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IMF as the key institution for neoliberal debt enslavement

Beware of Americans bearing loans

Finance is war. Finance is the new kind of warfare, using finance and forced sell-offs in a new kind of battlefield

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Introduction

IMF is not the agency to help other countries with the economic development. Under neoliberalism (and that means since 80th) it became the major instrument for redistributing wealth up and enslaving countries with debt that can't be repaid.  As a tool for the redistribution it works extremely  efficiently both on local level (producing local oligarchs) and on international level -- ensuring prosperity of G7 and USA in particular.

The U.S. economy has benefited immensely from its ability to extract tribute from other nations, including the U.S. financial community's probable engineering of crises in developing nations in order to scoop up devalued assets on the cheap.  One of the most important instruments of this extraction, plunder of weaker nations, is IMF.

The standard IMF policy is to approach countries in financial crises with the same rather crude recipies that favour large Wall Street banks. In this case IMF staff acts like like vulture fund managers  rather than economists. They try to force a country with a fiscal deficit to reduce government spending, privatage industries and take on additional debt. Reducing government spending reduces aggregate demand, which in turn reduces government income, and make the deficit worse. So the country need to take more loads, inflicting more pain on the population. The reason that the IMF does this, is that it is meant to "restore confidence in the markets". But once a crisis starts, foreign investors tend to bail out anyway, so all it buys the country is a small breathing space before default.  Country is better off introducing strict capital controls and accepting the fact that speculative foreign investors are gone. It should not allow them to enter the market in the first place and focus on growth.

The other thing is the immense level of hypocrisy of the US administrations that control IMF, which forced policies on emerging markets, which it would never accept itself.

In fact, the IMF more or less took instructions from the US Treasury during the 1990s, and certainly my sense at the time was that some  IMF staffers were very frustrated at the policies that the US government forced them to follow. The point though, is that while the US government was battling the balanced budget amendment at home, on the reasonable grounds that it limited their freedom to manage demand, they were essentially enforcing a balanced budgets on the emerging markets via IMF condition for loans. They are forcing central banks to focus only on inflation. They are forcing emerging markets to open their markets, while protecting US farmers from imports.

The economic restructuring programs imposed on poor countries has benefited U.S. and other foreign investors while creating a small but powerful class of wealthy individuals (fifth column of neoliberalisation) in China, Mexico, South Korea, Ukraine, Russia, etc.

Unsustainable level of debt creates the potentially catastrophic financial situation for those countries that take IMF loads.

Debt that can't be paid back, won't be paid back. That simple idea is the key to debt enslavement of people and nations.  One of the key mechanisms is ensuring that loads to state were looted by local oligarchy, turning being eye to money laundering or, as was the case in post 1991 Russia, actively supporting money laundering as the way to decimate former opponent and drive it into vassal status.

There is a strong alliance of Western governments and local oligarchs in this dirty game with IMF serving as an enforcer of debt slavery enabling buying countries assets by transnational for penny on a dollar.     Corrupt officials burden taxpayers with unsustainable amounts of debt for unproductive, grossly overpriced projects.

The TPP and TTIP are integral initiatives in this effort of extending financial obligations, debt, and control.

This is why these corporatists and statists hate gold and silver, by the way. And why it is at the focal point of a currency war. It provides a counterweight to their monetary power. It speaks unpleasant truths. It is a safe haven and alternative, along with other attempts to supplant the IMF and the World Bank, for the rest of the world. So when you say, the Philippines deserved it, Iceland deserved it, Ireland deserved it, Africa deserves it, Jefferson County deserved it, Detroit deserved it, and now Greece deserves it, just keep in mind that some day soon they will be saying that you deserve it, because you stood by and did nothing.

Because when they are done with all the others, for whom do you think they come next? If you wish to see injustice stopped, if you wish to live up to the pledge of 'never again,' then you must stand for your fellows who are vulnerable. The economic hitmen have honed their skills among the poor and relatively defenseless, and have been coming closer to home in search of new hunting grounds and fatter spoils.

You may also find some information about the contemporary applications of these methods in The IMF's 'Tough Choices' On Greece by Jamie Galbraith.

The basic mechanism of debt enslavement

The whole mechanism of debt enslavement is polished to perfection on developing countries.

  1. Questionable projects. Often peddled by IMF. Sometimes by EU. Sometimes of home origin. In case of Greece it was basically spending big on arms   http://www.analyzegreece.gr/interviews/item/145-frank-slijper-an-insane-level-of-military-spending-led-greece-to-massive-debts-for-weapons-does-not-need The US is the major supplier of Greek arms, with the Americans supplying 42 per cent of its arms,  Germany supplying 22.7 per cent, and France 12.5 per cent of Greece's arms purchases.
  2. The country elite takes large loans for those projects or takes loans to placate the population who is sliding into neoliberal poverty/unemployment swamp of poverty and unemployment in order to survive politically.
  3. Part of the money is immediately stolen by local neoliberal oligarchy (which profess "greed is good" religion with probably more enthusiasm then their counterparts) and quickly repatriated to Western banks.
  4. The rest is partially wasted due to various factors including mismanagement, nepotism, the fact that equipment and often materials were bought from the country that gave the loan at inflated prices.
  5. The net result of the project is growth of the debt.
  6. Bank crisis
  7. Conversion of private loans into state debt (according to standard neoliberalism mechanism of wealth redistribution "appropriate gains, shift losses to public")
  8. Austerity regime is enforced which guarantees that this condition is a permanent one.
  9. The country became a cheap supplier of the raw materials and workforce to G7.

 

 Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Here are some relevant Amazon reviews of the book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man  that discusses IMF policies since 1980th.

gordon macgregoron May 2, 2015

IMF forced lending to poor countries of sums far in excess of their needs ...

Absolutely fascinating, pulling back the veil of the inner workings of the IMF as it does. Confirms a lot of things people have long suspected and been shouted down for voicing.

Shows the IMF as an organization bent on capturing the resources of countries around the world via various highly unethical means. e.g forced lending to poor countries of sums far in excess of their needs or means, for inappropriate purposes, leading to big profits for Western firms, the beggaring of the recipient nations, and forced capture of natural resources by large corporations. Surprising that the IMF has not been subject to deep investigation by the UN after this expose.

johnnyjohnnyon April 25, 2015

learn what's going on. read this book. gives a clue to MONSANTO's model of world domination

truly a remarkable book that has been proven with events and facts that have come out since the book was written back in the day.

the model of economic control, back in the good ole days when the International Monetary Fund & U.S. congressionally funded loans to third world countries was the way to pull the strings, and get our largest corporations huge projects that third worlders didn't need and couldn't pay for...but brought the bucks home.

if you ever had a suspicion about recent wars, the billion$ they brought to large contractors, and the reason for those interventions, go back to the early days of this model of international control from someone who was there. and yes, halliburton (aka Kellogg Brown and Root back then) was involved.

James Kenney on April 1, 2015

Should I simply take him at his own word, that he is a liar?

This is a very believable book on a topic of vital importance to the world today: the extent to which "economic development aid" is designed not to benefit the target country, but to ensnare it into the global culture as a debtor nation with assets never designed to be profitable, but merely to serve as an "economic gateway drug".

Somehow, though, while the book is eminently readable, and a bit unnerving, I just couldn't shake off a feeling that I was being "had", by Mr. John Perkins. Look at the number of reviews here! Clearly, this book touched a nerve...but if the author is as unscrupulous as he claims to be (or to have been, since he also claims to have experienced a remarkable conversion, like Paul on the road to Damascus), a fundamental question arises: why should we believe him?

This question is even more essential, since many of us who would even read such a book believe in our hearts that, yes, American capitalism, aided by the IMF, and the World Bank, is seeking to enslave the world. Of course! It's almost a given, an article of faith. No wonder the rest of the world hates us!

I too felt the lure of Perkins' mesmerizing description of an unspoken conspiracy to take over the world by bankrupting it. Certainly, the events of 2008 and 2009 showed the moral bankruptcy of the Big Banks and those who cynically packaged sliced and diced debt into impossible to understand financial instruments, then peddled them to school boards and public pension plans.

Now that I come to review the book, though, I almost feel as if I should wash my hands first. Just picking it up, seeing its jaunty cover, remembering its schmaltzy "spy coming in from the cold" ending, I feel...taken in. I don't know why I feel that way, but the feeling is definitely there. There is something exploitive about this book, as if the author had not changed his skin, only his target: as if now, instead of ensnaring struggling nations, he is ensnaring readers all too willing to believe the worst about ourselves and the economic system in which we too are ensnared.

Even the title sounds phony. Perkins may well be right, he may well be telling it like it is, he may have become a champion bravely taking on a system he helped create, a modern David fighting an economic Goliath. Heavens knows, after stories of regulators sniffing cocaine off a toaster oven with those they are supposed to be regulating, nothing seems unbelievable, and in a sense this book sounds almost inevitable, natural, and important.

It may be. But one of the things I was taught as a historian, is to consider your sources, and the chief question is, how credible are they? When a self-proclaimed liar, swindler and cheat tells me the "system is rigged", should I believe him? Or should I simply take him at his own word, that he is a liar?

I gave this ugly tale 4 stars simply for readability. Fact or fiction, it is certainly that: readable.

DH Koester on March 24, 2015

Truth Enslaves

Well, well, well---another piece to the puzzle as to what constitutes the United States of America!

Besides the curse of blood-stained hands from endless wars of aggression there is another sinister side to this country's quest for empire and world domination--the enslavement of countries and peoples through cleverly devised debt imposition--the same method our government uses on its own people. This debt imposition on foreign countries serves to enrich foreign rulers and US corporations while impoverishing the common people.

Perkins was one of the people--a cog in the wheel --that made it all possible and when his conscience finally got the better of him he wrote a book about it.
Students will not read about these economic hit men ion any American textbook. Nor will they, as adults, read about it in any periodical or hear about it on any newscast. Politicians will not tell them about it nor will their religious leaders. Yet there is this book by John Perkins describing the process in detail. But those in power--those responsible for this immoral conduct--will allow it to be published and made available to the public without fear of reprisal or consequences--just as they have the countless other books that have spoken truth to power detailing corruption, war-making and deceit by those in the highest offices.

Why?? Because the average citizen in this country doesn't care one iota about anything that he perceives as not directly affecting the welfare of himself or his family. That plus the fact that very few people will ever hear of or read this book. People don't read any more--they are plugged into their machines of instant gratification and get the bulk of what they think is news from inane sources such as the Letterman show. Even if some do read it, they will soon forget and move on--continuing with their mundane lives completely oblivious to the world that is suffering and burning outside their doors.

And me?? I know the truth--but even those who know the truth, they are powerless. There is nothing that can be done to stop the insanity. It is like death---Death eventually smiles at us all and the best a man can do is smile back.

I give this book 5 Stars not because it was particularly well written but because it informs in a world desperately in need of being informed. Read it if you will but with the understanding and full knowledge that the truth shall not set you free.

"And There I Was" by DH Koester

David Lupo "David Lupo" on February 21, 2015

Do you wonder why the world hates us? Read this book.

When I was in college, I took another course after Sociology 101, called Social Issues. It was a great course, eye-opening, but sad, because I learned about how skewed the world really is today. There were discussions on the Ford Pinto death-trap story, and stories about how grocery stores sell third-rate products at high prices, to keep the poor poor. There were other stories about how the corporation wields great power over the average citizen. I went to college in the 80s, long after we were told lies about the Great Oil Shortage in the 70s, when oil companies made a killing.

The book by John Perkins gives the historical background of how our government, working with the corporation has done some nasty things in recent decades to places around the globe. Economic Hit Men, and those in league with them have played national leaders against their people for the great financial gain that the US reaps. The corporation not only wields great power over the US citizen; it seeks this same control in the world. John Perkins highlights how this has played out in his corporate life, to the people that he knew.

I also notice that despite the harm he caused as an EHM, he escapes any sort of punishment, since he is spilling the beans on how the game is played, and has been played across the globe. That was a drawback. But today he is trying to do better things for the good of humanity, and that has to count for something.

White Rabbiton January 7, 2015

soft-minded lola granola platitudes

This book can be summarized in one sentence: America "forces" loans on third world countries based on inflated projections of resulting economic growth, that we know the recipient country will never be able to repay.

we then leverage their debt to strong-arm collateral benefits such as construction and service contracts (for the industry they got loans to build) or use their land for military bases, thereby increasing and securing our growing empire.

Perkins says this on every page of his 220 page book.

there is NO analysis or explanation of why development is automatically bad, and preserving rain forests and shaman lifestyles is automatically good, and even if it is good, why it is our problem, as a sovereign nation, to devote our resources to preserving other peoples' lifestyles. i am not asserting that industrial development is automatically "good," but there is simply no thoughtful analysis of the issues at all. Nor is there any nuts-and-bolts explanations of how he structured the economic deals that are supposedly so wicked.

There is just a lot of soft-minded liberal clap-trap about "using less oil; reading a book instead of going shopping; "dreaming" the world into existence; and -- you guessed it -- "shapeshifting." While I doubt any reader of a non-fiction book without pictures with "economic" in the title thinks that industrial development is an unmitigated boon, there have always been significant discrepancies in wealth throughout history, in every culture, country, and time, and there has always been tension (& disruption) in "progress" in any form.

Perhaps there are reasons for this besides the greed and evil of white european males, especially since the "haves" have not always been white or European (and sometimes not even male). Even (or especially) in underdeveloped countries, there are LOTS of people who would prefer medicine and basic sanitation to relying on shamanistic rain dances when their children are sick.

There are compelling and undeniable reasons why manual workers get paid less than highly specialized ones, and simply reiterating Marx's Communist Manifesto is not convincing to any thinking person, or to anyone who clawed their way out of those countries that tried to implement his pipe dream. Reminds me of the rebels' kvetching in Monty Python's Life of Brian: "Well, except for the roads, and the aqueducts, and education, and bread, and medicine, and peace, and security, what else have the Romans done for us?"

 A. Kumaron January 1, 2015

Read it to get a general idea of aid programs but discard personal anecdotes as fiction

The book is clearly a combination of fact and fiction. The facts are based on the well known criticisms of the IMF and World Bank and how they have destroyed various countries. The fiction part is where the author speaks of personal experiences.

Two points give away the fact that the book is semi-fiction. The first is that the author has only used criticisms that were already made on the internet at the time of publication of the book. The second is that the author subconsciously projects his political biases based on his country's Republican vs. Democrat politics and selectively attacks Republicans while letting off the Democrats. Thus, Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes are villains while Jimmy Carter is a hero and American interference in foreign economies during the Clinton era is completely missing from the book. This despite the fact that the era of globalization and the creation of WTO and foisting the American agenda through WTO happened during the Clinton regime and Jimmy Carter started the Iran-Iraq war. Clinton was also responsible for the war on Yugoslavia which lasted all through the 1990s.

The author's list of heroes is also selective and are Communists from Latin America. He is also selective in his list of villains. Bechtel and Halliburton come in for criticism just like on the internet. And just like on the internet, there is no criticism of defense contractors whose executives support the Democratic Party. So you won't see much criticism of Raytheon or Northrop Grumman.

Most of the criticism of the aid programs was well known especially in Latin America and India. In 2000, the combination of the Seattle protests against WTO and the fact that the internet was new made the information become popular. The author seems to have picked up on that data and written a book. There is also a touch of self-delusion that it is the White man's burden to save the world. Whether it is Indonesia or Panama, there is always a character in the book who appeals to the White hero and says he will show him a side of the country that only the locals have access to and that the Whites must somehow fix it. In no country do the locals lack self-respect that they will actually indulge in such behavior.

That said, writing a first person account is an innovative idea and the author is not wrong in highlighting the true nature of aid programs. The book is successful in conveying the general idea that aid programs exist to help the American corporations. The public needs to know this sort of information and the author has done a good job at it.

Margaret M. Pratton December 14, 2014

It's amazing he's still alive to tell his tale

It's amazing he's still alive to tell his tale! John Perkins is quite frank about how he became an 'economic hit man', producing inflated optimistic economic data to persuade leaders in foreign countries to invest in building up their infrastructure (think dams, etc.) through loans they will never be able to pay back, how US industries profit through this, and his own complicity for quite a few years.

And then his slow change of heart when he began to face the actual effect of his contribution to the downward spiral of these countries. It's a real eye-opener. And yes, it does matter who's President.

Malcolm McIntyre, on October 16, 2014

Groundbreaking, although naive on the role of conspiracy

BOOK REVIEW: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins

“Economic hit men are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars [through the perversion of foreign aid funds … using] fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalisation.”

This book is a decade old and the activities that Perkins exposes have become widely known since 2004, for which his work shares much of the credit. It remains a valuable primer for anyone seeking to understand current international events; and will reward greatly even those already aware of the casual criminality of the U.S.’s political, financial and business elites.

Perkins’ career as an economic hit man (EHM) began in 1971 and ended in 1980, after his conscience prevailed. It was sandwiched between a Peace Corps stint in the jungles of South America and a post-EHM career which included establishing a successful alternative energy company. He wrote the passage at the head of this review in 1982, but was persuaded not to go ahead with the book at that time. Four more delays were occasioned by threats or bribes.

So, how does an Economic Hit Man operate? “We are an elite group of men and women who utilize international financial organisations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the corporatocracy running our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks. Like our counterparts in the Mafia, EHMs provide favors. These take the form of loans to develop infrastructure – electric generating plants, highways, ports, airports, or industrial parks.

“A condition of such loans is that engineering and construction companies from our own country must build all these projects. In essence, most of the money never leaves the United States; it is simply transferred from banking offices in Washington to engineering offices in New York, Houston, or San Francisco.

“Despite the fact that the money is returned almost immediately to corporations that are members of the corporatocracy (the creditor), the recipient country is required to pay it all back, principal plus interest. If an EHM is completely successful, the loans are so large that the debtor is forced to default on its payments after a few years. When this happens, then like the Mafia we demand our pound of flesh.

“This often includes one or more of the following: control over United Nations votes, the installation of military bases, or access to precious resources such as oil or the Panama Canal. Of course, the debtor still owes us the money – and another country is added to our global empire.”

Perkins is not anti-American, but rather one of the diminishing remnant of Americans who believe the U.S. Constitution still means something. “The longer version [of why he finally wrote the book] relates to my dedication to the country where I was raised, to my love of the ideals expressed by our Founding Fathers, to my deep commitment to the American republic that today promises ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ for all people, everywhere, and to my determination after 9/11 not to sit idly by any longer while EHMs turn that republic into a global empire.”

Having finally got around to reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, I will certainly be following up with his 2008 The Secret History of the American Empire: The Truth About Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World and 2011’s Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man reveals why the global economy imploded – and how to fix it. One area of interest will be whether his understanding of conspiracy – or, more accurately in terms of Confessions, lack of conspiracy – has changed.

“Some would blame our current problems on an organised conspiracy. I wish it were so simple. Members of a conspiracy can be rooted out and brought to justice,” he says in the preface. “This system, however, is fuelled by something far more dangerous than conspiracy. It is driven not by a small band of men but by a concept that has become accepted as gospel: the idea that all economic growth benefits humankind and that the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits.”

This idea of the concept of benefit for humankind driving the agenda is a somewhat naïve construction. The reality is that there is a relatively small band of psychopathic men (more women in the gang these days and they are no prettier) driving the agenda. The “benefit for mankind” schtick is merely one of the concepts used in their propaganda.

“The corporatocracy is not a conspiracy, but its members do endorse common values and goals,” Perkins says, adding shortly after: “People like me are paid outrageously high salaries to do the system’s bidding. If we falter, a more malicious form of hit man, the jackal, steps to the plate. And if the jackal fails, then the job falls to the military.”

The United States has 40,000 troops in Germany and 50,000 in Japan – they are still occupied countries, more than half a century after World War 2. The U.S. has more than 600 overseas bases. Wikipedia can usually be relied upon in simple matters such as this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_deployments although not in more sensitive matters which attract hasbara and intelligence operatives to the editing function. Also worth a read are http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-worldwide-network-of-us-military-bases/5564 and http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/sep/14/ron-paul/ron-paul-says-us-has-military-personnel-130-nation/

Other than the EHM books mentioned so far, Perkins has written several about spiritual/indigenous matters, based on his experiences before and after his Hit Man service. They are listed at his web site http://www.johnperkins.org/books/

I found out more than I really wanted to know.

CWOK: Ex-Navy, on October 15, 2014

Dubious " Confessions "...

I just finished reading, " Confessions of an Economic Hit Man ", by John Perkins, in which the author recounts his alleged career as an ` Economic Hit Man ` (He uses the abbreviation ` EHM `) for a major corporation, exploiting the resources and people of under-developed countries for the financial gain of his company, with the support, or at least acquiescence, of the US Government, from the early 1970's until after the SEP 11 2001, when he finally wrote a book which includes descriptions about alleged ' black 'operations that occurred all over the world, including: Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Panama, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, & Colombia.

To be clear, I am NOT making a judgment as to the ultimate truth regarding all of the historical events referenced in Perkins's book, or all the allegations surrounding them.

However, I myself have experience in Investigative and Intelligence Work, and so my focus is Perkins's representation that he has First-Hand Knowledge of these historical events himself, and how this representation affects his own credibility:

* Perkins asserts that the Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the deaths of at least two Latin-American leaders, " ...in a series of CIA Assassinations... (p. 161), during the Reagan-Bush Administrations of the 1980's.

Yet his source for this claim is John Dean's 1973 Watergate testimony, despite the fact that this testimony occurred BEFORE either Reagan or Bush took office (George H.W. Bush did serve under then President Nixon, but did not become head of the CIA until after Nixon left office, and Perkins presents ZERO evidence that Bush himself was ever involved in any such plot.)

Moreover, Perkins does not state anywhere in " Confessions " that he ever had any direct contact with the CIA at any time at all, & so what First-Hand Knowledge of the CIA's activities could Perkins possibly have?

* Perkins repeatedly-and frustratingly-makes vague, unattributed, & unverifiable statements such as:

 " ...The EHM presence was very strong in Baghdad during the 1980's... "

* Yet despite both the gravity, and the number, of Perkins's claims, he still provides ZERO documentation of his own to corroborate any of them (merely a copy of his professional resume from the 1970's).

Of the MANY books and accounts that I have read involving the topic of international intrigue, this is the ONLY one with such a glaring omission.

Perkins instead lists his sources as previously written books and articles from news magazines, which he appears to have had no personal involvement with himself.

* Perhaps most telling of all, Perkins states how early on in his career as an EHM, he felt guilty about the ` Corrupt ` system that he was a part of.

Yet despite this supposed guilt, he STAYED in that ` Corrupt ` system, AND accepted all the benefits that came with it; Money, Women, Perks, Etc., AND stayed silent about it, for 30 years!

Perkins states his reasons/justifications/rationalizations/excuses as to why he STAYED in that ` Corrupt ` system, AND accepted all the benefits that came with it; Money, Women, Perks, Etc., AND stayed silent about it, for 30 years.

But, regardless, he nevertheless STAYED in that ` Corrupt ` system, AND accepted all the benefits that came with it; Money, Women, Perks, Etc., AND stayed silent about it, for 30 years!

This becomes all the more troubling because, according to Perkins's own statistics, 24,000 people die each day due to hunger (P. 192)!

IF this is true, then Perkins himself took all that blood-money, for all those years, while knowingly and silently acquiescing to the deaths of BILLIONS of people!!!

Therefore, based on my own professional experience in Investigative and Intelligence Work, it is my opinion that Perkins has NOT established that he is credible.

Until he does so, I regard Perkins's book not as a true autobiography, but rather an historical novel, in which Perkins uses some actual events as the bare bones, on which he adds a LOT of fiction.

MCK

Amazon Customer, on September 11, 2014

Americorp and the dictatorship kept us illiterate and very poor. We also lost many young lives fighting this ...

I am from Nicaragua and breathed and lived the consequences of the acts of these Economic Hit Men. We had a dictatorship put in place by the US, Inc.on my country for more than 40 years.

'Americorp" had the full access to our resources, one of them gold, we never saw the benefits of this gold. Americorp and the dictatorship kept us illiterate and very poor. We also lost many young lives fighting this dictatorship because it refused to give us the choice of electing who we wanted to lead us. It was until 1979 when the USA finally gave up supporting the dictatorship, not because of our lost of lives but because the dictator became an embarrassment to US, Inc. just like Noriega, Saddam, etc.

Very true though is the fact that the opposition was mostly supported by the USSR and Cuba.

 Also very true is that the Sandinistas did not believe in property rights and believe everything belongs to the State. we went from Satan's arms to the Devil's bed.

Sucks being a poor underdeveloped nation with vultures waiting to pounce around you and tear out your eyes. Love the American People, hate its foreign policy which they are mostly kept blinded by propaganda.

Prissyon July 7, 2014

The Ugly Truth of Corporate America and Government's incestuous plan for Globalization

I've meant to read this book for years...the irony is I downloaded on Kindle while in Latin America and read it all the way through. I always suspected (from my own experience spending time on the Hill, knowing journalists, bankers, etc) this stuff went on. But Perkins fills in all the missing pieces.

I'm literally sick that I have a degree in American criminal justice and this book goes against everything I was taught of how "this country" operates. It may have come as a shock to have the dirty details to me, but my Latin American friends have known these empire building ways all along, because they've lived with it all of their lives.

I hope one thing people take away from this book are Perkins suggestions to begin at the grass roots level (school boards, county commissioners, etc) to change the way we do business and speak out when you know the truth. This is the raw, ugly truth, dear readers. I'm still attempting to digest what I know in my heart of hearts is that I have been fighting corruption of those who sugar coat it and when its pointed out, will do everything they can to disparage your credibility, no matter how impeccable it is or how well you present it. Hiring a private company to get around government checks and balances (not that there are that many) only makes sense from a globalists point of view.

Don't sit there-DO something, anything...I know- I sat out of the fray for a long time, it IS easier. But that's the coward's way out and the founding father's were anything but that. Remember, we are supposed to be the home of the brave. Are you right or left? I'd rather be active, accurate and correct...

Case of Greece

Greece story is another classic of neoliberal debt enslavement: first corrupt neoliberal government (in case of Greece successive governments) got loans that were partially stolen, partially wasted, enriching top 1% of the country and improving living conditions of the top 20%.  Then those loans from private banks were converted into public debt by attempt to save insolvent banks. And when the next wave of crisis occurred due to Greece inability to service those (now state) loans without drastic reduction of standard of living of most of the population IMF acts as enforcer. It now essentially dictates what should be done in Greece economy. No matter if previous recommendation  led to disastrous consequences. 

European neoliberal elite headed by Merkel is threatening to expel Greece from the Euro zone, scaring voters. It is very important to understand that anti-crisis policies have two main approaches – cyclical and counter-cyclical. The neo-liberals response is always "only wellbeing of banks matters"

Neoliberals key postulate is that the "invisible hand" of the market works better than government regulation, then the government should allow the market to work independently. The only think government should do is to balance the budget by slashing spending synchronously with falling revenues. Which led in cas of Greece to 60% unemployment among young people.

In other word "the invisible hand" does not work and instead country is sliding in real debt slavery when load became permagreen and interest will be paid forever.  Forecasts of neoliberal institutions such as IMF that austerity will allow Greece to pay debts, were not justified.

Countercyclical stabilization policy is based on the opposite basis: with the reduction of budget revenues not need to cut spending in order to reduce the current deficit, but rather to increase them, thereby increasing the tax base, and along with receiving political support from the population. This should be done considering all the risks carefully assessing the consequences. The trouble is that in specific Greek terms it also doesn't work very well.

Even of part of the debt was written off by the creditors, if you can't grow the real economy, the budget crisis will be renewed. But the Greek industry was killed by accession to the EU. It was decided by EU brass that the specialization of southern Europe within Europe United should be the services sector. If this was somehow forgotten that in services industries (primarily tourism) tax collection is much lower than in industry and agriculture. Demands of the "Troika" to increase taxes on the tourism industry will lead to the withdrawal of this sector into the shadows, or to the ruin of a vast number of small and medium enterprises. If you go with the demands of Brussels and reduce subsidies to agriculture (and this was one of the main requirements of the latest Memorandum of the Troika) the destruction of the economy will be complete.

And while the entire Greek economy is suffering from a terrible level of unemployment, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the borders are open, so Greeks can compete for low paid jobs in Germany. In other words, Greece has to spend money on the education of engineers, scientists and other high-demand in the EU professionals, but to find word they need  have to go to Germany and most end working as janitors and other low paid jobs. Greece which spend a lot of public money to train those professionals will be left our, and all the benefits from this  get more developed countries. This is actually explicit policy of the EU, which consider Southern countries to be EU "village".

Increase of exports in the current circumstances is a very difficult undertaking. It is impossible to increase export to Russia where there is some space for Greek products, as the EU has declared sanctions. That means that he crisis is expanding, and within the framework imposed on Greece anti-crisis policy  there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Cuts in public expenditure will inevitably lead to a reduction in domestic demand for the products of national industry and national agriculture. Besides falling living standards, the reduction of pensions and salaries in the public sector will be a big hit for the most vulnerable part of the population: two-thirds of Greek pensioners are already living below the poverty line.

Five months of fruitless negotiations, a new government understood that Greek people will not forgive the capitulation to EU demands.  Another "cannibalistic" austerity program. So it  announced the referendum on the adoption of the requirements of the Troika, shifting the responsibility for making decisions to ordinary Greeks. Still not very clear whether the Cabinet is really to declare a default, or this  is only a means of pressure on the Troika. In the end, in politics the most important things is to remain in power and if Greeks vote Yes to EU demands that the end of the current government.  What will happen to the country next is unclear. Probably the parties that brought the country to the current collapse (PASOK and New democracy) will return to power helped by Brussels neoliberals, who can throw a bone to them in a form of some minor compromises, compromise to which they would never agree with the current government, which is considered to be "hostile" by neoliberal stooges which now want the regime change in Greece.

But the mere decision to go the referendum caused in shakeup and hysteria in all centers of neoliberal power such as Brussels, Berlin and Washington. However, we cannot exclude that such a reaction is a mean to increase the pressure on Tsipras.

As Neil Irwin's in his at The Upshot  column (NYT, June 28, 2015) noted
Greek leaders think the offer on the table from European governments and the International Monetary Fund is lousy, requiring still more pension cuts and tax increases in a depressed economy, and intend to throw to voters the question of whether to accept it.

spartacus, July 1, 2015 at 1:26 pm

I think things are a little more complicated than that. According to the preliminary report of the commission set up by the Greek government to look into the origins of this debt, it appears that a big chunk of it is a consequence of the government stepping in to recapitalize troubled banks. Then the report also mentions excessive and unjustified military spending, loss of tax revenues due to illicit capital outflows. The report can be accessed via this link:

http://www.hellenicparliament.gr/en/Enimerosi/Grafeio-Typou/Deltia-Typou/?press=f660f87e-9410-414c-9476-a4bb016e6c48

The problem is that after so much austerity the debt now stands at 177% of GDP, higher than ever, because GDP took a little bit of a nosedive. The Troika recipe for success was crap.

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/greece/gdp

The “lazy Greek” line is just that. A line peddled by the MSM in order to demonize the Greek people, as opposed to the “hard working” Germans. If you look at the OECD statistic provided by the following link, you will see that, in reality, the exact opposite is true.

http://stats.oecd.org/index.aspx?DataSetCode=ANHRS

This is not about lavish lifestyle. Is about starvation, homelessness and suicide.

http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/1/e005619

kirill says:

July 1, 2015 at 2:28 pm

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-real-causes-of-the-catastrophic-crisis-in-greece-and-the-left/5365013

Greece was screwed over by foremost the Germans. The whole German shtick of pretending to have “fed Greece” is grotesque obscenity.

Wikipedia on Greek government-debt crisis

Greek government-debt crisis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Charges of hypocrisy

Hypocrisy has been alleged on multiple bases. "Germany is coming across like a know-it-all in the debate over aid for Greece", commented Der Spiegel, while its own government did not achieve a budget surplus during the era of 1970 to 2011, although a budget surplus indeed was achieved by Germany in all three subsequent years (2012–2014). A Bloomberg editorial, which also concluded that "Europe's taxpayers have provided as much financial support to Germany as they have to Greece", described the German role and posture in the Greek crisis thus:

In the millions of words written about Europe's debt crisis, Germany is typically cast as the responsible adult and Greece as the profligate child. Prudent Germany, the narrative goes, is loath to bail out freeloading Greece, which borrowed more than it could afford and now must suffer the consequences. [… But] irresponsible borrowers can't exist without irresponsible lenders. Germany's banks were Greece's enablers.

German economic historian Albrecht Ritschl describes his country as "king when it comes to debt. Calculated based on the amount of losses compared to economic performance, Germany was the biggest debt transgressor of the 20th century." Despite calling for the Greeks to adhere to fiscal responsibility, and although Germany's tax revenues are at a record high, with the interest it has to pay on new debt at close to zero, Germany still missed its own cost-cutting targets in 2011, and also fell behind on its goals for 2012.

There have been widespread accusations that Greeks are lazy, but analysis of OECD data shows that the average Greek worker puts in 50% more hours per year than a typical German counterpart, and the average retirement age of a Greek is, at 61.7 years, older than that of a German.

US economist Mark Weisbrot has also noted that while the eurozone giant's post-crisis recovery has been touted as an example of an economy of a country that "made the short-term sacrifices necessary for long-term success", Germany did not apply to its economy the harsh pro-cyclical austerity measures that are being imposed on countries like Greece,[151] In addition, he noted that Germany did not lay off hundreds of thousands of its workers despite a decline in output in its economy but reduced the number of working hours to keep them employed, at the same time as Greece and other countries were pressured to adopt measures to make it easier for employers to lay off workers. Weisbrot concludes that the German recovery provides no evidence that the problems created by the use of a single currency in the eurozone can be solved by imposing "self-destructive" pro-cyclical policies as has been done in Greece and elsewhere.

Arms sales are another fountainhead for allegations of hypocrisy. Dimitris Papadimoulis, a Greek MP with the Coalition of the Radical Left party:

If there is one country that has benefited from the huge amounts Greece spends on defence it is Germany. Just under 15% of Germany's total arms exports are made to Greece, its biggest market in Europe. Greece has paid over €2bn for submarines that proved to be faulty and which it doesn't even need. It owes another €1bn as part of the deal. That's three times the amount Athens was asked to make in additional pension cuts to secure its latest EU aid package. […] Well after the economic crisis had begun, Germany and France were trying to seal lucrative weapons deals even as they were pushing us to make deep cuts in areas like health. […] There's a level of hypocrisy here that is hard to miss. Corruption in Greece is frequently singled out as a cause for waste but at the same time companies like Ferrostaal and Siemens are pioneers in the practice. A big part of our defence spending is bound up with bribes, black money that funds the [mainstream] political class in a nation where governments have got away with it by long playing on peoples' fears.

Thus allegations of hypocrisy could be made towards both sides: Germany complains of Greek corruption, yet the arms sales meant that the trade with Greece became synonymous with high-level bribery and corruption; former defence minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos was gaoled in April 2012 ahead of his trial on charges of accepting an €8m bribe from Germany company Ferrostaal. In 2000, the current German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, was forced to resign after personally accepting a "donation" (100,000 Deutsche Mark, in cash) from a fugitive weapons dealer, Karlheinz Schreiber.

Another is German complaints about tax evasion by moneyed Greeks. "Germans stashing cash in Switzerland to avoid tax could sleep easy" after summer 2011, when "the German government […] initialled a beggar-thy-neighbour deal that undermine[d] years of diplomatic work to penetrate Switzerland's globally corrosive banking secrecy." Nevertheless, Germans with Swiss bank accounts were so worried, so intent on avoiding paying tax, that some took to cross-dressing, wearing incontinence diapers, and other ruses to try and smuggle their money over the Swiss–German border and so avoid paying their dues to the German taxman. Aside from these unusual tax-evasion techniques, Germany has a history of massive tax evasion: a 1993 ZEW estimate of levels of income-tax avoidance in West Germany in the early 1980s was forced to conclude that "tax loss [in the FDR] exceeds estimates for other countries by orders of magnitude." (The study even excluded the wealthiest 2% of the population, where tax evasion is at its worst). A 2011 study noted that, since the 1990s, the "effective average tax rates for the German super rich have fallen by about a third, with major reductions occurring in the wake of the personal income tax reform of 2001–2005."

Alleged pursuit of national self-interest[edit]

Listen to many European leaders—especially, but by no means only, the Germans—and you'd think that their continent's troubles are a simple morality tale of debt and punishment: Governments borrowed too much, now they're paying the price, and fiscal austerity is the only answer.

"An Impeccable Disaster"
Paul Krugman, 5 November 2013

Since the euro came into circulation in 2002—a time when the country was suffering slow growth and high unemployment—Germany's export performance, coupled with sustained pressure for moderate wage increases (German wages increased more slowly than those of any other eurozone nation) and rapidly rising wage increases elsewhere, provided its exporters with a competitive advantage that resulted in German domination of trade and capital flows within the currency bloc. As noted by Paul De Grauwe in his leading text on monetary union, however, one must "hav[e] homogenous preferences about inflation in order to have a smoothly functioning monetary union." Thus Germany broke what the Levy Economics Institute has called "the golden rule of a monetary union" when it jettisoned a common inflation rate.

The violation of this golden rule led to dire imbalances within the eurozone, though they suited Germany well: the country's total export trade value nearly tripled between 2000 and 2007, and though a significant proportion of this is accounted for by trade with China, Germany's trade surplus with the rest of the EU grew from €46.4 bn to €126.5 bn during those seven years. Germany's bilateral trade surpluses with the peripheral countries are especially revealing: between 2000 and 2007, Greece's annual trade deficit with Germany nearly doubled, from €3 bn to €5.5 bn; Italy's more than doubled, from €9.6 bn to €19.6 bn; Spain's well over doubled, from €11 bn to €27.2 bn; and Portugal's more than quadrupled, from €1 bn to €4.2 bn. German banks played an important role in supplying the credit that drove wage increases in peripheral eurozone countries like Greece, which in turn produced this divergence in competitiveness and trade surpluses between Germany and these same eurozone members.

Germans see their government finances and trade competitiveness as an example to be followed by Greece, Portugal and other troubled countries in Europe, but the problem is more than simply a question of southern European countries emulating Germany. Dealing with debt via domestic austerity and a move toward trade surpluses is very difficult without the option of devaluing your currency, and Greece cannot devalue because it is chained to the euro. Roberto Perotti of Bocconi University has also shown that on the rare occasions when austerity and expansion coincide, the coincidence is almost always attributable to rising exports associated with currency depreciation. As can be seen from the case of China and the US, however, where China has had the yuan pegged to the dollar, it is possible to have an effective devaluation in situations where formal devaluation cannot occur, and that is by having the inflation rates of two countries diverge. If inflation in Germany is higher than in Greece and other struggling countries, then the real effective exchange rate will move in the strugglers' favour despite the shared currency. Trade between the two can then rebalance, aiding recovery, as Greek products become cheaper. Paul Krugman estimated that Spain and other peripherals would need to reduce their 2012 price-levels relative to Germany by around 20 percent to become competitive again:

If Germany had 4 percent inflation, they could do that over 5 years with stable prices in the periphery—which would imply an overall eurozone inflation rate of something like 3 percent. But if Germany is going to have only 1 percent inflation, we're talking about massive deflation in the periphery, which is both hard (probably impossible) as a macroeconomic proposition, and would greatly magnify the debt burden. This is a recipe for failure, and collapse.

This view, that German deficits are a crucial factor in assisting eurozone recovery, is shared by leading economics commentators,[171] by the OECD, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Standard & Poor's, the European Commission, and the IMF. The Americans, too, asked Germany, repeatedly and heatedly, to loosen fiscal policy, though without success.[181] This failure led to the US taking a more high-powered tack: for the first time, the Treasury Department, in its semi-annual currency report for October 2013, singled out Germany as the leading obstacle to economic recovery in Europe.

Therefore, it is argued, the problem is Germany continuing to shut off this adjustment mechanism. "The counterpart to Germany living within its means is that others are living beyond their means", agreed Philip Whyte, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform. "So if Germany is worried about the fact that other countries are sinking further into debt, it should be worried about the size of its trade surpluses, but it isn't."

This chorus of criticism, however, germinates in the very poorest of soil because, in October 2012, Germany chose to legislate against the very possibility of stimulus spending, "by passing a balanced budget law that requires the government to run near-zero structural deficits indefinitely." OECD projections of relative export prices—a measure of competitiveness—showed Germany beating all euro zone members except for crisis-hit Spain and Ireland for 2012, with the lead only widening in subsequent years.

Even with such policies, Greece and other countries would have faced years of hard times, but at least there would be some hope of recovery. During 2012, it seemed as though the status quo was beginning to change as France began to challenge German policy, and even Christine Lagarde called for Greece to at least be given more time to meet bailout targets. Further criticism mounted in 2013: a leaked version of a text from French president Francois Hollande's Socialist Party openly attacked "German austerity" and the "egoistic intransigence of Mrs Merkel"; Manuel Barroso warned that austerity had "reached its limits"; EU employment chief Laszlo Andor called for a radical change in EU crisis strategy—"If there is no growth, I don't see how countries can cut their debt levels"—and criticised what he described as the German practice of "wage dumping" within the eurozone to gain larger export surpluses; and Heiner Flassbeck (a former German vice finance minister) and economist Costas Lapavitsas charged that the euro had "allowed Germany to 'beggar its neighbours', while also providing the mechanisms and the ideology for imposing austerity on the continent".

Battered by criticism, the European Commission finally decided that "something more" was needed in addition to austerity policies for peripheral countries like Greece. "Something more" was announced to be structural reforms—things like making it easier for companies to sack workers—but such reforms have been there from the very beginning, leading Dani Rodrik to dismiss the EC's idea as "merely old wine in a new bottle." Indeed, Rodrik noted that with demand gutted by austerity, all structural reforms have achieved, and would continue to achieve, is pumping up unemployment (further reducing demand), since fired workers are not going to be re-employed elsewhere. Rodrik suggested the ECB might like to try out a higher inflation target, and that Germany might like to allow increased demand, higher inflation, and to accept its banks taking losses on their reckless lending to Greece. That, however, "assumes that Germans can embrace a different narrative about the nature of the crisis. And that means that German leaders must portray the crisis not as a morality play pitting lazy, profligate southerners against hard-working, frugal northerners, but as a crisis of interdependence in an economic (and nascent political) union. Germans must play as big a role in resolving the crisis as they did in instigating it." Paul Krugman described talk of structural reform as "an excuse for not facing up to the reality of macroeconomic disaster, and a way to avoid discussing the responsibility of Germany and the ECB, in particular, to help end this disaster." Furthermore, as Financial Times analyst Wolfgang Munchau observed, "Austerity and reform are the opposite of each other. If you are serious about structural reform, it will cost you upfront money." Claims that Germany had, by mid-2012, given Greece the equivalent of 29 times the aid given to West Germany under the Marshall Plan after World War II completely ignores the fact that aid was just a small part of Marshall Plan assistance to Germany, with another crucial part of the assistance being the writing off of a majority of Germany's debt.

Artificially low exchange rate[edit]

Though Germany claims its public finances are "the envy of the world", the country is merely continuing what has been called its "free-riding" of the euro crisis, which "consists in using the euro as a mechanism for maintaining a weak exchange rate while shifting the costs of doing so to its neighbors." With eurozone adjustment locked out by Germany, economic hardship elsewhere in the currency block actually suited its export-oriented economy for an extended period, because it caused the euro to depreciate, making German exports cheaper and so more competitive.[201] The weakness of the euro, caused by the economy misery of peripheral countries, has been providing Germany with a large and artificial export advantage to the extent that, if Germany left the euro, the concomitant surge in the value of the reintroduced Deutsche Mark, which would produce "disastrous" effects on German exports as they suddenly became dramatically more expensive, would play the lead role in imposing a cost on Germany of perhaps 20–25% GDP during the first year alone after its euro exit. November 2013 saw the European Commission open an in-depth inquiry into German's surplus, which hit a new record in spring 2015. As the German current accounts surplus looked set to smash all previous records again in Spring 2015, one commentator noted that Germany was "now the biggest single violator of the eurozone stability rules. It would face punitive sanctions if EU treaty law was enforced." 2015 is "the fifth consecutive year that Germany's surplus has been above 6pc of GDP," it was pointed out. "The EU's Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure states that the Commission should launch infringement proceedings if this occurs for three years in a row, unless there is a clear reason not to."

Advocacy of internal devaluation for peripheral economies[edit]

The version of adjustment offered by Germany and its allies is that austerity will lead to an internal devaluation, i.e. deflation, which would enable Greece gradually to regain competitiveness. "Yet this proposed solution is a complete non-starter", in the opinion of one UK economist. "If austerity succeeds in delivering deflation, then the growth of nominal GDP will be depressed; most likely it will turn negative. In that case, the burden of debt will increase." A February 2013 research note by the Economics Research team at Goldman Sachs again noted that the years of recession being endured by Greece "exacerbate the fiscal difficulties as the denominator of the debt-to-GDP ratio diminishes", i.e. reducing the debt burden by imposing austerity is, aside from anything else, utterly futile.[210] "Higher growth has always been the best way out the debt (absolute and relative) burden. However, growth prospects for the near and medium-term future are quite weak. During the Great Depression, Heinrich Brüning, the German Chancellor (1930–32), thought that a strong currency and a balanced budget were the ways out of crisis. Cruel austerity measures such as cuts in wages, pensions and social benefits followed. Over the years crises deepened". The austerity program applied to Greece has been "self-defeating", with the country's debt now expected to balloon to 192% of GDP by 2014. After years of the situation being pointed out, in June 2013, with the Greek debt burden galloping towards the "staggering" heights previously predicted by anyone who knew what they were talking about, and with her own organization admitting its program for Greece had failed seriously on multiple primary objectives and that it had bent its rules when "rescuing" Greece; and having claimed in the past that Greece's debt was sustainable—Christine Lagarde felt able to admit publicly that perhaps Greece just might, after all, need to have its debt written off in a meaningful way. In its Global Economic Outlook and Strategy of September 2013, Citi pointed out that Greece "lack[s] the ability to stabilise […] debt/GDP ratios in coming years by fiscal policy alone",:7 and that "large debt relief" is probably "the only viable option" if Greek fiscal sustainability is to re-materialise;:18 predicted no return to growth until 2016;:8 and predicted that the debt burden would soar to over 200% of GDP by 2015 and carry on rising through at least 2017.:9 Unfortunately, German Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had just a few months prior already spoken out again against any debt relief for Greece, claiming that "structural reforms" (i.e. "old wine in a new bottle", see Rodrik et al. above) were the way to go and—astonishingly—that "debt sustainability will continue to be assured".[219]

Strictly in terms of reducing wages relative to Germany, Greece had been making 'progress': private-sector wages fell 5.4% in the third quarter of 2011 from a year earlier and 12% since their peak in the first quarter of 2010. The second economic adjustment programme for Greece called for a further labour cost reduction in the private sector of 15% during 2012–2014.

German views on inflation as a solution[edit]

The question then is whether Germany would accept the price of inflation for the benefit of keeping the eurozone together. On the upside, inflation, at least to start with, would make Germans happy as their wages rose in keeping with inflation. Regardless of these positives, as soon as the monetary policy of the ECB—which has been catering to German desires for low inflation[224] so doggedly that Martin Wolf describes it as "a reincarnated Bundesbank"—began to look like it might stoke inflation in Germany, Merkel moved to counteract, cementing the impossibility of a recovery for struggling countries.

All of this has resulted in increased anti-German sentiment within peripheral countries like Greece and Spain.[227] German historian Arnulf Baring, who opposed the euro, wrote in his 1997 book Scheitert Deutschland? (Does Germany fail?): "They (populistic media and politicians) will say that we finance lazy slackers, sitting in coffee shops on southern beaches", and "[t]he fiscal union will end in a giant blackmail manoeuvre […] When we Germans will demand fiscal discipline, other countries will blame this fiscal discipline and therefore us for their financial difficulties. Besides, although they initially agreed on the terms, they will consider us as some kind of economic police. Consequently, we risk again becoming the most hated people in Europe." Anti-German animus is perhaps inflamed by the fact that, as one German historian noted, "during much of the 20th century, the situation was radically different: after the first world war and again after the second world war, Germany was the world's largest debtor, and in both cases owed its economic recovery to large-scale debt relief." When Horst Reichenbach arrived in Athens towards the end of 2011 to head a new European Union task force, the Greek media instantly dubbed him "Third Reichenbach"; in Spain in May 2012, businessmen made unflattering comparisons with Berlin's domination of Europe in WWII, and top officials "mutter about how today's European Union consists of a 'German Union plus the rest'". Almost four million German tourists—more than any other EU country—visit Greece annually, but they comprised most of the 50,000 cancelled bookings in the ten days after the 6 May 2012 Greek elections, a figure The Observer called "extraordinary". The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises estimates that German visits for 2012 will decrease by about 25%. Such is the ill-feeling, historic claims on Germany from WWII have been reopened, including "a huge, never-repaid loan the nation was forced to make under Nazi occupation from 1941 to 1945."

Analysis of the Greek rescue[edit]

Unbalanced scales.svg The neutrality of this section is disputed. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until the dispute is resolved. (June 2015)

One estimate is that Greece actually subscribed to €156bn worth of new debt in order to get €206bn worth of old debt to be written off, meaning the write-down of €110bn by the banks and others is more than double the true figure of €50bn that was truly written off. Taxpayers are now liable for more than 80% of Greece's debt. One journalist for Der Spiegel noted that the second bailout was not "geared to the requirements of the people of Greece but to the needs of the international financial markets, meaning the banks. How else can one explain the fact that around a quarter of the package won't even arrive in Athens but will flow directly to the country's international creditors?" He accused the banks of "cleverly manipulating the fear that a Greek bankruptcy would trigger a fatal chain reaction" in order to get paid. According to Robert Reich, in the background of the Greek bailouts and debt restructuring lurks Wall Street. While US banks are owed only about €5bn by Greece, they have more significant exposure to the situation via German and French banks, who were significantly exposed to Greek debt. Massively reducing the liabilities of German and French banks with regards to Greece thus also serves to protect US banks.

Creditors of Greece 2011 and 2015

According to Der Spiegel "more than 80 percent of the rescue package is going to creditors—that is to say, to banks outside of Greece and to the ECB. The billions of taxpayer euros are not saving Greece. They're saving the banks." One study found that the public debt of Greece to foreign governments, including debt to the EU/IMF loan facility and debt through the eurosystem, increased by €130 bn, from €47.8 bn to €180.5 billion, between January 2010 and September 2011. The combined exposure of foreign banks to Greek entities—public and private—was around 80bn euros by mid-February 2012. In 2009 they were in for well over 200bn. The Economist noted that, during 2012 alone, "private-sector bondholders reduced their nominal claims by more than 50%. But the deal did not include the hefty holdings of Greek bonds at the European Central Bank (ECB), and it was sweetened with funds borrowed from official rescuers. For two years those rescuers had pretended Greece was solvent, and provided official loans to pay off bondholders in full. So more than 70% of the debts are now owed to 'official' creditors", i.e. European taxpayers and the IMF. With regard to Germany in particular, a Bloomberg editorial noted that, before its banks reduced its exposure to Greece, "they stood to lose a ton of money if Greece left the euro. Now any losses will be shared with the taxpayers of the entire euro area."


NEWS CONTENTS

Old News ;-)

[Aug 13, 2018] Imperialism Is Alive and Kicking A Marxist Analysis of Neoliberal Capitalism by C.J. Polychroniou

Highly recommended!
Marxism provides one of the best analysis of capitalism; problems start when Marxists propose alternatives.
Notable quotes:
"... Such demand-compression occurs above all through the imposition of an income deflation on the petty producers, and on the working population in general, in the Third World. This was done in the colonial period through two means: one, "deindustrialization" or the displacement of local craft production by imports of manufactures from the capitalist sector; and two, the "drain of surplus" where a part of the taxes extracted from petty producers was simply taken away in the form of exported goods without any quid pro quo ..."
"... I mean by the term "imperialism" the arrangement that the capitalist system sets up for imposing income deflation on the working population of the Third World for countering the threat of inflation that would otherwise erode the value of money in the metropolis and make the system unviable. "Imperialism" in this sense characterizes both the colonial and the contemporary periods. ..."
"... The fact that the diffusion of capitalism to the Third World has proceeded by leaps and bounds of late, with its domestic corporate-financial oligarchy getting integrated into globalized finance capital, and the fact that workers in the metropolis have also been facing an income squeeze under globalization, are important new developments; but they do not negate the basic tendency of the system to impose income deflation upon the working population of the Third World, a tendency that remains at the very core of the system. ..."
"... any state activism, other than for promoting its own exclusive and direct interest, is anathema for finance capital, which is why, not surprisingly, "sound finance" and "fiscal responsibility" are back in vogue today, when finance capital, now globalized, is in ascendancy. Imperialism is thus a specifically capitalist way of obtaining the commodities it requires for itself, but which are produced outside its own domain. ..."
"... dirigiste regimes ..."
"... With the reassertion of the dominance of finance, in the guise now of an international ..."
"... Contemporary imperialism therefore is the imperialism of international finance capital which is served by nation-states (for any nation-state that defies the will of international finance capital runs the risk of capital flight from, and hence the insolvency of, its economy). The US, being the leading capitalist state, plays the leading role in promoting and protecting the interests of international finance capital. But talking about a specific US imperialism, or a German or British or French imperialism obscures this basic fact. ..."
"... Indeed, a good deal of discussion about whether the world is heading toward multi-polarity or the persistence of US dominance misses the point that the chief actor in today's world is international or globalized finance capital, and not US or German or British finance capital. ..."
"... US military intervention all over the world, in order to acquire a proper meaning has to be located within the broader setting of the imperialism of international finance capital. ..."
"... absolute immiserization ..."
Aug 13, 2018 | truthout.org

C.J. Polychroniou: How do you define imperialism and what imperialist tendencies do you detect as inherent in the brutal expansion of the logic of capitalism in the neoliberal global era?

Prabhat Patnaik: The capitalist sector of the world, which began by being located, and continues largely to be located, in the temperate region, requires as its raw materials and means of consumption a whole range of primary commodities which are not available or producible, either at all or in adequate quantities, within its own borders. These commodities have to be obtained from the tropical and sub-tropical region within which almost the whole of the Third World is located; and the bulk of them (leaving aside minerals) are produced by a set of petty producers (peasants). What is more, they are subject to "increasing supply price," in the sense that as demand for them increases in the capitalist sector, larger quantities of them can be obtained, if at all, only at higher prices, thanks to the fixed size of the tropical land mass.

This means an ex ante tendency toward accelerating inflation as capital accumulation proceeds, undermining the value of money under capitalism and hence the viability of the system as a whole. To prevent this, the system requires that with an increase in demand from the capitalist sector, as capital accumulation proceeds, there must be a compression of demand elsewhere for these commodities, so that the net demand does not increase, and increasing supply price does not get a chance to manifest itself at all.

Such demand-compression occurs above all through the imposition of an income deflation on the petty producers, and on the working population in general, in the Third World. This was done in the colonial period through two means: one, "deindustrialization" or the displacement of local craft production by imports of manufactures from the capitalist sector; and two, the "drain of surplus" where a part of the taxes extracted from petty producers was simply taken away in the form of exported goods without any quid pro quo . The income of the working population of the Third World, and hence its demand, was thus kept down; and metropolitan capitalism's demand for such commodities was met without any inflationary threat to the value of money. Exactly a similar process of income deflation is imposed now upon the working population of the Third World by the neoliberal policies of globalization.

I mean by the term "imperialism" the arrangement that the capitalist system sets up for imposing income deflation on the working population of the Third World for countering the threat of inflation that would otherwise erode the value of money in the metropolis and make the system unviable. "Imperialism" in this sense characterizes both the colonial and the contemporary periods.

We recognize the need for a reserve army of labor to ward off the threat to the value of money arising from wage demands of workers. Ironically, however, we do not recognize the parallel and even more pressing need of the system (owing to increasing supply price) for the imposition of income deflation on the working population of the Third World for warding off a similar threat.

The fact that the diffusion of capitalism to the Third World has proceeded by leaps and bounds of late, with its domestic corporate-financial oligarchy getting integrated into globalized finance capital, and the fact that workers in the metropolis have also been facing an income squeeze under globalization, are important new developments; but they do not negate the basic tendency of the system to impose income deflation upon the working population of the Third World, a tendency that remains at the very core of the system.

Those who argue that imperialism is no longer a relevant analytic construct point to the multifaceted aspects of today's global economic exchanges and to a highly complex process involved in the distribution of value which, simply put, cannot be reduced to imperialism. How do you respond to this line of thinking?

Capitalism today is of course much more complex, with an enormous financial superstructure. But that paradoxically makes inflation even more threatening. The value of this vast array of financial assets would collapse in the event of inflation, bringing down this superstructure, which incidentally is the reason for the current policy obsession with "inflation targeting." This makes the imperialist arrangement even more essential. The more complex capitalism becomes, the more it needs its basic simple props.

I should clarify here that if "land-augmenting" measures [such as irrigation, high-yielding seeds and better production practices] could be introduced in the Third World, then, notwithstanding the physical fixity of the tropical land mass, the threat of increasing supply price -- and with it, [the threat] of inflation -- could be warded off without any income deflation. Indeed, on the contrary, the working population of the Third World would be better off through such measures. But these measures require state support and state expenditure, a fact that Marx had recognized long ago. But any state activism, other than for promoting its own exclusive and direct interest, is anathema for finance capital, which is why, not surprisingly, "sound finance" and "fiscal responsibility" are back in vogue today, when finance capital, now globalized, is in ascendancy. Imperialism is thus a specifically capitalist way of obtaining the commodities it requires for itself, but which are produced outside its own domain.

The post-decolonization dirigiste regimes [regimes directed by a central authority] in the Third World had actually undertaken land-augmentation measures. Because of this, even as exports of commodities to the metropolis had risen to sustain the biggest boom ever witnessed in the history of capitalism, per capita food grain availability had also increased in those countries. But I see that period as a period of retreat of metropolitan capitalism, enforced by the wound inflicted upon it by the Second World War. With the reassertion of the dominance of finance, in the guise now of an international finance capital, the Third World states have withdrawn from supporting petty producers, a process of income deflation is in full swing, and the imperialist arrangement is back in place, because of which we can see once more a tendency toward a secular decline in per capita food grain availability in the Third World as in the colonial period.

There is a third way -- apart from a greater obsession with inflation aversion and a yoking of Third World states to promoting the interests of globalized finance rather than defending domestic petty producers -- in which contemporary capitalism strengthens the imperialist arrangement. It may be thought that the value of imports of Third World commodities into the capitalist metropolis is so small that we are exaggerating the inflation threat from that source to metropolitan currencies. This smallness itself, of course, is an expression of an acutely exploitative relationship. In addition, however, the threat to the Third World currencies themselves from a rise in the prices of these commodities becomes acute in a regime of free cross-border financial flows as now, which threatens the entire world trade and payments system and hence makes income deflation particularly urgent. Hence the need for the imperialist arrangement becomes even more acute.

Not long ago, even liberals like Thomas Friedman of the New York Times were arguing that "McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas" (that is, the US Air Force). Surely, this is a crude version of imperialism, but what about today's US imperialism? Isn't it still alive and kicking?

The world that Lenin had written about consisted of nation-based, nation-state-supported financial oligarchies engaged in intense inter-imperialist rivalry for repartitioning the world through wars. When [Marxist theorist] Karl Kautsky had suggested the possibility of a truce among rival powers for a peaceful division of the world, Lenin had pointed to the fact that the phenomenon of uneven development under capitalism would necessarily subvert any such specific truce. The world we have today is characterized by the hegemony of international finance capital which is interested in preventing any partitioning of the world, so that it can move around freely across the globe.

Contemporary imperialism therefore is the imperialism of international finance capital which is served by nation-states (for any nation-state that defies the will of international finance capital runs the risk of capital flight from, and hence the insolvency of, its economy). The US, being the leading capitalist state, plays the leading role in promoting and protecting the interests of international finance capital. But talking about a specific US imperialism, or a German or British or French imperialism obscures this basic fact.

Indeed, a good deal of discussion about whether the world is heading toward multi-polarity or the persistence of US dominance misses the point that the chief actor in today's world is international or globalized finance capital, and not US or German or British finance capital. So, the concept of imperialism that [Utsa Patnaik and I] are talking about belongs to a different terrain of discourse from the concept of US imperialism per se . The latter, though it is, of course, empirically visible because of US military intervention all over the world, in order to acquire a proper meaning has to be located within the broader setting of the imperialism of international finance capital.

Some incidentally have seen the muting of inter-imperialist rivalry in today's world as a vindication of Kautsky's position over that of Lenin. This, however, is incorrect, since both of them were talking about a world of national finance capitals which contemporary capitalism has gone beyond.

... ... ...

One final question: How should radical movements and organizations, in both the core and the periphery of the world capitalist economy, be organizing to combat today's imperialism?

Obviously, the issue of imperialism is important not for scholastic reasons, but because of the praxis that a recognition of its role engenders. From what I have been arguing, it is clear that since globalization involves income deflation for the peasantry and petty producers, and since their absorption into the ranks of the active army of labor under capitalism does not occur because of the paucity of jobs that are created even when rates of output growth are high, there is a tendency toward an absolute immiserization of the working population. For the petty producers, this tendency operates directly; and for others, it operates through the driving down of the "reservation wage" owing to the impoverishment of petty producers.

Such immiserization is manifest above all in the decline in per capita food grain absorption, both directly and indirectly (the latter via processed foods and feed grains). An improvement in the conditions of living of the working population of the Third World then requires a delinking from globalization (mainly through capital controls, and also trade controls to the requisite extent) by an alternative state, based on a worker-peasant alliance, that pursues a different trajectory of development. Such a trajectory would emphasize peasant-agriculture-led growth, land redistribution (so as to limit the extent of differentiation within the peasantry) and the formation of voluntary cooperatives and collectives for carrying forward land-augmentation measures, and even undertaking value-addition activities, including industrialization.

Small Third World countries would no doubt find it difficult to adopt such a program because of their limited resource base and narrow home market. But they will have to come together with other small countries to constitute larger, more viable units. But the basic point is that the question of "making globalization work" or "having globalization with a human face" simply does not arise.

The problem with this praxis is that it is not only the bourgeoisie in the Third World countries, but even sections of the middle-class professionals who have been beneficiaries of globalization, who would oppose any such delinking. But the world capitalist crisis, which is a consequence of this finance-capital-led globalization itself, is causing disaffection among these middle-class beneficiaries. They, too, would now be more willing to support an alternative trajectory of development that breaks out of the straitjacket imposed by imperialism.

