Saturday, April 30, 2016

Viewing the US Presidential Circus from the Middle East

US Presidential Elections: A View from the Middle East

by Sharmine Narwani - RT

April 30, 2016

Although the era of US global hegemony is coming to a close, the Middle East – more than most regions – is still reeling from the nasty last jabs of that Empire in decline.

It is little wonder, then, that the US presidential election season is scrutinized carefully in all corners of the Mideast.

Over here, the debate over the likely victor is less about economic, political and social projects than it is about which candidate is least likely to launch wars against us.

Anecdotally, there seems to be a consensus that Hillary Clinton would be the worst for the region, though of course – like in the United States – that perception changes dramatically when the conversation is with regional elites and ‘liberals.’

And just like their American counterparts, Middle Easterners get bogged down in arguments about Donald Trump’s ‘racism,’ Bernie Sanders’ ‘viability’ and Clinton’s ‘hawkishness.’ Media, after all, has never been more uniform in its pronouncements – we all, universally, receive the same talking points.

But US Presidential Election 2016 means a lot more than US polls in decades past. From the Levant to the Persian Gulf to North Africa, borders have never been so frayed, terrorism so pervasive, security and resources so threatened.

The Middle East is a wretched mess. And at the heart of each and every one of these quagmires stands the United States, imposing itself, its military ‘expertise’ and its humanitarian ‘do-gooding’ into our suffering. Ironically, perhaps, there are few problems in the Mideast that have not been caused or exacerbated by the destructive hand of US foreign policy.

The last playground

The Middle East is the last global playground where the US can act with impunity. Part of the reason for this is that most of the two dozen states that make up the region are still headed by US-backed dictators and monarchs – American proxies that prioritize Washington’s interests over those of its citizenry. The US plays hard in this region because it wishes to maintain this remarkably favorable status quo, which it has lost virtually everywhere else.

Even as the Cold War was drawing to a close - vanquishing the old Soviet bloc proxy leaders in the Mideast and replacing them with US-friendly ones - the 1979 Iranian Revolution flipped the region once more, ushering in a new framework for independence from the ‘Anglo imperialist.’

In the aftermath of Iraq’s war with Iran, which had placed Iranian aspirations on hold for eight long, destructive years, Tehran began to forge regional relationships that formed the underpinnings of a new Axis of Resistance to US and Western hegemonic ambitions.

The US expanded its military role in the Middle East mainly to eradicate this ‘Shia’ thorn in its side – but it has not only failed to do so with each consecutive US administration, it has willfully unleashed the well-contained demons of sectarianism to achieve this goal.

Hello, Sunni Wahhabi fundamentalism. Hello, Al Qaeda. Hello, ISIS.

Why even get into this recent history? It’s important for one main reason. Even as the US now turns its guns on the Frankenstein monster it created from its invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now its intervention in Syria… Washington also has its guns aimed at Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and other entities that are fighting this very terrorism.

When Trump debuted his foreign policy vision earlier this week, he pointed out that current US policy was “reckless, rudderless and aimless” – “one that has blazed the path of destruction in its wake.”

It’s all we’ve heard in recent years – certainly since the start of the Arab ‘uprisings’ – with pundits and commentators alike scratching their heads in confusion over US goals in the region.
American policy is not confused – it is very deliberate. Get your head around this: Washington seeks to thwart the Iranian-led axis by unleashing sectarian, Wahhabi-influenced extremists into parts of the region viewed as Iran’s strategic depth, AND it seeks to counter the proliferation of these extremists by reaching out to Iran, tactically – hence the sudden P5+1 nuclear deal in the midst of all this conflict.

This is what I call America’s “strategic dissonance” – playing both sides to engineer protracted conflict in an effort to gradually drive the two sides into extinction.

Only problem is the unpredictability of it all – and the ensuing chaos, destruction and terrorism that has now poured over these borders into Europe and beyond.

Mr. America versus Ms. Beltway

It is clear that this strategic dissonance has once more led to an American “unintended consequence.” It is equally clear that it will take nothing less than a sledgehammer to alter the destructive bent of US foreign policy.

What’s interesting about this election year is that voters have put their backs behind unlikely candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, mostly, it seems, to buck the establishment.

The two long-shot candidates have delivered scathing reviews of Beltway politicos and the ‘interest groups’ that prop them up – foreign and domestic, both.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton – the ‘deserving’ establishment candidate who was a shoo-in until a few short months ago – has had to fight for every vote in her contests with Democratic Party newcomer Sanders.

And the easiest blows against Clinton have been in the foreign policy arena, where the Beltway hawk has a long record of backing the wrong plan – in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria.

In the Mideast, Clinton’s militaristic leanings scuttle any goodwill one would otherwise have for a Democratic Party candidate. Egyptians lobbed tomatoes, shoes and water bottles at her motorcade when the then-secretary of state made an appearance after the ousting of longtime US ally President Hosni Mubarak.

It was under her stewardship at the Department of State when “foreign hands” began to make their marks on the Arab uprisings – none to the benefit of the Arab masses.

Her support for the ill-conceived US invasion of Iraq, which led to the establishment of Al Qaeda in that country, is a constant refrain here in the Mideast – much as it is in the United States. And her refusal to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of US military intervention in Libya remain proof that she never learned from Iraq.

Like him or not, Clinton’s maniacal laughter over Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s violent death as she sanguinely declared “We came, we saw, he died,” has been forever imprinted on our collective memories.

We have since learned that US President Barack Obama’s decision to militarily intervene in Libya came down to her vote. Libyan blood cannot be washed off those hands.

And now Clinton wants to escalate in Syria by carving out a “safe zone” – which is how her Libyan adventure started.

If Clinton suffers from a likeability problem in the US, she is downright reviled in the Mideast – except among the usual suspects which include dictators, monarchs and other super-wealthy elites who have either contributed to the Clinton Foundation or are desperate to maintain their cushy positions within a US-dominated region.

Then there’s Trump

The highly controversial billionaire businessman Donald Trump has been roundly bashed in this region for his prejudicial comments against Muslims, but there’s a quiet parade of thinkers in the Mideast – from Arab nationalists to progressives to intellectuals – who have been casting coy second glances his way.

“Trump can turn the system upside down,” says a leading Lebanon-based Arab nationalist. “He’s his own man, he will not be dragged into the trappings of the deep state,” says an influential writer.
“Who else is willing to put the brakes on NATO, disengage from lousy alliances, hook up with Putin and others to fight terrorism the right way, prioritize diplomacy over military options? Not Clinton, no way,” a college student rants.

There is that.

Unlike Clinton, there’s not much we know about Trump. He has no foreign policy record, except of course his non-stop reminder that he opposed the US invasion of Iraq and warned that it would be a “disaster.”

But if you’re going to take a chance on a candidate – if you’re going to try to read between the lines of campaign promises – I suggest taking the unconventional, risky declarations more seriously than predictable, voter-friendly platitudes like “I support the state of Israel unconditionally.”

And Trump has some doozies.

On key US ally Saudi Arabia, arguably ground zero for the militant extremism rampant in the region – and a country that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says was prepared to “fight the Iranians to the last American” – Trump warns that he might halt purchases of Saudi oil unless Riyadh commits ground troops to the ISIS fight. His comments mirror those of Gates – as disclosed in a 2010 Wikileaks cable – who said of the Saudis that it “is time for them to get in the game.”

“If Saudi Arabia was without the cloak of American protection, I don’t think it would be around,” suggests Trump, quite correctly.

On Russia, Syria and US support of rebels:

“Putin does not want ISIS. The rebel groups… we have no idea who these people are. We’re training people, we don’t know who they are… we’re giving them billions of dollars to fight Assad… If you look at Libya, look what we did there, it’s a mess. If you look at Saddam Hussein, with Iraq, look at what we did there, it’s a mess…”

In what seemed like a swipe at US support of questionable militants in Syria and elsewhere, Trump says:

“We need to be clear sighted about the groups that will never be anything other than enemies. And believe me, we have groups that no matter what you do, they will be the enemy. We have to be smart enough to recognize who those groups are, who those people are, and not help them.”

Asked if the Mideast would be more secure if Saddam and Gaddafi were still around and Assad were stronger, Trump boldly declares: “It’s not even a contest…Of course it would be.”

And this:

“I like that Putin is bombing the hell out of ISIS. Putin has to get rid of ISIS because Putin doesn’t want ISIS coming into Russia.”

In short…

Trump is an unknown quantity, but he is delivering some home truths to restive voters in an unconventional election year.

Clinton is the quintessential establishment candidate, the sure-thing that voters wish they could like, who is running for president at the wrong time for a beltway insider.

Trump has defied all the odds thus far, and there is no reason he can’t continue to do that all the way to the White House. Whether or not he can keep surprising once he is there is anyone’s guess. Will he become co-opted by the system? Will he strike down entrenched Washington dogmas with his trademark arrogance? Nobody knows.

If Trump runs against Clinton, his campaign mantra has to be “Clinton: tons of experience, no judgment.” It’s pretty much the only way he can compete with a seasoned politician who is sure to throw his inexperience back in his face at every opportunity.

For the Mideast, this is not the time to pick the ‘devil we know.’ We know how that story ends every single time: destabilization, chaos, terrorism.

Trump is definitely the lesser evil, whichever way one looks at it. He simply cannot be worse than her.

But there is one solitary upside to a Clinton presidency. If Hillary Clinton is the next president of the United States… we will see the world shift decisively into a new multi-polar order. The battle over Syria became a red line for the Russians, Chinese and Iranians, and they placed protective arms around key states, in turn forging closer relations with each other – some of these, military dimensions – and with a number of other ‘middle powers’ that threatened to up-end US hegemonic ambitions once and for all.

