Saturday, July 31, 2010
Just five years ago, Germany was in the grip of an unemployment crisis with the jobless figure soaring to over 5 million in January 2005, the highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Now, with the industrialized world still reeling from the effects of the financial crisis, Germany is in the fortunate position of seeing its unemployment figures falling steadily and could soon have fewer than 3 million people out of work.On Thursday, the Federal Employment Agency (BA) released the latest unemployment figures. A total of 3.192 million people were registered as unemployed this month, an increase of 39,000 on June. The unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, up 0.1 percent compared to the previous month. The slight increase is largely due to seasonal factors.
The figure is an improvement on the same period last year when 271,000 more people were without work and the joblessness rate was 8.2 percent. The figures point to the success of the German policy of keeping workers on the job under aas the country weathered the global crisis, as well as the fact that the country's are increasingly in demand.
The government-subsidized short-time work scheme has helped companies to ride out the crisis. While there are still 481,000 people on such schemes, that is just a third of the figure at the height of the recession.
"Germany's economy is experiencing a recovery, the situation on the labor market has improved further," BA boss Frank-Jürgen Weise said when announcing the figures. Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the figures as "good news," saying that the slight increase is due to the start of the summer vacation period when business activity slows down.
Word of Warning
There was, however, a word of warning. Weise said that job losses could be expected in the public sector once a massive governmentis implemented. The end of a number of stimulus packages and the weaknesses in the banking sector could also have an impact on the labor market in the coming months.
Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle said "the prospects are good that unemployment will go under the 3 million mark by the end of the year." His optimism is shared by Klaus Zimmermann, head of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), who said that this target might be reached as soon as September. "By October at the latest, the unemployment figures will be far lower," he told Reuters. He added that the country could even be looking at full employment further down the line.
On Friday, Brüderle said that in the next few years the real problem facing the German labor market would be a lack of skilled workers rather than unemployment. Speaking to the Handelsblatt business daily, he said that his priority now was to work on making Germany more attractive for skilled foreign workers. He suggested that some companies could even pay employees a "welcome premium" to move to the country.
The German press on Friday takes a look at the latest unemployment figures. While they welcome the improvements, some newspapers warn that the government still needs to implement major labor market reforms.
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"One of the reasons the country is still in deeper trouble than it seems is the low birth rate. As early as 2015, the struggle to have enough qualified personnel such as teachers, doctors, nurses and engineers could reach new dimensions. Millions of potential job applicants will be lacking if schools, companies and politicians fail to make the country's young people fit for the job market in the future."
"Even though the number of full time jobs is rising, the nature of those jobs has changed. More than 2 million employees make less than €6 ($7.70) per hour and temporary employment is skyrocketing."
"The reforms needed to prevent a two-tier class system of workers start with creating more and better child-care places and full-time schools. Support for long-term unemployed has to improve and people on welfare need incentives to accept a full-time job."
"As of now, the government does not seem willing and capable to push through those necessary reforms. Instead, they are planning billions of euros in cuts relating to spending on the labor market."
The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"Before the Merkel government went in to summer recess, they were faced with harsh criticism. Among the deficits and failures pointed out were a butchered stimulus package, sending mixed signals to the financial markets, ongoing bickering and in-fighting between the coalition partners about tax cuts, spending and health care. In addition, the governing coalition lost its majority in the Bundesrat, Germany's upper house of parliament, after the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia and had to cope with resignations of key personnel."
"It comes as no surprise that the permanent criticism started showing in polls. ... In a recent poll, 61 percent of people asked said they did not believe that the coalition was able to recover from the deep hits it had suffered."
"At the same time, good news about the economy is making headlines. Consumers are buying more and companies are investing more, order books of Germany's export-driven industry are filling up, unemployment numbers are sinking and the finance minister could proudly announce he had to take on less debt than anticipated."
"Although at the moment those signs of recovery are still quite volatile and not yet attributable to good governance, the coalition will undoubtedly benefit from the improved mood -- just as they were blamed when the country wasn't doing well. Certainly, the public will soon notice the discrepancy between the purported apocalyptic mood and the not so hopeless reality."
The conservative Die Welt writes:
"The unemployment rate is below the average in the OECD group of industrialized countries -- something that hasn't been the case for a long time."
"This is good news. Unfortunately, politicians give the distinct impression that the figures are helping to dampen any great rush to reform the system. The problems on the labor market are by no means solved. For example, the number of those who are without a job for longer than 12 months is 45 percent, far above the OECD average. And there is no sign of major political offensives to fight against this expensive and socially harmful long-term unemployment."