[Aug 13, 2018] Turkey blames Trump for attack on lira, says it won't 'kneel' and has counter-measures ready

Notable quotes:
"... "The currency of our country is targeted directly by the US president," ..."
"... "This attack, initiated by the biggest player in the global financial system, reveals a similar situation in all developing countries." ..."
"... "All of our action plan and measures are ready," ..."
"... "Together with our banks, we prepared our action plan regarding the situation with our real sector companies, including Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which is the sector that is affected by the fluctuation the most," ..."
"... "Together with our banks and the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BRSA), we will take the necessary measures quickly." ..."
"... "It is making an operation against Turkey Its aim is to force Turkey to surrender in every field from finance to politics, to make Turkey and the Turkish nation kneel down," ..."
"... "We have seen your play and we challenge you." ..."
Aug 13, 2018 | www.rt.com

Turkey has accused Donald Trump of leading an attack on its national currency. The lira lost about 40 percent of its value against the US dollar this year and, to reduce its volatility, Ankara has prepared an urgent action plan. "The currency of our country is targeted directly by the US president," Finance Minister Berat Albayrak told the Hurriyet. "This attack, initiated by the biggest player in the global financial system, reveals a similar situation in all developing countries."

The Turkish lira took a massive hit against the dollar on Friday following Trump's decision to double tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Turkey to 20 percent and 50 percent. Overall, the national currency lost roughly about 40 percent of its value this year.

Read more © Ozan Kose Erdogan urges Turks to dump dollar to support lira

To calm down the markets, the government instructed its institutions to implement a series of actions on Monday. "All of our action plan and measures are ready," Albayrak said, without elaborating.

"Together with our banks, we prepared our action plan regarding the situation with our real sector companies, including Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which is the sector that is affected by the fluctuation the most," the minister said . "Together with our banks and the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BRSA), we will take the necessary measures quickly."

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meanwhile slammed the US decision to impose new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

"It is making an operation against Turkey Its aim is to force Turkey to surrender in every field from finance to politics, to make Turkey and the Turkish nation kneel down," Erdogan said in Trabzon on Sunday. "We have seen your play and we challenge you."

[Aug 09, 2018] Why They Fail - The Quintessence Of The Korengal Valley Campaign

Notable quotes:
"... Wall Street Journal ..."
Aug 09, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

A new excerpt from a book by C.J. Chivers, a former U.S. infantry captain and New York Times war correspondent, tells the story of a young man from New York City who joined the U.S. army and was send to the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. While the man, one Robert Soto, makes it out alive, several of his comrades and many Afghans die during his time in Afghanistan to no avail.

The piece includes remarkably strong words about the strategic (in)abilities of U.S. politicians, high ranking officers and pundits:

On one matter there can be no argument: The policies that sent these men and women abroad, with their emphasis on military action and their visions of reordering nations and cultures, have not succeeded. It is beyond honest dispute that the wars did not achieve what their organizers promised, no matter the party in power or the generals in command. Astonishingly expensive, strategically incoherent, sold by a shifting slate of senior officers and politicians and editorial-page hawks, the wars have continued in varied forms and under different rationales each and every year since passenger jets struck the World Trade Center in 2001. They continue today without an end in sight, reauthorized in Pentagon budgets almost as if distant war is a presumed government action.

That description is right but it does not touche the underlying causes. The story of the attempted U.S. occupation of the Korengal valley, which Civers again describes, has been the theme of several books and movies. It demonstrates the futility of fighting a population that does not welcome occupiers. But most of the authors, including Chivers, get one fact wrong. The war with the people of the Korengal valley was started out of shear stupidity and ignorance.

The main military outpost in the valley was build on a former sawmill. Chivers writes:

On a social level, it could not have been much worse. It was an unforced error of occupation, a set of foreign military bunkers built on the grounds of a sawmill and lumber yard formerly operated by Haji Mateen, a local timber baron. The American foothold put some of the valley's toughest men out of work, the same Afghans who knew the mountain trails. Haji Mateen now commanded many of the valley's fighters, under the banner of the Taliban.

Unfortunately Chivers does not explain why the saw mill was closed. Ten years ago a piece by Elizabeth Rubin touched on this:

As the Afghans tell the story, from the moment the Americans arrived in 2001, the Pech Valley timber lords and warlords had their ear. Early on, they led the Americans to drop bombs on the mansion of their biggest rival -- Haji Matin. The air strikes killed several members of his family, according to local residents, and the Americans arrested others and sent them to the prison at Bagram Air Base. The Pech Valley fighters working alongside the Americans then pillaged the mansion. And that was that. Haji Matin, already deeply religious, became ideological and joined with Abu Ikhlas, a local Arab linked to the foreign jihadis.

Years before October 2004, before regular U.S. soldiers came into the Korengal valley, U.S. special forces combed through the region looking for 'al-Qaeda'. They made friends with a timber baron in Pech valley, a Pashtun of the Safi tribe, who claimed that his main competitor in the (illegal) timber trade who lived in the nearby Korengal river valley was a Taliban and 'al-Qaeda'. That was not true. Haji Matin was a member of a Nuristani tribe that spoke Pashai . These were a distinct people with their own language who were and are traditional hostile to any centralized government (pdf), even to the Taliban's Islamic Emirate.

The U.S. special forces lacked any knowledge of the local society. But even worse was that they lacked the curiosity to research and investigate the social terrain. They simply trusted their new 'friend', the smooth talking Pashtun timber baron, and called in jets to destroy his competitor's sawmill and home. This started a local war of attrition which defeated the U.S. military. In 2010 the U.S. military, having achieved nothing, retreated from Korengal. (The sawmill episode was described in detail in a 2005(?) blog post by a former special force soldier who took part in it. It since seems to have been removed from the web.)

Back to Chivers' otherwise well written piece. He looks at the results two recent (and ongoing) U.S. wars:

The governments of Afghanistan and Iraq, each of which the United States spent hundreds of billions of dollars to build and support, are fragile, brutal and uncertain. The nations they struggle to rule harbor large contingents of irregular fighters and terrorists who have been hardened and made savvy, trained by the experience of fighting the American military machine.
...
Billions of dollars spent creating security partners also deputized pedophiles, torturers and thieves. National police or army units that the Pentagon proclaimed essential to their countries' futures have disbanded. The Islamic State has sponsored or encouraged terrorist attacks across much of the world -- exactly the species of crime the global "war on terror" was supposed to prevent.

The wars fail because they no reasonable strategic aim or achievable purpose. They are planned by incompetent people. The most recent Pentagon ideas for the U.S. war on Afghanistan depend on less restricted bombing rules. Yesterday one predictable and self defeating consequence was again visible:

An American airstrike killed at least a dozen Afghan security forces during intense fighting with the Taliban near the Afghan capital, officials said Tuesday.
...
Shamshad Larawi, a spokesman for the governor, said that American airstrikes had been called in for support, but that because of a misunderstanding, the planes mistakenly targeted an Afghan police outpost.
...
Haji Abdul Satar, a tribal elder from Azra, said he counted 19 dead, among them 17 Afghan police officers and pro-government militia members and two civilians.
...
In the first six months of this year, United States forces dropped nearly 3,000 bombs across Afghanistan, nearly double the number for the same period last year and more than five times the number for the first half of 2016. ... Civilian casualties from aerial bombardments have increased considerably as a result, the United Nations says.

One argument made by the Pentagon generals when they pushed Trump to allow more airstrikes was that these would cripple the Taliban's alleged opium trade and its financial resources. But, as the Wall Street Journal reports , that plan, like all others before it, did not work at all:

Nine months of targeted airstrikes on opium production sites across Afghanistan have failed to put a significant dent in the illegal drug trade that provides the Taliban with hundreds of millions of dollars, according to figures provided by the U.S. military.
...
So far, the air campaign has wiped out about $46 million in Taliban revenue, less than a quarter of the money the U.S. estimates the insurgents get from the illegal drug trade. U.S. military officials estimate the drug trade provides the Taliban with 60% of its revenue.
...
Poppy production hit record highs in Afghanistan last year , where they are the country's largest cash crop, valued at between $1.5 billion and $3 billion.

More than 200 airstrikes on "drug-related targets" have hardly made a dent in the Taliban's war chest. The military war planners again failed.

At the end of the Chivers piece its protagonist, Robert Soto, rightfully vents about the unaccountability of such military 'leaders':

Still he wondered: Was there no accountability for the senior officer class? The war was turning 17, and the services and the Pentagon seemed to have been given passes on all the failures and the drift. Even if the Taliban were to sign a peace deal tomorrow, there would be no rousing sense of victory, no parade. In Iraq, the Islamic State metastasized in the wreckage of the war to spread terror around the world. The human costs were past counting, and the whitewash was both institutional and personal, extended to one general after another, including many of the same officers whose plans and orders had either fizzled or failed to create lasting success, and yet who kept rising . Soto watched some of them as they were revered and celebrated in Washington and by members of the press, even after past plans were discredited and enemies retrenched.

Since World War II, during which the Soviets, not the U.S., defeated the Nazis, the U.S. won no war. The only exception is the turkey shooting of the first Gulf war. But even that war failed in its larger political aim of dethroning Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. population and its 'leaders' simply know too little about the world to prevail in an international military campaign. They lack curiosity. The origin of the Korengal failure is a good example for that.

U.S. wars are rackets , run on the back of lowly soldiers and foreign civil populations. They enriche few at the cost of everyone else.

Wars should not be 'a presumed government action', but the last resort to defend ones country. We should do our utmost to end all of them.


bjd , Aug 8, 2018 4:19:05 PM | 1

There is a fundamental misunderstanding in the lament ringing through in this story.

The policy makers and the generals do not care about Afghanistan, nor about American boys being sent and being killed there.

Any bombs spent means more bombs being ordered and manufactured. The Military-Industrial-Intelligence-Complex thus profits.

Those belonging to that complex do not belong to the same class as those boys in body bags.

In spite of these valuable insights like in this story, everything is going just hunky dory.

Mischi , Aug 8, 2018 4:34:28 PM | 2
you know, it is just as easy to influence a foreign society by making movies (Bollywood in this case) with a certain bent, the one you want people to follow. After a few years of seeing the Taliban as villains, there would be no fresh recruits and mass desertion. But, the weapons manufacturers wouldn't be making their enormous profits. This same effect can be seen in American society, where the movies coming out of Hollywood started becoming very aggressive in tone around the time that Ronald Reagan became president. Movies went from The Deer Hunter to Rambo and Wall Street. Is it any wonder that even the progressive Left in the USA thinks it is ok to attack their political adversaries and that violence is justified? This is the power of movies and the media.
Mark2 , Aug 8, 2018 4:45:09 PM | 3
Thank you 'b' this post as always is a true in depth education !
If you run for president of the United States of America enytime soon you'v got my vote !
karlof1 , Aug 8, 2018 5:09:38 PM | 4
bjd @1 highlights an important truth similar to that exposed by Joseph Heller in Cache-22 and by Hudson's Balance-of-Payments revelation he revealed yet again at this link I posted yesterday . Most know the aggressive war against Afghanistan was already planned and on the schedule prior to 911 and would have occurred regardless since after Serbia the Outlaw US Empire felt it could do and get away with anything. 911 simply provided BushCo with Carte-Blache, but it wasn't enough of a window to fulfill their desired destruction of 7 nations in 5 years for their Zionist Patron.

IMO, as part of its plan to control the Heartland, those running the Outlaw US Empire never had any plan to leave Afghanistan; rather once there, they'd stay and occupy it just as the Empire's done everywhere since WW2. The Empire's very much like a leech; its occupations are parasitic as Hudson demonstrated, and work at the behest of corporate interests as Smedly Butler so eloquently illustrated.

As with Vietnam, the only way to get NATO forces to leave is for Afghanis to force them out with their rifles. Hopefully, they will be assisted by SCO nations and Afghanistan will cease being a broken nation by 2030.

jayc , Aug 8, 2018 5:13:05 PM | 5
The Wall Street Journal article on the Taliban's ties to the local drug trade also the reveals deliberate omission practiced by the MSM, which keeps its readers actively misinformed. Estimating illegal drug revenues contribute as much as $200 million to the Taliban, the article fails to put that in proper context: that figure represents merely 7%-13% of total production receipts (estimated at 1.5 to 3 billion dollars). Most informed persons know exactly who reaps the rewards of more than 80% of the Afghan drug products, and why this much larger effort is not the focus of "targeted airstrikes."
Pft , Aug 8, 2018 5:17:07 PM | 6
1. "The wars fail because they no reasonable strategic aim or achievable purpose........
Since World War II, during which the Soviets, not the U.S., defeated the Nazis, the U.S. won no war. The only exception is the turkey shooting of the first Gulf war."

2 "U.S. wars are rackets, run on the back of lowly soldiers and foreign civil populations. They enriche few at the cost of everyone else"

Your points in 1 ignore the reality expressed by 2. The real strategic aims and purposes are not those provided for public consumption. Winning wars is not the objective, the length and cost of wars is far more important than results. Enriching and empowering the few over the many is the entire point of it all

And lets put an end to "US " responsibility for all evils. Its a shared responsibility. None of this is possible without the cooperation of Uk and its commonwealth nations, EU, Japan and the various international organizations that allow the dollar to be weaponized such as IMF/World Bank and BIS not to mention the various tax havens which support covert operations and looting of assets obtained in these wars (military or economic).

Until the rest of the world is prepared to do something about it they are willing accomplices in all of this.

The global elites are globalists, they dont think in national terms. Its a global elitist cabal at work that is hiding behind the cover of US hegemony.


Ash , Aug 8, 2018 6:01:26 PM | 7
b: "Wars should not be 'a presumed government action', but the last resort to defend ones country. We should do our utmost to end all of them."

Well said, sir.

ben , Aug 8, 2018 6:09:27 PM | 8
karlof1 @ 4 said:"The Empire's very much like a leech; its occupations are parasitic as Hudson demonstrated, and work at the behest of corporate interests as Smedly Butler so eloquently illustrated."

You bet.. The operative words being " work at the behest of corporate interests "

And so it goes around the globe. Question is; How to get this information to the herded bovines the general public has become?

Without a major network to disseminate such info, we're all just spinning our wheels. Oh, but, the therapy is good..

fast freddy , Aug 8, 2018 6:18:02 PM | 9
Very interesting stories - especially re: the timber mill warlord competition.

Defoliants are still used in warfare - especially "by accident". Carpet bombing is still legal. If NATO wanted to wipe out the poppies, it surely could do so.

Pft at 6, reminded me of this zinger:

The nation state as a fundamental unit of man's organized life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state. - The Brzez

Deltaeus , Aug 8, 2018 6:38:00 PM | 10
jayc @5 implies it, and I'll say it more directly: US soldiers guard poppy fields in Afghanistan. I'm also reminded of Alfred C McCoy's famous 1972 work The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzQUsY6a_Ds
Why the US grows heroin in Afghanistan, from the movie War Machine

Piotr Berman , Aug 8, 2018 6:51:23 PM | 11
The nation state as a fundamental unit of man's organized life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state. - The Brzez

Posted by: fast freddy | Aug 8, 2018 6:18:02 PM | 9

This gem hides a deep truth. One has to replace "creative" and "far in advance", instead, we have power relationships. And those power relationships resemble central planning of the Communist states, concept that is attractive in abstraction, but centralization cannot cope with complexities of societies and economies, in part because the central institutions are inevitably beset by negative selection: people rise due to their adroit infighting skills rather than superior understanding of what those institutions are supposed to control. Ultimately, this proces leads to decay and fall. "Nation states" themselves are not immune to such cycles and are at different stages of the cycle creative-decadent-falling. However, international finance lacks observable "refreshing" mechanisms of nation states.

Kalen , Aug 8, 2018 6:54:16 PM | 12
War as always is financial racket, $trillion stolen, MIC thrives, took over with CIA all prerogatives of power and has million agents in US alone in every institution government and corporate.

I call it success of ruling elite. B war would stop tomorrow if it was unsuccessful read unprofitable for those who wage it. Nazi death camps were most profitable enterprises in third Reich.

Curtis , Aug 8, 2018 7:22:43 PM | 13
For some reason, when the US wars are admitted to be civil wars, no one questions whose side did the US take until it is too late and so very few tune in. Incompetence is the excuse. It reminds me of that adage to not blame on malice that which can be explained by stupidity but stupidity has been used to excuse a lot of malice. It's one reason why "military intelligence" resides at the top of oxymorons along with "congressional ethics" and "humanitarian intervention."

It is amazing to think that the US has been in Afghanistan for 17 years and supposedly knows where the opium and its processors are and yet could not take it out. (The pix of soldiers patrolling poppy fields is rich.) The initial excuse years ago was that the US needed to support the warlords who grew/sold it. What is the excuse now? Incompetence, corruption, laziness?

The US likes the idea of opium products going into Iran and Russia ... who have protested to no avail. A bit of indirect subversion.

Ian , Aug 8, 2018 7:27:07 PM | 14
@13:

The adage is Hanlon's Razor. There should be a joint air operation to bomb those poppy fields.

goldhoarder , Aug 8, 2018 7:33:26 PM | 15
US wars are rackets. They are very successful in that regard. It doesn't matter what people think about them.
fast freddy , Aug 8, 2018 7:50:42 PM | 16
The US likes opium products going into the US. It makes for broken citizens who lack zeal for knowledge, and therefore, comprehension; and the will to organize against the PTB. Importantly, being illegal, opiate use feeds the pigs who own the prison-industrial complex.
par4 , Aug 8, 2018 7:50:56 PM | 17
The Taliban had virtually eradicated opium when they controlled Afghanistan. Try this link or or this one.
fast freddy , Aug 8, 2018 7:55:40 PM | 18
https://www.thenation.com/

article/bushs-faustian-deal-taliban/

In April 2001, 5 months prior to nine elva, $43 million was gifted to the Taliban in Afghanistan for the stated purpose of eradicating opium.


karlof1 , Aug 8, 2018 8:09:38 PM | 19
ben @8--

Given the current, longstanding dynamics within the Outlaw US Empire, I don't see any possibility of the required reforms ever having an opportunity to get enacted. The situation's very similar to Nazi Germany's internal dynamic--the coercive forces of the State and its allies will not allow any diminution of their power. Within the Empire, thousands of Hydra heads would need to be rapidly severed for any revolt to succeed, and that requires a large, easily infiltrated organization to accomplish. Invasion by an allied group of nations invites a nuclear holocaust I can't condone. I think the best the world can do is force the Empire to retreat from its 800+ bases and sequester it behind the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans until it self-destructs or drastically reforms itself--Containment. But for that to work, almost every comprador government would need to be changed and their personages imprisoned, exiled or executed--another close to impossible task. Ideally, the ballot box would work--ideally--but that requires deeply informed voters and highly idealistic, strongly principled, creative, and fearless candidates, along with an honest media.

Yeah, writing can be good therapy. But I'm no more cheery than when I began. Must be time for intoxicants.

b4real , Aug 8, 2018 8:20:04 PM | 20
@6 Pft

"Until the rest of the world is prepared to do something about it..."

What is this 'something' of which you speak?

b4real

vk , Aug 8, 2018 8:26:25 PM | 21
More than 200 airstrikes on "drug-related targets" have hardly made a dent in the Taliban's war chest. The military war planners again failed.

Or did they?

Jen , Aug 8, 2018 9:11:48 PM | 22
Karlofi @ 19:

The world does not need to force the Evil Empire to retreat from its 1,000 (and counting) military bases around the planet.

All the world needs to do is trade with Iran, Venezuela or some other outsider nation. The Evil Empire will be so busy trying to punish everyone who trades with these countries by extending sanctions against the outsiders to their trading partners that the Empire effectively ends up having sanctioned everyone away and it becomes the victim of its sanctioning.

The 1,000+ military bases around the globe are then effectively on their own and the soldiers and administrators inside can either stay there and starve, throw in their lot with the host nation's citizenry or beg to be allowed to return home.

james , Aug 8, 2018 9:22:13 PM | 23
thanks b... as long as the americans support the troops, lol - all will be well apparently... jesus.. meanwhile - the support for the 1% bomb makers and etc continues... maybe it is the mutual fund money that folks are concerned about maintaining..

"In the first six months of this year, United States forces dropped nearly 3,000 bombs across Afghanistan." what is that? about 17 or 18 bombs a day or something? what about the drones? they have to be put to use too... best to get someone who is involved in their own turf war in afgan to give out the targets.. brilliant... usa war planning is mostly destroy and destroy and honour the troops and wave their stupid american flag and that is about it... sorry, but that is what it looks like to me..

Jason , Aug 8, 2018 9:32:50 PM | 24
its not so much they want to end the war on terror or the war on drugs.........they just want to say one thing to cover their asses and do another thing completely..

no matter what there should of been one general who got it right.....but we see it was never about peace .... it was always about war and its profits. anyone who didn't take orders or even had a hint of the right strategy would be Hung like dirty boots to dry.

what is the right strategy? leave. just as other empires did. before you call on your faces

to be even more frank....its not even about the money as that is not as important than having a nation of 300m regurgitate the news that they are there for 17 years to be the police of the world. because USA are the good ones... that they need to buy the biggest trucks which can't even fit in normal parking spaces because they have land mines(I mean ieds...) to avoid and need to haul 5tons of cargo to their construction job all while watching out for terrorists and trump Hillary divisions. is disorienting and it is deliberate. just as having a war last without a reason is deliberate while they entertain the masses with games..

dh , Aug 8, 2018 9:35:25 PM | 25
@23 "...maybe it is the mutual fund money that folks are concerned about maintaining.."

Definitely a big factor james. Unfortunately a lot more than 1% of the US population depends on the MIC for their livliehood.

james , Aug 8, 2018 9:38:08 PM | 26
@23dh... same deal here in canuckle head ville... people remain ignorant of what there money is ''''invested'''' in... could be saudi arabia for all the canucks think... btw - thanks for the laugh on the other thread... you made a couple of good jokes somewhere the past few days! i don't have much free time to comment at the moment..
pogohere , Aug 8, 2018 9:39:10 PM | 27
par4:

McCoy, in "The Politics of Heroin" gives a more complete picture:

In 1996, following four years of civil war among rival resistance factions, the Taliban's victory caused further expansion of opium cultivation. After capturing Kabul in September, the Taliban drove the Uzbek and Tajik warlords into the country's northeast, where they formed the Northern Alliance and clung to some 10 percent of Afghanistan's territory. Over the next three years, a seesaw battle for the Shamali plain north of Kabul raged until the Taliban finally won control in 1999 by destroying the orchards and irrigation in a prime food-producing region, generating over 100,000 refugees and increasing the country's dependence on opium.

Once in power, the Taliban made opium its largest source of taxation. To raise revenues estimated at $20-$25 million in 1997, the Taliban collected a 5 to 10 percent tax in kind on all opium harvested, a share that they then sold to heroin laboratories; a flat tax of $70 per kilogram on heroin refiners; and a transport tax of $250 on every kilogram exported. The head of the regime's anti-drug operations in Kandahar, Abdul Rashid, enforced a rigid ban on hashish "because it is consumed by Afghans, Muslims." But, he explained, "Opium is permissible because it is consumed by kafirs [unbelievers] in the West and not by Muslims or Afghans." A Taliban governor, Mohammed Hassan, added: "Drugs are evil and we would like to substitute poppies with another cash crop, but it's not possible at the moment because we do not have international recognition."

More broadly, the Taliban's policies provided stimulus, both direct and indirect, for a nationwide expansion of opium cultivation. . . Significantly, the regime's ban on the employment and education of women created a vast pool of low-cost labor to sustain an accelerated expansion of opium production. . . . In northern and eastern Afghanistan, women of all ages played " a fundamental role in the cultivation of the opium poppy"---planting, weeding, harvesting, cooking for laborers, and processing by-products such as oil. The Taliban not only taxed and encouraged opium cultivation, they protected and promoted exports to international markets.

In retrospect, however, the Taliban's most important contribution to the illicit traffic was its support for large-scale heroin refining.
. . .
Instead of eradication, the UN's annual opium surveys showed that Taliban rule had doubled Afghanistan's opium production from 2,250 tons in 1996 to 4,600 tons in 1999--equivalent to 75 percent of world illicit production. (508-509)
. . .

War on the Taliban

All this [heroin] traffic across Central Asia depended on high-volume heroin production in politically volatile Afghanistan. In July 2000, as a devastating drought entered its second year and mass starvation spread across Afghanistan, the Taliban's leader Mullah Omar ordered a sudden ban on opium cultivation in a bid for international recognition. (p.517)

dh , Aug 8, 2018 9:53:59 PM | 28
@26 I've been following the Canada/Saudi spat. I guess Justin has his own reasons for what he said but he certainly pissed MBS off.

Doesn't look like Donald wants to mediate. Perhaps Justin will have better luck with Teresa.

Pft , Aug 8, 2018 10:05:34 PM | 29
B4real@20

Dealing with their own elites for a start

james , Aug 8, 2018 10:17:03 PM | 30
@28 dh... usa daily propaganda press briefing had a few things to say - https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2018/08/285028.htm
folktruther , Aug 8, 2018 10:27:00 PM | 31
B's article assumes that the operative purpose of the US military is to win wars. This isn't the case. The US military largely a business enterprise whose objective is to make money for the plutocracy that largely controls them. That being the case, the Afghanistan war has been a great success. If the US 'won' it, it would cease; if the Taliban conquered, it would cease. In this form of military stagnation it continues, and the money roles in making the ammunition, equipment, etc.

The military budget is largely an institution for transferring the tax money of the population from the people to the plutocracy. Military stagnation serves this purpose better than winning or losing.

Hoarsewhisperer , Aug 8, 2018 10:38:55 PM | 32
If there is one standout factor which makes makes all this profitable mayhem possible then it's the successful campaign by the Elites to persuade the Public that Secrecy is a legitimate variation of Privacy.
It is not.

Impregnable Government Secrecy is ALWAYS a cover for erroneous interpretations of an inconvenient Law - or straight-out cover for criminal activity.
It's preposterous to believe that a government elected by The People has a legitimate right to create schemes which must be kept Secret from The People.
This is especially true in the case of Military/Defense. There wouldn't be a CIC on earth who doesn't have up-to-date and regularly updated info on the hardware and capabilities of every ally and every potential foe. The People have a legitimate right to know what the CIC, and the rest of the world, already knows.

And that's just the most glaring example of the childish deception being perpetrated in the name of Secrecy. If governments were to be stripped of the power to conduct Our affairs in Secret then the scrutiny would oblige them to behave more competently. And we could weed out the drones and nitwits before they did too much damage.

dh , Aug 8, 2018 10:41:21 PM | 33
@30 Right. I notice they avoid mentioning the Badawis who are central to the issue. I guess helping Justin out isn't very high on Donald's list of priorities.
the pair , Aug 8, 2018 11:41:17 PM | 34
i forget who said it and the exact phrasing, but the best explanation i've seen is "why is the US there? it answers itself: to be there".

vast opium money for the deep state vermin.

profits for the bomb makers (you know, the respectable corporate ones as opposed to the quaint do-it-yourselfers).

lithium deposits that probably rival those in bolivia as well as other untapped profitable resources (probably, anyway; i could see oil and gas coming out of those ancient valleys).

it's also an occupation as opposed to a "win and get out" war. these military welfare queens think they can win a staring contest with the descendants of people who bitchslapped every would-be conqueror since alexander the great. ask the russians how well that went for them.

the west supports israel's 70+ years of colonizing palestine (plus the 3 or 4 decades of dumbness before it with balfour and such) and still has troops in south goddamn korea. as long as the tap flows they'll keep drinking that sweet tasty tax welfare.

[Aug 07, 2018] Bill Black Pre-Crisis 4506-T Studies Showed Massive Fraud in Liar's Loans; Fed Ignored Warning, DoJ Refused to Target Implic

Notable quotes:
"... By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United. Jointly published with New Economic Perspectives ..."
"... New Economic Perspectives ..."
"... The Pentagon Wars ..."
"... The Generals ..."
"... The Chickenshit Club ..."
Aug 07, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Bill Black: Pre-Crisis "4506-T Studies" Showed Massive Fraud in Liar's Loans; Fed Ignored Warning, DoJ Refused to Target Implicated Banksters Posted on August 7, 2018 by Yves Smith Yves here. With the tsunami of "ten years after the crisis" stories that are already starting to hit the beach, I am endeavoring to focus on ones that contain new or significantly under-reported information or give particularly insightful overviews. Here Black gives a telling example of both how the authorities were warned of massive mortgage fraud and ignored it, and then later failed to use the same evidence to pursue the perps.

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United. Jointly published with New Economic Perspectives

Steven Krystofiak formed the Mortgage Brokers Association for Responsible Lending, a professional association dedicated to fighting mortgage fraud and predation. On August 1, 2006. He tried to save our Nation by issuing one of the most prescient warnings about the epidemic of mortgage fraud and predation and the crisis it would so cause.

The context was Congress' effort to empower and convince the Federal Reserve to take action against what the mortgage lending industry called, behind closed doors, "liar's" loans. A liar's loan is a loan in which the lender does not verify (at least) the borrower's actual income. The industry knew that the failure to verify inherently led to endemic fraud. George Akerlof and Paul Romer's 1993 article on "Looting" by financial CEOs explicitly cited the failure to verify the borrower's income as an example of a lending practice that only fraudulent lenders would use on a widespread basis.

Congress gave the Fed the unique authority to ban all liar's loans in 1994, by passing the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA). HOEPA gave the Fed the authority to ban liar's loans even by "shadow" sector financial firms that had no federal deposit insurance.

Liar's loans began to become material around 1989 during the savings and loan debacle where all good U.S. financial frauds are born – Orange County, California. In that era, they were called "low documentation" ('low doc') loans. We (the West Region of the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), were the federal regulator for these S&Ls, and we were overwhelmed dealing with the "control frauds" driving the debacle, who overwhelmingly used commercial real estate (CRE) as their accounting "weapon" of choice. Our examiners, however, made two critical points. No honest lender would make widespread loans without verifying the borrower's income because it was certain to produce severe "adverse selection" and produce serious losses. The examiners' second warning was that such loans were growing rapidly in Orange County and multiple lenders were involved.

We listened and responded well to our examiners' timely and sound warnings and made it a moderate priority to drive liar's loans out of the industry we regulated. The last of the major fraudulent S&L liar's loan lenders was Long Beach Savings. Long Beach set a common pattern for fraudulent lenders by also engaging in predation primarily against Latinos and blacks. In 1994, the same year HOEPA became law; Long Beach voluntarily gave up federal deposit insurance and its charger as a savings and loan. Long Beach's controlling owner, Roland Arnall, did this for the sole purpose of escaping our regulatory jurisdiction and our ability to examine, sue, and sanction the S&L and its officers. Arnall changed its name to Ameriquest, and converted it to a mortgage bank. Mortgage banks were essentially unregulated. Arnall successfully sought sanctuary in what we now call the "shadow" financial sector. The S&L debacle did not end. It found sanctuary in the Shadow and grew 50% annually for 13 years.

Ameriquest and its leading mortgage bank competitor, run by former S&L officers we (OTS) had "removed and prohibited" from working in any federally insured lender, became the leading "vectors" spreading the epidemic of fraudulent liar's loans through (initially) the shadow sector and later back into federally insured lenders. Many of Arnall's lieutenants eventually left Ameriquest to lead other fraudulent and predatory lenders making predatory liar's loans. Michael W. Hudson's book, The Monster , is a great read that presents this history. Ameriquest and its fraudulent and predatory peers grew at extraordinary rates for over a decade. They hyper-inflated the bubble and drove the financial crisis.

Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernake refused to use HOEPA to stop this surging epidemic of fraudulent and predatory liar's loans. This was the setting when Krystofiak, on his own dime and initiative took advantage of a Fed hearing on predatory lending near his home to warn us all of the coming disaster. Krystofiak was not the first warning. His written testimony cited the appraisers' and the FBI's prior warnings. The appraisers' 2000 petition explaining how lenders and their agents were extorting appraisers to inflate appraisals was superb. Chris Swecker's 2004 warning on behalf of the FBI that the developing "epidemic" of mortgage fraud would cause a financial "crisis" if not stopped was superb.

Krystofiak was also superb. The Fed did not want to conduct hearings on fraudulent and predatory liar's loans – Congress forced it to do so. The Fed's Board members were not interested in stopping fraudulent and predatory liar's loans. The Fed did not invite Krystofiak to testify. The Fed offered only a brief "cattle call" at the end of the hearing allowing (after a top Fed official had left to fly back to DC) the public to make a very brief statement.

The Fed's treatment of Krysofiak stood in sharp contrast to its fawning treatment of the Mortgage Bankers Associations' chosen witness. The MBA chose the leading originator of fraudulent liar's loans in California – IndyMac – to present the MBA's position. The MBA's position was that the Fed should not use its HOEPA authority to ban fraudulent and predatory liar's loans. The Fed officials cracked jokes with and treated the IndyMac officer like an old pal. They treated Krytofiak with cold indifference. The MBA witness presented utter BS. Krystofiak spoke truth to power. Power loved the BS. The truth discomfited the Fed officials.

Krytofiak's written testimony made many vital points, but I refer to only two related points here. First, he warned the Fed that the twin mortgage fraud origination epidemics – appraisal fraud and liar's loans – were so large that they were inflating the housing bubble. Second, his means of quantifying the incidence of liar's loan fraud showed the regulators and the prosecutors that they could use the same method to document reliably, cheaply, and quickly the incidence of liar's loan fraud at every relevant financial firm.

Data Collected by the Mortgage Brokers Association for Responsible Lending

A recent sample of 100 stated income loans which were compared to IRS records (which is allowed through IRS forms 4506, but hardly done) found that 90 % of the income was exaggerated by 5 % or more. MORE DISTURBINGLY, ALMOST 60 % OF THE STATED AMOUNTS WERE EXAGGERATED BY MORE THAN 50%. These results suggest that the stated income loans deserves the nickname used by many in the industry, the "liar's loan" (emphasis in original).

The MBA's anti-fraud experts, MARI, appears to have conducted the study for Krystofiak. They featured the 4506-T (the "T" stands for "transcript") study and its finding of a 90% fraud incidence in liar's loans. In 2006, MARI presented its fraud study at the MBA's annual meeting. The MBA sent MARI's report to every member, which included all the major mortgage players.

Any honest originator, purchaser, or packager of liar's loans was on notice no later than mid-2006 that they could determine quickly, cheaply, and reliably the fraud incidence in those liar's loans by using the 4506-T forms to test a sample of those loans. Krystofiak aptly noted that while lenders typically required borrowers to sign the IRS 4506-T form allowing the lender to access their tax information, it was actually "hardly done." Lenders supposedly require the 4506-T because taxpayers have an obvious interest in not inflating their income to the IRS. The self-employed have to report their income accurately or face potential tax fraud sanctions.

The reason liar's loan mortgage lenders, purchasers, the packagers of toxic collateralized debt obligations (CDOs ) that typically were composed of large amounts of liar's loans, and credit rating agencies, "hardly [ever] used" or required the sellers to use their 4506-T authority is also clear if you understand "accounting control fraud." Any 4506-T study of liar's loans will document their pervasive frauds. Virtually all liar's loan and CDO sales required "reps and warranties" that they were not fraudulent. If a firm making or selling liar's loans conducted a 4506-T study and documented that it knew its reps and warranties were false, and it continued t make, sell, package, or rate those fraudulent loans under false reps and warranties it would be handling its counterparty a dream civil fraud suit. They would be handing DOJ the ability to prosecute them successfully for felonies that caused hundreds of billions of dollars in losses. The fraudulent mortgage money machine relied on the major players following a financial "don't ask; don't tell" policy.

The exceptions prove the rule. I have found public evidence of only two cases in which mortgage players (other than Krystofiak) conducted 4506-T audits of liar's loans. I have never found public evidence that any federal regulator or prosecutor conducted or mandated a 4506-T study. The two known cases of 4506-T audits were Wells Fargo (just disclosed by DOJ) and Countrywide (disclosed by the SEC investigation and complaint). Both audits found massive fraud incidence in the liar's loans. The risk officers presented these audit results to the banks' senior managers.

Bank Whistleblowers United's 4506-T Proposal

Two and-a-half years ago, Bank Whistleblowers United (BWU) discussed the senior officers of Countrywide's response to its 4506-T audit. We noted that BWU co-founder Michael Winston blew the whistle on Countrywide's frauds to the bank's most senior officers to try to prevent these frauds. Mr. Winston eagerly aided potential prosecutors – who failed to prosecute Countrywide's senior officers leading the frauds. BWU then explained the analogous response of Citigroup's senior officers to a different but equally reliable audit conducted by BWU co-founder Richard Bowen. We did so in a January 30, 2016 New Economic Perspectives blog urging presidential candidates in the 2016 election to pledge to implement the 60-day BWU plan to restore the rule of law to Wall Street.

As documented in the SEC complaint, Countrywide's managers conducted a secret internal study of Countrywide's liar's loans that, on June 2, 2006, confirmed Krystofiak's findings of endemic fraud in liar's loans. Fraud was the norm in Countrywide's liar's loans, a fact that it failed to disclose to its stockholders and secondary market purchasers. Instead of stopping such loans, Countrywide's senior officers caused it to adopt what they termed "Extreme Alt-A" loans offered by Bear and Lehman that "layered" this fraud risk on top of a half dozen additional massive risks to create what Countrywide's controlling officer described as loans that were "toxic" and "inherently unsound." "Alt-A" was the euphemism for liar's loans. Countrywide made massive amounts of "Extreme Alt-A" and acted as a vector spreading these "toxic" loans throughout the financial system. A member of our group, Dr. Michael Winston, tried to stop these kinds of abuses, which enriched top management but bankrupted Countrywide.

Similarly, a member of our group, Richard Bowen and his team of expert underwriters, documented that Citigroup knew that it was purchasing tens of billions of dollars of loans annually on the basis of fraudulent "reps and warranties" – and then reselling them to Fannie and Freddie on the basis of fraudulent reps and warranties. Bowen put the highest levels of Citigroup (including Bob Rubin) on personal notice in writing as the incidence of fraud climbed from 40% to 60%. (It eventually reached an astonishing 80% fraud incidence.) Citigroup's leadership's response was to remove his staff. Senior Citigroup officers also responded to the surging fraud by causing Citigroup to become a major purchaser of fraudulently originated liar's loans.

We can now add the senior leaders that determined Wells Fargo's response to its 4506-T audit. We draw on the Department of Justice (DOJ) disclosures in conjunction with its indefensible settlement of civil fraud claims against Wells Fargo's massive mortgage fraud. The DOJ press release revealed that "in 2005, Wells Fargo began an initiative to double its production of subprime and Alt-A loans." DOJ did not explain that this was after the FBI warned there was an emerging "epidemic" of mortgage "fraud" that would cause a financial "crisis" if it were not stopped. The settlement discloses that Wells' risk officers alerted senior managers that the plan to increase greatly the number of liar's loans would greatly increase fraud in 2005 before Wells implemented the plan.

The press release had other bombshells (unintentionally) demonstrating the strength of the criminal cases that DOJ refused to bring against Wells' senior officers. Wells Fargo's 4506-T audit found that its liar's loans were endemically fraudulent, and the amount of inflated income was extraordinary.

The results of Wells Fargo's 4506-T testing were disclosed in internal monthly reports, which were widely distributed among Wells Fargo employees. One Wells Fargo employee in risk management observed that the "4506-T results are astounding" yet "instead of reacting in a way consistent with what is being reported WF [Wells Fargo] is expanding stated [income loan] programs in all business lines."

The press release note some other actions by Wells' senior managers that show what prosecutors term "consciousness of guilt." Such actions make (real) prosecutors salivate. The press release's final substantive revelation is the unbelievable rate of loan defaults on Wells Fargo's fraudulent loans and the exceptional damages those loans and sales caused.

Wells Fargo sold at least 73,539 stated income loans that were included in RMBS between 2005 to 2007, and nearly half of those loans have defaulted, resulting in billions of dollars in losses to investors.

Typical default rates on conventional mortgages averaged, for decades, around 1.5 percent. The Wells Fargo liar's loans defaulted at a rate 30 times greater.

How Corrupt is Wells? Cheating Customers is "Courageous"

The press release does not contain the Wells Fargo gem that proves our family rule that it is impossible to compete with unintentional self-parody. Paragraph H of the settlement reveals that Wells' term for doubling its number of fraudulent liar's loans in 2005 was "Courageous Underwriting." Wells' senior managers changed its compensation system to induce its employees to approve even worse loans. Calling defrauding your customers "courageous" epitomizes Wells Fargo's corrupt culture built on lies and lies about lies.

DOJ's pathetic settlement with Wells Fargo has no admissions by the bank. It does not require a penny in damages from any bank officer. It does not require a bank officer to return a penny of bonuses received through these fraudulent loans. The settlement contains DOJ's statement that its investigation found that Wells' violated four federal criminal statutes. DOJ will continue to grant de facto immunity from prosecution to elite banksters. The Trump administration has again flunked a major test dealing with the swamp banksters.

Section H (b) of the settlement is factually inaccurate in a manner that makes it highly favorable to fraudulent lenders making liar's loans. There is no indication that DOJ ever investigated Wells' fraudulent loan origination practices. It was overwhelmingly lenders and their loan brokers that put the lies in liar's loans. DOJ's settlement documents do not refer to Wells whistleblowers, even though and competent investigation would have identified dozens of whistleblowers. Throughout its Wells documents, DOJ implies that borrowers overstated their income rather than Wells and its loan brokers.

The Jig is Up on DOJ's Pathetic Excuses for Refusing to Jail Elite Bank Frauds

We now know with certainty from the whistleblowers and the internal audits that the response of Citigroup, Countrywide, and Wells Fargo's senior leaders to knowing that most of their liar's loans and the reps and warranties they made about those loans were fraudulent. We know with certainty that Michael Winston and Richard Bowen's disclosures were correct. We know with certainty that each served up to DOJ on a platinum platter dream cases for prosecuting Citigroup and Countrywide's top managers. The senior managers' response to proof that their banks were engaged in endemic fraud makes sense only if the senior managers were leading an "accounting control fraud," which enriches the managers by harming the lender.

When the appraisers' warned of extensive extortion by lenders and their agents to inflate appraisals, when the FBI warned that mortgage fraud was becoming "epidemic" and would cause a financial "crisis" if not halted, and when the MBA publicized Krystofiak and MARI's warnings that liar's loans were endemically fraudulent, the fraudulent CEOs' response was always the same. In each case, they expanded what they knew were endemically fraudulent liar's loans and increased the extortion of appraisers.

Back to BWU's 4506-T Proposal

This brings us back to reminding the public what BWU proposed 32 months ago about 4506-T audits. Point 17 of our 60-day plan began:

Within 60 days, each federal financial regulatory agency directs any bank that it regulates to conduct and publicly report a "Krystofiak" study on a sample of "liar's" loans that they continue to hold. Krystofiak devised a clever study that he presented to the Federal Reserve in an unsuccessful attempt to try to get the Fed to stop the epidemic of fraudulent liar's loans. Lenders and secondary market purchasers routinely required borrowers to authorize the lender and any subsequent purchaser of the loan to obtain a "transcript" (4506-T) of the borrower's tax returns from the IRS to allow the lender to quickly and inexpensively verify the borrower's reported income.

Other parts of our 60-day plan called for DOJ appointees with the courage, integrity, and skills to restore the rule of law to Wall Street. We also explained the needs (and means) for the banking regulators to conduct the investigations (such as 4506-T audits), activate a legion of whistleblowers, and make the criminal referrals to DOJ essential to bring successful prosecutions.

Conclusion

Had the regulators (particularly the Fed through its HOEPA power) required each bank making liar's loans to conduct a 4506-T audit, the senior managers would have faced a dilemma. They could stop the fraudulent lending or provide DOJ with a great opportunity to prosecute them. The bank CEOs' response to the internal audits showing endemic fraud and the retaliation against the whistleblowers combine to offer superb proof of senior managers' 'specific intent' to defraud. The reasons for the failure to prosecute were some combination of cowardice and politics. If Democrats win control of the House they can use their investigative powers to force each bank regulator to cause every relevant financial institution to conduct a 4506-T audit.

Of course, the Republican Senate and House chairs could order those steps today . We are not holding our breath, but BWU's co-founders are eager to aid either, or both, parties restore the rule of law to Wall Street. Instead, we are rapidly creating an intensely criminogenic environment on Wall Street that will eventually cause a severe financial crisis.


Hayek's Heelbiter , August 7, 2018 at 5:35 am

Did John Stumpf (President of Wells Fargo 2007-2016) really say, "If one family loses their home, it is a tragedy. If ten million people lose their homes, it is a statistic?"

Tinky , August 7, 2018 at 6:33 am

Even by Black's lofty standards, this is an outstanding article. The fact that it won't be published in the mainstream media, and that the vast majority of regulators and politicians will ignore it, underscores once again just how broken and corrupted the American political and economic systems are.

Colonel Smithers , August 7, 2018 at 7:54 am

Thank you, Tinky.

It's the same in the UK with regard to mortgage fraud and reporting.

A colleague, brought in from the regulator to clean up our German basket case TBTF's brief and late in the day foray into the mortgage market, said the UK mortgage market was as corrupt / fraudulent. The same US firms were involved in many, if not most, cases. Lehman had an outpost, Ascendant, in my home county, Buckinghamshire, for such activity. Lehman, Merrill and Citi carved out the UK on geographical lines. One (US) firm was given the name of the Germanic tribe that settled in the area 1500 years before.

readerOfTeaLeaves , August 7, 2018 at 11:34 am

Agree about the excellence of this post.

FWIW, the kinds of government errors, cowardice, and confusions that Black relates – on top of having taxpayers foot the bill for it all – was a key factor IMVHO in people voting Trump as a kind of protest vote. He talks about 'fake news' to a huge number of Americans who faked income, or approved fake income.

The rest of us, I assume, continue to seethe and are supporting 'honest money, fair wages/salary' candidates like Warren and Sanders.

flora , August 7, 2018 at 11:54 am

+1

Tom Stone , August 7, 2018 at 7:49 am

In early 2005 I was working as a loan Broker when I met the World Savings rep or the first time.
The first words out of his mouth were a warning not to take more than 3 pints on the back end because it was greedy, the second sentence was "If there's a problem with the income the underwriter will drop the file on my desk, I'll call you and we'll fix it".
He's still in the business, a few rungs further up the corporate ladder, I got out of the business the following week.

Peter Pan , August 7, 2018 at 10:31 am

If Democrats win control of the House they can use their investigative powers to force each bank regulator to cause every relevant financial institution to conduct a 4506-T audit.

The establishment democrats that receive donor dollars from Wall Street banks? I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for them to even investigate much less do anything else to stop this criminal activity.

Otherwise another excellent post by Bill Black.

Tomonthebeach , August 7, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Also, is there a statute of limitations on this fraud? If so, both parties might just be running out the clock.

crittermom , August 7, 2018 at 7:43 pm

+1

Bewildered , August 7, 2018 at 10:41 am

Fabulous piece as usual from Mr. Black. Just makes the tenure of the previous administration all the more complicit in the current state of affairs. As Mr. Black details there was an obvious solution to uncover the fraud and go after senior execs, something that also could have also been done when the 'democrat' party held the House and at least a leverage position in the Senate. What the American public received instead was a giant con job/cover-up advertised as restitution and Obama goes on national TV to pathetically claim that grossly fraudulent behavior was simply unethical. Obviously that maneuver had a higher ROI for post-tenure legacy building and fundraising.

georgieboy , August 7, 2018 at 10:50 am

Wells Fargo -- doing it the Warren Buffet way! For that matter, Goldman Sachs -- doing it the Warren Buffet way!

Superb summary by Mr. Black, thanks Yves.

Bottom Gun , August 7, 2018 at 11:10 am

There is really a simple solution: fire everyone at DOJ and replace them with Air Force officers.

An Air Force officer is brave. He will fly through enemy fire if he has to in order to do his job. He gives no thought to the Taliban career opportunities that he might be forgoing by bombing them.

An Air Force officer is competent. He can fly through thunderstorms in the dead of night and get his bombs when and where the forward air controller down with the infantry needs them. Compare that to the experience of an honest IG official trying to get an indictment from DOJ for anyone at a mega-bank.

An Air Force officer knows how to get funding for his priorities. The Air Force annual budget, at $156 billion, is about 5 times that of DOJ. Enough said.

When you know these facts, the solution is obvious.

Kevbot5000 , August 7, 2018 at 4:36 pm

Go read The Pentagon Wars or Coram's Boyd . Air Force (or other service) officers have no particular claim to virtue. If you pulled mostly captains maybe it'd work, but the bravery and competence needed on the front line is vastly different from that needed from say a Colonel or General running programs/units which is likely the officers you'd be bringing in. Remember you're advocating bringing in people responsible for the boondoggle that is the F35 to shape up an organization. (which is not an isolated instance but emblematic of the upper tiers of the service)

Bottom Gun , August 7, 2018 at 8:00 pm

Thanks for the referrals; let me take a look. (I have read Thomas Ricks' The Generals , which I suspect makes a similar point to those.) The point is acknowledged, although I have not only read The Chickenshit Club but lived through it. There were many DOJ people I had to deal with whom I can only describe using Bundy's pungent phrase for the South Vietnamese political leadership: "the absolute bottom of the barrel." They contrasted starkly with the fellow junior officers I knew in my youth, but as you noted, those were junior officers.

Susan the other , August 7, 2018 at 12:08 pm

The simplicity of the 4506-T audits is as profound as the physics comparison of the diversity of the economy to GDP. These things don't work when all the chaos comes home to roost. In 1989 our economy was on the rocks and our corporations were offshoring as fast as they could; the USSR collapsed and we landed like a murder of crows to pick their bones and loot Russia. OPEC was naming their price; China was exporting massive deflation; our banks were already on the brink. But how to bring home all the loot from not just Russia but all the other illegal sources connected with our once and future imperialism? We were no longer a country of laws; we were looters, thieves and launderers. We were trying to salvage our "investments" or we were hoovering up flight capital or some other thing that had nothing to do with law and order and democracy. You name it. How else did all the banks, all of them, agree to forego their own standards and make all those conveyor belt loans? They prolly all had to become industrial laundromats and get rid of the stuff asap. Which was perhaps only one aspect to the ongoing collapse of "capitalism" as we once knew it – but were unable to protect it. I love Bill Black because he makes me come to uncomfortable explanations who knows how it all fell apart? Somebody does.

templar555510 , August 7, 2018 at 2:34 pm

Superb comment Susan. I make know how ' it all fell apart ' other than recognising that the early capitalists worked with stuff that had to be produced, and so despite vile excesses produced something useful to many , whereas these financial capitalists produce nothing of value to anyone except themselves and take away something from everybody else ( liar's loans being a key example ) . The question is , is there any here beyond here ? Clearly not with ANY of the present political incumbents ( I am in the UK it's the same for you and us ) . So that in two sentences is my answer to your question . My question is ' how on earth do we get beyond here ?'

Chauncey Gardiner , August 7, 2018 at 12:18 pm

Re Bill Black: " Instead, we are rapidly creating an intensely criminogenic environment on Wall Street that will eventually cause a severe financial crisis."

By design and intent with no fear of criminal prosecution for fraud, imprisonment, or even surrender of ill-gotten personal financial gains. All brought to us courtesy of the political donor class and large corporations, those they have corrupted, and the Supreme Court's Orwellian-named Citizens United decision and expanded executive branch powers that make it possible.

Look at any set of issues: Failure to pass and implement policies to address climate change, endless wars, defunding public education and infrastructure, the opioid crisis, manipulation of financial markets, federal government austerity, transfers of public lands and resources into private hands, privatization of public services, healthcare, stagnant real wages, loss of any semblance of economic equality, debt burdens placed on our young people seeking economic opportunity or family formation, lack of legal separation of bank depository and payments system functions from their market speculations, failure to enforce corporate antitrust laws, erosion of privacy and civil liberties, repeated bubbles, concentration of media ownership in the hands of a few, secret international tax havens, etc. and what do you see?

Tim , August 7, 2018 at 12:22 pm

In case you need comedy – George Carlin The Death Penalty from 1996

https://youtu.be/qDO6HV6xTmI

crittermom , August 7, 2018 at 8:02 pm

Thanks, Tim. Comedy was exactly what I needed after Bill Black's excellent article. (One of his best, IMHO)

I saw George Carlin in person at a small theater in Denver long ago. He was great, & still cracks me up.

shinola , August 7, 2018 at 12:49 pm

With the latest disclosures about WF stealing directly from their banking customers on top of their previous frauds, I'm just sure the regulators will come down hard on them this time (NOT!)

I wonder if Mr. Trump, with his involvement in commercial RE, ever "mis-stated" his his income, assets and/or liabilities when obtaining a loan. Nah, couldn't happen.

Tomonthebeach , August 7, 2018 at 3:37 pm

I wonder why anybody still banks with WF. My late mom had about 30K in a WF account under a trust that I could not close out for 24 months (Florida laws – WF had a branch in their eldercare facility.) I was delighted that my closeout check did not bounce.

Karma Fubar , August 7, 2018 at 1:22 pm

A while back I worked at a medical device startup operating within a formal (i.e. written and comprehensive) quality system. A quality system is required for any commercial sales of medical products; previously I had been involved in early stage R+D and had not been bound by such systems. So a lot of it was new to me.

Something that stuck out at the time, and probably ties in to the article above, was the sanctity of corporate internal audit files. The FDA could demand access to almost any company quality system document, except for internal audit files. They could be provided with summaries of these internal audits indicating something like "6 minor deficiencies found, 1 major deficiency found, 0 extreme deficiencies found" , but were not permitted access to the raw internal audits.

I suspect that financial firms have the same level of protection for their internal audits. Had they hired a consulting firm to investigate the accuracy of stated income in the loans they originated, the results of that outside investigation would probably be a document reviewable by government regulators (assuming they were interested in doing their job). But by pursuing this as an internal audit, executives knew that the results would never be reviewable, and give them plausible deniability that they knew of the systemic level of fraud.

There certainly must be other ways of investigating efficiency or compliance within a company, but by pursuing it as an internal audit they could easily bury the results.

Oregoncharles , August 7, 2018 at 1:52 pm

A quibble: comparing stated income to income tax forms may be misleading, although it is the standard. People have an interest in understating their income to the IRS, and in overstating it when seeking a loan. The logic is that they risk prosecution if they understate to the IRS, but there are plenty of situations where they're very unlikely to get caught. It's conceivable the loan application is more honest than the tax return.

perpetualWAR , August 7, 2018 at 7:57 pm

Neither is correct.

Enquiring Mind , August 7, 2018 at 3:09 pm

Loan officers I knew over the decades have changed their views. Asking them if they would lend their own money to the proposed borrower used to be more likely to elicit a Yes. When standards loosened (again) earlier this millennium, some answered No until realizing that they shouldn't care since the money wasn't theirs. What really mattered was getting that commission endorsed and deposited, given the rise of IBGYBG (I'll be gone, you'll be gone) thinking.

Another question I asked was about tracking borrower performance relative to loan officer compensation. Relationship building and longer term interactions declined with the rise of neo-liberalish (the -ish suffix indicates a primitive reaction to immediate perceived incentives without further investigation) mindsets. Portfolio lenders had more at risk but still laid off some of that on the deposit insurance funds. Loan buyers did not fully appreciate that they had to trust everyone preceding them in the value (destruction) cycle, from brokers and investment bankers through ratings agencies.

Internal audits, compliance functions and regulatory exams were often the only temporary inconveniences or obstacles to transactions and related income distribution.

Ron Con Coma , August 7, 2018 at 3:20 pm

Eric Holder for President – NOT!

steelhead23 , August 7, 2018 at 4:02 pm

If Democrats win control of the House they can use their investigative powers to force each bank regulator to cause every relevant financial institution to conduct a 4506-T audit.

Let us, for a moment, imagine this happens. Then what? The results would show widespread fraud and a pathetic lack of adequate vetting by the issuer. Then those fraudulent loans were aggregated into various RMBS and sold to others. I hope you can see that just this disclosure is likely to cause a substantial hiccup in the financial system, perhaps another full-blown crisis. And who would the public blame? The criminals – or the cops? I could see Dems, even Dems with little or no connection to the Street, deciding not to open Pandora's box.

That is one of the problems with the American political system. From defense appropriations to banking regulation, the pols live in fear of being tarred for doing the right thing, if the outcome is temporarily bad or unpopular. Yes, it would obviously be best to cleanse the wound, but doing so would hurt, so the pols decide that it would be best for their popularity to let the wound fester until it becomes too big to ignore or financial Armageddon occurs. Isn't that precisely the thinking of the Obama Administration?

Murgatroy , August 7, 2018 at 6:25 pm

All major Wall St banks and brokerages including Wachovia, Wells, BofA and even Citadel and a few foreign banks (ABN Amro, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, etc) set up an offshore sub called CDS Indexco. This was used as a defacto cartel to control the prices of both Sub-Prime CDO issues and their respective Credit Default Swaps. They created the Markit BBB- index which was used by Paulsen, Ackman and a few other chosen ones to short the MBS sub-prime market. This is the truth.. CDS Indexco dropped that name in Nov. 2008 when the accounting rules forced Marked to Market accounting and also the Consolidation of VIE's (Special Purpose Financial Subs that got an exception to the Enron Rule). So in other words: if banks had been made to follow the "Enron Rule" the financial crisis wouldn't have happened. Goldman's own employee was the Chairman of CDS Indexco, I couldn't make this shit up. And Yves knows it too. Gramm Leach Bliley made it all possible – so banks could hold both the debt and the equity of an entity that they took no responsibility for. This was the precise reason for Glass-Steagall banks were manhandling the ownership of business due to inherent conflicts of interest between debt and equity holders.

steelhead23 , August 7, 2018 at 7:30 pm

My dear Murgatory, Wow. This is the first I have heard of CDS Indexco. You are suggesting that it was much more than a mere market clearinghouse. Where could I read more on this?

perpetualWAR , August 7, 2018 at 7:51 pm

Google it. I just did.
I. Am. Stunned.
Just when I think the shiitake can't get any deeper, it does.

perpetualWAR , August 7, 2018 at 7:34 pm

A former bank/trustee foreclosure attorney is running for a District Court judge position in Seattle. Remember Trott, the Foreclosure King, who Michigan sent to Congress? Yeah, this dude is trying to get on the bench.

crittermom , August 7, 2018 at 8:19 pm

Of course no bankers went to jail.

But does anyone remember this news from 2011, about the homeowner who did?
The lengths they went to 'catch him' once he was in their sites, says it all.
https://www.businessinsider.com/charlie-engle-2011-3

[Aug 05, 2018] War Is A Racket After 17 Years and Billions Wasted, US Seeks Peace With Taliban by Ron Paul and Daniel McAdams

Jul 31, 2018 | www.antiwar.com
Last week, US State Department officials met with Taliban leaders in Qatar. At the request of the Taliban, the US-backed Afghan government was not invited. The officials discussed ceasefires and an end to the war. Meanwhile, the US inspector general charged with monitoring US spending on Afghanistan reconstruction has reported that since 2008, the US has completely wasted at the least $15.5 billion. He believes that's just the tip of the iceberg, though. Will President Trump do the smart thing and negotiate peace and leave? Tune in to today's Ron Paul Liberty Report:

[Aug 02, 2018] The classic method of American negotiation and warfare like the Roman before them is to divide and conquer.Even the Soviet Union and Russians were unable to make the American respect their commitments

Notable quotes:
"... I agree with the caricature nature of much of this. I don't think there will be a next target. The MIC has become bloated while Iran, Syria, Russia, China are turning out true fighters as well as stronger economic planning. ..."
Jul 31, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org
The United States seems ready to give up on Afghanistan.

After the World Trade Center came down the U.S. accused al-Qaeda, parts of which were hosted in Afghanistan. The Taliban government offered the U.S. to extradite al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden to an Islamic country to be judged under Islamic law. The U.S. rejected that and decided instead to destroy the Afghan government.

Taliban units, supported by Pakistani officers, were at that time still fighting against the Northern Alliance which held onto a few areas in the north of the country. Under threats from the U.S. Pakistan, which sees Afghanistan as its natural depth hinterland, was pressed into service. In exchange for its cooperation with the U.S. operation it was allowed to extradite its forces and main figures of the Taliban.

U.S. special forces were dropped into north Afghanistan. They came with huge amounts of cash and the ability to call in B-52 bombers. Together with the Northern Alliance they move towards Kabul bombing any place where some feeble resistance came from. The Taliban forces dissolved. Many resettled in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda also vanished.

A conference with Afghan notables was held in Germany's once capital Bonn. The Afghans wanted to reestablish the former Kingdom but were pressed into accepting a western style democracy. Fed with large amounts of western money the norther warlords, all well known mass-murderers, and various greedy exiles were appointed as a government. To them it was all about money. There was little capability and interest to govern.

All these U.S. mistakes made in the early days are still haunting the country.

For a few years the Taliban went quiet. But continued U.S. operations, which included random bombing of weddings, torture and abduction of assumed al-Qaeda followers, alienated the people. Pakistan feared that it would be suffocated between a permanently U.S. occupied Afghanistan and a hostile India. Four years after being ousted the Taliban were reactivated and found regrown local support.

Busy with fighting an insurgency in Iraq the U.S. reacted slowly. It then surged troops into Afghanistan, pulled back, surged again and is now again pulling back. The U.S. military aptly demonstrated its excellent logistic capabilities and its amazing cultural incompetence. The longer it fought the more Afghan people stood up against it. The immense amount of money spent to 'rebuild' Afghanistan went to U.S. contractors and Afghan warlords but had little effect on the ground. Now half the country is back under Taliban control while the other half is more or less contested.

Before his election campaign Donald Trump spoke out against the war on Afghanistan. During his campaign he was more cautious pointing to the danger of a nuclear Pakistan as a reason for staying in Afghanistan. But Pakistan is where the U.S. supply line is coming through and there are no reasonable alternatives. Staying in Afghanistan to confront Pakistan while depending on Pakistan for logistics does not make sense.

Early this year the U.S. stopped all aid to Pakistan. Even the old Pakistani government was already talking about blocking the logistic line. The incoming prime minister Imran Khan has campaigned for years against the U.S. war on Afghanistan. He very much prefers an alliance with China over any U.S. rapprochement. The U.S. hope is that Pakistan will have to ask the IMF for another bailout and thus come back under Washington's control. But it is more likely that Imran Khan will ask China for financial help.

Under pressure from the military Trump had agreed to raise the force in Afghanistan to some 15,000 troops. But these were way to few to hold more than some urban areas. Eighty percent of the Afghan people live in the countryside. Afghan troops and police forces are incapable or unwilling to fight their Taliban brethren. It was obvious that this mini-surge would fail :

By most objective measures, President Donald Trump's year-old strategy for ending the war in Afghanistan has produced few positive results.

Afghanistan's beleaguered soldiers have failed to recapture significant new ground from the Taliban. Civilian deaths have hit historic highs. The Afghan military is struggling to build a reliable air force and expand the number of elite fighters. Efforts to cripple lucrative insurgent drug smuggling operations have fallen short of expectations. And U.S. intelligence officials say the president's strategy has halted Taliban gains but not reversed their momentum, according to people familiar with the latest assessments.

