Saturday, June 14, 2014

End of a Publishing Era: Street Newz Signs Off

Victoria Street Newz

by Cade LaRen

The end of decade circulation.

The Victoria Street news ends its circulation this year and turns its projects to Megaphone –an alternative grassroots’ paper.

(CKUT Audio here.)

VanPD Returns to the Scene of "Guns-Drawn" Graffiti Raid

Update on Anti-Graffiti Raid: VPD Vampires Return for Blood Sample

by Zig Zag

On Thursday, June 12, 2014, at around 9:30AM, approximately six or more Vancouver cops returned to the East Vancouver home they had previously raided on June 3 under the pretext of investigating six “graffiti tags.”

This time they knocked, instead of yelling their fool heads off as they did during the June 3 raid. When the door was answered by one of the household members, VPD detective constable Rainey told her that they were returning some of the property they had stolen during the June 3 raid, and that the members of the house would have to sign for their release.

VPD detective constable Rainey holding a 
phone stolen by cops during June 3, 2014 raid. 

When the one house member named in the June 3 search warrant went to the door, he was asked if a bag of silkscreen frames were his, then told there was a warrant to take a DNA sample from him. He was then arrested, placed in a prisoner transport van, and taken to the VPD headquarters at 3585 Graveley Street, near Boundary Road.

After talking to legal aid counsel, he was told to state that he did not consent to the taking of a blood sample, but not to resist as this could result in charges (resisting arrest or obstruction?).

According to the individual arrested:

“I was taken to a room and shown the warrant. I was then taken to call a lawyer. I began to phone but then another cop said he would call for me. I had no idea if they called the right number or even left a message. After a few minutes I talked to a legal aid lawyer. I was taken back to the room.”

 Unidentified female cop also present 
during June 3 raid.

After taking a blood sample, he was released, once again without charges.

The items returned to the household included 9 silkscreen print frames and a cell phone, all taken during the June 3 raid. When asked what silkscreen frames have to do with a graffiti investigation, constable Rainey stated it was a “mistake” that they were taken. When asked if he was a member of the Anti-Graffiti Unit, Rainey said no, that he was a general investigator. 

Unidentifed Vancouver 
police Sergeant. 

Rainey was the cop who entered the house on June 3 with his pistol aimed at the occupants. Along with Rainey was a female cop also present during the initial raid, and who originally took the cell phone that was returned. Both were in plain clothes, along with another unidentified plain clothes cop. They were accompanied by a uniformed Sergeant, and all four left in a small Ford mid-sized car.

According to the house member who answered the door, there were additional cops present who quickly left once the door was opened. When police initially knocked at the front door, one of the plain clothes cops attempted to hide behind a garbage container in the alley to the rear of the house. 

Silkscreen frames stolen during June 3 raid 
and returned on June 12.

The warrant to take a DNA sample was dated June 11, 2014, and signed by Ram Gregoriou, the same cop who obtained a secondary warrant during the June 3 raid.

It is highly likely that the return of the stolen items was a pretext to come to the house in the execution of the warrant to take the blood sample. If the targeted individual was not present, they could have returned the items without alarming him or the other occupants of the house.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Aquatic Clear-Cutting: How Deforestation Harms Fish Habitat

Forest loss starves fish

by University of Cambridge

Debris from forests that washes into freshwater lakes supplements the diets of microscopic zooplankton and the fish that feed off them, creating larger and stronger fish, new research shows.

The researchers warn that, as forests are eroded through human activities such as logging, the impacts will be felt in aquatic as well as terrestrial food chains.

In fact, the study was conducted at a Canadian lake chosen because it had suffered ecological disaster during the mid-20th century: acid rain as a result of the local nickel smelting industry.

Despite moves to reduce environmental impact, many areas of vegetation surrounding the lake are still in recovery. This enabled scientists to study Yellow Perch fish from different parts of a lake that has varying degrees of surrounding forest coverage.

Carbon from forest debris has a different elemental mass than carbon produced by algae in the aquatic food chain. By analysing the young Perch that had been born that year, scientists were able to determine that at least 34% of the fish biomass comes from vegetation, increasing to 66% in areas surrounded by rich forest.

Essentially, the more forest around the edge of the lake, the fatter the fish in that part of the lake were.

Scientists say that the young fish in lake areas with scant forest cover were much smaller, and consequently much less likely to survive and breed.

"We found fish that had almost 70% of their biomass made from carbon that came from trees and leaves instead of aquatic food chain sources," said Dr Andrew Tanentzap from Cambridge's Department of Plant Sciences, and lead author of the new study, published today in the journal Nature Communications.

"While plankton raised on algal carbon is more nutritious, organic carbon from trees washed into lakes is a hugely important food source for freshwater fish, bolstering their diet to ensure good size and strength," he said.

The work was conducted at Daisy Lake on the outskirts of the industrial city of Sudbury in Ontario, Canada. The area is part of the boreal ecosystem: a vast subarctic climate system that rings round most of the top of the Northern Hemisphere; full of huge, ancient forests vital to the carbon cycle of Earth.

"More than 60% of the world's fresh water is in the boreal areas such as Canada, Scandinavia and large parts of Siberia. These areas are suffering from human disturbance such as logging, mining, and forest fires resulting from climate change - all occurrences predicted to intensify in coming years," said Tanentzap.

The scientists studied eight different 'watersheds' surrounding the lake: a given area across which all the moisture drains into a single stream. When these fast-moving streams - full of detritus from forest foliage - hit the slow-moving lake, the debris falls out of suspension and sinks, forming layers of sediment which create mini deltas.

Debris is broken down by bacteria, which is in turn consumed by zooplankton: tiny translucent creatures that also feed on algae. The fish then feed on the zooplankton. Until recently, algae were believed to be the only source of food for zooplankton, but the new research builds on previous work that showed they also feed on bacteria from forest matter drained into lakes.

The researchers worked along the food chains in the mini deltas. "Where you have more dissolved forest matter you have more bacteria, more bacteria equals more zooplankton; areas with the most zooplankton had the largest 'fattest' fish," said Tanentzap.

Areas of Daisy Lake closest to the nickel smelt-works remain bare – dirt and rock instead of the once lush forest. The young fish in these parts of the lake were considerably smaller due to less available food. This leaves them susceptible to poor health and predators as they won't be as strong, so less likely to go on to breed and repopulate.

"It's estimated that freshwater fishes make up more than 6% of the world's annual animal protein supplies for humans and the major and often only source of animal protein for low income families across Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines," added Tanentzap.
"While we've only studied boreal regions, these results are likely to bear out globally. Forest loss is damaging aquatic food chains of which many humans are a part."


University of Cambridge
Contact: Fred Lewsey

Ecocide and Planetary Leave Takings

After the harvest — learning to leave the planet gracefully

by Robert Jensen - Waging Non-Violence

Every time I read the latest bad-and-getting-worse news about the health of the ecosphere, such as last month’s report that the melting of some giant glaciers had passed the point of no return, I think back to a conversation 25 years ago that helps me put such news in perspective. In a Minneapolis bakery where my new friend Jim Koplin and I had settled into a Friday morning coffee session to analyze the world, and gossip a bit, Koplin told me that he thought the most important task for human beings — as a species, not just as individuals — was “learning to leave the planet gracefully.”

At our regular table by the window, he said this matter-of-factly, not joking but also not overly dramatic about it. This was a judgment he felt obligated to share with me once our friendship had deepened, our conversations had gotten sufficiently serious, and he had determined that I could handle it.

Why would human beings need to learn to leave the planet gracefully? The answer — so painfully obvious today, as the evidence about ecological crises piles up, readily available to anyone who chooses to know — was clear to Koplin more than 25 years ago. Although he wasn’t prone to quoting scripture, I am, so let me offer a “why” in the words of Jeremiah from the Hebrew Bible:

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jeremiah 8:20)

The days of plenty are over, the high-energy phase of human life is coming to a close, and we have not yet learned all that we need to know — about ourselves or the world — to adapt to a new era.

