right-wing corporate interests.  Last year, during a dialogue on harmony with nature , the General Assembly called yet again for real and rapid action that would protect the Earth and the future existence of humanity.

Also last year, a UN meeting on the rights of the indigenous peoples produced a document simply ‘inviting’, ‘requesting’  or ‘encouraging’ governments and corporations to listen to, engage with and recognise the knowledge that indigenous people have to offer.  More hot air and no action.  In June this year Morales hosted a G77 Summit which produced a Declaration titled “For a New World Order for Living Well”.

Unknown to the average person there have been many attempts, some successful, to bring our treatment of the Earth within the law.  What Morales and his fellows have done is to keep pushing the Earth’s rights into the debates.  But debates alone will not heal the Earth or guarantee our future.

And all this is looked upon with scorn by our governments and their corporate allies.  Who cares about peoples’ movements or Bolivia?  And Morales himself is the first full-blood indigenous leader, for God’s Sake!  What does he know about running the world?  Come to that, what does man’s world have to do with Mother Earth?

But indigenous people know how the Earth runs.  Slowly we others are realising that we can’t own the Earth, or the water, the air, the forests and plains, or the fish in the sea.  The Earth doesn’t belong to us.  If anything, the reverse is true; we belong to it, a position the developed world spurns at its peril.

Will Lima produce anything other than another fudge?  I doubt it.  Corporate interests still dictate our future and we are deaf to the indigenous voices.  And as Jared Diamond showed in Collapse, civilisations have died out because of trashing their environments.  We are now trashing the whole Earth.

Man’s drive to ‘develop’, his inventions that require yet more resources, his desire to own everything in sight, to put his interests before those of any other life forms – all this has led to an Earth stripped of its flora and fauna, and its mineral riches without which we cannot sustain our current way of life.  Rivers run dry while the seas rise.

We will not kill life on the Earth; life is here and will evolve in strange and wonderful ways.  But we are destroying everything that we have come to know and love.  And while the Earth weeps and begs for our attention the world of men is silent in its selfishness.

• Read Part 1 here

• First Published on Brian May’s Save Me

Lesley is a lover of animals, campaigns and writes on war/peace, climate change and the environment. She is the former editor of Abolish War. Read other articles by Lesley.

The U.S. Seeks the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East

By Matt Peppe
December 8th, 2014
Dissident Voice

 

When Condoleeza Rice argued for a U.S. invasion of Iraq by claiming that “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” she touched on a real threat of the nuclear war that could wipe out entire countries and destroy civilization as we know it. Rice and the rest of the Bush administration knew that Iraq didn’t have nuclear weapons and never presented such a threat. They also knew that there was one country in the Middle East who did: a nuclear-armed rogue nation who has proven throughout its history to be possibly the most lawless and bellicose country of modern times.

That country, of course, is Israel. Since at least the early 1980s, Israel has had nuclear weapons. Instead of waging a war to get rid of them, as the Bush administration argued was necessary with Iraq, the U.S. has done everything it can to help Israel continue and grow its nuclear program and keep the Middle East from becoming a nuclear-free zone.

Last month, the United Nations General Assembly sought to counter “the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East” with a resolution recognizing that this “would pose a serious threat to international peace and security.” This threat necessitates “the immediate need for placing all nuclear facilities in the region of the Middle East under full-scope safeguards of the Agency.”

The resolution passed by a margin of 151-4. Only the United States, Israel, Canada and Micronesia voted against it. In a separate resolution, the U.S. and Israel stood alone against 177 other countries who supported further efforts to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. That resolution calls for a “prohibition on the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons.”

In March 2003, George W. Bush proclaimed that he was authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 687 to use force against Iraq to rid the country of WMD. Iraq presented such an existential threat that an immediate war was the only conceivable means of dealing with the situation. After Bush did invade Iraq and kill 500,000 Iraqis and create millions of widows, orphans and refugees, what was obvious all along was proven: the administration’s claims about Iraqi WMD were nothing more than lies and distortions.

The administration knew full well that Israel, however, did have a large-scale, rogue WMD program when Bush cited UNSC Resolution 687 as his legal justification for invading Iraq. Four U.S. Presidents have all ignored the actual text in Resolution 687 which declares “the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons.”

The only country to ever have used nuclear weapons – by dropping two on a country that had been trying for weeks to surrender – has consistently provided Israel with a diplomatic shield in the United Nations. On top of guaranteeing their right to violate international law with impunity, the U.S. has showered Israel with over $140 billion in military aid that amounts to more than $3 billion per year.