Imagine then, the reactions of Russia, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and other states irked by US-backed destabilizing campaigns, if a hawk like Clinton is ensconced in the White House.We’ll slip into a new world order faster than you can say 'Goldman Sachs.'

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony's College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online,, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani

Another Peace Prize Fiasco? No White Hats (or Helmets) in Syria

VIDEO: Syria ‘White Helmets’ Exposed and Petition to Prevent their Nomination for Nobel Peace Prize

by Vanessa Beeley - 21st Century Wire

April 30, 2016

As the Syrian battle front rages in Aleppo, the ‘White Helmets’ are emerging even more strongly as part of the long arm of US and UK propaganda in Syria. The Manhattan campaign managers at Purpose Inc have sprung into action. Red is the new black on Facebook and “Aleppo is burning” is the new slogan. White Helmets are in every video and photograph being circulated by western and gulf media.

We will be writing a series of articles to cover rapidly developing events. White Helmet leader, Raed Saleh, recently deported from the US, is top of our list but as usual our research has uncovered more than we bargained for. Watch this space.

The following video was made by Steve Ezzedine for Hands Off Syria and using the research in these 21st Century Articles:

Syria’s White Helmets: War by Way of Deception Part I

Part II: Syria’s White Helmets – Way by Way of Deception ~ “Moderate” Executioners

Humanitarian Propaganda War against Syria ~ Led by Avaaz and the White Helmets

George Soros: Anti-Syria Campaign Impresario

Today, however, let us consider the White Helmets and their potential nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.

Syrian White Helmet and Al Qaeda fighter.

Yes, you heard that correctly. The UK and US funded 5th columnists embedded in terrorist held areas across Syria have reached the dizzying heights of Nobel Peace Prize nomination while acting as crisis support team for Al Qaeda operatives, Jabhat Al Nusra.

UK Column Interview with Vanessa Beeley

Nobel Peace Prize for Al Qaeda?

If you vehemently disagree with this nomination please go to the Syria Solidarity Movment petition and sign accordingly. The petition has deliberately been posted on the same site and in lock step with the petition raised to promote the Syria White Helmets nomination.




Author Vanessa Beeley is a contributor to 21WIRE, and since 2011, she has spent most of her time in the Middle East reporting on events there – as a independent researcher, writer, photographer and peace activist. She is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Syria Solidarity Movement, and a volunteer with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. See more of her work at her blog The Wall Will Fall.

READ MORE WHITE HELMETS NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire White Helmet Files

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Fight to Divvy Up Libya's Oil Spoils

Splitting the Libyan Spoils

by Inside Intelligence with Southern Pulse -

29th April 2016

Politics, Geopolitics & Conflict

Let’s get Libya out of the way first. It should not be necessary to mention this, and in general we find it inadvisable to comment on foreign policy issues brought up by the campaigning of Donald Trump; however, because the U.S. intelligence community has seen fit to respond, we will note only that the Islamic State (ISIS) is not known to be selling Libyan oil. It has not made it that far.

There is also the question of what ISIS would actually do with a major oilfield. It can manage small ones, but does not have the capacity to run a big one.

Right now, their tactic is to threaten the big fields in order to use that as leverage to throw a wrench in unity government negotiations.

Moving on to what’s really going on in Libya, control of the country’s oil reserves is indeed in question. ISIS is not the biggest threat in this respect. The eastern “government” in Tobruk is using its own branch of the Libyan National Oil Company (of Benghazi) to attempt to export oil unilaterally. It has in fact sent out its first cargo, bound for Malta; however, Malta is not allowing the cargo to dock and the UN has blacklisted the tanker carrying it.

It’s since been ordered back to Libya, but it’s not going to offload its precious cargo without direct orders from the UN.

The other Libyan government (the second of three) based in and controlling the capital, Tripoli, had vowed to block this export move. So far, it’s winning this phase of the battle. Whoever controls Libya’s oil, controls the government because its revenues are almost entirely dependent on oil.

Right now, Libya has three governments and two National Oil Companies and two Central Banks—one each in Tripoli and Tobruk. That leaves the third government—the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA)—in a tight spot because it needs the support of both in reality, for any stability to emerge.

On 30 March, the GNA’s UN-backed Prime Minister-designate, Serraj, showed up in Tripoli feeling a bit overconfident after the US and a handful of European countries recognized it as the legitimate government of Libya. They did this without any endorsement from the eastern government based in Tobruk, and without any support from the military factions of Libya. So basically, the GNA and the UN tried to move into Tripoli without any real backing, but they have made some headway (what price they paid for that, we’re not sure).

On 25 April, the GNA took over the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli (and seven other ministries). In the meantime, the government in Tobruk has still not endorsed a GNA cabinet. So Tobruk’s move to export oil was immediately thwarted.

The GNA, then, has largely won over the Central Bank and the NOC in Tripoli, and somehow managed to get past the Islamist-leaning government in Tripoli along the way, but the previously favored government in the east (the internationally recognized one) is playing hard to get and its own NOC is trying to export oil alone.

Where the media-reading public probably gets confused is in the alliances here, which are anything but black and white and everything about divvying up the spoils. Readers tend to assume that the eastern NOC is the “good guy” in this scenario because, after all, it was the eastern Tobruk-based government that was “internationally recognized”, while Tripoli was being controlled by an Islamist-leaning government, which everyone in the West immediately associates with the “enemy” in a knee-jerk reaction. However, it with the NOCs and the Central Banks that it gets trickier.

The Tripoli-based NOC and Central Bank have remained recognized as the legitimate branches of these institutions despite Libya Dawn’s control over the capital city, which did not extend fully into the NOC or Central Bank. Tobruk overstepped by trying to make an independent go at oil exports through a parallel NOC.

Shaking Off the End of Time

End of Time?

by Mazin Qumsiyeh - Palestine Museum of Natural History

Basil Al-Araj is in a Palestinian jail. He is a young Palestinian pharmacist who had worked at a pharmacy in Shufat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem. I knew him because he is from Al-Walaja, a village that was struggling as “Israel” builds a wall around the remaining houses of the village (already 90% of the residents are refugees elsewhere).

Village wells and lands were stolen by the Israeli colonizers starting in 1948 and continuing till today.

Basil had a love of Palestine and a hatred of injustice. Like most young people they searched for ways to act on their convictions. He participated in nonviolent demonstrations at his village but was not satisfied with their outcome. He read my book on “Popular Resistance in Palestine” in Arabic and gave me his feedback. He said he learned much about history of the Palestinian struggle. He said the book’s Arabic could use some editing. He worked briefly as a researcher for the Palestinian museum after he lost his job in Shufat.

He tried other methods of action. He and a few others tried to block the main road near the colony of Maale Adumim. He and I and four others were the six Palestinian Freedom riders arrested in 2011 while demonstrating Israeli apartheid policies [1].
These demonstrative actions were born of good intentions to help bring us closer to freedom. I always lamented even as I participated in such actions how the Palestinian leadership betrayed its people leaving young and old a sense “orphaned of leadership”. I worried not that the Palestinian cause will die (I am by nature optimistic) but that the selfishness, ego, and incompetence of self-declared leaders can only delay the inevitable freedom and dispirit a population otherwise willing and able to liberate itself.
Now Basil and two friends of his have been arrested by the Palestinian Authority and the news is buzzing that they had planned/plotted for an armed attack against the Israeli occupation. If this is true (and I have my doubts), it would add to our conviction that the policies of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (acting as sub-contractor for the occupation) are failing and the choices faced by a whole new disenfranchised young
generation will be difficult.

Israeli colonial invaders bombed, injured and killed many Palestinians including attacks on the mayors of Nablus and Hebron during the 1987-1992 uprising. After the Oslo process the Israeli security service did detain a very large Jewish terrorist group that had caused much deaths and injuries. They even caught them red-handed as they tried to plant bombs on Palestinian buses. However, an amnesty bill was passed in the Knesset, signed by the Israeli prime minister and the Jewish terrorists released just before the assassination of Yizhak Rabin.

The assassin did change history as now it is impossible for any Israeli leader to show any courage or dignity to go against the racist colonial settler mentality [2].

Basil and his colleagues are doomed to suffer since we are told that the Palestinian authority is bound by its pledges of service to Israeli security even though Israel is not bound by any agreements it signed.[3]

Israel benefited tremendously from Oslo process and completely ignores its obligations (meager as they are under the agreement). Its profits from the occupation rose sharply (400-500%) after Oslo. Now Israel makes at least $12 billions a year from the occupation and that is not counting the land and water it steals. Meanwhile Israeli terrorists with blood on their hands roam freely in the colonial apartheid system.

That system gets support from selfish western leaders who Israeli intelligence learned how to “domesticate” with carrot and stick approach. Money and media coverage can be used both to help elect a candidate and help demolish a candidate especially when combined with “skeletons hiding in their closets”.

But I always come back to what WE can do. It sometimes feels frustrating to be running against corrupt systems that are ruthless and inhumane [4]. But we are heartened by growth of solidarity (and BDS) around the world [5].

I am finishing a visit to Siena, Italy where I gave several talks. The reception and interest in helping is great. In fact only one Jewish Zionist was encountered and she merely reiterated long discredited “talking points” that only harmed her own cause (of support for an apartheid racist regime). What I find amazing is that there is indeed “civility” still widespread even as neoliberal/neocolonial world order dominates politics (in Italy, US, Palestine etc).