Does this seem overly dramatic to you? Take a look at any measure of the health of the ecosphere that makes our lives possible — the data about the intensifying negative effects of human activity on the water, soil and climate of the planet — and an unpleasant fact is unavoidable: An ongoing large-scale human presence on the planet is impossible if we accept the assumptions, and give in to the demands, of existing social and economic systems. Put bluntly: Contemporary America’s conception of “the good life” is inconsistent with life. And today no serious political force is acknowledging that hard truth, let alone thinking about the implications, let alone offering meaningful policy proposals, let alone taking action.

As a people, we have yet to muster the intellectual resources, political will and moral courage needed to save ourselves and minimize the long-term damage to other living things.

If that seems too much to bear, that’s because it is. Yet, that is our challenge: to face what is beyond our capacity to bear and refuse to turn away from the demands that these crises place on us. My friend Jim Koplin was one of the few people I’ve known to meet this challenge head on. What’s more, he was able to bear that truth without giving into despair or giving up his work, always remaining part of a loving community.

Jim Koplin (

A Depression-era Minnesota farm kid, Koplin’s childhood involved a lot of work on that farm and a lot of time in the surrounding woods and lakes, experiences that shaped his appreciation of the beauty of the world and hard-working commitment to careful stewardship of the land. He also learned hard lessons about patriarchy from an abusive, violent alcoholic father, and he understood what it was like to be an outsider as a gay boy.

Koplin left the farm for college, eventually earning a Ph.D. in psychology. In his first teaching job at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., the direction of his life changed through his involvement in the civil rights movement, where he learned that people in positions of privilege (whether because of race, gender, sexual orientation, class or nation) are not simply being noble when they commit to radical movements that work against that privilege, but are saving our own lives.

Koplin retired early, living frugally on savings without paid employment, devoting himself to independent study, political organizing, and community building in a variety of left, feminist and environmental movements. Just as important as his political activity, he was an extremely skilled farmer-gardener who worked whatever land was available to him, building his daily routine around the hard but pleasurable work of growing food without chemicals, sharing that work and its bounty with neighbors, alongside young people who could learn from him.

In the 24 years I shared with Jim Koplin, who died in 2012 at the age of 79, I learned much from him, and we learned much together. One of the most important lessons was that social justice and ecological sustainability are not competing values but components of the same project of challenging hierarchies and the domination/subordination logic on which they are built. Those hierarchies within the human family undermine the possibility of decent communities that respect individual autonomy; justice and hierarchy are incompatible. Human claims to dominate the larger living world undermine the possibility of an ongoing human presence on the planet; sustainability and hierarchy are incompatible. This framework went on to shape some of his most enduring ecological lessons.

First, and most basic, specific places and the whole planet both have to matter to us. For Koplin the phrase “think globally, act locally” was too simplistic; we should think and act locally and globally, depending on the situation and the demands of the historical moment.

Koplin spent a lot of time studying both the human and non-human inhabitants of his place, where he lived, so that he could act responsibly there. As a farmer-gardener, he was especially attentive to the soil and creatures, both those that aided soil fertility and those that stole his produce (many of the urban squirrels that ventured into his garden paid a high price). But he understood “place” to be the whole place, including the trash-strewn sidewalk in front of the puppet theater where he volunteered so many hours. Usually the first person there in the morning (Koplin kept farm hours most of his life), he did what he could to nurture whatever beauty could be created in the concrete.

Attending to our local places, however, is only part of our obligation. Being a good steward of one’s own land doesn’t magically protect that land from the effects of global warming and rapid climate destabilization. And even if we could protect our individual places in the United States, we live in an economy that is based on the destruction of places all over world. We can’t, and shouldn’t try to, escape our global obligations to curb that exploitation.

Second, personal habits and social systems both matter. Koplin believed in personal responsibility but had no illusions that individual changes in behavior was adequate.

He took the slogan “reduce, reuse, recycle” more seriously than anyone I have ever known. Like many who grew up in a world of scarcity, he was relentlessly frugal to the end of his life, even when he had adequate savings and a pension to live more affluently. Koplin believed that we reveal ourselves through our habits, and he cultivated habits of care and thrift, which he saw as an expression of respect for the world.

But he rejected the claim that one’s obligations could be met just by being frugal and living simply and never suggested he was morally superior for not participating in the consumer feeding frenzy all around him. Koplin never stopped challenging the perverse values of that culture through political activity, recognizing that the problem is not how any particular individual behaves in capitalism but capitalism’s logic of endless growth and the mindless consumption that it generates.

Third, science and folk knowledge both matter. Koplin valued modern science’s ability to expand our understanding of the world, but he believed that this understanding is complementary to, not at odds with, what ordinary people know about the world through experience.

He was a voracious reader of scientific work, ranging from technical work in fields in which he had some expertise to popular accounts on virtually any subject. As a former academic psychologist interested in language acquisition who had once taught research methods and statistics, he had a deep respect for the scientific method and understood the need for the rigor that came with specialization, along with the need for sharp criticism of lazy thinking and sloppy research.

However, Koplin also understood the limits of science. Although he had no formal training in ecology, he had an ecologist’s awareness that science could never identify, let alone understand, all of the complex connections and interactions in our bodies or in the world — all of which argues for considerable humility in rushing to “scientific” answers to all questions. He knew that traditional cultures acquired and passed along knowledge in non-scientific ways; he spoke lovingly of what he had learned from his grandmother in her garden, complex knowledge that was passed down in complex ways that engaged the mind, body and emotions. He admired a former student’s advanced research on the human visual system in the lab but spoke just as respectfully of a childhood friend’s skill at butchering a deer shot in the nearby woods.

Finally, Koplin understood that like every other organism on the planet, human beings live within limits — the limits of the organism and of the systems in which an organism is embedded. Contemporary society is based on a collective denial of those limits, a delusion made possible temporarily by the reigning fundamentalist faith of our day, technological fundamentalism — the belief that the increasing use of evermore sophisticated high-energy, advanced technology can solve any problem, including the problems caused by the unintended consequences of such technology. Koplin, earlier than anyone I knew, had come to understand that this fundamentalism — seeing computer chips and machines as our savior — was far more dangerous than even the craziest claims about saviors in the sky.

His analysis of the prospects for that decent human future began with the ecological realities, followed by an evaluation of the ability of our social/political/economic systems to adapt to those realities. Koplin’s blunt assessment: The forces set in motion by human “civilization” — beginning with the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago and dramatically intensified in the fossil-fuel epoch of the industrial revolution — have degraded the planet’s ecosystems in ways that cannot be reversed, that we are past the point of no return on many crucial markers. That means dramatic changes are required, not just in our “lifestyles” and not just in social/economic/political systems, but in how we understand ourselves at the most basic level, how we answer the question, “What does it mean to be human?”

I am convinced that how we define being human in a future of global instability depends very much on how honest we can be with each other, and with ourselves, in the present.

Mainstream environmental groups — in fact, mainstream groups of any kind — avoid these questions, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t struggling with those realities and assessments, typically alone or in small groups. Koplin saw no evidence that any society was ready to engage in the necessary discussions or consider the necessary changes, least of all the United States, which was not an easy conclusion for him to reach because he loved so deeply. All of his friends experienced that love with him, and watched him love the living world with a reverence that led one of those friends to describe him as a “nature mystic.”

That’s why Koplin thought our task was to leave the planet gracefully, because he loved us and loved the world that is our home. He loved people and planet in a way that made him yearn for a graceful, peaceful ending, much as one wishes for a graceful and peaceful ending for a person coming to the end of an individual life.

But Koplin also knew that such an elegant ending was unlikely, which is why he also told his closest friends: “I wake up every morning in a state of profound grief.” Again, he was not a scripture-quoting fellow, but again the words of Jeremiah echo: “My grief is beyond healing, my heart is sick within me.” (Jeremiah 8:18)

Just as his comment about leaving the planet wasn’t flippant, neither was his description of his grief. Koplin was not a demonstrative person emotionally, and many who knew him superficially might even say he could be standoffish and aloof. But that was because he felt deeply and was aware of how easily those feelings could overwhelm him. So, he was careful in public.