Even without its WMD, Israel would pose a grave threat to peace with its army and conventional weapons alone. Israel has repeatedly violated the sovereignty of its neighboring countries, the most flagrant example being the aggressive invasion and occupation of Lebanon in 1982 which killed 20,000 people. Unlike Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Israel has even attacked the United States itself. In 1967, Israeli warplanes bombarded the USS Liberty, killing 34 American servicemen. Israel’s possession of WMD only compounds their destructive capacity.

Israel is one of only four countries in the world (India, Pakistan and South Sudan) that has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This landmark treaty, in force since 1970, binds signing nations to work together stop the spread of nuclear weapons and work towards disarmament.

Robert Wood, the U.S. lackey who defended Israel’s right to maintain nuclear weapons recently in the UN, claimed the UN resolution demanding Israel to renounce nuclear arms “fails to meet the fundamental tests of fairness and balance. It confines itself to expressions of concern about the activities of a single country.”

As Ali Abunimah noted in the Electronic Intifada: “The fact that Israel is indeed the single country with nuclear weapons in the region, and the single country that has not signed the NPT, apparently escaped his notice.”

Israel has not only amassed its own nuclear arsenal, but they have exported nuclear technology and capabilities abroad. Not to just any country, but to the racist, pariah state of apartheid South Africa, the most despicable regime of the last century, other than possibly Israel itself.

While it was long understood that the two ethnic exclusivist regimes maintained close military ties, the first concrete evidence that Israel tried to sell South Africa nuclear warheads emerged several years ago when American scholar Sasha Polakow-Suransky obtained declassified documents from the South African archives.

“South African documents show that the apartheid-era military wanted the missiles as a deterrent and for potential strikes against neighbouring states,” reported the Guardian.

The paper goes on to note that “the collaboration on military technology only grew over the following years. South Africa also provided much of the yellowcake uranium that Israel required to develop its weapons.”

South Africa easily could have followed through with potential nuclear strikes against its neighbors. In 1988, the SADF were being chased out of Angola by Cuban troops assisting the Angolan government. South Africa was illegally occupying the Southeastern part of Angola in a bid to topple that country’s government and install a puppet government friendly to the apartheid regime. Years later, Fidel Castro recounted the potential danger of nuclear strikes Cubans faced as their forces pushed forward to repel the aggression of the South African troops.

“The main problem was the fact that the racist South Africans possessed, according to our calculations, between 10 and 12 nuclear arms,” Castro wrote. “They had carried out tests in oceans or frozen areas to the South. President Ronald Reagan had authorized such tests, and the device necessary for blasting the nuclear charge was among the equipment delivered by Israel.”

Since it developed and used the first nuclear weapons, the United States government has supported weapons of mass destruction on principle. They also refuse the concept of nuclear weapons solely as self-defense, never having accepted a no-first-use policy for nuclear weapons as the Soviet Union had.

The U.S. has never had any moral or legal inhibitions about countries it chooses having a right to WMD. For countries that support the U.S. government’s self-professed right to rule the world, there is no danger to peace or to the survival of civilization itself that Washington will not tolerate and enable.

Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy, and Latin America. You can follow him on twitter. Read other articles by Matt, or visit Matt’s website.

The Persian Bomb Squad

Some people just can’t be trusted

By Jason Hirthler
December 4, 2014
Dissident Voice

 

A recent New York Times article offered another textbook example of the spectacular bias the U.S. employs to undermine those that might pose a challenge to its global hegemony. It also nicely illustrated the willingness of the media to serve as little more than a relay station for state propaganda. Yet it was but the latest in the glossary of deceits that characterize America’s relationship with Iran.

The front-page article from two Saturdays covered the Iranian nuclear program negotiations between Iran and the so-called P5+1, which includes the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia. It was titled, “In Iran Talks, U.S. Seeks to Prevent a Covert Weapon.” The subhead reads, “A ‘Sneakout’ Feared.” The article then intones, with its vacuous air of impartiality and even-handed reserve, that the West (naturally acting with the best interests of all people at heart) is wrestling with “how to design an agreement to maximize the chances that Western intelligence agencies would catch any effort to develop an atomic bomb at a covert site.” Concern is obviously, then, “over a future Iranian covert program.”

The authors repeatedly emphasize Iran’s “declared” nuclear facilities. The authors at least concede that the declared facilities are “crawling with inspectors and cameras.” The goal, it is said, is to stretch the “breakout” timeline by which Iran could ‘sprint’ to a bomb. But the real problem for the U.S. and its allies is not only a “breakout,” but a “sneakout,” which is the nonexistent covert program that it believes may one day exist “deep in the Iranian mountains.”