To blame Pakistan for its support for some Taliban is convenient, but makes little sense. In a recent talk John Sopko, the U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), made a crucial point:

"We keep referring to Pakistan as being the key problem. But the problem also was that the Afghan government at times was viewed very negatively by their local people and what you really need is to insert a government that the people support, a government that is not predatory, a government that is not a bunch of lawless warlords," observed Sopko.

He went on to say that the U.S. policy of pouring in billions of dollars in these unstable environments contributed to the problem of creating more warlords and powerful people who took the law into their own hands.

"In essence, the government we introduced, particularly some of the Afghan local police forces, which were nothing other than warlord militias with some uniforms on, were just as bad as the terrorists before them," said Sopko ...

This was the problem from the very beginning. The U.S. bribed itself into Afghanistan. It spent tons of money but did not gain real support. It bombed and shot aimlessly at 'Taliban' that were more often than not just the local population. It incompetently fought 17 one-year-long wars instead of a consistently planned and sustained political, economic and military campaign.

After a year of another useless surge the Trump administration decided to pull back from most active operations and to bet on negotiations with the Taliban:

The shift to prioritize initial American talks with the Taliban over what has proved a futile "Afghan-led, Afghan-owned" process stems from a realization by both Afghan and American officials that President Trump's new Afghanistan strategy is not making a fundamental difference in rolling back Taliban gains.

While no date for any talks has been set, and the effort could still be derailed, the willingness of the United States to pursue direct talks is an indication of the sense of urgency in the administration to break the stalemate in Afghanistan.
...
Afghan officials and political leaders said direct American talks with the Taliban would probably then grow into negotiations that would include the Taliban, the Afghan government, the United States and Pakistan.

In February the Taliban declared their position in a public Letter of the Islamic Emirate to the American people (pdf). The five pages letter offered talks but only towards one aim:

Afghans have continued to burn for the last four decades in the fire of imposed wars. They are longing for peace and a just system but they will never tire from their just cause of defending their creed, country and nation against the invading forces of your war­mongering government because they have rendered all the previous and present historic sacrifices to safeguard their religious values and national sovereignty. If they make a deal on their sovereignty now, it would be unforgettable infidelity with their proud history and ancestors.

Last weeks talks between the Taliban and U.S. diplomats took place in Doha, Qatar. Remarkably the Afghan government was excluded. Despite the rousing tone of the Reuters report below the positions that were exchanged do not point to a successful conclusion:

According to one Taliban official, who said he was part of a four-member delegation, there were "very positive signals" from the meeting, which he said was conducted in a "friendly atmosphere" in a Doha hotel.

"You can't call it peace talks," he said. "These are a series of meetings for initiating formal and purposeful talks. We agreed to meet again soon and resolve the Afghan conflict through dialogue."
...
The two sides had discussed proposals to allow the Taliban free movement in two provinces where they would not be attacked, an idea that President Ashraf Ghani has already rejected . They also discussed Taliban participation in the Afghan government.

"The only demand they made was to allow their military bases in Afghanistan ," said the Taliban official.
...
"We have held three meetings with the U.S. and we reached a conclusion to continue talks for meaningful negotiations," said a second Taliban official.
...
"However, our delegation made it clear to them that peace can only be restored to Afghanistan when all foreign forces are withdrawn ," he said.

This does not sound promising:

It is difficult to see how especially the last mutually exclusive positions can ever be reconciled.

The Taliban are ready to accept a peaceful retreat of the U.S. forces. That is their only offer. They may agree to keep foreign Islamist fighters out of their country. The U.S. has no choice but to accept. It is currently retreating to the cities and large bases. The outlying areas will fall to the Taliban. Sooner or later the U.S. supply lines will be cut. Its bases will come under fire.

There is no staying in Afghanistan. A retreat is the only issue the U.S. can negotiate about. It is not a question of "if" but of "when".

The Soviet war in Afghanistan took nine years. The time was used to build up a halfway competent government and army that managed to hold off the insurgents for three more years after the Soviet withdrawal. The government only fell when the Soviets cut the money line. The seventeen year long U.S. occupation did not even succeed in that. The Afghan army is corrupt and its leaders are incompetent. The U.S. supplied it with expensive and complicate equipment that does not fit Afghan needs . As soon as the U.S. withdraws the whole south, the east and Kabul will immediately fall back into Taliban hands. Only the north may take a bit longer. They will probably ask China to help them in developing their country.

The erratic empire failed in another of its crazy endeavors. That will not hinder it to look for a new ones. The immense increase of the U.S. military budget, which includes 15,000 more troops, points to a new large war. Which country will be its next target?


james , Jul 30, 2018 3:26:49 PM | 2

thanks b.. it would be good if the exceptional warmongering nation could go home, but i am not fully counting on it.. i liked your quote here "The U.S. military aptly demonstrated its excellent logistic capabilities and its amazing cultural incompetence." that is ongoing.. unless the usa leaves, i think the madness continues.. i suspect the madness will continue.. the only other alternative is the usa, with the help of their good buddies - uk, ksa, qatar, uae and israel - will keep on relocating isis to afgan for future destabilization.. i watched a video peter au left from al jazzera 2017 with isis embedded in the kush mtns... until the funding for them ceases - i think the usa will have a hand in the continued madness... if the usa was serious about ending terrorism they would shut down the same middle east countries they are in bed with.. until that happens, i suspect not much will change.. i hope i am wrong..
Pft , Jul 30, 2018 3:52:04 PM | 5
I dont believe it for a second. Especially with Iran looming as a potential target. US is staying in Afghanistan also to counter China , keep opium production high and of course there is the TAPI pipeline to "protect" that is backed by US as an alternative to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline that would have tapped Iran's South Pars gas field. A hostile or unfriendly Pakistan is just one more reason to stay

Just like US will never leave Iraq or Syria, they will stay in Afghanistan. There will be ebbs and flows, and talk of disengagement from time to time primarily for domestic consumption, but thats all it is IMO.

Jackrabbit , Jul 30, 2018 4:01:30 PM | 7
It seems that an ISIS-Taliban proxy war has begun.

That will take pressure off USA to leave. Likely gives USA an excuse to stay (to supply fight ISIS).

Uncoy , Jul 30, 2018 4:19:49 PM | 11
This is a fine recap of the situation. It's much too optimistic. The classic method of American negotiation and warfare like the Roman before them is to divide and conquer. It was very successful against the American Indians.

If the Taliban get free movement in two provinces, the Americans will demand an end to attacks on their bases, their soldiers and their agents elsewhere in Afghanistan. Just as the Iroquois Confederation enjoyed special privileges in what is now Upper New York for their help against the French, the Taliban will have special privileges in their two provinces while the Americans consolidate in the rest of Afghanistan. When the Americans feel strong enough, just as with the Iroquois, they will break the previous treaties.

After the Revolutionary War, the ancient central fireplace of the League was re-established at Buffalo Creek. The United States and the Iroquois signed the treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784 under which the Iroquois ceded much of their historical homeland to the Americans, which was followed by another treaty in 1794 at Canandaigua which they ceded even more land to the Americans./b

Posted by: Uncoy | Jul 30, 2018 4:03:17 PM | 8

(...continuation of the comment above, somehow got posted when I pressed the return key)

Even the Soviet Union and Russians were unable to make the American respect their commitments. The United States reneged on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as soon as it could in 2001 (Russia was on its knees), reneged on its commitments not to expand NATO east and has built ballistic missile bases all around Russia which seem to be preparation for a pre-emptive nuclear strike/war against Russia.

The Afghanis (foolish to call them the Taliban, they are traditional Afghani patriots) have always been wise enough to annihilate any invader to the last man. This salutary policy keeps invaders out for decades at a time. The Taliban have a long row to hoe. It took almost a hundred years and several massacres to finally curb British ambitions on Afghanistan (1838 to 1919). Afghanis' best hopes rely on forging tight alliances with Pakistan and China, squeezing the Americans out completely right now.

The Americans burnt their bridges with the Russian already and are in the process of burning their bridges with Pakistan while losing influence with China. The US is very short of options right now. It's the ideal time for Afghanis to reclaim the whole territory, not leaving a single American soldier or airbase operational. They'll need a technically sophisticated ally to help them clear their skies of US drones. This role might appeal to either the Russians or the Chinese. As a training exercise, extended anti-drone warfare could be very useful.

fast freddy , Jul 30, 2018 4:24:15 PM | 12
What a great success the US achieved in destroying Yugoslavia. Murdering thousands went almost unnoticed. It was able to break up the country into a number of tiny, impoverished nations and got to put a US MIC Base in most of them.

Afghanistan is one tough nut to crack.

Bilal , Jul 30, 2018 4:39:14 PM | 13
You did not mention isis-k in your analysis. Its active mostly in eastern afghanistan in areas close to or adjacent to Pakistan (it is also controlls a small area in Jawzjan, in northern afghanistan). Many fighters are formerly pakistani taliban(not to be confused with afghan taliban who are simply called taliban). Before isis-k appeared in afghanistan, the areas which it now controls had pakistani taliban presence. TTP, or tehreek e taliban pakistan was facilitated by afghan ggovernment to settle down in these areas after they fled pakistan when its military launched a large scale offensive, Operation Zarb e Azb. The afghan government planned to use them to pressurize Pakistan, basically to use them as a bargaining chip. They operate openly in eastern afghanistan, but many of them joined isis-k.

Russians estimate isis-k's strength to be between 10k to 12k, although it might be a bit inflated number. From here they plan attacks against afghanistan and pakistan alike, mostly suicide bombings as of now. They have had fierce clashes with afghan taliban in eastern Afghanistan but have held their territory for now. Afghan army simply doesn't have the capacity in those areas to confront them. It was here that MOAB was dropped but as expected against a guerrilla force, it was ineffective in every way. But it did make headlines and has helped US in giving an impression its seriously fighting ISIS. The reports of unmarked helicopters dropping god-knows-what have also been coming from these areas. Hamid karzai mentioned that and also maria zakharova asked afghan gov. and US to investigate that which shows these are not just rumors. Recently intelligence chiefs of Pakistan, russia, iran and china as well(if i remember correctly) met in islamabad to discuss isis-k in afghanistan, no details other than this of this meeting are available.

In Northern afghanistan, in Jawzjan, fierce clashes broke out between taliban and isis-k after taliban commander in thiae areas was beheaded. ISIS-k has been beaten up pretty badly there but clashes are ongoing. Many areas have been cleared but fighting is still ongoing. An interesting aspect is taliban sources claiming that whenever they come close to a decisive victory, they have to stop operations becauae of heavy bombardment by US planes. They made similar claims when fighting daesh in eastern afghanistan. Anyway in a few days isis presence will probably be finished in Jawzjan. ISIS fighters who have survived have done so by surrendering to afghan forces. They will probably end up back in eastern afghanistan.

Red Ryder , Jul 30, 2018 4:49:21 PM | 14
Next Target for a long war?

Africa. US AFRICOM has a huge playground, tactics won't change and logistics is far easier.

There also will be a long Hybrid wr against Iran, but that will be much like the early days of Syria. Proxies as "moderates". Insurgents, not US troops. ISIS and AQ crazies will be on the ground.

The big money will go into Africa. You want to see Trillions "spent"? It will be Africa.

Robert Snefjella , Jul 30, 2018 4:55:49 PM | 15
The decision to invade Afghanistan had been taken before the 9/11 false flag coup. Had nothing much to do with the CIA's al-Qaeda mercenaries.

As I understood it, there were many agendas at work: testing weapons and making money for the MIC; controlling the lucrative (how many hundreds of billions of dollars ?) opium/ heroin production/profiteering; military bases relating to Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan and other ...stans, etc; control of oil and gas pipelines; access to increasingly valuable and sought rare earth minerals; proximity to oil and gas actual and potential.

More generally, subjugating Afghanistan was a necessary part of the 'full spectrum dominance' 'we will rule the earth' doctrine, dear til recently to too many mad hatters, and still evoking a misty eyed longing in some, no doubt.

NemesisCalling , Jul 30, 2018 5:00:17 PM | 16
Ahhh...the US produces some of the lamest euphemisms approved for all audiences; such as "Afgahn Security Forces." So sterile, innocuous. And benign. How could anyone question their plight? (We did pick up the game a little bit in Syria with "Free Syrian Army..." Can I get a hell yeah?) All the people hearing this in the US could do was shrug their shoulders and speak, "I guess I should support them." That is, of course, after we took out OBL and the mission in Afghanistan was a little more opaque. Just a little bit. Anyways...Hell, yeah! Get some!

Thanks b for the brief history. Really invaluable.

StephenLaudig , Jul 30, 2018 5:26:35 PM | 17
Afghani patriots, resisting invaders since 330 BCE... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasions_of_Afghanistan
The US military, the planet's costliest losingest military since 1946. The US military, like its munitions manufacturers, doesn't win but it does get paid and is why we can have nice things like oh, decent health care. Lack of health insurance kills more Americans than the Russians ever will. The Russians aren't the enemy, Trump is. Lobbyists are too.
Eugene , Jul 30, 2018 5:39:35 PM | 18
I haven't read anything about Blackwater wanting to replace the U.S. Military in Afghanistan. Of course, the U.S. Treasury would continue to shovel those pallet loads of newly printed $100.00 bills down the Blackwater hole. Any odds this might go forward from anyone's opinion?
Willy2 , Jul 30, 2018 5:45:04 PM | 19
- The US already started to plan an invasion of Afghanistan in januari & february of 2001.
adam gadahn , Jul 30, 2018 5:45:40 PM | 20
robin cook before he was murdered stated that alqueda was a cia data base.
i believe bresinski knew obl as tim osman who was later killed by cia mi6 man omar blah blah sheikh bhutto of pakisyan was assasinated after spilling the beans about sheikh.

christopher bolleyn on you tube will give you the sp on what 9 and 11 was shirley we are past the point of the offecal theory.
the turd burger that is the official theory is clearly the worst and lowest grade of all the conspiracy theories.
the taliban where in barbera bushes texas talking lithium opium and oil pipelines with the paedo bush crime syndicate before 9 and 11

marvin bush ran security at the twin towers

christopher bollyn is the go to man in these regardings

http://www.bollyn.com/

Peter AU 1 , Jul 30, 2018 5:55:31 PM | 21
The US wants peace talks but wants to keep its bases in Afghanistan. US under Trump has built new bases in Syria, Iraq, Kuwait.
SDF have been talking with Syrian government, and US in Talks with Taliban. Are these just moves to buy the US a little time until it launches the war Trump has been building the US military up for.
dahoit , Jul 30, 2018 6:00:22 PM | 22
Trump is?What about the neocons who started this f*ck up.
adam gadahn , Jul 30, 2018 6:02:02 PM | 23
alas not a nice number 13 bilal

isis is israeli counter gang with support of usa usa and the city of london,ukrainian,polish,uk sas,cia,kiwi,aussie,jordanian and donmeh satanic house of saud.

talking of isis as if it is real entity rather than a frank kitson gang counter gang and pseudo gang is polluting the well.

who has been providing extraction helicopters from syriana for the last 14 months.
who has been washing these bearded devils operating on them in kosher field hospitals making them well shiny and new
who?
scchhhhh you know who

Peter AU 1 , Jul 30, 2018 6:13:36 PM | 24
From Russian Ministry of Foriegn Affairs 25 March 2018.

http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3139715
"We are alarmed by the growing number of terrorist activities being carried out by the Taliban who stage armed attacks across Afghanistan, as well as by the increased ISIS presence in Afghanistan's northern provinces that border CIS countries.

We are concerned about reports regarding the use of helicopters without any identification marks in many parts of Afghanistan that are delivering terrorists and arms to the Afghan branch of this terrorist organisation. We believe that reports to this effect made by Afghan officials should be thoroughly investigated."

Willy2 , Jul 30, 2018 6:27:53 PM | 25
- Of course. The US wants to keep its bases in Afghanistan. Surprise, surprise.
In 2002 when ABC corporate propaganda showed Special Forces rounding up village Hajji, the writing was on the wall. Afghanistan is a Holy War run by incompetents for a profit. The only question is when will the Westerners withdraw from the Hindu Kush and how disastrous it will be. Americans cannot afford the unwinnable war's blood and treasure. The US's Vietnam War (1956 to 1975) ended for the same reasons. That war ushered in the Reagan Revolution and the Triumph of the Oligarchy. The consequences of the breakup of the Atlantic Alliance will be even more severe.

Posted by: VietnamVet , Jul 30, 2018 7:06:37 PM | 26

In 2002 when ABC corporate propaganda showed Special Forces rounding up village Hajji, the writing was on the wall. Afghanistan is a Holy War run by incompetents for a profit. The only question is when will the Westerners withdraw from the Hindu Kush and how disastrous it will be. Americans cannot afford the unwinnable war's blood and treasure. The US's Vietnam War (1956 to 1975) ended for the same reasons. That war ushered in the Reagan Revolution and the Triumph of the Oligarchy. The consequences of the breakup of the Atlantic Alliance will be even more severe.

Posted by: VietnamVet | Jul 30, 2018 7:06:37 PM | 26 /div

james , Jul 30, 2018 7:21:13 PM | 27
@uncoy.. i basically see it like you, however another proxy war involving usa-russia-china sounds like a running theme now...

@13 bilal.. good post.. i agree about the analysis missing much on isis presence in afgan as @6 jr also points out.. i think it is a critical bit of the puzzle.. it appears the usa is using isis as a proxy force, as obama previously stated with regard to syria... the usa just can't seem to help themselves with their divide and conquer strategy using isis as part of it's methodology... it's exact opposite of what they profess..

@18 eugene.. isn't blackwater or whatever they're called now - headquartered in uae? perfect place for them, lol... right on top of yemen, afgan, and etc. etc.. if isis can't do the job for the west thru their good friends ksa, uae - well, then maybe they can pay a bit more and get blackwater directly involved too..

dltravers , Jul 30, 2018 7:41:30 PM | 28
Trump is serious when he said he would talk to anybody. The CIA is alleged to have been stirring the pot with Islamic militants prior to the Soviet invasion when the country went full socialist. I would suspect the Russians had a hand in that in 1978. US intelligence was said to be helping along the backlash to socialism by Islamic militants back then in 1978. The CIA station chief was promptly assassinated the next year.

Obviously you could dump 600,000 NATO and US soldiers into the country and not control it short of executing every Muslim. What a foolish endeavor but what would you expect from these buffoons and their death cult? These human sacrifices are holy to them. They worship blood, death, power and money.

With their loss in Syria the NEOCONS can now make peace with the Taliban and use them and ISIS to push into old Soviet Central Asia in an attempt to deny them what the Anglo American Zionist alliance cannot have at this time, control of the commodities.

China will slide right in and take it all at some point once exhaustion sets into place. Even the Brits knew when it was time to leave India and their Middle Eastern holdings. They realized the costs of containment would wipe out their country.

Harry , Jul 30, 2018 7:53:57 PM | 29
@ Patrick Armstrong | 10
I still think Trump wants to cut the Gordian Knot and get the USA out of all this crap. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/30/trump-i-am-ready-to-meet-with-iran-anytime-they-want-to.html

No he doesnt, along with Israel and neocons. There was already nuclear deal, and US was out of "all this crap", so why introduce Gordian Knot if he doesnt want it?

What Trump demands is Iran's surrender. 'b discussed it at length some time ago, the list of Trump's demands is completely ridiculous and the goal is Iran as a client state.

From its side, Iran is refusing to even meet Trump, two reasons: 1) If Iran agrees to meet, it would mean they agree to renegotiate the deal, which they dont. 2) US word isnt worth a toilet paper, so any negotiations is meaningless. Plus US list of demands makes even endeavor to negotiate dead from the get go.

Curtis , Jul 30, 2018 7:54:05 PM | 30
Congress went along with the Pentagon's 7 countries in 5 years plan. No investigation of 9/11 or even consideration of Ron Paul's bringing in an old idea of Letters of Marque and Reprisal.
As to the US leaving the warlords in power to continue opium production, etc, Van Buren (We Meant Well book) said some of the same happened in Iraq with some sheikhs still holding power in local areas. General Garner looked forward to going in to rebuild (and was promising quick elections) but was shocked to see no protection of ministries (except oil) which were looted and burned. And then Bremer was put in charge. Complete mismanagement of the war, the aftermath, etc. Like someone once said, if they were doing these things at random you would expect them to get it right once in a while.

The Kunduz Airlift which allowed Pakistan a corridor to fly out Pak officials, Taliban, and possibly al Qaeda was yet another snafu like paying Pakistan to supposedly block any escape from their side of Tora Bora only to have a long convoy leave at night. It made one wonder about the US supposed air superiority/domination. Again, complete mismanagement.

A comparison to the end situation in VietNam 1975 is apt.

Peter AU 1 , Jul 30, 2018 8:11:57 PM | 31
Trump meeting Rouhani. Trump saays he wants a better deal. The nuke agreement took years to negotiate and Iran accepted far more stringent inspections than any other country signed up NPT. There is nothing more for Iran to negotiate other than to give away their sovereignty.
The offer of a meeting by Trump is more along the line of "we tried to avoid war".
The US under Trump have scrapped the nuke agreement and made demands that are impossible for Iran to meet without giving away its sovereignty.
Red Ryder , Jul 30, 2018 8:21:00 PM | 32
Erik Prince's plan for fighting in Afghanistan.
He presented it to the WH. Military rejected it.
He is no longer Blackwater-connected.
Frontier Services Group Ltd. is his new military-security services corp.
He has extensive contracts with the Chinese government and their SOEs overseas.

This was a trailer he made to explain his concept. He still wants to do this.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjhPSaqBj1c

spudski , Jul 30, 2018 8:38:09 PM | 33
Peter AU 1 @31

I fear you're absolutely right.

occidentosis , Jul 30, 2018 9:08:50 PM | 34
did you see General Souleimani answer's to Trump rabid tweet

it went like this

Our president doesnt lower himself to answer someone like.I, a soldier answer someone like you, you re someone who speaks in the vocabulary of a cabaret owner and a gambling house dealer.(paraphrasing saker has the video on his site)

and then he went on to describe how your cowad troops wore adult diapers in Afghanistan and Iraq

fairleft , Jul 30, 2018 9:25:35 PM | 35
China will slide right in and take it all at some point once exhaustion sets into place.

dltravers @28

No. China, being development-oriented rather than imperialist, will leave Afghanistan alone. China and Russia, but especially China, requires an Afghanistan that is not a U.S.-controlled terrorist base. Because China needs the oil/gas link that it is building through Pakistan to access Gulf energy resources, and that energy corridor would be the primary target of U.S.-hired mercenaries ('terrorists').

How Afghanistan manages itself in the post-U.S. era is Afghan business, but it will almost certainly involve the Pashtun majority (in the form of the 'Taliban') retaking power in Kabul but with the traditional huge amounts of autonomy for the provinces. That arrangement reduces pressure by Pashtun nationalists in Pakistan against Pakistan's government, and in general seems to be the long-term stable set up, and stability is what China has to have in Afghanistan.

Now is the time with perfect China partner Khan and the Pakistan military firmly in power. Not instant, but over the next two years I think we'll see the Taliban's fighting capacity hugely improve, with transfers of supplies, weapons and intelligence from Pakistan. It would be very smart for Trump to get out in 2019. History is going to accelerate in that region.

S , Jul 30, 2018 9:31:48 PM | 36
Which country will be its next target?

I know I'm in the minority here, but I worry a lot about Venezuela. See, it's a perfect fit for the U.S. economy. U.S. shale oil is way too light to be useful, while Venezuelan oil is way too heavy to be useful. They are destined for each other, i.e. to be mixed into a blend that would be a good fit U.S. refineries. Plus, Venezuela is very import-dependent and thus would make for a good vassal. It also has a rabid capitalist class that will do anything -- any kind of atrocity or false flag -- to return to the good old days of exploitation. "But Venezuela has a lot of arms!", I hear you counter. True, but the people are severely demoralized because of the extreme economic hardship. Think of the USSR in late 80s/early 90s. It had the most powerful military in the world, and yet people were so demoralized and disillusioned with the old system that they simply chose not to defend it. Same thing may happen in Venezuela. After Colombia has signed peace accords with FARC, U.S. has been steadily increasing its military presence in Colombia. I think there is a very real possibility of a naval blockade combined with supply lines/air raids from Colombia supporting the "Free Venezuelan Army" assembled from Venezuelan gangs and revanchist capitalists and foreign mercenaries. It would be logistically impossible for Russia or China to provide military help to far-away Venezuela. Neighbors will not come to the aid of Venezuela either as there is a surge of pro-U.S. right-wing governments in the region.

ben , Jul 30, 2018 9:33:25 PM | 37
Any moves the U$A makes will have to be approved according to which natural resources their corporate masters covet at any particular moment. Lithium and other rare earth minerals, strategic importance, whatever the corporate form needs to stay on top globally, will dictate what the empire does.

Leave Afghanistan? I very much doubt it.

DJT will do what the "puppet masters" desire. Just like all his predecessors.

Profits uber alles!!

fairleft , Jul 30, 2018 9:36:15 PM | 38
'Correction': No reliable census has been done in decades, but I don't think the Pashtun are the majority in Afghanistan. They
are by far the largest minority however. British 'divide and rule' stategists long ago deliberately separated them into Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Peter AU 1 , Jul 30, 2018 9:40:53 PM | 39
s 36

Venezuela and Iran have two things in common. Both have large oil reserves and neither recognize Israel.
Trump's wars will be about destroying enemies of Israel, and at the same time, achieving global energy dominance.

Chipnik , Jul 30, 2018 9:58:21 PM | 40
I've posted this before. I met a Taliban leader and his two guards in a brutal area during the Hearts and Minds Schtick, preparatory to Cheney getting all the oil and gas, and copper and iron and coming coal lease awards.

He was a nice guy, the Taliban leader. His guards looked at me with absolute death in their eyes. Not wanting them to hear him, as we finished our tea, the Taliban leader leaned close, then whispered, 'I love your Jesus, but I hate your Crusaders.'

And I take issue with the US 'incompetence' meme. Ever since Cheney hosted the Taliban in Texas in 1998, trying to get a TAPI pipeline, the US has deliberately and cunningly taken over the country, assassinated the local-level leadership, and installed their foreign Shah, first Karzai, then Ghani.

In that time of occupation, 18 years, Pentagon MIC disappeared TRILLIONS in shrink-wrapped pallets of $100s, and ballooned from $340B a year, to now Trump is saying $840B a year.

That's not incompetence. Just the opposite.

Now, to honor my Afghan friends, who love to joke even after 35+ years of machine warfare, a joke I wrote in their honor:

Ring ring ring ring

"Office of the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan!"

"BRRZZZBRRZZZV..."

"Hold please."

President Reagan, it's the Iranian ambassador!"

"Well hello Mr. Assinabindstani, what can I do for you?"

"BRRZZZBRRZZZV..."

"Well I'll get my staff right on it."

[Intercomm clicks]

"Hey Ollie, the Ayatollah wants more guns! Step on it!"

Chipnik , Jul 30, 2018 10:10:55 PM | 41
38

Actually, the British paid an annual tithe-tribute the the Afghan king to stop raiding their India holdings, and agreed to a neutral zone between them. Then when the British pulled out, they declared the neutral zone as Pakistan and shrunk India away from Pashtun territory to create a bigger divide. The Afghan leaders had no say in the matter. I believe Baluchistan was also carved away. At one time, Afghan control extended from Persia to the Indus Valley. There is no way to defeat a nation of warriors who created a kingdom that vast, while William the Conqueror was still running around in bear skin diapers.

dh , Jul 30, 2018 11:03:19 PM | 42
@41 'Afghan control extended from Persia to the Indus Valley.'

You are probably referring to the Khalji Dynasty, a brutal bunch, who ruled India from 1290 to 1320 by which time William the Conqueror was long dead. You would be a lot more credible if you got your history right.

Lozion , Jul 30, 2018 11:30:50 PM | 43
@42 dh is correct. Afghan territory was in the Persian sphere of influence much longer compared to the Mughal/British/Indian periods..
Charles Michael , Jul 31, 2018 12:19:59 AM | 44
IMHO the military Budget increase, and what an increase it is!
is part of worsening an already outrageous situation to reach a caricatural point. Typical of trump repeated special "art".
Of course Nobody in USA, no President can go against the MIC and Pentagon.
But money is cheap when you print it.

It is sugaring the intended shrinking of foreign deployments (as in NATO), closure of "facilities" and replacing them officially with total deterrence capacities (Space Forces anybody ?).
While keeping classical projection capacities for demonstration against backward tribes.

Guerrero , Jul 31, 2018 12:21:04 AM | 45
That is an excellent account. Who can help rooting for the Afghanis to get their country back?

The economics of empire are always upside down; the homeland people end up shelling out for it.

Hoarsewhisperer , Jul 31, 2018 12:26:51 AM | 46
...
From its side, Iran is refusing to even meet Trump, two reasons: 1) If Iran agrees to meet, it would mean they agree to renegotiate the deal, which they dont. 2) US word isnt worth a toilet paper, so any negotiations is meaningless. Plus US list of demands makes even endeavor to negotiate dead from the get go.
Posted by: Harry | Jul 30, 2018 7:53:57 PM | 29

Tru-ish but Trump's latest offer is, according to the MSM, "no pre-conditions." It's quite likely that Iran's allies have advised the Iranians to tell Trump to Go F*ck yourself (if you feel you must), but then satisfy yourselves that Trump's No Preconditions means what Iran wants it to mean.

Trump jumped into the NK and Putin talks first because both were eager to talk. Iran will be a good test of Trump's seduction skills. All he's got to do is persuade the Iranians that talking is more useful than swapping long-distance insults. Iranians are rusted onto logical principles and Trump will find a way to appeal to that trait, imo.

Ian , Jul 31, 2018 12:41:07 AM | 47
Which country will be its next target?

Iran.

Debsisdead , Jul 31, 2018 1:11:58 AM | 48
It's too late for the afghanis who have been driven into the urban areas during the regulaar 'Afghanistanisation' campaigns. Most of them will have become hooked on consumerism and the necessity of dollars.
That leaves only two options for the Taliban when they take over as they undoubtedly will altho that is likely to mean having to tolerate clutches of obese amerikans lurking in some Px strewn green zone, the inhabitants of which are likely to have less contact with people from Afghanistan than any regular user of a Californian shopping mall. The new government can ignore the consumerists even when these rejects insist on getting lured into some nonsense green revolution - the danger with this isn't the vapid protests which can easily be dealt with by fetching a few mobs of staunch citizens from rural Afghanistan who will quickly teach them that neither cheeseburgers nor close captioned episodes of daytime television provide sufficient nutrition to handle compatriots raised on traditional food and Islam. Or the new administration can do as other traditional regimes have done many times over the last 80 years or so, purge the consumerists by disappearing the leadership and strewing empty lots in the urban areas with mutilated corpses of a few of the shitkicker class consumerists. That option can cause a bit of a fuss but it (the fuss) generally only lasts as long as the purge.

I suspect the Afghan government will favour the latter approach but they may try to hold off until the North has been brought back into line. OTH, consumerism is a highly contagious condition so, unless the North can be pacified speedily which seems unlikely, initially at least the Taliban adminsitration may have to fight on two fronts, agin the North while they nip urban consumerists in the bud before those confused fools can cause any highly publicised in the west but in actuality, low key, attempted insurrection.
My advice to the gaming, TV or cheeseburger addicted inhabitants of Kabul would be to volunteer your services to the amerikan military as a 'translator' asap and join yer cobbers in California.
It is unlikely that you will bump into Roman Brady especially not when he is in one of his avuncular moods, but if you stay outta Texas, Florida or any other part of flyover amerika chocka with alcohol induced blowhardism, you will discover than amerikan racism isn't as lethal as it once was.

Apart from having to ignore being jostled in the line at fast food joints and being loudly and incorrectly termed a motherf**in sand n***er mid-jostle. Certainly a whole lot less lethal than trying to cover your Fortnite jones by waving a badly copywritten sign in front of the al-Jazeera cameras for a one month battle pass .

AV17 , Jul 31, 2018 1:49:03 AM | 49
This retreat is to focus resources on Iran. Nuclear Winter it is!
Daniel , Jul 31, 2018 2:05:21 AM | 50
What was happening in Kabul, Afghanistan less than 8 hours after the WTC Towers turned into dust in midair? Who here remembers the massive bombing/cruise missile attack?

Here is CNN's transcript:

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "Well, Joie, it's about 2:30 in the morning here in Kabul. We've been hearing explosions around the perimeter of the city. We're in a position here which gives us a view over the whole city. We just had an impact, perhaps a few miles away.

"If I listen, you can hear the ripple of explosions around the city. Perhaps you heard there. The fifth explosion -- sixth explosion, I think. Gun bursts and star bursts in the air. Tracer fire is coming up out of the city. I hear aircraft flying above the city of Kabul. Perhaps we've heard half a dozen to 10 detonations on the perimeter of the city, some coming from the area close to the airport. I see on the horizon what could be a fire on the horizon, close, perhaps, to where the airport might be. A flash came up then from the airport. Some ground fire coming up here in Kabul."

"I've been in Belgrade and I've been in Baghdad and seen cruise missiles arrive in both those cities. The detonations we're hearing in Kabul right now certainly sound like the detonations of loud missiles that are coming in. "

"Certainly -- certainly it would appear that the Afghan defense systems have detected a threat in the air. They are launching what appears to be anti-aircraft defense systems at the moment. Certainly, I can see that fire that was blazing on the horizon. It was a faint yellow; it's now a bright orange blazing. Several other detonations going off around the city, multiple areas. Rockets appear to be taking off from one end of the airport. I can see that perhaps located about 8 or 9 miles away from where we stand, Joie."

The bombing/explosions continue for 10+ minutes of this broadcast.

Then, they cut to WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: who says the US is only collecting intelligence. He says what we're seeing must be part of the "Civil War" (despite the fact that neither side had an air force or cruise missiles). The Pentagon later denies knowing anything about it.

Then, CNN returns to Nic Robertson, who- within 15 minutes of his first report - begins to change his tune. Suddenly, the jet sounds are not mentioned. The cruise missiles (jet engines) have transformed into possible rockets. The airport fire is now an ammunition dump.

And voila! They lose their connection and Nic will not be heard from again. And this little bit of history will essentially disappear.

CNN video archive (attack report starts at 7:43).

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0109/11/bn.61.html

NPR had a reporter in Kabul that night. He apparently didn't notice the massive bombing, at least in his memoir 15 years later.

Mishko , Jul 31, 2018 2:07:19 AM | 51
Dear Mr. B,
"All these U.S. mistakes made in the early days are still haunting the country."
These mistakes are by design. To cause and keep causing destabilisation.

I like to refer to it as the 3-letter Scrabble method of doing things.
Me living in the Netherlands as I do, let me take the example of Greece.
Greece had its regime changed in 1948 (Wiki says 46-49).
And how is Greece doing these days? ...

Plasma , Jul 31, 2018 2:16:47 AM | 52
@37 yep, gotta agree with the more passimistic outlook here. Personally i'll eat my shoes if US leaves Afghanistan within any reasonable time frame. In addition to plentiful natural resources, there are very influential vested interests in Afghanistans booming opium industry.
Quentin , Jul 31, 2018 2:20:09 AM | 53
Off topic: Andrei Nekrasov's 'Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes' can be viewed in full on You Tube at this moment (31 July, 08:15 Amsterdam time). Can it also be seen in the USA, I wonder? How long will it take before Google take it down ? Watch it and learn about one of the main drivers of the Russia obsession.
Andreas Schlüter , Jul 31, 2018 3:35:18 AM | 54
The US (Neocon dominated) Power Elite has only one strategy left for that Region: destabilization and chaos to serve as a barrier against the Project of the Eurasian Cooperation!
See:
„Geo-Politics: The Core of Crisis and Chaos and the Nightmares of the US Power Elite" https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/geo-politics-the-core-of-crisis-and-chaos-the-nightmares-of-the-us-power-elite/
And on the recent developments:
"US Politics, Russia, China and Europe, Madness and Strategies": https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/us-politics-russia-china-and-europe-madness-and-strategies/
Best regards
Harry , Jul 31, 2018 4:35:59 AM | 55
@ Hoarsewhisperer | 46
Tru-ish but Trump's latest offer is, according to the MSM, "no pre-conditions." It's quite likely that Iran's allies have advised the Iranians to tell Trump to Go F*ck yourself (if you feel you must), but then satisfy yourselves that Trump's No Preconditions means what Iran wants it to mean.

White House just explained what Trump's "no preconditions" means: 1) Iran should at the core change how it deals with its own people. 2) Change its evil stance in foreign policy. 3) Agree on nuclear agreement which would REALLY prevent them making a nuke.

In other words, Iran should capitulate and become a client state, thats what Trump means by "no preconditions."

venice12 , Jul 31, 2018 4:53:03 AM | 56
@eugene #18

https://taskandpurpose.com/blackwater-eric-prince-afghan-war-plan/

"Blackwater Founder Erik Prince's Afghan War Plan Just Leaked, And It's Terrifying "

Tis was 8 months ago.

et Al , Jul 31, 2018 5:04:41 AM | 57
Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires!

When I heard old hand Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (what a name!) was heading back it was clear that things were afoot.

China's been trying to get in for a while, the Mes Aynak mine for example, but nothing much has happened.

Afghanistan is sitting on huge amounts of valuable mineral resources (an estimated $3t) but remains dirt poor...

ashley albanese , Jul 31, 2018 6:42:37 AM | 58
In any hot clash with China the U S would be very exposed in Afghanistan .
Mark2 , Jul 31, 2018 6:51:36 AM | 59
At this advanced stage of American insanity, I don't see why the devil should have all the best tunes. I'm sick of the yanks doing this shit in over people's county's ! While they stuff there fat faces with burgers and donuts! The dirty games they play on over country's, should now be played in America with all the brutality that they have used on others. Until that happens things world wide will continue to detriate. Natural justice is all that remains. They'v curupted all else.
Yeah, Right , Jul 31, 2018 7:09:00 AM | 60
@19 "The US already started to plan an invasion of Afghanistan in januari & february of 2001."

Well, to be fair the USA probably has plans to invade lots of countries.

Indeed, it would be more interesting to consider how many countries there are that the USA *doesn't* have invasion plans gathering dust on the shelves.

Not many, I would suggest.

Mark2 , Jul 31, 2018 7:41:56 AM | 61
It's just been reported on the bbc news---- the man responsible for the Manchester bombing had been 'rescued from Lybia when Gadafi was overthrown and tracked ever since. Even in Britain up to the day of the bombing ! And now on this post we discuss America uk transporting terrorists from Syria to Afghanistan . Not to mention the white helmet bunch and where Ther going! The Manchester bombing, Westminster bridge and London Bridge atacks were done by the Tory party to win a general election ! This is the reality of the world we live in.full on oppression !!!
TG , Jul 31, 2018 8:26:48 AM | 62
Indeed, I agree with the sentiments here. But missing a big part of the picture.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have sky-high fertility rates. Forget the rubbish peddled by economist-whores like Milton Friedman, under these conditions no country without an open frontier has ever developed into anything other than a larger mass of poverty. In Pakistan something like half the children are so malnourished that they grow up stunted, and it is this misery that is starting slow population growth. Pakistan is yet another example of the Malthusian holocaust, which is not a global catastrophe: it is slow grinding poverty that results when people have more children than they can support.

Bottom line: these places will remain poor and unstable no matter what lunacy the United States does or does not do. The traditional approach to such places is to leave them alone, and only keep them from escaping. Bottled up, the Afghanis and Pakistanis will kill only each other. 9/11 is a consequence of allowing people from these places free access to the Untied States.

The 'war on terror' is a consequence of 'there shall be open borders.' It's a big and messy world, and even if the government of the United States was not criminally incompetent, there would be a lot of misery and hatred in it. Open borders means that now the Untied States has to intervene in every country all over the world to ensure that nowhere can there develop terrorist cells. An impossible task.

Charles Michael @ 44

I agree with the caricature nature of much of this. I don't think there will be a next target. The MIC has become bloated while Iran, Syria, Russia, China are turning out true fighters as well as stronger economic planning.

financial matters , Jul 31, 2018 9:19:51 AM | 63
The US still has some resources and some use but needs to continue to make friends in the pattern of Kim and Putin and give up on its self defeating economic and military sabotage planning which has been exposed as morally bankrupt as well.

[Jul 31, 2018] The classic method of American negotiation and warfare like the Roman before them is to divide and conquer.Even the Soviet Union and Russians were unable to make the American respect their commitments

Jul 31, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org
The United States seems ready to give up on Afghanistan.

After the World Trade Center came down the U.S. accused al-Qaeda, parts of which were hosted in Afghanistan. The Taliban government offered the U.S. to extradite al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden to an Islamic country to be judged under Islamic law. The U.S. rejected that and decided instead to destroy the Afghan government.

Taliban units, supported by Pakistani officers, were at that time still fighting against the Northern Alliance which held onto a few areas in the north of the country. Under threats from the U.S. Pakistan, which sees Afghanistan as its natural depth hinterland, was pressed into service. In exchange for its cooperation with the U.S. operation it was allowed to extradite its forces and main figures of the Taliban.

U.S. special forces were dropped into north Afghanistan. They came with huge amounts of cash and the ability to call in B-52 bombers. Together with the Northern Alliance they move towards Kabul bombing any place where some feeble resistance came from. The Taliban forces dissolved. Many resettled in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda also vanished.

A conference with Afghan notables was held in Germany's once capital Bonn. The Afghans wanted to reestablish the former Kingdom but were pressed into accepting a western style democracy. Fed with large amounts of western money the norther warlords, all well known mass-murderers, and various greedy exiles were appointed as a government. To them it was all about money. There was little capability and interest to govern.

All these U.S. mistakes made in the early days are still haunting the country.

For a few years the Taliban went quiet. But continued U.S. operations, which included random bombing of weddings, torture and abduction of assumed al-Qaeda followers, alienated the people. Pakistan feared that it would be suffocated between a permanently U.S. occupied Afghanistan and a hostile India. Four years after being ousted the Taliban were reactivated and found regrown local support.

Busy with fighting an insurgency in Iraq the U.S. reacted slowly. It then surged troops into Afghanistan, pulled back, surged again and is now again pulling back. The U.S. military aptly demonstrated its excellent logistic capabilities and its amazing cultural incompetence. The longer it fought the more Afghan people stood up against it. The immense amount of money spent to 'rebuild' Afghanistan went to U.S. contractors and Afghan warlords but had little effect on the ground. Now half the country is back under Taliban control while the other half is more or less contested.

Before his election campaign Donald Trump spoke out against the war on Afghanistan. During his campaign he was more cautious pointing to the danger of a nuclear Pakistan as a reason for staying in Afghanistan. But Pakistan is where the U.S. supply line is coming through and there are no reasonable alternatives. Staying in Afghanistan to confront Pakistan while depending on Pakistan for logistics does not make sense.

Early this year the U.S. stopped all aid to Pakistan. Even the old Pakistani government was already talking about blocking the logistic line. The incoming prime minister Imran Khan has campaigned for years against the U.S. war on Afghanistan. He very much prefers an alliance with China over any U.S. rapprochement. The U.S. hope is that Pakistan will have to ask the IMF for another bailout and thus come back under Washington's control. But it is more likely that Imran Khan will ask China for financial help.

Under pressure from the military Trump had agreed to raise the force in Afghanistan to some 15,000 troops. But these were way to few to hold more than some urban areas. Eighty percent of the Afghan people live in the countryside. Afghan troops and police forces are incapable or unwilling to fight their Taliban brethren. It was obvious that this mini-surge would fail :

By most objective measures, President Donald Trump's year-old strategy for ending the war in Afghanistan has produced few positive results.

Afghanistan's beleaguered soldiers have failed to recapture significant new ground from the Taliban. Civilian deaths have hit historic highs. The Afghan military is struggling to build a reliable air force and expand the number of elite fighters. Efforts to cripple lucrative insurgent drug smuggling operations have fallen short of expectations. And U.S. intelligence officials say the president's strategy has halted Taliban gains but not reversed their momentum, according to people familiar with the latest assessments.

To blame Pakistan for its support for some Taliban is convenient, but makes little sense. In a recent talk John Sopko, the U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), made a crucial point:

"We keep referring to Pakistan as being the key problem. But the problem also was that the Afghan government at times was viewed very negatively by their local people and what you really need is to insert a government that the people support, a government that is not predatory, a government that is not a bunch of lawless warlords," observed Sopko.

He went on to say that the U.S. policy of pouring in billions of dollars in these unstable environments contributed to the problem of creating more warlords and powerful people who took the law into their own hands.

"In essence, the government we introduced, particularly some of the Afghan local police forces, which were nothing other than warlord militias with some uniforms on, were just as bad as the terrorists before them," said Sopko ...

This was the problem from the very beginning. The U.S. bribed itself into Afghanistan. It spent tons of money but did not gain real support. It bombed and shot aimlessly at 'Taliban' that were more often than not just the local population. It incompetently fought 17 one-year-long wars instead of a consistently planned and sustained political, economic and military campaign.

After a year of another useless surge the Trump administration decided to pull back from most active operations and to bet on negotiations with the Taliban:

The shift to prioritize initial American talks with the Taliban over what has proved a futile "Afghan-led, Afghan-owned" process stems from a realization by both Afghan and American officials that President Trump's new Afghanistan strategy is not making a fundamental difference in rolling back Taliban gains.

While no date for any talks has been set, and the effort could still be derailed, the willingness of the United States to pursue direct talks is an indication of the sense of urgency in the administration to break the stalemate in Afghanistan.
...
Afghan officials and political leaders said direct American talks with the Taliban would probably then grow into negotiations that would include the Taliban, the Afghan government, the United States and Pakistan.

In February the Taliban declared their position in a public Letter of the Islamic Emirate to the American people (pdf). The five pages letter offered talks but only towards one aim:

Afghans have continued to burn for the last four decades in the fire of imposed wars. They are longing for peace and a just system but they will never tire from their just cause of defending their creed, country and nation against the invading forces of your war­mongering government because they have rendered all the previous and present historic sacrifices to safeguard their religious values and national sovereignty. If they make a deal on their sovereignty now, it would be unforgettable infidelity with their proud history and ancestors.

Last weeks talks between the Taliban and U.S. diplomats took place in Doha, Qatar. Remarkably the Afghan government was excluded. Despite the rousing tone of the Reuters report below the positions that were exchanged do not point to a successful conclusion:

According to one Taliban official, who said he was part of a four-member delegation, there were "very positive signals" from the meeting, which he said was conducted in a "friendly atmosphere" in a Doha hotel.

"You can't call it peace talks," he said. "These are a series of meetings for initiating formal and purposeful talks. We agreed to meet again soon and resolve the Afghan conflict through dialogue."
...
The two sides had discussed proposals to allow the Taliban free movement in two provinces where they would not be attacked, an idea that President Ashraf Ghani has already rejected . They also discussed Taliban participation in the Afghan government.

"The only demand they made was to allow their military bases in Afghanistan ," said the Taliban official.
...
"We have held three meetings with the U.S. and we reached a conclusion to continue talks for meaningful negotiations," said a second Taliban official.
...
"However, our delegation made it clear to them that peace can only be restored to Afghanistan when all foreign forces are withdrawn ," he said.

This does not sound promising:

It is difficult to see how especially the last mutually exclusive positions can ever be reconciled.

The Taliban are ready to accept a peaceful retreat of the U.S. forces. That is their only offer. They may agree to keep foreign Islamist fighters out of their country. The U.S. has no choice but to accept. It is currently retreating to the cities and large bases. The outlying areas will fall to the Taliban. Sooner or later the U.S. supply lines will be cut. Its bases will come under fire.

There is no staying in Afghanistan. A retreat is the only issue the U.S. can negotiate about. It is not a question of "if" but of "when".

The Soviet war in Afghanistan took nine years. The time was used to build up a halfway competent government and army that managed to hold off the insurgents for three more years after the Soviet withdrawal. The government only fell when the Soviets cut the money line. The seventeen year long U.S. occupation did not even succeed in that. The Afghan army is corrupt and its leaders are incompetent. The U.S. supplied it with expensive and complicate equipment that does not fit Afghan needs . As soon as the U.S. withdraws the whole south, the east and Kabul will immediately fall back into Taliban hands. Only the north may take a bit longer. They will probably ask China to help them in developing their country.

The erratic empire failed in another of its crazy endeavors. That will not hinder it to look for a new ones. The immense increase of the U.S. military budget, which includes 15,000 more troops, points to a new large war. Which country will be its next target?


james , Jul 30, 2018 3:26:49 PM | 2

thanks b.. it would be good if the exceptional warmongering nation could go home, but i am not fully counting on it.. i liked your quote here "The U.S. military aptly demonstrated its excellent logistic capabilities and its amazing cultural incompetence." that is ongoing.. unless the usa leaves, i think the madness continues.. i suspect the madness will continue.. the only other alternative is the usa, with the help of their good buddies - uk, ksa, qatar, uae and israel - will keep on relocating isis to afgan for future destabilization.. i watched a video peter au left from al jazzera 2017 with isis embedded in the kush mtns... until the funding for them ceases - i think the usa will have a hand in the continued madness... if the usa was serious about ending terrorism they would shut down the same middle east countries they are in bed with.. until that happens, i suspect not much will change.. i hope i am wrong..
Pft , Jul 30, 2018 3:52:04 PM | 5
I dont believe it for a second. Especially with Iran looming as a potential target. US is staying in Afghanistan also to counter China , keep opium production high and of course there is the TAPI pipeline to "protect" that is backed by US as an alternative to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline that would have tapped Iran's South Pars gas field. A hostile or unfriendly Pakistan is just one more reason to stay

Just like US will never leave Iraq or Syria, they will stay in Afghanistan. There will be ebbs and flows, and talk of disengagement from time to time primarily for domestic consumption, but thats all it is IMO.

Jackrabbit , Jul 30, 2018 4:01:30 PM | 7
It seems that an ISIS-Taliban proxy war has begun.

That will take pressure off USA to leave. Likely gives USA an excuse to stay (to supply fight ISIS).

Uncoy , Jul 30, 2018 4:19:49 PM | 11
This is a fine recap of the situation. It's much too optimistic. The classic method of American negotiation and warfare like the Roman before them is to divide and conquer. It was very successful against the American Indians.

If the Taliban get free movement in two provinces, the Americans will demand an end to attacks on their bases, their soldiers and their agents elsewhere in Afghanistan. Just as the Iroquois Confederation enjoyed special privileges in what is now Upper New York for their help against the French, the Taliban will have special privileges in their two provinces while the Americans consolidate in the rest of Afghanistan. When the Americans feel strong enough, just as with the Iroquois, they will break the previous treaties.

After the Revolutionary War, the ancient central fireplace of the League was re-established at Buffalo Creek. The United States and the Iroquois signed the treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784 under which the Iroquois ceded much of their historical homeland to the Americans, which was followed by another treaty in 1794 at Canandaigua which they ceded even more land to the Americans./b

Posted by: Uncoy | Jul 30, 2018 4:03:17 PM | 8

(...continuation of the comment above, somehow got posted when I pressed the return key)

Even the Soviet Union and Russians were unable to make the American respect their commitments. The United States reneged on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as soon as it could in 2001 (Russia was on its knees), reneged on its commitments not to expand NATO east and has built ballistic missile bases all around Russia which seem to be preparation for a pre-emptive nuclear strike/war against Russia.

The Afghanis (foolish to call them the Taliban, they are traditional Afghani patriots) have always been wise enough to annihilate any invader to the last man. This salutary policy keeps invaders out for decades at a time. The Taliban have a long row to hoe. It took almost a hundred years and several massacres to finally curb British ambitions on Afghanistan (1838 to 1919). Afghanis' best hopes rely on forging tight alliances with Pakistan and China, squeezing the Americans out completely right now.

The Americans burnt their bridges with the Russian already and are in the process of burning their bridges with Pakistan while losing influence with China. The US is very short of options right now. It's the ideal time for Afghanis to reclaim the whole territory, not leaving a single American soldier or airbase operational. They'll need a technically sophisticated ally to help them clear their skies of US drones. This role might appeal to either the Russians or the Chinese. As a training exercise, extended anti-drone warfare could be very useful.

fast freddy , Jul 30, 2018 4:24:15 PM | 12
What a great success the US achieved in destroying Yugoslavia. Murdering thousands went almost unnoticed. It was able to break up the country into a number of tiny, impoverished nations and got to put a US MIC Base in most of them.

Afghanistan is one tough nut to crack.

Bilal , Jul 30, 2018 4:39:14 PM | 13
You did not mention isis-k in your analysis. Its active mostly in eastern afghanistan in areas close to or adjacent to Pakistan (it is also controlls a small area in Jawzjan, in northern afghanistan). Many fighters are formerly pakistani taliban(not to be confused with afghan taliban who are simply called taliban). Before isis-k appeared in afghanistan, the areas which it now controls had pakistani taliban presence. TTP, or tehreek e taliban pakistan was facilitated by afghan ggovernment to settle down in these areas after they fled pakistan when its military launched a large scale offensive, Operation Zarb e Azb. The afghan government planned to use them to pressurize Pakistan, basically to use them as a bargaining chip. They operate openly in eastern afghanistan, but many of them joined isis-k.

Russians estimate isis-k's strength to be between 10k to 12k, although it might be a bit inflated number. From here they plan attacks against afghanistan and pakistan alike, mostly suicide bombings as of now. They have had fierce clashes with afghan taliban in eastern Afghanistan but have held their territory for now. Afghan army simply doesn't have the capacity in those areas to confront them. It was here that MOAB was dropped but as expected against a guerrilla force, it was ineffective in every way. But it did make headlines and has helped US in giving an impression its seriously fighting ISIS. The reports of unmarked helicopters dropping god-knows-what have also been coming from these areas. Hamid karzai mentioned that and also maria zakharova asked afghan gov. and US to investigate that which shows these are not just rumors. Recently intelligence chiefs of Pakistan, russia, iran and china as well(if i remember correctly) met in islamabad to discuss isis-k in afghanistan, no details other than this of this meeting are available.

In Northern afghanistan, in Jawzjan, fierce clashes broke out between taliban and isis-k after taliban commander in thiae areas was beheaded. ISIS-k has been beaten up pretty badly there but clashes are ongoing. Many areas have been cleared but fighting is still ongoing. An interesting aspect is taliban sources claiming that whenever they come close to a decisive victory, they have to stop operations becauae of heavy bombardment by US planes. They made similar claims when fighting daesh in eastern afghanistan. Anyway in a few days isis presence will probably be finished in Jawzjan. ISIS fighters who have survived have done so by surrendering to afghan forces. They will probably end up back in eastern afghanistan.

Red Ryder , Jul 30, 2018 4:49:21 PM | 14
Next Target for a long war?

Africa. US AFRICOM has a huge playground, tactics won't change and logistics is far easier.

There also will be a long Hybrid wr against Iran, but that will be much like the early days of Syria. Proxies as "moderates". Insurgents, not US troops. ISIS and AQ crazies will be on the ground.

The big money will go into Africa. You want to see Trillions "spent"? It will be Africa.

Robert Snefjella , Jul 30, 2018 4:55:49 PM | 15
The decision to invade Afghanistan had been taken before the 9/11 false flag coup. Had nothing much to do with the CIA's al-Qaeda mercenaries.

As I understood it, there were many agendas at work: testing weapons and making money for the MIC; controlling the lucrative (how many hundreds of billions of dollars ?) opium/ heroin production/profiteering; military bases relating to Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan and other ...stans, etc; control of oil and gas pipelines; access to increasingly valuable and sought rare earth minerals; proximity to oil and gas actual and potential.

More generally, subjugating Afghanistan was a necessary part of the 'full spectrum dominance' 'we will rule the earth' doctrine, dear til recently to too many mad hatters, and still evoking a misty eyed longing in some, no doubt.

NemesisCalling , Jul 30, 2018 5:00:17 PM | 16
Ahhh...the US produces some of the lamest euphemisms approved for all audiences; such as "Afgahn Security Forces." So sterile, innocuous. And benign. How could anyone question their plight? (We did pick up the game a little bit in Syria with "Free Syrian Army..." Can I get a hell yeah?) All the people hearing this in the US could do was shrug their shoulders and speak, "I guess I should support them." That is, of course, after we took out OBL and the mission in Afghanistan was a little more opaque. Just a little bit. Anyways...Hell, yeah! Get some!

Thanks b for the brief history. Really invaluable.

StephenLaudig , Jul 30, 2018 5:26:35 PM | 17
Afghani patriots, resisting invaders since 330 BCE... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasions_of_Afghanistan
The US military, the planet's costliest losingest military since 1946. The US military, like its munitions manufacturers, doesn't win but it does get paid and is why we can have nice things like oh, decent health care. Lack of health insurance kills more Americans than the Russians ever will. The Russians aren't the enemy, Trump is. Lobbyists are too.
Eugene , Jul 30, 2018 5:39:35 PM | 18
I haven't read anything about Blackwater wanting to replace the U.S. Military in Afghanistan. Of course, the U.S. Treasury would continue to shovel those pallet loads of newly printed $100.00 bills down the Blackwater hole. Any odds this might go forward from anyone's opinion?
Willy2 , Jul 30, 2018 5:45:04 PM | 19
- The US already started to plan an invasion of Afghanistan in januari & february of 2001.
adam gadahn , Jul 30, 2018 5:45:40 PM | 20
robin cook before he was murdered stated that alqueda was a cia data base.
i believe bresinski knew obl as tim osman who was later killed by cia mi6 man omar blah blah sheikh bhutto of pakisyan was assasinated after spilling the beans about sheikh.

christopher bolleyn on you tube will give you the sp on what 9 and 11 was shirley we are past the point of the offecal theory.
the turd burger that is the official theory is clearly the worst and lowest grade of all the conspiracy theories.
the taliban where in barbera bushes texas talking lithium opium and oil pipelines with the paedo bush crime syndicate before 9 and 11

marvin bush ran security at the twin towers

christopher bollyn is the go to man in these regardings

http://www.bollyn.com/

Peter AU 1 , Jul 30, 2018 5:55:31 PM | 21
The US wants peace talks but wants to keep its bases in Afghanistan. US under Trump has built new bases in Syria, Iraq, Kuwait.
SDF have been talking with Syrian government, and US in Talks with Taliban. Are these just moves to buy the US a little time until it launches the war Trump has been building the US military up for.
dahoit , Jul 30, 2018 6:00:22 PM | 22
Trump is?What about the neocons who started this f*ck up.
adam gadahn , Jul 30, 2018 6:02:02 PM | 23
alas not a nice number 13 bilal

isis is israeli counter gang with support of usa usa and the city of london,ukrainian,polish,uk sas,cia,kiwi,aussie,jordanian and donmeh satanic house of saud.

talking of isis as if it is real entity rather than a frank kitson gang counter gang and pseudo gang is polluting the well.

who has been providing extraction helicopters from syriana for the last 14 months.
who has been washing these bearded devils operating on them in kosher field hospitals making them well shiny and new
who?
scchhhhh you know who

Peter AU 1 , Jul 30, 2018 6:13:36 PM | 24
From Russian Ministry of Foriegn Affairs 25 March 2018.

http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3139715
"We are alarmed by the growing number of terrorist activities being carried out by the Taliban who stage armed attacks across Afghanistan, as well as by the increased ISIS presence in Afghanistan's northern provinces that border CIS countries.

We are concerned about reports regarding the use of helicopters without any identification marks in many parts of Afghanistan that are delivering terrorists and arms to the Afghan branch of this terrorist organisation. We believe that reports to this effect made by Afghan officials should be thoroughly investigated."

Willy2 , Jul 30, 2018 6:27:53 PM | 25
- Of course. The US wants to keep its bases in Afghanistan. Surprise, surprise.
In 2002 when ABC corporate propaganda showed Special Forces rounding up village Hajji, the writing was on the wall. Afghanistan is a Holy War run by incompetents for a profit. The only question is when will the Westerners withdraw from the Hindu Kush and how disastrous it will be. Americans cannot afford the unwinnable war's blood and treasure. The US's Vietnam War (1956 to 1975) ended for the same reasons. That war ushered in the Reagan Revolution and the Triumph of the Oligarchy. The consequences of the breakup of the Atlantic Alliance will be even more severe.

Posted by: VietnamVet , Jul 30, 2018 7:06:37 PM | 26

In 2002 when ABC corporate propaganda showed Special Forces rounding up village Hajji, the writing was on the wall. Afghanistan is a Holy War run by incompetents for a profit. The only question is when will the Westerners withdraw from the Hindu Kush and how disastrous it will be. Americans cannot afford the unwinnable war's blood and treasure. The US's Vietnam War (1956 to 1975) ended for the same reasons. That war ushered in the Reagan Revolution and the Triumph of the Oligarchy. The consequences of the breakup of the Atlantic Alliance will be even more severe.

Posted by: VietnamVet | Jul 30, 2018 7:06:37 PM | 26 /div

james , Jul 30, 2018 7:21:13 PM | 27
@uncoy.. i basically see it like you, however another proxy war involving usa-russia-china sounds like a running theme now...

@13 bilal.. good post.. i agree about the analysis missing much on isis presence in afgan as @6 jr also points out.. i think it is a critical bit of the puzzle.. it appears the usa is using isis as a proxy force, as obama previously stated with regard to syria... the usa just can't seem to help themselves with their divide and conquer strategy using isis as part of it's methodology... it's exact opposite of what they profess..

@18 eugene.. isn't blackwater or whatever they're called now - headquartered in uae? perfect place for them, lol... right on top of yemen, afgan, and etc. etc.. if isis can't do the job for the west thru their good friends ksa, uae - well, then maybe they can pay a bit more and get blackwater directly involved too..

dltravers , Jul 30, 2018 7:41:30 PM | 28
Trump is serious when he said he would talk to anybody. The CIA is alleged to have been stirring the pot with Islamic militants prior to the Soviet invasion when the country went full socialist. I would suspect the Russians had a hand in that in 1978. US intelligence was said to be helping along the backlash to socialism by Islamic militants back then in 1978. The CIA station chief was promptly assassinated the next year.

Obviously you could dump 600,000 NATO and US soldiers into the country and not control it short of executing every Muslim. What a foolish endeavor but what would you expect from these buffoons and their death cult? These human sacrifices are holy to them. They worship blood, death, power and money.

With their loss in Syria the NEOCONS can now make peace with the Taliban and use them and ISIS to push into old Soviet Central Asia in an attempt to deny them what the Anglo American Zionist alliance cannot have at this time, control of the commodities.

China will slide right in and take it all at some point once exhaustion sets into place. Even the Brits knew when it was time to leave India and their Middle Eastern holdings. They realized the costs of containment would wipe out their country.