In another of our early morning coffee sessions, Koplin told me that he remembered the moment as a young person when he realized that every human being’s brain worked the same way, which meant that every human being alive on the planet had the capacity to experience exactly the same range of emotions as he did. It was at that moment that the abstract idea of equality became real to him — we really are all the same, at the deepest and most basic level — and that the suffering of people everywhere became real, and overwhelming, to him. Koplin said that daily life was manageable because he had found ways to wall himself off from that realization, for to try to live with that awareness always present would be to court suicide.

As difficult as these feelings were for him, Koplin knew that our only real basis for hope comes in the embrace of this grief. Not an abstract hope that somehow, magically, everything will turn out OK, but the hope that we can speak honestly with others and form the small groups and communities that can foster the radical analysis of hierarchies and illegitimate authority, along with the traditional values of frugality and mutual obligation. This is what I call being a “plain radical,” and Koplin was the most plainly radical person I have ever known.

I don’t want to romanticize my friend. While his political vision and ecological understanding were incisive, his ideas were not unique. But in my experience, it is rare to find one person who follows both lines of thought so deeply and lives the ideas with such forbearance and equanimity. He romanticized neither revolutionary politics nor rural life, but rather drew the best from each tradition and constructed a political and ecological life that made sense for him. Rather than seek converts to his particular style of living, he embraced life in a diverse community and offered his attention and affection to a wide variety of people. Koplin didn’t make many demands on others. Instead, the dignified way he led his life led those of us who loved him to make demands on ourselves. By never exempting himself from the obligation to critically self-reflect, he made it hard for us to wiggle out of it.

When I speak of these struggles, people invariably call me “a downer” and “too negative.” I used to believe that was true, that I was being depressing by pushing these issues, but I have come to see that claim inverts reality. In fact, I’m the positive one — by placing my faith in our collective ability to bear the truth that is beyond bearing, I am affirming the best aspects of our humanity, just like my friend Jim Koplin. Those who demand that we ignore the painful questions are, in fact, the downers — the people stuck in negativity, the ones who have no faith in themselves or others to face reality honestly.

Without that commitment to facing reality honestly, the harvest will have past, the summer will have ended forever, and we will not be able to save ourselves.

This is an edited version of a lecture delivered June 3, 2014, at the University of Texas at Austin in the Informal Classes program. Video is online here. For a text of the complete lecture, email

Syria: Picking Up the Pieces in Homs

Homs: “We wanted to protect our house”

by Eva Bartlett - In Gaza

Traveling with a friend by bus to Homs Monday, we go to an area of Damascus where buses line the side of the road. “Halab, Halab (Aleppo),” are the first calls. Then Hassaka, Raqqa… and eventually Homs.

The Greyhound-sized bus is filled with passengers, most traveling on to Hama. A long three and a half hours and a number of military checkpoints later, we get off the bus in the outskirts of Homs. A taxi ride takes us to one of the hardest-hit areas, Hamidiyeh, a largely Christian area in the heart of the Old City.

The expected wreckage and destroyed houses is wide-spread. The armed groups—who took control of much of the Old City in February 2012—have been gone for a month, since the May 9, 2014 truce evacuation was implemented. Now, instead of the sniper fire and shelling of armed insurgents and the Syrian Army’s fire against them, there is a quiet marred only by people sweeping rubble from their homes, the uncannily-serene tweeting of birds, and cars passing through now and then.

On the second floor of a damaged building, a man shoveling debris off the ledge onto the street below pauses to greet me, surprisingly cheerful, as though his city had not for the past two years been ravaged by the insurgents.

An older man kneels re-paving small patches of the relatively unscathed walkway outside of his likewise-intact home. Down the street, four men hose down the entrance and street outside of one of Homs’ oldest hotels, also comparatively unmarred.

We visit a number of churches, all of which were at least a century old (some much more), in various states of disrepair.

In the courtyard of one church—thoroughly burned inside—a newly planted flower bed adds beauty and hope in a city which has seen the opposite for so long.

Youth volunteers sweep away rubble and debris in some of the churches we visit, elsewhere beautifying Homs’ streets anew with floral paintings (often covering graffiti left by the armed insurgents) and colourful mosaics of broken church glass.

A blown-out wall in a lane-way reveals both a destroyed-pickup truck and the school beyond, which insurgents occupied until the day of their departure from the Old Homs’ neighbourhoods. The bombed truck is but one of many of the terrorists’ bombings in their final days occupying the Old City.

“They had anti-aircraft machine guns which they would put on the truck for their attacks. They burned them the day they left,” my friend tells me. He also tells me that the armed insurgents left surprises in creative places for the home-owners. “They left booby-trapped explosives in the houses, all over, even behind paintings on the wall.”

At the Jesuit church where Father Frans van der Lugt lived, in Syria since 1966, I talk with a man who was a close friend of the priest who was in April assassinated point-blank. He talks about the time before Frans’ murder, how Frans provided a sanctuary for people, even day-visitors like him. “I’d spend the day here and just go home to sleep and shower,” he says.

As I’m going to be writing about this, I won’t go into too much detail here, but the church courtyard now hosts Frans’ grave, in a garden area surrounded by some trees and bright flowers, and a large guest book already has many signatures, locals who knew the priest or others who knew of his work and truth-telling on Syria.]

[read: An Eyewitness to the Syrian Rebellion: Father Frans in His Own Words

One telling excerpt from this article:

Father Frans wrote:

'From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.'

In the same letter, Father Frans insisted that what was occurring in Syria could not be described as a “popular uprising,” since the majority of Syrians do not support the opposition and “certainly not” its armed component.

[On that note, see recent articles: “Elections in Syria: The People Say No to Foreign Intervention” and “Why Do Syrians Overwhelmingly Support Their Government?”]

The fact is that the government could never have survived three years of war without the support of the people. It needs a loyal populace in order to maintain order and provide for national defense. This is why, unlike the opposition, the government has worked hard to win the hearts and minds of the people and to provide for their welfare. During the last year, it has even cautiously offered amnesty to exhausted opposition Syrian fighters (but not their foreign allies) as a means of retiring them from combat, Assad’s newly declared prisoner amnesty is part of the same strategy, as well as an affirmation of confidence in its success.

Further along an Old City street, we visit Aymen and his sister Zeinat, both survivors of the terrorizing of the “revolutionary” food-stealing, valuables-looting, armed men in Homs’ Old City. Weathering the two years of their presence, the complete looting of their food supplies (“we had enough stored food to last us a year, if not more”), they survived the final 50 days before the terrorists left eating only whatever greens they could gather—flavoured by spices… until a scavenging “revolutionary” took even that from them.

At one point I mistakenly assume they’ve been forced to stay, forbidden from leaving as is the case in other areas held by anti-Syria armed men. “No, no one forced us to stay,” says Zeinat. “We wanted to stay, to protect our house,” Aymen says.

But more surprising than their having chosen to stay despite those who were looting them to the point of starvation…is their feisty energy, and their beaming smiles.

Zeinat, a pharmacist, and Aymen, a chemical engineer, talk with us for a couple of hours, recounting their story from the entrance of the armed groups into the Old City to their exit [I'll also write about their experience shortly].

Back at my hosts’ rented home in a different area of Homs, they show me photos and videos of their own ravaged home, footage which Abu Abdu took himself. He meticulously points out how not only did the “revolutionaries” occupying their home utterly trash and destroy it, but they thieved every conceivable thing from it. “Here, they took the motor to the washing machine. Here, they stripped the fridge of its motor. Here, they took the taps in the kitchen. They stripped the electrical wiring.” Basically, they took anything that could be ripped out of wall or floor that could in any way be sold: metals, piping, wiring…and of course all of the family’s jewelry and valuables.

