Monday, 23 January 2012

The International Community

January 23, 2012

So what or who is “The International Community?” We hear it all the time from certain political leaders. For example, Hilary Clinton, President Barrack Obama’s Secretary of State, uses the term all the time.“We will take the issue of Iran’s nuclear program [certainly not ours!] to The International Community.” Is this the United Nations? Not exactly. It is:

I. The Sheriff.

The government of the United States of America. There are five U.S. Central Commands which cover the entire world, which is the U.S. sphere of influence. They are linked to 750 public bases in 38 countries plus other secret bases. The U.S. Navy has 12 aircraft carrier strike groups which operate in all international waters and are equipped with nuclear weapons. The U.S. Air Force has 94 B-52, 21 B-2 and 67 B-1 bombers which can be loaded with a wide range of bunker bombs as well as nuclear weapons. To back this up there are 500 nuclear-armed Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles ready to go from their bases in the USA. One third of all U.S. aircraft today are unmanned drones, directed to bomb targets all around the world from bases in the USA. There are also 18 ballistic missile submarines, which are also decked out with nuclear weapons. At the bottom are around 1.4 million rank and file military personnel, backed by the private mercenary armies provided by corporations like Blackwater and DynCorp.

In support of this phalanx of military power there is by far the largest intelligence and surveillance operation the world has ever seen. This includes the Central Intelligence Agency, The National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, all working closely with Lockheed Martin Corporation. Together they do their best to monitor all telephone calls, who uses the Internet and for what purposes, read everyone’s e-mails and even monitor the books you get out of the public library. Suspects are red flagged in their data bases. This shows up on the agent’s screen when you cross an international border.

Individuals may not know they are being monitored. In the buildup of mass popular opposition to the U.S. attack on Iraq, members of the Green Party of the USA were banned from using commercial aircraft to attend and speak at peace rallies.

With this kind of raw power, it is not surprising that since the demise of the Soviet bloc, the U.S. government has been able to capture and use the United Nations. The U.S. government names the Secretary General, controls the Security Council and dominates all the official international aid agencies. But this is not enough.

II. The Deputy Sheriffs.

These are Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. With the Sheriff, they form the Anglo American Alliance to Control the World, a power structure based on white settler colonialism. These countries worked closely together to develop the first nuclear weapons, which the US government dropped on Japan. They have an exclusive treaty for the development and production of chemical and biological weapons, which were used widely in the Vietnam war. More recently they formed the UKUSA Signals Intelligence Alliance, which operates the Echelon program and its 120 spy satellites. Because of their special cultural relationship, these governments have agreed on the right to spy on each other with no advance permission required. Now that is solidarity!

The Deputy Sheriffs all have their Special Forces which work together in the field. They were first developed after World War II to specialize in counter insurgency warfare, where national liberation movements in the colonized world were trying to end European domination. The U.S. Special Forces were fine tuned during the Vietnam War. Under the Phoenix Program they were charged with disrupting civilian support for the Vietnamese National Liberation Front. The U.S. government admits that the Army Special Forces and the Navy SEALS “neutralized” 81,740 suspects and assassinated 26,369.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Torture as Acceptable Government Policy: USA, NATO and Canada

by John W. Warnock
Act Up in Saskatchewan
January 16, 2012

On January 5 Afghan President Hamid Karzai declared that within one month the U.S. government and NATO must hand over control of the Parwan prison at Agram Air Force Base north of Kabul to the Afghan government. An Afghan government commission investigated and reported that the there is systematic abuse of those held in this prison.

Gul Rahman Qazi, head of the commission, told the press that only 300 of the 2700 mainly Afghans held at the prison had been charged with any offense. The remainder “were being held without charges or evidence of guilt” and should be released. The vast majority of detainees had “no access to the courts” or family members. Many of those who had been charged in court and released, or who had served enough time in the jail to cover their sentences, were still being held by NATO authorities on the grounds that they were suspected of being insurgents.

In addition, the Afghan commission charged that detainees were being subjected to practices that were widely understood to be torture. These included beatings, various techniques of sleep deprivation, being held in small cells with no light, no heat and inadequate clothes and blankets, and being stripped and given intrusive body searches. Some of those who had not been charged were held for long periods of time in solitary confinement. Most detainees are held in wire animal cages with less privacy or comfort than in Nazi concentration camps.

The U.S. and Canadian governments rejected Karzai’s demand arguing that the abuse of detainees at Afghan prisons was widespread and unacceptable. They would not transfer detainees to Afghan facilities. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission stated that President Karzai’s government did not have the finances or ability to operate the Parwan prison. Those held in the NATO prison would be better off to stay where they were.