"A disproportionate amount of people also work part time, even though they would like to work more. The taxation and welfare system dissuade many people from working more."
"If the economy continues to improve, then the government can lay the groundwork for achieving close to full employment during the next legislative period. This is a huge opportunity for the country, as well as the government. It would be sad if not everything was done to take advantage of it."
The business daily Handelsblatt writes:"The strengths of the German economy are in stark contrast to the widespread skepticism of the past few years. The Anglo-Saxon world's assessment of Germany as an 'old economy' has now been proved wrong."
"The differences in the development of the labor markets here and in the United States is testament to that. While in Germany even the big companies are now hiring instead of firing, the opposite is the case in the US. There, the doubts about turnover prospects are prompting companies to let people go in the hope of increasing productivity."
"Jobless growth is now an issue in the US again. The job losses are easing somewhat ... but the creation of new jobs is far slower than in a more dynamic economy. While the question of what is the most appropriate business model is occupying many in North America, those voices have largely been silenced here. The successes are just too obvious."
Former Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen once told me, half with amusement and half with resignation, that military people around the world are all more or less the same. "They can only be happy when they have the most up-to-date toys," he said.If this is true, Beijing's generals must be very happy at the moment. China has increased its military budget by 7.5 percent in 2010, making funds available for new fighter jets and more cruise missiles. Beijing's military buildup is a source of concern for Western experts, even though the US's military budget is about eight times larger. Some feel that China poses a threat to East Asia, while others are even convinced that Beijing is preparing to conquer the world militarily.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Unlike, say, the United States, the People's Republic has not attacked any other country in more than three decades, not since it launched an offensive against Vietnam in 1979. And even though Beijing's leaders periodically rattle their sabers against Taiwan, which they refer to as a "renegade province," they have no intention of entering into any armed conflicts.Unlike many in the West, they have long since recognized that bombs are little more than deterrents these days. In today's asymmetric conflicts, it is difficult to hold on to territory captured in bloody battles. War is an instrument of the past, and Mao's argument that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun" no longer holds true today.
Soft Is the New Hard
It is, however, true that the Chinese are in the process of conquering the world. They are doing this very successfully by pursuing an aggressive trade policy toward the West, granting low-interest loans to African and Latin American countries, applying diplomatic pressure to their partners, pursuing a campaign bordering on cultural imperialism to oppose the human rights we perceive to be universal, and providing the largest contingent of soldiers for United Nations peacekeeping missions of all Security Council members. In other words, they are doing it with soft power instead of hard power.
Beijing is indeed waging a war on all continents, but not in the classical sense. Whether the methods it uses consistently qualify as "peaceful" is another matter. For example, the Chinese apply international agreements as they see fit, and when the rules get in their way, they "creatively" circumvent them or rewrite them with the help of compliant allies.
But why are politicians in Washington, Paris and London taking all of this lying down, kowtowing to the Chinese instead of criticizing them? Does capturing -- admittedly lucrative -- markets in East Asia and trying to impress the Chinese really help their cause?
The Communist Party leaders manipulate their currency to keep the prices of their exports artificially low. The fact that they recently allowed their currency, the renminbi, tois evidence more of their knack for public relations than of a real change of heart. They are known for using every trick in the book when buying commodities or signing pipeline deals, with participants talking of aggressive and pushy tactics. Meanwhile, these free-market privateers unscrupulously restrict access to their own natural resources. They denounce protectionism, and yet they are more protectionist than most fellow players in the great game of globalization.
'21st-Century Economic Weapon'
Beijing recently imposed strict export quotas on, resources that are indispensable in high technology, where they are essential to the operation of hybrid vehicles, high-performance magnets and computer hard drives. Some 95 percent of metals such as lanthanum and neodymium are mined in the People's Republic, giving Beijing a virtual monopoly on these resources. It clearly has no intention of exporting these metals without demanding substantially higher export tariffs. In fact, China apparently wants to prohibit exports of some rare earths completely, starting in 2015. Concerned observers in Japan have described the valuable resources are a "21st-century economic weapon." The Chinese have dismissed protests from Washington and Brussels with the audacious claim that World Trade Organization (WTO) rules allow a country to protect its own natural resources.