In the video he shows, the bedrooms are so trashed and a hole has been knocked into a wall for passage to the next apartment… you’d think the IOF had been here instead of the “freedom-loving revolutionaries”.

Theirs is but one apartment in a three level, at least 6 apartment-long building, many of which are equally tarnished from the photo he shows.

photo by “Abu Abdu”

In the evening, our hosts mention there’s another party in progress, celebrating (still) the election 6 days prior. So we go. From blocks away the music is blasting, a street party which I’d mistake for a Gaza-like wedding party if I hadn’t already been told otherwise.

In the street block where the party rages, a low stage hosts local dignitaries: local sheiks, politicians, tribal leaders. On the street, a mixture of teens, youths, off-duty soldiers, and older men dance to various tempos of dabke. Some are the slow dabke procession which the elders tend to join in, slow-stepping, hands-joined, in a circle. Most are the lively dabke songs which have young men and soldiers alike hopping. I find the presence of these soldiers amidst the clearly joyful civilians another important statement of the respect most Syrians have for their army, who they see as protecting them from armed groups who have been sniping, car-bombing, mortaring them.

The “ya Bashar” song plays a couple of times, along with other patriotic songs, and there is more cheering and flag waving. Stepping out of the circle of dabke and revelry, walking into the powerless dark of the night, we leave this quarter of Homs to their celebrations.

With great sadness I read of the June 12 car-bombing in a Homs neighbourhood. SANA news reported:

Seven citizens were killed and 55 others got injured as a terrorist car bomb went off in Homs city.

…terrorists detonated a car bomb parked in Wadi al-Zahab neighborhood. …the explosion killed 7 citizens and injured 55 others, in addition to huge material damage.

Last May, terrorists blew up two car bombs in al-Zahraa neighborhood in Homs, killing 10 citizens and wounding some 42 others.

Earlier, 12 citizens were injured when a car bomb went off under the Homs Refinery Bridge on the way between Homs and Tartous provinces.

A video posted on FB shows scenes from Homs post-car bombing, as do photos below, from SANA news. This is the “revolution” being funded, supported and applauded by the West and corrupt Arab states.

see my earlier: April car bombing testimonies

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Willy Pete Pays a Visit to Slavyansk

'White phosphorus' reports: Ukraine military 'dropped incendiary bombs' on Slavyansk

by RT

Residents of Slavyansk and its suburbs were awoken overnight on Thursday by what they say were incendiary bombs that were dropped on their city by Kiev’s military. Witnesses and local media reports suggested that the bombs might be phosphorous.

Much of the village of Semyonovka, located in the Slavyansk suburbs, was set ablaze. Local residents told RT that the ground didn't stop burning for some time.

Download video (28.61 MB) 
“We all saw what happened here yesterday. They used rocket launchers as well as incendiary bombs against us. The ground was on fire. How can the ground burn by itself. It burned for about forty minutes,” resident Roman Litvinov told RT over the phone.
“Starting from 2 a.m. everyone I’ve met has a sore throat and is coughing all the time. I think this is because of the burning. I think we’ll feel the true consequences later. There are still a lot of people here, a lot of children we haven’t managed to get out yet,” resident Tatyana told RT.

The use of incendiary bombs – designed to start fires using materials such as napalm, white phosphorus or other dangerous chemicals – is strictly prohibited by the UN.

Kiev authorities have denied reports that such weapons were used against civilians. The National Guard also refuted reports that phosphorous ammunition was used, its press service stated.

During the latest news briefing, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki veered away from answering an AP journalist’s question about the reported use of white phosphorus bombs by Kiev’s army. But when cornered, she let it slip that she was quite clueless as to the situation on the ground – saying she thought the reference was to the Russians using the bombs.

When asked about the report for the second time, Psaki replied: "By whom? By Russians?”

The journalist replied: “No, by the Ukrainians,” specifying that there is video and photographic evidence of the attack.

Psaki replied by saying, “No, I didn’t see those reports.”

Slavyansk, an industrial city in southeastern Ukraine with a population of over 100,000 people, has been a focal point of the government’s crackdown against the region. The city’s residential area has been under regular artillery fire for weeks.

“It does appear that there is at least a case to be argued that something similar, if not itself white phosphorous, was used overnight. I’ve seen the video, I’ve looked at it closely...[there are] whole signs, whole marks of white phosphorous use. For example, a very bright light burning and multiple burns coming down from the sky. It’s an airburst weapon that has been used, such as a mortar or a manned aircraft,” Charles Shoebridge, a former army officer, Scotland Yard detective, and counter-terrorism intelligence officer who has recently returned from Ukraine, told RT.

“White phosphorous cannot be put out with the use of water” and it will “burn through one’s body to the bone,” Shoebridge added. “If there is going to be large amounts used it can also be a poison – large amounts can be set to contaminate water supply.”

According to the video, “it’s very likely that white phosphorus" was used, Shoebridge added. “It’s very difficult to fabricate the video we saw combined with the evidence on the ground.”

Moscow demanded an immediate investigation into the reported use of incendiary bombs in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday.

"We are concerned to hear reports that the Ukrainian military forces use incendiary bombs and some other indiscriminate weapons," he said. "These reports should be probed into immediately."

On Thursday, Russia introduced a draft resolution to the UN Security Council that condemns attacks on residential quarters and civilian facilities in southeastern Ukraine, said Vitaly Churkin, Russian envoy to the UN.

He also voiced concern over reports of the use of prohibited ammunition, including incendiary bombs, during the military crackdown.

The draft resolution calls for an immediate end to all violence and for a lasting ceasefire.

"The draft resolution will aim to stop the violence and support the political efforts the OSCE has been undertaking in vain so far. We urge the UN Secretary-General to support them," Churkin said, adding that its adoption would demonstrate the UNSC’s support for the crisis settlement efforts.

Where Are the Joes!? - ISIS Rise Iraq

Black Flags Over Mosul

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

”The whole of Mosul collapsed today. We’ve fled our homes and neighborhoods, and we’re looking for God’s mercy. We are waiting to die.”
– Mahmoud Al Taie, resident of Mosul, Wall Street Journal

An army of Sunni fighters affiliated to al Qaida crossed the Syrian border into Iraq on Tuesday, scattering defensive units from the Iraqi security forces, capturing Iraq’s second biggest city of Mosul, and sending 500,000 civilians fleeing for safety. The unexpected jihadi blitz has left President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy in tatters and created a crisis of incalculable magnitude. The administration will now be forced to focus its attention and resources on this new flashpoint hoping that it can prevent the makeshift militia from marching on Baghdad and toppling the regime of Nouri al Maliki. Events on the ground are moving at breakneck speed as the extremists have expanded their grip to Saddam’s birthplace in Tikrit and north to Baiji, home to Iraq’s biggest refinery. The political thread that held Iraq together has snapped pushing Iraq closer to a full-blown civil war. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times:

”The militants freed thousands of prisoners and took over military bases, police stations, banks and provincial headquarters, before raising the black flag of the jihadi group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria over public buildings. The bodies of soldiers, police officers and civilians lay scattered in the streets.”

“Having consolidated control over Sunni-dominated Nineveh Province, armed gunmen were heading on the main road to Baghdad, Iraqi officials said, and had already taken over parts of Salahuddin Province.”

The Iraqi security forces–whose training by the US military cost an estimated $20 billion–dropped their weapons and fled at the first sign of trouble. Now the streets, government buildings, schools, hospitals, airports and military installations are in the hands of the al Qaida-splinter group called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS. The group is now in possession of helicopters and tanks that were left behind by al Malaki’s soldiers.

Tens of thousands of civilians have left the city in cars and on foot carrying whatever they can in small trunks and plastic bags. Iraqi news stations report that the roads and checkpoints are clogged with people fleeing for safety to Kirkuk or Baghdad. According to Bloomberg: “Dead bodies are scattered around western Mosul due to the fighting. The city is empty and most shops are closed.”