Note that all of this talk of breakouts and sneakouts and covert programs is conjecture, speculation perhaps calibrated to produce distrust in Iranian aims, which to this point, seem to be in line with its right to pursue civilian nuclear energy—something the U.S. happily supported when its brutal stooge, the Shah of Iran, held the reigns of the country. But America has never forgiven the 1979 Islamic revolution.

This entire narrative smacks of the Iraq invasion of 2003, when the Bush administration’s unquenchable thirst for regional dominion led it to fabricate a covert Iraqi WMD program. Though UNSCOM had found no evidence of WMD programs, and no radar or satellite detections of nuclear activity were ever reported, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared that, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

Keep this quote in mind as we review five critical steps to bringing your rivals to heel.

  1. Demonize and penalize…

The game plan for Iran is largely drawn from the Iraqi playbook, with a few modifications. For instance, it is important to establish an unreachable standard of compliance by which you can cast a considerable shadow over your enemy’s motivations. Though the IAEA has repeatedly found that Iran has not diverted nuclear power toward a weapons program, the U.S. still seeks confirmation of “the absence of undeclared activities.” This is, logically speaking, impossible to verify. To do so would require omniscience—knowledge of everything—to verify the absence of the imagined. It is under the rubric of this intellectual fatuity that the West has pressed for further inspections than members are required to provide under their NPT Safeguards agreement.

This is how it worked with Iraq. The White House knows if it pushes far enough, eventually the oppressed country will balk and resist. At that moment, the White House and State Department will leap into action, declaring that Iraq or Iran isn’t negotiating in good faith, has failed its obligations, and so on. It will point to “hard-liners” in the target government, characterizing them as myopic fundamentalists that cannot cope with modernity.

In Iraq, absurd demands included a dire need to inspect Hussein’s own palace for evidence of WMD subterfuge. The same is being proposed for Iran. Imagine Iran insisting that it be permitted to inspect the Knesset for possible plots to attack Natanz facility. How might our mild-mannered Zionist allies react?

A key sticking point are the “additional protocols” pushed by the U.S. as new measures to verify NPT compliance back in the late nineties, largely in response to successful Iraqi efforts to disguise nuclear work, which appear to have eluded the IAEA less from deficiencies in the NPT Safeguards but negligence in applying the full authority they accord inspection teams. They call for the member states to declare more activity related to nuclear energy and to permit more expansive access for IAEA inspectors.

Naturally, the U.S. was behind the push for more extensive access above and beyond the NPT. This process stretches back into the nineties when the additional protocols were being formed, ostensibly based on insights from the Iraq invasion earlier in the decade. The U.S. led the push for more access: “U.S. leadership in negotiating the Model Additional Protocol was instrumental in its acceptance by the IAEA Board of Governors. Countries with extensive nuclear civilian energy programs…opposed U.S. efforts to strengthen the draft protocol, citing its inapplicability to the United States.”

Early in the 2000s, an IAEA report found that Iran was not pursuing nuclear weapons but that it had concealed the extent of its enrichment activities—a direct violation of the NPT. In an attempt to ease Western concerns, Iran signed on to the additional protocols (but didn’t ratify them) and voluntarily suspended enrichment activity for a couple of years, hoping that by so doing it would gain EU promise to accept its uranium enrichment for civilian energy. The EU agreed to that proviso in the Paris Agreements of 2004. A few months later it reneged on its promise. In response, Iran began enriching uranium again and dropped the additional protocols.

(Note during this long period of bickering, Iran had quietly offered complete transparency of its program, quitting its support for Hamas and Hezbollah, in exchange for security guarantees from the U.S. The West instantly rejected this idea. It also suggested its enrichment being managed by an international consortium. Again, dismissed.)

Despite its legal right under the NPT to enrich uranium to 20 percent, the IAEA tossed the Iranian dossier to the UN Security Council, which pretended to extend a new offer to Iran after requesting it halt the exercise of its legal right to enrichment. The new offer of negotiations, in a predictable tactic familiar to U.S. foreign policy observers, included a request that the purpose of negotiations—Iran’s enrichment program—be halted before the negotiations began.

The Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran. The U.S. pressed the IAEA to declare Iran in violation of the NPT. Iran, by contrast, claimed the sanctions were illegal. By 2007, the West was demanding satisfaction beyond even the additional protocols, according to IAEA Deputy Director general of safeguards Olli Heinonen.