I am reading this book I received as a gift from a chair at the University of Siena. The book by Enzo Tiezzi is called “The End of Time” and it is remarkable in its diagnosis of what ails planet earth today. It does have an optimistic leaning in that we humans can and will (hopefully) make the right choices to save our planet. Time is not on our side; there is urgency to the matter. We must act NOW on issues like global climate change and global inequality and poverty. Tomorrow it will be harder than today which is already more difficult than yesterday!

That is why some of us are focused not just on political revolution (needed as that is) but on cultural and educational and an environmental revolution (basically a change in human behavior). Our own small contribution in the latter part is now channeled via the Palestine Museum of Natural History and Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability, both at Bethlehem University (see

Our challenge remains to get more people out of apathy and to get more energy out of already active people towards what I called 15 years ago “a global intifada” (intifada literally means shaking off but most commonly translated as “uprising”). Our challenge is to organize and act better in our own small spheres which coalesce together to effect the needed (existential) change.

[1] see
[2] See this excellent documentary on how Israeli “security forces” work in a colonial system: The Gatekeeper
[3] At 80, Failed Abbas is Probed, Derided and Scapegoated
[4] see this video of Israeli ministers threatening BDS Activists
and here is a good analysis of what this means:
[5] if you simply google Palestine Solidarity, you get 4.7 MILLION website hits! For example here is the most listened to Radio show in Luxemberg covering a recent visit to Palestine by some colleagues from that small state (with pictures) Wéi gesäit et mam Fridden am Noen Osten aus?

 Stay Human and do come visit us in Palestine

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sending Something Back for the Server

Something for the Server: Keeping the Burlesque Kicking  

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

26 April 2016

As long-time readers know, the Empire Burlesque website is a bespoke creation of our remarkable webmaster, Richard Kastelein. He approached me years ago and offered to build a website from scratch and host it on a private server, which would keep it free from government or corporate interference. That’s just what he did, and he has kept it running in high gear for 11 years now. However, as we all know, freedom ain’t never free. The private server costs money to maintain (and defend from attacks), and for all these years this cost has been borne entirely by Rich, who also hosts a number of other important sites on it.

It’s a sacrifice he’s been glad to make — such is the measure of the man — but it is a sacrifice, a financial burden that continually mounts up. So the writers who benefit from all of his hard work and creativity are pitching in to try to ease that burden in a straitened time. In addition to our own contributions, we are inviting readers to show their appreciation for Rich’s work with a small contribution as well. It’s very simple. Just press the button, and any donation will go straight to the server costs.

Both Rich and I are always leery of asking readers for contributions. We know that the kind of people who read Empire Burlesque are not the ruthless profiteers of this world, with plenty of spare cash lying around to spend at a whim. So, as always, we ask you to consider giving only what you can give, without straining your own resources.

I am even more leery of asking for contributions, of course, because I’ve not been blogging very much, for quite some time. And once again, I apologize for the dearth of posts. There are personal reasons for this, but I do hope to start blogging on a more sustained basis again soon. (Although I know I’ve said that before, too!) With current constraints on time and energy for full-scale blogging, I have been trying to keep my hand in with occasional short observations on Twitter (@empireburlesque). But that is not exactly a forum for working out one’s thoughts and ideas with any depth or nuance. So I hope to return to more regular blogging as soon as I can.

And that’s why I’m even more cognizant of the sacrifices Rich has made and is making for this blog. He continues to host and improve the blog even as I’ve provided precious little in the way of content. So I am very happy for this chance to help do whatever I can to ease some of the financial burden of the server costs.

So again, if you can — and if you take a notion — do think of pitching a few coins into the server bucket.


Media Disinformation and Co-opting the “Progressive Left”

Media Disinformation and America's Wars - Liars vs. Truthers: The “Progressive Left” Has Been Co-opted

by Mark Taliano - Global Research

April 28, 2016
Well-documented facts pertaining to the 9/11 wars, all supported by sustainable evidence, have barely made inroads into the collective consciousness of Western media consumers.

The War on Syria is no exception. Despite the presence of five years of sustainable evidence that contradicts the Western narratives, people still believe the “official” lies.

The consensus of ignorance is sustained by what Michel Chossudovsky describes as an “American Inquisition”. Beneath the protection of this psychological operation, the engineered enemy is Islam, and the Global War On Terrorism (GWOT) has become a brand to disguise imperial wars of aggression as “humanitarian”.

Thus, huge sums of public monies are diverted from worthwhile, domestic projects such as healthcare schools and roads, to support a criminal Project for a New American Century (PNAC) that is globalizing death, poverty, and destruction as the U.S led empire tries to impose a unilateral model of control over the world.

The U.S is said to be “exceptional”, and therefore the rightful ruler. Manifest Destiny writ large.

Dissent is suppressed within the framework of corporate media monopolies. Predominant narratives are supported by corrupt “NGOs” – totally bereft of objectivity — and intelligence agency “fronts”. Real investigative journalism offering historical context and legitimate evidence are relegated to the fringes, far outside the domain of the broad-based “consensus of misunderstanding.”

The “Progressive Left” has been co-opted. So-called “progressives” (presumably unwittingly) support Canada’s close relationships with Wahabbi Saudi Arabia, Apartheid Israel, and even the foreign mercenaries currently invading Syria (ie ISIS and al Nursra Front/al Qaeda).

The source upon which the pretexts for war are built and perpetrated are taboo topics, despite longstanding evidence that the official narratives explaining the crimes of 9/11 – and the subsequent “Gladio B” operations — are flawed. The truth is seen as “heresy”, and fact-based narratives are derided as “conspiracy theories”.

Thus, a firm foundation of lies that serves as a sanctified justification for global war and terror, remains strong.

But the stakes are high, as Western hegemony presses us closer and closer to a real prospect of widespread nuclear war. Already, the use of nuclear weapons is being “normalized” through the introduction of “mini-nukes” into the equation, and the blurring of lines between conventional and nuclear war.

Michel Chossudovsky explains in “Is the Bush Administration Planning a Nuclear Holocaust?|Will the US launch ‘Mini-nukes’ against Iran in Retaliation for Tehran’s ‘Non-compliance’?” that

The Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations outlines the procedures governing the use of nuclear weapons and the nature of the relationship between nuclear and conventional war operations.”

The DJNO states that the:

‘use of nuclear weapons within a [war] theater requires that nuclear and conventional plans be integrated to the greatest extent possible’  - (DJNO, p 47. For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Jan 2006 )

The implications of this ‘integration’ are far-reaching because once the decision is taken by the Commander in Chief, namely the President of the United States, to launch a joint conventional-nuclear military operation, there is a risk that tactical nuclear weapons could be used without requesting subsequent presidential approval. In this regard, execution procedures under the jurisdiction of the theater commanders pertaining to nuclear weapons are described as ‘flexible and allow for changes in the situation …’ ”

The taboos need to be lifted, and the repeated lies contradicted.

Some of the more pernicious lies covering the escalating war on the democratic republic of Syria include unsubstantiated memes that fit neatly into the propagandists’ toolbox of false representations, and of projecting the West’s crimes onto the victims (Syria and Syrians).

The War on Syria is not a “civil” war; the “uprising” was not “democratic”; Assad does not “starve his own people”; Assad, does not “bomb his own people”; Assad is the democratically-elected president of Syria, and not a “brutal dictator”.

Conclusive evidence demonstrates, and has demonstrated for years, that the war is an invasion by Western proxies, which include ISIS and al Qaeda/al Nursra Front, and that there are no “moderates”.

The initial uprisings were marred by foreign-backed violence perpetrated against innocent people, soldiers, and police. Peaceful grassroots protests were hijacked by these murderous foreign-backed elements (as was the case in Ukraine) – all consistent with “hybrid war” as elaborated by Andrew Korybko.

The illegal sanctions imposed by the West – including Canada – coupled with terrorist practices of theft and hoarding of humanitarian aid – are responsible for the starvation.

Assad is a democratically elected reformer, and hugely popular with Syrians, not a brutal dictator. Claims that he “kills his own people” were further debunked when the so-called “Caesar photos” evidence was proven to be a fraud.

Many Syrians criticize Assad for not carpet bombing terrorist occupied areas (as US occupiers did in Fallujah, for example). Syrians sometimes refer to Assad as “Mr. Soft Heart”.

Unfortunately, though, the well-documented truth is not widely accepted. We need to shatter the “Inquisition” which serves to protect the criminal cabal perpetrating and orchestrating this global catastrophe. Truth and justice must prevail over lies and crimes. Currently, the opposite is the case.

The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Mark Taliano, Global Research, 2016

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

In Broad Daylight: US Seizes Iranian Billions Held in Swiss Banks

Swiss Envoy Summoned over US Seizure of Iran's Assets

by Fars News Agency

April 26, 2016 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Swiss Ambassador to Tehran Giulio Hass in protest at the recent ruling by the US Supreme Court which authorized the transfer of $2 billion of Tehran's frozen assets to the families of the victims of a 1983 bombing in Beirut.

During the meeting held in Tehran on Tuesday at the invitation of Director-General of the Foreign Ministry's US Desk Mohammad Keshavarz-zadeh, he presented two official memos to Hass to protest at the US measure, describing it as a flagrant violation of the 1955 contract between the two countries, the US international legal undertakings and the judicial immunity of the Islamic Republic of Iran's properties.

Keshavarz-zadeh also underlined that the allegations raised against Iran on collaboration of the country's nationals in the September 11 attacks are ridiculous and against the accepted international laws.

Hass assured the Iranian foreign ministry diplomat that Iran's message would be conveyed to Washington and that he would also relay a response.

The Swiss embassy in Tehran represents the US Interests Section in Iran since Tehran and Washington severed diplomatic relations in 1980.