In a desperate attempt to reverse developments on the ground, “Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took to the airwaves to urge all men to volunteer to fight, promising to provide weapons and equipment. The Prime Minister also urged parliament to declare a state of emergency as part of an effort “to confront this ferocious attack that harms all Iraqis.”

“We will not allow for the remainder of the … province and the city to fall,” he said in a live speech broadcast on Iraqi state TV.” (CNN) Al-Maliki has subsequently asked the US for “airstrikes with either drones or manned aircraft targeting the Al-Qaida offshoot militants on Iraqi territory”.

As of Thursday morning, Obama had not responded to the beleaguered president’s request. 

The United States has not experienced such a spectacular foreign policy debacle since the Saigon withdrawal in April 1975. The fall of Mosul is not a minor setback that can be corrected by deploying special ops and lobbing a few bombs on targets in Mosul. It is a complete policy collapse that illustrates the shortcomings of the abysmal War on Terror. The American invasion and occupation of Iraq is entirely responsible for the problems that plague Iraq today. There were no bands of armed terrorists roaming the countryside and wreaking havoc before the US invasion. All of Iraq’s troubles can be traced back to that bloody intervention that has left the country in chaos.

Will Obama send US combat troops to Iraq to fight the jihadis and reverse events on the ground. If so, he will need Congress’s stamp of approval, which may not be forthcoming. Also, he should prepare his fellow Democratic candidates for a midterm walloping like they’ve never seen before. The American people have never supported the Iraqi quagmire. The prospect of refighting the war in order to beat the radicals which the administration-itself created through its own disastrous arm-the-terrorist policy is bound to be widely resisted as well as reviled. Americans have washed their hands of the “cakewalk” war. They won’t support a rerun.

The media finger-pointing has already begun with gusto. This time the villain of choice is not “Hitler” Putin, but the Iraqi security services who cut and ran at the first smell of grapeshot. More objective-minded observers will see this for the farce it is. The explosion of armed radicalism in the Middle East is the inevitable result of US meddling, intervention and occupation. The chickens have merely come home to roost as the opponents of the war had predicted. Obama and Bush have achieved what bin Laden only could have dreamt of, a city of two million people falling into the hands of his extremist spawn while Washington gazes helplessly from the sidelines. That’s what you call failure with a capital “F”. Here’s a clip from Bloomberg:

”Fighters from a breakaway al-Qaeda group are in position to seize Iraqi energy infrastructure after taking control of Mosul in a strike that highlights Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s weakening grip on the country. …A day after guerrillas drove police and soldiers from the nation’s second-biggest city, there were conflicting reports on the situation in Baiji, north of Baghdad and home to Iraq’s biggest refinery.”

Let’s face it: If the ISIS starts taking out pipelines and oil installations around Mosul, it’s Game-Over USA. Oil futures will spike, markets will crash, and the global economy will slump back into a severe recession. Obama has a very small window to reverse the current dynamic or there’s going to be hell to pay. 
According to a June 10 report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW):

“The ISIS is …. no longer merely a terrorist organization. It is a conventional military force that holds terrain and claims to govern some of it. The Mosul campaign was well planned and required years to set conditions…..The operations allowed it to cut off media from the city, limit the Iraqi Security Forces’ activities there, and gain freedom of movement within it…..
(The) ISIS laid the groundwork for the seizure of Mosul, its areas of control on the morning of June 10, 2014 EDT, its assessments of its own attacks, and its aspirations to govern a state in Iraq and Syria.”

The report suggests that the ISIS is not a ragtag amalgam of rabid fanatics, but a highly-motivated and disciplined modern militia with clearly outlined political and territorial objectives. If this is the case, then it is likely that they will not march on Baghdad after all, but will tighten their grip on the predominantly Sunni areas establishing a state within a state. And this is precisely why the Obama administration may choose to stay out of the conflagration altogether, because the goals of the ISIS coincide with a similar US plan to create a “soft partition” that dates back to 2006.

The plan was first proposed by Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and then-senator Joe Biden. According to the New York Times the “so-called soft-partition plan ….calls for dividing Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions…There would be a loose Kurdistan, a loose Shiastan and a loose Sunnistan, all under a big, if weak, Iraq umbrella.”

And this is why the US will probably not deploy combat troops to engage the Sunni fighters in Mosul. It’s because the Obama administration’s strategic goals and those of the terrorists are nearly identical. Which should surprise no one.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

Second Helping: Dragon's Teeth Fruit Reaped Again in Iraq

Hell’s Gate: The Iraqi Blitzkrieg and the Cult of Violence

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

The bitter fruits of the monstrous evil the United States inflicted on Iraq are ripening before our eyes. The blitzkrieg by ISIS, a radical militia so extreme that even al Qaeda disowned it, has swept through large swaths of the country and laid bare the sham of the government system imposed by the American invaders.

Having engineered the senseless slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and provoked a murderous sectarian war, the Americans installed a government based along strict sectarian lines -- a choice that was guaranteed to exacerbate internal strife and produce weak, ineffective, disunited governments. And so we have watched the government of would-be strongman Nouri al-Maliki wither away into corrupt factionalism and brutal repression in its frantic and failing efforts to impose its will on the inevitable chaos.

This week we may be witnessing its total collapse, as its army -- built and funded by the American invaders -- is simply vanishing in the face of the onslaught by ISIS, which is itself funded, in part, by America's own staunch allies in the Gulf … and, via America's funding and arming of murky stew of Syrian rebel groups (which includes ISIS), indirectly by Washington itself.

Yes, it is madness. The US-UK act of unprovoked aggression in Iraq -- which in principle and illegality differs not one whit from the German invasion of Poland in 1939 -- has spread unimaginable ruin and destruction throughout the region, creating a Hobbesian nightmare of "each against all": of factions combining, breaking apart, recombining, fighting together, fighting each other, using each other, betraying each other, with no boundaries, no meaning, just a constant churning, chewing, gnashing of teeth, a vast, seething mass of death and brutality, held together, locked together, by a single, shared creed: the way of violence. Violence as a first principle, and the final solution; violence (and the ever-present, never-ceasing threat of violence) as the highest expression of human achievement, the physical embodiment of power, of domination over others -- which is the supreme value, the ultimate concern for all those who hold to this fanatical creed. It's the true religion of the American militarists, the Islamic extremists, the NATO nabobs, the authoritarian nationalists, the covert operators, the backroom financiers, and all the bit players and fellow travellers around the world who serve and support or profit from this ghastly faith.

There is a larger historical context to what's happening in Iraq today, which Juan Cole covers well here. But the immediate responsibility for the death and suffering we are witnessing in Iraq right now lies squarely on those who launched (and those who supported) a war of aggression that destroyed Iraqi society and -- just as was predicted -- "opened the gates of hell" to sectarian strife and world-rattling chaos.


Meanwhile, there are indications that the uprising is broader than the operations of ISIS, a group that with its al Qaeda-surpassing extremism is tailor-made to serve as a convenient devil. Just as one of their precursors, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, served as the Scarlet Pimpernel of much of the American occupation -- seemingly here, there and everywhere, and was blamed for every bit of unrest and resistance against the noble American and British liberators. It was Zarqawi's supposed presence in Fallujah that led to America's vicious destruction of that city; he was, of course, nowhere near the city, which the Americans well knew. In fact, Zarqawi too had once been an ally of Americans, at least indirectly; before the invasion, his terrorist group found safe haven in the Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq, where Saddam's writ did not run, and where American officials moved freely. The Bush Administration vetoed several chances to capture or kill Zarqawi, preferring to let him attack the common enemy, Saddam. Later, as noted, he served as a convenient PR foil for the Americans during his rampages in the post-election landscape.

He was a loathsome character -- a fierce adherent of the cult of violence he shared with Saddam and America's bipartisan foreign policy elite. And ISIS is a malevolent faction of the same faith -- although of course they yet to kill even a fraction of the number of innocent civilians slaughtered in the region by the Defenders of Western Civilization and their clients. But as with Zarqawi, the focus on ISIS obscures the larger discontent and resistance to what it is still, essentially, an occupation regime in Baghdad. The Guardian has featured reports from the ground in the cities seized by ISIS; reports which paint a somewhat more complex picture than we are seeing in Washington, where the 'debate' has, as usual, congealed around partisan point-scoring -- and minute calibrations of just how much violence America should employ to exacerbate the chaos and ruin.