Harry , Jul 30, 2018 7:53:57 PM | 29
@ Patrick Armstrong | 10
I still think Trump wants to cut the Gordian Knot and get the USA out of all this crap. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/30/trump-i-am-ready-to-meet-with-iran-anytime-they-want-to.html

No he doesnt, along with Israel and neocons. There was already nuclear deal, and US was out of "all this crap", so why introduce Gordian Knot if he doesnt want it?

What Trump demands is Iran's surrender. 'b discussed it at length some time ago, the list of Trump's demands is completely ridiculous and the goal is Iran as a client state.

From its side, Iran is refusing to even meet Trump, two reasons: 1) If Iran agrees to meet, it would mean they agree to renegotiate the deal, which they dont. 2) US word isnt worth a toilet paper, so any negotiations is meaningless. Plus US list of demands makes even endeavor to negotiate dead from the get go.

Curtis , Jul 30, 2018 7:54:05 PM | 30
Congress went along with the Pentagon's 7 countries in 5 years plan. No investigation of 9/11 or even consideration of Ron Paul's bringing in an old idea of Letters of Marque and Reprisal.
As to the US leaving the warlords in power to continue opium production, etc, Van Buren (We Meant Well book) said some of the same happened in Iraq with some sheikhs still holding power in local areas. General Garner looked forward to going in to rebuild (and was promising quick elections) but was shocked to see no protection of ministries (except oil) which were looted and burned. And then Bremer was put in charge. Complete mismanagement of the war, the aftermath, etc. Like someone once said, if they were doing these things at random you would expect them to get it right once in a while.

The Kunduz Airlift which allowed Pakistan a corridor to fly out Pak officials, Taliban, and possibly al Qaeda was yet another snafu like paying Pakistan to supposedly block any escape from their side of Tora Bora only to have a long convoy leave at night. It made one wonder about the US supposed air superiority/domination. Again, complete mismanagement.

A comparison to the end situation in VietNam 1975 is apt.

Peter AU 1 , Jul 30, 2018 8:11:57 PM | 31
Trump meeting Rouhani. Trump saays he wants a better deal. The nuke agreement took years to negotiate and Iran accepted far more stringent inspections than any other country signed up NPT. There is nothing more for Iran to negotiate other than to give away their sovereignty.
The offer of a meeting by Trump is more along the line of "we tried to avoid war".
The US under Trump have scrapped the nuke agreement and made demands that are impossible for Iran to meet without giving away its sovereignty.
Red Ryder , Jul 30, 2018 8:21:00 PM | 32
Erik Prince's plan for fighting in Afghanistan.
He presented it to the WH. Military rejected it.
He is no longer Blackwater-connected.
Frontier Services Group Ltd. is his new military-security services corp.
He has extensive contracts with the Chinese government and their SOEs overseas.

This was a trailer he made to explain his concept. He still wants to do this.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjhPSaqBj1c

spudski , Jul 30, 2018 8:38:09 PM | 33
Peter AU 1 @31

I fear you're absolutely right.

occidentosis , Jul 30, 2018 9:08:50 PM | 34
did you see General Souleimani answer's to Trump rabid tweet

it went like this

Our president doesnt lower himself to answer someone like.I, a soldier answer someone like you, you re someone who speaks in the vocabulary of a cabaret owner and a gambling house dealer.(paraphrasing saker has the video on his site)

and then he went on to describe how your cowad troops wore adult diapers in Afghanistan and Iraq

fairleft , Jul 30, 2018 9:25:35 PM | 35
China will slide right in and take it all at some point once exhaustion sets into place.

dltravers @28

No. China, being development-oriented rather than imperialist, will leave Afghanistan alone. China and Russia, but especially China, requires an Afghanistan that is not a U.S.-controlled terrorist base. Because China needs the oil/gas link that it is building through Pakistan to access Gulf energy resources, and that energy corridor would be the primary target of U.S.-hired mercenaries ('terrorists').

How Afghanistan manages itself in the post-U.S. era is Afghan business, but it will almost certainly involve the Pashtun majority (in the form of the 'Taliban') retaking power in Kabul but with the traditional huge amounts of autonomy for the provinces. That arrangement reduces pressure by Pashtun nationalists in Pakistan against Pakistan's government, and in general seems to be the long-term stable set up, and stability is what China has to have in Afghanistan.

Now is the time with perfect China partner Khan and the Pakistan military firmly in power. Not instant, but over the next two years I think we'll see the Taliban's fighting capacity hugely improve, with transfers of supplies, weapons and intelligence from Pakistan. It would be very smart for Trump to get out in 2019. History is going to accelerate in that region.

S , Jul 30, 2018 9:31:48 PM | 36
Which country will be its next target?

I know I'm in the minority here, but I worry a lot about Venezuela. See, it's a perfect fit for the U.S. economy. U.S. shale oil is way too light to be useful, while Venezuelan oil is way too heavy to be useful. They are destined for each other, i.e. to be mixed into a blend that would be a good fit U.S. refineries. Plus, Venezuela is very import-dependent and thus would make for a good vassal. It also has a rabid capitalist class that will do anything -- any kind of atrocity or false flag -- to return to the good old days of exploitation. "But Venezuela has a lot of arms!", I hear you counter. True, but the people are severely demoralized because of the extreme economic hardship. Think of the USSR in late 80s/early 90s. It had the most powerful military in the world, and yet people were so demoralized and disillusioned with the old system that they simply chose not to defend it. Same thing may happen in Venezuela. After Colombia has signed peace accords with FARC, U.S. has been steadily increasing its military presence in Colombia. I think there is a very real possibility of a naval blockade combined with supply lines/air raids from Colombia supporting the "Free Venezuelan Army" assembled from Venezuelan gangs and revanchist capitalists and foreign mercenaries. It would be logistically impossible for Russia or China to provide military help to far-away Venezuela. Neighbors will not come to the aid of Venezuela either as there is a surge of pro-U.S. right-wing governments in the region.

ben , Jul 30, 2018 9:33:25 PM | 37
Any moves the U$A makes will have to be approved according to which natural resources their corporate masters covet at any particular moment. Lithium and other rare earth minerals, strategic importance, whatever the corporate form needs to stay on top globally, will dictate what the empire does.

Leave Afghanistan? I very much doubt it.

DJT will do what the "puppet masters" desire. Just like all his predecessors.

Profits uber alles!!

fairleft , Jul 30, 2018 9:36:15 PM | 38
'Correction': No reliable census has been done in decades, but I don't think the Pashtun are the majority in Afghanistan. They
are by far the largest minority however. British 'divide and rule' stategists long ago deliberately separated them into Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Peter AU 1 , Jul 30, 2018 9:40:53 PM | 39
s 36

Venezuela and Iran have two things in common. Both have large oil reserves and neither recognize Israel.
Trump's wars will be about destroying enemies of Israel, and at the same time, achieving global energy dominance.

Chipnik , Jul 30, 2018 9:58:21 PM | 40
I've posted this before. I met a Taliban leader and his two guards in a brutal area during the Hearts and Minds Schtick, preparatory to Cheney getting all the oil and gas, and copper and iron and coming coal lease awards.

He was a nice guy, the Taliban leader. His guards looked at me with absolute death in their eyes. Not wanting them to hear him, as we finished our tea, the Taliban leader leaned close, then whispered, 'I love your Jesus, but I hate your Crusaders.'

And I take issue with the US 'incompetence' meme. Ever since Cheney hosted the Taliban in Texas in 1998, trying to get a TAPI pipeline, the US has deliberately and cunningly taken over the country, assassinated the local-level leadership, and installed their foreign Shah, first Karzai, then Ghani.

In that time of occupation, 18 years, Pentagon MIC disappeared TRILLIONS in shrink-wrapped pallets of $100s, and ballooned from $340B a year, to now Trump is saying $840B a year.

That's not incompetence. Just the opposite.

Now, to honor my Afghan friends, who love to joke even after 35+ years of machine warfare, a joke I wrote in their honor:

Ring ring ring ring

"Office of the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan!"

"BRRZZZBRRZZZV..."

"Hold please."

President Reagan, it's the Iranian ambassador!"

"Well hello Mr. Assinabindstani, what can I do for you?"

"BRRZZZBRRZZZV..."

"Well I'll get my staff right on it."

[Intercomm clicks]

"Hey Ollie, the Ayatollah wants more guns! Step on it!"

Chipnik , Jul 30, 2018 10:10:55 PM | 41
38

Actually, the British paid an annual tithe-tribute the the Afghan king to stop raiding their India holdings, and agreed to a neutral zone between them. Then when the British pulled out, they declared the neutral zone as Pakistan and shrunk India away from Pashtun territory to create a bigger divide. The Afghan leaders had no say in the matter. I believe Baluchistan was also carved away. At one time, Afghan control extended from Persia to the Indus Valley. There is no way to defeat a nation of warriors who created a kingdom that vast, while William the Conqueror was still running around in bear skin diapers.

dh , Jul 30, 2018 11:03:19 PM | 42
@41 'Afghan control extended from Persia to the Indus Valley.'

You are probably referring to the Khalji Dynasty, a brutal bunch, who ruled India from 1290 to 1320 by which time William the Conqueror was long dead. You would be a lot more credible if you got your history right.

Lozion , Jul 30, 2018 11:30:50 PM | 43
@42 dh is correct. Afghan territory was in the Persian sphere of influence much longer compared to the Mughal/British/Indian periods..
Charles Michael , Jul 31, 2018 12:19:59 AM | 44
IMHO the military Budget increase, and what an increase it is!
is part of worsening an already outrageous situation to reach a caricatural point. Typical of trump repeated special "art".
Of course Nobody in USA, no President can go against the MIC and Pentagon.
But money is cheap when you print it.

It is sugaring the intended shrinking of foreign deployments (as in NATO), closure of "facilities" and replacing them officially with total deterrence capacities (Space Forces anybody ?).
While keeping classical projection capacities for demonstration against backward tribes.

Guerrero , Jul 31, 2018 12:21:04 AM | 45
That is an excellent account. Who can help rooting for the Afghanis to get their country back?

The economics of empire are always upside down; the homeland people end up shelling out for it.

Hoarsewhisperer , Jul 31, 2018 12:26:51 AM | 46
...
From its side, Iran is refusing to even meet Trump, two reasons: 1) If Iran agrees to meet, it would mean they agree to renegotiate the deal, which they dont. 2) US word isnt worth a toilet paper, so any negotiations is meaningless. Plus US list of demands makes even endeavor to negotiate dead from the get go.
Posted by: Harry | Jul 30, 2018 7:53:57 PM | 29

Tru-ish but Trump's latest offer is, according to the MSM, "no pre-conditions." It's quite likely that Iran's allies have advised the Iranians to tell Trump to Go F*ck yourself (if you feel you must), but then satisfy yourselves that Trump's No Preconditions means what Iran wants it to mean.

Trump jumped into the NK and Putin talks first because both were eager to talk. Iran will be a good test of Trump's seduction skills. All he's got to do is persuade the Iranians that talking is more useful than swapping long-distance insults. Iranians are rusted onto logical principles and Trump will find a way to appeal to that trait, imo.

Ian , Jul 31, 2018 12:41:07 AM | 47
Which country will be its next target?

Iran.

Debsisdead , Jul 31, 2018 1:11:58 AM | 48
It's too late for the afghanis who have been driven into the urban areas during the regulaar 'Afghanistanisation' campaigns. Most of them will have become hooked on consumerism and the necessity of dollars.
That leaves only two options for the Taliban when they take over as they undoubtedly will altho that is likely to mean having to tolerate clutches of obese amerikans lurking in some Px strewn green zone, the inhabitants of which are likely to have less contact with people from Afghanistan than any regular user of a Californian shopping mall. The new government can ignore the consumerists even when these rejects insist on getting lured into some nonsense green revolution - the danger with this isn't the vapid protests which can easily be dealt with by fetching a few mobs of staunch citizens from rural Afghanistan who will quickly teach them that neither cheeseburgers nor close captioned episodes of daytime television provide sufficient nutrition to handle compatriots raised on traditional food and Islam. Or the new administration can do as other traditional regimes have done many times over the last 80 years or so, purge the consumerists by disappearing the leadership and strewing empty lots in the urban areas with mutilated corpses of a few of the shitkicker class consumerists. That option can cause a bit of a fuss but it (the fuss) generally only lasts as long as the purge.

I suspect the Afghan government will favour the latter approach but they may try to hold off until the North has been brought back into line. OTH, consumerism is a highly contagious condition so, unless the North can be pacified speedily which seems unlikely, initially at least the Taliban adminsitration may have to fight on two fronts, agin the North while they nip urban consumerists in the bud before those confused fools can cause any highly publicised in the west but in actuality, low key, attempted insurrection.
My advice to the gaming, TV or cheeseburger addicted inhabitants of Kabul would be to volunteer your services to the amerikan military as a 'translator' asap and join yer cobbers in California.
It is unlikely that you will bump into Roman Brady especially not when he is in one of his avuncular moods, but if you stay outta Texas, Florida or any other part of flyover amerika chocka with alcohol induced blowhardism, you will discover than amerikan racism isn't as lethal as it once was.

Apart from having to ignore being jostled in the line at fast food joints and being loudly and incorrectly termed a motherf**in sand n***er mid-jostle. Certainly a whole lot less lethal than trying to cover your Fortnite jones by waving a badly copywritten sign in front of the al-Jazeera cameras for a one month battle pass .

AV17 , Jul 31, 2018 1:49:03 AM | 49
This retreat is to focus resources on Iran. Nuclear Winter it is!
Daniel , Jul 31, 2018 2:05:21 AM | 50
What was happening in Kabul, Afghanistan less than 8 hours after the WTC Towers turned into dust in midair? Who here remembers the massive bombing/cruise missile attack?

Here is CNN's transcript:

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "Well, Joie, it's about 2:30 in the morning here in Kabul. We've been hearing explosions around the perimeter of the city. We're in a position here which gives us a view over the whole city. We just had an impact, perhaps a few miles away.

"If I listen, you can hear the ripple of explosions around the city. Perhaps you heard there. The fifth explosion -- sixth explosion, I think. Gun bursts and star bursts in the air. Tracer fire is coming up out of the city. I hear aircraft flying above the city of Kabul. Perhaps we've heard half a dozen to 10 detonations on the perimeter of the city, some coming from the area close to the airport. I see on the horizon what could be a fire on the horizon, close, perhaps, to where the airport might be. A flash came up then from the airport. Some ground fire coming up here in Kabul."

"I've been in Belgrade and I've been in Baghdad and seen cruise missiles arrive in both those cities. The detonations we're hearing in Kabul right now certainly sound like the detonations of loud missiles that are coming in. "

"Certainly -- certainly it would appear that the Afghan defense systems have detected a threat in the air. They are launching what appears to be anti-aircraft defense systems at the moment. Certainly, I can see that fire that was blazing on the horizon. It was a faint yellow; it's now a bright orange blazing. Several other detonations going off around the city, multiple areas. Rockets appear to be taking off from one end of the airport. I can see that perhaps located about 8 or 9 miles away from where we stand, Joie."

The bombing/explosions continue for 10+ minutes of this broadcast.

Then, they cut to WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: who says the US is only collecting intelligence. He says what we're seeing must be part of the "Civil War" (despite the fact that neither side had an air force or cruise missiles). The Pentagon later denies knowing anything about it.

Then, CNN returns to Nic Robertson, who- within 15 minutes of his first report - begins to change his tune. Suddenly, the jet sounds are not mentioned. The cruise missiles (jet engines) have transformed into possible rockets. The airport fire is now an ammunition dump.

And voila! They lose their connection and Nic will not be heard from again. And this little bit of history will essentially disappear.

CNN video archive (attack report starts at 7:43).

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0109/11/bn.61.html

NPR had a reporter in Kabul that night. He apparently didn't notice the massive bombing, at least in his memoir 15 years later.

Mishko , Jul 31, 2018 2:07:19 AM | 51
Dear Mr. B,
"All these U.S. mistakes made in the early days are still haunting the country."
These mistakes are by design. To cause and keep causing destabilisation.

I like to refer to it as the 3-letter Scrabble method of doing things.
Me living in the Netherlands as I do, let me take the example of Greece.
Greece had its regime changed in 1948 (Wiki says 46-49).
And how is Greece doing these days? ...

Plasma , Jul 31, 2018 2:16:47 AM | 52
@37 yep, gotta agree with the more passimistic outlook here. Personally i'll eat my shoes if US leaves Afghanistan within any reasonable time frame. In addition to plentiful natural resources, there are very influential vested interests in Afghanistans booming opium industry.
Quentin , Jul 31, 2018 2:20:09 AM | 53
Off topic: Andrei Nekrasov's 'Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes' can be viewed in full on You Tube at this moment (31 July, 08:15 Amsterdam time). Can it also be seen in the USA, I wonder? How long will it take before Google take it down ? Watch it and learn about one of the main drivers of the Russia obsession.
Andreas Schlüter , Jul 31, 2018 3:35:18 AM | 54
The US (Neocon dominated) Power Elite has only one strategy left for that Region: destabilization and chaos to serve as a barrier against the Project of the Eurasian Cooperation!
See:
„Geo-Politics: The Core of Crisis and Chaos and the Nightmares of the US Power Elite" https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/geo-politics-the-core-of-crisis-and-chaos-the-nightmares-of-the-us-power-elite/
And on the recent developments:
"US Politics, Russia, China and Europe, Madness and Strategies": https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/us-politics-russia-china-and-europe-madness-and-strategies/
Best regards
Harry , Jul 31, 2018 4:35:59 AM | 55
@ Hoarsewhisperer | 46
Tru-ish but Trump's latest offer is, according to the MSM, "no pre-conditions." It's quite likely that Iran's allies have advised the Iranians to tell Trump to Go F*ck yourself (if you feel you must), but then satisfy yourselves that Trump's No Preconditions means what Iran wants it to mean.

White House just explained what Trump's "no preconditions" means: 1) Iran should at the core change how it deals with its own people. 2) Change its evil stance in foreign policy. 3) Agree on nuclear agreement which would REALLY prevent them making a nuke.

In other words, Iran should capitulate and become a client state, thats what Trump means by "no preconditions."

venice12 , Jul 31, 2018 4:53:03 AM | 56
@eugene #18

https://taskandpurpose.com/blackwater-eric-prince-afghan-war-plan/

"Blackwater Founder Erik Prince's Afghan War Plan Just Leaked, And It's Terrifying "

Tis was 8 months ago.

et Al , Jul 31, 2018 5:04:41 AM | 57
Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires!

When I heard old hand Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (what a name!) was heading back it was clear that things were afoot.

China's been trying to get in for a while, the Mes Aynak mine for example, but nothing much has happened.

Afghanistan is sitting on huge amounts of valuable mineral resources (an estimated $3t) but remains dirt poor...

ashley albanese , Jul 31, 2018 6:42:37 AM | 58
In any hot clash with China the U S would be very exposed in Afghanistan .
Mark2 , Jul 31, 2018 6:51:36 AM | 59
At this advanced stage of American insanity, I don't see why the devil should have all the best tunes. I'm sick of the yanks doing this shit in over people's county's ! While they stuff there fat faces with burgers and donuts! The dirty games they play on over country's, should now be played in America with all the brutality that they have used on others. Until that happens things world wide will continue to detriate. Natural justice is all that remains. They'v curupted all else.
Yeah, Right , Jul 31, 2018 7:09:00 AM | 60
@19 "The US already started to plan an invasion of Afghanistan in januari & february of 2001."

Well, to be fair the USA probably has plans to invade lots of countries.

Indeed, it would be more interesting to consider how many countries there are that the USA *doesn't* have invasion plans gathering dust on the shelves.

Not many, I would suggest.

Mark2 , Jul 31, 2018 7:41:56 AM | 61
It's just been reported on the bbc news---- the man responsible for the Manchester bombing had been 'rescued from Lybia when Gadafi was overthrown and tracked ever since. Even in Britain up to the day of the bombing ! And now on this post we discuss America uk transporting terrorists from Syria to Afganistan . Not to mention the white helmet bunch and where Ther going! The Manchester bombing, Westminster bridge and London Bridge atacks were done by the Tory party to win a general election ! This is the reality of the world we live in.full on oppression !!!
TG , Jul 31, 2018 8:26:48 AM | 62
Indeed, I agree with the sentiments here. But missing a big part of the picture.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have sky-high fertility rates. Forget the rubbish peddled by economist-whores like Milton Friedman, under these conditions no country without an open frontier has ever developed into anything other than a larger mass of poverty. In Pakistan something like half the children are so malnourished that they grow up stunted, and it is this misery that is starting slow population growth. Pakistan is yet another example of the Malthusian holocaust, which is not a global catastrophe: it is slow grinding poverty that results when people have more children than they can support.

Bottom line: these places will remain poor and unstable no matter what lunacy the United States does or does not do. The traditional approach to such places is to leave them alone, and only keep them from escaping. Bottled up, the Afghanis and Pakistanis will kill only each other. 9/11 is a consequence of allowing people from these places free access to the Untied States.

The 'war on terror' is a consequence of 'there shall be open borders.' It's a big and messy world, and even if the government of the United States was not criminally incompetent, there would be a lot of misery and hatred in it. Open borders means that now the Untied States has to intervene in every country all over the world to ensure that nowhere can there develop terrorist cells. An impossible task.

Charles Michael @ 44

I agree with the caricature nature of much of this. I don't think there will be a next target. The MIC has become bloated while Iran, Syria, Russia, China are turning out true fighters as well as stronger economic planning.

div
Charles Michael @ 44

I agree with the caricature nature of much of this. I don't think there will be a next target. The MIC has become bloated while Iran, Syria, Russia, China are turning out true fighters as well as stronger economic planning.

div
financial matters , Jul 31, 2018 9:19:51 AM | 63
The US still has some resources and some use but needs to continue to make friends in the pattern of Kim and Putin and give up on its self defeating economic and military sabotage planning which has been exposed as morally bankrupt as well.

[Jul 29, 2018] Time to Talk to the Taliban by Daniel L. Davis

Too many US clans are profiting from the war...
Notable quotes:
"... While agree totally with what Col. Davis says here about ending America's involvement in the Afghanistan War. Way to many are profiting from this long-term misadventure. ..."
"... Eminently sensible advice, except that Trump can't take it without being greeted with a hysterical chorus of "we're losing Afghanistan ZOMG!" (as if we ever had it) and "Putin puppet!" ..."
"... "Of course most Americans are clueless about the cost of these wars and how it impacts money necessary to re-build our country infrastructures." ..."
"... Completely disagree. I don't know a single individual who supports the war in Afghanistan or misunderstands its costs. The American people just have no say in the matter. ..."
"... Finally, they realise what St Ronnie knew in the 1980s. He created the Taliban we know today via Operation Cyclone. Maybe Ollie North can lead the negotiations? He seems to have a good channel to the Iranians ..."
"... Putting together Sid_finster's and spite's comments paints an interesting picture. Aside from war profiteering (Fran Macadam) there is no real purpose served by our occupation except to be there. ..."
"... I'll go a step further and say that the invasion of Afghanistan was unnecessary too. We were not attacked by Afghanistan. We were not even attacked by the Taliban. We were attacked by al Quaida, by teams comprised mostly of Saudi Arabians. ..."
"... It cannot be repeated too often that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires. Let the Taliban have it. ..."
"... What the Army could not do, and still cannot do, is transform a tribal society in isolated mountainous terrain into a liberal democracy. As LTC Davis observes: "The reason McChrystal failed to end the war -- and Miller will likewise fail -- is that these objectives can't be militarily accomplished." ..."
"... The conclusion of this simple argument is that the war in Afghanistan actually has almost nothing to do with that country and almost entirely to do with the political and economic demands arising from the US .nothing to do with Afghanistan other than the destruction of the place and its people. ..."
Jul 24, 2018 | www.theamericanconservative.com
We have no choice. The 17-year war in Afghanistan has failed at every level, while the violence is only getting worse.

Reports have surfaced recently that the White House is instructing its senior diplomats to begin seeking "direct talks with the Taliban." It's a measure that would have been unthinkable at the start of the Afghanistan war yet today it's long overdue. Despite the criticism it's elicited, such talks offer the best chance of ending America's longest and most futile war.

While there is broad agreement that American leaders were justified in launching military operations in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, it's painfully evident after 17 years that no one has any idea how to end the fighting on military terms.

Possibly the biggest impediment to ending the war has been the definition of the word "win." General Stanley McChrystal said in 2009 that winning in Afghanistan meant "reversing the perceived momentum" of the Taliban, "seek[ing] rapid growth of Afghan national security forces," and "tackl[ing] the issue of predatory corruption by some" Afghan officials.

Nine full years and zero successes later, however, Lieutenant General Austin S. Miller, latest in line to command U.S. troops in Afghanistan, defined as America's "core goal" at his confirmation hearing that "terrorists can never again use Afghanistan as a safe haven to threaten the United States."

The reason McChrystal failed to end the war -- and Miller will likewise fail -- is that these objectives can't be militarily accomplished. Predicating an end to the war on such is to guarantee perpetual failure. A major course correction is therefore in order.

Keeping 15,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan does not, in any way , prevent terror attacks against the United States from originating there -- and for this lack of success we will pay at least $45 billion this year alone. The real solution is therefore to withdraw our troops as quickly as can be safely accomplished rather than throw more of them into a fruitless conflict.

I personally observed in 2011 during my second combat deployment in Afghanistan that even with 140,000 U.S. and NATO boots on the ground, there were still vast swaths of the country that were ungoverned and off-limits to allied troops.

Meaning, at no point since October 2001 has American military power prevented Afghanistan from having ungoverned spaces. What has kept us safe, however -- and will continue to keep us safe -- has been our robust, globally focused intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that work in concert with the CIA, FBI, and local law enforcement to defend our borders from external attack.

Many pundits claim that if the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan then chaos will reign there -- and that is almost certainly true. But that's how we found Afghanistan, that's how it is today, and -- wholly irrespective of when or under what conditions the U.S. leaves -- that's how it will be long into the future until Afghans themselves come to an accommodation.

The question U.S. policymakers need to ask is which is more important to American interests: the maintenance of a perpetually costly war that fails to prevent any future attacks, or ending America's participation in that war?

Continuing to fight for a country that can't be won cements a policy that has drained the U.S. of vital resources, spilled the blood of American service members to no effect, and dissipated the Armed Forces' ability to defend against potentially existential threats later on -- while in the meantime not diminishing the threat of international terrorism. To strengthen our national security, we must end the enduring policy of failure by prudently and effectively ending our military mission.

While the fundamentals of a withdrawal plan are relatively straightforward, they would still be met by considerable opposition. One of the arguments against leaving was voiced by McChrystal nine years ago when he pleaded with the American public to "show resolve" because "uncertainty disheartens our allies [and] emboldens our foe." Yet the facts can't be denied any longer: for all eight years of the Obama administration and the first 500 days of Trump's tenure, we maintained that "resolve" and were rewarded with an unequivocal deterioration of the war.

Since McChrystal's admonition to maintain the status quo, the Taliban have exploded in strength to reportedly 77,000 , more territory is now in the hands of the insurgents than at any point since 2001 , the Afghan government remains one of the most corrupt regimes on the planet, and civilian casualties in the first half of 2018 are the highest ever recorded .

The only way this permanent failure ends is if President Trump shows the courage he has sometimes demonstrated to push back against the Washington establishment. That means ignoring the status quo that holds our security hostage, ending the war, and redeploying our troops. Without that resolve, we can count on continued failure in Afghanistan. With it, American security will be strengthened and readiness improved.

Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow at Defense Priorities and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after 21 years, including four combat deployments. Follow him on Twitter @DanielLDavis1 .


Fred Bowman July 24, 2018 at 1:29 pm

While agree totally with what Col. Davis says here about ending America's involvement in the Afghanistan War. Way to many are profiting from this long-term misadventure. The only way these wars of choice will ever end is when Congress has the balls to cut off funding. Of course most Americans are clueless about the cost of these wars and how it impacts money necessary to re-build our country infrastructures. Military madness indeed.
Sid_finster , says: July 24, 2018 at 2:06 pm
Eminently sensible advice, except that Trump can't take it without being greeted with a hysterical chorus of "we're losing Afghanistan ZOMG!" (as if we ever had it) and "Putin puppet!"

If Trump were going to leave, he should have done so soon after taking office. At least then he could blame his predecessors.

That country is Trump's baby now.

Fran Macadam , says: July 24, 2018 at 3:37 pm
The financial security of the National Security State and its suppliers now depends on no war ever ending or being won. The new definition of defeat is having any war end. As long as it continues, that war is being won.
Kent , says: July 24, 2018 at 4:31 pm
"Of course most Americans are clueless about the cost of these wars and how it impacts money necessary to re-build our country infrastructures."

Completely disagree. I don't know a single individual who supports the war in Afghanistan or misunderstands its costs. The American people just have no say in the matter.

spite , says: July 24, 2018 at 5:31 pm
There is only one reason why the USA is still in Afghanistan that makes sense (all the official reasons are an insult to ones intelligence), it borders on Iran and thus serves as a means to open a new front against Iran. The more the US pushes for war against Iran, the more this seems correct.
EliteCommInc. , says: July 24, 2018 at 5:43 pm
"Reports have surfaced recently that the White House is instructing its senior diplomats to begin seeking "direct talks with the Taliban."

I have to give my Jr High response here:

"Well, duh."
__________________

"While there is broad agreement that American leaders were justified in launching military operations in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks . . ."

Yeah . . . no.

1. They manipulated the game to make what was a crime an act of war to justify the an unnecessary, unethical, and strategically unwise invasion. I remain now where I was 14 years ago -- bad decision in every way.

2. It was even a poor decision based on reason for war. To utterly bend the will of the opponent to conform to the will of the US. it is possible to win. But to do so would require such massive force, brutality and will.

3. 9/11 was a simple criminal act, despite the damage. As a crime we should have sought extradition, and or small team FBI and special forces operations to a small footprint in either capturing, and or if need be killing Osama bin Laden and company.

Nothing that has occurred since 9/11 provides evidence that the invasion was either justified or effective. It will if the end game is to quit be one of three losses suffered by the US.

They are: War of 1812
Iraq
Afghanistan

" . . . it's painfully evident after 17 years that no one has any idea how to end the fighting on military terms."

Sure leave. Though talking so as to avert whole slaughter of those that aided the US is the decent thing to do.

Whine Merchant , says: July 24, 2018 at 5:48 pm
Finally, they realise what St Ronnie knew in the 1980s. He created the Taliban we know today via Operation Cyclone. Maybe Ollie North can lead the negotiations? He seems to have a good channel to the Iranians
Janek , says: July 24, 2018 at 6:05 pm
Solving USA problems in Afghanistan an at the same time pushing for war with Iran is by definition classic oxymoron. Afghanistan's problems can only be solved with cooperation and understanding with Iran. Conflict of the USA with Iran will extend indefinitely the suffering of the Afghanis and the eventual lose of the Afghanistan and Iran to the Russia. Always reigniting and keeping on the front burner the conflict with Iran by the USA is exactly what Russia and V. Putin want. I can't see any other politicians except D. Trump, B. Netanyahu and American 'conservatives' for the advancement of the Russia's goals in the Middle East and in the globalistan. These are the new XXI century 'useful (adjective)'.
Myron Hudson , says: July 24, 2018 at 6:22 pm
Putting together Sid_finster's and spite's comments paints an interesting picture. Aside from war profiteering (Fran Macadam) there is no real purpose served by our occupation except to be there.

I'll go a step further and say that the invasion of Afghanistan was unnecessary too. We were not attacked by Afghanistan. We were not even attacked by the Taliban. We were attacked by al Quaida, by teams comprised mostly of Saudi Arabians. This should have been a dirty knife fight in all the back alleys of the world, but we responded to the sucker punch as our attackers intended; getting into a brawl with somebody else in the same bar; eventually, with more than one somebody else.

It cannot be repeated too often that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires. Let the Taliban have it.

TG , says: July 25, 2018 at 8:28 am
Indeed, but as others have commented, the entire point of the Afghanistan war is that it is pointless. It can suck up enormous amounts of money, and generate incredible profits for politically connected defense contractors – and because Afghanistan is in fact pointless, it doesn't matter if all of that money is wasted or stolen, how could you tell? The vested interest in these winless pointless foreign wars means that they will continue until the American economy finally collapses – and anyone who opposes these wars is a fascist, a Russian stooge, "literally Hitler." Because money.
EarlyBird , says: July 25, 2018 at 4:22 pm
Thank you for this. I am very surprised to learn that Trump is pursuing this, given his pugilistic nature. I hope he does in fact, get us the hell out of there. He may be, like Nixon, the one who is politically able to make this smart move. Can you imagine the Republican outrage if Obama had tried a diplomatic exit from this sand trap?

We can still be proud of what we attempted to do there. A few years post-9/11, an Afghan colleague of mine who had come to the US as a boy said, "9/11 is the best thing to ever happen to Afghanistan." He meant that rather than carpet bombing Afghanistan "back to the Stone Age," as the left predicted the US would do, we poured billions of dollars in aide to build schools, hospitals, sewage and water plants, roads, etc.

EliteCommInc. , says: July 25, 2018 at 8:29 pm
"He meant that rather than carpet bombing Afghanistan "back to the Stone Age," as the left predicted the US would do, we poured billions of dollars in aide to build schools, hospitals, sewage and water plants, roads, etc."

And we could have done a lot more if we had not invaded. The Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11.

furbo , says: July 26, 2018 at 4:47 pm
The achievable operational level Military objectives in the Afghan war were accomplished in the first year; The Taliban were out of power and hiding in Pakistan and the Afghans had a somewhat benevolent government that wanted to guarantee security an property and a measure of individual liberty.

What the Army could not do, and still cannot do, is transform a tribal society in isolated mountainous terrain into a liberal democracy. As LTC Davis observes: "The reason McChrystal failed to end the war -- and Miller will likewise fail -- is that these objectives can't be militarily accomplished."

This has been particularly true with the intense guerrilla actions enabled by the Pakistanis who have a vested interest in an unstable Afghanistan.

I believe the noble goals 'might' have been doable – but it would have required a level of effort, and more importantly a 'cultural confidence' on par with the Roman Empire of the 2nd Century to pull it off. That is no longer us.

masmanz , says: July 27, 2018 at 1:29 am
"9/11 is the best thing to ever happen to Afghanistan"? I bet none of his family members died or suffered. Probably they are all living in the US. Are we supposed to feel proud that instead of carpet bombing and killing millions our war killed only a hundred thousand?
Wizard , says: July 27, 2018 at 9:53 am
Sadly, Kent, I do know people who still claim that our continued presence in Afghanistan is a good thing. Some of these are otherwise fairly bright people, so I really can't comprehend why they continue to buy into this idiocy.
James Keye , says: July 27, 2018 at 12:12 pm
Afghanistan must be Afghanistan and the US must be the US; this is such a simple tautology. If the US leaves, Afghanistan will become what ever it can for its own reasons and options. If the US stays, it will be for the US' reasons, not for the Afghans.

The conclusion of this simple argument is that the war in Afghanistan actually has almost nothing to do with that country and almost entirely to do with the political and economic demands arising from the US .nothing to do with Afghanistan other than the destruction of the place and its people.

[Jul 23, 2018] Christianity was formed after Jesus was executed to protect the money lenders as a protest against debt slavery

Jul 23, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

Pft , Jul 23, 2018 1:27:18 AM | 43

So most folks never heard of a guy named Hillel. He was a Baghdad Jew who moved to Judea about 60 years before Christ was born.

His great influence on Judaism was a novel invention to get around the Jubilee which many civilizations employed snd was part of Judaism Mosaic Law. Basically every 7 years debts were cancelled to prevent the elites from accumulating all the land and wealth and enslaving the bottom 99% and causing rebellion. Much of the debt forgiven was owed to the state in the form of taxes but individuals and business also were indebted to money lenders . Debt of individuals acquired to pay taxes, farm, etc was forgiven by the Jubilee. Business /Merchant debts had to be repaid

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/01/19/could-should-jubilee-debt-cancellations-be-reintroduced-today/

The rabbiis of the Pharisees under the suggestion of Hillel the Elder, created a loophole in Jewish law, in which a legal document would accompany the interest-free loans (charging interest to fellow Jews was forbidden in the Torah) issued by individuals that stated that the loans were to be transferred to the courts as the law of remission does not apply In this case.
It was called a Prosbul.

This led to great unrest among Jews and non Jews alike. This unrest led to a Jewish activist named Jesus leading a protest against the Pharisees and the money lenders. Michael Hudson has a theory backed up by historical documents in the original Aramaic,Hebrew and Greek that Mosaic Law is mostly about the prohibitions of the sins related to debt and the sinful practices of creditors to secure repayment. Translations into English and other languages have obscured this.

Christianity was formed after Jesus was executed to protect the money lenders . Unfortunately the Romans were pro creditor and then Constantine hijacked the religion a couple of centuries later , and aside from a prohibition on usury by the Roman Church the Jubilee was no more. When the Roman Empire fell the Byzantine Emperor reinstated the Jubilee from 7th-10th Century and abandoned this . I imagine this wad due to the Islamic Wars that required external loans to finance at interest.

Judaism still use the prosbul today , at least in Orthodox , to escape the Jubilee called for in Mosaic Law . That applied only for loans to Jews in any event. Prohibitions of usury in the Christian world ended pretty much with the Reformation and Calvinism. Even so in the US their were limits on usury in many US states until early 1980's when neoliberalism crushed that. Now the poor get charged as much as 30% on credit card debt while earning 2% on savings and they cant even declare bankruptcy like Trump did 6 times

Islamic banking is interest free though under Sharia Law. "Loans are equity-based, asset-backed. In lieu of interest the banks rely on cost-plus financing (murabaha), profit-sharing (mudaraba), leasing (ijara), partnership (musharaka) and forward sale (bay'salam).

"This prohibition is based on arguments of social justice, equality, and property rights. Islam encourages the earning of profits but forbids the charging of interest because profits, determined ex post, symbolize successful entrepreneurship and creation of additional wealth whereas interest, determined ex ante, is a cost that is accrued irrespective of the outcome of business operations and may not create wealth if there are business losses. Social justice demands that borrowers and lenders share rewards as well as losses in an equitable fashion and that the process of wealth accumulation and distribution in the economy be fair and representative of true productivity.


"Risk sharing. Because interest is prohibited, suppliers of funds become investors instead of creditors. The provider of financial capital and the entrepreneur share business risks in return for shares of the profits."

"Money as "potential" capital. Money is treated as "potential" capital -- that is, it becomes actual capital only when it joins hands with other resources to undertake a productive activity. Islam recognizes the time value of money, but only when it acts as capital, not when it is "potential" capital."

"Prohibition of speculative behavior. An Islamic financial system discourages hoarding and prohibits transactions featuring extreme uncertainties, gambling, and risks."

So maybe the war against Islam has another component?

Getting back to Jesus. Hudson says the Pharisees decided that Jesus' growing popularity was a threat to their authority and wealth.

http://michael-hudson.com/2017/12/he-died-for-our-debt-not-our-sins/

"They said 'we've got to get rid of this guy and rewrite Judaism and make it about sex instead of a class war', which is really what the whole Old Testament is about,"


"That was that was where Christianity got perverted. Christianity turned so anti-Jesus, it was the equivalent of the American Tea Party, applauding wealth and even greed, Ayn-Rand style."


"Over the last 1000 years the Catholic Church has been saying it's noble to be poor. But Jesus never said it was good to be poor. What he said was that rich people are greedy and corrupt. That's what Socrates was saying, as well as Aristotle and the Stoic Roman philosophers, the biblical prophets in Isaiah."


"Neither did Jesus say that it was good to be poor because it made you noble.

"What Jesus did say is that say if you have money, you should share it with other people."


"American Fundamentalist Christians say don't share a penny. King Jesus is going to make you rich. Don't tax millionaires. Jesus may help me win the lottery. Tax poor people whom the Lord has left behind – no doubt for their sins. There's nothing about the Jubilee Year here."

Hudson has a book coming out next week on the subject

.

Guerrero , Jul 23, 2018 2:32:12 AM | 44
Pft, I am interested in your discourse; are their grounds for a scientific gifting economy?

What I mean is: does a model exist for a human society that has followed Christ's teaching

I know that after he was gone, his mother Mary said "my son never touched a single penny"

Is this credible? Is there an archeological reading of any society not based on greed?

I think there may be. They didn't have to do bookkeeping, a source of constant happiness,

but it's is the loss of posterity since we can wonder and speculate about gift economics.

This isn't a joke, nor is it irony. Dear Pft, ¿Can you say more about biblical etc. utopia?

[Jul 09, 2018] Why Was Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 Shot Down, by Kees van der Pijl

Notable quotes:
"... Flight MH17, Ukraine and the New Cold War. Prism of Disaster ..."
"... Today, Western imperialism projects its global power, as far as capital is concerned, primarily from the perspective of speculative, financial asset investment. Long gone are the days of class and international compromise forced upon it after World War Two. Instead, the predatory instincts of dominant financial capital require forcibly opening up all states for commodification and exploitation. Given the global spread of product and commodity chains, the continued flow of profits to the West cannot be taken for granted as long as effective state sovereignty elsewhere persists. For the liberal, Anglophone heartland of capital, 'defence' is therefore not merely, or even primarily, a matter of upholding the territorial integrity of the states constituting it, but keeping open the arterial system of the global economy and maintaining the centrality of the West. Regime change is a logical corollary, and from this perspective we must view the coup in Ukraine in February 2014 and all ensuing events, including the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. ..."
"... Defence Planning Guidance for Fiscal 1994-'99 ..."
"... Self-Determination in the New World Order ..."
"... The Grand Chessboard ..."
"... Russia under Yeltsin had effectively surrendered its sovereignty to transnational capital and the West and as a result was left a social and economic disaster zone. ..."
"... The Anglo-American invasion of Iraq on a false pretext made abundantly clear that the West was abandoning the rules of the post-war international order. 'Democracy promotion' intended to prevent national sovereignty from being mobilised against Western global governance, was now made a priority. The 'Rose Revolution' in Georgia in 2003 and the 'Orange Revolution' a year later in Ukraine, marked the lengths to which the United States was willing to go. ..."
"... To ensure that countries incorporated into the US-NATO sphere of influence, really became neoliberal client states, Pascual and Krasner devised a strategy for preventive intervention with a rulebook listing the measures by which 'market democracy' was to be established. Ukraine was a key target and battleground, because by now, Russia was beginning to contest Western forward pressure. ..."
"... The economic mismanagement and infighting of the different oligarchic clans in Ukraine led to payment arrears and repeated shutdowns of the gas supply from Russia, and Gazprom, the state-owned Russian gas company, early on began to look for ways to bypass the Ukrainian grid. ..."
"... Patriot of Ukraine ..."
"... if the Ukrainians lose control of the narrative ..."
"... If Russia takes Ukraine, Belarus will join the Eurasian Union, and, presto, the Soviet Union (in another name) will be back. ..."
"... Far easier to [hold] the line now, in Ukraine than elsewhere, later ..."
"... weekend of 13 to 14 April, CIA Director John Brennan was in the Ukrainian capital. ..."
"... Anti-Terrorist Operation ..."
"... Parubiy sent out a Twitter message on the 15th that veterans of the Maidan uprising were poised to join the fight. ..."
"... The downing of MH17 on 17 July changed all that. As I said above, who did it and how remains obscure, although there are several pursued by people familiar with local circumstances, or revealed by insiders who know who which military assets were operating that day -- but all that remains inconclusive. The official reports by the Dutch Safety Board and the JIT may be conveniently dismissed although the DSB rightly pointed at the questionable decision by Kiev to allow civilian planes to fly over a war zone. However, irrespective of the actual perpetrator, and whether it was an intentional act or an accident, there is no doubt about the West's intent to exploit the event to the maximum. ..."
"... 'without MH17 it would have been pretty difficult to find sufficient support for the increased sanctions on the Russian economy' ..."
"... Even at the time of the Kiev coup, commentators wondered to what extent shale gas from the US might be used to offset Russian deliveries. LNG facilities planned in Florida and Maryland were projected to serve the European market at Gazprom's expense, a prospect meanwhile far more realistic. ..."
"... The downing of Flight MH17 also definitively sealed the fate of South Stream. Russian banks financing the project, led by Gazprombank, were hit by new sanctions, so that the necessary capital could no longer be raised internationally. ..."
"... Since the F-16 that shot down the Russian jet was part of a pro-NATO unit based at Inçirlik airbase that took part in the coup attempt, the incident over Syria would appear to fit in a framework that may also have decided the fate of Flight MH17: a provocation to throw relations with Russia into disarray, but we don't know for sure. ..."
"... whether managed or violent ..."
"... cover the scenarios from changes of leadership within the current structures, to the emergence of a group ready to pursue structural reform in some sort of accountable dialogue with the Russian population, to regime collapse ..."
"... Washington Post ..."
"... Russia Project Strategy ..."
"... In the current global conjuncture, even the tentative contender coalition combining the Eurasian Union, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, constitutes an acute danger to a capitalist West in crisis. Whether the United States and NATO would therefore also be willing to take even greater risks than they are doing now is a prospect too frightening to contemplate. However, it must be confronted, or the fate of the 298 people on Flight MH17 may become that of humanity at large. ..."
Jul 09, 2018 | www.unz.com

Four years ago, on 17 July 2014, in the midst of a civil war raging in eastern Ukraine, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was destroyed with all 298 passengers and crew. On 25 May last, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) entrusted with the criminal investigation of the downing and composed of the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and paradoxically, given its possible involvement, Ukraine, presented its second progress report. Like the first report in September 2016, it took the form of a press conference, with video animations supporting the investigation's findings. This time there was even less to report; the main conclusion was that elements from the Russian 53rd Buk missile brigade were the culprits, a claim already made by the London-based investigative group Bellingcat two years before. In February 2016 that assertion had still been dismissed as unfit for evidence by the Dutch chief prosecutor on the JIT, Fred Westerbeke, in a letter to victims' relatives. How can it possibly have become the core component of the case for the prosecution two years and two months later?

The JIT press conference was immediately followed by a formal declaration on the part of the Dutch and Australian governments that held Russia responsible. However, JIT member Malaysia dissociated itself from the accusation, whilst Belgium has remained silent. The obviously over-hasty conclusion, on the heels of the alleged Skripal nerve gas incident in Salisbury and the likewise contested Syrian government gas attack on jihadist positions in Douma, all point in the same direction: Putin's Russia must be kept under fire and there is no time to wait for a court verdict.

ORDER IT NOW

In my book Flight MH17, Ukraine and the New Cold War. Prism of Disaster (Manchester University Press), I have refrained from entering the slippery terrain of making claims about who pulled the trigger, intentionally or by accident, in the late afternoon of 17 July, or even which type of weapon was used. For the downing of the Malaysian plane has become part of a propaganda war that was already heating up prior to the catastrophe. Instead the book is about what we do know about the events surrounding it, in the preceding months, weeks, and days, indeed even on the day itself. Subsequent events have only underlined that it is this context that lends meaning to the tragedy.

Refocusing US Supremacy After the Soviet Collapse

Today, Western imperialism projects its global power, as far as capital is concerned, primarily from the perspective of speculative, financial asset investment. Long gone are the days of class and international compromise forced upon it after World War Two. Instead, the predatory instincts of dominant financial capital require forcibly opening up all states for commodification and exploitation. Given the global spread of product and commodity chains, the continued flow of profits to the West cannot be taken for granted as long as effective state sovereignty elsewhere persists. For the liberal, Anglophone heartland of capital, 'defence' is therefore not merely, or even primarily, a matter of upholding the territorial integrity of the states constituting it, but keeping open the arterial system of the global economy and maintaining the centrality of the West. Regime change is a logical corollary, and from this perspective we must view the coup in Ukraine in February 2014 and all ensuing events, including the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17.

Right from the Soviet collapse in 1991, the US global perspective was articulated in several new strategic doctrines. The first and perhaps foundational one is the Wolfowitz Doctrine, named after Paul Wolfowitz, undersecretary of defence in the Bush Sr. administration, who commissioned a Defence Planning Guidance for Fiscal 1994-'99 (DPG) of 1992. It proclaims the United States the world's sole superpower, which must remain ahead of all possible contenders in arms technology and never again accept military parity, as with the USSR during the Cold War. The newly self-confident European Union, too, was obliquely warned that the US alone would handle global policing.

Additional doctrines, specifying on which grounds armed US intervention might be undertaken and justified, added elements such as humanitarian intervention (a Carnegie Endowment report of 1992, Self-Determination in the New World Order ); it was applied in Yugoslavia and again in Libya. Next, the'War on Terror', originally floated at Israeli Likud/US Neocon conferences between 1979 and 1984, was revived after the collapse of the USSR as the 'Clash of Civilizations' by Cold War strategist Samuel Huntington; Afghanistan and Iraq stand as monuments of the application of this doctrine. Finally, Zbigniew Brzezinski's The Grand Chessboard of 1997 specifically dealt with reorganising the former USSR, including Ukraine.

Through the different episodes, NATO was transformed into a global policing structure serving the interests of Atlantic capital. 'Out of area operations', unthinkable in the Yalta epoch, were first tried out against the Bosnian Serbs in the mid-1990s. The enlargement of the alliance into the former Soviet bloc, which began around that time too, was obviously motivated to prevent European departures from US tutelage, hence its bold forward surge. Already in 1994, Ukraine became the first former Soviet republic to join the Partnership for Peace, the newly created waiting room for NATO membership. To quell Russian concerns about the advancing West, the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997 laid down that no nuclear weapons and permanent troop deployments would take place in new member states. Yet Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova not long afterwards joined a low-key organisation of former Soviet republics (after the initials, GUAM), another oblique link up with NATO.

Mobilising Georgia and Ukraine against Resurgent Russia

Russia under Yeltsin had effectively surrendered its sovereignty to transnational capital and the West and as a result was left a social and economic disaster zone. Under his successor, Vladimir Putin, the country began to mutate back to a society led by a directive state, assisted by rising oil prices. After the United States unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and announced a missile defence system deployed in the CzechRepublic, Poland, and Rumania, Russia shifted to a more robust international position. The Anglo-American invasion of Iraq on a false pretext made abundantly clear that the West was abandoning the rules of the post-war international order. 'Democracy promotion' intended to prevent national sovereignty from being mobilised against Western global governance, was now made a priority. The 'Rose Revolution' in Georgia in 2003 and the 'Orange Revolution' a year later in Ukraine, marked the lengths to which the United States was willing to go.

Yet even a colour revolution means little if there is no accompanying make-over of the fundamental state/society relation. Hence, the incoming policy planning director at the US State Department, Stanford professor Stephen Krasner, and Carlos Pascual, former US ambassador in Kiev, developed a comprehensive regime change doctrine in 2004. This would prove a key element in the subsequent Ukraine intervention. To ensure that countries incorporated into the US-NATO sphere of influence, really became neoliberal client states, Pascual and Krasner devised a strategy for preventive intervention with a rulebook listing the measures by which 'market democracy' was to be established. Ukraine was a key target and battleground, because by now, Russia was beginning to contest Western forward pressure.

At the Munich Security Conference in January 2007, Putin reminded his audience of the promises made to Gorbachev in 1991 not to expand the Atlantic alliance and warned that further attempts at enlargement (the Baltic states having been included in 2004) would imply great risks. Yet NATO and the EU were inexorably pressing forward. At the Bucharest NATO summit in April 2008 the Americans made the offer of NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine, only to have the offer vetoed by Germany and France. Possibly to force the issue, the pro-Western president brought to power by the Rose Revolution in Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, armed and encouraged by the US and Israel, later that year embarked on a military adventure to recapture the breakaway province of South Ossetia. It ended in a complete debacle, as a Russian army stood ready in North Ossetia to deal the invaders a major, if very costly, blow. This, then, was what Richard Sakwa calls, 'the war to stop NATO enlargement'. From now on, every post-Soviet republic tempted to join the Atlantic alliance would have to reckon with Russian protection for groups resisting such integration, irrespective of whether it concerned actual Russians or any other of the almost two hundred nationalities of the former USSR.

The EU-Russian Energy Equation and Ukraine

The gas from Russia that feeds Europe today was discovered back in the 1960s; the Friendship oil pipeline was built in 1964 and the Soyuz, Urengoi and Yamal pipelines followed after West Germany started purchasing Soviet gas. The link-up culminated in 1980 with the contract for a gas pipeline from Urengoi in north Siberia to Bavaria, signed by a heavy-industry consortium headed by Deutsche Bank.

After the collapse of the USSR, Russian gas had to pass through the pipeline grid of independent Ukraine, which in the meantime had become the prey of rival clans of oligarchs. For most of them, gas was the key source of rapid enrichment -- directly, as in the case of subsequent prime minister Yuliya Timoshenko, 'the Gas Princess', or indirectly, by supplying steel pipes for gas transport, as in the case of president Leonid Kuchma's son-in-law, Victor Pinchuk, the 'Pipeline King'. The economic mismanagement and infighting of the different oligarchic clans in Ukraine led to payment arrears and repeated shutdowns of the gas supply from Russia, and Gazprom, the state-owned Russian gas company, early on began to look for ways to bypass the Ukrainian grid.

After Putin had come to power, he disciplined the Russian oligarchs as part of the restoration of state sovereignty. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the energy oligarch and richest of all Russian billionaires at the time, at the time was buying support in the Duma to build a trans-Siberian pipeline to China; whilst negotiating with ExxonMobil and Chevron about US participation in his Yukos concern, which he planned to merge with Sibneft into the world's largest oil company. In 2005 he was convicted to a long prison sentence. Yukos was brought back into the Russian patrimony via a proxy construction involving state-owned Rosneft and Gazprom, as part of broader subordination of the economy to the state.

Gazprom meanwhile began building alliances to avoid future disruption of supplies via Ukraine and secure its European market. In 2005 it agreed with the outgoing government of Gerhard Schröder to build a pipeline across the Baltic directly to Germany, 'Nord Stream', with a consortium of German companies. Schröder was made the chairman of the board of the joint venture, Achimgaz, and two years later, a South Stream pipeline across the Black Sea to Bulgaria was contracted with ENI of Italy. It was to be extended into south-eastern Europe as far as Austria. In this way Gazprom and the Russian state were outmanoeuvring various EU projects for pipelines aimed at by-passing Russia. Indeed it was the EU's plan to use a Nabucco pipeline across Turkey to connect to the Caspian energy reserves that prompted the $40 billion South Stream project. Romano Prodi, prime minister of Italy, who first discussed South Stream with Putin in late 2006, was offered the chairmanship, which he declined, perhaps in the knowledge the project would become highly contested.

The Eurasian connection by now posed a direct threat to the cohesion of the enlarged Atlantic bloc. Besides Nord Stream and South Stream, Gazprom's collaboration with NIOC of Iran and a joint venture with ENI in Libya set all alarm bells ringing in Washington. Already in May 2006, a few months after the gas shutdown to Ukraine, the US Senate unanimously adopted a resolution calling on NATO to protect the energy security of its members and have it develop a diversification strategy away from Russia. Senator Richard Lugar in a much-noted speech prior to the NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, in November 2006, argued in favour of designating the manipulation of the energy supply as a 'weapon' that can activate Article 5 of the NATO treaty (common defence).

In a report to the European Parliament in 2008, the director of the EurasianPolicyCenter of the Hudson Institute in the US recommended that the EU should assist in liberalising and modernising the Ukrainian grid instead of supporting South Stream. Tension in the Black Sea area, her report noted candidly, might serve the purpose of blocking that pipeline altogether. However, after the 2010 election of president Victor Yanukovych, the front man of the powerful eastern and southern oligarchs, the lease of Russia's Crimean naval base at Sebastopol, home of its Black Sea fleet, had been extended to 2042, so the prospects for stirring up unrest there were mitigated by Moscow's enduring naval preponderance.

Regime Change in Kiev

One aspect of the resurgence of a sovereign Russia was the plan for a Eurasian economic union to rebuild relations with former Soviet republics (Ukraine obtained observer status early on). The EU's Eastern Partnership was a direct response. It was offered to former Soviet republics in 2008, in a gesture that signalled that Europe now effectively acted as a subcontractor to the larger anti-Russian design drafted in Washington. Concretely, the EU offered Ukraine and other former Soviet republics an Association Agreement that also included provisions for the country's alignment on NATO security policy, besides a neoliberal make-over in the spirit of the Krasner-Pascual doctrine. The envisaged reforms would be devastating for the country's existing power structure, not least for the Donbass oligarchs whose front man was Yanukovych. Their heavy industry assets would be swept away by EU competition, the country turned into an agricultural supplier, and Russian gas cut off.

Hence, when both the EU and Russia sought to win over Yanukovych to join their respective blocs and Brussels ruled out the triangular arrangement by which the Ukrainian president had hoped to postpone the choice, he could not but step back from signing the EU Association Agreement in November 2013 and accept a Russian counteroffer. By then, 'Europe' had become a code word for an end to oligarchic rapaciousness, in which Yanukovych and his sons had become involved as well. The president's decision triggered mass demonstrations and occupations, which this time included an armed insurrection by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists in the historically anti-Russian west of the country. It created the space for actual fascists to hijack the protests and prepare a coup. By their use of deadly force at the Maidan central square (ascribed by the coup plotters and in the West to the riot police), the Ukrainian ultras demonstrated they were ready to kill their own compatriots to achieve their aims.

To prevent the situation from getting out of hand completely, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland flew to Kiev on 20 February 2014. However, whilst they negotiated a deal with Yanukovych and the opposition, the US and other NATO ambassadors met with Andriy Parubiy, the co-founder of the fascist party of Ukraine and former head of its militia, Patriot of Ukraine . Parubiy, today the speaker of the Kiev parliament, was in command of the armed gangs at the Maidan; two days later these took power in the capital, installing a government of Ukrainian nationalist stripe, selected by US diplomats. Parubiy was appointed secretary of the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC), a key post overseeing all military and intelligence operations, which he continued to hold until three weeks after the downing of MH17. With the Russian-Ukrainian half of the country effectively disenfranchised, the coup was responded to by the secession of Crimea and an armed insurrection in the Donbass. Stirrings of revolt in Odessa and Mariupol would be suppressed with deadly violence, in which Parubiy and other far right figures were directly involved.

Confronting the BRICS in Ukraine

From late March onwards the war party in the United States and NATO began to elaborate a strategy that would make Ukraine the testing ground for a trial of strength with Russia and China. The secession of Crimea and its re-incorporation into the Russian Federation was exploited to evoke the spectre of an impending Russian invasion on several fronts. General Philip Breedlove, commander of US Eucom (European Command, one of nine regional US military commands spanning the globe) and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (Saceur), coordinated the Western position with General Wesley Clark, a former NATO Saceur at the time of the Yugoslavia wars. Clark was already advising Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine before the Donbass had actually risen in revolt. On 12April he asked Breedlove whether the NATO commander could not arrange a statement blaming Moscow for the violence because ' if the Ukrainians lose control of the narrative , the Russians will see it as an open door'. Clark then elaborated on the general geopolitical situation, giving further insights into why the war party in the US believed that Ukraine was to be 'held' and chosen as a battle ground to confront Russia and China. No time was wasted on market democracy here. Claiming that 'Putin has read US inaction in Georgia and Syria as US "weakness",' Clark went on to explain that

China is watching closely. China will have four aircraft carriers and airspace dominance in the Western Pacific within 5 years, if current trends continue. And if we let Ukraine slide away, it definitely raises the risks of conflict in the Pacific. For, China will ask, would the US then assert itself for Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, the South China Sea? If Russia takes Ukraine, Belarus will join the Eurasian Union, and, presto, the Soviet Union (in another name) will be back. Neither the Baltics nor the Balkans will easily resist the political disruptions empowered by a resurgent Russia. And what good is a NATO "security guarantee" against internal subversion? And then the US will face a much stronger Russia, a crumbling NATO, and [a] major challenge in the Western Pacific. Far easier to [hold] the line now, in Ukraine than elsewhere, later .

On the weekend of 13 to 14 April, CIA Director John Brennan was in the Ukrainian capital. The Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO, so called because the use of military force within the country is only warranted under that label) began right after Brennan's visit; Parubiy sent out a Twitter message on the 15th that veterans of the Maidan uprising were poised to join the fight. Since NATO had earlier implored Yanukovych not to use force against (armed) demonstrators, Moscow now asked the alliance to restrain the coup leaders in turn. But according to foreign minister Lavrov, the answer they got was that 'NATO would ask them to use force proportionately'.

In fact even the oligarch, Petro Poroshenko, elected president on 25 May 2014 to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the coup regime, proved unable to restrain the hardliners. On 30 June, following a four-hour NSDC meeting with Parubiy, interior minister Avakov, and others whose armed followers were demonstrating outside, Poroshenko declared that the ceasefire would be lifted and a new offensive launched. Three days later NATO naval manoeuvres in the Black Sea commenced with US participation and with electronic warfare a key component. On the ground, Kiev's forces made rapid progress, apparently drawing a ring around the large rebel city of Donetsk. NATO had its own concerns: an upcoming summit in Wales in September was expected to capitalise on the trope of a 'Russian invasion', vital after the Afghanistan debacle, and dovetailing with the emerging contest with the BRICS bloc.

The BRICS, coined first as a banker's gimmick, were never more than a loose collection of '(re-) emerging economies', but from Washington's perspective, sovereign entities not submitting to neoliberal global governance are unacceptable. So when on 16 July, the BRICS heads of state, hosted by the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff (removed by a rightwing conspiracy in May 2016), signed the statute establishing a New Development Bank, or BRICS bank, as a direct challenge to the US and Western-dominated World Bank and IMF, the US imposed new sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, specifically targeting the energy link with the EU. The creation of an equivalent of the World Bank with a capital of $100 billion with a reserve currency pool of the same size (an equivalent of the IMF), laid the groundwork of a contender pole in the global political economy challenging the West's austerity regime frontally -- or so it seemed at the time.

Still in Brazil before flying back to Moscow, Russian president Putin on the fringes of the football world cup finals also agreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to pursue a comprehensive Land for gas deal. Its tentative provisions included normalising the status of Crimea in exchange for a massive economic rehabilitation plan and a gas price rebate for Ukraine. However, a special European Council meeting convened on the 16th could not reach agreement on whether the EU should follow the American lead this time, since countries with export interests to Russia and dependent on its gas, were balking. Instead, the Council stressed the EU's commitment 'to pursue trilateral talks on the conditions of gas supply from the Russian Federation to Ukraine' in order to 'safeguard the security of supply and transit of natural gas through Ukraine.'

The Downing of Flight MH17 and South Stream

The downing of MH17 on 17 July changed all that. As I said above, who did it and how remains obscure, although there are several pursued by people familiar with local circumstances, or revealed by insiders who know who which military assets were operating that day -- but all that remains inconclusive. The official reports by the Dutch Safety Board and the JIT may be conveniently dismissed although the DSB rightly pointed at the questionable decision by Kiev to allow civilian planes to fly over a war zone. However, irrespective of the actual perpetrator, and whether it was an intentional act or an accident, there is no doubt about the West's intent to exploit the event to the maximum.