China, a WTO member itself, is now playing a cat-and-mouse game with the organization. Despite several warnings, Beijing still has not signed the Agreement on Government Procurement, and it continues to strongly favor domestic suppliers over their foreign competitors in government purchasing. To secure a government contract in China, an international company has to reveal sensitive data as part of impenetrable licensing procedures and even agree to transfer its technology to the Chinese -- often relinquishing its patent rights in the process.
China, for its part, is waging a vehement campaign in the WTO to be granted the privileged status of a "market economy." If it succeeds, it will be largely spared inconvenient anti-dumping procedures in the future. But do China's Communist Party leaders seriously believe that the rest of the world will actually reward them for their dubious trading practices?
The answer is yes, and they have good reason to be optimistic. When it comes to diplomacy, Beijing knows how to win. Whether it's at the WTO, the United Nations or other international organizations, China is in the process of outmaneuvering the West everywhere.
- Part 1: China's Soft Power Is a Threat to the West
- Part 2: How China Cultivates Relations with the World
- FROM HERE
BEIJING - The ultimate goal of China's exchange rate reform is to make the yuan a fully convertible currency, Yi Gang, head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), said Friday.
Yi, also deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, the central bank, made the remarks in an interview with Caixin media's China Reform magazine, which is posted on the SAFE website.
The Chinese currency, or the RMB, still shoulders the pressure of appreciation albeit the pressure has eased, as the value of the currency drew close to the equilibrium level after adjustments in the past decade, Yi said.
There is no foundation for the yuan to move sharply, according to Yi.
China can maintain a flexible exchange rate and make the currency stand at a basically reasonable and balanced level, he said.
He added that since China is a large country and its development is unbalanced, the issue becomes more complicated.
"Generally speaking, a convertible currency is one whose exchange rate can float freely," he said.
Asked whether the yuan may turn into a reserve currency, Yi said it depends upon the market demand.
"We should not push it hard. Do not be talked into the belief that the yuan is very close to a reserve currency. It, in fact, lags far behind that level," Yi said.
China abandoned a decade-old peg to the US dollar five years ago by allowing its currency to fluctuate against a basket of currencies and appreciate by 2.1 percent.
Since then, the yuan has strengthened further, though slowly, and has risen more than 21 percent against the greenback.
On June 19 this year, the Chinese central bank announced that it would further the reform of the yuan exchange rate mechanism to improve its flexibility.
If I were a Republican Party leader, and I didn't care a whit about the welfare of the United States (and no, those two descriptors are not synonymous), I'd be feeling pretty good right now. My party will almost certainly pick up a lot of seats in Congress come November, which is the normal mid-term pattern after a big swing the other way, and this shift will make it even easier for the GOP to obstruct future Obama initiatives. More importantly, I'd be increasingly confident about regaining the White House in 2012 too.
One big reason is the economy, of course. Although Obama's economic team did a good job of arresting the financial meltdown and recession that began under President Bush, they aren't getting much credit for this in the minds of American voters. Voters don't care about the disasters-that-might-have-been-but-weren't; they care about how things are going now. There is a wealth of political science research showing that voters' perceptions of the economy have an enormous impact on presidential elections, and a recent book by Professor Larry Bartels of Princeton suggests that income growth in election years is a powerful predictor of incumbent electoral success.
The problem for Obama is obvious: Hardly anyone expects the U.S. economy to rebound rapidly over the next couple of years, and there is still some danger of a "double-dip" recession. This fact hardly guarantees a Democratic defeat come 2012, but a sluggish U.S. economy will clearly be a boon to the GOP. And if the Republicans gain control of the House and can use it to block major legislative initiatives, it will be harder for the Dems to bolster their own chances by goosing the economy in 2011. Obama can claim credit for a financial sector reform package and a watered-down health care bill, but neither measure will improve enough U.S. lives rapidly enough to make a lot of difference at the polls.
Unfortunately for Obama, things don't look much brighter when you turn to foreign policy. On the plus side, there's a new arms control treaty with Russia (which he may not be able to get ratified), and surveys suggest that America's global image has improved dramatically in many parts of the world. They smoothed over some disputes with Japan and are doing a good job of cultivating Indonesia, which is smart policy at a moment when China is becoming more assertive. But how many votes do you think that these modest successes will bring Obama in 2012? I'd say virtually none. And an improved global image isn't much of an accomplishment, when you consider how bad things were when Obama was elected.
More importantly, Obama is likely to be O for 4 on the big ticket items that have defined his foreign policy agenda, and he will therefore be heading into 2012 without a major domestic or foreign policy achievement to run on. All that spells trouble for Democrats come 2012.