From the Guardian:

Among those who took control of Tikrit were large numbers of former Ba'ath party members. Ba'athists were the cornerstone of Saddam Hussein's regime and have been persecuted ever since. Residents of Tikrit said some insurgents were wearing the drab green military fatigues worn by Saddam's army. "There are no Isis flags in town," said one local woman. "They are playing Saddam and Ba'ath party songs."

…In nearby Samara, where insurgents have been negotiating with Iraqi army officials, car dealer Taher Hassan said militants had turned up on Sunday and quickly taken control of most of the city.

He said: "All the local police forces have pulled out of their bases in the city. … Everyone in Samara is happy with the fighters' management of the city. They have proved to be professional and competent. The fighters themselves did not harm or kill anyone as they swept forward. Any man who hands over his arm is safe, whatever his background. This attitude is giving a huge comfort to people here. We have lived enough years of injustice, revenge and tyranny and we can't stand any more.

Four days ago, Maliki’s military dirty force raided Al-Razaq mosque in the city, brought a few locals whom they picked up from different parts in Samara and killed them in the mosque. What do you think the people feeling would be towards these military forces? We have lived enough years of injustice, revenge and tyranny and we can’t stand any more.”

Abu Riyad, 50 years old, tribal leader in Mosul city: “It seems the fighters have a good security plan for the city. They really know the nature of the city and have not made the same mistakes as the US forces, or Maliki’s forces, when they invaded Mosul. They are protecting all the governmental buildings in the city and have not destroyed or stolen anything. They haven’t harmed a person in the city.

[Isis] fighters have opened and cleared out all the bridges, roads and checkpoints set up by the army. Now, we can move easily. It is so quiet here – not a bullet has been fired so far. Most of the families who fled the city began to head back today. We have suffered a lot under Maliki’s unfair government. …We’ve had enough injustice and corruption and no longer accept Maliki’s army. Since the US invasion until now, an organised ethnic cleansing was taking place here. Maliki’s men would show up on TV revealing their love to peace and security but the reality is completely different. They are all killers, fanatic and sectarians….

Last Thursday, the fighters attacked the right bank of the Tigris river. The army used planes and mortars in the fight, in a crowded residential area. The bombardment cut the power and water supply and sparked panic among the locals. Many civilians were killed.”

As always, extremist elements thrive where the "legitimate" authority is repressive and corrupt. (And in this case, implanted by foreign aggression.) The same dynamic was played out by the Taliban in Afghanistan, after the withdrawal of the Soviet forces that had been supporting, brutally, the secular government. The Soviets were forced out by a resistance led by violent sectarian extremists -- armed and supported by the Americans and their Saudi allies (such as Osama bin Laden). This led to years of ruinous chaos as warlords tore apart what was left of the country after the Soviet departure; many who later had cause to regret the Taliban’s ascendancy at first applauded their highly disciplined restoration of order.

This is evident in the current situation in Iraq as well, as illustrated by the quotes above. The welcome relief from corruption and chaos now will likely give way to dread and repression as ISIS — adherents to the Cult of Violence — impose the same kind of forcible domination as Maliki and his American predecessors. As the Guardian reports:

Isis has been handing out flyers in the towns it has seized assuring residents who have remained that it is there to protect their interests. The campaign for hearts and minds is gaining some traction, with some residents railing against perceived injustices at the hands of the Shia majority government. But yesterday it said it would introduce sharia law in Mosul and other towns, warning women to stay indoors and threatening to cut off the hands of thieves. "People, you have tried secular regimes ... This is now the era of the Islamic State," it proclaimed.

In retrospect, the American intervention in Afghanistan in the late 70s looks more and more like the linchpin of the modern era, the decisive event that gave rise to a multitude of later evils (much like the mobilisations of 1914 -- the blind exacerbation and amplification of a local crisis -- was the fatal pivot of the 20th century, seeding the even greater horrors of World War II). Here too, as in so many situations in our time, a distorted story was invented to paint America’s dark and deadly realpolitik as a bright cartoon of the Shining City vs. Pure Motiveless Evil. Americans were sold the false story of Kremlin Hitlers swooping down for no reason on the simple rustics of Afghanistan — the opening salvo in what we were told was surely a diabolical campaign of world conquest.

The truth was nothing like that. The Soviets were, of course, invited into Afghanistan by the Communist-run government in Kabul — a rather nasty and ineffective regime, to be sure — as it struggled with internal factional conflict and, more importantly, with a well-armed insurgency of Islamic fundamentalists opposed to the government’s modernization and secularization — including emancipation for women. The decision to accede to the Afghan government’s request and greatly increase the already existing number of Soviet military advisors was hotly debated in the Politburo. In the end, the reluctant decision was made to support the troublesome Afghan government. (The story is well told in Rodric Braithwaite’s book, Afgantsy.)

America’s meddling pre-dated the Soviet “invasion” of 1979. In fact, the “invasion” was a response to America’s horrifically short-sighted fomenting of violent Islamic extremism. The saintly Jimmy Carter and his Kissinger manqué, Zbigniew Brzezinski, decided they could give the Soviet Union “its own Vietnam” by luring it into an intractable guerrilla conflict in Afghanistan — as Brzezinski has proudly confirmed many times. So they joined with Saudi Arabia and other allies to create a worldwide network of heavily armed, well-funded Islamic extremists: the ultimate seed-bed of groups like al Qaeda, the Taliban, Zarqawi’s faction and ISIS.

These events don’t just arise, stir trouble for awhile, then go away. They have lasting effects, reverberating down through the years and bearing malignant fruit in a myriad of unexpected ways. We are all still paying the costs of Jimmy and Zbig’s murderously ignorant Great Gaming more than 30 years ago. Likewise, the Iraq War did not just go away when American forces finally pulled out less than three years ago. Although the country disappeared from the American consciousness, the destructive forces inflicted and unleashed upon the conquered land continued to ravage the lives of ordinary, innocent people there (and in America), leaving them in chaos, bitterness, hopelessness and despair. What is happening now was inevitable, in one form or another.

But our rulers — these pathetic, third-rate minds (for all their elite educations), lacking the imagination or the will or the desire to look beyond the blinkered constrictions of their imperialist worldview — have learned nothing from the past three years, or the past 30 years. It’s unlikely that Barack Obama will send American troops back to Iraq, but he will almost certainly take some kind of action, in his desperation to look “tough” to his critics, and to stave off the accusation of “losing” Iraq to “the terrorists.” Already the Idiot Choir of the political-media class is placing the blame for the current turn of events on the fact that America did not retain a troop presence in Iraq — as if THIS was the great error, the great “failure” of American policy, instead of the decision to invade the country in the first place.

(And also forgetting, as Cole points out, that the Iraqis themselves would not have accepted a continuing American presence; Maliki’s own hold on power depended on his image as a leader of a “sovereign,” independent nation, even as his power was entirely beholden to a political system set up by invaders. And of course, a continuing American presence during the past three years would have provoked even more resistance, more attacks on the American troops, more “force protection” by the occupiers, more raids, more atrocities, provoking more resistance — the same insane cycle we saw throughout the original occupation.)

But it’s pointless to dwell on the hair-splitting schisms of these fanatics of the Violence Cult. We already know that whatever response they come up with will adhere to the Cult’s orthodoxy: it will be violent, it will involve the death and suffering of innocent people, it will breed more chaos and extremism, and it will exacerbate the very problems it is ostensibly trying to resolve. These are the only results the Cult can produce; and there is no one in power — or even near power — in America who is not an adherent of the Cult.

And so the suffering — the pointless anguish and ruin — will go on.