In October 2011 the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released a report which concluded that there was widespread abuse of detainees in the prisons run by Afghan authorities. President Karzai’s secret police was accused of systematically using torture. But there is no recognition by NATO governments that torture takes place in NATO facilities.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Predator Drones on Western Canada's Southern Border

by John W. Warnock
Act Up in Saskatchewan
January 9, 2011

Last week the U.S. government announced that the ninth Predator Drone will be deployed protecting the borders of the United States against the infiltration of terrorists, criminals, drug traffickers and economic refugees. Six of these unmanned attack aircraft are based in Arizona and Texas and operate along the border with Mexico. The other three operate along the northern border, between Minneapolis and Seattle. They are stationed at the Grand Forks, ND U.S. Air Force base. When the program of U.S. government monitoring the “undefended border” began it had the full support of the Harper government.

The Predator drones operate high in the sky and cannot be seen or heard from the ground. They are active far from the bases where they are stationed and directed. They can monitor individuals well across the border into Canada. The U.S. government insists that so far they have not been armed with missiles.

President Obama’s favourite weapon
President Barrack Obama’s first act as President was to authorize the regular use of U.S. Predator drones within the borders of Pakistan. Attacks in that country rose from special cases of one or two a year to 33 in 2008, 53 in 2009, and 118 in 2010. Most recently, President Obama directly ordered the CIA to use a missile from a Predator drone to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, who was in Yemen supporting radical Muslims who oppose U.S. military presence in the Middle East.

In the Iraq and Afghan wars, the U.S. government has widely used the drones to launch missile attacks on individuals and groups who opposed the U.S. war. Often these were missile attacks on the houses where the suspects were assumed to be living. The U.S. government and its NATO allies have played down the deaths of innocent civilians. However, at the local level protest demonstrations have been the norm.

Drone attacks have been widely used in the war inside the borders of Afghanistan. In one case a brother of President Hamid Karzai was killed by a U.S. drone missile attack. The Afghan government has demanded that these attacks cease, but they have not.

Friday, 6 January 2012

2012: the Year the Canadian Housing Bubble Will Burst

January 6, 2012

This is the time of year when all economists (and some political economists) are called upon to make their forecasts for the year which is beginning. From the recent data it appears that the USA will have a very modest increase in economic growth, not enough to significantly reduce the number of people who are unemployed, working part time while wanting full time work, or who have given up looking for a job and have left the work force. The European Union has an enormous pile of debt to deleverage, is already in a double dip recession, and all forecasts are for an overall negative growth rate for the year. This can only be bad news for the economies of the USA and Canada.

The housing issue
However, it does seem likely that the average price of a house in the USA will finally reach the bottom of the collapse of their housing bubble. As I write this prices have fallen back to where they were in 2000, the beginning of the formation of the bubble. We can see this in the graph of the trends in house prices tracked by the most respected sources of data, reported here by Calculated Risk.

As most people know by now, the housing market in the USA took off when the government deregulated the finance industry, drastically reduced the interest rates on mortgages, lifted the requirement for buyers to have 20% equity when buying a house, and instructed the federal chartered housing corporations (Fannie May, Freddy Mac, Federal Housing Authority, etc.) to insure all the marginal mortgages. This created what became known as the “sub-prime” mortgage market.

These very risky mortgages were then bundled together into mortgage backed securities (MSBs) which were then sold on the bond markets around the world as top rated investments. This  Ponzi scheme collapsed when many of the new homeowners could not keep up the payments. There are still over four million houses in the USA in some phase of the foreclosure process.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

CWB: farmers should sue for damages

By John W. Warnock
The Leader-Post 
December 31, 2011

Gerry Ritz likes the Chinese system
The Harper government has quickly pushed through legislation abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) single desk. This was done without a vote from the Prairie farmers who delivered their wheat, durum and barley to the board. A referendum was required in the previous legislation.

During the recent debate over this action, many asked if it would be possible for a future Canadian government to re-establish the CWB single desk. Could it pass legislation that would allow grain farmers to decide the issue? The consensus response seems to have been "yes," but under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the government would likely have to pay compensation to agribusiness corporations for any loss of income. That could be substantial.

It should be remembered that the U.S. government, U.S. farm organizations and agribusiness interests all opposed the CWB and its system of a central selling desk. They knew that it gave our Prairie grain farmers an advantage. Through collective action, the CWB was able to deliver higher returns for farmers as a group. With a good, reliable grading system, and a well respected Canadian brand, the board produced benefits for those who purchased the crop as well as those selling.

The Veiling of Women

By John W. Warnock 
Act Up in Sask.
18 December 2011

The issue of the veiling of women is again on the political agenda in Canada. The mainstream media has generally portrayed this as a conflict between the state and the right of women to assert their freedom of religion under the Charter of Rights. However, there is nothing in the Qur’an (I have read an English version) that even implies that women should be veiled when in public. If this were so, then you would not see so many women in Muslim countries around the world who do not wear any form of the veil.

The veiling of women is a patriarchal cultural practice that was widespread around the world before the beginning of Christianity and Islam. In her study of the origins of patriarchy, U.S. historian Gerda Lerner found that what seems to us today to be extreme misogynist laws and practices date back to the pre-state tribal and agricultural societies of the Near East. They are then codified in state regimes, including the Code of Hammurabi (1752 BCE), the Middle Assyrian kingdoms (15th to 11th BCE) and the Hebrew laws (1200 - 400 BCE).