In relevant remarks today, Iranian Supreme Leader's Top Advisor for International Affairs Ali Akbar Velayati condemned the US court ruling, describing the act as a blatant instance of theft and "international robbery".

"The measure shows the US officials' contradictory remarks that they stress their commitment to undertakings and removal of sanctions in talks with the Iranian foreign minister on one hand and impose sanctions in other forms and rock the boat on the way of legal and free trade relations between Iran and other countries on the other hand," Velayati told reporters after meeting Swiss Deputy Foreign Minister Yves Rossier in Tehran.
"No doubt, this action is an international robbery and the Islamic Republic of Iran will insist on restoring its rights and will take its right from the Americans," he added.

Velayati underscored that the only way to confront the Americans is resistance against their excessiv

Also, on Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blasted the ruling, stressing that Iran doesn’t recognize the ruling.

"The US has long been taking decisions against Iran which contradict the international laws and the Americans have filed different lawsuits against Iran during the past years; (but) we don’t recognize the US courts' rulings," Zarif said in a joint press conference with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Poposki in Tehran.

Noting that he has raised the issue during his recent meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in New York on the sidelines of a UN conference, the Iranian top diplomat said,

"We see the US administration as the responsible body with regard to this issue and if they encroach (confiscate Iran's assets), we will claim compensation from the US administration."

Zarif also announced formation of a special committee in the government to study the US decision to transfer Iran's assets.

In 2012, the US Congress passed a law that specifically directed the US-based Citibank to turn over the Iranian assets to families of victims of the Beirut bombing.

Iran argues that Congress is intruding into the business of federal courts over the case. Tehran has long rejected allegations of involvement in the 1983 Beirut bombing.

The US Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that almost $2bn in frozen Iranian assets must be turned over to American families of people killed in the 1983 bombing of a US Marine Corps barracks in the Lebanese capital of Beirut and other attacks blamed on Iran.

Twisted Potlatch: The Pentagon Vision of Givin'

The Pentagon’s Twisted Potlatch

by John Feffer - CounterPunch

April 25, 2016

Among the Kwakiutl and several other indigenous cultures of the Pacific Northwest, the potlatch was a ritual of hospitality. The host would invite guests to a big feast and then distribute gifts. The distribution was a way of demonstrating the host’s status: the more significant the gifts, the more important the host. Think: swag bags for the pre-celebrity era.

Although this sophisticated social ritual reflected the host’s generosity and connectedness to the community, the potlatch could sometimes lead to a destructive one-upmanship.

“At times these contests would escalate to the point where the distribution of property became inadequate for the expression of a chief’s disregard for wealth and property,” writes anthropologist Neal Keating.
“The next step would be to actually destroy property, often by burning it up. He might burn up his canoes, or his house, or the entire village.”

The potlatch ceremony was not only about gift-giving. But the Canadian government, in instituting a ban on the activity in 1885 that lasted nearly 70 years, was particularly uncomfortable with the Native American approach to commodities. By existing outside the logic of capitalism, the potlatch served as a barrier to the assimilation of indigenous people into mainstream consumerism. God forbid that a community should so thoroughly ignore the getting and spending required by capitalism.

The global military-industrial complex similarly stands outside normal market economics. You can’t buy a nuke or even an F-35 on Amazon. The state intervenes in the economy in order to guarantee the production of these items and ensure that they are not available through normal market mechanisms. The state does so, moreover, not so much to make money from their sale — though this happens, too — but to reaffirm the country’s status.

This status is sometimes expressed a different way: deterrence. If we have enough big weapons and you know that we’re packing some serious heat, you’ll think twice about attacking us.

This rule applies with even greater force to the top of the pyramid. The United States is the world’s single superpower not because of the moral character of its policies or the size of its economy (China’s is larger at the moment). The notion of “superpowerdom” is directly tied to the size and quantity of America’s weaponry. We’re No. 1 by virtue of our capacity to destroy.

Let’s be clear: The ceremony of military spending does not revolve around gift giving, even though the United States occasionally bestows a fighter plane or two on its closest allies. Rather, the resemblance to a potlatch lies elsewhere. The logic of military spending leads countries to effectively destroy their own property and burn down their own villages, through misplaced national budget priorities, in order to engage in the one-upmanship logic of local, regional, and global arms races.

For instance, at a time when the United States is falling apart bridge by bridge and Flint by Flint, it nevertheless devotes hundreds of billions of dollars to perfecting the machinery of death. The same irrationality can be found at the next level up. At a time of climate crisis, when we are burning our bridges to the future right out from beneath our feet, can the world really afford to spend more than a trillion dollars a year on what amounts to a second means of existential egress?

It’s remarkable that more anthropologists are not spending their time trying to understand the mythology of military spending and its attendant ceremonies.

It’s no longer common in the anthropology profession to talk about studying “primitive cultures.” But surely, the culture of the Pentagon and its counterparts around the world qualify as primitive: illogical, irrational, and guided by baser instincts. Don’t let the modern dress fool you. The thinking that prevails inside the military-industrial complex is fundamentally prehistoric in its savagery (no offense to the Neanderthal).

There’s also no evidence, alas, that this thinking is changing. This month, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its annual assessment of global military spending. After several of years of decline, the numbers went up again in 2015. It’s a sign of maturity when children learn from their mistakes. We are obviously still in civilizational infancy.

Big Spenders

The world spent nearly $1.7 trillion on weapons of mass, medium, and minor destruction in 2015, SIPRI calculates.

The United States still leads the pack by a factor of nearly three. The Chinese increased their spending last year by 7.4 percent to $215 billion. If it continues to spend at that rate (which is highly unlikely) and the United States doesn’t increase its own military budget in response (even more unlikely), it would take until about 2030 for China to catch up. At that point, China would be able to enjoy not only the status of superpower but also the crumbling infrastructure that goes along with the dubious distinction.

The big surprise this year in the SIPRI report is the country that now occupies third place. It’s not Russia, even though the Kremlin increased its spending by 7.5 percent in 2015. Nor is it Japan or any of the countries of Europe, which in the past have cracked the top five.

The third most wasteful spender in the world in 2015 was Saudi Arabia at $87. 2 billion. The sharp uptick in military expenditures reflects the Saudi military intervention in Yemen, which has cost an estimated $5.3 billion. Saudi Arabia has been destroying its neighbor, already a desperately poor country before the bombs began to fall, in order to demonstrate its regional status, particularly to Iran. Someone should tell the sheiks that a gift of a few solar energy facilities and desalination plants would have demonstrated status to Iran and ensured the loyalty of Yemenis far more effectively and at a much more affordable price.

The truly remarkable story behind the increase in global military expenditures has been the role of energy. The price of oil has plummeted over the last couple years. This has cut dramatically into the military expenditures of countries like Venezuela (down 64 percent) and Angola (down 52 percent), and will eventually impact Russia and Saudi Arabia as well. Even with these cutbacks — which meant that overall military spending for both Africa and Latin America fell in 2015 — the world still managed to blow an enormous amount of money on war and preparations for war.

Driving up the global total was Asia, where the conflict around the South China Sea has intensified the arms race in the region. The Middle East too saw a regional increase, though SIPRI didn’t release a regional total because of the lack of statistical information from some countries. It did, however, note that Iraq increased its military spending from 2006 to 2015 by 536 percent. Maybe the United States and its allies failed at nation-building in Iraq because they were so focused on army-building instead.


The problem, ultimately, boils down to status.

The bloated military budgets no longer bear much relationship to actual defense, at least not for the big spenders. The Pentagon and its ilk are more concerned with perceptions. If the arguments over budget priorities focused on defense, the different sides could debate issues of sufficiency. But when the debate enters the realm of perception, there is never enough spending to satisfy the status imperative.

Several organizations have tried to redefine global status in non-military terms with the Global Peace Index, the Human Development Index, the Global Green Economy Index, and so forth. All of this is to the good. Some day, we will declare the top-ranking countries in these indices the global superpowers and pity the idiot countries that pride themselves on the amount of money they lavish on soldiering.

Public pressure is mounting. For the sixth year in row, activists around the world organized events for the Global Day of Action on Military Spending. In Prague, Athens, Nairobi, Buenos Aires, across Canada and the United States, in New Zealand and Australia, all over the UK, on the Peace Boat as it sailed around Northeast Asia, and in 50 rural villages in India, peace and human needs organizations came together around a simple message: Cut military spending, fund human needs.

There is something fundamentally dysfunctional about the primitive culture inside the military-industrial complex. What started out as homeland defense has morphed into a self-destructive feedback loop, sustained by Congress, nurtured by universities, and reinforced by popular culture. Severing this feedback loop is no mean task.

Anthropologists and activists: We have our work cut out for us.    

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus.
More articles by:John Feffer

Bringing Back the Boys: Brazil and the Return of Latin America's Coup Regimes

The Return of the Coup in Latin America

by Manuel E. Yepe - CounterPunch

April 26, 2016

Venezuela and Brazil are the scenes of a new form of coup d’état that would set the continent’s political calendar back to its worst times. Meanwhile, in Argentina, the brutal model for the demolition of democracy is set forward by the continental oligarchic right and the hegemonic forces of US imperialism who wish to impose their model in the region.

As we can see in the previews that test the memory of the peoples in the continent, it is difficult to accept that the new types of coups are actually softer and more covert than those which Latin America suffered for so long.

What has been shown so far in Argentina is no less cruel, in terms of contempt for the masses, than the coups carried out by the bloodthirsty dictatorships that sprouted in time of Operation Condor.