Just look at the list.
Obama didn't get us into Iraq, and he's doing the right thing to get us out more-or-less on the schedule that the Bush adminstration negotiated back in 2008. But it's now clear that the much-vaunted "surge" was a strategic failure, and Iraq could easily spin back out of control once U.S. forces are gone. Even in the best case, Iraq can only be judged a defeat for the United States: we will have spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in order to bring to power an unstable government that is sympathetic to Iran and unlikely to be particularly friendly to the United States. Americans don't like losing, however, and Obama is going to get blamed for this outcome even though it was entirely his predecessor's fault.
Obama made some good symbolic gestures at the beginning of his presidency, but he gradually reverted to the same fruitless approach that epitomized the Bush administration. In essence, the U.S. position on Iran remains: "first you give us everything we want -- namely, a complete end to nuclear enrichment -- and then we'll be happy to talk about some of the things that you want." This approach is not going to work, and that will lead war hawks -- including some inside the administration -- to claim that the only option remaining is military force.
One could argue that Obama got some bad breaks here -- i.e., the contested 2009 election and subsequent turmoil in Iran undoubtedly made it much harder to do business with Tehran -- but the key point is that meaningful progress on this issue is unlikely given the administration's current approach. In the best case, we get stalemate; in the worst case, we get another war. Some smart people still think the latter outcome is unlikely and I certainly hope they are right, but there are influential voices inside and outside the administration who will continue to push for a more forceful response. If you don't believe me, read Time's Tony Karon here. In any case, there's little chance that Obama will be able to put Iran in the "win" column by 2012.
Obama took office promising "two-states for two peoples" in his first term, and he appeared to be serious about it until the Cairo speech in June 2009. It's been one retreat after another ever since, and as former U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk acknowledged in a recent Ha'aretz interview, it was mostly due to pressure from the Israel lobby. In his words (not mine):
American Jews traditionally are pretty supportive of the Democratic Party. They voted overwhelmingly for Barak Obama, they tend to vote for Democratic candidates and they provide a good deal of funding for political campaigns. So the Jewish factor is always a critical factor for Democratic candidates. I don't think it's telling any secrets that there are a lot of people who have been upset with President Obama. And I think that the White House came to the understanding that they have a real problem there and they are going out of their way trying to show they are friendly to Israel and committed to peace."
The focus now seems to be solely on getting some sort of direct talks started, but even if George Mitchell conjures up a rabbit from his hat, those talks aren't going to lead anywhere. Settlements will continue to expand, the U.S. won't do anything to stop them, and more and more people will come to realize that "two states" is becoming impossible. As I've said repeatedly, this situation is bad for the United States, bad for Israel and of course bad for the Palestinians. But it is also bad for Obama, because it means there's yet another major issue where he will not be able to point to any progress.
I agree with those commentators who say that the recent Wikileaks expose didn't add a lot of new information about the Afghan campaign. Instead, it confirmed what we already knew from multiple sources: the war is going badly, our Pakistani "partner" is double-dealing, and Obama made a major mistake when he decided to escalate in 2009. How many of you are confident that we are going to turn things around? Now he's stuck, which means he will be presiding over not one but two losing wars. He didn't start either of them, but that won't matter to the American electorate, and certainly not to the GOP, FoxNews, and the rest of the right-wing attack machine.
Add to that list the signs of a deteriorating relationship with China (an issue that has significant long-term implications), the lack of progress on climate change (another Obama priority that hasn't paid off yet), and you have a presidency that will limp into 2012 without a lot of tangible foreign policy achievements to its credit. That wouldn't be a problem if the economy were humming along, but as noted above, that isn't likely to be the case.
To be sure, none of these problems are easy to solve, and the lack of progress (or in some cases, backsliding) in part reflects the very tough hand that Obama was dealt from the outset. But that excuse only goes so far. Obama's fundamental error was to run try to run a very conventional foreign policy -- one that turned out to be not very different from the second Bush term -- in a situation that called for far more creative thinking and a willingness to try new approaches and stick with them even if it alienated some domestic constituencies. Instead, he's got the usual suspects running Middle East policy and achieving the same results they did in the past. He's "staying the course" in Afghanistan, even though plenty of smart people told him this was a losing strategy from the beginning. He's adopted the same unimaginative and failed policy towards Tehran, and then seems surprised that Iran doesn't leap to do our bidding.