Former secretary of state and then-presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton in a TV interview on the 18th called for making 'Russia pay the price' once its culpability had been established. Her to-do list for the EU included, one, 'toughen sanctions'; two, find alternatives to Gazprom, and third, 'do more in concert with us to support the Ukrainians'. The 'Land for gas' negotiations were shelved and on the 22nd Europe dropped the remaining hesitations when it underwrote the US sanctions targeting Russia's role as an energy supplier. As Mark Leonard, founder and director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, noted in a newspaper interview a year later, 'without MH17 it would have been pretty difficult to find sufficient support for the increased sanctions on the Russian economy' .

In 2009 the EU had introduced a new energy policy, dubbed a 'Third Energy Package'. It does not permit gas to be transported to the EU by the company producing it, effectively forcing Gazprom to sell even the gas piped through the Ukrainian grid to other companies before it could enter the EU. Nord Stream had still been exempted from EU competition rules, but the projected South Stream was not, never mind that most contracts with Gazprom had been signed before the Third Energy Package came into force. Even at the time of the Kiev coup, commentators wondered to what extent shale gas from the US might be used to offset Russian deliveries. LNG facilities planned in Florida and Maryland were projected to serve the European market at Gazprom's expense, a prospect meanwhile far more realistic.

The Crimean secession and incorporation into the Russian Federation obviously played its own role here. Crimea is a historically Russian region; having been assigned to Ukraine by a whim of Soviet party leader Khrushchev in 1954, it never reconciled itself to being part of an independent Ukraine. After the nationalist coup in late February, the status of the Russian naval base in Sebastopol was in the balance. In 1991, the Black Sea had been a Soviet/bloc inland sea, with one NATO country (Turkey) bordering it. Now there were two more NATO/EU countries and two pro-Western, aspiring NATO members on its littoral. So when one week after the coup, three former Ukrainian Presidents, Kravchuk, Kuchma, and Yushchenko, called on the coup government in Kiev to cancel the agreement under which the lease of Sebastopol, home to the Russian Black Sea fleet, had been extended to 2042, the question of who would be able to project naval power over the Black Sea became acute. The question now was whether Russia would be able to provide cover for a large-scale project such as South Stream, or not.

South Stream itself came into the firing line directly. The European Parliament, which never raised the issue of why the February agreement with Yanukovych the EU brokered had been sidelined by the coup, on 17 April 2014 adopted a non-binding resolution opposing the South Stream gas pipeline and recommended a search for alternative sources of gas. On 28 April, the United States imposed a ban on business transactions within its territory on seven Russian officials, including Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, as well as Gennady Timchenko, whose Volga Group controls Stroytransgaz, the company entrusted with building the Bulgarian section of South Stream. Nevertheless the Bulgarian parliament approved South Stream two weeks after the reincorporation of Crimea, circumventing the EU's anti-trust legislation by renaming the pipeline a 'sea-land connection'.The European Commission then instructed Bulgaria to stop work on South Stream and proceeded to cut off tens of millions of much-needed regional development funds, whilst the US ambassador warned Bulgarian companies against working with Timchenko. A final visit of US Senators John McCain and Ron Johnson, in combination with other punitive measures then led to the cancellation in early June. As Eric Draitser commented at the time, 'South Stream has become one of the primary battlegrounds in the economic war that the West is waging against Russia'.

The downing of Flight MH17 also definitively sealed the fate of South Stream. Russian banks financing the project, led by Gazprombank, were hit by new sanctions, so that the necessary capital could no longer be raised internationally. Putin earlier had hinted at moving the transit of gas for the EU to non-European countries; in August, it was reported there was a Plan B in the works to export via Turkey. On 1 December 2014, during a state visit to Ankara, the Russian president announced that in light of Western sanctions and the refusal of construction permits in the EU, South Stream would be replaced by a 'Turkish Stream' pipeline, besides the existing Blue Stream link. However, in November 2015, a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian fighter jet over northern Syria, throwing relations between Moscow and Ankara into a deep crisis and entailing the cancellation of Turkish Stream. This was only overcome after the July 2016 coup attempt against Erdoğan, in which Russia sided with the Turkish president, possibly even warning him in advance. Since the F-16 that shot down the Russian jet was part of a pro-NATO unit based at Inçirlik airbase that took part in the coup attempt, the incident over Syria would appear to fit in a framework that may also have decided the fate of Flight MH17: a provocation to throw relations with Russia into disarray, but we don't know for sure.

Regime Change in Moscow?

The MH17 disaster occurred in the context of a deep crisis, in which capitalist discipline as imposed from its historic epicentre in the West, has become primarily predatory, relying to an ever-greater extent on violence. Speculative financial operations in combination with the 'War on Terror' have spread economic risk and repression at home, war and regime change abroad. Human survival itself has been turned into a global gamble played out over the head of the affected populations for private gain. The West, led by the effectively bankrupt United States, increasingly relies on force to sabotage the formation of any alternative, something its own social formation can no longer bring forth. Even the most promising, potentially revolutionary IT and media developments coming out of Silicon Valley have been mortgaged by a planetary project of communications surveillance to safeguard US imperial positions.

Back in the 1980s, when it launched the second Cold War, the Reagan administration intended to destabilise the Soviet bloc and bring about regime change in Moscow. This is also the aim of the current, new Cold War. A 2015 Chatham House report, 'The Russian Challenge', discusses this in some detail. Although it concedes that the West cannot have an interest in Russia sliding into complete anarchy, neither should the Putin presidency be protected 'against change, whether managed or violent '. Therefore, 'whether Putin was ousted by an internal coup, by illness or by popular unrest , it would nevertheless be sensible for the West to give further thought to how it might deal with the consequences of regime change in Russia.'

Effective communication with the Russian people and the defence of human values beforehand would be essential for Western credibility Planning for the future ought, lastly, to cover the scenarios from changes of leadership within the current structures, to the emergence of a group ready to pursue structural reform in some sort of accountable dialogue with the Russian population, to regime collapse .

The president of the National Endowment for Democracy, Carl Gershman, in a piece for the Washington Post in October 2016 suggested launching a new, sustained anti-Putin campaign, for which the contract killing of the journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, ten years earlier, might be used as a vignette.

For such a campaign, George Soros' Open Society Foundation can be trusted to have elaborated the 'civil society'/colour revolution scenarios, whilst identifying the groups that might be mobilised for their execution. The OSF plan of action for 2014-17, titled Russia Project Strategy , identifies Russian intellectuals active in Western academic and opinion networks, the Russian gay movement, and others as potential levers for civil society protest against the conservative bloc in power in Moscow. From the OSF documents hacked by the CyberBerkut collective, Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation emerges as the key beneficiary, and discussion portals and liberal media such as Echo of Moscow radio station, RBK news agency, and the newspaper Vedomosti, as the preferred channels to disseminate content.

There is no need to repeat that all this is part a powerful offensive to derail the loose contender bloc around China and Russia, which had constituted itself in the face of Western aggressiveness and crisis. The seizure of power in Ukraine as well as the secession of Crimea and the civil war in the east, which has meanwhile cost the lives of more than 13,000 people and displaced a million, as well as economic warfare against Russia by the US and the EU, have brought the danger of a large European war several steps closer. Whether the actual downing of Flight MH17 was an intentional, premeditated act or an accident, whether it involved a jet attack, an anti-aircraft missile, or both, ultimately cannot be established with certainty. Yet both the NATO war party and the coup regime in Kiev, which on many occasions has demonstrated that its ultra-nationalist and fascist antecedents are very much alive, would have been perfectly capable of such an act and had the means for it. Most importantly, they had the motive. Those in power in Kiev had several times already attempted to draw Moscow into the civil war, directly and through a NATO intervention. If this indeed was their aim, it would also have served the Atlantic bloc's determined and long-standing commitment to force continental Europe into an antagonistic relation with Russia.

In the current global conjuncture, even the tentative contender coalition combining the Eurasian Union, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, constitutes an acute danger to a capitalist West in crisis. Whether the United States and NATO would therefore also be willing to take even greater risks than they are doing now is a prospect too frightening to contemplate. However, it must be confronted, or the fate of the 298 people on Flight MH17 may become that of humanity at large.

Kees van der Pijl is a Fellow, Centre for Global Political Economy and Professor Emeritus of the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex.

[Jul 06, 2018] The IMF is back in Argentina an economic and social crisis, even more serious than the present one, looms large on the horizon by Eric Toussaint , Sergio Ferrari

Jun 27, 2018 | www.defenddemocracy.press

The second neoliberalization of Argentina turned into second financial crash. Brazil is probably next. And Argentina and Brazil were two contires in which neoliberal staged a counterrevolution after financial crisi of 2008.

The IMF is back in Argentina: "an economic and social crisis, even more serious than the present one, looms large on the horizon"

1. The vicious circle of illegitimate debt grapples the Argentine people once again
2. IMF's $ 50 billion loan surpasses Greece's previous record

Sergio Ferrari from Berne, Switzerland interviewed Eric Toussaint, international debt specialist

After more than a decade of Argentina's official "distance" from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Mauricio Macri's government has just knocked on the doors of the world's financial police. The $ 50 billion credit granted by the organization during the first week of June sets an international record and will directly impact the economic and social situation of this South American country. Eric Toussaint, Belgian historian and economist, an eminent specialist in this field and spokesperson for the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM), based in Brussels, pointed this out. Interview follows. Q: Why did the Argentine government turn to the IMF , in full view of Argentina's relations with this international organization in the late 1990s and their dire political consequences? Is the financial top brass of the Macri team despairing?

Eric Toussaint (ET): Since the Mauricio Macri government assumed office in December 2015, its policies have led to a critical situation. Sharp reduction in export taxes have brought down tax revenues, the debt servicing expenditure has been significantly increased (100% higher in 2018 than in 2017). The country is running out of dollars. Currency reserves fell by $ 8 billion earlier this year. Macri needs this IMF loan to continue debt servicing. Private international lenders require such a loan as a prerequisite for continued credit to Argentina. A very large chunk of the IMF loan will be used directly to repay foreign creditors in dollars.


Q: If we look at the Argentine history of the 1990s, this seems to be a scheme of playing with fire

Read also: What Kissinger did in Chile, Cyprus, Turkey, the Middle East and ... his own country

ET: Yes, of course. But I would like to further explore the background of this appeal to the IMF

Q- Please go ahead!

ET: This shows that the government's policy is an abject failure: with a peso that devalued fast; with the interest rate set at a high 40% by the Argentine Republic's Central Bank ; with the $ 8 billion reduction in international reserves that keep declining. And with a debt service that has increased by 100% compared to 2017. Faced with a balance sheet of such a nature, undoubtedly it is a total failure. Macri claimed that a high growth level and a viable debt would be ensured by paying the debt – between end-2015 and early-2016 – and by compensating the vulture funds , in keeping with Judge Thomas Griesa's verdict. He knelt before the vulture funds (see: http://www.cadtm.org/Reject-the-Imminent-Agreement-with ). But the facts confirm that this plan did not work. Debt rose at a whirling pace and it's startling to see how fast it snowballed. As a result, it became impossible to convince the creditors that Argentina could repay its debt in the future. That's why Macri is asking for this $ 50 billion credit. We must remember that when Greece received $ 30 billion from the IMF in 2010 in the backdrop of a dramatic situation, it was a record amount!

Q: Some analysts say that President Macri is trying to breathe in some fresh air with the help of this loan, before commanding a comfortable position in the October 2019 elections.

ET: I would not like to engage in farfetched political speculations. I prefer facts. I have read the contents of the agreement signed with the IMF and it has imposed a severe reduction in general social benefits and wages of the public servants. Public investment will be almost wiped out and it will lead to an economic depression. Debt repayment will increase and the IMF charges high interest rates . The government will impose taxes with elevated rates on the public to repay the debt, while continuing to hand out fiscal perks to the capitalists. The government will encourage the export of the maximum number of agricultural products and raw materials to the global market by reinforcing the extractivist-exporting model. IMF's policy will lead the country to an economic and social crisis even more serious than what it suffered before this loan was sanctioned. Let's go back to your question. It is very likely that, politically, Macri will claim that what he is doing is not his project, but what the IMF demands from him.

Read also: USA - In praise of Riotous Assembly

Q: This brings us back to a not-so-distant past and I would like to highlight that: the decade of indebtedness and the IMF's role in the 1990s that eventually led to the social outburst of 2001. Can history repeat itself without tragedy?

ET: History is repeating itself in a country that is a serial debt payer. It started with the illegitimate and odious debt inherited from the military dictatorship of the 1970s. IMF's support was crucial for this dictatorship to continue until the early 1980s. The vicious circle of illegitimate debts persisted during the 1990s with President Carlos Menem followed by Fernando De la Rúa. Their allegiance to the IMF's recommendations led to the great social crisis of late 2001. President Rodríguez Saá, in his few days or Presidency at end-2001, announced the suspension of debt repayment to allay popular anger. The debt was restructured in 2005, then re-negotiated with creditors who had not participated before. It caused a crisis in the government and evoked sharp criticism from the people (see the section on Argentina here http://www.cadtm.org/Restructuration-Audit-Suspension,11723 ). Former minister Roberto Lavagna, who had negotiated the 2005 restructuring, objected to negotiations with outsider creditors. The Argentine authorities never wanted to do what Ecuador did in 2007-2008: to carry out a debt audit with citizens' participation, which could have defined the odious and illegitimate part of the debt (see: http://www.cadtm.org/Video-The-Ecuador-debt-audit-a and http://www.cadtm.org/Vulture-funds-are-the-vanguard ). This, along with the inconsistency of the Cristina Fernandez government's national sovereignty discourse, frustrated people. This partly explains Macri's electoral victory in 2015.

Q: A course over several decades where illegitimate debts condition government policies without ever finding structural solutions

Read also: Two-Thirds of Human Rights Defenders Killed in 2017 Were From Latin America

ET: Yes. And that led today to this new mega-loan from the IMF. From now on, it can be included in the category of odious and illegitimate debts. An odious debt is a debt contracted against the people's interests, and the creditors know that it is illegitimate. Evidently a new illegitimate and odious debt is taking shape.

Q: What about future prospects?

ET: I have already spoken about the deteriorating economic and social crisis. I hope for a strong popular reaction in the coming months. I also hope that the popular forces will not take too long to consolidate their strength to oppose even more vigorously the Macri government and the pressures of the IMF and other international creditors.

Translated by Suchandra De Sarkar

[Jul 05, 2018] Sic Semper Tyrannis What happened to the signers

Jul 05, 2018 | turcopolier.typepad.com
What happened to the signers?

"Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the revolutionary army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships resulting from the Revolutionary War.

These men signed, and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor!

What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers and large plantation owners. All were men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty could be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags." "What really happened?"

------------

I had a lot of ancestors in that war, some Continentals, some militia. One man in Boston raised his own regiment of militia at his own expense. He commanded it throughout the war. A lot of these soldiers were old broke down grunts by the end, They made new lives for themselves. I revere their memory. pl

http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/RANCHO/POLITICS/DOCUMENTS/the_signers.html


blue peacock , 19 hours ago

"All were men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty could be death if they were captured."

They were men of character. They were willing to lose everything for their convictions and beliefs. These are men to be revered. Thank you Col. Lang for remembering them.

IMO, as a people we no longer have this character. We have allowed big & bigger government over the decades who have usurped our sovereignty and essential liberty through mass surveillance, civil forfeiture, state secrets doctrine as the cornerstone of deceit, and now the weaponization of law enforcement and intelligence for domestic political purposes.

TTG , 12 hours ago
These were indeed hard and principled men. I offer the example of one of the founding fathers of my hometown. Gideon Hotchkiss was a new light Puritan receiving a commission as an ensign in a Waterbury militia company in November 1756. He was at Saratoga in August 1757 when he wrote home about "the melancholy news of our upper fort" referring to the loss of Fort William Henry and the ensuing massacre. In July 1758 he took part in the battle of Fort Carillon as a lieutenant. He served another year as a captain in 1760 along with two of his sons.

Leading up to the War of Independence, he served on the local committee of inspection. He sent two sons and a grandson to serve in the war and organized a troop of light horse cavalry to respond to British incursions such as the raids on Woodbridge and Danbury. After the fall harvests were completed, his company of veterans served through the winter months when they were most needed.

Once while working in his fields, he heard the sound of battle to the south. He mounted his horse and, along with a servant boy, rode to meet the British at Westville, north of New Haven. His servant was struck by a cannon ball. Gideon placed the boy's body in a concealed place, sent his horse back to his farm and joined the battle. This was the British raid on New Haven in July 1779. He was sixty-three years old at the time.

After the War, he was appointed deacon of the church of Columbia Parish, now Prospect. One of his many sons became a Methodist minister. This Puritan deacon first disowned his son, but he soon forgave and embraced him. One of Gideon's descendants moved to the Shenandoah Valley. He was Jedediah Hotchkiss, cartographer and staff officer to General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.

richardstevenhack , 14 hours ago
Speaking of the signers, only three lived to see America's 50th Anniversary. Thomas Jefferson was unable to attend a reunion organized by the mayor of Washington, and this article provides the full text of his letter of RSVP.

Read What Thomas Jefferson Wrote on America's 50th Birthday
http://www.thetruthaboutgun...

Quote:

"May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. these are grounds of hope for others."

End Quote

It also cites this list of Jefferson quotes on the right to bear arms:

Thomas Jefferson on The Right To Bear Arms
https://www.nraila.org/arti...

[Jul 04, 2018] Pathology of Debt

Jul 04, 2018 | www.henryckliu.com

Pathology of Debt

By
Henry C.K. Liu

Part I: Commercial Paper Market Seizure turns Banks into their own Vulture Investors

This article appeared in AToL on November 27, 2007

Vulture restructuring is a purging cure for a malignant debt cancer. The reckoning of systemic debt presents regulators with a choice of facing the cancer frontally and honestly by excising the invasive malignancy immediately or let it metastasize over the entire financial system over the painful course of several quarters or even years and decades by feeding it with more dilapidating debt.

But the strategy of being your own vulture started with Goldman Sachs, the star Wall Street firm known for its prowess in alternative asset management, producing spectacular profits by manipulating debt coming and going amid unfathomable market anomalies and contradictions during years of liquidity boom. The alternative asset management industry deals with active, dynamic investments in derivative asset classes other than standard equity or fixed income products. Alternative investments can include hedge funds, private equity, special purpose vehicles, managed futures, currency arbitrage and other structured finance products. Counterbalancing opposite risks in mutually canceling paired speculative positions to achieve gains from neutralized risk exposure is the basic logic for hedged fund investments.

Hedge Funds

The wide spread in return on investment between hedge funds and mutual funds is primarily due to differences in trading strategies. One fundamental difference is that hedge funds deploy dynamic trading strategies to profit from arbitraging price anomalies caused by market inefficiencies independent of market movements whereas mutual funds employ a static buy-and-hold strategy to profit from economic growth. An important operational difference is the use of leverage. Hedge funds typically leverage their informed stakes by margining their positions and hedging their risk exposure through the use of short sales, or counter-positions in convergence or divergent pairs. In contrast, the use of leverage is often limited if not entirely restricted for mutual funds.

The classic model of hedge funds developed by Alfred Winslow Jones (1910-1989) takes long and short positions in equities simultaneously to limit exposures to volatility in the stock market. Jones, Australian-born, Harvard and Columbia educated sociologist turned financial journalist, came upon a key insight that one could combine two opposing investment positions: buying stocks and selling short paired stocks, each position by itself being risky and speculative, but when properly combined would result in a conservative portfolio that could yield market-neutral outsized gains with leverage. The realization that one could couple opposing speculative plays to achieve conservative ends was the most important step in the development of hedged funds.

The Credit Guns of August

Yet the credit guns of August 2007 did not spare Goldman's high-flying hedge funds. Goldman, the biggest US investment bank by market value, saw its Global Equity Opportunities Fund suffer a 28% decline with assets dropping by $1.4 billion to $3.6 billion in the first week of August as the fund's computerized quantitative investment strategies fumbled over sudden sharp declines in stock prices worldwide.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index, a measure of large-capitalization stocks, fell 44.4 points or 2.96% on August 9. On August 14, the S&P 500 fell another 26.38 points or 1.83%, followed by another fall of 19.84 points to 1,370.50 or 1.39% on August 15, totaling 9.4% from its record high reached on July 19, but still substantially higher than its low of 801 reached on March 11, 2003 .

Goldman explained the setback in Global Equity Opportunities in a statement: "Across most sectors, there has been an increase in overlapping trades, a surge in volatility and an increase in correlations. These factors have combined to challenge many of the trading algorithms used in quantitative strategies. We believe the current values that the market is assigning to the assets underlying various funds represent a discount that is not supported by the fundamentals." The statement is a conceptual stretch of the meaning of "fundamentals" which Goldman defines as value marked to model based on a liquidity boom rather than marked to market, even as the model has been rendered dysfunctional by the reality of a liquidity bust.

The market value in mid August of two other Goldman funds: Global Alpha and North American Equity Opportunities also suffered big losses. Global Alpha fell 27% in the year-to-date period, with half of the decline occurring in the first week of August. North American Equity Opportunities, which started the year with about $767 million in assets, was down more than 15% through July 27. The losses had been magnified by high leverage employed by the funds' trading strategies. Goldman said both risk-taking and leverage in these two funds had since been reduced by 75% to cut future losses. Similarly, leverage employed by Global Equity Opportunities had been reduced to 3.5 times equity from 6 times. The three funds together normally managed about $10 billion of assets.

Feeding on One's Own Death Flesh

Facing pending losses, Goldman Chairman Lloyd Blankfein was reported to have posed a question to his distraught fund managers: if a similar distress opportunity such as Goldman's own Global Equity Opportunities presented itself in the open market outside of Goldman, would Goldman invest in it as a vulture deal. The answer was a resounding yes. Thus the strategy of feeding on one's own dead flesh to survive, if not to profit, took form.

Goldman would moderate its pending losses by profiting as vulture investor in its own distressed funds. The loss from one pocket would flow into another pocket as gains that, with a bit of luck, could produce spectacular net profit in the long run if the abnormally high valuations could be manipulated to hold, or the staying power from new capital injection could allow the fund to ride out the temporary sharp fall in market value. It was the ultimate hedge: profiting from one's own distress. The success of the strategy depends on whether the losses are in fact caused by temporary anomalies rather than fundamental adjustment. Otherwise, it would be throwing good money after bad.

The Fed Held Firm on Inflation Bias

The Fed, in its Tuesday, August 7 Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, defied market expectation and decided against lowering interest rates with a bias against growth and focused instead on inflation threats. In response, the S&P 500 index, with profit margin at 9% against a historical average of 6%, fell 44.4 points or 2.96% to 1,427 on August 9. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dropped 387 points to 13,504 on the same day, even as the Federal Reserve pumped $62 billion of new liquidity into the banking system to help relieve seizure in the debt market.

On the following Monday, August 13, Goldman announced it would injected $2 billion of new equity from its own funds into its floundering Global Equity Opportunities fund, along with another $1 billion from big-ticket investors, including CV Starr & Co., controlled by former American International Group (AIG) chairman Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, California real estate developer Eli Broad who helped found SunAmerica and later sold it to AIG, and hedge fund Perry Capital LLC, which is run by Richard Perry, a former Goldman Sachs equity trader.

The new equity injection was intended to help shore up the long/short equity fund, which was down almost 30% in the previous week, to keep the fund from forced sales of assets at drastic discount long enough for markets to stabilize and for the fund to get out of the tricky leveraged bets it took before the credit markets went haywire in mid August. Global Equity "suffered significantly" as global markets sold off on worries about debt defaults credit draught, dragging the perceived value of its assets down to $3.6 billion, from about $5 billion.

Goldman chief financial officer David Viniair on a conference call with analysts was emphatic that the move was not a rescue but to capture "a good opportunity". After more than a week of panic over the disorderly state of global capital markets, Goldman Sachs pulled a kicking live rabbit magically out of its distressed asset hat.

On a conference call to discuss the additional equity investment in the $3.6 billion Global Equity Opportunities fund, Goldman executives insisted the move would not add to moral hazard (encouraging expectations that lead investors to take more risk than they otherwise might because they expect to be bailed out), but would merely reflect the firm's belief that the value of the fund's underlying assets was out of whack with "fundamentals" and that sooner or later the losses would be recouped when an orderly market returns.

"We believe the current values that the market is assigning to the assets underlying various funds represent a discount that is not supported by the fundamentals," Goldman explained in a statement. A day later, on August 14, the S&P 500 fell another 26.38 points or 1.83%, followed by another fall of 19.84 points or 1.39% on August 15, notwithstanding that a chorus of respected voices were assuring the public that the sub-prime mortgage crisis had been contained and would not spread to the entire financial system.

But Goldman did not inject more equity into two of its other funds: Global Alpha and North American Equity Opportunities that had also suffered sharp losses. Goldman said it was reducing leverage in the funds, a process that was mostly complete, but added that it was not unwinding Global Alpha, down 27% this year through August 13, about half of that in the previous week alone. Unlike Global Equity Opportunities, Goldman did not bolster its Global Alpha quantitative fund. Investors had reportedly asked to withdraw $1.6 billion, leaving Global Alpha with about $6.8 billion in assets after forced liquidation to pay the withdrawals.

Ireland registered Global Alpha, originally seeded in 1995 with just $10 million and returned 140% in its first full year of operation, was started by Mark Carhart and Raymond Iwanowski, young students of finance professor Eugene Fama of the University of Chicago . Fama's concept of efficient markets is based on his portfolio theory which states that rational investors will use diversification to optimize their portfolios based on precise pricing of risky assets.

Global Alpha soon became the Rolls Royce of a fleet of alternative investment vehicles that returned over 48% before fees annually. Hedge funds usually charge management fees of up to 2% of assets under management and 20% of investment gains as incentive fees. Global Alpha fees soared to $739 million in first quarter of 2006, from $131 million just a year earlier and boosted earnings rise at the blue-chip Goldman Sachs by 64% to $2.48 billion, the biggest 2006 first-quarter gain of any major Wall Street firm. Goldman is one of the world's largest hedge fund managers, with $29.5 billion in assets under management in an industry that oversees $2.7 trillion globally. Goldman reported in October 2006 that its asset management and securities services division produced $485 million, or 21% of its $2.36 billion in pretax profit for the fiscal third quarter.

For 2006, Global Alpha dropped 11.6% through the end of November and end up dropping 9% for the year yet still generating over $700 million in fees from earlier quarters. That was the first annual decline in seven years and followed an almost 40% gain for all of 2005. The fund took a hit misjudging the direction of global stock and currency markets, specifically that the Norwegian krone and Japanese yen would decline against the dollar. Global Alpha lost money partly on wrong-way bets that equities in Japan would rise, stocks in the rest of Asia and the US would fall and the dollar would strengthen. Before August 2007, the fund had lost almost 10% on wrong bet in global bond markets.

Goldman's smaller $600 million North American Equity Opportunities fund had also hit rough waters, losing 15% this year. There was real danger of a rush of redemptions from nervous investors that would force the funds to sell securities in a market that had all but seized up, forcing down asset prices to fire sale levels. Global Equity Opportunities investors were entitled to pull their money monthly with a 15-day warning, meaning notices for Aug. 31 were due on August 16. Global Alpha investors could redeem quarterly, and certain share classes also must notify the fund by the week of August 13.

Hedge funds are private, largely unregulated pools of capital whose managers command largely unrestricted authority to buy or sell any assets within the bounds of their disclosed strategies and participate in gains but not losses from investment. The industry has been growing over 20% annually due to its above-market performance. Still, Carhart and Iwanowski, both in their early forties, had not been able to take any of their 20% incentive fees since Global Alpha fell from its 2006 peak. They would have to make good about 60% of their previous incentive fees from profit, if any, in future quarters before they could resume taking a cut of the fund's future gains.

The Fed Wavered

By August 16, the DJIA fell way below 13,000 to an intraday low of 12,445, losing 1,212 points from its 13,657 close on August 8. The next day, August 17, the Fed while keeping the Fed Funds rate target unchanged at 5.25%, lowered the Discount Rate by 50 basis points to 5.75%, reducing the gap from the conventional 100 basis points by half to 50 basis points and changed the rules for access by banks to the Fed discount window.

In an accompanying statement, the Fed said: "To promote the restoration of orderly conditions in financial markets, the Federal Reserve Board approved temporary changes to its primary credit discount window facility. The Board approved a 50 basis point reduction in the primary credit rate to 5-3/4 percent, to narrow the spread between the primary credit rate and the Federal Open Market Committee's target federal funds rate to 50 basis points. The Board is also announcing a change to the Reserve Banks' usual practices to allow the provision of term financing for as long as 30 days, renewable by the borrower. These changes will remain in place until the Federal Reserve determines that market liquidity has improved materially. These changes are designed to provide depositories with greater assurance about the cost and availability of funding. The Federal Reserve will continue to accept a broad range of collateral for discount window loans, including home mortgages and related assets. Existing collateral margins will be maintained. In taking this action, the Board approved the requests submitted by the Boards of Directors of the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and San Francisco ."

The Fed Panicked

A month later, on September 18, brushing aside a DJIA closing at a respectable 13,403 the day before even in the face of poor employment data for August, the Fed panicked over the unemployment data and lowered both the Fed Funds rate target and the Discount Rate each by 50 basis points to 4.75% and 5.25% respectively. The rate cuts gave the DJIA a continuous rally for 9 consecutive days that ended on October 1 at 14,087. Obviously, the Fed knew something ominous about the credit market that was not reflected in the DJIA index.

The Global Equity Opportunities fund, now with about $6.6 billion in asset value, was using six times leverage before the capital infusion. Like many other managers, Goldman was experiencing the same problems with its so-called quantitative funds. Quant funds use computerized models to make opportunistic investment decisions on minute statistic disparities in asset prices caused by market inefficiency. When the short-term credit market seized up, the quant models turned dysfunctional.

Funds caught with significant losses in credit and bond investments had to sell stock holdings to lower the risks profile of their overall portfolios, and the herd selling in the stock market magnified the price shift in a downward spiral. Stocks that were held long fell in price, and stocks that were held short rose, exacerbating losses.

Opacity Fueled Market Rumors

As required, quant fund managers have been disclosing losses to investors but they are not required to disclose to the market. The opacity fueled the rumor mill. Renaissance Technology's $26 billion institutional equities fund was reportedly down 7% for the year. Some of the funds Applied Quantitative Research (AQR) managed were down as well, as were quant funds at Tykhe Capital, Highbridge Capital and D.E. Shaw (of which Lehman now owns 20%).

Vulture Opportunities in Distressed Funds

At Goldman, quant funds made up half of the $151 billion of alternative investments under management, and half of which was the sort of long-short equity quant funds that had been having trouble. But Goldman executives began to see opportunities in distressed funds. The highly respected AQR was raking in new funds to invest in distressed situations, as were other astute fund managers. AQR is an investment management firm employing a disciplined multi-asset, global research process, with investment products provided through a limited set of collective investment vehicles and separate accounts that deploy all or a subset of AQR's investment strategies. These investment products span from aggressive high volatility market-neutral hedge funds, to low volatility benchmark-driven traditional products. AQR's founder is Clifford S. Asness, a Goldman alumni where he was Director of Quantitative Research for the Asset Management Division responsible for building quantitative models to add value in global equity, fixed income and currency markets. H e was another of Fama's students at the University of Chicago .

Goldman was putting its own money down alongside that of select outside investors, an expression of its faith in the fund's ability to recoup. The situation differed from that of Bear Stearns which had to loan $1.6 billion to bail out one of two internal hedge funds that had big problems with exposure to mortgage-related securities.

The First Wave of Warnings

Goldman, one of the world's premiere financial companies, had joined Bear Stearns and France 's BNP Paribas in revealing that its hedge funds had been hit by the credit market crisis. Bear Stearns earlier in the summer disclosed that two of its multibillion dollar hedge funds were wiped out because of wrong bets on mortgage-backed securities. BNP Paribas announced a few weeks later it would freeze three funds invested in US asset-backed securities.

The assets of the two troubled Bear Stearns hedge funds had been battered by turmoil in the credit market linked to sub-prime mortgage securities. On Jun 20, 2007 , $850 million of the funds' assets held as collateral was sold at greatly discounted prices by their creditor, Merrill Lynch & Co. The assets sold included mortgage-backed securities (MBS), collateralized debt obligations (CDO) and credit default swaps (CDS). JP Morgan, another Bear Stearns creditor, had also planned an auction for some of the collateralized assets of the Bear Stearns funds, but cancelled the auction to negotiate directly with the Bear Stearns funds to unwind positions via private transactions to avoid setting a market price occasioned by market seizure.

The two Bear Stearns funds: High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage Fund and High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Fund, run by mortgage veteran Ralph Cioffi, were facing shut-down as the rescue plans fell apart. The funds had slumped in the first four months of 2007 as the subprime mortgage market went against their positions and investors began asking for their money back. The High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage Fund sold roughly $4 billion of subprime mortgage-backed securities in mid June, selling its highest-rated and most heavily traded securities first to raise cash to meet redemption requests from investors and margin calls from creditors, leaving the riskier, lower-rated assets in its portfolio that had difficulty finding buyers.

Collateral Debt Obligation Crisis

CDOs are illiquid assets that normally trade only infrequently as institutional investor had not intended to trade such securities. Demand for them is not strong even in normal times. In a credit crunch, demand became extremely weak. Sellers typically give investors one or two days to price the assets and bid in order to get the best price. Bid lists were now sent out for execution within roughly an hour, which was unusual and suggested that sellers were keen to sell the assets quickly at any price.

Bear Stearns' High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage Fund sold close to $4 billion worth of AAA and AA rated securities. The fund was started less than a year ago with $600 million in assets, but used leverage to expand its holdings to more than $6 billion. But subprime mortgage trades that went wrong left the fund down 23% in the first four months of 2007. The fund was selling its highest-rated and most tradable securities first to raise cash to meet expected redemption requests and margin calls. Buyers were found for the bonds but the fund still had to retain lower-rated subprime mortgage-based securities which had triggered its losses earlier in the year.

Bear Stearns was highly leveraged in an illiquid market and was faced with the prospect that its funds were going to start getting margin calls so it tried to sell ahead of being in the worst spot possible. Subprime mortgages were offered at low initial rates to home buyers with blemished credit ratings who could not carry the adjusted payments if and when rates rise. This was not a problem as long as prices for houses continued to rise, allowing the lenders to shift loan repayment assurance from the borrower's income to the rising value of the collateral. Thus subprime mortgages lenders were not particularly concerned about borrower income for they were merely using home buyers as needed intermediaries to profit from the debt–driven housing boom. This strategy worked until the debt balloon burst. Rising delinquencies and defaults in this once-booming part of the mortgage market had triggered a credit crunch earlier in the year that left several lenders bankrupt. Many hedge funds had generated big gains for several years on this unstainable liquidity boom. The premature bears who shorted the market repeated lost money as the Fed continued to feed the debt balloon to sustain the unsustainable.

As delinquencies and foreclosures rose finally, losses first hit the riskiest tranches of subprime mortgage-backed securities (MBS). The losses were subsequently transmitted to collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) which invested in the higher-rated tranches of subprime MBS that did not have an active market since they were bought by institutions with the intention to hold until maturity. Such securities were super safe as long as their ratings remain high.

Hedge funds have become big credit-market players in recent years, and many firms trade the riskiest tranches of subprime MBS and higher-rated CDOs tranches to profit from the return spread. While some funds, such those managed by Cheyne Capital and Cambridge Place Investment Management, had suffered sudden losses, some hedge funds made handsome gains in February 2007 betting that a subprime mortgage crisis would hit.

As the number of market participants increased and the packaging of the CDO became more exoteric over the liquidity boom years, it became impossible to know who were holding the "toxic" tranches and how precisely the losses would spread, since the risk profile of each tranche would be affected by the default rates of other tranches. The difficulty in identifying the precise locations of risk exposure caused a sharp rise in perceived risk exposure system wide. This sudden risk aversion led to rating downgrades of the high-rated tranches, forcing their holders to sell into a market with few buyers.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which monitors risk in the banking system, tracks bank holdings of MBS, but not specific tranches of CDOs. It has no information on which bank holds CDOs and how much, since such instruments are held by the finance subsidiaries of bank holding companies, off the balance sheets of banks. Asian investors, particularly those in Japan , had been eager to seek off-shore assets yielding more than the near zero or even negative interest rates offered at home. Many Japanese as well as foreign investors participated in currency "carry trade" to arbitrage interest rate spreads between the Japanese yen and other higher interest rate currencies and assets denominated in dollars, fueling a liquidity boom in US markets. The US trade deficit fed the US capital account surplus as the surplus trade partners found that they could not convert the dollars they earned from export to the US into local currencies without suffering undesirable rise in money supply. The trade surplus dollars went into the US credit market.

The growth of CDOs has been explosive during the past decade. In 1995, there were hardly any. By 2006, more than $500 billion worth was issued. About 40% of CDO collateral was residential MBS, with three quarters in subprime and home-equity loans, and the rest in high-rated prime home loans. CDOs became an important part of the mortgage market because their issuers also bought the riskier tranches of MBS that others investors shunned. The high-rated tranches of MBS were sold easily to pension funds and insurers. But the ultra-high rated tranches paid such low returns because of their perceived safety that few buyers were interested, forcing the banks which structured them to hold them themselves. The issuers often hold the more riskier tranches to sell at later dates for profit when the value of the collateral rose with rising home prices. But when the riskier tranches could not be sold as home prices fell and mortgage default rose, the higher rating tranches suffered rating drops and institutional buyers were prevented by regulation to hold the ones they had bought and from buying new ones. When the ultra safe tranches held by banks are downgraded, banks are forced to writedown their value. With CDOs withdrawing from the residential MBS market, mortgage lenders were unable to sell the loans they had originated for new funds to finance new mortgages.

The chain of derivative structures that turns home loans into CDOs begins when a mortgage is packaged together with other mortgages into an MBS. The MBS is then sliced up into different CDO tranches that pay on a range of interest rates tied to risk levels. Mortgage payments go first to the highest-rated tranches with the lowest interest rates. The remaining funds then flows down to the next risky tranches until all are paid. The riskiest CDO tranches get paid last, but they offer the highest interest rates to attract investor with strong risk appetite.

In theory, all trenches have the same risk/return ratio. As the liquidity boom has gone on for years with the help of the Fed, historical data would suggest that risks of default should be minimal. Yet when losses actually occurred from unanticipated mortgage defaults and foreclosures, the riskiest tranches were hit first, while the top-rated tranches were hit last. But until losses occurred, the riskier tranches got the higher returns. Over the years, the riskier tranches generated big profit for hedge funds when the risks did not materialize to overwhelm the high returns. The problem was that the profitability drove new issues of MBS at a faster pace than maturing MBS, with the number and amount of outstanding securities getting bigger with each passing year, exposing investors to aggregate risk higher than the accumulated gains. Because of the complexity and opacity of the CDO market, institutional investors were not alerted by rating agencies of the fact that their individual safety actually caused a sharp rise in systemic risk. They felt comfortable as long as assets they acquired were rated AAA and deemed bankruptcy-remote, not realizing the system might seize up some Wednesday morning. That Wednesday came on August 15, 2007 .

CDOs, a cross between an investment fund and an asset-backed security (ABS), perform this slicing process of risk/reward unbundling repeatedly to keep money recycling and money supply growing in the mortgage market. While CDOs lubricate the credit market to make more home financing affordable to more home buyers, it raises the price of home and its financing cost beyond the carrying capability of almost all home buyers when the bursting of the debt bubble resets interest rates to normal levels, making a rising default rate inevitable.

Hedge funds are attracted by the high returns offered by the lowest-rated tranches of subprime MBS undbubled by CDOs, the so-called equity tranches which sink underwater as home prices fall. Many hedge funds arbitrage the wide return spread with low-cost funds borrowed in the commercial paper market and magnify the return with high leverage through bank loans. They often hedge against risk by holding derivatives that are expected to rise in value when housing prices fall, such as interest rate swaps. They also hedge against defaults with credit default swaps. These hedges failed when risk was re-priced by the market at rollover time for short-term securities which could be every 30 days.

CDOs and Commercial Paper

Much of the money used to buy CDOs come form the commercial paper market. Commercial paper consists of short-term, unsecured promissary notes issued primarily by financial and non-financial corporations. Maturities range up to 270 days but average about 30 days. Many companies use commercial paper to raise cash needed for current transactions, and many find it to be a lower-cost alternative to bank loans. Financial companies use high-rated CDO tranches as collateral to back their commercial paper issues.

Because commercial paper maturities do not exceed nine months and proceeds typically are used only for current transactions, the notes are exempt from registration as securities with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.

Large institutions have long managed their short-term cash needs by buying and selling securities in the money market since the early 1970's. Today, a broad array of domestic and foreign investors uses these versatile, short-term securities to help to make the money market the largest, most efficient credit market in the world driving assets from $4 billion in 1975 to more than $1.8 trillion today. This money market is a fixed income market, similar to the bond market. The major difference being that the money market specializes in very short term debt securities.

The money market is a securities market dealing in short-term debt and monetary instruments. Money market instruments are forms of debt that mature in less than one year and are very liquid but traded only high denominations. The easiest way for individual investor to gain access is through money market mutual funds, or sometimes through a money market bank account. These accounts and funds pool together the assets of thousands of investors and buy the money market securities on their behalf.

Borrowing short-term money from banks is often a labored and uneasy situation for many corporations. Their desire to avoid banks as much as they can has led to the popularity of commercial paper. For the most part, commercial paper is a very safe investment because the financial situation of a large company can easily be predicted over a few months. Furthermore, typically only companies with high credit ratings and credit worthiness issue commercial paper and over the past 35 years there have only been a handful of cases where corporations defaulted on their commercial paper repayment.

ABCP Conduits

Asset backed commercial paper (ABCP) is a device used by banks to get operating assets, such as trade receivables, funded by the issuance of securities. Traditionally, banks devised ABCP conduits as a device to put their current asset credits off their balance sheets and yet provide liquidity support to their clients. Conduits raise money by selling short-term debt and using the proceeds to invest in assets with longer maturities, like mortgage-backed bonds. Conduits typically have guarantees from banks, which promise to lend them money up to the amount of the SIVs the banks structure.

A bank with a client whose working capital needs are funded by the bank can release the regulatory capital that is locked in this credit asset by setting up a conduit, essentially a special purpose vehicle (SPV) that issues commercial paper, such as the ones used by Enron that led to its downfall. The conduit will buy the receivables of the client and get the same funded by issuance of commercial paper. The bank will be required to provide some liquidity support to the conduit, as it is practically impossible to match the maturities of the commercial paper to the realization of trade receivables. Thus, the credit asset is moved off the balance sheet giving the bank a regulatory relief. Depending upon whether the bank provides full or partial liquidity support to the conduit, ABCP can be either fully supported or partly supported.

ABCP conduits are virtual subsets of the parent bank. If the bank provides full liquidity support to the conduit, for regulatory purposes, the liquidity support given by the bank may be treated as a direct credit substitute in which case the assets held by the conduit are aggregated with those of the bank. ABCP conduits are also set up large issuers that are not banks.

The key weakness in the entire credit superstructure lies in the practice by intermediaries of credit to borrow short term to finance long term. This term carry is magical in an expanding economy when the gap between short term and long term credit is narrower than gains from long term asset appreciation. But in a contracting economy, it can be a fatal scenario, particularly if falls in short term rates raise the credit rating requirement of the short term borrower, putting previously qualified loans in technical default. Securities that face difficulty in rolling over at maturity are known as "toxic" in the trade.

Lethal Derivatives

The credit default swap market is a microcosm of investor confidence. Credit default swaps are insurance for bad debt. Insured creditors are compensated by the seller of the insurance if a debtor defaults on a loan. When the threat of default rises in the market, the insurance premium rises, just as Katrina boosted hurricane insurance premium. This is known in the business as re-pricing of risk. The cost of credit default swaps written on investment banks such as Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs and on commercial banks such as Citibank have soared in the past few months amid worries that troubles in the subprime-mortgage market and the leveraged-buyout market could leave them with massive loan defaults. The financial industry tracks mortgage-linked securities via the ABX index, which calculates the prices of a basket of assets backed by subprime loans.

The ongoing crisis in the US housing market has pushed the ABX, a key mortgage-linked derivatives index, to new lows, threatening to unleash a further bout of credit market upheaval. Price swing in the ABX can reduce the value of ultra-safe credit instruments that carried high credit ratings, forcing banks and other regulated investors to make further large write-downs on their credit market holdings, on top of the huge losses several major US and foreign banks suffered from credit turmoil that began in August.

As the US mortgages market deteriorates, financial sector losses will accumulate. Secondary market price movements indicate that losses on mortgage inventory are likely to be larger in coming quarters. Before July, the part of the ABX index that tracks AAA debt was trading almost at face value. However, in the last three weeks in October, it has fallen sharply due to downgrades by credit rating agencies and continuing bad data from the housing sector.

As a result, the so-called ABX 07-1 index – which tracks AAA mortgage bonds originated in the first half of this year – fell to a record low close of 79 on October 30, meaning that traders reckon these bonds are worth only 79 cents on the dollar. The ABX "BBB" 07-1 index measures the performance of loans made during the second half of 2006, when many home purchase loans were made to buyers with shaky credit standings. The index traded around 44, or 44 cents on a dollar, nearly its weakest level ever.

The swing is creating real pain for investors, since in recent years numerous firms have created trading strategies which have loaded large debt levels onto these "safe" securities, precisely because these instruments were not expected to fluctuate in price. Investors normally hold such "safe" securities to maturity thus there is no demand for a ready market for them. But as the credit rating of these securities falls, investor cannot find buyer for them at any reasonable price. The last week in October saw the worst falls in the ABX market this year, especially higher up the capital structure with highly rated debt.

Pension funds and insurance companies hold the less risky, senior CDO tranches because regulatory rules restrict them from investing in lower-rated securities. When the low-rated tranches default in large numbers, the high-rated tranches lose rating and these regulated institutions are forced to sell their non-conforming holdings into a market with few buyers.

Pension funds, insurance companies and university endowment funds have also invested in hedge funds that hold the riskier CDO tranches to get higher returns. In recent years, CDO issuance has exploded and many hedge funds have been buying the riskiest tranches of MBS that are backed by subprime loans. Mortgages closed by 4 pm New York time were sent electronically to back-office locations in India to be packaged into CDO tranches and resent electronically to New York at 9:30 am the next day to be sold in the credit market, generating huge fees and profits for Wall Street firms every day.

Rating Agencies Under Pressure

Moody's Investors Services, an influential rating agency, warned in late July that defaults and downgrades of subprime MBS could have "severe" consequences for CDOs that invested heavily in the sector. CDOs that Moody's rated from 2003 to 2006 had 45% exposure to subprime MBS on average. But that varied widely from almost zero to 90% with recent CDOs having the high concentrations of such collateral, the potential downgrade for which could be 10 or more notches in rating. The secondary market for CDOs responded to these heightened risks, pushing prices down and widening spreads - the difference between interest rates on riskier debt and measures of short-term borrowing costs such as the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) or commercial paper rates. Spreads on BBB-rated asset-backed securities (ABS) CDOs over LIBOR have widened by roughly 125 basis points to 657 basis points since the end of 2006.

Structured investment vehicles (SIVs)

Although the first structured investment vehicles (SIVs) appeared in the structured finance world some 15 years ago, and the growth of SIVs had been somewhat limited, (there are fewer than 20 vehicles globally), there is no doubt that these sophisticated bankruptcy-remote structures have strongly influenced other funding vehicles and asset management businesses. Since 2002, there has been renewed interest by different types of financial institutions in starting up SIVs or SIV-like structures with evolved capital structures embracing new classes of financial instruments.

The first SIVs were founded in the mid-1980s as bankruptcy-remote entities and were sponsored by large banks or investment managers for the purpose of generating leveraged returns by exploiting the differences in yields between the longer-dated assets managed and the short-term liabilities issued. The balance sheet of a structured investment vehicle typically contains assets such as asset-backed securities (ABS) and other high-grade securities that are funded through issued liabilities in the form of commercial paper (CP) and medium-term note (MTN) and subordinate capital notes. SIVs typically hedge out all interest and currency risks using swaps and other derivative instruments.

Overall, CP and MTN issuance shot up dramatically in 2004, up US$25.7 billion to US$133.1 billion at year-end, with capital investments at an all-time high. In general, advances in capital structures and asset portfolio management have invigorated interest from investors and prospective sponsors.

SIVs, Conduits and Asset-Backed Commercial Paper (ABCP)

SIVs are typically funded in the low interest short-term asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) market to invest in high-return long-term securities for profit. The viability of the stratagem depends on the ability to roll over the short-term commercial paper when they mature in typically less than 120 days. To keep the liquidity risk at a minimum, issuers stagger the maturity so that only a small portion of the loan needs to be refunded in any one week. The credit market crisis in mid 2007 created a break in short-term debt rollovers to cause a funding mismatch in long-term assets positions because investors have stopped buying new ABCP issued by some SIVs and conduits.

What separates a SIV from other investment vehicles is the nature of its ongoing relationship with rating agencies – from the originating qualification process to the continuous monitoring of its asset diversification, risk management and funding practices. These guidelines include frequent reporting of operating parameters such as portfolio credit quality, portfolio diversification, asset and liability maturity, market risk limitations, leverage and capital adequacy requirements, and liquidity requirements.

The rigorous monitoring allows SIVs to be highly capital efficient, enabling them to be leveraged on an average of 12 times the capital base, with exceptions. Unlike related traditional asset backed commercial paper (ABCP) conduits, SIVs do not require 100% liquidity support and credit enhancement.

Many SIVs faced trouble in the summer of 2007 as they were hit by both sharp falls in the value of their investments, mainly financial debt and asset-backed bonds, and a lack of access to new refinancing as investors shunned short-term commercial paper debt linked to asset-backed securities (ABCP).

Most CDOs are cash flow transactions not directly sensitive to the market value of their underlying assets as long as the cash flow is undisturbed. But if a CDO manager needs to sell an asset quickly even at a loss because of ratings agency downgrade, the CDO manager will be forced to carry the remaining assets at a lower value, upsetting both collateral for the agreed cash flow and the balance sheet of the participants.

While some hedge funds have profited from the sublime mortgage meltdown, other funds have been hit hard, resulting in a deteriorating financial sector as asset values plummeted faster than potential gains by vultures.

Other big lenders that raised warning flags earlier about bad-performing debt portfolios included Washington Mutual, New Century Financial and Marshall & IIsley Corporation. Foreclosures jumped 35% in December 2006 versus a year earlier. For the fifth straight month, more than 100,000 properties entered foreclosure because the owner couldn't keep up with their loan payments. In January 2007, Washington Mutual disclosed that its mortgage business lost $122 million in the fourth quarter, highlighting the weak sub-prime market.

New York Attorney General Sues Appraisal Company

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a potential Democrat gubernatorial candidate for New York, has filed suit against eAppraiseIT (EA), a real estate appraisal management subsidiary of First American Corporation, for having "caved to pressure from Washington Mutual" to inflate property values of homes. Washington Mutual allegedly complained to EA that "its appraisals weren't high enough." Cuomo said in a statement that "consumers are harmed because they are misled as to the value of their homes, increasing the risk of foreclosure and hindering their ability to make sound economic decisions. Investors are hurt by such fraud because it skews the value and risk of loans that are sold in financial markets." The bank is also facing a number of class action suits from irate borrowers.

Shares of government sponsored mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac tumbled after receiving subpoenas seeking information on loans they bought from Washington Mutual and other banks. Cuomo said he uncovered a "pattern of collusion" between lenders and appraisers, and is seeking documents that may prove the lenders inflated appraisal values. The subpoenas also seek information on Fannie and Freddie's due diligence practices. If decided that they own or guarantee mortgages with inflated appraisals, company policy dictates that the lenders buy back the loans. "In order to fulfill their duty to consumers and investors, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must ensure that Washington Mutual's mortgages have not been corrupted by inflated appraisals," Cuomo said. In 2007, WaMu is Fannie Mae's third-largest loan provider, selling it $24.7 billion and Freddie Mac's fourteenth largest at $7.8 billion. Washingtom Mutual share fell 17% after it announced it would set aside $1.3 billion fourth quarter 2007 for credit losses, up from $967 million in the third quarter.

Mortgage Lenders Fell Like Flies

The handwriting had been clearly on the wall. Back on February 6, New Century Financial shares plunged 29% after the mortgage services provider slashed its forecast for loan production for 2007 because early-payment defaults and loan repurchases had led to tighter underwriting guidelines. A week later, Pasadena, Calif.-based IndyMac Bancorp Inc. which sold Alt-A mortgages for borrowers who were not required to submit conforming income and financial documents necessary to quality for conventional conforming mortgages, warned that its quarterly earnings would come in well short of analyst expectations because of increased loan losses and delinquencies. Other lenders were also squeezed by deteriorating credit. Marshall & IIsley reported a jump in non-performing assets in the quarter, while Bank of the Ozarks reported a 69% increase in problem loans. US Bancorp predicted an increase in retail loan charge-offs and commercial loan losses in coming quarters. Wells Fargo warned it expected net credit losses from wholesale banking to increase in 2007.

Britain 's Barclays PLC, in the midst of an unsuccessful takeover battle for ABN Amro, was reported as among the banks that were having trouble with bad loans and its hedge funds. Barclays Global Investors was one of the world's biggest fund managers, with some $2 trillion in assets under management.

The Case of Countrywide Financial

Non-conforming mortgages securities packaged by Countrywide Financial needed to be sold in the private, secondary market to alternative investors, instead of the agency market. On August 3, 2007 , this secondary market collapsed and essentially stopped the sales of most non-conforming securities. Alt-A mortgages (loans given to self-declared creditworthy borrowers without supporting documentation) completely stopped trading and the seizure extended to even AAA-rated mortgage-backed securities. Only securities with conforming mortgages were trading. Unfazed, Countrywide Financial issued a reassuring statement that its mortgage business had access to a nearly $50 billion funding cushion.

In reality, the sub-prime mortgage meltdown put Countrywide Financial, along with many other mortgage lenders, in a crisis situation of holding drastically devalued loan portfolios that could not be sold at any price. Amid rising defaults, investors have fled from mortgage-related investments, drying up market demand. The ongoing credit crunch threatened Countrywide's normal access to cash.

After the collapse of American Home Mortgage on August 6, the market's attention returned to Countrywide Financial which at the time had issued about 17% of all mortgages in the United States . Days later, Countrywide Financial disclosed to the SEC that disruptions in the secondary mortgage markets could adversely affect it financially. The news raised speculation that Countrywide was a potential bankruptcy risk. On August 10, a run on the Countrywide Bank began as the secondary mortgage market shutdown, curtailing new mortgage funding.

The perceived risk of Countrywide bonds rose sharply. Credit ratings agencies downgraded Countrywide to near junk status. The cost of insuring its bonds rose 22% overnight. This development limited Countrywide access to the short-term commercial paper debt market which normally provides cheaper money than bank loans. Institutional investors were trying desperately to unload outstanding Countrywide paper held in their portfolios. Some 50 other mortgage lenders had already filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and Countrywide Financial was cited as a possible bankruptcy risk by Merrill Lynch and others on August 15. This combined with news that its ability to issue new commercial paper might be severely hampered put severe pressure on the stock. Countrywide shares fell $3.17 to $21.29, which was its biggest fall in a single day since the crash of 1987 when the shares fell 50% for the year. The 52-week low to date was $12.07 per share.

On Thursday, August 16, having expressed concerns over liquidity because of the decline of the secondary market for securitized mortgage obligations, Countrywide also announced its intention to draw on the entire $11.5 billion credit line from a group of 40 banks. On Friday August 17, many depositors sought to withdraw their bank accounts from Countrywide. It also planned to make 90% of its loans conforming. By this point stock shares had lost about 75% of their peak value and speculation of bankruptcy broadened.

The Fed Discount Window Accepts Toxic Collateral from Banks

At the same time the Federal Reserve lowered the discount rate 50 basis points in a last-minute, early morning conference call. The Fed also accepted $17.2 billion in repurchase agreements for mortgage backed securities to provide liquidity in the credit market. This helped calm the stock market and investors promptly responded positively with the Dow posting temporary gains.

Additionally, Countrywide was forced to restate income it had claimed from accrued but unpaid interest on "exotic" mortgages in which the initial pay rate was less than the amortization rate. By mid 2007, it became apparent much of this accrued interest had become uncollectible. In a letter dated August 20, Federal Reserve agreed to waive banking regulations at the request of Citigroup and Bank of America to exempt both banks from rules that limited the amount that federally-insured banks can lend to related brokerage companies to 10% of bank capital, by increasing the limit to 30%. Until then, banking regulations restricted banks with federally insured deposits from putting themselves at risk by brokerage subsidiaries' activities. On August 23, Citibank and Bank of America said that they and two other banks accessed $500 million in 30-day financing at the Fed's discount window at the new low rate of 5.25%.

On the next day, Countrywide Financial obtained $2 billion of new capital from Bank of America Corp, the banking holding parent. In exchange, the Bank of America brokerage arm would get convertible preferred stock yielding 7.3%, a profitable spread over its Fed discount rate of 5.25% and the Fed funds rate of 4.75%. The preferred stocks can be converted into common stock at $18 per share (trading around $12 on October 25). This gave the distressed mortgage lender a much-needed cash infusion amid a crippling credit crunch. Countrywide shares soared 20.01%, or $4.37, to $26.19 after hours on the news. Bank of America shares rose 1.9%, or 98 cents, to $52.63 (trading around $46.75 on October 25 after announcing third quarter earning dropping 32%).

SEC to Scrutinize Security Valuation

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is reportedly looking into the accounting and securities valuation practices at Wall Street investment banks to ensure consistency and clarity for investors. Meanwhile, major financial institutions were lining up to announce write-downs on their sub-prime mortgage exposures. Merrill Lynch wrote down $5.5 billion which was later revised to $8 billion; Citigroup $3.3 billion which was later revised to $11 billion; Goldman Sachs $1.7 billion, Lehman Brothers $1 billion, Morgan Stanley $0.9 billion and Bear Sterns $0.7 billion. Many in the market expect further write downs in coming quarters. Already Merrill Lynch write down is widely put at more than $14 billion and few believe that Citigroup's loss could be kept to $11 billion in coming quarters. The heads of Merrill, UBS and Citigroup all resigned.

Wachovia, the fourth-largest US bank by assets, estimated on Friday, November 9 that the value of its subprime mortgage-related securities had fallen $1.1 billion in October. It said loan-loss provisions would be increased by as much as $600 million in the fourth quarter due to "dramatic declines" in home values. The announcement came three weeks after Wachovia reported writedowns of $1.3 billion in the third quarter and posted its first earnings drop in six years.

Morgan Stanley, the second-biggest U.S. securities firm, said on November 7 its subprime mortgages and related securities lost $3.7 billion in the past two months, after prices sank further than the firm's traders anticipated. The decline may cut fourth-quarter earnings by $2.5 billion. Colm Kelleher, Morgan Stanley chief financial officer to the Financial Times in an interview: "You need to see some of these long positions reduced, you need to see buyers coming in, you need to see an easing of liquidity in the market." Kelleher said credit markets would take three or four quarters to recover, instead of the one or two he estimated when the firm reported third-quarter results on September 19.

Concerns about potential writedowns at Morgan Stanley have pushed the stock lower this week, bringing the year-to-date decline to 24 percent. The stock fell $3.32, or 6.9%, to $51.19 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading on November 8. Analysts estimate the firm would lose about $4 billion on asset- backed securities and collateralized debt obligations and expected the remaining losses to be booked on residual mortgage interest and on credit lines to structured investment vehicles.

Being Right Can lead to Losses through Aggressive Hedging

Part of the losses Morgan Stanley incurred stemmed from derivative contracts the firm's proprietary trading unit wrote earlier in the year. The traders anticipated correctly a decline in the value of subprime securities and took up short positions and the contracts made money for the firm in the second quarter. But the contracts started losing money when prices fell below the level the traders had anticipated. As markets continued to decline, the firm's risk exposure swung from short, to flat to long because the structure of the book had big negative convexity. For any given bond, a graph of the relationship between price and yield is a convex curve rather than a linear straight-line. As a bond's price goes up, its yield goes down, and vice versa. The degree to which the graph is curved shows how much a bond's yield changes in response to a change in price. Negative convexity gives the investor a greater loss in the event of a 50 basis points drop in yields than his gain in the event of a 50 basis points rise in yields. For any given move in interest rates, the downside is bigger than the upside to give a built-in loss for a short position with negative convexity. Sophisticated traders can create instruments which have so much negative convexity that the price might start off moving in one direction as yields start moving, and then eventually start moving in the opposite direction beyond a given range. The hedge then begins to cannibalize profitability.For any given move in interest rates, the downside is bigger than the upside to give a built-in loss for a short position with negative convexity, thus producing losses. For positive convexity, the upside is bigger than the down side, thus giving short positions an advantage. Morgan Stanley's short positions allegedly turned against them by negative convexity; at least that was how they explained the loss. Some analysts think there must be more than meets the eye, assuming Morgan management itself even know. The people who put on the bad trades were fired and not there to answer questions.

It is one thing to lose money, but it is quite another to lose money without knowing why and how. Morgan Stanley, Citibank, and the rest still have difficulty figuring out how they lost money last quarter and how much loss is waiting in future quarters. They only know the numbers came in very bad.

SEC Concern over Accuracy of Writedowns

US market regulators have been working with investment banks and accounting firms over the past few months to keep tabs on how they are dealing with changes to the accounting treatment of securities that were introduced this year by the US Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). The SEC has been particularly concerned during the third quarter earnings season, which resulted in billions of dollars in write-downs at investment banks after problems in the sub-prime mortgage markets that triggered a wider credit crisis. At issue is whether these write-downs accurately reflect the total financial impact of the credit crisis on the banks and their investors.

The SMELEC Super Fund Proposal

Citigroup, Bank of America and JP Morgan/Chase announced on Monday, October 15, plans for a super fund to buy mortgage-linked securities in an attempt to allay fears of a downward price-spiral that would hit the balance sheets of big banks. US banks collectively would put up credit guarantees up to $100 billion for the fund, named the Single-Master Liquidity Enhancement Conduit (SMLEC).

The concept of an SMLEC first emerged three weeks earlier when the US Treasury summoned leading bankers to discuss ways to revive the mortgage-linked securities market and to deal with the threat to the credit market posed by structured investment vehicles (SIVs) and conduits. The Treasury said it acted as a "neutral third party" in the discussions, but Henry Paulson, Treasury secretary, was reportedly strongly in support of the initiative.