In Venezuela the president of the opposition majority in the National Assembly, Henry Ramos, openly declares that in view of the severity of the economic crisis, he fails to see Maduro concluding his term and adds they should put an end to Nicolas Maduro’s legitimate government within six months. Such statements did not compel the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, to formulate even the mildest rejection to such a coup-like declaration. This indicates they are returning to the era of open and brutal coups in the backyard of the United States of America.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, the newly-elected president, Mauricio Macri, moves forward the implementation of his “democratic model” with a brutal demolition of all the advances the nation had made after the collapse it suffered as a result of the neo-liberal economic and political crisis from which it had been rescued by the consecutive popular governments of Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Argentinean writer, journalist, and researcher Stella Calloni, explains that the current coup in Argentina began the same day Macri took office. He is an extreme right businessman who, since 2007 (according to Wikileaks) offered his services to the US embassy in Buenos Aires.

“The coup offensive began with decrees that allowed for the intervention of institutions and absolutely illegal measures, such as the appointment by decree of two judges to the Supreme Court. All economic measures favor the powerful and mark a path of exclusion for the common people,” says Calloni.

Violating the constitution and the laws, and ruling by Necessity and Urgency Decrees(NUDs) since December 2015, Macri took a road that evidently seeks to deliver the country to the global hegemonic power and the destruction of a work that had earned Argentina worldwide admiration and respect. He is delivering the country to the sinister designs of the International Monetary Fund and other agencies, banks and foreign institutions. All his economic actions favor the powerful and mark a path of exclusion for the population”.

“The negative opposition in Congress is part of the ongoing coup the US and its local puppets are carrying out against Venezuela,” Calloni says.

While the United States and its network of partners and local employees –with applause from the hegemonic power– support Macri’s unconstitutional decrees, in Venezuela, the decree of “economic emergency” signed by President Nicolas Maduro, was rejected by the legislative opposition with the acquiescence of the same power.

Never before was the right more willing to violate the Constitution and call to sedition, warned former Venezuelan Vice-President and journalist Jose Vicente Rangel.

“Seldom in our country had a coup been announced so clearly and at the same time so elusively; the option would be the presidential recall, but this option –within our constitution– is only tangentially alluded to.”

According to Rangel, the opposition sails in two rivers by affirming, on the one hand, that within six months Nicolas Maduro will leave –by peaceful and constitutional means–Miraflores Palace (seat of government) and, on the other, that they will not even wait that long to oust the Venezuelan president.

“The right has grown presumptuous after its legislative victory of last December 6. But they still remember the failed coup of 2002: a resounding failure that made them switch to peaceful methods –as the ones they are apparently trying to use now– to overthrow the socialist power, But neither the soft blows, the carnival costumes used to confuse, or the violent coups can occur with impunity,” concludes José Vicente Rangel.

This article was translated from the Spanish by Walter Lippmann for the invaluable CubaNews.
Manuel E. Yepe is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana.
More articles by:Manuel E. Yepe

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Art Farquharson, Jack Etkin, Janine Bandcroft April 27th, 2016

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

April 26, 2016

With the rolling back of labour rights, deterioration of working conditions, government maintenance of an artificially high unemployment rate, proliferation of guest worker programs, and prolonged wage stagnation we've witnessed over the last few decades, the workers around here, if not the World, have good reason to cry "May Day" But who would answer the call now? As with much of labour history, even that term has been appropriated, its original meaning and intent being all but erased from public consciousness.

Art Farquharson is a fully paid, life-long member of the Working Class. He's laboured in the fields and factories of this nation, and on its highways and high seas too. A proud unionist, Art's held CAW, Unifor, Machinists, Public Service Alliance, IATSE, and Ferry Workers Union union cards.

Listen. Hear.

He's also a card-carrying member of the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies, who never misses a chance to sing, march, or provide guitar accompaniment for pickets, protests, demonstrations, or celebrations of the working people like the Corporate Golden Piggy Awards, and New Year's Day Poor People's Levee Tour. In short, Art says he "comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable," adding, "There is no retirement from being a citizen, [and] can be no rest until all workers the world over have peace and justice."

Art Farquharson in the first segment.

And; earlier this month, Citizen's Forum, a public access public affairs program produced by volunteers at Victoria's Shaw Cable affiliate, in accordance with the CRTC's mandate to cable operators in return for the market monopolies they enjoy, was axed. Jack Etkin is the long-time, Victoria-based democracy and media activist who hosted and produced the show. He's also behind a number of other media and democracy projects around here, and has been for more than a decade.

Jack Etkin on the demise of Citizen's Forum, corporate media, and Canada's frail democracy.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of what's good going on on the streets of our city, and beyond there too, in the coming week. But first, Art Farquharson and bringing the meaning back to May Day.
Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:
G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

It was 30 Years Ago Today: Chernobyl and Dying Nuke Industry

30 Ways Chernobyl and Dying Nuke Industry Threaten Our Survival

by Harvey Wasserman - EcoWatch

April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the catastrophic explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.  

It comes as Germany, which is phasing out all its reactors, has asked Belgium to shut two of its nukes because of the threat of terrorism.

It also comes as advancing efficiencies and plunging prices in renewable energy remind us that nukes stand in the way of solving our climate crisis. Greenpeace action at the Bohunice nuclear power plant in Czechoslovakia, near the Austrian border.

Activists erected 5,000 wooden crosses on April 25, 1991 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, and appealed to the Czech government to close the outdated Soviet-built plant. Photo credit: © Greenpeace / Veronika Leitinger

And it makes us remember the second and third biggest lies told us by the atomic power industry: that no commercial nuke could explode, and that no one would be harmed by reactor fallout.

Prior to the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl, there was at least one minor explosion (on March 28, 1979) at Three Mile Island (TMI) in Pennsylvania. Thankfully, TMI Unit 2’s containment dome was uniquely solid. The site is in the flight path of the Harrisburg airport. Citizen activists had demanded Unit 2’s containment be able to withstand a jet crash. So they forced construction upgrades that may have saved millions of lives when the reactor was stretched to its limits.

TMI’s owners long denied there was a melt-down at all. But robot cameras later showed otherwise. The industry still denies anyone was harmed by TMI’s fallout. But the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Baltimore News-American reported that downwind farm and wild animals died in horrifying droves. Parallel reports by researcher Tim Mousseau are now coming from areas downwind from Chernobyl.

Village Voice reporter Anna Mayo (recently deceased and greatly missed), photographer Bob Del Tredici and filmmaker Robbie Leppzer all documented TMI’s immense human toll. In 1980, I interviewed dozens of local downwinders enduring radiation-related illnesses including cancer, emphysema, heart disease, stroke, sterility, birth defects and Down’s Syndrome.

Recent studies by nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen indicate TMI2’s containment may have cracked, releasing far more radiation than generally suspected. Even now, nobody knows exactly how much did escape, what it consisted of, where it went or who was impacted. TMI’s owners have quietly paid at least $15 million in damages to downwinder families, including at least some payments for Down’s Syndrome.

By 1979 new reactor orders had already stopped due to the industry’s horrific inefficiencies, bad economics and lack of answers for decommissioning and radioactive waste storage. The industry’s biggest lie—that atomic power would be “too cheap to meter”—was already obvious.

But when Chernobyl blew up 30 years ago, it exposed lies number 2 and number 3: that a commercial reactor could not explode and that the industry’s radiation would kill no one.

Here’s a short list of 30 ways these two tragic flaws are killing us all. They are discussed with experts Joe Mangano and Dr. Janette Sherman on my recent Solartopia show.

1. According to studies by three top European scientists, first published in 2009, more than 985,000 people have died from Chernobyl’s fallout.

2. Impactful radioactive contamination is still in evidence in soil throughout Ukraine, Belarus and as far away as Scotland.

3. By some estimates, children born throughout regions downwind of Chernobyl have suffered radiation-related diseases at rates affecting up to 80 percent of those born in critical areas.

4. Reindeer, sheep and other animals across northern Europe are still too heavily contaminated to be safely consumed.

5. Radioactive fallout from Chernobyl hit northern California within 10 days of the explosion, followed by a 60 percent drop in bird births recorded at the Pt. Reyes sanctuary north of San Francisco.

6. Epidemiological studies by Mangano, Sherman and others show that nearby infant death rates rise when commercial reactors open, and drop when they shut.

7. Epidemiological studies show direct links between reactor operations and cancer rates downwind, including a 70 percent excess of thyroid cancer in the four counties surrounding New York’s Indian Point reactors as opposed to the nation as a whole.

8. When Chernobyl blew up, industry apologists emphasized that such a disaster at a Soviet reactor had nothing to do with American nukes. But on March 11, 2011, four General Electric reactors exploded at Fukushima (three melted, and their cores have yet to be found).

9. The explosions at Fukushima by estimates of at least one Japanese scientist have spewed at least 30 times as much Cesium 137 as was released by the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

10. The Fukushima disaster still dumps at least 300 tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean every day.

11. Thousands of tons of contaminated water are being held in flimsy storage tanks at Fukushima, at least some of which are likely to give way; serious leaks of radioactive water are also on-going at Indian Point, Florida’s Turkey Point, numerous other commercial reactor sites and at the Hanford (Washington) military reservation.

12. The Japanese government and Fukushima’s owner (Tepco) are hinting strongly they would like to dump still more thousands of tons of radioactive water directly into the Pacific.

13. At least 7,000 clean-up workers are still being exposed to radiation at Fukushima every day.

14. It remains unclear exactly where the cores from Units 1, 2 and 3 might be, what can be done to contain them and exactly what kinds of long-term dangers they pose.