And perhaps most striking of all, he's failed to recognize that other states--China, Pakistan, Turkey, Brazil, Iraq, Iran, Japan, Germany, even Great Britain, etc. -- have interests that don't always coincide with ours, and that we aren't going to win their support by offering up another lofty speech. And still, after all this, we get a "National Security Strategy" with an agenda a mile-long and only rhetorical recognition that there are real limits to what the United States can or should be trying to do.
So like I said, if I were a Republican Party leader, I'd be feeling kinda smug right now. Now if only I could come up with a candidate who didn't seem ... well, um ... even worse.
Friday, July 30, 2010
From Freedom Fighter to Terrorist
by Jacob G. Hornberger
The Washington Post yesterday profiled a Pakistani man named Hamid Gul, who served as head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency from 1987 to 1989. The article pointed out that Gul is viewed by U.S. officials as a terrorist, one who has been helping the Taliban oust U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
What makes the story interesting, however, is that it wasn’t always that way. Gul used to be a freedom fighter and a close friend and ally of the U.S. government.
Back when it was the Soviet Union that was the foreign occupier of Afghanistan, Gul and the U.S. government were working together to end the Soviet occupation. As the Post points out, Gul “helped the CIA funnel Islamist fighters to fight the Soviets.” In fact, it was during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan that Osama bin Laden came into Afghanistan and made a name for himself as a freedom fighter.
According to the Post, Gul “readily acknowledged that he has maintained friendships with former mujaheddin such as Jalaluddin Haqqani, a onetime CIA-backed fighter whose network is now viewed as the coalition forces’ most lethal foe. ‘The Americans dropped him like a hot brick,’ Gul said. ‘Why should I drop him just because he is doing the same thing … that they did against the Soviet occupation? They are fighting for the liberation of their country.’”
The same Gul who was viewed by U.S. officials as a “pro-Western and moderate” freedom fighter is now viewed by the U.S. government as a “murderous terrorist agent.”
What accounts for the change in perspective? Before, Gul was helping the Afghans bring an end to the Soviet occupation of their country. That made him a freedom fighter. Now, however, Gul is helping the Afghanis bring an end to the U.S. occupation of their country, and that makes him a terrorist.
For his part, Gul maintains that his actions have been entirely consistent the entire time — helping the Afghanis end the foreign occupation of their country.
Which one is it? Is Gul a freedom fighter or a terrorist? The answer would seem to turn on who is doing the occupying and who is doing the labeling. As the old saying goes, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
The Real Aim of Israel’s Bomb Iran Campaign
by Gareth Porter
Reuel Marc Gerecht's screed justifying an Israeli bombing attack on Iran coincides with the opening of the new Israel lobby campaign marked by the introduction of House Resolution 1553 expressing full support for such an Israeli attack.
What is important to understand about this campaign is that the aim of Gerecht and of the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu is to support an attack by Israel so that the United States can be drawn into direct, full-scale war with Iran.
That has long been the Israeli strategy for Iran, because Israel cannot fight a war with Iran without full U.S. involvement. Israel needs to know that the United States will finish the war that Israel wants to start.
Gerecht openly expresses the hope that any Iranian response to the Israeli attack would trigger full-scale U.S. war against Iran. "If Khamenei has a death-wish, he'll let the Revolutionary Guards mine the strait, the entrance to the Persian Gulf," writes Gerecht. "It might be the only thing that would push President Obama to strike Iran militarily...." Gerecht suggest that the same logic would apply to any Iranian "terrorism against the United States after an Israeli strike," by which we really means any attack on a U.S. target in the Middle East. Gerecht writes that Obama might be "obliged" to threaten major retaliation "immediately after an Israeli surprise attack."
That's the key sentence in this very long Gerecht argument. Obama is not going to be "obliged" to join Israeli aggression against Iran unless he feels that domestic political pressures to do so are too strong to resist. That's why the Israelis are determined to line up a strong majority in Congress and public opinion for war to foreclose Obama's options.
In the absence of confidence that Obama would be ready to come into the war fully behind Israel, there cannot be an Israeli strike.
Gerecht's argument for war relies on a fanciful nightmare scenario of Iran doling out nuclear weapons to Islamic extremists all over the Middle East. But the real concern of the Israelis and their lobbyists, as Gerecht's past writing has explicitly stated, is to destroy Iran's Islamic regime in a paroxysm of U.S. military violence.