Robert Steel, under-secretary for domestic finance, led the US Treasury side of the discussions, with the day-to-day work handled by Anthony Ryan, assistant secretary. The plan is an attempt to address concerns about SIVs and conduits, vehicles that are off-balance sheet but closely affiliated to banks.

Fears emerged that some SIVs might be pushed into forced sales of assets, prompting further declines in the market price of mortgage-linked securities as a class that could hurt the balance sheets of all lending institutions. SMLEC, designed as a superfund to preserve the theoretical value of the high-rated tranches by creating a ready buyer for them, is likely to be unpopular with some banks and non-bank institutions which have already started trading in distressed low-rated subprime securities at knockdown prices.

SMLEC as proposed is intended as a restructuring vehicle, repackaging credit securities to make them more transparent than existing SIV commercial paper and less risky to investors. It would only deal in "highly-rated" assets. Although it is envisaged that the scheme will initially focus on vehicles in the dollar market held by US banks, it is expected to extend to non-US banks as well, and may even be extended to the euro market. The US Treasury declined to provide official comment on the reported proposal.

In October, Citigroup Inc. posted a 57% slump in third-quarter net income at $2.38 billion, or 47 cents a share, from $5.51 billion, or $1.10 a share, a year earlier. The latest quarterly results included $1.35 billion of pretax write-down in the value of loans that helped finance the leveraged-buyout boom and $1.56 billion of pretax losses tied to loans and sub-prime mortgages. A couple of weeks after the SMLEC proposal, Citigroup announced a write down of $3.3 billion which was later revised to $11 billion and that its Chairman resigned after an emergency board meeting on the first Saturday of November.

SMLEC is in essence a big bet that a consortium of banking giants, at the prodding of the US Treasury, can persuade investors to pour new money into the troubled credit market to buy the assets of troubled SIVs to prevent the pending loss faced by the sponsoring institutions.

Alan Greenspan, former Fed chairman, immediately raised serious doubts over SMLEC, warning that it could prevent the market from establishing true clearing prices for asset-backed securities. "It is not clear to me that the benefits exceed the risks," Greenspan told Emerging Markets , adding, "The experience I have had with that sort of intervention is very mixed." As the person most responsible for a macro liquidity boom that had prevented "the market from establishing true clearing prices for assets of all types", Greenspan is critical of the effort of the Treasury to do the same thing on a micro level to save the banking system.

Greenspan explained: "What creates strong markets is a belief in the investment community that everybody has been scared out of the market, pressed prices too low and there are wildly attractive bargaining prices out there." He added: "if you intervene in the system, the vultures stay away. The vultures are sometimes very useful." Goldman Sachs must have heard the message loud and clear and decided to act as its own home-grown vulture.

Greenspan's remarks came amid growing speculation on Wall Street that the current Federal Reserve sees potential benefits in the SMLEC proposal in terms of preventing a possible fire sale of assets, and does not think it has been designed to allow financial institutions to avoid recognizing losses. But the Fed is concern that the superfund plan could exacerbate growing investor anxiety, and thinks markets might normalize faster if at least some troubled SIV assets were sold in the market to allow prices to find a floor. Fed officials have been officially silent on the superfund plan, leading to the impression that the Fed wants to keep its distance. The Treasury regards the Fed's silence as simply reflecting the separation of powers and responsibilities between the institutions. In reality, the Treasury leads the Fed on issues of national economic security, notwithstanding the Fed's claim of independence.

Greenspan defended the 1998 Fed-sponsored rescue of Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM) by a group of creditor banks, saying it worked because it took a set of assets that would otherwise have been dumped at fire-sale prices off the market, allowing prices of the remaining assets to find a true equilibrium. But he said today "we are dealing with a much larger market." To those who still have reliable memory, the justification for the Fed managed rescue of LTCM was to prevent the total collapse of the financial market because of the dominant size and high leverage of LTCM. Other distressed hedge funds would also have survived with a Fed managed bailout, but they did not qualify as being "too big to fail".

Frederic Mishkin, a Federal Reserve governor, admitted to the Financial Times that although the central bank could use monetary policy to offset the macroeconomic risk arising from the credit squeeze, it was "powerless" to deal with "valuation risk" – the difficulty assessing the value of complex or opaque securities.

Robert J Shiller, Yale economist of " Irrational Exuberance " fame (2000), writing in the October 14 edition of the New York Times: Sniffles That Precede a Recession : "While it may seem as though these private banks could have met by themselves and agreed to create a fund without pressure from Treasury to do so, apparently there are times when the private sector cannot take care of itself and it needs the government to intervene and prod it in the right direction, at least that appears to be the attitude at Treasury (and I wonder if there will be government guarantees of any sort as part of the bargain, a situation that rules out the private sector doing it on its own, but also a situation that more explicitly recognizes the existence of market failure and the need for government intervention to overcome it). It would be refreshing to see this same attitude extended by the administration to other markets that cannot coordinate properly or that suffer from significant market failures of other types, markets that produce outcomes where, say, children are left without health coverage. But don't get your hopes up."

Warren Buffett, the Pied Piper of other awed investors, told Fox Business Network that "pooling a bunch of mortgages, changing the ownership" would not change the viability of the mortgage instrument itself. "It would be better to have them on the balance sheets so everyone would know what's going on." Bill Gross, chief investment officer of Pimco, the giant bond fund manager, called the superfund idea "pretty lame". Investors need to know what their portfolio is really worth at any moment in time, not merely constructed value if conditions should hold.

Next: The Commercial Paper Market and SIVs

[Jul 03, 2018] When you see some really successful financial speculator like Soros or (or much smaller scale) Browder , search for links with intelligence services to explain the success or at least a part of it related to xUSSR space , LA and similar regions

Highly recommended!
Jul 03, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

Recently came across the following article written by F. William Engdahl in 1996 which might be of interest to some here:

The secret financial network behind "wizard" George Soros

The last page of the above article can be found here:

Soros's looting of Ibero-America

Posted by: integer | Jul 2, 2018 4:49:45 AM | 35

[Jun 27, 2018] Immigration Western Wars and Imperial Exploitation Uproot Millions by James Petras

Jun 26, 2018 | www.unz.com

"Immigration" has become the dominant issue dividing Europe and the US, yet the most important matter which is driving millions to emigrate is overlooked is wars.

In this paper we will discuss the reasons behind the massification of immigration, focusing on several issues, namely (1) imperial wars (2) multi-national corporate expansion (3) the decline of the anti-war movements in the US and Western Europe (4) the weakness of the trade union and solidarity movements.

We will proceed by identifying the major countries affected by US and EU wars leading to massive immigration, and then turn to the western powers forcing refugees to 'follow' the flows of profits.

Imperial Wars and Mass Immigration

The US invasions and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq uprooted several million people, destroying their lives, families, livelihood, housing and communities and undermining there security.

As a result, most victims faced the choice of resistance or flight. Millions chose to flee to the West since the NATO countries would not bomb their residence in the US or Europe.

Others who fled to neighboring countries in the Middle East or Latin America were persecuted, or resided in countries too poor to offer them employment or opportunities for a livelihood.

Some Afghans fled to Pakistan or the Middle East but discovered that these regions were also subject to armed attacks from the West.

Iraqis were devastated by the western sanctions, invasion and occupation and fled to Europe and to a lesser degree the US , the Gulf states and Iran.

Libya prior to the US-EU invasion was a 'receiver' country accepting and employing millions of Africans, providing them with citizenship and a decent livelihood. After the US-EU air and sea attack and arming and financing of terrorist gangs, hundreds of thousands of Sub-Sahara immigrants were forced to flee to Europe. Most crossed the Mediterranean Sea to the west via Italy, Spain, and headed toward the affluent European countries which had savaged their lives in Libya.

The US-EU financed and armed client terrorist armies which assault the Syrian government and forced millions of Syrians to flee across the border to Lebanon,Turkey and beyond to Europe, causing the so-called 'immigration crises' and the rise of rightwing anti-immigrant parties. This led to divisions within the established social democratic and conservative parties,as sectors of the working class turned anti-immigrant.

Europe is reaping the consequences of its alliance with US militarized imperialism whereby the US uproots millions of people and the EU spends billions of euros to cover the cost of immigrants fleeing the western wars.

Most of the immigrants' welfare payments fall far short of the losses incurred in their homeland. Their jobs homes, schools, and civic associations in the EU and US are far less valuable and accommodating then what they possessed in their original communities.

Economic Imperialism and Immigration: Latin America

US wars, military intervention and economic exploitation has forced millions of Latin Americans to immigrate to the US.. Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras engaged in popular struggle for socio-economic justice and political democracy between 1960 – 2000. On the verge of victory over the landed oligarchs and multinational corporations, Washington blocked popular insurgents by spending billions of dollars, arming, training, advising the military and paramilitary forces. Land reform was aborted; trade unionists were forced into exile and thousands of peasants fled the marauding terror campaigns.

The US-backed oligarchic regimes forced millions of displaced and uprooted pr unemployed and landless workers to flee to the US.

US supported coups and dictators resulted in 50,000 in Nicaragua, 80,000 in El Salvador and 200,000 in Guatemala. President Obama and Hillary Clinton supported a military coup in Honduras which overthrew Liberal President Zelaya -- which led to the killing and wounding of thousands of peasant activists and human rights workers, and the return of death squads, resulting in a new wave of immigrants to the US.

The US promoted free trade agreement (NAFTA) drove hundreds of thousands of Mexican farmers into bankruptcy and into low wage maquiladoras; others were recruited by drug cartels; but the largest group was forced to immigrate across the Rio Grande. The US 'Plan Colombia' launched by President Clinton established seven US military bases in Colombia and provided 1 billion dollars in military aid between 2001 – 2010. Plan Colombia doubled the size of the military.

The US backed President Alvaro Uribe, resulting in the assassination of over 200,000 peasants, trade union activists and human rights workers by Uribe directed narco-death squad.Over two million farmers fled the countryside and immigrated to the cities or across the border.

US business secured hundreds of thousands of Latin American low wages, agricultural and factory workers almost all without health insurance or benefits – though they paid taxes.

Immigration doubled profits, undermined collective bargains and lowered US wages. Unscrupulous US 'entrepreneurs' recruited immigrants into drugs, prostitution, the arms trade and money laundering.

Politicians exploited the immigration issue for political gain – blaming the immigrants for the decline of working class living standards distracting attention from the real source : wars, invasions, death squads and economic pillage.

Conclusion

Having destroyed the lives of working people overseas and overthrown progressive leaders like Libyan President Gadhafi and Honduran President Zelaya, millions were forced to become immigrants.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Colombia, Mexico witnessed the flight of millions of immigrants -- all victims of US and EU wars. Washington and Brussels blamed the victims and accused the immigrants of illegality and criminal conduct.

The West debates expulsion, arrest and jail instead of reparations for crimes against humanity and violations of international law.

To restrain immigration the first step is to end imperial wars, withdraw troops,and to cease financing paramilitary and client terrorists.

ORDER IT NOW

Secondly, the West should establish a long term multi-billion-dollar fund for reconstruction and recovery of the economies, markets and infrastructure they bombed The demise of the peace movement allowed the US and EU to launch and prolong serial wars which led to massive immigration – the so-called refugee crises and the flight to Europe. There is a direct connection between the conversion of the liberal and social democrats to war -parties and the forced flight of immigrants to the EU.

The decline of the trade unions and worse, their loss of militancy has led to the loss of solidarity with people living in the midst of imperial wars. Many workers in the imperialist countries have directed their ire to those 'below' – the immigrants – rather than to the imperialists who directed the wars which created the immigration problem. Immigration, war , the demise of the peace and workers movements, and left parties has led to the rise of the militarists, and neo-liberals who have taken power throughout the West. Their anti-immigrant politics, however, has provoked new contradictions within regimes,between business elites and among popular movements in the EU and the US. The elite and popular struggles can go in at least two directions – toward fascism or radical social democracy.

[Jun 19, 2018] Counterdrug Programs Come With Increased Drug Production - Where Does The Money Go

Notable quotes:
"... Here's a thought: If the USG was truly interested in controlling opium production in Afghanistan it would simply use the counternarcotics money to buy up the crop directly from the farmers. The price at that level would be incredibly cheap compared to the "street value" of the drug. The farmers would happily sell to such a reliable buyer and not need to fear the risk of military interference. The current Afghan government would likely earn the goodwill of the farmers and it would cut off funding to the Taliban. It will never happen, however; because our military project in Afghanistan is mostly about enriching private military contractors while keeping the the "threat" of terrorism alive and well. War is a racket. ..."
"... b, have you read "Whiteout" by Alexander Cockburn (RIP) and Jeffrey St. Clair? It was written decades ago but is still relevant. I'm sure the CIA DOES make money from drugs although the CIA black books budget is so large they hardly need the cash. But one imagines it's nice to have a few millions completely out of government accountability--for lining their own pockets if nothing else. ..."
"... I highly recommend Doug Valentine's book, "CIA as Organized Crime." CIA Director William Colby gave him free access to interview CIA officials who had been involved in the Phoenix program in South Vietnam. Since all those CIA officers/agents had Colby's blessing, they assumed Valentine was on their side. Oops! Bottom line: There is ZERO difference between CIA and the Mafia. They are essentially one and the same, though they generally have different spheres of action. One upon which they overlap is drug production, smuggling and distribution. ..."
"... I would add that there is ZERO difference between supra-national finance and the Mafia. For instance, the bank, HSBC was founded to launder opium money after Great Britain fought the Opium Wars forcing China to permit them to import opium into China. Former FBI Director and on again/off again hero of the partisans, James Comey left his career with the US Government to work for HSBC after they were finally fined for laundering cash from both drug smuggling and terrorist groups. His job was to help them "negotiate" the new "oversight" placed on the bank. ..."
"... John Ehrlichman, who served as President Richard Nixon's domestic policy chief admitted back in 1994 that the "War on Drugs" was actually a political tool to crush leftist protesters and black people. "We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did." ..."
"... Mike Ruppert was an associate of Gary Webb's, was a Los Angeles detective and knew a lot about the CIA's involvement in the Crips/Bloods Drug Wars and its massive importation of drugs into the nation. His investigation was used as his website URL , copvcia, although its name was From The Wilderness. Until 911, his investigation was his passion, then he discovered he had another and it was connected to the former. Here's a page many will want to view . It's hard not to reread the entire website. Unfortunately, Mike saved and only released much of the juicier evidence to his subscribers--he had to eke out a living in some manner. ..."
"... Back in 2002, when the poppy production too off, the idea of flooding Russia was in vogue, it may still be in the game. Transit through Iran to Turkey was also in play. Money laundering started out in "Polish Zlotys", through the banks there. ..."
"... I presume much of that counternarcotics money ends up being cash in hand to thousands of foot-soldiers working for local warlords in Afghanistan as farmers, security personnel, soldiers, prostitutes and what-not, in a way similar to how part of Victoria Nuland's $5 billion investment in Ukraine ended up as cash incentives to entice people from as far as Lvov to travel to Kiev to participate in the Maidan demonstrations over the winter of 2013 / 2014. ..."
"... This in addition to the billions being used to buy weapons, train and send jihadists to fight in other parts of western and central Asia, and line people's pockets at every stage of the drug money trail whether in Afghanistan, Wall Street or various tax havens around the planet. ..."
"... And to the east, I remember reading that one of the first things the US did was to build a bridge and highway towards the east; shortly thereafter, heroin flooded into Russia. ..."
"... Alfred W. McCoy is the authority on drugs and CIA. He's still doing great work, publishing books.His first, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia is a classic.His latest, In the Shadows of the American Century, is brilliant analysis. Some videos on youtube, also. He has traveled, researched every ratline trail and outpost all over the globe. Read him if you want the real facts. ..."
Jun 19, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

james , Jun 18, 2018 1:30:38 PM | 2

thanks b... the speculation has always been in my mind anyway - that the money is controlled by the cia... covert money for covert projects and on and on it goes...
LXV , Jun 18, 2018 1:47:36 PM | 3
b wrote: "I am not aware of any sound evidence that shows that the CIA reaped financial profits from drug dealing."

Define 'sound evidence, b... For some, it's a kilo of stash; for others (like myself), it's suffice with the testimony of (suicided) insiders, like Gary Webb (RIP).

ben , Jun 18, 2018 2:06:01 PM | 4
james @ 2 said:" covert money for covert projects and on and on it goes..."

Yes, and what they don't spend on "projects", goes to their minions and sycophants..

ken , Jun 18, 2018 2:16:06 PM | 5
The Taliban curtailed the poppy growing without any problem. Shortly after the US invasion under the guise of capturing OBL. Almost 18 years later, long after the death of OBL (in reality and in US military BS) the poppy production has increased exponentially. There are Pics of US military personnel walking through poppy fields.
Other than drug production there is no need for the US to be in Afghanistan except maybe to use it as a launching platform to attack Iran. Drugs are an excellent source for funding black ops.

Not only is the US allowing the production, considering how easy it would be for them to kill the crops, and IMHO it as also assisting in the transportation of drugs to the West.

librul , Jun 18, 2018 3:16:16 PM | 11

b says the efforts appear counterproductive. Here is why:

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/afghanistan-the-making-of-a-narco-state-20141204#

If you understand the Afghan government as a narco state, then the fact that opium production has actually increased –while the U.S. spent billions on counternarcotics efforts and troop numbers surged – starts to make sense. A completely failed state – Afghanistan in 2001 – can't really thrive in the drug trade. Traffickers have no reason to pay off a toothless government or a nonexistent police force. In such a libertarian paradise, freelance actors – like Saleem, the heroin cook – flourish.

But as the government builds capacity, officials can start to demand a cut. It's not that there's a grand conspiracy at the center of government, but rather that, in the absence of accountability and the rule of law, officials start to orient themselves around a powerful political economy. Big drug barons with links to the government take over the trade. People who don't pay, or who fall out with government officials, might find themselves killed or arrested.

In this light, U.S. counternarcotics programs, which have cost nearly $8 billion to date, and the Afghan state-building project in general, are perversely part of the explanation for the growing government involvement in the drug trade. Even the newly rebuilt Afghan Air Force has been investigated by the U.S. military for alleged trafficking. In many places, the surge had the effect of wresting opium revenue from the Taliban and handing it to government officials. For example, in Helmand's Garmsir District, which sits on key trafficking routes between the rest of the province and Baramcha, a big Marine offensive in 2011 finally pushed out the Taliban and handed the district back to the Afghan government. The result? The police began taking a cut from those drug routes. "There are families, as in Mafia-style, that have the trade carved up between them, and when some outsider tries to get in on it, they serve him up as a success for drug interdiction," one Western official who worked in Garmsir told me.

I just luv-ed this next paragraph. Glad I wasn't sipping Coca Cola
while I read it. Would have chortled cola out my nose!

Here is government BS-speak at it's vacuous best (enjoy):

The U.S. government, for its part, acknowledged that there are no quick solutions at hand. "The U.S. interagency is developing an updated counternarcotics strategy for Afghanistan," says Jen Psaki, the State Department's spokeswoman. "These are long-term efforts that build the foundation for eventual reductions in opium harvests."
Chris G , Jun 18, 2018 4:04:03 PM | 14
Here's a thought: If the USG was truly interested in controlling opium production in Afghanistan it would simply use the counternarcotics money to buy up the crop directly from the farmers. The price at that level would be incredibly cheap compared to the "street value" of the drug. The farmers would happily sell to such a reliable buyer and not need to fear the risk of military interference. The current Afghan government would likely earn the goodwill of the farmers and it would cut off funding to the Taliban. It will never happen, however; because our military project in Afghanistan is mostly about enriching private military contractors while keeping the the "threat" of terrorism alive and well. War is a racket.
WorldBLee , Jun 18, 2018 4:08:12 PM | 15
b, have you read "Whiteout" by Alexander Cockburn (RIP) and Jeffrey St. Clair? It was written decades ago but is still relevant. I'm sure the CIA DOES make money from drugs although the CIA black books budget is so large they hardly need the cash. But one imagines it's nice to have a few millions completely out of government accountability--for lining their own pockets if nothing else.
Daniel , Jun 18, 2018 4:32:10 PM | 17
I highly recommend Doug Valentine's book, "CIA as Organized Crime." CIA Director William Colby gave him free access to interview CIA officials who had been involved in the Phoenix program in South Vietnam. Since all those CIA officers/agents had Colby's blessing, they assumed Valentine was on their side. Oops! Bottom line: There is ZERO difference between CIA and the Mafia. They are essentially one and the same, though they generally have different spheres of action. One upon which they overlap is drug production, smuggling and distribution.

I would add that there is ZERO difference between supra-national finance and the Mafia. For instance, the bank, HSBC was founded to launder opium money after Great Britain fought the Opium Wars forcing China to permit them to import opium into China. Former FBI Director and on again/off again hero of the partisans, James Comey left his career with the US Government to work for HSBC after they were finally fined for laundering cash from both drug smuggling and terrorist groups. His job was to help them "negotiate" the new "oversight" placed on the bank.

Daniel , Jun 18, 2018 4:37:37 PM | 18
John Ehrlichman, who served as President Richard Nixon's domestic policy chief admitted back in 1994 that the "War on Drugs" was actually a political tool to crush leftist protesters and black people. "We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."
karlof1 , Jun 18, 2018 5:29:48 PM | 20
Mike Ruppert was an associate of Gary Webb's, was a Los Angeles detective and knew a lot about the CIA's involvement in the Crips/Bloods Drug Wars and its massive importation of drugs into the nation. His investigation was used as his website URL , copvcia, although its name was From The Wilderness. Until 911, his investigation was his passion, then he discovered he had another and it was connected to the former. Here's a page many will want to view . It's hard not to reread the entire website. Unfortunately, Mike saved and only released much of the juicier evidence to his subscribers--he had to eke out a living in some manner.

The CIA is the planet's #1 Terrorist Organization, and it has all 3 types of Weapons of Mass Destruction. It's often hard to determine which poses a greater threat to humanity: The CIA or its parent the Outlaw US Empire. If humanity's to have any chance at a viable future, both the CIA and its Imperial parent must be destroyed for their many crimes.

Ornot , Jun 18, 2018 5:49:10 PM | 21
Seymore Hersh first (to my knowledge) first looked at CIA drug links when people exited buildings not using the stairs.
https://www.nytimes.com/1975/07/10/archives/family-plans-to-sue-cia-over-suicide-in-drug-test-family-planning.html

That CIA was experimenting with narcotics as a tool seemed to have metasticised into something else during the Air America years, which in turn seems to have morphed via Barry Seal (& Gary Webb's investigation)and the Cocaine Coyboys onward into Silk Airways (famed by weapons to Syria scandal) -
https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/first/c/cockburn-white.html

https://www.globalresearch.ca/oliver-north-worked-with-cocaine-traffickers-to-arm-terrorists-now-hell-be-president-of-the-national-rifle-association-nra/5640431
Whatever the post WWII period there seems to be a airline moving illicit product(s) across borders and a rouge militia force hook up. While powder is not as convertable as say Bitcoin, it leaves no paper trail.

Good luck with the research - its a long dark deep rabbit hole, leading to many fingers in many pies.

https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB2/
https://www.minnpost.com/eric-black-ink/2009/03/investigative-reporter-seymour-hersh-describes-executive-assassination-ring

Eugene , Jun 18, 2018 6:36:02 PM | 23
Back in 2002, when the poppy production too off, the idea of flooding Russia was in vogue, it may still be in the game. Transit through Iran to Turkey was also in play. Money laundering started out in "Polish Zlotys", through the banks there.

Addicts were given small sums to deposit in the banks, by the thousands, which didn't draw attention. A lot of the money was sent to the U.S. to buy "American Muscle Cars", which were then shipped back to the E.U. and resold again.

Pakistan was also a transit country where the "Labs" were first set up to process the opium to heroin. How time fly's when having fun. Addiction to "drugs" isn't the only addiction nor the addicts involved either. Only one leaf in the book of the minds of those who believe they are doing the right thing.

Jen , Jun 18, 2018 6:54:58 PM | 26
I presume much of that counternarcotics money ends up being cash in hand to thousands of foot-soldiers working for local warlords in Afghanistan as farmers, security personnel, soldiers, prostitutes and what-not, in a way similar to how part of Victoria Nuland's $5 billion investment in Ukraine ended up as cash incentives to entice people from as far as Lvov to travel to Kiev to participate in the Maidan demonstrations over the winter of 2013 / 2014.

Also a big portion of the counternarcotics dosh must be going to teams of people digging up and burning opium and also to teams of people planting new opium seeds in the areas where the first lot of opium was eradicated later on. Similar to stories people used to hear about what supposedly happened during the 1930s Great Depression, when teams of people were employed to dig ditches and then other teams of people were employed to fill up the ditches which would be dug up again at a later time.

This in addition to the billions being used to buy weapons, train and send jihadists to fight in other parts of western and central Asia, and line people's pockets at every stage of the drug money trail whether in Afghanistan, Wall Street or various tax havens around the planet.

frances , Jun 18, 2018 7:06:21 PM | 28
reply to:
".. and IMHO it as also assisting in the transportation of drugs to the West."
Posted by: ken | Jun 18, 2018 2:16:06 PM | 5

And to the east, I remember reading that one of the first things the US did was to build a bridge and highway towards the east; shortly thereafter, heroin flooded into Russia.

oldenyoung , Jun 18, 2018 7:08:31 PM | 29
The level of US "counter-narcotic" investment seems to be about right to support the GROWTH of the narcotics industry...not the otherway around...its black and its dirty

regards

OY

Mark2 , Jun 18, 2018 7:14:33 PM | 30
Every comment on this post is like a fine champagne of reality. how do people get by with out wanting to know the truth. keep the comments coming I need more! Brilliant links. The doors of perception just opened for me. Who the hell runs our TVs stations that they can turn a blind I to this lot.
-------
I to find great strength in music, to find the truth. For me it is reggae any group in society that has sufferd what we discuss on this site for 300 years, but have survived got stronger and put it to music, I feel needs listening to!!!
Daniel Bruno , Jun 18, 2018 7:51:32 PM | 32
The "War on Drugs" was conceived to put black people in jail en masse as Jim Crow came to an end. Nixon's aides admitted this. Read "The New Jim Crow" for the full story. Marijuana laws were first introduced in the early 20th century as a tool to arrest and deport Mexicans from the American southwest. Google it.

The bullshit "War on Drugs" is as phony as the bullshit "War on Terror" in the wake of 3 skyscrapers that were demolished and collapsed at freefall speed.

The real money is to be made in the bullshit wars spawned by these 2 hoaxes that boggle the mind in their scope.

Basically, these two cornerstones of American domestic and foreign policy are frauds of biblical proportions.

An empire built on these foundations will come crashing down as fast as WTC 7 on the afternoon of September 11, 2001.

0use4msm , Jun 18, 2018 8:35:04 PM | 33
"O my, cocaine" is an anagram of "CIA economy".

Various Contra-cocaine type operations of un/controlled shipments of drugs existed in the early 1990s, some of which existed in order to arm Bosnia (local fighters and foreign mujahideen), thereby undermining the UN's arms embargo of former Yugoslav states.

Between 1988 and 1992, 22 tons of cocaine was brought into the US via Venezuela by a team consisting of Mark McFarlin (head of the CIA's counter-narcotics center), Jim Campbell (the CIA's chief of station in Venezuela) and General Guillén (head of the Venezuelan National Guard in the pre-Chavez era).
Anti-Drug Unit of C.I.A. Sent Ton of Cocaine to U.S. in 1990

At roughly the same time Albanian mobsters had built a heroin smuggling network for the purpose of illegally supplying arms to the Bosnian mujahideen.
Drugs Paying for Conflict in Europe

In the summer of 1991, Dutch drug lord Klaas Bruinsma, who had connections with members of the Dutch elite (corporate and royal), the Colombian Cali cartel and the Yugoslav mafia, was assassinated by either former cop Martin Hoogland (possibly working for intelligence), or the Yugoslav mobster Branco Marianovic. In that same summer, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 713 (the Yugoslav arms embargo), and soon after elements within Dutch customs and police, in cooperation with Bruinsma's business heirs/infiltrators, started the controlled shipment of large amounts of cocaine (estimated 25,000 kilo) and hashish (estimated 500,000 kilo) under the name "Operation Delta". The customs officials involved in Operation Delta were most likely protected by their boss Fred Teeven, later rewarded by given the job of State Secretary for Security and Justice. Mabel Wisse-Smit, daughter of a top banker (possibly drug money launderer) and future sister-in-law of the current Dutch king, was first the lover of drug lord Bruinsma (until his assassination, possibly she was sent to spy on him) and then the lover of Wall St. banker Mohamed Sacirbey (Bosnia's ambassador to UN in 1992, Bosnia's foreign minister in 1995). Wisse-Smit (later a George Soros protégé) co-founded the Dutch charity foundation War Child, which was used as a cover for arms lobbying during the Bosnia war, and she is reported by Bosnian media to have been involved in a specific arms deal with Egypt.

Red Ryder , Jun 18, 2018 8:41:17 PM | 34
Alfred W. McCoy is the authority on drugs and CIA. He's still doing great work, publishing books.His first, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia is a classic.His latest, In the Shadows of the American Century, is brilliant analysis. Some videos on youtube, also. He has traveled, researched every ratline trail and outpost all over the globe. Read him if you want the real facts.
Curtis , Jun 18, 2018 9:44:25 PM | 36
It's good to know so many are well informed on this. I've read Rupert/Webb's stuff and have Dark Alliance. There's a good movie/documentary out there about Webb but I can't recall the name right now. Levine wrote about his undercover work in South American being thwarted by the CIA. And Bo Gritz was trying to set up a deal where the US would buy up Khun Sa's opium before it could be distributed but the USG wasn't interested. The amazing thing about the Afghan ramp up in supply was seeing pictures of US soldiers patrolling in the middle of poppy fields. Meanwhile at home, congress takes bribes (lobbying efforts) to help protect the legal drug pushers from prosecution by the DEA shoving millions of pills across the country. A friend's term for this kind of thing is "racket science."
Lozion , Jun 18, 2018 9:56:06 PM | 37
@36 "Kill the messenger" with Jeremy Renner..
Pft , Jun 18, 2018 9:59:20 PM | 38
Red Ryder@34

Yeah, his updated edition is a must read. They do not handle the money directly, they let the guerillas/rebels/revolutionaries handle that as a reward and provide protection from legal authorities and access to markets using various agencies and mafia at both ends of the supply-distribution chain. The dollars from the drugs pay for the weapons and support. The profits go into nameless offshore Eurodollar accounts which then flow into London and Wall Street as eurodollar loans in many multiples of the deposits (not to be confused with the euro) to speculate in various markets and drive up asset prices. When the Taliban shut down opium production we had the Dot.com crash (coincidence?). 100 billion a year can generate 1 trillion in dollars for speculators, and that was sorely missed (along with Clinton running a surplus instead of a deficit)

There is so much evidence that in many places where they were or are engaged that drug flows in the region increased and production increased in those areas known for growing the stuff. Like any organization only those with a need to know have an idea and the majority are clean and without information

psychohistorian , Jun 18, 2018 10:11:18 PM | 39
While we are discussing history of the War on Drugs another example of a major consumer organization (at the time of print) being turned into a vacuous shell....

Licit and Illicit Drugs is a 1972 book on recreational drug use by medical writer Edward M. Brecher and the editors of Consumer Reports.

The WIkipedia summary
"
The book describes the effects and risks of psychoactive drugs which were common in contemporary use for recreational and nonmedical purposes.[2] The New York Times paraphrased some major arguments from the book, saying "'Drug-free' treatment of heroin addiction almost never works", "Nicotine can be as tough to beat as heroin", and "Good or bad, marijuana is here to stay. The billions spent to fight it are wasted dollars."[3] The book identifies marijuana as the most popular drug after tobacco, alcohol, and nicotine.[4] A reviewer for the Journal of the American Medical Association summarized it by saying that "Brecher holds that the division of drugs into licit and illicit categories is medically irrational and rooted mainly in historical and sociological factors."[5]
"

Daniel , Jun 18, 2018 10:52:53 PM | 40
karlof1. Amazing that you knew Mike. And yes, the willful ignorance is horribly frustrating.

The way I see it, almost all "Westerners" are willfully ignorant. We all must know that the only way we live to the "standards" we do is because of the plunder of both our colonial past and neoliberal present. But most choose to look aside.

For those who haven't seen it, please spend 17 minutes to see Mallence Bart-Williams give an incredible talk.

Alogon , Jun 19, 2018 12:58:19 AM | 41
I have nothing to add to this except to say great article b and excellent comments from posters.

[Jun 13, 2018] The Roots of Argentina's Surprise Crisis

The root is neoliberal government that came to power in 2015
Notable quotes:
"... Why is any of this still "surprising" ..."
"... Economist Ha Joon Chang popularized the term "ladder kicking" to describe the way in which most developed countries used tariffs and trade restrictions to ascent to the top but are all for "free trade" now. ..."
"... Once again, so long as "Original Sin" is a reality, there is little hope. Keynes' BANCOR was the idea to begin to fix this, but short of some other global currency initiative, we're left to the International Finance Vultures as the primary arbiters of what's possible. ..."
Jun 13, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Synoia , June 13, 2018 at 10:25 am

Early measures included the removal of exchange-rate and capital controls

How does a county manage what it does not control?

ChrisAtRU , June 13, 2018 at 1:28 pm

Exactly see Trilemma .

Scott1 , June 13, 2018 at 6:34 pm

Thanks for the link. I will be spending some time thinking of what Argentina would best employ as best practices from where it is.
Would they be best off if they stopped issuing such high paying bonds? Should they pay them all off and stop with it. It does appear to me that issuing bond after bond is one of the single most dangerous things you can do.
It would appear to me to be a superior practice to sell what you produce for the best price you can get on the open markets and dictate the value of your currency.
I'll have to do some more study here.
Again, thanks for the link.

Lorenzo , June 13, 2018 at 6:31 pm

You're uttering the discourse of the most recalcitrant neo-liberal cum austerity-fundamentalists around.

The US doesn't tax soybean exports. Argentina needs to maximize its exports to earn foreign exchange.'

it's misleading to say the least to draw a comparison between how the US handles soybean exports and Argentina does it. They're around a quarter of the latter's exports, barely a hundredth of the latter's.

The US will never have forex issues, Argentina does have them, and they are very serious. You make it as if simply exporting commodities will fill the country's economy with USD, while in truth those dollars will be neatly parked in tax heavens. Eliminating tax and controls over Argentina's biggest exports -agricultural commodities- is in practice as if these commodities were produced not in this country but in some foreign territory over which only the very few who hold most of the land are sovereign. Which is what the current administration has been doing for the past two years.

You also make it as if the current situation where the value of the peso is given over completely to whatever short-term speculators feel like doing with it whenever LEBACs are due is more desirable than the capital controls imposed by the previous government. These prevented the hurtful rapid rise we're seeing in the exchange rate and reduced the negative consequences of the fiscal deficit thus allowing significant investment in and expansion of the real economy.

Addressing the fiscal deficit through increased value added and income tax is something that clearly benefits the owner over the working class and depresses private consumption. I can only sarcastically wonder who would want such a thing.

I don't feel the need or the duty to defend the previous government, but victimization of the Sociedad Rural is something I just lack the words to condemn strongly enough

ChrisAtRU , June 13, 2018 at 9:15 pm

NP. You're welcome. See my comment below. Unfortunately, the only way to win this game is not to play (by the vulture established rules).

Mickey Hickey , June 13, 2018 at 4:24 pm

Argentina is probably the most self sufficient country on earth. It has everything, fertile land that produces an abundance of wheat, barley, oats, rye, wine grapes. As well as oil, gas. uranium, silver, gold, lead, copper, zinc. Foreigners are well aware of the wealth in Argentina and are more than willing to lend to Argentinian governments and companies. This is why Cristina Kirchner refused to give in to the US vulture funds as it dissuaded foreigners from believing that reckless lending would always be rewarded. Macri ponied up, restarting the old familiar economic doom cycle. As always its the old dog for the long road and the pup for the puddle. Macri is now in a place that he chose, the puddle. As long as foreig lenders remain reckless Argentina will remain mired in the mud, well short of its potential. I was last there in 2008 when the country was booming. When I heard of Macri's plan to pay the vulture funds I knew they were headed for disaster. This is just the beginning.

JTMcPhee , June 13, 2018 at 5:39 pm

Those "foreign lenders" can't be called "reckless." Some, maybe most among them always seem to profit from the looting, whether by "bailouts" or "backstops" from governments like the US that for "geopolitical reasons" facilitate that lending, or by extortion after the first-round lenders (who know the risks, of course -- they are big boys and girls after all) have been forestalled.

Call them "wreckers," maybe. Like early denizens of the Florida Keys, and other places, who set fires or put up lamps that resembled lighthouses to lure passing ships onto the sands and rocks where their cargoes and the valuables of their drowned passengers and crews could be stripped.

Wayne Harris , June 13, 2018 at 4:54 pm

"so-called vulture funds"?

ChrisAtRU , June 13, 2018 at 8:33 pm

"so-called" Laughable

ChrisAtRU , June 13, 2018 at 6:37 pm

Why is any of this still "surprising" to anyone?! Most countries in the world (non G7/G8) are forced to go into foreign debt in order to pursue their "development" initiatives. They are told they can export themselves out of trouble but the "free trade" (more like unfair trade!) mantra puts them at a distinct disadvantage – "unequal exchange" was the term Marx used for it.

Economist Ha Joon Chang popularized the term "ladder kicking" to describe the way in which most developed countries used tariffs and trade restrictions to ascent to the top but are all for "free trade" now.

Once again, so long as "Original Sin" is a reality, there is little hope. Keynes' BANCOR was the idea to begin to fix this, but short of some other global currency initiative, we're left to the International Finance Vultures as the primary arbiters of what's possible.

[Apr 20, 2018] Stench of hypocrisy British 'war on terror' strategic ties with radical Islam by John Wight

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... British governments, both Labour and Conservative, have, in pursuing the so-called 'national interest' abroad, colluded for decades with radical Islamic forces, including terrorist organizations. They have connived with them, worked alongside them and sometimes trained and financed them, in order to promote specific foreign policy objectives. Governments have done so in often desperate attempts to maintain Britain's global power in the face of increasing weakness in key regions of the world, being unable to unilaterally impose their will and lacking other local allies. Thus the story is intimately related to that of Britain's imperial decline and the attempt to maintain influence in the world. ..."
"... But whereas Sharif Hussein was a follower of orthodox Sunni Islam, Ibn Saud adhered to the radical doctrine of Wahhabism, which Winston Churchill was moved to describe as " bloodthirsty ..."
"... British support for the mujahideen, married to the huge support provided by Washington, was indispensable in the eventual success of these self-styled 'holy warriors' in taking control of a country that had embraced modernity and turning it into a failed state mired in religious oppression, brutality, backwardness and poverty. ..."
"... Britain, along with the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, covertly supported the resistance to defeat the Soviet occupation of the country. Military, financial and diplomatic backing was given to Islamist forces which, while forcing a Soviet withdrawal, soon organized themselves into terrorist networks ready to strike Western targets. ..."
"... Islamic resistance ..."
"... We trust the Western leaders are prepared for the enormous beneficial possibilities that could just possibly open up if the Afghan rebellion were to succeed. ..."
"... Manchester, England is home to the largest Libyan community in Britain, and there is strong evidence to suggest that when the Libyan uprising broke out MI6 facilitated the ability of Libyan Islamists in Britain to travel to Libya to participate in the fighting. Among them was Salman Abedi, who it is thought received military training in the country before being allowed to return to the UK thereafter. ..."
"... This brings us on to Syria and, as with Libya, the question of how so many British Muslims have been able to travel from the UK to Syria via Turkey to take part in the anti-Assad insurgency since 2011? It also brings into sharp focus a policy that has veered between the ludicrous and the reckless. ..."
"... As for the recklessness of Britain's actions in Syria, look no further than the country's recent participation in the illegal missile strikes that were carried out in conjunction with the US and France, justified on the basis of as yet unproven allegations that Syrian government forces had carried out a chemical weapons attack on Douma, just outside Damascus. The only beneficiaries of such actions by the Western powers are Salafi-jihadist groups such as ISIS (whom it was later reported took advantage of the missile strike to mount a short-lived offensive), Al-Nusra and Jaysh al-Islam. ..."
"... The latter of those groups, Jaysh al-Islam, is a Saudi proxy. It was the dominant group in Douma and throughout Eastern Ghouta until the district's liberation by the Syrian Army and its allies with Russian support. ..."
Apr 20, 2018 | www.rt.com

Britain's strategic relationship with radical Islam goes back decades and continues to this day. There is no more foul a stench than the stench of hypocrisy, and there is no more foul a hypocrisy than the British government painting Bashar al-Assad as a monster when in truth he and the Syrian people have been grappling with a twin-headed monster in the shape of Salafi-jihadi terror and Western imperialism. Both are committed to destroying Syria as an independent, non-sectarian state, and both are inextricably linked.

Author and journalist Mark Curtis charts in detail the contours of this history in his book 'Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam':

" British governments, both Labour and Conservative, have, in pursuing the so-called 'national interest' abroad, colluded for decades with radical Islamic forces, including terrorist organizations. They have connived with them, worked alongside them and sometimes trained and financed them, in order to promote specific foreign policy objectives. Governments have done so in often desperate attempts to maintain Britain's global power in the face of increasing weakness in key regions of the world, being unable to unilaterally impose their will and lacking other local allies. Thus the story is intimately related to that of Britain's imperial decline and the attempt to maintain influence in the world. "

As far back as the First World War, when the Middle East began to assume strategic importance in the capitals of Western imperial and colonial powers, the British ruling class went out of its way to identify and recruit loyal local proxies in pursuit of its regional objectives. Britain's relationship with the Arab tribal chief, Ibn Saud, who would go on to establish Saudi Arabia in the early 1930s, began in 1915 with the Darin Pact, demarcating the territory then controlled by Saud as a British protectorate.

The following year, the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans erupted. Begun and inspired by Saud's fierce rival, Sharif Hussein, head of the Hashemite Arab tribe, the revolt was heavily bankrolled and supported by the British – a period immortalized in the exploits of British military agent T E Lawrence, known to the world as Lawrence of Arabia.

But whereas Sharif Hussein was a follower of orthodox Sunni Islam, Ibn Saud adhered to the radical doctrine of Wahhabism, which Winston Churchill was moved to describe as " bloodthirsty " and " intolerant ." Regardless, when it came to its imperial interests there was no tiger upon whose back the British ruling class was not willing to ride during this period, and which, as events have proved, it has not been willing to ride since.

The most egregious example of this policy, one that continues to have ramifications today, was the support provided by the UK to the Afghan mujahideen in the late 1970s and 1980s. The insurgency's objective was the overthrow of Kabul's secular and left-leaning government, whose crime in the eyes of the Islamist insurgency's US and UK sponsors was that it had embraced the social and economic model of Moscow rather than Washington during the first Cold War.

British support for the mujahideen, married to the huge support provided by Washington, was indispensable in the eventual success of these self-styled 'holy warriors' in taking control of a country that had embraced modernity and turning it into a failed state mired in religious oppression, brutality, backwardness and poverty.

Mark Curtis again:

" Britain, along with the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, covertly supported the resistance to defeat the Soviet occupation of the country. Military, financial and diplomatic backing was given to Islamist forces which, while forcing a Soviet withdrawal, soon organized themselves into terrorist networks ready to strike Western targets. "

While Washington's primary role in channeling military and financial support to the Afghan mujahideen, known as Operation Cyclone , may until have succeeded in overshadowing London's role in this dirty war, declassified British government cabinet papers which were made public in 2010 and reported in the UK media make grim reading.

They reveal that three weeks after Soviet forces arrived in Afghanistan at the request of the Afghan government in Kabul, struggling to deal with an insurgency that had broken out in the countryside, the Thatcher government was planning to supply military aid to the " Islamic resistance ." A confidential government memo provides a chilling insight into the insanity that passed for official policy: " We trust the Western leaders are prepared for the enormous beneficial possibilities that could just possibly open up if the Afghan rebellion were to succeed. "

It will be recalled that out of the ensuing collapse of Afghanistan emerged the Taliban, under whose rule the country was turned into a vast militant jihadist school and training camp. Many of the most notorious Islamist terrorists began their careers there, fighting the Soviets and then later broadening out their activities to other parts of the region and wider world. In this regard, Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda loom large.

Other notorious names from the world of Salafi-jihadism for whom Afghanistan proved indispensable include the Jordanian Abu al-Zarqawi, who founded Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) during the US-UK occupation, an organization that would over time morph into ISIS.

Abdelhakim Belhaj and other Libyan Islamists cut their jihadist teeth in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Returning to Libya, they formed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) in the eastern city of Benghazi. Though the group may have been disbanded in 2010, having failed to topple Gaddafi despite repeated attempts to assassinate the Libyan leader with, it's been claimed , the support of Britain's MI6, former members of the LIFG, including Belhaj, were important actors in the 2011 Libyan uprising.

By way of a reminder, the uprising in Libya started in Benghazi and would not have succeeded without the air support it received from NATO. Britain's then prime minister, David Cameron, was key in pushing for that air support and the sanction of the UN under the auspices of Security Council Resolution 1973. Though protecting civilians was central in wording of this UNSC resolution, it was shamefully distorted to justify regime change, culminating in Gaddafi's murder by the 'rebels.'

Staying with the LIFG, in the wake of the Manchester suicide-bomb attack in May 2017, which left 23 people dead and 500 injured, the fact that the bomber, a young Libyan by the name of Salman Abedi, was the son of a former member of the LIFG, did not receive anything like the media attention it should have at the time.

Manchester, England is home to the largest Libyan community in Britain, and there is strong evidence to suggest that when the Libyan uprising broke out MI6 facilitated the ability of Libyan Islamists in Britain to travel to Libya to participate in the fighting. Among them was Salman Abedi, who it is thought received military training in the country before being allowed to return to the UK thereafter.

This brings us on to Syria and, as with Libya, the question of how so many British Muslims have been able to travel from the UK to Syria via Turkey to take part in the anti-Assad insurgency since 2011? It also brings into sharp focus a policy that has veered between the ludicrous and the reckless.

Emblematic of the former was ex-prime minister David Cameron's claim , which he made during a 2015 Commons debate over whether the Royal Air Force should engage in air strikes against ISIS in Syria, that fighting as part of the Syrian were 70,000 moderates.

As for the recklessness of Britain's actions in Syria, look no further than the country's recent participation in the illegal missile strikes that were carried out in conjunction with the US and France, justified on the basis of as yet unproven allegations that Syrian government forces had carried out a chemical weapons attack on Douma, just outside Damascus. The only beneficiaries of such actions by the Western powers are Salafi-jihadist groups such as ISIS (whom it was later reported took advantage of the missile strike to mount a short-lived offensive), Al-Nusra and Jaysh al-Islam.

The latter of those groups, Jaysh al-Islam, is a Saudi proxy. It was the dominant group in Douma and throughout Eastern Ghouta until the district's liberation by the Syrian Army and its allies with Russian support.

Given the deep and longstanding ties between London and Riyadh; given the fact, reported towards the end of 2017, that British military personnel were embedded in a training role with Saudi forces in Yemen; given the news that a British special forces sergeant was killed in northern Syria at the end of March this year while embedded with the Kurds, revealing for the first time that British troops were operating in the country on the ground – given all that, the question of who else British special forces and military personnel may be embedded with in Syria is legitimate.

In the context of the British state's long and sordid history when it comes to riding the back of radical Islam in pursuit of its strategic objectives, readers will doubtless draw their own conclusions.

Read more

John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1

[Apr 18, 2018] Russia, China, Iran and others are increasingly concerned with curtailing the damage that the US can still inflict

Notable quotes:
"... The clearing of Ghouta puts a serious dent in this plan. Demoralizing the population of Damascus is now almost impossible. ..."
Apr 18, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org
Jackrabbit , Apr 18, 2018 11:59:00 AM | 145
Don Bacon
PavewayIV

The West wins by making Syria a hell on earth. That means no reconstruction funding, no trade, and continuous harassment by "rebels".

The clearing of Ghouta puts a serious dent in this plan. Demoralizing the population of Damascus is now almost impossible.

But Lebanon is only about 15 miles from Damascus, and US/Israel would have to deal with Hez at some point anyway, so why not sooner rather than later?

Grieved | Apr 18, 2018 12:00:50 PM | 146

@131 WJ and 134 Don Bacon

I appreciate this discussion.

On a side note I would add that 3-4 years ago when Ukraine was boiling, much of the discussion by concerned people focused on countries outside of the US, and the damage caused by the US. The US, in this context, was largely regarded as an evil but coherent entity.

But that coherence has now come more and more into question. Discussion shifted gradually, as the US made more and more mistakes and lost battle after battle in so many theaters, and revealed itself as a failing actor. And in the last year or two there's much more discussion about the US itself, largely trying to pierce the obscurity of how that country is actually run and by whom. This shift was already happening, and Trump of course added to the fascination.

I was glad to see that gradual shift. To me it indicated the war itself was won, while many battles were yet to be fought. I think it's true that Russia, China, Iran and others are increasingly concerned with curtailing the damage that the US can still inflict. Every day they increase in actual, effective power, and the US decreases in that power. Yesterday's battle will be fought differently tomorrow, because the balance of that power will have shifted again by then.

Syria has been an enormously useful magnifying glass to show us so much about the relative power balances of many nations. And even as the US lashes out in its death throes, it is increasingly cornered and stymied. The same is true of Israel. It's reaching the point - if not already there - that every move made by the US will result in clear damage to itself, with no gain, and no damage to its targets.

The other side has had sufficient time to wargame countless contingencies, and think them through and make preparations for them. Increasingly, it gets to choose what damage to allow and what to stop, because the costs of every action have now been calculated - and the passage of time reduces the costs too, so the equation constantly updates.

This is true outside of Syria also, in all theaters and on many planes of activity.

[Apr 18, 2018] The US Deep State doesn't want to "conquer" any country. Then they'd have to pay the bill for the destruction they caused... think an actual Marshall Plan, not the Iraq and Afghan Debacles. It is not trying to "win". It is trying to destroy those countries' ability to function outside the iron-fist influence of the IMF/BIS

Notable quotes:
"... Trumpty Dumbdy is trapped, just trying to convince his base that he really is getting the US out ..."
Apr 18, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

A P | Apr 18, 2018 1:42:41 PM | 160

The US Deep State doesn't want to "conquer" any country. Then they'd have to pay the bill for the destruction they caused... think an actual Marshall Plan, not the Iraq and Afghan Debacles. It is not trying to "win". It is trying to destroy those countries' ability to function outside the iron-fist influence of the IMF/BIS/etc. banks/economy.

... ... ..

As for US operations in Syria being handed off "to others", i.e. to Prince's latest iteration of Blackwater/Xi/Academia, the last we heard of Erik was trying to sell a budget airforce/drone system to countries in Africa. What a joke.

Not going to happen in Syria, because Russia, Iran, Hezbolla and Syria would have no qualms about directly assaulting Prince's Kurd/Arab/Wahabbist mercenaries... Eric may be a self-serving parasite, but he's not stupid enough to directly take on the Russian military, or even the SAA for that matter. Especially with no NATO air cover...

Killary is not around to unilaterally impose a Libya-style no-fly-zone.

Trumpty Dumbdy is trapped, just trying to convince his base that he really is getting the US out of being Israel's and the Rothschilds' bitch, but that is not a potential reality.

It would involve dismantling the FED and cutting off the yearly $multi-billion military aid tap to Israel. I doubt he is smart or informed enough to comprehend the situation he is in. Any sane, intelligent person would walk away and tell the Zionist/Rothschild/Deep State to find another patsy.

[Apr 09, 2018] When Military Leaders Have Reckless Disregard for the Truth by Bruce Fein

Highly recommended!
Apr 09, 2018 | www.theamericanconservative.com
To borrow from the British definition of an ambassador, United States military leaders are honest soldiers promoted in rank to champion war with reckless disregard for the truth. This practice persists despite the catastrophic waste of lives and money because the untruths are never punished. Congress needs to correct this problem forthwith.

General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, exemplifies the phenomenon. As reported in The Washington Post , Dunford recently voiced optimism about defeating the Afghan Taliban in the seventeenth year of a trillion-dollar war that has multiplied safe havens for international terrorists, the opposite of the war's original mission. While not under oath, Dunford insisted, "This is not another year of the same thing we've been doing for 17 years. This is a fundamentally different approach [T]he right people at the right level with the right training [are in place] "

There, the general recklessly disregarded the truth. He followed the instruction of General William Westmoreland who stated at the National Press Club on November 21, 1967 that the Vietnam War had come to a point "where the end begins to come into view." The 1968 Tet Offensive was then around the corner, which would provoke Westmoreland to ask for 200,000 more American troops. The Pentagon Papers and Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster's Dereliction of Duty have meticulously documented the military's reckless disregard for the truth throughout the Vietnam War.

Any fool can understand that continuing our 17-year-old war in Afghanistan is a fool's errand. The nation is artificial. Among other things, its disputed border with Pakistan, the Durand Line, was drawn in 1896 between the British Raj and Afghan Amir Abdur Rahmen Khair. Afghanistan's population splinters along tribal, ethnic, and sectarian lines, including Pushtans, Uzbeks, Hazara, Tajiks, Turkmen, and Balochi. Its government is riddled with nepotism, corruption, ineptitude, and lawlessness. Election fraud and political sclerosis are endemic. Opium production and trafficking replenish the Taliban's coffers.

The Afghan National Army (ANA) is a paper tiger. Desertion and attrition rates are alarming. Disloyalty is widespread. American weapons are sold to the Taliban or captured. ANA soldiers will not risk that last full measure of devotion for an illegitimate, unrepresentative, decrepit government.

The Taliban also has a safe haven in Pakistan. A staggering portion -- maybe up to 90 percent -- of United States assistance to Afghanistan is embezzled, diverted, or wasted. John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), related to Chatham House in London that "SIGAR was finding waste, fraud, and abuse nearly everywhere we looked in Afghanistan -- from the $488 million worth of aircraft that couldn't fly, to the navy the U.S. bought for a landlocked country, to the buildings the U.S. paid for that literally melted in the rain ."

"The Taliban are getting stronger, the government is on the retreat, they are losing ground to the Taliban day by day," Abdul Jabbar Qahraman, a retired Afghan general who was the Afghan government's military envoy to Helmand Province until 2016, told the New York Times last summer. ISIS has now joined the Taliban and al-Qaeda in fighting the United States. Secretary of Defense General James Mattis conceded to Congress last June that "we are not winning in Afghanistan right now," but added polyannaishly, "And we will correct this as soon as possible." Only two months earlier, the Defense Department insisted that dropping the Mother of All Bombs on Afghanistan would reverse the losing trend.

Upton Sinclair sermonized: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Thus do military leaders deceive themselves about futile wars to extract more spending, to maintain their professional reputations and public stature, and to avoid the embarrassment of explaining to Congress and the American people that astronomical sums have been wasted and tens of thousands of American soldiers have died or were crippled in vain.

To deter such self-deception, Congress should enact a statute requiring the retirement without pension of any general or admiral who materially misleads legislators or the public about prospective or ongoing wars with reckless disregard for the truth. That sanction might have prompted General Dunford to acknowledge the grim truth about Afghanistan: that the United States is clueless about how to win that war.

Bruce Fein was associate deputy attorney general under President Reagan and is the founding partner of Fein & DelValle PLLC.

[Apr 05, 2018] Steve Coll's Directorate S is Disturbing Account of U.S. Mistakes After 9/11 by Mark Perry

Notable quotes:
"... Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Steve Coll, Penguin Press, 784 pages ..."
Apr 05, 2018 | www.theamericanconservative.com

'Ghost Wars' author on the secret war behind the war in Afghanistan

U.S-trained Afghan Army troops. Credit: USMC Cpl. John Scott Rafoss/public domain Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Steve Coll, Penguin Press, 784 pages

Twelve days after 9/11, on the night of September 23, 2001, the CIA's Islamabad station chief, Robert Grenier, received a telephone call from his boss, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet. "Listen, Bob," Tenet said, "we're meeting tomorrow at Camp David to discuss our war strategy in Afghanistan. How should we begin? What targets do we hit? How do we sequence our actions?"

Grenier later wrote in his book, 88 Days to Kandahar , that while he was surprised by the call he'd been thinking about these same questions -- "mulling them over and over and over," as he later told me -- so he was ready. President George Bush's address to the U.S. Congress just a few days before, Grenier told Tenet, was a good start: demand that Afghanistan's Taliban ruler, Mullah Omar, turn bin Laden over to the United States. If he refused, the U.S. should launch a campaign to oust him. Grenier had thought through the plan, but before going into its details with Tenet he abruptly stopped the conversation. "Mr. Director," he said, "this isn't going to work. I need to write this all down clearly." Tenet agreed.

Grenier set to work, and over the next three hours he laid out the battle for Afghanistan. Included in the paper was a detailed program of how the CIA could deploy undercover teams to recruit bin Laden's enemies among Afghanistan's northern Tajik and Uzbek tribes (an uneasy coalition of ethnic militias operating as the Northern Alliance), supply them with cash and weapons, and use them in a rolling offensive that would oust the Taliban in Kabul. With U.S. help, which included deploying American Special Forces teams (under CIA leadership) coupled with American airpower, the Northern Alliance (more properly, the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan) would start from its Panjshir Valley enclave in Afghanistan's far northeast and, recruiting support from anti-Taliban forces along the way, roll all the way into Kabul.

Grenier gave the eight-page draft paper to his staff to review, then sent it to Tenet in Washington, who passed it through the deputies committee (the second-in-command of each of the major national security agencies), then presented it to Bush. "I regard that cable," Grenier wrote, "as the best three hours of work I ever did in my twenty-seven-year career."

Three days after the Tenet-Grenier telephone conversation, on September 26, the CIA landed a covert-operations team in Afghanistan to recruit local allies in the hunt for bin Laden. The quick action was impressive, but then events slowed to a crawl. It wasn't until October 20 that the first U.S. Special Forces team linked up with anti-Taliban rebels, and it took another week for U.S. units to land in strength. But by early November al Qaeda was on the run and the Taliban's grip on the country was slipping away. On November 13, militias of the Northern Alliance seized Kabul. The Taliban was defeated, its badly mauled units fleeing south and east (its last bastion, in the south, fell on December 6), and into nearby Pakistan, while what remained of al Qaeda holed up in a series of cave complexes in the Spin Ghar mountain range of eastern Afghanistan.

By almost any measure, the CIA-led anti-al Qaeda and anti-Taliban offensive (dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom by George Bush) marked a decisive victory in the war on terror. The U.S. had set out a plan, marshaled the forces to carry it out, and then seen it to completion.

But this triumph came with problems. The first was that the offensive was hampered by Washington infighting that pitted the CIA against a puzzlingly recalcitrant U.S. military and a carping Donald Rumsfeld, who questioned George Tenet's leadership of the effort. This bureaucratic squabbling, focused on just who was responsible for what (and who exactly was running the Afghanistan war), would remain a hallmark of American efforts well into the Obama administration. The second problem was that Afghanistan's southern Pashtun tribes were only marginally included in the effort, and they remained suspicious of their northern non-Pashtun counterparts. The mistrust, CIA officers believed, would almost certainly plant the seeds of an endless inter-tribal Afghan conflict, embroiling the United States in an effort to prop up an unpopular Kabul government. The third problem was Pakistan -- or, more precisely, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI, and the ISI's "Directorate S," responsible for covertly supplying, training, and arming Pakistan's Islamist allies, including the Pashtun-dominated Taliban.

♦♦♦

The intractability of these variables, and America's 17-year effort (sometimes focused but often feckless) to resolve them, form the basis of Steve Coll's Directorate S , a thick but eminently readable account of America's Afghanistan misadventure. While Directorate S stands alone as a comprehensive exposition of the Afghanistan conflict dating from 9/11, it's actually a follow-on of Ghost Wars , Coll's Pulitzer Prize-winning 2004 narrative of America's efforts to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan following their invasion in December 1979. Given the breadth of Coll's dual treatments and the depth of his research, it's likely that these books will remain the standard exposition of the period for years to come.

While the focus of Directorate S is on Pakistan and its shady intelligence services, each of the obstacles that confronted the United States in Afghanistan from the moment the Taliban abandoned Kabul is embraced in detail. These obstacles included America's post-9/11 attention deficit disorder (the pivot away from al Qaeda to Iraq was being considered in Washington even as the Northern Alliance cleared the Afghan capital) and the deeply embedded antipathy toward the new Kabul government among Pakistani-supported southern tribesman. Thus, after the United States ousted al Qaeda and its Taliban supporters, it embarked on a program to strengthen the new Kabul government, anointing Hamid Karzai as Afghanistan's president and pledging billions in reconstruction aid. And so, or so it seemed, everything had gone as planned. The Taliban was routed; al Qaeda was on the run; a new anti-terrorism government was in place in Kabul; and the United States had signed Pakistan on as a willing accomplice. On May 1, 2003, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld declared an end to major combat operations in Afghanistan. The war was over. Won.

But of course it wasn't.

Coll's account provides a disturbing catalogue of the U.S. mistakes in the wake of the Taliban defeat. Almost all of them are well known: Hamid Karzai, the consensus choice of a grand assembly (a loya jirga) as Afghanistan's interim president, proved to be a weak leader. The monies appropriated for Afghanistan's postwar reconstruction were woefully inadequate for the task -- "laughable," as one U.S. official put it. American soldiers responsible for countering the Taliban's return (and hunting al Qaeda terrorist cells) were thinly and poorly deployed (and, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, of secondary importance in the Pentagon). Tentative Taliban efforts to engage the United States in political talks were summarily and unwisely spurned. Allegations of prisoner abuse at U.S. detention facilities consistently undermined U.S. legitimacy. American funds were funneled into Afghan ministries laced with corrupt officials. Afghani poppy production increased, despite faint-hearted U.S. eradication efforts. And U.S. counter-terrorism actions proved ham-handed and caused preventable civilian casualties, pushing Afghanis into a resurgent anti-Kabul resistance.

More crucially, Pakistan's unstinting support for America's Afghanistan efforts proved to be anything but unstinting. The reason for this was not only entirely predictable but was actually the unintended result of the American victory. When the Northern Alliance and U.S. airpower pushed what remained of the Taliban (along with the remnants of al Qaeda) out of Afghanistan, they pushed them into Pakistan, creating conditions that, as Coll tells us, "deepened resentment among Pakistan's generals, who would come to see their country's rising violence as a price of American folly . . ." Put simply, for the United States to seal the Operation Enduring Freedom victory, it had to ensure that its effects did not spill over into the one nation that could ensure that its victory would, in fact, be enduring. That didn't happen. The result was that the Taliban was able to rebuild and rearm its networks not only in Pakistan, and under the eyes of the ISI, but also in Afghanistan.