15. Thyroid abnormalities among children in the Fukushima area are far beyond normal.

16. Physicians for Social Responsibility predicts at least 68,000 downwinders will die from Fukushima’s fallout. Dr. Chris Busby estimates additional cancers alone at more than 400,000. Arnie Gundersen estimates the ultimate toll on par with Chernobyl, of up to 1,000,000.

Thyroid #Cancer in Children Increases 30-Fold in #Fukushima, New Study Says @BeyondNuclear

— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) October 15, 2015

17. Radioactive hot spots clearly linked to Fukushima are being found throughout Japan, some as far away as Tokyo.

18. Japanese activists have kept all but three of Japan’s 54 reactors shut since Fukushima, but the pro-nuke Abe regime wants to stage some 2020 Olympic events near the stricken reactor site.

19. Some 11,000 highly radioactive fuel rods are still strewn around the Fukushima site with no prospects for safe long-term storage. Nowhere on earth has safe long-term storage of atomic wastes been proven.

20. Though the explosions at Fukushima have been linked to the tsunami that wiped out back-up generations, primary damage (especially at Unit 1) was caused by an earthquake whose epicenter was 120 kilometers distant, far further than many fault-lines near scores of other reactors around the world.

21. Two U.S. reactor sites (Perry in Ohio and North Anna in Virginia) have already suffered significant damage from earthquakes.

22. Among many others, reactors at Diablo Canyon, California and Indian Point, New York, are very near major fault lines, with the potential death tolls in downwind Los Angeles and New York City stretching into the millions.

23. Dr. Michael Peck, resident Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) safety inspector at California’s Diablo Canyon has warned that the two huge reactors there cannot withstand a likely earthquake delivered by any of the dozen seismic faultiness surround the site. Peck filed his report within the NRC but it was made public a year later by Friends of the Earth and other community groups. The NRC has dismissed Peck’s warnings and he has been moved to the Commission’s Chattanooga office.

24. As terrorists slaughtered innocent civilians in Brussels, the New York Times reported that Belgian authorities evacuated two reactors which they felt were vulnerable to attack. As mentioned above, Germany has now asked Belgium to shut these nukes down.

25. A wide range of reports dating back at least to the 1970s have confirmed that throughout the entire global nuclear industry, commercial reactors simply cannot be guaranteed to be safe from a concerted terrorist attack, making them all what Karl Grossman has called “pre-deployed weapons of mass destruction.”

26. The technological basis for the 99 U.S. reactors now operating dates far back in the previous century, as the average age of an operating U.S. nuke American reactor is now roughly 35 years old, with Davis-Besse (near Toledo, Ohio) distinguished primarily by four major cuts into its containment dome, and a shield building that is literally crumbling.

27. Since Fukushima on March 11, 2011 significant safety advances advocated by the staff of the NRC and others have not been installed at U.S. nukes despite widespread warning of defects.

28. Seven top NRC engineers took the rare and daring step of filing a public 2.206 petition warning that 98 of 99 current US reactors have serious basic flaws in the electrical sector of their emergency core cooling systems, which are designed to protect the public from a major catastrophe.

29. Former NRC expert David Lochbaum, now with the Union of Concerned Scientists, has warned that the inspectors’ findings on the faulty cooling system wiring are quite serious, and could have been solved easily and cheaply several years ago, when they were first discovered.

30. The corrupt regulatory culture of the NRC is now in the process of re-licensing every American reactor, with projected lifetimes stretching to 60 years, two decades beyond original design capacity, guaranteeing that America’s 99 remaining reactors will continue to dangerously decay, putting us all in harm’s way. All the relicensing has proceeded without a requirement that the industry get private insurance, which is still unavailable after more than a half-century of operations.

There is much much more. The on-going radiation releases from these jalopy reactors impact our health and undermine our eco-systems every day, threatening our future on this planet, and standing in the way of the Solartopian Revolution in renewables and efficiency that must ultimately save our planet from ecological and economic ruin.

Harvey Wasserman’s Organic Spiral of U.S. History will be published soon on He edits and wrote Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Shipping and the Salish Sea

Shipping Increases Could Spell Catastrophe For Salish Sea

by Chris Genovali/Ross Dixon - Raincoast Conservation Foundation

April 25, 2016

The recent Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia provided an in-depth look at the threats facing this ecologically, economically and culturally important marine environment.

As the Raincoast Conservation Foundation report, Our Threatened Coast: Nature and Shared Benefits in the Salish Sea, points out, Canadian and U.S. oil spill experts recognize that predicted increases in vessel traffic in the Salish Sea increase the probability of an oil spill and intensify vessel disturbance in an ecosystem already confronting myriad pressures.

The urgency of this issue has been amplified given the rumours swirling in the media that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has "told his senior lieutenants to draw up plans to make the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion a reality."

In addition to the proposed expansion for the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would increase tanker traffic by 574 per cent above 2010 levels to 408 oil-laden trips through the Fraser estuary and the Salish Sea annually, many other shipping increases are also on the table.

Additionally, Salish Sea waters are predicted to see an increase in container ship traffic by 300 per cent over the next 15 years. The number of bulk cargo vessels over this time will grow by 25 per cent and cruise ship traffic is expected to increase by at least 20 per cent. The proposed Roberts Bank Terminal II provides an additional 2.4 million container units.

Potential loss of oil cargo due to collision is increased by 97 per cent, and potential loss of oil cargo because of grounding by 73 per cent.

In Washington State, coal exports are the principal driver for the Gateway Pacific Terminal. This project will have a maximum capacity of 54 million tons of coal per year, requiring 487 vessels. It received 124,000 public comments on the scope of the environmental assessment and a changing U.S. energy supply is also driving American coal exports through Canada.

Plans to increase coal exports in the Salish Sea were approved by Port Metro Vancouver in August 2014. Fraser Surrey Docks has been approved to ship 4 million tons of U.S. coal, requiring 640 barges a year. The existing Westshore facility is already Canada's largest coal exporter, and Neptune Terminals, on Vancouver's North Shore, have also submitted plans to increase export by six million metric tons and one vessel each week.

Recent risk assessments of vessel traffic specifically indicate the potential impact of three key proposals, the Gateway Pacific Terminal, Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion and the Delta Port expansion. Draft results indicate that, relative to a 2010 base year, these projects increase the potential frequency of vessel traffic collision and grounding by 21 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively. Potential loss of oil cargo due to collision is increased by 97 per cent, and potential loss of oil cargo because of grounding by 73 per cent.

From the puncturing of the Nestucca oil barge off Grays Harbour to the Westwood Annette oil spill in Howe Sound and last year's Marathassa oil spill in English Bay, accidents involving major marine vessels occur in and affect the Salish Sea in B.C. and Washington State.

There have also been several near misses. Between 1999 and 2009, more than 1,200 vessel incidents were reported on the B.C. coast, 12 involving tankers. From 1995-2008, 14 oil spills from tankers in Washington State released 310 barrels of oil. During the same period, 132 near-miss casualty incidents also occurred for vessels carrying a total of 64 million barrels of oil.

Beyond the obvious catastrophic potential of oil spills, shipping increases will escalate the incidence of ship strikes for marine mammals, as well as acoustic disturbance. Evidence submitted by Raincoast to the National Energy Board indicated that, given existing conditions, the population of endangered southern resident killer whales cannot withstand the additional pressures that would result from proposed increases in Salish Sea shipping traffic, recover from their endangered status and survive in perpetuity.

There appears to be no requirement for cumulative effects assessment of shipping and energy developments in the Salish Sea at either the project review or regional management level. No one is examining these proposals from the perspective of their cumulative impacts, and how they affect the economies, cultures and values of the Salish Sea.

The need for such assessments, involving Coast Salish governments and those at the state, provincial and federal levels, is echoed in recent findings from the SeaDoc Society, which highlighted the potential cumulative impacts on 50 species with cultural significance to Coast Salish peoples, including wild salmon, herring, crab, prawns and numerous other species.

With intense increases in shipping traffic currently proposed for an already crowded Salish Sea, and public confidence in review bodies and their processes severely lacking, a robust cumulative impact assessment of shipping impacts is as appropriate as it is long overdue.

A version of this article previously ran in the Victoria Times Colonist.

Behind the Brazilian "Impeachment"

The impeachment crisis shaking Brazil: An Interview with Ana Saggioro Garcia

by Todd Chretien and Bruno Ruviaro - Socialist

April 20, 2016

On April 17, Brazil's lower house of Congress voted by a two-thirds majority to impeach President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers' Party (PT, by its initials in Portuguese), forcing her to relinquish office pending further procedures. The presidency now passes to Dilma's (as she is widely known in Brazil) former vice president Michel Temer of the conservative Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), who only resigned from her cabinet last month. Her government will now appeal the decision to the country's Supreme Court, before the final vote proceeds to the Senate in the coming months.

The carnival of reaction on display by conservative Congressional deputies during the vote [1] only demonstrates the contempt in which Brazil's elite hold the vast majority of the population. With a GDP in excess of $3 trillion, Brazil is the seventh-largest economy in the world, approximately five times larger than neighboring Argentina. What happens in Brazil matters for all of Latin America.

Faced with a newly ascendant right in Argentina and Venezuela and a worsening continent-wide economic crisis, a decade and a half of center-left and reform-oriented governments known as the "Pink Tide" is rapidly receding. Since the 2002 election of Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva, Brazil appeared to provide an alternative to neoliberal austerity, and it even seemed for a time immune to the global Great Recession. Today, the country is facing its deepest political and economic crisis in decades [2], and the PT's promise of social justice is in tatters.