Gerecht first revealed this Israeli-neocon fantasy as early as 2000, before the Iranian nuclear program was even taken seriously, in an essay written for a book published by the Project for a New American Century. Gerecht argued that, if Iran could be caught in a "terrorist act," the U.S. Navy should "retaliate with fury". The purpose of such a military response, he wrote, should be to "strike with truly devastating effect against the ruling mullahs and the repressive institutions that maintain them."
And lest anyone fail to understand what he meant by that, Gerecht was more explicit: "That is, no cruise missiles at midnight to minimize the body count. The clerics will almost certainly strike back unless Washington uses overwhelming, paralyzing force."
In 2006-07, the Israeli war party had reason to believed that it could hijack U.S. policy long enough to get the war it wanted, because it had placed one of its most militant agents, David Wurmser, in a strategic position to influence that policy.
We now know that Wurmser, formerly a close adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu and during that period Vice President Dick Cheney's main adviser on the Middle East, urged a policy of overwhelming U.S. military force against Iran. After leaving the administration in 2007, Wurmser revealed that he had advocated a U.S. war on Iran, not to set back the nuclear program but to achieve regime change.
"Only if what we do is placed in the framework of a fundamental assault on the survival of the regime will it have a pick-up among ordinary Iranians," Wurmser told The Telegraph. The U.S. attack was not to be limited to nuclear targets but was to be quite thorough and massively destructive. "If we start shooting, we must be prepared to fire the last shot. Don't shoot a bear if you're not going to kill it."
Of course, that kind of war could not be launched out of the blue. It would have required a casus belli to justify a limited initial attack that would then allow a rapid escalation of U.S. military force. In 2007, Cheney acted on Wurmser's advice and tried to get Bush to provoke a war with Iran over Iraq, but it was foiled by the Pentagon.
As Wurmser was beginning to whisper that advice in Cheney's ear in 2006, Gerecht was making the same argument in The Weekly Standard:
The idea of waging a U.S. war of destruction against Iran is obvious lunacy, which is why U.S. military leaders have strongly resisted it both during the Bush and Obama administrations. But Gerecht makes it clear that Israel believes it can use its control of Congress to pound Obama into submission. Democrats in Congress, he boasts, "are mentally in a different galaxy than they were under President Bush." Even though Israel has increasingly been regarded around the world as a rogue state after its Gaza atrocities and the commando killings of unarmed civilians on board the Mavi Marmara, its grip on the U.S. Congress appears as strong as ever.
Bombing the nuclear facilities once would mean we were declaring war on the clerical regime. We shouldn't have any illusions about that. We could not stand idly by and watch the mullahs build other sites. If the ruling mullahs were to go forward with rebuilding what they'd lost--and it would be surprising to discover the clerical regime knuckling after an initial bombing run--we'd have to strike until they stopped. And if we had any doubt about where their new facilities were (and it's a good bet the clerical regime would try to bury new sites deep under heavily populated areas), and we were reasonably suspicious they were building again, we'd have to consider, at a minimum, using special-operations forces to penetrate suspected sites.
Moreover, polling data for 2010 show that a majority of Americans have already been manipulated into supporting war against Iran - in large part because more than two-thirds of those polled have gotten the impression that Iran already has nuclear weapons. The Israelis are apparently hoping to exploit that advantage. "If the Israelis bomb now, American public opinion will probably be with them," writes Gerecht. "Perhaps decisively so." Netanyahu must be feeling good about the prospects for pressuring Barack Obama to join an Israeli war of aggression against Iran. It was Netanyahu, after all, whodeclared in 2001, "I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won't get in the way."
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy who has been independent since a brief period of university teaching in the 1980s. Dr. Porter is the author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005). He has written regularly for Inter Press Service on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran since 2005.
Israel wants total regime change [control] over Iran.
This has never ever been about any Iranian Nuclear threat, or an attack by Iran.
Israel wants a Western puppet regime placed in Iran.
WHY? So that they can then do as they please with Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza, and the rest of the region. The right wing of the Israeli Govt. wants control. The ability to control and further their Zionist expansion of the region.
The U.S. is their enabler. We finance the rogue state of Israel. We are the ones that veto any resolutions against Israel. We are the ones that give Israel the green light for their ethnic cleansing, and war crimes.
We are the ones that allow this apartheid state to further their agenda. We are the ones that allow Israel to build the illegal settlements. We are the ones that allow the continuation of the Gulag Gaza. Hell, we did not say one word to Israel when they murdered [execution style] one of our own citizens.
BEWARE OF FALSE FLAGS.