It might have been otherwise. During a series of discussions I had about America's intervention in Afghanistan in the months immediately following 9/11, a number of currently serving and former senior U.S. officials told me they believed that, given enough time, the Taliban might well have handed bin Laden over to the Americans, obviating the need for a full-on invasion. One of these officials was Milton Bearden, a famed CIA officer (his close friends refer to him as "Uncle Milty") who, during his time as a station chief in Pakistan, had helped to head up the CIA's war against the Soviets in the mid 1980s.

♦♦♦

After 9/11, Bearden recharged his Pakistan and Afghanistan networks in an effort to convince the Taliban that turning bin Laden over to the Americans was a better option than the one they were facing. All the while, Bearden kept senior U.S. officials apprised of what he was doing, even as he was attempting to head off their rush to war. Bearden told me that, while his efforts had not reached fruition by the time the Bush White House had decided on a course of action, he believes the United States had not fully explored all of its options -- or thought through the long-term impact of its intervention. "I don't know what would have happened, I don't know," he says wistfully, "but I think we have a handhold in history. We should have seen what was coming." He notes that Alexander the Great "took one look at Afghanistan's mountains and decided against it. He thought his whole army could get swallowed up in there, and he wasn't going to take that chance. So, well, you tell me if I'm wrong, but Alexander was no slouch, right?"

Not everyone agrees with this, of course. The dissenters include Robert Grenier, the first drafter of what became the American war plan. Taliban leader Mullah Omar, he told me, was committed to his pledge to protect Osama bin Laden; he viewed it as a blood oath that could not be broken. Moreover, argues Grenier, "Omar viewed himself as a kind of world historical figure, a person on whom the axis of history would turn." One result was that he believed his fight against the Americans would be epochal.

That said, Grenier believes America's foray into Afghanistan, and the mistakes that followed, might at least have been dampened by a more diligent focus on the inherent divisions of Afghan society. "We [at the CIA]," he told me several months ago, "were very aware that the march of the Northern Alliance into Kabul would likely create real difficulties in the south. And we tried to slow it, precisely for this reason. But events overtook us, and it just wasn't possible. So, yes, things might have been otherwise, but in truth we just don't know."

The value in Coll's Directorate S comes not from the elegant telling of a story not fully known, but from the dawning realization that Afghanistan is the kind of lock for which there is no key. There is no reason to believe that a different outcome would have ensued if other events had intruded -- for example, more personnel, money, focused diplomacy, or robust and disciplined enemy-defeating and nation building; or that our war there and the occupation that followed would have yielded the same results that we realized in, say, Japan after 1945. The real hubris here is not that we tried and failed but that we thought we could actually succeed. Afghanistan is simply not that kind of place.

There is a term of art for this in the military, which found its first usage in Iraq in 2009, when U.S. commanders adopted it as an appreciation of what could and could not be accomplished. Instead of focusing on defeating corruption, inefficiency, disunity, and poor leadership, the focus shifted almost exclusively to dampening violence, to keeping the doors to Iraq open even as its factions battled for its control. More importantly, the adoption of the phrase marked the abandonment of high expectations and an embrace of realism. The United States would have to yield the business of replicating a Western-style democracy on the banks of the Euphrates. That goal, if it was going to be accomplished at all, would have to be realized by the Iraqis.

Analyst Anthony Cordesman, one of America's premier military thinkers, adopted the phrase and applied to Afghanistan in 2012 in an essay he entitled, "Time to Focus on 'Afghan Good Enough.'" His plan was simply stated but had all the elegance of actually working: keep the Taliban out of Kabul and the major cities, preserve the central and provincial government even in the face of endemic corruption, and work to provide security to large numbers of Afghanis. Cordesman conceded that this was not the kind of victory that Americans had hoped for on September 12. And it was difficult to describe the outcome as even vaguely passable -- or "good." But it was far better than adopting goals that could not be realized or embracing an illusion that disappeared even as it was grasped. For the time being at least, it would have to be "good enough."

Mark Perry is a foreign policy analyst, a contributing editor to The American Conservative and the author of The Pentagon's Wars .

[Apr 02, 2018] Russophobia Anti-Russian Lobby and American Foreign Policy by A. Tsygankov

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... I wanted to investigate whether the growing volume of criticism toward Russia, sometimes by people who could hardly claim to be knowledgeable about the country, concealed a political agenda. ..."
"... I discovered evidence of Russophobia shared by different circles within the American political class and promoted through programs and conferences at various think tanks, congressional testimonies, activities of NGOs, and the media. Russophobia is not merely a critique of Russia, but a critique beyond any sense of proportion, waged with the purpose of undermining the nation's political reputation. ..."
"... To these individuals, Russophobia is merely a means to pressure the Kremlin into submitting to the United States in the execution of its grand plans to control the world's most precious resources and geostrategic sites. In the meantime, Russia has grown increasingly resentful, and the war in the Caucasus in August 2008 has demonstrated that Russia is prepared to act unilaterally to stop what it views as US unilateralism in the former Soviet region. ..."
"... Anti-American attitudes are strongly present in Russian media and cultural products, as a response to the US policies of nuclear, energy, and military supremacy in the world. Extreme hegemonic policies tend to provoke an extreme response, and Russian nationalist movements and often commentators react harshly to what they view as unilateral encroachment on Russia's political system and foreign policy interests. Russia's reactions to these policies by the United States are highly negative and frequently inadequate, but hardly more extreme than the American hegemonic and imperial discourse. ..."
"... The central objective of the Lobby has been to preserve and strengthen America's power in the post-Cold War world through imperial or hegemonic policies. The Lobby has viewed Russia with its formidable nuclear power, energy reserves, and important geostrategic location as a major obstacle in achieving this objective. Even during the 1990s, when Russia looked more like a failing state3 than one capable of projecting power, some members of the American political class were worried about the future revival of the Eurasian giant as a revisionist power. In their percep- tion, it was essential to keep Russia in a state of military and economic weakness-not so much out of emotional hatred for the Russian people and their culture, but to preserve American security and promote its val- ues across the world. To many within the Lobby, Russophobia became a useful device for exerting pressures on Russia and controlling its policies. Although to some the idea of undermining and, possibly, dismembering Russia was personal, to others it was a necessity of power dictated by the realities of international politics. ..."
"... According to this dominant vision, there was simply no place in this "New American Century" for power competitors, and America was destined eventually to assume control over potentially threatening military capabilities and energy reserves of others. As the two founders of the Project for the New' American Century (PNAC), William Kristol and Robert Kagan, asserted when referring to the large military forces of Russia and China, "American statesmen today ought to recognize that their charge is not to await the arrival of the next great threat, but rather to shape the international environment to prevent such a threat from arising in the first place."4 ..."
"... Russia was either to agree to assist the United States in preserving its world-power status or be forced to agree. It had to either follow the U.S. interpretation of world affairs and develop a political and economic system sufficiently open to American influences or live as a pariah state, smeared by accusations of pernicious behavior, and in constant fear for its survival in the America-centered world. As far as the U.S. hegemonic elites were concerned, no other choice was available. ..."
"... This hegemonic mood was largely consistent with mainstream ideas within the American establishment immediately following the end of the Cold War. For example, 1989 saw the unification of Germany and the further meltdown of the Soviet Union, which some characterized as "the best period of U.S. foreign policy ever."5 President Jimmy Carter's former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski envisioned the upcoming victory of the West by celebrating the Soviet Union's "grand failure."6 ..."
"... Charles Krauthammer, went as far as to proclaim the arrival of the United States' "unipolar moment," a period in which only one super- power, the United States, would stand above the rest of the world in its military, economic, and ideological capacity ..."
"... The mid-1990s saw the emergence of post-Soviet Russophobia. The Lobby's ideology was not principally new, as it still contained the three central myths of Sovietophobia left over from the Cold War era: Russia is inherently imperialist, autocratic, and anti-Western. This ideology now had to be modified to the new conditions and promoted politically, which required a tightening of the Lobby's unity, winning new allies within the establishment, and gaining public support.15 ..."
"... During the period of 2003-2008, Vice President Richard Dick Cheney formed a cohesive and bipartisan group of Russia critics, who pushed for a more confrontational approach with the Kremlin. ..."
"... Cheney could not tolerate opposition to what he saw as a critical step in establishing worldwide US hegemony. He was also harboring the idea of controlling Russia's energy reserves.91 ..."
"... In Russia, however, the Cold War story has been mainly about sovereignty and independence, rather than Western-style liberalism. To many Russians it is a story of freedom from colonization by the West and of preserving important attributes of sovereign statehood. ..."
"... In a world where neocolonialism and cultural imperialism are potent forces, the idea of freedom as independence continues to have strong international appeal and remains a powerful alternative to the notion of liberal democracy. ..."
"... The West's unwillingness to recognize the importance of this legitimizing myth in the role of communist ideology has served as a key reason for the Cold War.5 Like their Western counterparts, the Soviets were debating over methods but not the larger assumptions that defined their struggle. ..."
"... Yet another analyst wrote "at the Cold War's end, the United States was given one of the great opportunities of history: to embrace Russia, the largest nation on earth, as partner, friend, ally. Our mutual interests meshed almost perfectly. There was no ideological, territorial, his- toric or economic quarrel between us, once communist ideology was interred. We blew it. We moved NATO onto Russia's front porch, ignored her valid interests and concerns, and, with our 'indispensable-nation' arrogance, treated her as a defeated power, as France treated Weimar Germany after Versailles."114 ..."
Jun 09, 2017 | www.amazon.com

It was during the spring of 2006 that I began this project. I wanted to investigate whether the growing volume of criticism toward Russia, sometimes by people who could hardly claim to be knowledgeable about the country, concealed a political agenda.

As I researched the subject, I discovered evidence of Russophobia shared by different circles within the American political class and promoted through programs and conferences at various think tanks, congressional testimonies, activities of NGOs, and the media. Russophobia is not merely a critique of Russia, but a critique beyond any sense of proportion, waged with the purpose of undermining the nation's political reputation.

... ... ....

Although a critical analysis of Russia and its political system is entirely legitimate, the issue is the balance of such analysis. Russia's role in the world is growing, yet many U.S. politicians feel that Russia doesn't matter in the global arena. Preoccupied with international issues, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, they find it difficult to accept that they now have to nego- tiate and coordinate their international policies with a nation that only yesterday seemed so weak, introspective, and dependent on the West. To these individuals, Russophobia is merely a means to pressure the Kremlin into submitting to the United States in the execution of its grand plans to control the world's most precious resources and geostrategic sites. In the meantime, Russia has grown increasingly resentful, and the war in the Caucasus in August 2008 has demonstrated that Russia is prepared to act unilaterally to stop what it views as US unilateralism in the former Soviet region.

And some in Moscow are tempted to provoke a much greater confrontation with Western states. The attitude of ignorance and self-righteousness toward Russia tells us volumes about the United States' lack of preparation for the twenty-first century's central challenges that include political instability, weapons proliferation, and energy insecurity. Despite the dislike of Russia by a considerable number of American elites, this attitude is far from universally shared. Many Americans understand that Russia has gone a long way from communism and that the overwhelming support for Putin's policies at home cannot be adequately explained by high oil prices and the Kremlin's manipulation of the public-despite the frequent assertions of Russophobic observers.

Balanced analysts are also aware that many Russian problems are typical difficulties that nations encounter with state-building, and should not be presented as indicative of Russia's "inherent drive" to autocracy or empire. As the United States and Russia move further to the twenty-first century, it will be increasingly important to redefine the relationship between the two nations in a mutually enriching way.

Political and cultural phobias are, of course, not limited to those of an anti-Russian nature. For instance, Russia has its share of America-phobia -- a phenomenon that I have partly researched in my book Whose World Order (Notre Dame, 2004) and in several articles. Anti-American attitudes are strongly present in Russian media and cultural products, as a response to the US policies of nuclear, energy, and military supremacy in the world. Extreme hegemonic policies tend to provoke an extreme response, and Russian nationalist movements and often commentators react harshly to what they view as unilateral encroachment on Russia's political system and foreign policy interests. Russia's reactions to these policies by the United States are highly negative and frequently inadequate, but hardly more extreme than the American hegemonic and imperial discourse.

The Anti-Russian Lobby

When the facile optimism was disappointed, Western euphoria faded, and Russophobia returned ... The new Russophobia was expressed not by the governments, but in the statements of out-of-office politicians, the publications of academic experts, the sensational writings of jour- nalists, and the products of the entertainment industry. (Rodric Braithwaite, Across the Moscow River, 2002)1

....

Russophobia is not a myth, not an invention of the Red-Brovvns, but a real phenomenon of political thought in the main political think tanks in the West . .. [T]he Yeltsin-Kozyrev's pro-U.S. "giveaway game" was approved across the ocean. There is reason to say that the period in ques- tion left the West with the illusion that Russia's role was to serve Washington's interests and that it would remain such in the future. (Sergei Mikoyati, International Affairs /October 2006j)2

This chapter formulates a theory of Russophobia and the anti-Russian lobby's influence on the U.S. Russia policy. 1 discuss the Lobby's objec- tives, its tactics to achieve them, the history of its formation and rise to prominence, and the conditions that preserved its influence in the after- math of 9/11.1 argue that Russophobia has been important to American hegemonic elites in pressuring Russia for economic and political conces- sions in the post-Cold War era.

1. Goals and Means

Objectives

The central objective of the Lobby has been to preserve and strengthen America's power in the post-Cold War world through imperial or hegemonic policies. The Lobby has viewed Russia with its formidable nuclear power, energy reserves, and important geostrategic location as a major obstacle in achieving this objective. Even during the 1990s, when Russia looked more like a failing state3 than one capable of projecting power, some members of the American political class were worried about the future revival of the Eurasian giant as a revisionist power. In their percep- tion, it was essential to keep Russia in a state of military and economic weakness-not so much out of emotional hatred for the Russian people and their culture, but to preserve American security and promote its val- ues across the world. To many within the Lobby, Russophobia became a useful device for exerting pressures on Russia and controlling its policies. Although to some the idea of undermining and, possibly, dismembering Russia was personal, to others it was a necessity of power dictated by the realities of international politics.

According to this dominant vision, there was simply no place in this "New American Century" for power competitors, and America was destined eventually to assume control over potentially threatening military capabilities and energy reserves of others. As the two founders of the Project for the New' American Century (PNAC), William Kristol and Robert Kagan, asserted when referring to the large military forces of Russia and China, "American statesmen today ought to recognize that their charge is not to await the arrival of the next great threat, but rather to shape the international environment to prevent such a threat from arising in the first place."4

Russia was either to agree to assist the United States in preserving its world-power status or be forced to agree. It had to either follow the U.S. interpretation of world affairs and develop a political and economic system sufficiently open to American influences or live as a pariah state, smeared by accusations of pernicious behavior, and in constant fear for its survival in the America-centered world. As far as the U.S. hegemonic elites were concerned, no other choice was available.

This hegemonic mood was largely consistent with mainstream ideas within the American establishment immediately following the end of the Cold War. For example, 1989 saw the unification of Germany and the further meltdown of the Soviet Union, which some characterized as "the best period of U.S. foreign policy ever."5 President Jimmy Carter's former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski envisioned the upcoming victory of the West by celebrating the Soviet Union's "grand failure."6

In his view, the Soviet "totalitarian" state was incapable of reform. Communism's decline was therefore irreversible and inevitable. It would have made the system's "practice and its dogma largely irrelevant to the human conditions," and communism would be remembered as the twentieth century's "political and intellectual aberration."7 Other com- mentators argued the case for a global spread of Western values. In 1990 Francis Fukuyama first formulated his triumphalist "end of history" thesis, arguing a global ascendancy of the Western-style market democracy.®

... ... ...

Marc Plattner declared the emergence of a "world with one dominant principle of legitimacy, democracy."9 When the Soviet system had indeed disintegrated, the leading establishment journal Foreign Affairs pronounced that "the Soviet system collapsed because of what it was, or more exactly, because of what it was not. The West 'won' because of what the democracies were-because they were free, prosperous and successful, because they did justice, or convincingly tried to do so."10 Still others, such as Charles Krauthammer, went as far as to proclaim the arrival of the United States' "unipolar moment," a period in which only one super- power, the United States, would stand above the rest of the world in its military, economic, and ideological capacity.11

In this context of U.S. triumphalism, at least some Russophobes expected Russia to follow the American agenda. Still, they were worried that Russia may still have surprises to offer and would recover as an enemy.12

Soon after the Soviet disintegration, Russia indeed surprised many, although not quite in the sense of presenting a power challenge to the United States. Rather, the surprise was the unexpectedly high degree of corruption, social and economic decay, and the rapid disappointment of pro-Western reforms inside Russia. By late 1992, the domestic economic situation was much worsened, as the failure of Western-style shock ther- apy reform put most of the population on the verge of poverty. Russia was preoccupied not with the projection of power but with survival, as poverty, crime, and corruption degraded it from the status of the indus- trialized country it once was. In the meantime, the economy was largely controlled by and divided among former high-ranking party and state officials and their associates. The so-called oligarchs, or a group of extremely wealthy individuals, played the role of the new post-Soviet nomenklatura; they influenced many key decisions of the state and suc- cessfully blocked the development of small- and medium-sized business in the country.13 Under these conditions, the Russophobes warned that the conditions in Russia may soon be ripe for the rise of an anti-Western nationalist regime and that Russia was not fit for any partnership with the United States.14

The mid-1990s saw the emergence of post-Soviet Russophobia. The Lobby's ideology was not principally new, as it still contained the three central myths of Sovietophobia left over from the Cold War era: Russia is inherently imperialist, autocratic, and anti-Western. This ideology now had to be modified to the new conditions and promoted politically, which required a tightening of the Lobby's unity, winning new allies within the establishment, and gaining public support.15

... ... ...

The impact of structural and institutional factors is further reinforced by policy factors, such as the divide within the policy community and the lack of presidential leadership. Not infrequently, politicians tend to defend their personal and corporate interests, and lobbying makes a difference in the absence of firm policy commitments.

Experts recognize that the community of Russia watchers is split and that the split, which goes all the way to the White House, has been responsible for the absence of a coherent policy toward the country. During the period of 2003-2008, Vice President Richard Dick Cheney formed a cohesive and bipartisan group of Russia critics, who pushed for a more confrontational approach with the Kremlin. The brain behind the invasion of Iraq, Cheney could not tolerate opposition to what he saw as a critical step in establishing worldwide US hegemony. He was also harboring the idea of controlling Russia's energy reserves.91

Since November 2004, when the administration launched a review of its policy on Russia,92 Cheney became a critically important voice in whom the Lobby found its advocate. Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and, until November 2004, Colin Powell opposed the vice president's approach, arguing for a softer and more accommodating style in relations with Moscow.

President Bush generally sided with Rice and Powell, but he proved unable to form a consistent Russia policy. Because of America's involvement in the Middle East, Bush failed to provide the leadership committed to devising mutually acceptable rules in relations with Russia that could have prevented the deterioration in their relationship. Since the end of 2003, he also became doubtful about the direction of Russia's domestic transformation.93 As a result, the promising post-9/11 cooperation never materialized. The new cold war and the American Sense of History

It's time we start thinking of Vladimir Putin's Russia as an enemy of the United States. (Bret Stephens, "Russia: The Enemy," The Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2006)

If today's reality of Russian politics continues ... then there is the real risk that Russia's leadership will be seen, externally and internally, as illegitimate. (John Edwards and Jack Kemp, "We Need to Be Tough with Russia," International Herald Tribune, July 12, 2006)

On Iran, Kosovo, U.S. missile defense, Iraq, the Caucasus and Caspian basin, Ukraine-the list goes on-Russia puts itself in conflict with the U.S. and its allies . . . here are worse models than the united Western stand that won the Cold War the first time around.

("Putin Institutionalized," The Wall Street Journal, November 19, 2007) In order to derail the U.S.-Russia partnership, the Lobby has sought to revive the image of Russias as an enemy of the United States. The Russophobic groups have exploited important differences between the two countries' historical self-perceptions, presenting those differences as incompatible.

1. Contested History

Two versions of history

The story of the Cold War as told from the U.S. perspective is about American ideas of Western-style democracy as rescued from the Soviet threat of totalitarian communism. Although scholars and politicians disagreed over the methods of responding to the Soviet threat, they rarely questioned their underlying assumptions about history and freedom.' It therefore should not come as surprise that many in the United States have interpreted the end of the Cold War as a victory of the Western freedom narrative. Celebrating the Soviet Union's "grand failure"-as Zbigniew Brzezinski put it2-the American discourse assumed that from now on there would be little resistance to freedom's worldwide progression. When Francis Fukuyama offered his bold summary of these optimistic feelings and asserted in a famous passage that "what we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War... but the end of history as such,"3 he meant to convey the disappearance of an alternative to the familiar idea of free- dom, or "the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."4

In Russia, however, the Cold War story has been mainly about sovereignty and independence, rather than Western-style liberalism. To many Russians it is a story of freedom from colonization by the West and of preserving important attributes of sovereign statehood.

In a world where neocolonialism and cultural imperialism are potent forces, the idea of freedom as independence continues to have strong international appeal and remains a powerful alternative to the notion of liberal democracy. Russians formulated the narrative of independence centuries ago, as they successfully withstood external invasions from Napoleon to Hitler. The defeat of the Nazi regime was important to the Soviets because it legitimized their claims to continue with the tradition of freedom as independence.

The West's unwillingness to recognize the importance of this legitimizing myth in the role of communist ideology has served as a key reason for the Cold War.5 Like their Western counterparts, the Soviets were debating over methods but not the larger assumptions that defined their struggle.

This helps to understand why Russians could never agree with the Western interpretation of the end of the Cold War. What they find missing from the U.S. narrative is the tribute to Russia's ability to defend its freedom from expansionist ambitions of larger powers. The Cold War too is viewed by many Russians as a necessarily defensive response to the West's policies, and it is important that even while occupying Eastern Europe, the Soviets never celebrated the occupation, emphasizing instead the war vic- tory.6 The Russians officially admitted "moral responsibility" and apolo- gized for the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia.7 They may be prepared to fully recognize the postwar occupation of Eastern Europe, but only in the context of the two sides' responsibility for the Cold War. Russians also find it offensive that Western VE Day celebrations ignore the crucial contribution of Soviet troops, even though none of the Allies, as one historian put it, "paid dearer than the Soviet Union for the victory. Forty Private Ivans fell in battle to every Private Ryan."8 Victory over Nazi Germany constitutes, as another Russian wrote, "the only undisputable foundation of the national myth."9

If the two sides are to build foundations for a future partnership, the two historical narratives must be bridged. First, it is important to recognize the difficulty of negotiating a common meaning of freedom and accept that the idea of freedom may vary greatly across nations. The urge for freedom may be universal, but its social content is a specific product of national his- tories and local circumstances. For instance, the American vision of democracy initially downplayed the role of elections and emphasized selection by merit or meritocracy. Under the influence of the Great Depression, the notion of democracy incorporated a strong egalitarian and poverty-fighting component, and it was not until the Cold War- and not without its influence-that democracy has become associated with elections and pluralistic institutions.10 Second, it is essential to acknowledge the two nations' mutual respon- sibility for the misunderstanding that has resulted in the Cold War. A historically sensitive account will recognize that both sides were thinking in terms of expanding a territorial space to protect their visions of security. While the Soviets wanted to create a buffer zone to prevent a future attack from Germany, the Americans believed in reconstructing the European continent in accordance with their ideas of security and democracy. A mutual mistrust of the two countries' leaders exacerbated the situation, making it ever more difficult to prevent a full-fledged political confronta- tion. Western leaders had reason to be suspicious of Stalin, who, in his turn, was driven by the perception of the West's greed and by betrayals from the dubious Treaty of Versailles to the appeasement of Hitler in Munich. Arrangements for the post-World War II world made by Britain, the USSR, and the United States proved insufficient to address these deep-seated suspicions.

In addition, most Eastern European states created as a result of the Versailles Treaty were neither free nor democratic and collaborated with Nazi Germany in its racist and expansionist policies. The European post-World War 1 security system was not working properly, and it was only a matter of time before it would have to be transformed.

Third, if an agreeable historical account is to emerge, it would have to accept that the end of the Cold War was a product of mutually beneficial a second Cold War, "it also does not want the reversal of the U.S. geopolitical gains that it made in the decade or so after the end of the Cold War."112 Another expert asked, "What possible explanation is there for the fact that today-at a moment when both the U.S. and Russia face the common enemy of Islamist terrorism-hard-liners within the Bush administration, and especially in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, are arguing for a new tough line against Moscow along the lines of a scaled-down Cold War?"113

Yet another analyst wrote "at the Cold War's end, the United States was given one of the great opportunities of history: to embrace Russia, the largest nation on earth, as partner, friend, ally. Our mutual interests meshed almost perfectly. There was no ideological, territorial, his- toric or economic quarrel between us, once communist ideology was interred. We blew it. We moved NATO onto Russia's front porch, ignored her valid interests and concerns, and, with our 'indispensable-nation' arrogance, treated her as a defeated power, as France treated Weimar Germany after Versailles."114

[Apr 01, 2018] Is a New War Against Russia in Ukraine Unfolding Before Our Eyes by by John McMurtry

This is definitely cancer stage of neoliberalism, but I doubt that there is connection between Skripal poisoning and Ukraine.
Also why the USA served as the catalyst for coming nationalists to power in 2014 the process started long ago with Yushchenko and to a certain extent is typical for all post Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan and Belorussia. they all try to distance themselves from Russia to prove their sovereignty. The low intensity warfare in Donetsk is the only differentiator, but even this remind attempt of Georgia to subdue South Ossetia in the past and Karabah conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Still the author is definitely a brilliant writer and thinker he describes geopolitical tensions really well
Notable quotes:
"... has to have such a war-drum distraction to survive. ..."
"... Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee of the UN General Assembly ..."
Apr 01, 2018 | www.counterpunch.org

As usual there is amnesia of the ever-recurring big-lie pretext, the need for another crisis to keep the two-billion-dollar a day NATO war machine going, the baleful puppet moves of Canada in the process, the crisis of legitimacy of the lead attacker's government, and the silent diversion from the whole nightmare scenario unfolding by all NATO-member governments, mass media and even 'peace activist' organisations.

This time the big-lie pretext is about the alleged poisoning by the Kremlin/Putin of a double-agent, usually a stock move in the espionage entertainments, but here with no evidence of the claimed origin of the lethal nerve-agent, but rather expert denial within British defence and weapons research itself, with devious political word games to get around the absence of any corroborated evidence in familiar denuciations of Russia full of aggression and hate. Not even a death is recorded while US-led nd UK-armed ally forces are still mass-murdering poor civilian Yeminis, drone-murdering endless targets and civilians abroad, continuing on unblamed for the ongoing NATO-executed eco-genocides of Iraq and Libya societies, and on the 19-years anniversary of the mass bombing of, once again a society, Yugoslavia, with the most evolved social infrastructures of health, education, housing and life security in the region.

What this latest war pretext for US and NATO-backed aggression is really about is justifying more war in the Ukraine now that the massive war preparations along all of Russia's Western borders following the self-declared Nazi-led and proven US- orchestrated and commanded mass-murder coup d'etat in February 2014 . As usual there is amnesia of the ever-recurring big-lie pretext, the need for another crisis to keep the two-billion-dollar a day NATO war machine going, the baleful puppet moves of Canada in the process, the crisis of legitimacy of the lead attacker's government, and the silent diversion from the whole nightmare scenario unfolding by all NATO-member governments, mass media and even 'peace activist' organisations.

This time the big-lie pretext is about the alleged poisoning by the Kremlin/Putin of a double-agent traitor, usually a stock move in the espionage entertainments. Yet here there is no confirmed evidence whatever of the claimed origin of the lethal nerve-agent, but rather expert denial within British defence and weapons research itself that is silence in the press, with devious political word games crafted to get around the absence of any corroborated facts in the familiar denuciations of Russia full of team aggression and hate. Not even a death is recorded while US-led nd UK-armed ally forces are still mass-murdering poor civilian Yeminis, drone-murdering endless targets and civilians abroad, continuing on unblamed for the ongoing NATO-executed eco-genocides of Iraq and Libya societies, and on the 19-years anniversary of the mass bombing of Yugoslavia -- once again a socialist society with the most evolved social infrastructures of health, education, housing and life security in the region.

What this latest war pretext for US and NATO-backed aggression is really about is justifying more war in Ukraine now that the massive war preparations along all of Russia's Western borders following the self-declared Nazi-led and proven US- orchestrated and commanded mass-murder coup d'etat in February 2014 . As always, this US-directed mass murder was reverse-blamed on the ever shifting Enemy face -- Russia's allied but duly elected government of the Ukraine. It was only after this violent-coup Nazi-led and US directed overthrow of the elected government of the very resource-rich Ukraine -- "the breadbasket of Europe" and sitting on newly discovered rich fossil fuel deposits -- that Russia annexed its traditional territory of the Crimea next to Eastern Ukraine, the latter after the violent coup put under the rule of a US-Nazi-led government until its people fought back with Russia assistance for the now NATO-targeted zones of the new Donetsk and Lugansk republics.

What is new now is that we are about to enter yet another NATO-member war build-up against the cornerstone of Western ideology, the designated Enemy Russia. As usual there is amnesia of the ever-recurring big-lie pretext, the need for another crisis to keep the two-billion-dollar a day US-led NATO war machine going, the baleful puppet moves of Canada in the process, the crisis of legitimacy of the lead attacker's UK government, and silent diversion from the whole nightmare scenario unfolding in NATO-member states, mass media and even 'peace activist' organisations.

Cui Bono?

The UK and the US followed by Canada and some of the EU have by expulsion of Russia diplomats prepared the diplomatic way for war in the Ukraine to seize back these lost coup-territories, and it will be in the name of "freedom", "human rights" and "the rules of civilised nations". But there is much officially suppressed colour to the warring parties political conflict which reveals who the truly heinous suppressor of human rights is. Under mass media and corporate-state cover, the US-UK-NATO axis about to make war in Ukraine is doing so under the factually absurd but non-stop pretext of "Russia aggression" constructed out of the double-agent poisoning affair, with the guilty agents and poison having no proof but the ever louder UK-led and NATO-state assertion of it in unison. Yet there is a clear answer to the cui bono question -- which party does all this benefit? Clearly once the question is posed, as opposed to completely gagged in the corporate press, Theresa May's slow-motion collapsing Tory government -- now even challenged for its fraudulent Brexit referendum protecting the big London banks from EU regulation -- has to have such a war-drum distraction to survive. The old war of aggression pattern reverse-blamed on the official enemy unwinds yet again.

It is revealing in this context how Canada's government has no such ruler need of war -- unless it be its Ukraine-descendent Foreign Minister up front and the very powerful and widely Nazi-sympathizing Ukraine Liberal vote bank and leadership brought to Canada after 1945 to overwhelm the preceding active socialist Ukrainian community in Canada. Canada's government -- not its people -- is in any case used to being a puppet regime in foreign affairs as a twice-colonized rule by big business (why the NDP is not allowed to govern unless so subjugated).

The Human Rights Question

In light of all of this suppressed factual background and motive for more war in Ukraine which is unspeakable in the official news, interaction with the United Nations is of revealing interest. While it has been the cover for US-led NATO executed genocidal wars of aggression in the past as in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Korea, the pretexts of 'human rights', 'responsibility to protect' and 'stopping communist aggression', which are in fact always been the spectacular opposite on the ground in terms of diseased, mass-murdered and destituted bodies, these pretexts may not sell well when the background facts are no longer suppressed from public view.

It is worthwhile recalling how Science for Peace leadership used to be against but has since Afghanistan collaborated with these false-pretext wars in sustaining their illusions and thus the war crimes and crimes against proceeding underneath them.

The NATO-executed Ukraine war now being orchestrated is especially revealing in its actual record of 'protecting human rights' through 'international law' and 'norms of civilised nations'. Completely buried in official records is a United Nations resolution n on Ukraine that the US and Canada repudiated on November 20 2015 after the US-led bloody coup d'etat in Ukraine was in full motion of claiming all the vast tracts of land and resources that were Russia-speaking territory in the past.

The resolution was straightforwardly against "Nazi symbols and regalia" as well as "holocaust denial". The Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee of the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted for a resolution to enable measures against "the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that facilitate the escalation of modern forms of racism, xenophobia and intolerance". A total of 126 member-states of the UN voted for it for the second time. Over 100 countries voted for a similar resolution in 2014 including "denial of the holocaust and glorification of the Nazi movement, former members of the Waffen SS organization, including the installation of memorials to them, and post-coup attempts to desecrate or destroy the monuments to those who fought against Nazism in Ukraine during World War II".

How could any civilised state vote against these United Nations Resolutions for human rights as Canada and the US have done and stood by ever since? Well instituted group hatred of the officially designated enemy can justify anything whatsoever, and does so right into next NATO-executed orgy of war crime and crimes against humanity, again inside Europe itself flaunting reverse-blame lies and slogans as red meat for psychotically trained masses. It is not by accident that Canada's Foreign Minister is in this near century-old Nazi loyalist vs Russia-speaking conflict was before her appointment the "proud "granddaughter of a leading Nazi war propagandist during its occupation of Poland and Ukraine described as a "fighter for freedom".

Yet on the other hand, we must not lose ourselves in ad hominem responsibility. Crystina Freeland, her Canada name, is interestingly propagandist in itself from her birth -- Christian Free Land -- but not observed in the corporate press. Minister Freeland is only a symptom of something far deeper and more systemically murderous and evil in state-executed unlimited greed and immiserization of innocent millions of people masked as 'human rights' , 'freedom' and 'rule of law' . Her more sinister double in the US is also a renamed person of the region, Victoria Nuland (read New Land) who orchestrated the whole 2014 mass-murder coup in Ukraine and now tub-thumps on public television for the 'need to teach Putin and Russia a hard lesson', aka another war attack by US-led NATO on Russia's borders.

The difference now is that the absurd pretext and geostrategic mechanisms now in motion beforehand can be seen in front of our eyes -- that is, if we can still see through the engineered prism of the US-UK led NATO war machine. This alone will stop it.

John McMurtry is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada whose work is translated from Latin America to Japan. His most recent book is The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure .

[Mar 27, 2018] Within a week after Brennan's 'routine' visit in April 2014 to the Ukraine the Ukrainian army launched a civil war. That was within 2 weeks of the CIA instigated coup an the end of February 2014

Mar 27, 2018 | www.unz.com

JR , Next New Comment March 27, 2018 at 6:24 am GMT

Within a week after Brennan's 'routine' visit in April 2014 to the Ukraine the Ukrainian army launched a civil war. That was within 2 weeks of the CIA instigated coup an the end of February 2014.

[Mar 23, 2018] Is there any forensic evidence provided in this document to serve as a legal basis for the invocation of Article 5? Nothing.

Notable quotes:
"... "Let me be clear with you" ..."
"... " When I look at the evidence, I mean" ..."
"... "the people from Porton Down, the laboratory So they have the samples They do." ..."
"... "And they were absolutely categorical" ..."
"... "and I asked the guy myself," ..."
"... "I said, "Are you sure?" And he said there's no doubt" ..."
Mar 23, 2018 | craigmurray.org.uk

J , March 22, 2018 at 22:36

On a related note, this article by Prof. Niels Harrit claims that a document declassified in 2008 was the basis for the ongoing war in Afghanstian, and that the document is as evidence free as the Novichok claims:

https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-mysterious-frank-taylor-report-the-911-document-that-launched-us-natos-war-on-terrorism-in-the-middle-east/5632874

Is there any forensic evidence provided in this document to serve as a legal basis for the invocation of Article 5? Nothing. There is absolutely no forensic evidence in support of the claim that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated from Afghanistan. Only a small part of the introductory text deals with 9/11, in the form of summary claims like the citation in Lord Robertson's press release. The main body of the text deals with the alleged actions of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the nineties.

On 4 October, NATO officially went to war based on a document that provided only 'talking points' and no evidence to support the key claim.

Sound familiar? Of course, I've no idea if he's right.

Je , March 23, 2018 at 00:01

The Taliban foreign minister at the time tried to warn the Americans of the attack they learned about it from a third party that is about as far removed from being behind the attack as it gets. Didn't help them did it the Americans were after vengeance and wanted to satisfy their bloodlust by bombing a country which didn't even have a single one of its citizens involved in the attack. Classic scapegoating.

https://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.bbc.co.uk%2F1%2Fhi%2Fworld%2Fsouth_asia%2F2242594.stm&date=2008-05-29

lysias , March 23, 2018 at 00:27

They had other reasons to want to attack Afghanistan . In fact, they warned the Taliban that they would if the Taliban did not permit the desired pipeline.

Je , March 23, 2018 at 00:41

There's an article on that here, written at the time (in 2001):

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/tangled_web/2001/12/pipe_dreams.html

Tom , March 22, 2018 at 22:37

What do you expect from Johnson? A grindingly stupid man who has never got a job on merit and is now desperately hoping the public don't see through his lies for the Americans. No wonder the government don't want to bring back grammar schools.

Herbie , March 22, 2018 at 22:45

The Ghouta connection:

http://www.unz.com/article/four-days-to-declare-a-cold-war/

CanSpeccy , March 22, 2018 at 22:45

Nice work.

The evidence so far supports Putin's claim that that allegations against Russia are "drivel."

Clark , March 22, 2018 at 22:57

New Viz character; Boris the Bullshitter. Textbook bullshitting:

-- "Let me be clear with you" (though what is to follow is as clear as mud,) " When I look at the evidence, I mean" (not me, actually, I mean) "the people from Porton Down, the laboratory So they have the samples They do." (believe me) "And they were absolutely categorical" (about what?) "and I asked the guy myself," (what did you ask him, Boris?) "I said, "Are you sure?" And he said there's no doubt" (no doubt of WHAT, Boris?)

What CAN you do with people like this?

m , March 22, 2018 at 23:02

It's obvious when Johnson is lying, it's whenever he opens his mouth.

Ross , March 22, 2018 at 23:18

Has PC Plod managed to make a public appearance yet, or is he still speaking through media surrogates?

Clark , March 22, 2018 at 23:26

Craig, I have to set you straight on this. Boris is as incapable of lying as he is of telling the truth. As strange as it may seem to rational minds, the concepts of truth and falsity simply do not exist in minds such as his. To him, everything is merely an opportunity for achieving his goals, or a threat to his credibility that needs to be bluffed over, and to those ends every statement he makes will be as vague as he can get away with under the circumstances.

J , March 23, 2018 at 00:36

Sounds about right.

[Mar 08, 2018] One of their aims is to prevent countries of Africa, Latin America, Near and Middle East and Southern Asia from choosing their trade partners freely and from making use of their resources and industrialize

Mar 08, 2018 | wipokuli.wordpress.com

The US Power Elite ... would be rightfully called the „Deep State" of the USA ( http://tinyurl.com/ho2nz87 ).

And this Deep State has become more and more ruthless over the time. They have brought nightmares over the Southern Hemisphere by installing brutal dictatorships ( http://tinyurl.com/kkpvcf7 ) in their interest and waging bloody colonial wars, in the last one and a half decades especially with their „War on Terror" ( http://tinyurl.com/nrxxej5 ).

One of their aims is to prevent countries of Africa, Latin America, Near and Middle East and Southern Asia from choosing their trade partners freely and from making use of their resources and industrialize, since that would mean a division of resources and allowing them their part of „consuming ecologic Earth capacity".

[Mar 03, 2018] Shocking EU Reforms Ukraine's public debt doubles in 4 years, while personal incomes halve

Mar 03, 2018 | www.fort-russ.com

The Ukrainian economy is in a catastrophic state after four years of "euro-reforms," said ​​Viktor Medvedchuk, head of the public movement "Ukrainian Choice – People's Right." "At the end of 2013. Ukraine's state and publicly guaranteed debt was 40% of GDP, and by the end of 2017 it had more than doubled, exceeding 80% of GDP. In 2013, Ukraine's GDP per capita was more than $ 4,075, and in 2016 decreased to $ 2221.

The average monthly salary in 2017 as a whole for the country was $ 267 (in 2013 it exceeded $ 408), pensions are also 2.3 times lower than before the euro reform. Today, it is slightly more than $ 48, while in 2013 it was almost $ 112, " Medvedchuk said.

[Feb 25, 2018] Poland vs Ukraine

Actually life in Ukraine was not that bad in 2010-2014. Hopefully "After-Maydan" deterioration might be temporary, although without new markets for Ukrainian industrial goods recovery is almost impossible. Also the level of foreign debt is now much higher, so they dig a deeper hole for themselves to climb out. Other probable scenario is bankruptcy. See also Bill Black Once a Poster Child for Austerity, Latvia Becomes a Hotbed of Corruption naked capitalism
Feb 25, 2018 | www.unz.com

Dmitry , Next New Comment February 25, 2018 at 7:15 pm GMT

@Felix Keverich

Poland's level of GDP per capita is 6 times bigger than Ukraine's. They started out around the same level in 1991 and were supposed to follow the same playbook. To the extent that their paths diverged can be explained by Ukrainian corruption and incompetence.

Poland received hundreds of billions of dollars in EU subsidies and transfers. Not a fair comparison. Even still today they are receiving this transfer of wealth from net contributor countries in the EU (there's another good reason EU became unpopular in net contributor countries like the UK and the Netherlands):

https://msp.gov.pl/en/polish-economy/economic-news/4015,Poland-to-get-nearly-EUR-106-bln-from-2014-2020-EU-budget-pool-expected-impact-o.html

Felix Keverich , Next New Comment February 25, 2018 at 8:16 pm GMT
@Dmitry

Energy subsidies from Russia to the Ukraine are estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars since 1991. The Ukraine has been well subsidized since independence. What they have been desperately lacking is governance.

[Feb 25, 2018] The neoliberal "methodology" for "showing economic success" is propaganda masquerading as "science". So they sell Latvia as a poster child of austerity, true neoliberal market miracle. In reality it is a hot bed of curruption and deindustrialization

Latvia now is a typical neoliberal debt slave and flourishing sex trafficking market. Not that different from other Baltic states, Ukraine, Moldavia and generally all xUSSR space.
Feb 25, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

YankeeFrank , February 25, 2018 at 7:38 am

Bill mentions the brain drain from Latvia, but I seem to recall a quite massive general emigration from the country during austerity, which also helped to "reduce unemployment" as well. The neoliberal "methodology" for "showing economic success" is moral and economic bankruptcy masquerading as "science". And wow. So we have Latvia to thank for the coming nuclear holocaust as well. A true neoliberal market miracle.

Lambert's two principles of neoliberalism are once again brought to mind:

#1 Because markets.

#2 Go die.

Skip Intro , February 25, 2018 at 11:03 am

All those 'excess' workers who left were helping keep wages low in the EU
In the sense that Latvia's future productivity is sacrificed for short-term benefits on the books, it starts to look like another asset-stripping scheme, and the costs are borne by workers in the EU.

The Rev Kev , February 25, 2018 at 8:40 am

This is not the first time that Latvia has appeared on NC ( https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/01/latvias-economic-disaster-as-a-neoliberal-success-story-a-model-for-europe-and-the-us.html ) and probably won't be the last. What is it about neoliberalism that that seems to have corruption as part of its DNA?

Latvia already has one of the highest levels of poverty and income inequality in the EU and its population has dropped by about a fifth in the past 18 years which is a bit of a record considering that there was no war, that is, unless you count the neoliberal war on people. Some moved to the capital Riga but most bailed out of the country altogether and are not coming back. You can find whole blocks of empty buildings in some towns.
But don't worry. The Latvians are on the case. The head of the Latvian Central Bank detained for extortion and the Latvian Ministry of Defense both blame, you guessed it, Russia!

Lambert's two principles of neoliberalism may have to be updated. He already has
#1 Because markets.
#2 Go die.

He may have to modify the second one to say
#2 Go die or get the hell outta Dodge.

DJG , February 25, 2018 at 9:11 am

Now I may be prejudiced because the Gs came from deepest darkest Lithuania–and we're talking out in the endless woods in a village along a lake.

When people talk about population decline in Latvia, you are talking about part of the corruption. The native Latvians wanted a way of getting rid of the Russian population, many of whom are considered immigrants. So dropping 20 percent of the population means throwing out the Russians. When your "population policy " is based on something like that, you can image what the country's economic policies are like.

In contrast–although Lithuania, too, has lost some 10 – 15 percent of its population since restored independence–the Lithuanians came to terms, imperfect terms, with their smaller Polish and Russian minorities. Nevertheless, the Lithuanians didn't go whole-hog free-market fundamentalism. And when a recent president was found to be corrupt, they impeached him and threw him out.

So you have different models for how to survive as a Baltic State. Latvia has made a mess of its "model."

edmondo , February 25, 2018 at 10:53 am

"Now of course that's still in a land where they had really severely repressed wages for the working class and for middle class, and continued to tolerate a fair degree of unemployment and underemployment for folks, as well. So, yeah it works really well for the oligarchs. And they do employ people. The unemployment rate drops, but the country invariably becomes extremely corrupt."

Was he still talking about Latvia or did he switch over to the USA?

Altandmain , February 25, 2018 at 12:15 pm

There is a strong correlation between inequality and corruption.

Furthermore, in the medium term there is a causal relationship:
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1331677X.2016.1169701

This would suggest that inflicting austerity on a population, which worsens inequality, will set the precedent for corruption in the future.

Massinissa , February 25, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Half a decade ago when Latvia was considered a success story for neoliberal austerity, one animator made this great satire video making fun of how farcical it was to consider it such.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IRUBJ8qraY

Eustache De Saint Pierre , February 25, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Latvia also being part of that running sore which involves according to the US state department's last global estimate, about 800,000 to a million victims per annum of people trafficking. Of which around 80% are female, with a not stated amount being children, used for both labour & sexual purposes.

I suppose that it comes as little surprise that the 2 main flows of these commodities is from East to West & South to North.

[Feb 17, 2018] Imperialism with a human face International Socialist Review

Notable quotes:
"... Wall Street Journal ..."
"... The 700 Club ..."
"... Last Resorts: The Cost of Tourism in the Caribbean ..."
"... The Bottom Billion ..."
"... The Shock Doctrine ..."
"... Huffington Post, ..."
"... Wall Street Journal ..."
"... New York Daily News ..."
"... International Socialist Review (ISR) ..."
"... Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politicsw of Containment ..."
"... The Forging of the American Empire ..."
"... The Uses of Haiti ..."
"... Haiti in the New World Order ..."
"... The Prophet and the Power ..."
"... Socialist Worker ..."
"... Haiti in the New World Order ..."
"... The Rainy Season ..."
"... Haiti's Predatory Republic ..."
"... Damming the Flood ..."
"... Dollars and Sense ..."
"... Damming the Flood ..."
"... Socialist Worker ..."
"... Last Resorts: The Cost of Tourism in the Caribbean ..."
"... Haiti Analysis ..."
"... Socialist Worker ..."
"... The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It ..."
"... Huffington Post ..."
"... New York Times ..."
"... Democracy Now! ..."
"... Socialist Worker ..."
"... Socialist Worker, ..."
"... New York Times ..."
"... Los Angeles Times ..."
"... Washington Times ..."
"... Washington Examiner ..."
"... Washington Times ..."
"... To See the Dawn ..."
Feb 17, 2018 | isreview.org

Haiti after the quake

By Ashley Smith Issue #70 : Features

THE EARTHQUAKE that shook Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince on January 12 is one of the worst disasters in human history. The quake flattened houses, hotels, and government buildings, including the National Palace and UN headquarters. By some estimates, 60 percent of Port-au-Prince's buildings collapsed. Even more damage struck some of the smaller towns near the capital like Leogane and Jacmel. At least 230,000 people were left dead, 300,000 in need of medical attention, 1.5 million homeless, and over 2 million bereft of food and water.

The Obama administration reacted immediately. "I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated, and aggressive effort to save lives," Obama told the nation in a speech he delivered the day after the quake. "The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble, and to deliver the humanitarian relief -- the food, water, and medicine -- that Haitians will need in the coming days. In that effort, our government, especially USAID and the Departments of State and Defense are working closely together and with our partners in Haiti, the region, and around the world." 1

This seemed a far cry from the reaction of the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina, where tens of thousands of the city's poor, mostly Black, residents were left stranded and without help as Bush sent troops and Blackwater paramilitaries to police the city. The lack of a prompt humanitarian response prompted rap artist Kanye West to famously state, "George Bush doesn't care about Black people."

Yet while Obama said all the right things, the gap between his words and deeds has been immense. When all is said and done, the Haitian relief effort looks eerily like a replay of Katrina, only on a larger scale. A month into the disaster, the U.S. and UN were managing to feed only 1 million people, leaving more than a million people without relief aid. 2 Instead of mobilizing to provide water, food, and housing for the victims, the U.S. focused on occupying the country with 20,000 U.S. troops and surrounding it with a flotilla of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships.

This military effort actually impeded the delivery of urgent aid. In an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Haiti: Obama's Katrina," three doctors who volunteered to provide emergency services wrote, "Four years ago the initial medical response to Hurricane Katrina was ill equipped, understaffed, poorly coordinated and delayed. Criticism of the paltry federal efforts was immediate and fierce. Unfortunately, the response to the latest international disaster in Haiti has been no better, compounding the catastrophe." After they describe the horrific conditions in Haiti's hospitals, the doctors continue, "The U.S. response to the earthquake should be considered an embarrassment. Our operation received virtually no support from any branch of the U.S. government, including the State Department . Later, as we were leaving Haiti, we were appalled to see warehouse-size quantities of unused medicines, food and other supplies at the airport, surrounded by hundreds of U.S. and international soldiers standing around aimlessly." 3

The U.S. government and media have covered up these realities with puff pieces about the supposed success of U.S. relief efforts. They have also wrongly portrayed this catastrophe as simply a natural disaster, ignoring the historical and social causes of Haiti's poverty -- principally the imperialist stranglehold over the nation -- that exacerbated the impact of the earthquake.

If the military flotilla is not there to deliver aid, why is it there? The Obama administration has used the cover of humanitarian aid to occupy the country in pursuit of several goals. First and foremost, after disastrous wars that have discredited U.S. interventionism, Obama hopes through the operation in Haiti to win back domestic support for military intervention. What better means to do that than to present a military invasion and occupation as a humanitarian relief effort?

With a flotilla of ships surrounding the country, the U.S. also aims to repatriate desperate Haitians and prevent a wave of refugees reaching Florida. Through this assertion of power, the U.S. aims also to reassert its dominance in the Caribbean and Latin America over regional rivals like Venezuela and international ones like China. Finally, the U.S. intends to impose a traditional neoliberal economic program on Haiti itself in the interest of U.S. multinational corporations and the Haitian ruling class.

Not just a natural disaster
Most of the media reported the earthquake as a natural disaster. While this is no doubt true, that is only part of the story. Certainly, there was talk of Haiti being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with over 80 percent of its population making about $2 a day. Media acknowledged that the Haitian state was completely unprepared and unable to respond to the crisis not only in Port-au-Prince, but throughout the country. However, the reason for these conditions -- the historical context -- is left out. The story of Haiti's poverty is merely an excuse to further justify why Haiti needs help from the United States, even though the "help" Haiti has received from the U.S. and other world powers is precisely the reason for Haiti's extreme poverty.

Some conservative commentators blamed Haitians for their situation. Pat Robertson on The 700 Club claimed that the disaster was the result of a pact that Haitians made with the devil during their revolution from 1791 to 1804. The devil was merely taking his revenge on Haitians more than 200 years later. 4 In a more polite, but no less racist manner, David Brooks argued that the root cause of the social problems in Haiti was their "progress-resistant" culture. He claimed,

There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10. We're all supposed to politely respect each other's cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them. 5

These are extreme versions of a dominant media story that essentially blames the victims of the earthquake. None of this answers the real questions. Why are the majority of Haitians so poor? Why according to the mayor of Port-au-Prince, were 60 percent of the buildings unsafe in normal conditions? Why is there no building regulation in a city that sits on a fault line? Why was the Haitian state so weak and disorganized before and after the earthquake? To answer these questions, we must delve into Haiti's history.

European slavery, revolution, and U.S. domination
The answer lies in Haiti's history of European conquest, slavery, resistance, and U.S. imperial domination. At every step, instead of aiding the Haitian majority, the U.S. has manipulated the country's politics and exploited its poverty in pursuit of profit, and used it as a pawn in its competition with regional and international rivals. In doing so the U.S. has reduced Haiti to abject poverty and incapacitated its government to manage the society and the current crisis. This history, a second and unnatural fault line, interacted with the natural one to make the earthquake so devastating.

Columbus set off the first tremors when he landed on the island he called Hispaniola in 1492. He proceeded to enslave the Taino natives, whose population was estimated to be more than half a million. The combination of European disease, massacre, and brutal exploitation led to the genocide of the native population. Spain ceded the western section of the island in 1697 to France, which renamed it San Domingue. Spain remained in control of the eastern section of the island, Santo Domingo, which would become the Dominican Republic. French merchants and planters turned their colony into a vast slave plantation and slaves from Africa replaced Indians and white indentured servants. The colony was a killing field where slaves were literally worked to death -- half the African slaves who arrived died within a few years. But it was an enormously profitable one. San Domingue was the richest colony in the new world; the slave plantations produced half of the world's coffee, 40 percent of its sugar, as well as a host of other commodities. 6

In 1791, Toussaint L'Ouverture, a literate freed slave, led the world's first successful slave revolution. Toussaint defeated the three great empires of the age -- France, Spain, and England -- which all attempted to defeat the great slave army. During the struggle, the French managed to kidnap Toussaint and jail him in France, where he died. His second-in-command, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, led the final victory and established the new nation of Haiti in 1804.

Haiti's very existence was a threat to all the empires and their colonies. They all lived off profits from plantation slavery. So the great powers quarantined the country, attempting to prevent the spread of slave revolution. France finally recognized Haiti in 1824, but on the condition that it pay reparations to France for the loss of its property -- its slaves. In today's terms this sum amounted to $21 billion. Thus France shackled Haiti with debt at its birth that it did not finish repaying until 1947, fundamentally distorting the nation's development. 7

Under the eagle
The U.S. was one of the last powers to recognize Haiti, finally doing so in 1862. It became interested in Haiti not to help it, but instead to plunder it. In the late nineteenth century the U.S. became an imperialist power, extending its talons to snatch control of the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific from potential rivals like Spain, Britain, and Germany. The U.S. launched its imperial conquest under the guise of liberating Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines from Spain. Puerto Rico and the Philippines became U.S. colonies -- U.S. marines killed hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to conquer the island -- while Cuba became a colony in all but name. The U.S. then policed the Caribbean as if it were an American lake. The number of occupations and invasions over the following decades is too many to list.

A leader of this conquest was Major General Smedley Butler, who became one of the most decorated marines in history. After he turned against U.S. imperialism later in life, he summed up his experience:

I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps . And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism . I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909–1912 . I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents. 8

The U.S. saw Haiti as one of the key sites to establish client governments to protect U.S. interests in the Caribbean. 9 In 1915 the U.S. used the pretext of political turmoil in Haiti to invade the country and occupy it until 1934. The U.S. plundered the island, forced it to repay its debts to the U.S., and established involuntary corvee gang labor to build roads. United States corporations, hoping to take advantage of Haiti's cheap labor, gained control of 266,000 acres of Haitian land, displacing thousands of Haitian peasants. Haitians rose up against this exploitation in a mass liberation movement, the Cacos Rebellion, led by Charlemagne Peralte. The U.S. slaughtered thousands of resistance fighters, crucifying Peralte in Port-au-Prince.

The U.S. also established one of the most reactionary institutions in Haitian society, the Haitian National Army. The U.S. designed that army not to fight foreign wars but to repress the country's peasant masses.

The neoliberal "plan of death"
While the U.S. ended its occupation of Haiti -- prompted in part by a renewed wave of protests and strikes by workers and students -- it continued to intervene in the country's politics and economics with devastating consequences. From 1957 to 1986, the U.S. supported the father-son dictatorship of Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier and Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. The Duvaliers' dictatorship maintained power through the army and a vast network of death squads called the Tonton Macoutes. The U.S. backed them as a counterweight to Fidel Castro who had aligned Cuba with Russia in the Cold War struggle for Latin America and the Caribbean. Most observers believe that Papa Doc Duvalier's Macoutes killed tens of thousands. 10 The Duvaliers' economic vision for Haiti -- one that has continued to motivate U.S. plans for Haiti -- was to establish Haiti as low-tax, low-wage, non-union offshore assembly site for U.S. corporations.

Though half of Haitians lived in dire poverty, Haiti until the mid–1980s was self-sufficient in the production of rice, its most important staple. All this changed with the imposition of neoliberal policies, pushed by the United States, that required Haiti to slash tariffs, privatize state-owned industries, and cut the state's agricultural budget. Haitian activists would come to call it a "plan of death."

President Reagan pushed this plan as part of his Caribbean Basin Initiative that aimed to open up the area to U.S. corporations and U.S. agricultural products. Baby Doc opened up the Haitian market to a wave of U.S. agribusiness exports like rice and wheat, which are heavily subsidized. The Haitian peasants were simply unable to compete with these cheap, subsidized imports, and Haiti's rural economy gradually collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of peasants abandoned the countryside for the cities to seek some kind of employment. Deprived of their livelihood, peasants turned to cutting down trees to make charcoal for cooking fuel, leading to the massive deforestation of the country, and the further destruction of Haiti's already depleted soil. 11 As a result, Port-au-Prince, which had been a small town of 50,000 in the 1950s, exploded in size to nearly 800,000 in the 1980s and well over 2 million today. 12

Reagan and Baby Doc claimed that they would absorb these dislocated peasants into an enlarged sweatshop industry. But the various factories in the export processing zones only created about 60,000 jobs. As a result, the masses in Port-au-Prince gathered in slums, left to survive on remittances from relatives who had fled abroad and income scraped together in a highly unstable informal economy.

Finally, the U.S. tried to subject Haiti to the same tourist industry that swept the rest of the Caribbean. Baby Doc cut deals with Club Med and various hotel chains to offer the country's beaches for tourism. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton first came to Haiti on their honeymoon as part of the jet set that Baby Doc welcomed into the swank resorts on the island. It would not be the last time the Clintons played around in Haiti.

Baby Doc took out $1.9 billion in loans from the U.S., other powers, and international financial institutions to bankroll this neoliberal "reform" of the country. 13 Meanwhile, Haitians suffered a calamitous drop in their standard of living; during the 1980s, absolute poverty increased by 60 percent -- from 50 to 80 percent of the population. 14 The dictator and his family joined the American and Haitian ruling class to party and profit at the expense of Haitian peasants, workers, and the urban poor.

Killing social reform
Peasants, workers, and the urban poor rose up against Baby Doc in opposition to this social catastrophe in a tremendous social movement called Lavalas (the Creole word for a cleansing flood). A young Catholic priest and advocate of liberation theology, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, became the spokesperson of the struggle. In 1986, Lavalas succeeded in driving Baby Doc from power. The U.S. whisked him away into exile in France along with $505 million stolen from the country. 15 Duvalier left behind a shattered country, shackled again with the odious debt accrued by a dictator to finance the neoliberal disaster.

Under pressure from the movement -- but also to stem the tide of impoverished Haitian refugees pouring out of the country -- the U.S. and Haitian governments finally agreed to hold elections in 1990. The U.S. spent $36 million to try to get their candidate, a former World Bank employee, elected. He received only 14 percent of the vote. Aristide defeated fourteen rivals, winning two-thirds of the vote, on a platform of extensive popular social reforms. The U.S. and the Haitian ruling class literally saw red. They thought that, in the words of a U.S. embassy official in Port-au-Prince, a "Marxist maniac" had been elected to the Haitian government. 16 President George Bush Sr. backed a military coup against Aristide in 1991 and tacitly backed the brutal regime that ruled Haiti from 1991 to 1994.

The military massacred thousands of Lavalas activists and drove 38,000 more out of the country. Bush Sr. and his successor President Bill Clinton repatriated most of these refugees and jailed others in Krome Detention Center in Florida and Guantánamo in Cuba. After an international outcry, the U.S. opted for a face-saving intervention to restore Aristide to power in 1994, but on the condition that he agree to the neoliberal plan of death. Aristide signed on to the deal but resisted its full implementation during his remaining two years in office. He did abolish the Haitian military in 1995 -- a great victory for the movement -- and implemented some reforms, but it was far from what he had promised during the struggle against Duvalier. "The author of a text entitled 'Capitalism is a Mortal Sin,'" wrote Paul Farmer at the time,

now meets regularly with representatives of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and AID [U.S. Agency for International Development]. He was once the priest of the poor; now he's president of a beleaguered nation, run into the ground by a vicious military and business elite and by their friends abroad. Aristide finds himself most indebted to the very people and institutions he once denounced from the pulpit. 17

Aristide's Lavalas ally and successor, René Préval, implemented much of the U.S. neoliberal agenda during his term from 1996 to 2000. 18

Aristide would again run for and win the presidency in 2000, to the great irritation of Clinton and then-President George W. Bush. In his second term, Aristide implemented reforms such as raising the minimum wage and building schools. He also began to demand that France refund the $21 billion that it forced Haiti to pay from 1824 to 1947. 19 At the same time, however, Aristide backed new sweatshop developments in Ounaminthe and agreed to other neoliberal measures. 20 But the U.S. was not appeased and France was outraged.

Another coup and U.S. occupation
The U.S., France, and Canada used the pretext of charges that Aristide manipulated the parliamentary elections, something they usually tolerate with their own allies, to justify a destabilization campaign against Aristide and yet another coup. Bush, of course, had no ground to stand on as he himself had stolen the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Nevertheless, the U.S., Canada, and France imposed economic sanctions, mounted a vast propaganda campaign against Aristide, backed the ruling-class political opposition in the Group of 184, and aided the right-wing death squads. Finally, in 2004, as the death squads swept through the country, the U.S. kidnapped Aristide, whisked him out of the country to temporary exile in the Central African Republic and to final exile in South Africa. Thus, on the two hundredth anniversary of its declaration of independence, Haiti was occupied by the U.S., yet again.

Soon the U.S. delegated the occupation to the UN and its 9,000 mostly Brazilian troops, who continue to patrol the country to this day. This UN force, MINUSTAH, protected the U.S.-installed puppet regime headed up Gérard Latortue who they brought out of retirement from Boca Raton, Florida. The coup regime was utterly corrupt and brutal. With its death squad allies, the regime conducted a terror against the remnants of the social movements and Aristide's party, Fanmi Lavalas. The combination of death squad and UN repression killed an estimated 3,000 people. 21 The UN troops either joined the slaughter or stood aside while repression swept the island. 22

While the U.S. and UN allowed elections in 2006, they banned Aristide's party, the most popular party in the country. Aristide's former ally, René Préval, again won the presidency, but by this time he had become a servant for the U.S. political and economic agenda in Haiti. For example, Préval banned Fanmi Lavalas from running in elections and refused to sign a bill passed in the parliament to raise the minimum wage. 23 In fact, the real power was no longer in the hands of the Haitian government. The U.S.- backed UN occupation rules the country in colonial style, dictating policy to the Haitian government.