Ana Saggioro Garcia teaches history and international relations at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro and is an associate of the Institute of Alternative Policies in the Southern Cone of Latin America. Along with Patrick Bond, she is the editor of BRICS: An Anticapitalist Critique [3], published last year by Haymarket Books.

Todd Chretien and Bruno Ruviaro interviewed her as the impeachment vote was unfolding in Brazil's Congress.

WE WILL come to the question of the impeachment, but let's begin with some background. Between 1964 and 1985, a brutal military dictatorship ruled Brazil. Can you describe how the Workers' Party emerged out of the struggles for democracy and became a mass party in the process? What were the party's initial political principles and goals?

THE WORKERS' Party (PT) was born in the early 1980s, along with two mass working-class organizations, the Workers' Unified Central (CUT) and the Landless Workers' Movement (MST). The foundation of the PT emerged from dissidents in other parties and political organizations involved in clandestine struggles (armed or not) against the dictatorship.

Since its inception, the PT has differentiated itself from other Communist parties of the time because it was not associated with the USSR. As such, the party did not represent the classic "Communist threat," in spite of maintaining socialism as an ideal, which the party closely linked to democracy. Therefore, socialism and democracy came to be seen as positive utopian alternatives to the dictatorship.

The PT's principle bases came from trade unions (urban and rural), neighborhood organizations, and Comunidades Eclesiais de Base (CEBs)--inclusive Christian communities connected to the Catholic Church and influenced by liberation theology. But it also came to include new social movements that were gaining strength in struggles by Afro-Brazilians and women, as well as in new arenas such as the environment, community participation, etc. Since the PT grew out of different organizations, it has always been a party that contained contending tendencies or currents, ranging from revolutionary to reformist; however, these forces existed within the same party.

The 1989 elections (the first free elections after 21years of a civilian-military dictatorship) were extremely important, as they symbolized the unification of the left behind the figure of Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva, a former industrial worker and union organizer.

This unification was reflected in the fight to impeach center-right president Fernando Collor de Mello in 1992 on corruption charges. Collor had defeated Lula in a runoff in the 1989 elections, 53 to 47 percent. The left also came together in other struggles such as the fight against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and for South American economic and political integration.

As time passed, the goals of the Brazilian left became mixed up with the PT's electoral platform with the aim of Lula winning the presidency unifying left-wing forces during election periods. In this manner, those favoring electoral objectives became the majority political current within the party, with Lula and José Dirceu (Lula's former presidential chief of staff, forced to resign in the face of corruption charges) as its leaders.

The party's strategy essentially became to elect Lula, a project which guided all of its actions. Some of the more radical groups inside the PT resigned in 1994 in opposition the party's electoral turn, forming the Trotskyist Unified Socialist Workers Party (PSTU).

Later, after Lula won the presidency in 2002 (but refused to break with neoliberal economic orthodoxy), another group left in 2005 to found the Party for Socialism and Liberty (PSOL).

AFTER SEVERAL failed campaigns, Lula was twice elected president of Brazil, in 2002 and 2006, and his handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff (who herself was tortured by the military dictatorship) won again for the PT in 2010 and 2014. During that time, the party was credited with important reforms, such as the Bolsa Família (subsidies provided to the poorest families) as well as a booming economy and low unemployment.

How were these gains achieved? And can you explain some of their limits in the overall context of South America's so-called Pink Tide?

THE SOCIAL policies of the PT governments were indeed significant. In addition to income transfer programs such as Bolsa Família, the increase in the minimum wage was very important and, as inflation remained more or less under control for some years, led to increased consumption. Moreover, there were other important programs that broke with some aspects of corporate logic, such as the More Doctors (Mais Médicos) program that sent Brazilian and international medical personnel to work in the poorest interior regions of the country where Brazilian doctors had not typically wanted to practice. With regard to universities, PT governments expanded access for low-income and black students through quotas and scholarships, while building new campuses and opening up jobs for teachers.

Overall, the PT attempted to balance social policies and income redistribution with orthodox macroeconomic measures; for example, they attempted to increase or preserve the primary government surplus in order to make interest payments on foreign debt. In other words, they sought to combine social policies with those designed to win the confidence of the international markets. In South America, Brazil represented a "moderate" model in contrast to the Venezuelan model.

Out of this, we are faced with a paradoxical situation: The largest financial and commercial groups (such as meat giant JBS, Odebrecht construction, Vale mining, and the Andrade Gutierrez, Queiroz Galvão and OAS conglomerates, as well as big banks such as Itaú and Bradesco) developed close relations with Lula, even if today they clearly favor the parties in opposition to Dilma and the PT.

PT governors aligned themselves with what became known as neo-developmentalism; that is, attempts by the state to spur economic activity. This policy envisioned an alliance between the state and private economic entities at the national level, focusing especially on infrastructure and energy projects. The state not only guaranteed commercial opportunities for business, but also secured subsidized loans with sub-market interest rates for some companies.

The Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) played this role most prominently as a major credit provider (both for domestic and foreign investments) for large-scale infrastructure projects, extractive industries and agribusiness. Some liberal economists have criticized BNDES' actions during Lula's and Dilma's governments as supposedly artificial interventions in the economy (favoring some commercial groups to the detriment of others), generating a budget deficit in the event of a crisis and for diverting investments.

However, in reality, this was a false dilemma and failed to address deeper questions about basing economic development on extraction and large-scale infrastructure project, both of which bring with them grave social and environmental consequences. In economies like Brazil that become dependent on the extraction of petroleum and other natural resources, we suffer long-lasting social and environmental consequences such as polluted water and land, the destruction of small peasant farming, and the lack of diversified production which only reinforces dependency and vulnerability.

This so-called "neo-extractive" model, adopted by various South American countries, especially Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, means that the state incentivizes extractive industries (petroleum, gas, mining) by providing assistance for large enterprises (or the developing national technology), or by luring foreign investment, providing tax relief, facilitating credits and/or accelerating exploration concessions, all in order to increase state revenues and royalty payments that come alongside increased exports.

Thus, these countries have been able to finance state activities such as social programs, education, etc., based on resources derived from petroleum and mineral exports, and in some cases also through agribusiness exports. Therefore, when the cycle of high commodity prices crashed for Brazil's main export commodities--such as oil, soy, ore, etc.--this led to a significant decline in revenues, carrying dire consequences right across the continent.

Hence, in times of prosperity, it was possible to conclude a "grand bargain" in order to meet the interests of both big business and the working class, mediated principally by president Lula. But, under capitalism, no such pact can be stable. When resources become scarce, someone has to lose out. And it's clear that the business sector doesn't want to pay for the crisis.

SINCE 2014, Brazil's economy has stalled and has now entered a sharp recession. Can you describe the outlines of the current crisis and its impact on ordinary people in Brazil? Has there been a rise in social struggle as layoffs and austerity have sharpened?

THE CURRENT crisis in Brazil has its roots in the global economic crisis that began in 2008. This crisis has been longer and deeper than was expected. Lula even stated that Brazil wasn't going to be affected. However, it has now impacted all the emerging markets.

The relative decline in Chinese growth has hit Brazil's export sectors hard, especially soy and mining. The neoliberals are arguing that the government spent too much money on stimulus and should have retreated after its first round of anti-cyclical measures. But this argument is only used to criticize the government's overall economic policy, calling it "state-ist."

The two main points raised against the Dilma government by big business are as follows: First, Dilma's government improperly used the public banks and reduced interest rates in 2011 to pressure the private banks; and, second, the state intervened to reduce energy prices by 20 percent in 2013 in anticipation of the end of certain drilling concessions. Added to this was a law written before Lula left office guaranteeing the state oil and gas giant Petrobras certain concessions for oil exploration in the pre-salt layer--a geologic formation offshore Brazil with large proven oil reserves.

These direct interventions in the economy upset some foreign multinationals and banks, as well as some multinationals headquartered in Brazil, putting "the market" on heightened alert for any actions taken by the new Dilma government that might be less conciliatory than Lula's had been. A review of the business press at this time points to a wave of "suspicion" regarding the PT government starting during the middle of Dilma's first term in office.

Ratings agencies next lowered Brazil's bond rating, leading to an increase in economic instability. Inflation began to increase (running at approximately 10 percent per year now), undermining increases in the minimum wage and negatively affecting working-class consumption. Meanwhile, unemployment is rising, especially in industry, approaching 9 percent.

All of this added pressure to Dilma's government, generating a political crisis even more dangerous than the economic crisis. The government was forced into a fiscal adjustment, raising the primary account surplus by cutting social spending, thereby adversely impacting the disproportionately working-class people who had elected her.

This represented an enormous contradiction. Dilma suffered a crisis of legitimacy as the social movements and the working classes were being sacrificed for the sake of economic stability. And long-awaited improvements in public health, education, sanitation and transport, which might signal long-term structural change, remained on the back burner.

All this signifies, therefore, the disruption of "pact," as I referred to before, that was based on granting concessions to big business and banks while providing reforms and favorable social policies for the working class.

Now, neither the working class nor big business wants to "pay the piper" (the motto of the Federation of Industries of São Paulo, FIESP, which spearheaded the impeachment campaign) for this crisis. With respect to the workers, there is a lot of resistance, especially in working-class neighborhoods on the outskirts of major cities.

One newly emerging mass movement is the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) and there are also other expressions of resistance, such as public school student occupations and strikes by construction workers. But these examples remain scattered and have not been able to build a unified working-class movement.

TURNING TO the impeachment crisis, describe the forces behind the impeachment effort and what validity there is, if any, to the charges against Dilma, Lula and other PT leaders?