COLOMBIA: Report Suggests "Correlation" Between U.S. Aid And Army Killings
BOGOTÁ, Jul 30, 2010 (IPS) - "There are alarming links between increased reports of extrajudicial executions of civilians by the Colombian army and units that receive U.S. military financing," John Lindsay-Poland, lead author of a two-year study on the question, told IPS.
Lindsay-Poland is Research and Advocacy Director for the U.S.-based Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), which presented a new report, "Military Assistance and Human Rights: Colombia, U.S. Accountability, and Global Implications", in Bogotá Thursday.
The report, produced in conjunction with the U.S. Office on Colombia (USOC), studies the application in Colombia of the so-called Leahy Law, passed in 1996, which bans military assistance to a foreign security force unit if the U.S. State Department has credible evidence that the unit has committed gross human rights violations.
The Leahy Law is one of the main U.S. laws designed to protect against the use of U.S. foreign aid to commit human rights abuses.
"If the Leahy Law was fully implemented, assistance would have to be suspended to nearly all fixed army brigades and many mobile brigades in Colombia," Lindsay-Poland said.
The report points out that most military training in Colombia is funded by the U.S. Defence Department.
Colombia, caught up in an armed conflict for nearly five decades, is one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid in the world, along with Israel, Egypt and Pakistan.
The study reviewed data on more than 3,000 extrajudicial executions reportedly committed by the armed forces in Colombia since 2002 and lists of more than 500 military units assisted by the United States since 2000.
"We found that for many military units, reports of extrajudicial executions increased during and after the highest levels of U.S. assistance," Lindsay-Poland said.
The results were obtained by comparing the number of reports of such killings in the two years prior to the start of Plan Colombia -- the multibillion-dollar U.S. military aid package -- in 2000 with the number of killings after the launch of that counterinsurgency and anti-drug strategy.
It also found that reports of alleged killings of civilians by the army dropped when assistance was cut.
"Whatever correlation may exist between assistance and reported killings, there are clearly other factors contributing to high levels of killings. Yet, while we could not fix the causes of increased reports of killings after increases in U.S. assistance, our findings highlight the need for a thorough investigation into the reasons for this apparent correlation," the authors say.
"The U.S. government should respond to the questions raised by the report," Lindsay-Poland said.
For example, "why U.S. officials neglect their duties under the Leahy Law, not only in Colombia but in countries like Pakistan, where the situation is very complex."
The U.S. military presence in Colombia dates back to the 1940s, when leftwing guerrillas became active in the country. But it escalated to a new level in 1999 when Plan Colombia was agreed by the governments of then presidents Andrés Pastrana (1998–2002) and Bill Clinton (1993–2001).
Plan Colombia was complemented and extended in 2004 by Plan Patriot, signed by President Álvaro Uribe, whose term ends Aug. 7, and former president George W. Bush (2001–2009).
The two plans have undergone radical changes since 2009, according to Lindsay-Poland, when they reached beyond the initial aims of counterinsurgency and counternarcotics, with a view towards strengthening U.S. control in the region.
U.S. army Southern Command documents state the importance of establishing a base "with air mobility reach on the South American continent and a capacity for counter-narcotics operations until the year 2025," he said.
Uribe offered the U.S. military the use of seven bases at strategic points in Colombia, including both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the province of Caquetá in the Amazon jungle, and the provinces of Meta, Tolima and Cundinamarca in the centre of the country.
Lindsay-Poland and other members of FOR tried to visit the Palanquero base in Cundinamarca, one of the seven, on Wednesday. But "they did not let us in," he said. "They demanded authorisation from the U.S. Embassy. So what kind of autonomy are we talking about here?"
Furthermore, the agreement for U.S. military access to the bases has not been approved by the Colombian Congress, as required by law.
As a result, the Constitutional Court ruled the agreement unconstitutional on Jul. 22 and gave Congress one year to approve or reject it.
If the legislature ratifies the deal, the Constitutional Court will once again study it, to determine whether or not it is in line with the constitution.
The report presented by FOR and USOC coincided with the start of an investigation of reports of unmarked graves in the La Macarena cemetery, which is next to an army base, according to a Jul. 22 public hearing in that town in the central province of Meta, which was attended by opposition lawmakers and international observers, including European legislators.
At the hearing, witnesses said military helicopters flew in the remains of bodies to La Macarena, 340 km south of Bogotá. Human rights groups say the bodies were those of civilians killed by the army.