Unearthed: The Fracking Facade

Unearthed: The Fracking Facade

by Jolynn Minnaar

Independent feature documentary investigating shale gas extraction from a global perspective to understand what fracking could mean to South Africa.

Karoo, South Africa.

As this sparsely populated region considers introducing shale gas drilling, filmmaker Jolynn Minnaar at first keeps an open mind. After all, the community is impoverished, with very high unemployment and bleak prospects, and could do with a booming industry. Armed with nothing more than her inquisitive nature and a camera, she soon finds herself travelling to America, to the frontline of the fracking industry. What she discovers is a bleak landscape, where powerful energy companies have exploited the land, at a terrible cost to both the environment and the health of the local communities. It's a world where ill families are either desperate to talk, or bound by nondisclosure agreements that allow the companies to control a dangerous mythology. Minaar's journey into America's heart of darkness is an absorbing primer on the fracking industry – and a necessary wake-up call to the rest of the world.

Canada's Hand in the Plunder of Western Sahara Revealed

Canadian complicity in illegal resource trade from Western Sahara detailed in new report

by Friends of Western Sahara, Victoria

Two of Canada’s leading agricultural fertilizer companies have been revealed as being among the largest importers of phosphate mineral rock from occupied Western Sahara. The trade is directly contributing to Morocco’s illegal occupation of the territory, considered to be Africa’s last colony after Spain abandoned it in 1975.

The m.v. Olympus finished unloading this week and is still in Vancouver Harbour, the m.v. Ultra Saskatoon is making its way north along the US west coast: Agrium Inc. may now be achieving its planned one million tonnes annual import of phosphates, the largest continuing volume by any company, anywhere.

The scope of Canadian involvement is detailed in a report made public today by the non-governmental organization Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) entitled P is for Plunder. The complete report can be found online at: and it lists the buyers, volumes, values and shipments from Morocco's export of phosphate rock from the territory. International law and the Geneva Conventions on War forbid the commercial exploitation of resources in occupied lands by the occupier.

The report presents the results of the tracking and analyzing of 98 bulk vessels over two years which called into the Atlantic coast of Western Sahara. During 2012 and 2013, Agrium Inc. and Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. imported numerous shipments into the port of Vancouver and Louisiana valued at more than $ 200 million. Although PotashCorp is listed as a Canadian company, it imports its illegal purchases to its plant in Louisiana, USA.

The report describes the scale of phosphate exports from Western Sahara and notes that half the original population of Saharawi remains in refugee camps with no access to the benefits of the trade. In 2013 Morocco sold 2.2 million tonnes at an estimated value of $330 million exported in 48 bulk vessels. The phosphates are mined in Boucraa and exported by Office Chérifien des Phosphates, a company wholly-owned by the Moroccan government.

“We estimate that Potash Corporation paid the Moroccan government more than $100 million in 2013 alone for a resource which is stolen from its legitimate owners, the Saharawi people. By doing this, PotashCorp is directly contributing to prolong the sufferings of the Saharawi, and complicates their legitimate efforts to gain independence, as they have right to”, states Erik Hagen, chair of WSRW.

The UN considers Western Sahara as the last colony in Africa. The phosphate rock of the territory is illegally exploited by the Moroccan government in Western Sahara, a territory it occupies under armed force and with widely reported human rights abuses. The exports are Morocco’s main source of income from the occupied territories. Representatives of the Saharawi people have been consistently outspoken against the trade, both in the UN, and to Canada’s Agrium Inc. and to Potash Corporation.

In the presentation of the report, Victoria Friends of Western Sahara joined with the Brussels-based and Australian Western Sahara Association in calling on corporations and governments to end the import trade, until human rights in Western Sahara are respected and the long-promised United Nations process for the Saharawi people to choose their political-legal status under the long accepted right of self-determination is achieved.

Theresa Wolfwood of Victoria recently visited the refugee camps in Algeria where Saharawi have been waiting for thirty-eight years to return to their homeland and be united in an independent state with their friends and families who are suffering under the harsh and repressive regime of Morocco. She says;

“It is shocking that our Canada Pension Plan invests in PotashCorp and Agrium, helping to perpetuate the illegal exploitation of resources and injustice to the Saharawi.” 

She notes that the pension plans of Norway and Sweden have divested from PotashCorp for these reasons.

Media Release-Communiqué June 12, 2014

Ms. Theresa Wolfwood, 
Friends of Western Sahara, Victoria

Uncle Sam Had You Already

Uncle Sam Doesn’t Want You -- He Already Has You: The Militarized Realities of Fortress America

by William J. Astore  -  TomDispatch 

I spent four college years in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and then served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. In the military, especially in basic training, you have no privacy. The government owns you. You’re “government issue,” just another G.I., a number on a dogtag that has your blood type and religion in case you need a transfusion or last rites. You get used to it. That sacrifice of individual privacy and personal autonomy is the price you pay for joining the military. Heck, I got a good career and a pension out of it, so don’t cry for me, America.

But this country has changed a lot since I joined ROTC in 1981, was fingerprinted, typed for blood, and otherwise poked and prodded. (I needed a medical waiver for myopia.) Nowadays, in Fortress America, every one of us is, in some sense, government issue in a surveillance state gone mad.

Unlike the recruiting poster of old, Uncle Sam doesn’t want you anymore -- he already has you. You’ve been drafted into the American national security state. That much is evident from Edward Snowden’s revelations.
Tomgram: William Astore, Drafted by the National Security State
On the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Brian Williams led off NBC Nightly News this way: “On our broadcast tonight, the salute to the warriors who stormed the beaches here in Normandy...” It’s such a commonplace of our American world, that word “warriors” for those in the U.S. military or, as is said time and again, our “wounded warriors” for those hurt in one of our many wars. This time, however, because it was applied to the vets of World War II, my father’s war, it stopped me in my tracks. For just a moment, I couldn’t help imagining what my father would have said, had anyone called him -- or any of the air commandos in Burma for whom he was “operations officer” -- a warrior. Though he’s been dead now for three decades, I don’t have a moment’s doubt that he would have thought it ridiculous. In World War I, America’s soldiers had been known as “doughboys.” In World War II, they were regularly (and proudly) called “dogfaces” or G.I. (for “government issue”) Joes, and their citizen-soldier likenesses were reflected in the tough but bedraggled figures of Willy and Joe, Bill Mauldin’s much beloved wartime cartoon foot soldiers on the long slog to Berlin.

And that was fitting for a civilian military, a draft military. It was down to earth. It was how you described people who had left civilian life with every intention of returning to it as soon as humanly possible, who thought the military a grim necessity of a terrible moment in history and that war, a terrible but necessary way to go. In those days, warriors would have been an alien term, the sort you associated with, say, Prussians.

My father volunteered just after the attack on Pearl Harbor and wasn’t demobilized until the war ended, but -- I remember it well in the years after -- while he took pride in his service, he maintained a typical and healthy American dislike (to put it politely) for what he called “the regular army” and George Washington would have called a “standing army.” He would have been amazed by the present American way of war and the propaganda universe we now live in when it comes to praising and elevating the U.S. military above the rest of society. He would have found it inconceivable that a president’s wife would go on a popular TV show -- I’m talking about Michelle Obama on "Nashville" -- and mix it up with fictional characters to laud for the umpteenth time America’s warriors and their service to the nation.

In Vietnam, of course, the term still wasn’t warrior, it was “grunt.” The elevation of the American soldier to the heavens of praise and bombast came significantly after the end of the citizen army, particularly with what retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and TomDispatch regular William Astore calls the new Fortress America mindset of the post-9/11 years and the ever more militarized world of constant war that went with it.