  1. Falsely accuse…

Aside from demanding the impossible, one should produce a steady stream of false accusations to further undercut whatever credibility your rival may have in international circles. As evidence of Iranian duplicity, the U.S. points to the “hidden” Fordo plant, which it says was “uncovered” in 2009, before the site was finished. In actuality, Iran announced the facility to the IAEA. The “additional protocols” spearheaded by the West that Iran had initially agreed to then refused to ratify stipulated it needlessly inform the IAEA the moment it put spade to earth on a proposed nuclear facility. The old “Safeguards” that it still abides by require all members to give notice of a new facility 180 days prior to its going online. Iran did the latter, but not the former, in keeping with its original agreement.

Iran plausibly said the facility was a contingency facility it built after public threats from Israel (the latest here) and the U.S. to militarily destroy its Natanz program. In 2013 Iran granted additional access to facilities “including mines and mills” beyond even the superfluous extra protocol. But the West wants to account for “the location of every (centrifuge).” It wants to regularly interview Iranian scientists, which Tehran has thus far resisted since a number of them have been assassinated, reportedly by Israeli clandestine agency Mossad.

The Europeans regularly chime in to call negotiations an “endless game of hide-and-seek.” Unnamed “intelligence officials” and “experts” (the usual suspects the Times relies on) claim that Iran is riddled with “bunkers and tunnels.” The Times article concludes that the “past lurks over the sneakout problem,” and that, according to an American ‘hard-liner’, it needs to, “’guard against the hidden program.’” Notice here how the definite article is used twice in succession. This implies the existence of a thing unknown to exist. The entire article is based on a suspicion in Washington. But better to assume now than be fooled later, as the beltway hawks would have it. Left aside is the reality that despite myriad inspections and unprecedented access, no inspector has ever found weapons-grade uranium in Iran, or a program to quickly develop it.

  1. Negotiate in bad faith…

Negotiations are often a preliminary means of posing as a dutiful and peace-loving member of the international community before you resort to force against your enemy. It is important not to be fooled by your own pretext of good faith. You must remember that negotiations are not about solutions, but about convincing onlookers that you have exhausted diplomacy in an effort to make the peace. This will nonetheless require extraordinary hypocrisy in order to properly vilify your rival.

How interesting it is that the West will take at face value the Hamas declaration that it wants to eliminate the state of Israel. In good faith, we say, we are taking them at their word. Yet when Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei issues a fatwa against the development and use of nuclear weapons, his sincerity is dismissed as transparent posturing. Likewise, when calls for policies of ethnic cleansing in Palestine appear, they too are brushed aside by Western nations, and their pliant press flacks.

Nor should it be forgotten that the U.S. violated the NPT by openly selling uranium to India, a non-signatory of the treaty. It also claimed Iraq was buying yellowcake uranium in Africa. Multiple efforts were made to discredit Iran during the Bush years. Not just that, but it is widely known that the Obama administration, having made peaceful overtures to Tehran, surreptitiously launched cyberattacks against it. But it is the mullahs who are not to be trusted, but perhaps rightly so, since their negotiating partner has acted so aggressively toward them.

Likewise, the West’s double standards must be a grave insult to Iran. America happily obliges Israel’s aberrant behavior. Tel Aviv can defy international accords and cloak its WMDs behind a “policy of deliberate ambiguity.” It can permanently derail efforts to create a nuclear-free Middle East. It can be the most violent and aggressive nation in the entire region. It can do all this and more, and no one in Washington will hold it to account because Israel can be trusted.

The arguments America makes against Tehran are transparently racist as well. Whether or not policymakers in Washington truly believe the Iranians are insane theocrats who wouldn’t hesitate to start a nuclear war, we don’t know. But we do know the tactic of claiming a people aren’t ready for self-rule is by now a threadbare cliché of American history. After the Spanish-American War, the U.S. decided that Cuba was unfit for democracy. Haiti and Guatemala were similarly oppressed by maintaining the flimsy pretext that such unenlightened tribes must first benefit from our benevolent oversight before being permitted a modicum of self-rule.

When 16 American intelligence agencies hold no active nuclear weapons program, and that its foreign policy was “a posture of deterrence,” why is it that Iran cannot be trusted with civilian nuclear power? Why is the trustworthy country the only one that has used nuclear weapons? Why is it Iran cannot be trusted when it hasn’t launched a war in centuries? Why is the West to be trusted when it has not only attacked Iran on the sly, but openly invaded its eastern and western neighbors as well? When it is openly conceded that U.S. ally Israel has threatened its program and murdered its scientists, no doubt with Washington’s approval? Why must the West be trusted when it has indicated on numerous occasions it is developing new and better nuclear weapons, and alarming rivals into action through aggressive military posturing? To be sure, the U.S. has admirably reduced its arsenal from 31,000 weapons in the late 1960s to under 5,000 weapons today. However, more than a thousand are actually deployed. There is little talk internationally about whether these new plans violate or undermine NPT agreements.