The occupation has completely failed to develop the country. It has done nothing to improve living conditions for Haitians, to rebuild the country's ravaged infrastructure, or to reforest the countryside. Before the earthquake, two rounds of natural disasters swept Haiti and exposed the U.S. and UN's callous neglect of the country. Hurricanes hit in 2004 and 2008, killing thousands. 24 The pattern of impoverishment, deforestation, and degradation of the country's infrastructure, which has accelerated in recent years, has rendered natural disasters in Haiti far more devastating than anywhere else. In what is perhaps the worst exposure of the result of U.S. and UN refusal to improve conditions in Haiti, the food crisis in Haiti spiraled out of control on their watch. Even before the food crisis in 2008, the urban poor were reduced to eating mud cakes flavored with salt as a regular meal. When capitalists speculated on the international food market, they drove up the prices of Haiti's imported staples, especially rice. In response Haitians rioted, only to be repressed by the UN troops. 25

Imposing a new plan of death on Haiti
During the UN occupation, the U.S. imposed the same neoliberal economic plan on Haiti in the interests of multinational capital and the Haitian ruling class. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Bill Clinton as special envoy to Haiti in 2009 and tasked him with revitalizing the country's economy. Clinton developed a new version of the plan of death along with Oxford economics professor and former research director for the World Bank, Paul Collier. Collier outlined their program in his paper, "Haiti: From natural catastrophe to economic security." 26 It advocated investment in the tourist industry, redevelopment of the sweatshop industry in cities, export-oriented mango plantations in the countryside, and construction of infrastructure to service that development.

As Polly Pattullo documents in Last Resorts: The Cost of Tourism in the Caribbean , the tourist industry is largely controlled by U.S. multinational corporations. She quotes one critic of the tourist industry who argues, "When a third world economy uses tourism as a development strategy, it becomes enmeshed in a global system over which it has little control. The international tourism industry is a product of metropolitan capitalist enterprise. The superior entrepreneurial skills, resources and commercial power of metropolitan companies enable them to dominate many third world tourist destinations." 27

Clinton has orchestrated a plan for turning the north of Haiti into a tourist playground, as far away as possible from the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince. He lured Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines into investing $55 million to build a pier along the coastline of Labadee, which it has leased until 2050. From there, Haiti's tourist industry hopes to lead expeditions to the mountaintop fortress Citadelle and the Palace of Sans-Souci, both built by Henri Christophe, one of the leaders of Haiti's slave revolution. 28

For the cities, Collier promotes sweatshop development. Without a hint of shame, he notes, "Due to its poverty and relatively unregulated labor market, Haiti has labor costs that are fully competitive with China, which is the global benchmark. Haitian labor is not only cheap it is of good quality. Indeed, because the garments industry used to be much larger than it is currently, there is a substantial pool of experienced labor." 29 Given the abolition of tariffs on many Haitian exports to the U.S., Haiti is primed, according to Collier, for a new sweatshop boom.

But this is no sustainable development plan in the interests of Haitian workers. At best, Collier promises 150,000 or so jobs. As anthropologist Mark Shuller argues, "subcontracted, low-wage factory work does not contribute much to the economy besides jobs. Being exempt from taxes, it does not contribute to the financing of Haiti's social services." 30 Moreover these jobs themselves do not even pay enough to support life -- they pay for transport and lunch at about $1.60 a day. The U.S. will want to keep these wages low, since that is the profitable basis for the investment.

For the peasant majority in the country, Clinton and Collier advocate the construction of vast new mango plantations. According to them, such new plantations will both create an export crop and aid the reforestation of the country. While it may create jobs for poor peasants, such plantations will not rebuild the agricultural infrastructure of the country so that it can return to the self-sufficient food system it had before the 1980s. As TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson told Democracy Now! , "That isn't the kind of investment that Haiti needs. It needs capital investment. It needs investment so that it can be self-sufficient. It needs investment so that it can feed itself." 31 Such self-sufficiency runs against the grain of U.S. policy to control the international food market with its subsidized crops.

Collier finally argues for investment in infrastructure -- airports, seaports, and roads -- not so much to meet people's needs as to service these new investments in tourism, sweatshops, and plantations. As a result, Collier's plan will actually increase infrastructural inequities; businesses will get what they need to export their products, while the Haitian masses' infrastructural needs, like navigable roads, will be left unaddressed. Even worse, Collier advocates increased privatization of Haiti's infrastructure, especially the port and the electrical system.

It is not incidental that Collier is also the author of The Bottom Billion , 32 a book that calls for outside intervention by wealthy nations such as the United States into what he calls "post-conflict" poor nations, combining targeted aid and economic restructuring under long-term military occupation. In a modern recasting of the old colonialist "civilizing mission," this is meant to lift these nations out of a vicious cycle of violence and poverty.

On his whirlwind tour of the country in 2009, Bill Clinton promised investors that Haiti was open for business with Aristide and Lavalas out of the way and the U.S. and UN in effective control of the country. "Your political risk in Haiti" he declared at a press conference "is lower than it has ever been in my lifetime." 33

Failing to deliver relief to victims
In the aftermath of the earthquake, the press has cooperated with the Obama administration in giving the impression that the U.S. military has been busy delivering aid to desperate Haitians. The facts don't bear this out. To begin with, Obama's promise of $100 million in aid to the country is a pittance -- less than the winnings of a Kentucky couple in a recent Powerball lottery. 34 It is a paltry amount compared to the hundreds of billions that the U.S. shelled out to American banks and the $3 trillion the U.S. will have expended on the Iraq War alone.

There were early warning signs that this humanitarian mission was not all it was cracked up to be. Obama's decision to appoint former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to oversee the collection of donations through the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund displays incredible callousness toward the Haitian masses. Clinton imposed the plan of death on Lavalas. Bush let New Orleans get washed out to sea and backed the 2004 coup that overthrew Aristide. Appointing Bush is like putting Nero in charge of the fire department.

Aid was slow to arrive, and what did turn up was inadequate. Amid a crisis where the first forty-eight hours are decisive in saving people's lives, the U.S. and UN failed to come anywhere near addressing the needs of the 3 million people impacted by the earthquake. Every minute that aid was delayed meant more people died from starvation, dehydration, injury, and disease. It also meant that the hospitals and doctors desperately trying to help the victims were left stranded without the basics to heal the injured.

As Dr. Evan Lyon of Partners in Health, speaking from Port-au-Prince's main hospital just as heavily-armed U.S. troops were arriving, told Democracy Now! ,

In terms of supplies, in terms of surgeons, in terms of aid relief, the response has been incredibly slow. There are teams of surgeons that have been sent to places that were, quote, "more secure," that have ten or twenty doctors and ten patients. We have a thousand people on this campus that are triaged and ready for surgery, but we only have four working ORs without anesthesia and without pain medications. And we're still struggling to get ourselves up to twenty-four-hour care. 35

In the week after the quake, Partners in Health estimated as many as 20,000 Haitians were dying daily from lack of surgery. 36

The U.S. and UN used all sorts of technical alibis to justify the delay in meeting people's needs. They complained that the damage done to Haiti's airport, seaport, and roads impeded delivery of doctors, nurses, food, water, and rescue teams. Such claims are unconvincing. Clearly the means exist to deliver aid quickly to a country only 700 miles away from Miami, Florida, and only 156 miles from a fully functional international airport in the Dominican Republic. Other countries had no difficulty sending planes of aid and volunteers. China, from half way around the world, got a plane of aid to Haiti earlier than the United States. Iceland sent a rescue team within forty-eight hours of the quake. Cuba sent dozens of doctors to join the several hundred doctors already working the country.

This failure of the U.S. to respond produced a chorus of denunciations from relief experts. One official from the Italian government, Guido Bertolaso, who was acclaimed for his successful handling of the April 2009 earthquake in Italy, denounced the U.S. effort as a "pathetic failure." He declared, "The Americans are extraordinary but when you are facing a situation in chaos they tend to confuse military intervention with emergency aid, which cannot be entrusted to armed forces. It's truly a powerful show of force but it's completely out of touch with reality." 37

Guns over aid
As with Katrina, Obama prioritized the deployment of the U.S. military over provision of aid. He sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Haiti right away to get President Préval to secure emergency powers. "The decree would give the government an enormous amount of authority, which in practice they would delegate to us," she stated. 38 The U.S. has taken effective control of Haiti. It has secured control of the airport and seaport and deployed 20,000 U.S. troops to bolster the enlarged UN force of 12,500 already in the country. Thus, for the fourth time since 1915, Haiti is under a U.S. occupation.

How did the U.S. justify the fact that six days into the relief effort only a trickle of aid had gotten through to those who needed it? The U.S. government claimed that aid could not be delivered properly until security was first established. When asked why the U.S. hadn't used its C-130 transport planes to drop supplies in Port-au-Prince, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, "Air drops will simply lead to riots." 39 However, precisely the opposite is the case; people will riot because they lack food and water.

In lockstep, the corporate media's coverage shifted from its initial sympathy with victims of the disaster to churning out scare stories. "Marauding looters emptied wrecked shops and tens of thousands of survivors waited desperately for food and medical care," Reuters claimed. "Hundreds of scavengers and looters swarmed over wrecked stores in downtown Port-au-Prince, seizing goods and fighting among themselves." 40

These scare stories in turn became an excuse for not delivering aid. Writer Nelson Valdes reported,

The United Nations and the U.S. authorities on the ground are telling those who directly want to deliver help not to do so because they might be attacked by "hungry mobs." Two cargo planes from Doctors Without Borders have been forced to land in the Dominican Republic because the shipments have to be accompanied within Port-au-Prince by U.S. military escorts, according to the U.S. command. 41
The scare stories led relief workers and military personnel to treat Haitians in a dehumanizing fashion. Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman reported an incident where an aid helicopter refused to distribute food on the ground and instead dropped it on people. An angry Haitian compared the incident to "throwing bones to dogs." 42

Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), because of their close relation with the U.S., have adopted a paranoid obsession with security to the detriment of providing relief. Ecologist and human rights activist Sasha Kramer reported on Counterpunch,

One friend showed me the map used by all of the larger NGOs where Port-au-Prince is divided into security zones, yellow, orange, red. Red zones are restricted, in the orange zones all of the car windows must be rolled up and they cannot be visited past certain times of the day. Even in the yellow zone aid workers are often not permitted to walk through the streets and spend much of their time riding through the city from one office to another in organizational vehicles. The creation of these security zones has been like the building of a wall, a wall reinforced by language barriers and fear rather than iron rods, a wall that, unlike many of the buildings in Port-au-Prince, did not crumble during the earthquake. Fear, much like violence, is self-perpetuating. When aid workers enter communities radiating fear it is offensive, the perceived disinterest in communicating with the poor majority is offensive, driving through impoverished communities with windows rolled up and armed security guards is offensive . Despite the good intentions of the many aid workers swarming around the UN base, much of the aid coming through the larger organizations is still blocked in storage, waiting for the required UN and U.S. military escorts that are seen as essential for distribution, meanwhile people in the camps are suffering and their tolerance is waning. 43

Yet this disastrous "beware of the Haitian people" line is simply not borne out by reports coming from Haiti. "There are no security issues," argues Dr. Lyon:

I've been with my Haitian colleagues. I'm staying at a friend's house in Port-au-Prince. We're working for the Ministry of Public Health for the direction of this hospital as volunteers. But I'm living and moving with friends. We've been circulating throughout the city until 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning every night, evacuating patients, moving materials. There's no UN guards. There's no U.S. military presence. There's no Haitian police presence. And there's also no violence. There is no insecurity. 44

As the real nature of the U.S. operation became clear, an array of forces criticized the U.S. for imposing an occupation, not supplying relief. Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez rightly declared on his weekly television show, "Marines armed as if they were going to war. There is not a shortage of guns there, my God. Doctors, medicine, fuel, field hospitals -- that's what the United States should send. They are occupying Haiti undercover." 45

Impeding relief
The U.S. occupation actually prevented relief efforts. Once the U.S. was in charge of the airport it prioritized military flights over relief flights. Jarry Emmanuel, the air logistics officer for the World Food Program, complained, "There are 200 flights going in and out every day, which is an incredible amount for a country like Haiti. But most of those flights are for the United States military. Their priorities are to secure the country." 46

Hillary Clinton herself brought relief missions to a halt when she flew into Port-au-Prince to seize emergency powers from Préval. The U.S. military shut the airport down for three hours, preventing the desperately needed delivery of aid. Outraged, Alain Joyandet, the French Cooperation Minister, called on the UN to investigate America's dominant role in the relief effort and protested: "This is about helping Haiti, not occupying it." 47

The chorus of complaints further escalated not only from governments but also from aid organizations. Richard Seymour reports that,

Since the arrival of the troops, however, several aid missions have been prevented from arriving at the airport in Port-au-Prince that the U.S. has commandeered. France and the Caribbean Community have both made their complaints public, as has Médecins Sans Frontières [MSF] on five separate occasions. UN World Food Program flights were also turned away on two consecutive days. Benoit Leduc, MSF's operations manager in Port-au-Prince, complained that U.S. military flights were being prioritized over aid flights. 48

The U.S. military has even turned back masses of health care workers who wanted to volunteer to provide needed medical care in Haiti. The National Nurses Union organized an emergency conference call to mobilize thousands of nurses to go to Haiti. More than 1,800 nurses called in and they proceeded to recruit 11,000 others to the project. Initially the U.S. military said that it would accept them, but then, inexplicably, they reversed themselves and told them that the U.S. had plenty of military personnel to address the health care disaster in Haiti. Nothing could be further from the truth. 49

The U.S. military, Florida's state government, and the Obama administration also colluded in one of the worst examples of the callous treatment of Haitian victims. They refused to allow landing of planes loaded with injured people in desperate need of medical treatment. The Obama administration and Florida's governor were locked in a battle over who would pay for the cost of the medical care. So for five days, the U.S. let injured people suffer in Haiti because budget battles mattered more than people's lives. 50

Al Jazeera captured the nature of the U.S. and UN military occupation in a January 17 report:

Most Haitians here have seen little humanitarian aid so far. What they have seen is guns, and lots of them. Armored personnel carriers cruise the streets. UN soldiers aren't here to help pull people out of the rubble. They're here, they say, to enforce the law. This is what much of the UN presence actually looks like on the streets of Port-au-Prince: men in uniform, racing around in vehicles, carrying guns. At the entrance to the city's airport where most of the aid is coming in, there is anger and frustration. Much-needed supplies of water and food are inside, and Haitians are locked out. "These weapons they bring," [an unidentified Haitian says], "they are instruments of death. We don't want them; we don't need them. We are a traumatized people. What we want from the international community is technical help. Action, not words." 51

Problems with the NGOs
Haiti has approximately 10,000 NGOs operating within its borders, one of the highest numbers per capita in the world. The international NGOs are unaccountable to either the Haitian state or Haitian population. So the aid funneled through them further weakens what little hold Haitians have on their own society. These NGOs have taken deep hold in Haiti at the very same time that the conditions in the country have gone from bad to apocalyptic.

Amid this crisis, some of the NGOs and their employees have tried valiantly to fill the vacuum left by the U.S. and UN. But most of them did not have real forces inside the country to respond to the disaster. The Red Cross, for example, only had 15 employees on the ground, but has received the bulk of donated money -- more than $200 million -- from people around the world. Add to this the reluctance of the big NGOs to act without "security," as mentioned above.

Moreover, as the British medical journal The Lancet argues, many of the international NGOs are engaged in a fierce battle for funds and have allowed that competition to distort their provision of food, water, medical aid, and services amidst the crisis. After calling aid an "industry in its own right," the Lancet noted that NGOs are

jostling for position, each claiming that they are doing the most for earthquake survivors. Some agencies even claim that they are "spearheading" the relief effort. In fact, as we only too clearly see, the situation in Haiti is chaotic, devastating, and anything but coordinated. Polluted by the internal power politics and the unsavory characteristics seen in many big corporations, large aid agencies can be obsessed with raising money through their own appeal efforts. Media coverage as an end in itself is too often an aim of their activities. Marketing and branding have too high a profile. Perhaps worst of all, relief efforts in the field are sometimes competitive with little collaboration between agencies, including smaller, grass-roots charities that may have better networks in affected countries and so are well placed to immediately implement emergency relief. 52

Repatriating and jailing refugees
As Haitians' needs continued unmet, the U.S. occupation devolved into policing the disaster, including preventing the flight of refugees from Haiti. It is true that activists finally compelled Obama to grant Haitians Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Obama's decision delayed the deportation of 30,000 Haitians and will make TPS available to 100,000 to 200,000 more. These provisions, however, have strict limitations.

First of all, the U.S. plans to exclude victims of the earthquake, offering TPS only to those who arrived in the U.S. without legal documents before January 12. Those who quality must prove they are indigent and at the very same time pay $470 in application fees. 53 Those Haitians who are granted TPS will only be allowed to stay in the U.S. for eighteen months before they must return to Haiti. If they do qualify for the program they will become known to the authorities and thus make themselves more vulnerable to repatriation. Moreover, given the scale of destruction in Port-au-Prince, there is no way that the city or country will be in better condition in a year and a half. So if the U.S. enforces this eighteen-month limitation, it will return Haitians to an ongoing disaster area.

To enforce the bar on Haitians coming to the U.S., a flotilla of military vessels has surrounded the country. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tried to spin this in humanitarian terms. "At this moment of tragedy in Haiti," she lectured, "it is tempting for people suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake to seek refuge elsewhere, but attempting to leave Haiti now will only bring more hardship to the Haitian people and nation." 54 In a far more blunt statement of the actual policy, Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Chris O'Neil, in charge of Operation Vigilant Sentry declared, "The goal is to interdict them at sea and repatriate them." 55

The U.S. made sure to broadcast this threat to Haitians. A U.S. Air Force transport plane spends hours in the air above Haiti every day, not ferrying food and water, but broadcasting a radio statement in Creole from Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., Raymond Joseph. "I'll be honest with you," Joseph says, according to a transcript on the State Department's Web site. "If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that's not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water, and send you back home where you came from." 56

To prepare for the eventuality that some Haitians may get through the military cordon around Haiti, Obama, like Bush and Clinton before him, has prepared jail space to incarcerate refugees at Krome Detention Center in Florida and at the U.S. military base in Guantánamo, Cuba. 57

Asserting who's boss in Latin America
Days after the quake, the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation posted an article detailing what it considered should be Washington's aims in occupying Haiti. The U.S. military presence, they argued, in addition to preventing "any large scale movements by Haitians to take to the sea to try to enter the U.S. illegally," also "offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti's long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region." At the same time, it argues, the U.S. military presence could "interrupt the nightly flights of cocaine to Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the Venezuelan coast and counter the ongoing efforts of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to destabilize the island of Hispaniola." There is no evidence of Venezuelan cocaine flights or efforts to "destabilize" Haiti, but the point is clear: The U.S. sees Haiti as part of an effort to assert more control over the region and contain "unfriendly" regimes. 58

The military response to Haiti's crisis cannot be separated from Washington's regional interests. As Greg Gandin writes in the Nation ,

In recent years, Washington has experienced a fast erosion of its influence in South America, driven by the rise of Brazil, the region's left turn, the growing influence of China and Venezuela's use of oil revenue to promote a multipolar diplomacy. Broad social movements have challenged efforts by US- and Canadian-based companies to expand extractive industries like mining, biofuels, petroleum and logging. 59

Faced with such regional and international competition, the U.S. under Bush and now Obama is angling to launch a counteroffensive. The U.S. tried to topple Chávez in 2002, it succeeded in overthrowing Aristide in 2004, and last year backed the coup against President Zelaya in Honduras. As Grandin reports, the U.S. is actively promoting the right-wing opposition to the various reform socialist governments in the region. It is backing up this political initiative with an expansion of its military bases in the region, particularly in Colombia. "In late October," Grandin writes, "the United States and Colombia signed an agreement granting the Pentagon use of seven military bases, along with an unlimited number of as yet unspecified 'facilities and locations.' They add to Washington's already considerable military presence in Colombia, as well as Central America and the Caribbean." 60 Haiti is thus a stepping-stone for further U.S. interventions in the region.

"Shock doctrine" for Haiti
For Haiti itself, the U.S. is preparing to impose its old neoliberal plan at gunpoint. In The Shock Doctrine , Naomi Klein documents how the U.S. and other imperial powers take advantage of natural and economic disasters to impose free-market plans for the benefit of the American and native capitalists. The U.S., other powers, the IMF, and World Bank had their shock doctrine for Haiti immediately on hand. Hillary Clinton declared, "We have a plan. It was a legitimate plan, it was done in conjunction with other international donors, with the United Nations." 61 This is the Collier Plan, the same old plan of sweatshops, plantations, and tourism.

The U.S., a few other imperial powers, a few lesser countries, and the UN convened a meeting on January 26 in Montreal to profess their concern and promises to aid Haiti. The fourteen so-called "Friends of Haiti" made sure to include the Haitian prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, to at least give the illusion of respect for the country's sovereignty. But outside a protest organized by Haiti Action Montreal opposed the meeting with signs demanding "medical relief not guns," "grants not loans," and "reconstruction for people not profit."

In the Guardian , Gary Younge criticized the summit for failing to produce any solutions to the crisis in Haiti. "Even as corpses remained under the earthquake's rubble," he wrote, "and the government operated out of a police station, the assembled 'friends' would not commit to canceling Haiti's $1 billion debt. Instead they agreed to a 10-year plan with no details, and a commitment to meet again -- when the bodies have been buried along with coverage of the country -- sometime in the future." 62

By contrast, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and his Latin American and Caribbean allies assembled in the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) announced their opposition to America's shock doctrine. They denounced Washington's neoliberal plans, called for relief not troops and for the cancellation of Haiti's debt. Venezuela itself immediately cancelled Haiti's debt and began sending shiploads of relief offering over $100 million in humanitarian aid with no strings attached. 63

No such humanitarian motives animate the U.S., its capitalist corporations, and the international financial institutions. These vultures began circling above Haiti almost immediately. The Street, an investment Web site, published an article misleadingly entitled, "An opportunity to heal Haiti," that lays out how U.S. corporations can cash in on the catastrophe. "Here are some companies," they write, "that could potentially benefit: General Electric (GE), Caterpillar (CAT), Deere (DE), Fluor (FLR), Jacobs Engineering (JEC)." 64 The Rand Corporation's James Dobbins wrote in the New York Times, "This disaster is an opportunity to accelerate oft-delayed reforms." 65

Over the last few years, the U.S. has been trying to give a facelift to the international financial institution that it uses to impose its plans in Haiti. As Jim Lobe reports,

Last June, 1.2 billion dollars in Haiti's external debt, including that owed to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), was cancelled after the Préval government completed a three-year Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program. Over half of that debt had been incurred by Haiti's dictatorships, notably the Duvalier dynasty that ruled the country from 1957 to 1986. But the cancellation covered debt incurred by Haiti only through 2004. In the last five years, the country has received new loans -- some of them to help it recover from the floods and other hurricane damage -- totaling another 1.05 billion dollars. 66

In other words, the U.S. and the financial institutions exchanged the old debts for new so-called "legitimate loans," trapping Haiti yet again in debt. Eric Toussaint and Sophie Perchellet call this "a typical odious debt-laundering maneuver." 67

In the wake of the crisis, the bankers were at Haiti's door yet again, ready, incredibly, to loan Haiti money with the usual conditions. The IMF offered Haiti a new loan of $100 million with the usual strings attached. As the Nation 's Richard Kim writes,

The new loan was made through the IMF's extended credit facility, to which Haiti already has $165 million in debt. Debt relief activists tell me that these loans came with conditions, including raising prices for electricity, refusing pay increases to all public employees except those making minimum wage, and keeping inflation low. They say that the new loans would impose these same conditions. In other words, in the face of this latest tragedy, the IMF is still using crisis and debt as leverage to compel neoliberal reforms. 68

Debt cancellation activists like Jubilee pushed back against the IMF and scored a victory over it. "On Jan. 21," Lobe reports,

the World Bank announced a waiver of Haiti's pending debt payment for five years and said it would explore ways that the remaining debt could be cancelled. The IDB [Inter-American Development Bank] has said it is engaged in a similar effort and will present alternatives for reducing or canceling the debt to its board of governors. On Jan. 27, the IMF, which lacks the authority to provide outright grants, announced that it would give Haiti a 102 million-dollar loan at zero-percent interest and that would not be subject to any of the Fund's usual performance conditions. 69

The pressure even forced the U.S. to call for all new monies extended to Haiti to be in the form of grants, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called for debt relief in the run up to the G-7 conference in February. 70

While activists can claim these concessions by the U.S. and the international financial institutions as victories that open up the possibility for even more progress in demanding full cancellation of Haiti's debt and all third world debt, no one should look at this situation through rose-colored glasses. The U.S. is using this promise -- and it is just a promise at this point -- to cover up its determination to implement the Collier Plan for tourism, sweatshops, and mango plantations to exploit Haiti's desperately poor workers and peasants. In fact, the U.S. does not need to use the leverage of debt to force Haiti to agree to the plan; it has secured colonial rule over the country and can impose its plans directly at gunpoint.

Resistance and solidarity
The left has a responsibility to cut through the propaganda of the Obama administration and the mainstream media. The U.S. is not engaged in humanitarian relief, but old-fashioned imperialism in Haiti. Humanitarianism has long been one of the means the U.S. uses to provide a cover story for its military actions abroad. But whether it was saving the Cuban people from Spanish brutality, sending the marines into Mogadishu in 1993 to feed starving Somalis, or overthrowing the Taliban to "liberate women," the real aims and practical results of these interventions diverged radically from their alleged noble intentions.

Humanitarian military intervention was heavily promoted in the 1990s during the latter part of the first Bush administration and the Clinton administration -- in particular during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Its purpose was to reestablish the legitimacy of U.S. military intervention in the wake of the U.S. defeat in Vietnam, as part of a policy intended to erase what was known as the "Vietnam syndrome." It is being revived again in the wake of the unpopularity of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and weariness toward the "war on terror," for similar reasons. The U.S. hopes that it can re-legitimize its military as a force for good so that it can lay the groundwork for more U.S. interventions in the region and around the world.

Even if the U.S. gets away with its new plans for Haiti, it will inevitably breed resistance in the population and throughout the region where through bitter experience workers and peasants have learned to oppose U.S. designs on their countries. In Haiti, workers and peasants will find their way to organize in the countryside on the plantations, in the sweatshops, and in the shantytowns.

Already Haitian organizations have come out against the U.S. agenda. A statement issued on January 27 from the Coordinating Committee of Progressive Organizations announced:

We must declare our anger and indignation at the exploitation of the situation in Haiti to justify a new invasion by 20,000 U.S. Marines. We condemn what threatens to become a new military occupation by U.S. troops, the third in our history. It is clearly part of a strategy to remilitarize the Caribbean Basin in the context of the imperialist response to the growing rebellion of the peoples of our continent against neo-liberal globalization. And it exists also within a framework of pre-emptive warfare designed to confront the eventual social explosion of a people crushed by poverty and facing despair. We condemn the model imposed by the U.S. government and the military response to a tragic humanitarian crisis. The occupation of the Toussaint L'Ouverture international airport and other elements of the national infrastructure have deprived the Haitian people of part of the contribution made by Caricom, by Venezuela, and by some European countries. We condemn this conduct, and refuse absolutely to allow our country to become another military base. 71

The Haitian left has thus already started building opposition to the U.S. occupation and the Collier Plan. Every year since the U.S. coup in 2004, activists have marched on February 28 in Port-au-Prince against the UN occupation and to demand the end of Aristide's exile. Workers' organizations just last year protested in the thousands for an increase in the minimum wage that Préval opposed. Lavalas activists had protested before the earthquake against their exclusion from the scheduled parliamentary elections. Now amid crisis and occupation, Préval, who has proved to be a puppet for the U.S. agenda, thus losing what little political support he had, has cancelled those elections. No doubt Préval's behavior will provoke political opposition from below against his government's collaboration with the United States.
Outside Haiti, the left must build solidarity with that struggle and make several demands on the Obama administration. First, Obama must immediately end the military occupation of Haiti, and instead flood the country with doctors, nurses, food, water, and construction machinery. Second, the U.S. must also stop its enforcement of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's exile and the ban on his party, Fanmi Lavalas, from participating in elections. Haitians, not the U.S., should have the right to determine their government.

Third, the left must demand that the U.S., other countries, and international financial institutions cancel Haiti's debt, so that the aid money headed to Haiti will go to food and reconstruction, not debt repayment. More than that -- France, the U.S., and Canada, the three countries that have most interfered with Haiti's sovereignty -- should pay reparations for the damage they have done. France can start by repaying the $21 billion dollars that it extracted from Haiti from 1824 to 1947. Fourth, leftists must agitate for Obama to indefinitely extend Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the U.S. -- and open the borders to any Haitians who flee the country. Finally, the left must direct all its funds to Haitian grass-roots organizations to provide relief and help rebuild resistance to the U.S. plan for Haiti.

Only through agitating for these demands can we stop the U.S. from imposing at gunpoint its shock doctrine for Haiti. In this struggle, the left must educate wider and wider layers of people, already suspicious of U.S. motives after Hurricane Katrina, and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, that the U.S. state never engages in military actions for humanitarian motives. As the great American revolutionary journalist John Reed declared, "Uncle Sam never gives anybody something for nothing. He comes along with a sack stuffed with hay in one hand and a whip in the other. Anyone who accepts Uncle Sam's promises at their face value will find that they must be paid for in sweat and blood." 72


  1. "President Obama on U.S. rescue efforts in Haiti, www.America.gov .
  2. Bill Quigley, "Haiti: still starving 23 days later," Huffington Post, posted February 4, 2010.
  3. Soumitra Eachempati, Dean Lorich, and David Helfet, "Haiti: Obama's Katrina," Wall Street Journal , January 26, 2010.
  4. Rich Schapiro, "Rev. Pat Robertson says ancient Haitians' 'pact with the devil' caused earthquake," New York Daily News , January 13, 2010.
  5. David Brooks, "The underlying tragedy," New York Times , January 14, 2010.
  6. For an overview of the French colony and the slave revolution see Ashley Smith, "The Black Jacobins," International Socialist Review (ISR) 63, January–February 2009.
  7. Peter Hallward, Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politicsw of Containment (New York: Verso Books, 2007), 12.
  8. Quoted in Sidney Lens, The Forging of the American Empire (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2003), 270.
  9. For an overview of the history of U.S. imperialism in Haiti see Helen Scott, "Haiti under siege," ISR 35, May-June 2004.
  10. Paul Farmer, The Uses of Haiti (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1994), 108.
  11. Alex Dupuy, Haiti in the New World Order (New York: Westview Press, 1996), 37.
  12. For an analysis of Baby Doc's neoliberal plans see chapter 2 of Alex Dupuy, The Prophet and the Power (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007).
  13. Eric Toussaint and Sophie Perchellet, "Debt is Haiti's real curse," Socialist Worker , January 20, 2010.
  14. Regan Boychuck, "The vultures circle Haiti at every opportunity, natural or man-made," Znet, February 3, 2010.
  15. Dupuy, Haiti in the New World Order , 31.
  16. Quoted in Amy Wilentz, The Rainy Season (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989), 137.
  17. Quoted in Ashley Smith, "The new occupation of Haiti: Aristide's rise and fall," ISR 35, May–June, 2004.
  18. For an analysis of Lavalas after Aristide's restoration see chapter 5 of Robert Fatton, Haiti's Predatory Republic (Boulder: Lynne Reiner Publishers, 2002).
  19. For a perhaps overly generous portrait of Aristide in his second term see chapters 6 and 7 of Peter Hallward, Damming the Flood .
  20. Clara James, "Haiti free trade zone," Dollars and Sense , November/December 2002.
  21. Hallward, Damming the Flood , 155.
  22. See Bill Quigley, "Haiti human rights report," www.ijdh.org/pdf/QuigleyReport.pdf .
  23. Mo Woong, "Haiti's minimum wage battle," Caribbean News Net, August 25, 2009.
  24. See Ashley Smith "Natural and unnatural disasters," Socialist Worker , September 23, 2008.
  25. Mark Shuller, "Haiti's food riots," ISR 59, May–June 2008.
  26. Paul Collier, "Haiti: From natural catastrophe to economic security," FOCALPoint, Volume 8, Issue 2, March 2009.
  27. Quoted in Polly Pattullo, Last Resorts: The Cost of Tourism in the Caribbean (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2005), 20.
  28. Jacqueline Charles, "Royal Caribbean boosts Haiti tourism push," Miami Herald , September 26, 2009.
  29. Collier, "Haiti from natural catastrophe to economic security."
  30. Mark Shuller, "Haiti needs new development approaches, not more of the same," Haiti Analysis , June 18, 2009.
  31. Quoted in Ashley Smith "Catastrophe in Haiti," Socialist Worker , January 14, 2010.
  32. Jacqueline Charles, "Bill Clinton on trade mission on Haiti," Miami Herald , October 1, 2009.
  33. Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
  34. Bill Quigley, "Too little too late for Haiti? Six sobering points," Huffington Post , January 15, 2010.
  35. "With foreign aid still at a trickle," Democracy Now! , January 20, 2010.
  36. Marc Lacey "The nightmare in Haiti: untreated illness and injury," New York Times , January 21, 2010.
  37. Quoted in Nick Allen "West urged to write off Haiti's $1 billion debt," Telegraph.co.uk , January 25, 2010.
  38. Mark Lander, "In show of support, Clinton goes to Haiti," New York Times , January 17, 2010.
  39. "U.S. military begins aid drops in Haiti," CBS News, January 18, 2010.
  40. Andrew Cawthorne and Catherine Bremer, "U.S., U.N. boost Haiti aid security as looters swarm," Reuters, January 19, 2010.
  41. Nelson P. Valdés, "Class and race fear: The rescue operation's priorities in Haiti," Counterpunch, January 18, 2010.
  42. Quoted in Lenora Daniels, "We are Haitians. We are like people like anybody else," Common Dreams, January 31, 2010.
  43. Sasha Kramer, "Fear slows aid efforts in Haiti: Letter from Port-au-Prince," Counterpunch, January 27, 2010.
  44. "Doctor: Misinformation and racism have slowed the recovery effort," Democracy Now! , January 19, 2010.
  45. "Chávez says U.S. occupying Haiti in name of aid," Reuters, January 17, 2010.
  46. Rory Carroll, "U.S. accused of annexing airport," Guardian (UK), January 17, 2010.
  47. Quoted in Giles Whittell, Martin Fletcher, and Jacqui Goddard, "Haiti has a leader in charge, but not in control," The Times (UK), January 19, 2010.
  48. Richard Seymour, "The humanitarian myth," Socialist Worker , January 25, 2010.
  49. "Union nurses respond to Haiti," Socialist Worker, January 27, 2010.
  50. Shaila Dewan, "U.S. suspends Haitian airlift in cost dispute," New York Times , January 30, 2010.
  51. The Al Jazeera report is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F5TwEK24sA .
  52. "The growth of aid and the decline of humanitarianism," Lancet , Volume 375, Issue 9711, January 23, 2010; 253.
  53. James C. McKinley Jr., "Vows to move fast for Haitian immigrants in the U.S.," New York Times , January 21, 2010.
  54. Richard Fausset, "U.S. to change illegal immigrants status," Los Angeles Times , January 16, 2010.
  55. "U.S. to repatriate most Haitian refugees, Washington Times , January 19, 2010.
  56. Curt Anderson, "U.S. prepares for Haitian refugees," Washington Examiner , January 19, 2010.
  57. Tom Eley, "Washington shuts door to Haitian refugees" Global Research, February 8, 2010.
  58. Jim Roberts, " Things to remember while helping Haiti ," The Foundry .
  59. Greg Grandin, "Muscling Latin America," Nation, January 21, 2010.
  60. Ibid.
  61. Nicholas Kralev, "Clinton says plan exists for Haiti," Washington Times , January 26, 2010.
  62. Gary Younge, "The West owes Haiti a big bailout," Guardian (UK), January 31, 2010.
  63. Magbana, "Venezuela cancels Haiti's debt," January 26, 2010.
  64. Quoted in Isabel McDonald, "New Haiti: Same old corporate interests," Nation, January 29, 2010.
  65. James Dobbins, "Skip the graft," New York Times , January 17, 2010.
  66. Jim Lobe, "Haiti: U.S. lawmakers call for debt cancellation," IPS, February 4, 2010.
  67. Eric Toussaint and Sophie Perchellet, "Debt is Haiti's real curse."
  68. Richard Kim, "IMF to Haiti: freeze public wages," Nation , January 15, 2010.
  69. Lobe, "Haiti: U.S. lawmakers call for debt cancellation."
  70. Ibid.
  71. Haiti After the Catastrophe, " What Are the Perspectives? Statement by the Coordinating Committee of the Progressive Organizations ."
  72. Quoted in John Riddell ed., To See the Dawn (New York: Pathfinder, 1993), 136.

[Feb 11, 2018] Justice department's No 3 official to take Walmart's top legal job

Feb 11, 2018 | www.theguardian.com

Revolving door in action

Brand attracted interest because of her potential to assume a key role in the Trump-Russia investigation. The official overseeing the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, has been repeatedly criticized by Trump. If Rosenstein had been fired or quit, oversight would have fallen to Brand. That job would now fall to the solicitor general, Noel Francisco.

"She felt this was an opportunity she couldn't turn down," her friend and former colleague Jamie Gorelick said. Walmart sought Brand to be head of global corporate governance at the retail giant, a position Gorelick said has legal and policy responsibilities that will cater to her strengths.
"It really seems to have her name on it," Gorelick said.

[Feb 11, 2018] In Afghanistan's Unwinnable War, What's the Best Loss to Hope For

Feb 11, 2018 | www.nytimes.com

After 16 years of war in Afghanistan, experts have stopped asking what victory looks like and are beginning to consider the spectrum of possible defeats.

All options involve acknowledging the war as failed, American aims as largely unachievable and Afghanistan's future as only partly salvageable. Their advocates see glimmers of hope barely worth the stomach-turning trade-offs and slim odds of success.

"I don't think there is any serious analyst of the situation in Afghanistan who believes that the war is winnable," Laurel Miller, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation, said in a podcast last summer, after leaving her State Department stint as acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This may be why, even after thousands have died and over $100 billion has been spent, even after the past two weeks of shocking bloodshed in Kabul , few expect the United States to try anything other than the status quo.

It is a strategy, as Ms. Miller described it, to "prevent the defeat of the Afghan government and prevent military victory by the Taliban" for as long as possible.

Though far from the most promising option, it is the least humiliating. But sooner or later, the United States and Afghanistan will find themselves facing one of Afghanistan's endgames -- whether by choice or not.

[Feb 05, 2018] EU Imposes Anti-Union Law On Greece

Feb 05, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

Posted by: nottheonly1 | Feb 4, 2018 3:53:08 PM | 17

Speaking about Europe and the advancement of neo-liberal policies by the hands of unelected officials, this news is not boding well:

EU Imposes Anti-Union Law On Greece

The question is, how much longer will European workers remain peaceful dissenters to 'laws' that resemble the prohibition of Unions in NS-Germany? A number of member states are threatening their own exit from the EU, although for entirely different reasons. But more "Exit"-Nations will weaken neo-liberal EU to the much desirable breaking point.

As it stands, EU/NATO policies are the biggest threat to European citizens.

[Jan 31, 2018] Military blames human error for hidden Afghan war data

Notable quotes:
"... For being "intelligence" agencies who no one is apparently allowed to question or criticize, they sure make a lot of "mistakes", "lose" a lot of documents, and just get a lot of things "wrong". ..."
"... Iraq was invaded and occupied as well. Control resources!! That is the end game...As a Combat Veteran served during 9/11 and tip of the spear in 2003 we found ZERO weapons of mass destruction....So many young Americans impacted and suffered for pure profit at the hands of greedy Men... ..."
Jan 31, 2018 | www.yahoo.com

His comments came hours after SIGAR said in a quarterly report on the conflict that the Pentagon prohibited the inclusion of information on the number of districts in Afghanistan, and the population therein, controlled by the Afghan government or the Taliban or contested by both sides.

"The number of districts controlled or influenced by the Afghan government had been one of the last remaining publicly available indicators for members of Congress -- many of whose staff do not have access to the classified annexes to SIGAR reports -- and for the American public of how the 16-year-long U.S. effort to secure Afghanistan is faring," SIGAR said in a statement. "This is the first time SIGAR has been specifically instructed not to release information marked 'unclassified' to the American taxpayer."

In his emailed statement, Gresback said that, as of October 2017, about 56 percent of the country's 407 districts were under Afghan government control or influence, 30 percent remained contested, and roughly 14 percent were now under insurgent control or influence.


R Roger47 yesterday

Afghanistan is too big and too poor for their own government and military to ever be able to control. Much of the country is controlled by tribal leaders associated loosely with the Taliban. They want to continue to live their lives as they have done for hundreds of years. We can either let them do so, or occupy their country forever. I say make an agreement to leave them alone as long as they keep terrorists out, and bring our troops home.

e edward yesterday

For being "intelligence" agencies who no one is apparently allowed to question or criticize, they sure make a lot of "mistakes", "lose" a lot of documents, and just get a lot of things "wrong".

C CBVET2003 yesterday

  • Iraq was invaded and occupied as well. Control resources!! That is the end game...As a Combat Veteran served during 9/11 and tip of the spear in 2003 we found ZERO weapons of mass destruction....So many young Americans impacted and suffered for pure profit at the hands of greedy Men...
  • V Vegasvince 22 hours ago

  • Several things he promised to work on are traditional Democratic issues. Since they also agree, I'd hope we can see quick congressional action. Infrastructure, prescription drug costs, terminal patients access to drug trials, Job training investment, Paid family leave, former prisoner job training, etc... These should be fast tracked through Congress and to the Presidents. We can agree on things in America and need a productive governement to get thing s done!
  • [Jan 30, 2018] The Unseen Wars of America the Empire The American Conservative

    Highly recommended!
    Notable quotes:
    "... Like the Romans, we have become an empire, committed to fighting for scores of nations, with troops on every continent and forces in combat operations of which the American people are only vaguely aware. "I didn't know there were 1,000 troops in Niger," said Senator Lindsey Graham when four Green Berets were killed there. "We don't know exactly where we're at in the world, militarily, and what we're doing." ..."
    "... Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, ..."
    "... . To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com. ..."
    Jan 30, 2018 | www.theamericanconservative.com

    The Unseen Wars of America the Empire By Patrick J. Buchanan January 30, 2018, 12:01 AM

    Forward Operating Base Torkham, in Nangahar Province, Afghanistan (army.mil) If Turkey is not bluffing, U.S. troops in Manbij, Syria, could be under fire by week's end, and NATO engulfed in the worst crisis in its history.

    Turkish President Erdogan said Friday his forces will cleanse Manbij of Kurdish fighters, alongside whom U.S. troops are embedded.

    Erdogan's foreign minister demanded concrete steps by the United States to end its support of the Kurds, who control the Syrian border with Turkey east of the Euphrates all the way to Iraq.

    If the Turks attack Manbij, America will face a choice: stand by our Kurdish allies and resist the Turks, or abandon the Kurds.

    Should the U.S. let the Turks drive the Kurds out of Manbij and the entire Syrian border area, as Erdogan threatens, American credibility would suffer a blow from which it would not soon recover.

    But to stand with the Kurds and oppose Erdogan's forces could mean a crackup of NATO and a loss of U.S. bases inside Turkey, including the air base at Incirlik.

    Turkey also sits astride the Dardanelles entrance to the Black Sea. NATO's loss would thus be a triumph for Vladimir Putin, who gave Ankara the green light to cleanse the Kurds from Afrin.

    Yet Syria is but one of many challenges facing U.S. foreign policy.

    The Winter Olympics in South Korea may have taken the menace of a North Korean ICBM out of the news, but no one believes that threat is behind us.

    Last week, China charged that the USS Hopper, a guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal, a reef in the South China Sea claimed by Beijing, though it is far closer to Luzon in the Philippines. The destroyer, says China, was chased off by one of her frigates. If we continue to contest China's territorial claims with our warships, a clash is inevitable.

    In a similar incident Monday, a Russian military jet came within five feet of a U.S. Navy EP-3 Orion surveillance jet in international airspace over the Black Sea, forcing the Navy plane to end its mission.

    U.S. relations with Cold War ally Pakistan are at rock bottom. In his first tweet of 2018, President Trump charged Pakistan with being a false friend.

    "The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools," Trump declared. "They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!"

    As for America's longest war in Afghanistan, now in its 17th year, the end is nowhere on the horizon. A week ago, the International Hotel in Kabul was attacked and held for 13 hours by Taliban gunmen who killed 40. Midweek, a Save the Children facility in Jalalabad was attacked by ISIS, creating panic among aid workers across the country.

    Saturday, an ambulance exploded in Kabul, killing 103 people and wounding 235. Monday, Islamic State militants attacked Afghan soldiers guarding a military academy in Kabul. With the fighting season two months off, U.S. troops will not soon be departing. If Pakistan is indeed providing sanctuary for the terrorists of the Haqqani network, how does this war end successfully for the United States? Last week, in a friendly fire incident, the U.S.-led coalition killed 10 Iraqi soldiers. The Iraq war began 15 years ago.

    Yet another war, where the humanitarian crisis rivals Syria, continues on the Arabian Peninsula. There, a Saudi air, sea, and land blockade that threatens the Yemeni people with starvation has failed to dislodge Houthi rebels who seized the capital Sanaa three years ago. This weekend brought news that secessionist rebels, backed by the United Arab Emirates, seized power in Yemen's southern port of Aden from the Saudi-backed Hadi regime fighting the Houthis. These rebels seek to split the country, as it was before 1990.

    Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE appear to be backing different horses in this tribal-civil-sectarian war into which America has been drawn. There are other wars -- Somalia, Libya, Ukraine -- where the U.S. is taking sides, sending arms, training troops, flying missions.

    Like the Romans, we have become an empire, committed to fighting for scores of nations, with troops on every continent and forces in combat operations of which the American people are only vaguely aware. "I didn't know there were 1,000 troops in Niger," said Senator Lindsey Graham when four Green Berets were killed there. "We don't know exactly where we're at in the world, militarily, and what we're doing."

    No, we don't, Senator. As in all empires, power is passing to the generals. And what causes the greatest angst today in the imperial city? Fear that a four-page memo worked up in the House Judiciary Committee may discredit Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia-gate.

    Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, Nixon's White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever . To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.

    [Jan 29, 2018] Yi it Bulut "I am sorry for the Greeks. They have been left with nothing." Defend Democracy Press

    Notable quotes:
    "... The plundering of Greece is so huge that the Greek people don't realize it. Tsipras doesn't wear a tie. He was going to stop imperialism. But Tsipras works for them. Do you remember? There was a finance minister who rode around on a motorcycle. An academic. They got rid of him. I mentioned that on this programme in the past. They will sack that Greek finance minister and then Greece will sign the agreement with the INF. I said it. When they had got rid of the finance minister they brought an Englishman and the Englishman became a minister of the Greek government and they signed. We said that on our programme here before it happened. ..."
    "... The imperialist model hasn't changed. Countries get into debt. They sink into crisis. The property of the people is transferred and after that they simply change the government. The same thing happened in Turkey in 2001. They sent Kemal Derviş to Turkey to put things in order for the imperialists. They appointed him Roman governor in Turkey. But fortunately Devlet Bahçeli was found to spoil their game for them," ..."
    "... Erdoğan's advisor stated, and continued: "I feel sorry for the Greeks. They ..."
    Jan 29, 2018 | www.defenddemocracy.press

    Yiğit Bulut: "I am sorry for the Greeks. They have been left with nothing." 13/11/2017

    Greece will be in a "non-functional condition" until 2020, predicts the advisor to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Yiğit Bulut, who characterizes the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as a "tool of the imperialists".

    Speaking on the state television programme "Deep Analysis" he gave the example of Greece to show the consequences of imperialism for global political developments.

    "They sold off everything. The banks have passed into the hands of the Germans. They have been left with nothing. People in Greece wait for products from Germany and Italy. There is a film about 300 Spartans who fall heroically in battle. Those 300 of Leonidas should come back to Greece now, because nothing has remained standing.

    The plundering of Greece is so huge that the Greek people don't realize it. Tsipras doesn't wear a tie. He was going to stop imperialism. But Tsipras works for them. Do you remember? There was a finance minister who rode around on a motorcycle. An academic. They got rid of him. I mentioned that on this programme in the past. They will sack that Greek finance minister and then Greece will sign the agreement with the INF. I said it. When they had got rid of the finance minister they brought an Englishman and the Englishman became a minister of the Greek government and they signed. We said that on our programme here before it happened.

    The imperialist model hasn't changed. Countries get into debt. They sink into crisis. The property of the people is transferred and after that they simply change the government. The same thing happened in Turkey in 2001. They sent Kemal Derviş to Turkey to put things in order for the imperialists. They appointed him Roman governor in Turkey. But fortunately Devlet Bahçeli was found to spoil their game for them," Erdoğan's advisor stated, and continued: "I feel sorry for the Greeks. They are victims of imperialism."

    The above declaration by the Turkish official was made to the Turkish state television. It was translated for DDP from the Greek sites that reproduced it, under the headline "Erdogan's advisor makes provocative declarations".

    Read also: Prepare for the Trade Wars

    Turkey still occupies a large part of Cyprus after having invaded the island in 1974 and expelled more than 200,000 Greeks from their homes. It has territorial claims on Greek Aegean islands and deploys the world's largest fleet of landing craft some miles from them. The Turkish National Assembly has voted a resolution threatening Greece with war in the event of use by Athens of its right to expand Greek territorial waters to 12 miles. It is only natural that Greeks do not much appreciate a Turkish official speaking of their country in this way. It is indeed a "provocation" from the point of view of rules of diplomatic behavior, given that Mr. Erdogan is preparing his visit to Greece.

    Of course Greeks know only too well that the description of the Turkish official is quite close to the truth. It is probable that the advisor of the Turkish President does not so much have the intention of provoking Greeks as influencing Turkish politics by showing his public opinion what happens to a country that surrenders to "Western Imperialism".

    There is a deep irony to Turkey depicting, as it does here, the EU, Germany, the Eurozone, NATO and big finance destroying a member-state of the EU, and using this argument rhetorically!

    D.K.

    Also read Dijsselbloem Speaks: The Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

    [Jan 22, 2018] German Imperialism as a tool of the "Kingdom of Money" by Thomas Fazi

    Ukraine after EuroMaydan is a de-facto EU colony.
    Notable quotes:
    "... By Thomas Fazi 4 December 2017 ..."
    "... For Germany, the idea of Europeanism has provided the country's elites with the perfect alibi to conceal their hegemonic project behind the ideological veil of 'European integration' ..."
    "... "That may sound absurd given that today's Germany is a successful democracy without a trace of national-socialism – and that no one would actually associate Merkel with Nazism. But further reflection on the word 'Reich', or empire, may not be entirely out of place. The term refers to a dominion, with a central power exerting control over many different peoples. According to this definition, would it be wrong to speak of a German Reich in the economic realm?" ..."
    "... More recently, an article in Politico Europe ..."
    "... Even though the power exercised by Europe's 'colonial masters' is now openly acknowledged by the mainstream press, it is however commonplace to ascribe Germany's dominant position as an accident of history: according to this narrative, we are in the presence of an 'accidental empire', one that is not the result of a general plan but that emerged almost by chance – even against ..."
    "... Germany (and France) have been the main beneficiaries of the sovereign bailouts of periphery countries , which essentially amounted to a covert bailout of German (and French) banks, as most of the funds were channelled back to the creditor countries' banks, which were heavily exposed to the banks (and to a lesser degree the governments) of periphery countries. German policy, Helen Thompson wrote , overwhelmingly 'served the interests of the German banks'. ..."
    "... This is a telling example of how Germany's policies (and the EU's policies more in general), while nominally ordoliberal – i.e., based upon minimal government intervention and a strict rules-based regime – are in reality based on extensive state intervention on behalf of German capital, at both the domestic and European level. ..."
    "... German authorities have also been more than happy to go along with – or to encourage – the European institutions' 'exercise of unrestrained executive power and the more or less complete abandonment of strict, rules-based frameworks' – Storey is here referring in particular to the ECB's use of its currency-issuing monopoly to force member states to follows its precepts – 'to maintain the profitability of German banks, German hegemony within the Eurozone, or even the survival of the Eurozone itself'. ..."
    "... Germany (and France) are also the main beneficiaries of the ongoing process of 'mezzogiornification' of periphery countries – often compounded by troika -forced privatisations –, which in recent years has allowed German and French firms to take over a huge number of businesses (or stakes therewithin) in periphery countries, often at bargain prices. A well-publicised case is that of the 14 Greek regional airports taken over by the German airport operator Fraport. ..."
    "... France's corporate offensive in Italy is another good example: in the last five years, French companies have engaged in 177 Italian takeovers, for a total value of $41.8 billion, six times Italy's purchases in France over the same period. This is leading to an increased 'centralisation' of European capital, characterised by a gradual concentration of capital and production in Germany and other core countries – in the logistical and distribution sectors, for example – and more in general to an increasingly imbalanced relationship between the stronger and weaker countries of the union. ..."
    "... In short, the European Union should indeed be viewed a transnational capitalist project, but one that is subordinated to a clear state-centred hierarchy of power, with Germany in the dominant position. In this sense, the national elites in periphery countries that have supported Germany's hegemonic project (and continue to do so, first and foremost through their support to European integration) can thus be likened to the comprador bourgeoisie ..."
    "... Exportnationalismus' ..."
    "... Modell Deutschland ..."
    "... Even more worryingly, Germany is not simply aiming at expanding its economic control over the European continent; it is also taking steps for greater European military 'cooperation' – under the German aegis, of course. As a recent article in Foreign Policy ..."
    "... In other words, Germany already effectively controls the armies of four countries. And the initiative, Foreign Policy ..."
    Jan 21, 2018 | www.defenddemocracy.press
    Originally from: Germany's dystopian plans for Europe: from fantasy to reality? By Thomas Fazi 4 December 2017

    For Germany, the idea of Europeanism has provided the country's elites with the perfect alibi to conceal their hegemonic project behind the ideological veil of 'European integration'

    After Emmanuel Macron's election in France, many (including myself) claimed that this signalled a revival of the Franco-German alliance and a renewed impetus for Europe's process of top-down economic and political integration – a fact that was claimed by most commentators and politicians, beholden as they are to the Europeanist narrative, to be an unambiguously positive development.

    Among the allegedly 'overdue' reforms that were said to be on the table was the creation of a pseudo-'fiscal union' backed by a (meagre) 'euro budget', along with the creation of a 'European finance minister', the centre-points of Macron's plans to 're-found the EU' – a proposal that raises a number of very worrying issues from both political and economic standpoints, which I have discussed at length elsewhere .

    The integrationists' (unwarranted) optimism, however, was short-lived. The result of the German elections, which saw the surge of two rabidly anti-integrationist parties, the right-wing FDP and extreme right AfD; the recent collapse of coalition talks between Merkel's CDU, the FDP and the Greens, which most likely means an interim government for weeks if not months, possibly leading to new elections (which polls show would bring roughly the same result as the September election); and the growing restlessness in Germany towards the 13-year-long rule of Macron's partner in reform Angela Merkel, means that any plans that Merkel and Macron may have sketched out behind the scenes to further integrate policies at the European level are now, almost certainly, dead in the water. Thus, even the sorry excuse for a fiscal union proposed by Macron is now off the table, according to most commentators.

    At this point, the German government's most likely course in terms of European policy – the one that has the best chance of garnering cross-party support, regardless of the outcome of the coalition talks (or of new elections) – is the 'minimalist' approach set in stone by the country's infamous and now-former finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, in a 'non-paper' published shortly before his resignation.

    The main pillar of Schäuble's proposal – a long-time obsession of his – consists in giving the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which would go on to become a 'European Monetary Fund', the power to monitor (and, ideally, enforce) compliance with the Fiscal Compact. This echoes Schäuble's previous calls for the creation of a European budget commissioner with the power to reject national budgets – a supranational fiscal enforcer.

    The aim is all too clear: to further erode what little sovereignty and autonomy member states have left, particularly in the area of fiscal policy, and to facilitate the imposition of neoliberal 'structural reforms' – flexibilisation of labour markets, reduction of collective bargaining rights, etc. – on reluctant countries.

    To this end, the German authorities even want to make the receipt of EU cohesion funds conditional on the implementation of such reforms , tightening the existing arrangements even further. Moreover, as noted by Simon Wren-Lewis , the political conflict of interest of having an institution lending within the eurozone would end up imposing severe austerity bias on the recovering country.

    Until recently, these proposals failed to materialise due, among other reasons, to France's opposition to any further overt reductions of national sovereignty in the area of budgetary policy; Macron, however, staunchly rejects France's traditional souverainiste stance, embracing instead what he calls 'European sovereignty', and thus represents the perfect ally for Germany's plans.

    Another proposal that goes in the same direction is the German Council for Economic Experts' plan to curtail banks' sovereign bond holdings. Ostensibly aimed at 'severing the link between banks and government' and 'ensuring long-term debt sustainability', it calls for: (i) removing the exemption from risk-weighting for sovereign exposures, which essentially means that government bonds would no longer be considered a risk-free asset for banks (as they are now under Basel rules), but would be 'weighted' according to the 'sovereign default risk' of the country in question (as determined by credit rating agencies); (ii) putting a cap on the overall risk-weighted sovereign exposure of banks; and (iii) introducing an automatic 'sovereign insolvency mechanism' that would essentially extend to sovereigns the bail-in rule introduced for banks by the banking union, meaning that if a country requires financial assistance from the ESM, for whichever reason, it will have to lengthen its sovereign bond maturities (reducing the market value of those bonds and causing severe losses for all bondholders) and, if necessary, impose a nominal 'haircut' on private creditors.

    As noted by the German economist Peter Bofinger , the only member of the German Council of Economic Experts to vote against the sovereign bail-in plan, this would almost certainly ignite a 2012-style self-fulfilling sovereign debt crisis, as periphery countries' bond yields would quickly rise to unsustainable levels, making it increasingly hard for governments to roll over maturing debt at reasonable prices and eventually forcing them to turn to the ESM for help, which would entail even heavier losses for their banks and an even heavier dose of austerity.

    It would essentially amount to a return to the pre-2012 status quo, with governments once again subject to the supposed 'discipline' of the markets, particularly in the context of a likely tapering of the ECB's quantitative easing (QE) program. The aim of this proposal is the same as that of Schäuble's 'European Monetary Fund': to force member states to implement permanent austerity.

    Read also: Lack of Credible Leftist Alternatives is fueling national movements. Catalonia wants independence from the small Madrid Empire, but inside Brussels Great Empire

    Of course, national sovereignty in a number of areas – most notably fiscal policy – has already been severely eroded by the complex system of new laws, rules and agreements introduced in recent years, including but not limited to the six-pack, two-pack, Fiscal Compact, European Semester and Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure (MIP).

    As a result of this new post-Maastricht system of European economic governance, the European Union has effectively become a sovereign power with the authority to impose budgetary rules and structural reforms on member states outside democratic procedures and without democratic control.

    The EU's embedded quasi-constitutionalism and inherent (structural) democratic deficit has thus evolved into an even more anti-democratic form of 'authoritarian constitutionalism' that is breaking away with elements of formal democracy as well, leading some observers to suggest that the EU 'may easily become the postdemocratic prototype and even a pre-dictatorial governance structure against national sovereignty and democracies'.

    To give an example, with the launch of the European Semester, the EU's key tool for economic policy guidance and surveillance, an area that has historically been a bastion of national sovereignty – old-age pensions – has now fallen under the purview of supranational monitoring as well. Countries are now expected to (and face sanctions if they don't): (i) increase the retirement age and link it with life expectancy; (ii) reduce early retirement schemes, improve the employability of older workers and promote lifelong learning; (iii) support complementary private savings to enhance retirement incomes; and (iv) avoid adopting pension-related measures that undermine the long term sustainability and adequacy of public finances.

    This has led to the introduction in various countries of several types of automatic stabilizing mechanisms (ASMs) in pension systems, which change the policy default so that benefits or contributions adjust automatically to adverse demographic and economic conditions without direct intervention by politicians. Similar 'automatic correction mechanisms' in relation to fiscal policy can be found in the Fiscal Compact.

    The aim of all these 'automatic mechanisms' is clearly to put the economy on 'autopilot', thus removing any element of democratic discussion and/or decision-making at either the European or national level. These changes have already transformed European states into 'semi-sovereign' entities, at best. In this sense, the proposals currently under discussion would mark the definitive transformation of European states from semi-sovereign to de facto (and increasingly de jure ) non-sovereign entities.

    Regardless of the lip service paid by national and European officials to the need for further reductions of national sovereignty to go hand in hand with a greater 'democratisation' of the euro area, the reforms currently on the table can, in fact, be considered the final stage in the thirty-year-long war on democracy and national sovereignty waged by the European elites, aimed at constraining the ability of popular-democratic powers to influence economic policy, thus enabling the imposition of neoliberal policies that would not have otherwise been politically feasible.

    In this sense, the European economic and monetary integration process should be viewed, to a large degree, as a class-based and inherently neoliberal project pursued by all national capitals as well as transnational (financial) capital. However, to grasp the processes of restructuring under way in Europe, we need to go beyond the simplistic capital/labour dichotomy that underlies many critical analyses of the EU and eurozone, which view EU/EMU policies as the expression of a unitary and coherent transnational (post-national) European capitalist class.

    The process underway can only be understood through the lens of the geopolitical-economic tensions and conflicts between leading capitalist states and regional blocs, and the conflicting interests between the different financial/industrial capital fractions located in those states, which have always characterised the European economy. In particular, it means looking at Germany's historic struggle for economic hegemony over the European continent.

    It is no secret that Germany is today the leading economic and political power in Europe, just as it is no secret that nothing gets done in Europe without Germany's seal of approval. In fact, it is commonplace to come across references to Germany's 'new empire'. A controversial Der Spiegel editorial from a few years back event went as far as arguing that it is not out place to talk of the rise of a 'Fourth Reich':

    "That may sound absurd given that today's Germany is a successful democracy without a trace of national-socialism – and that no one would actually associate Merkel with Nazism. But further reflection on the word 'Reich', or empire, may not be entirely out of place. The term refers to a dominion, with a central power exerting control over many different peoples. According to this definition, would it be wrong to speak of a German Reich in the economic realm?"

    More recently, an article in Politico Europe – co-owned by the German media magnate Axel Springer AG – candidly explained why 'Greece is de facto a German colony'. It noted how, despite Tsipras' pleas for debt relief, the Greek leader 'has little choice but to heed the wishes of his "colonial" masters', i.e., the Germans.

    This is because public debt in the eurozone is used as a political tool – a disciplining tool – to get governments to implement socially harm