If only I could have picked up the phone, called my father, and heard the choice words he would have had for his newly elevated status as an American “warrior,” seven decades after Normandy. But not being able to, on that D-Day anniversary I did the next best thing and called a 90-year-old friend, who was on a ship off one of those blood-soaked beaches as the invasion began. Thinking back those 70 years with a certain pride, he remembered that the thing the foot soldiers of World War II resented most was saluting or saying “sir” to officers. No warriors they -- and no love for an eternal wartime either. Put another way, the farther we’ve come from our last great military victory, symbolized by the events of June 6, 1944, the more elevated the language for describing, or perhaps whitewashing, a new American way of war that, for pure failure, may have few matches. Tom

Uncle Sam Doesn’t Want You -- He Already Has You: The Militarized Realities of Fortress America

by William J. Astore

Your email? It can be read. Your phone calls? Metadata about them is being gathered. Your smartphone? It’s a perfect tracking device if the government needs to find you. Your computer? Hackable and trackable. Your server? It’s at their service, not yours.

Many of the college students I’ve taught recently take such a loss of privacy for granted. They have no idea what’s gone missing from their lives and so don’t value what they’ve lost or, if they fret about it at all, console themselves with magical thinking -- incantations like “I’ve done nothing wrong, so I’ve got nothing to hide.” They have little sense of how capricious governments can be about the definition of “wrong.”

Consider us all recruits, more or less, in the new version of Fortress America, of an ever more militarized, securitized country. Renting a movie? Why not opt for the first Captain America and watch him vanquish the Nazis yet again, a reminder of the last war we truly won? Did you head for a baseball park on Memorial Day? What could be more American or more innocent? So I hope you paid no attention to all those camouflaged caps and uniforms your favorite players were wearing in just another of an endless stream of tributes to our troops and veterans.

Let’s hear no whining about militarized uniforms on America’s playing fields. After all, don’t you know that America’s real pastime these last years has been war and lots of it?

Be a Good Trooper

Think of the irony. The Vietnam War generated an unruly citizen’s army that reflected an unruly and increasingly rebellious citizenry. That proved more than the U.S. military and our ruling elites could take. So President Nixon ended the draft in 1973 and made America’s citizen-soldier ideal, an ideal that had persisted for two centuries, a thing of the past. The “all-volunteer military,” the professionals, were recruited or otherwise enticed to do the job for us. No muss, no fuss, and it’s been that way ever since. Plenty of war, but no need to be a “warrior,” unless you sign on the dotted line. It’s the new American way.

But it turned out that there was a fair amount of fine print in the agreement that freed Americans from those involuntary military obligations. Part of the bargain was to “support the pros” (or rather “our troops”) unstintingly and the rest involved being pacified, keeping your peace, being a happy warrior in the new national security state that, particularly in the wake of 9/11, grew to enormous proportions on the taxpayer dollar. Whether you like it or not, you’ve been drafted into that role, so join the line of recruits and take your proper place in the garrison state.

If you’re bold, gaze out across the increasingly fortified and monitored borders we share with Canada and Mexico. (Remember when you could cross those borders with no hassle, not even a passport or ID card? I do.) Watch for those drones, home from the wars and already hovering in or soon to arrive in your local skies -- ostensibly to fight crime. Pay due respect to your increasingly up-armored police forces with their automatic weapons, their special SWAT teams, and their converted MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles). These vintage Iraqi Freedom vehicles are now military surplus given away or sold on the cheap to local police departments. Be careful to observe their draconian orders for prison-like “lockdowns” of your neighborhood or city, essentially temporary declarations of martial law, all for your safety and security.

Be a good trooper and do what you’re told. Stay out of public areas when you’re ordered to do so. Learn to salute smartly. (It’s one of the first lessons I was taught as a military recruit.) No, not that middle-finger salute, you aging hippie. Render a proper one to those in authority. You had best learn how.

Or perhaps you don’t even have to, since so much that we now do automatically is structured to render that salute for us. Repeated singings of “God Bless America” at sporting events. Repeated viewings of movies that glorify the military. (Special Operations forces are a hot topic in American multiplexes these days from Act of Valor to Lone Survivor.) Why not answer the call of duty by playing militarized video games like Call of Duty? Indeed, when you do think of war, be sure to treat it as a sport, a movie, a game.

Surging in America

I’ve been out of the military for nearly a decade, and yet I feel more militarized today than when I wore a uniform. That feeling first came over me in 2007, during what was called the “Iraqi surge” -- the sending of another 30,000 U.S. troops into the quagmire that was our occupation of that country. It prompted my first article for TomDispatch. I was appalled by the way our civilian commander-in-chief, George W. Bush, hid behind the beribboned chest of his appointed surge commander, General David Petraeus, to justify his administration’s devolving war of choice in Iraq. It seemed like the eerie visual equivalent of turning traditional American military-civilian relationships upside down, of a president who had gone over to the military. And it worked. A cowed Congress meekly submitted to “King David” Petraeus and rushed to cheer his testimony in support of further American escalation in Iraq.

Since then, it’s become a sartorial necessity for our presidents to don military flight jackets whenever they address our “warfighters” as a sign both of their “support” and of the militarization of the imperial presidency. (For comparison, try to imagine Matthew Brady taking a photo of “honest Abe” in the Civil War equivalent of a flight jacket!) It is now de rigueur for presidents to praise American troops as “the finest military in world history” or, as President Obama typically said to NBC’s Brian Williams in an interview from Normandy last week, “the greatest military in the world.” Even more hyperbolically, these same troops are celebrated across the country in the most vocal way possible as hardened “warriors” and benevolent freedom-bringers, simultaneously the goodest and the baddest of anyone on the planet -- and all without including any of the ugly, as in the ugliness of war and killing. Perhaps that explains why I’ve seen military recruitment vans (sporting video game consoles) at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Given that military service is so beneficent, why not get the country’s 12-year-old prospects hopped up on the prospect of joining the ranks?

Too few Americans see any problems in any of this, which shouldn’t surprise us. After all, they’re already recruits themselves. And if the prospect of all this does appall you, you can’t even burn your draft card in protest, so better to salute smartly and obey. A good conduct medal will undoubtedly be coming your way soon.

It wasn’t always so. I remember walking the streets of Worcester, Massachusetts, in my freshly pressed ROTC uniform in 1981. It was just six years after the Vietnam War ended in defeat and antiwar movies like Coming Home, The Deer Hunter, and Apocalypse Now were still fresh in people’s minds. (First Blood and the Rambo “stab-in-the-back” myth wouldn’t come along for another year.) I was aware of people looking at me not with hostility, but with a certain indifference mixed occasionally with barely disguised disdain. It bothered me slightly, but even then I knew that a healthy distrust of large standing militaries was in the American grain.

No longer. Today, service members, when appearing in uniform, are universally applauded and repetitiously lauded as heroes.

I’m not saying we should treat our troops with disdain, but as our history has shown us, genuflecting before them is not a healthy sign of respect. Consider it a sign as well that we really are all government issue now.

Shedding a Militarized Mindset

If you think that’s an exaggeration, consider an old military officer’s manual I still have in my possession. It’s vintage 1950, approved by that great American, General George C. Marshall, Jr., the man most responsible for our country’s victory in World War II. It began with this reminder to the newly commissioned officer: “[O]n becoming an officer a man does not renounce any part of his fundamental character as an American citizen. He has simply signed on for the post-graduate course where one learns how to exercise authority in accordance with the spirit of liberty.” That may not be an easy thing to do, but the manual’s aim was to highlight the salutary tension between military authority and personal liberty that was the essence of the old citizen’s army.

It also reminded new officers that they were trustees of America’s liberty, quoting an unnamed admiral’s words on the subject: “The American philosophy places the individual above the state. It distrusts personal power and coercion. It denies the existence of indispensable men. It asserts the supremacy of principle.”

Those words were a sound antidote to government-issue authoritarianism and militarism -- and they still are. Together we all need to do our bit, not as G.I. Joes and Janes, but as Citizen Joes and Janes, to put personal liberty and constitutional principles first. In the spirit of Ronald Reagan, who told Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this [Berlin] wall,” isn’t it time to begin to tear down the walls of Fortress America and shed our militarized mindsets? Future generations of citizens will thank us, if we have the courage to do so.

William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and TomDispatch regular, edits the blog The Contrary Perspective.

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Copyright 2014 William J. Astore