The relationship between disarmament and nonproliferation is important. As the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has insightfully noted, these are the bedrock principles of the NPT. They are interrelated in that the successful application of one will likely promote the success of the other. Likewise, a loose and negligent application of one will likely ensure the same in the other.

  1. Be opaque but insist on transparency…

Part of your job as an international dissimulator will be to claim your rival is dangerously unhinged while simultaneously disguising instances when you behaved in precisely the same manner. A cursory glance at the NPT itself will be helpful in this regard.

What is rarely mentioned in western media is the bizarre discrepancy between the obligations of nuclear states and non-nuclear states under the NPT. Nuclear states don’t have to comprehensively apply the safeguards to all of their sites. They can even except sites for reasons of national security. Non-Nuclear states have to make practically all of their facilities—even non-nuclear energy sites with the additional protocol—eligible for NPT safeguards.

In 2004 the U.S. adopted the Model Additional Protocol in a good-faith attempt to bring other NPT members on board. But they were of little consequence to the U.S. as it is a Nuclear Weapons State (NWS) and must adhere to less stringent protocols than Non-Nuclear Weapons States (NNWS).

Not only that, but the U.S. has, per its usual legalese, added two addendums to its adoption of the protocol, a corollary of the NPT’s exemption for NWS members, called by the U.S. a National Security Exemption (NSE). It lets the U.S. permit access to sites, activities, information, and additional locations, at its own discretion. A second addition limits the use of environmental sampling and the number of inspectors who can access a site.

Before Congress ratified it, the additional protocol was tagged with a letter from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) that stipulated, among other notes, that the NSE would be used regularly and repeatedly. It also, in an almost comical provision, insisted that the President ensure security and counterintelligence training will have been completed for any sites it plans to declare to the IAEA. Hirsch, in his excellent reading, questions whether these extra conditions amount to “reservations” that would indicate that the U.S. was not accepting the same provisos as NNWS members.

Compare that with the incredible access required under the additional and comprehensive protocols. Imagine America being asked, as one Iranian government official complained, for concessions that included “permissions for reconnaissance flights over our country and that their inspectors can enter anywhere, even the presidential palace.” (Note that an ‘undeclared’ American drone has already crashed in Iran.)

To date, some 72 members of the NPT have yet to adopt the additional protocols.

  1. Never forget the big picture…

Finally, one must always remember the big picture. If you lose faith, and ask yourself why you are behaving like a boorish tyrant, just recall the treasures that lay just over the horizon. Keep your eyes on the prize; it’s the geopolitical game that matters.

As regards the Middle East, there are long-term strategies afoot to divide and defang the Shiite Crescent that includes Lebanese, Syrian, and Iranian Shiite allies. Control over oil and gas fields in the Persian Gulf and Black and Caspian Seas are at stake, as is the fate of various competing pipeline projects of either Shiite or Sunni provenance. Dominion over energy will allow the U.S. and it’s global partners to force most of the world to denominate their fuel purchases in dollars. This will sustain the buck’s role as global reserve currency, which ensures that countries will buy up American debt, inadvertently funding its imperialist projects. And after all, nobody buys more oil than the U.S. military.

America will do all it can to assure that their Sunni proxies win these contests rather than the Moscow-backed Shiite coalition. In that regard, job one is preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The idea is pure anathema to Washington. Everyone knows a bomb buys leverage. And a Shiite Crescent with leverage deeply undercuts American hegemony in the region. Hence the fairly continuous project to demonize Tehran. In this game, controlling the media narrative is critical, and all forms of slander and calumny are fair game.

In any event, the talks have been extended until next July. It wouldn’t require an extreme cynic to speculate that the seven-month extension serves U.S. interests by providing time for the ISIS debacle to play out, particularly in relation to Syria. Once the dust settles and the weather warms on that front, the West will be in a better position to decide whether it wants to opt for a military solution to its fabricated crisis with the Persians. To be sure, the international community—comprised of elites in Washington, New York, London, Paris and perhaps Riyadh—will affect the consternation of trusting but troubled Westerners, going to great lengths to persuade another rash and intemperate Muslim society to ‘join the international community.’ Once the media lapdogs paint a convincingly terrifying portrait of Iran for the edification of the masses, the wheels of war will begin to turn, legitimized by international sanction, prosecuted by the peacemakers.

Jason Hirthler is a writer, strategist, and 15-year veteran of the communications industry. He has written for many political communities. He lives and works in New York City. He can be reached at: jasonhirthler@gmail.com. Read other articles by Jason.