IN ORDER to understand how we got to the impeachment process, it is necessary to go back to the 2013 demonstrations. Initially, the "June Days" consisted of diffuse and general demands for better public services such as transportation, but also health and education. They also brought to light indignation against corruption, expressing a common dissatisfaction with traditional political instruments such as parties and elections.

Protesters were energized by the World Cup in 2014, when people rose up against the temporary suspension of civil rights, the favoring of big business interests, the excessive spending on "white elephant" stadium construction, and the associated widespread displacement of poor families.

However, in the 2014 elections, parties to the left of PT (the PSOL and PSTU) were not able to win over the youth who had taken to the streets, some minor exceptions aside. On the other hand, the right wing, supported by the mainstream media, steered the June 2013 demonstrations toward something that, in the end, amounted to a diffuse "anti-corruption" and "anti-PT" sentiment.

Right-wing parties gained strength by associating themselves with the most reactionary sections of society, including those with ties to evangelical and Pentecostal churches. With these new allies, topics such as drugs, same-sex marriage and abortion took center state. Based on all this, the big news in the 2014 elections was the emergence of reactionary force associated with these religious groups.

This exposed, on the one hand, a profound conservatism deeply rooted in Brazilian society and, on the other hand, a powerful political force with party cadres and religious figures being elected into public offices. In the Brazilian Congress today, the "rural" bloc (representatives directly linked to agribusiness interests) grew 33 percent, while the conservative evangelical bloc won more than 53 seats in 2014, roughly 10 percent of Congress.

This bears some resemblance with the Tea Party in the U.S., whereby reactionary positions toward women abortion, and homosexuality are combined with ultra-neoliberal economics, supporting the privatization of public services and state companies, as well as decreasing the power of unions.

Thus, Operation Lava Jato (Car Wash), the federal anti-corruption operation under the direction of investigating judge Sérgio Moro, began in the midst of a conservative backlash, both among the parliamentary parties and in the streets.

Lava Jato began by targeting corrupt networks within Petrobras and, initially, served an important purpose. For the first time, we witnessed management from major multinational corporations, such as Odebrecht and some of the banks, including the director of the financial giant BTG Pactual, going to jail! Brazilian construction firms have grown massively over the years, transformed into huge national monopolies during the military-civilian dictatorship when they established international operations in Africa and throughout South America.

These firms extend into the U.S. market (Odebrecht operates a construction business in Miami, New Orleans, Houston, etc.) and they have always operated as cartels, negotiating contract bids among themselves. This has long been the case and did not come about for the first time during the PT governments.

What came to light during the Dilma government was a modus operandi that reproduces itself in other countries like Peru and Angola: campaign financing by corporations, promiscuous relationships between these companies and local and national governments, and special advantages in contracts with big extractive multinational companies such as Vale and Petrobras.

At first, the imprisonment of businessmen and bankers scared the bourgeoisie. As professor Virginia Fontes noted in an interview, the bourgeoisie felt frightened! Therefore, Lava Jato was redirected to become more of more pointedly political investigation [4], no longer being merely "technical."

So now, combating corruption had a new name: the PT and Lula. The prosecutors wouldn't rest until they managed to produce accusations against Lula. Independently of the merits of such accusations (no doubt, the PT had adhered to the traditional nefarious way of doing politics, exchanging favors, positions, and even money, things that the right had always done), there were many conservative high-profile politicians accused of similar corruption, but so far they have been let off the hook. Why? There is no other explanation except for the goal of wresting control of the government away from the PT.

Some sectors of the bourgeoisie directly supported the impeachment, but others did not and there are certainly tensions. For example, businessmen from the Northeast were reluctant to support the impeachment. On the other hand, São Paulo businesses, represented by FIESP, took the lead in targeting Dilma, possibly in order to head off arrests of certain businessmen. FIESP openly financed the right-wing "social movements" that took the streets in São Paulo (Vem Pra Rua ["Come to the streets"] and Movimento Brasil Livre ["Free Brazil Movement"]). For their part, agribusiness organizations took a bit longer to define their stance, but ended up supporting the impeachment process. However, the banks and the financial sector have not yet publicly supported the impeachment.

It is true that there was a moment when the bourgeoisie was not yet cohesive, there were tensions and factions, but a relative cohesiveness soon coalesced around themes such as the "stabilization" of the country and "resuming economic growth." At this point, the justification for unseating Dilma became "the overall performance" of her government, as argued by former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso of the neoliberal Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB).

In fact, no specific crimes have been proven against Dilma and there is no solid evidence of any corruption charges involving the president, which is supposed to be the legal basis for an impeachment process. Instead, the charges filed against Dilma revolve around the so-called practice of "fiscal pedaling"--a long-standing governmental practice of manipulating money transfers between public banks and institutions in order to make public accounts look better than they actually are. This may be politically suspect, but it has never before been considered a constitutional crime.

That's why I believe this is a coup, because its justification is political, based on a generalized dissatisfaction with the economy, the recession, industrial stagnation, even with Dilma's arrogant and authoritarian manners, but not with a judicially proven crime. This was reflected in the absurd speeches given by anti-PT politicians in Congress during the impeachment vote on the night of April 17. There was no legal basis. It was all based on political opinions.

THE LEFT has responded to the impeachment process with mobilizations around slogans such as #NaoVaiTerGolpe ("There won't be a coup"), #FicaDilma ("Stay, Dilma"), and #ForaTodosEles ("Out with all of them"). How do you assess the impeachment?

AS I said, I believe we are living through a coup. There is a generalized sentiment of confusion regarding the rollback of social, economic, political and civil rights. Many are comparing what is going on now to the situation in 1964 just preceding the U.S.-backed military coup in Brazil.

However, in my opinion, we must situate the current political conjuncture in the regional context of other recent coups in Latin America: Honduras in 2009, Paraguay in 2012, and attempted coups in Venezuela under Chávez during the 2000s.

These coups did not establish classic political dictatorships, as in the 1960s and 1970s. Rather, they instituted a market dictatorship, a "dictatorship of capital," which means a return to "hardcore" neoliberal programs, terminating projects with a more nationalist character (even if these programs are hardly socialist or revolutionary) that, as with the PT in Brazil, sought to make alliances between the state and the bourgeoisie. Such alliances lasted longer in Brazil than in other countries, but they are very fragile and are no longer tenable.

Capitalism does not like democracy--it only tolerates it in small doses (just enough to appease popular demands). True democracy is the main enemy of capital. This is what history teaches us, just as much today as in the 1960 and '70s.

WHAT ARE the differences among current left forces in Brazil outside of the PT regarding their level of support for or criticism of the PT government? How are social movements such as MST and MTST, and trade union organizations such as CUT and [an independent union federation] positioning themselves in regards to the impeachment?

ONE OF Dilma's main problems up until now has been opposition from within her own party. The rank and file of the Workers' Party was very critical of the nomination of neoliberal Joaquim Levy as Minister of Economy. They also openly opposed Dilma's new austerity measures.

It is curious that many still believed in the potential for a "left turn" after Dilma's 2014 victory, even after 12 years of concessions to big capital. The presidential campaign was so polarized that it created expectations that Dilma would lean more strongly to the left when she began her second term. However, exactly the opposite happened: Dilma froze social spending and attempted to begin implementing austerity measures.

The obstruction of Dilma's legislative proposals in Congress led to major political destabilization. Business and financial sectors, which had amassed huge profits in recent years, were no longer being favored, while the left did not see itself represented by the government either. This created a situation of paralysis. The government had lost its grounding.

In reaction to the introduction of the impeachment process in Congress at the end of 2015, the left of the Workers' Party went back to the streets, but did so on the defensive: against impeachment, against austerity, against the attack on social and civil rights. This led to the formation of several new coalitions.

On the one hand, the Frente Brasil Popular (Brazil Popular Front) is a coalition of social mass movements close to PT: MST, CUT, and Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB). On the other hand, mobilizations that were more independent of the government also took place against the impeachment (but also against the government's austerity measures), although they were a bit fragmented.

With respect to the formal left-wing political parties, the PSOL has played a key opposition role against the impeachment inside Congress. While PSOL has only six deputies, each of them have been very active in terms of defending human rights and democracy, criticizing neoliberal policies, and promoting innovative policy proposals.

PSTU, and in particular Conlutas, decided not to support the Dilma government, but it also refused to support the impeachment process. Additionally, Conlutas played an important role in supporting the occupation of public schools in São Paulo. However, they do not have elected representatives in Congress and they did not join with other left-wing forces in the attempt to prevent the impeachment.

It is important to note that, as the PT has succumbed to the most disgusting methods of doing politics, it has unfortunately contributed to a diffuse and generalized rejection of politics, parties and democracy. A disastrous consequence of this process is the emergence of reactionary conservatism among significant sections of the Brazilian people rather than the rise of new projects pointing to left-wing solutions.

This is our greatest challenge now: to rebuild a popular project that can bring together, with a unified agenda, forces that today are fragmented. When the Brazilian people took to the streets in 2013, the right wing captured many of the demands for itself. Left social forces and parties were not able to channel and direct the mobilizations toward a cohesive movement for radical democracy and transformation of society.

Many hope Lula will be a candidate again in 2018, and that the left might unite again around his presidential bid. Perhaps this will really happen, but in my opinion, it is likely to fail.

We must now focus on how to reunite the agenda of Brazil's left forces in a post-PT government era. This agenda must be based on social struggles, by men and women from rural areas and the Amazonian forests, from cities and populations affected and displaced by mega-developments, and from the classes rendered "invisible" by national "development" projects championed by PT governments. This social struggle is going to be difficult, and it must go beyond formal political institutions.

Translated from the original Portuguese by Todd Chretien and Bruno Ruviaro.


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Published by the International Socialist Organization.
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