"This is happening at the end of a government marked by grave human rights violations, which have largely affected the most vulnerable groups in society, and which are reflected in the thousands of 'false positives', as the extrajudicial executions have been popularly known," Alberto Yepes, director of the Observatorio de Derechos Humanos (DIH - Human Rights Observatory), told IPS.
The scandal over the so-called "false positives" -- young civilians killed by the army and passed off as guerrilla casualties in the military's counterinsurgency campaign --broke in the press in September 2008.
Although there are no hard statistics on the number of people killed, the report by FOR and USOC puts the number at over 3,000 in the last decade.
A group that calls itself the Madres (mothers) of Soacha, a vast working-class suburb stretching south of Bogotá, has filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights over the loss of their 16 sons in 2007 and 2008. The young men were recruited with the promise of jobs, but their bodies were found in morgues or mass graves hundreds of kilometres away.
Yepes said the complaint filed by the Madres de Soacha "is a way to pressure the state to modify this kind of behaviour."
While activists and groups mobilise to pressure the armed forces to live up to the constitution, "the United States should assume its responsibility through better oversight, holding (authorities in Colombia) accountable and adopting corrective measures, so the money of U.S. taxpayers does not end up financing killings in Colombia," he said. (END) FROM HERE
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Representative Joe Barton’s apology to Tony Hayward for what he termed a “shakedown” of BP by the White House in order to get BP’s agreement to a $20 billion escrow fund, was the best thing to happen to BP since April 20, and the best boost for the White House in months. What possessed Barton, the ranking Republican on Energy and Commerce?
Adding to the mystery is the fact that just four years ago, Barton, as the committee’s chair, excoriated BP’s top brass (who were then appearing before the Committee to explain the firm’s negligence in allowing 270,000 gallons of oil to spill on Alaska’s North Slope, the worst spill ever recorded in that fragile territory) for a “corporate culture of seeming indifference to safety and environmental issues … And this comes from a company that prides itself in their ads on protecting the environment. Shame, shame, shame.”
How did Barton go from BP as shameful villain to BP as shakedown victim? And how did he fail to sense the dimensions of the public’s outrage at BP this time around?
Is it because Barton is virtually owned by Texas oil money? This can’t explain Barton’s turnaround because he was owned by oil four years ago, too.
Is it old-fashioned partisan politics? Four years ago Republicans were in charge of Congress and the White House, and now Democrats are. But this can’t be the reason either because Barton’s bizarre apology to BP yesterday so embarrassed congressional Republicans they pushed him into retracting it hours later.
Stupidity? Barton was smart enough four years ago to deliver one of the most scathing criticisms of BP by any member of Congress. His “shame, shame, shame” line was repeated on the evening news and in the following day’s headlines.
I think something else is going on. Barton’s view that the White House overreached in forcing BP to put aside $20 billion has been voiced elsewhere in the netherworld of the Republican right, on Fox News, and among Tea Partiers.
Unlike four years ago, this country is now having the sharpest and most emotional debate it’s had in more than a century over a deceptively simple question: Which do you trust less – Big Business (including Wall Street) or Big Government?
The crash of Wall Street and subsequent Great Recession has impassioned both sides. The Street can’t be trusted because its recklessness almost wrecked the economy; big business can’t be trusted because it’s laid off millions of Americans with scant regard for their welfare.
On the other hand, government is on the loose because of the giant stimulus package; the yawning budget deficit and hair-raising national debt; the “takeovers” of General Motors, Chrysler, and AIG, along with the firings of several executives; and the huge health-care bill.
Until six months ago, the latter narrative, emanating from the Republican right, seemed to be winning the hearts and minds of an ever more angry electorate. Democrats (including the incumbent of the Oval Office) were reluctant to criticize Wall Street and Big Business with nearly the force and consistency of the Republican offensive against Big Government.
But then came the tidal wave of revelations about the rapacity of business. Investigators linked the near-meltdown of the Street to questionable accounting practices at several of the big banks. Goldman Sachs was shown to have been double-dealing with investors for its own profits.
Heath insurers, most notably WellPoint, yanked up their rates — thereby showing themselves to be less interested in the health care of Americans than their own bottom lines. A terrible mine explosion revealed the recklessness and indifference of one of America’s biggest mining companies, Massey Energy.
And now the worst environmental disaster in American history, courtesy of BP.
In light of all this, the “I trust Big Business (and Wall Street) more than I trust Big Government” story line seems bizarre to most Americans – as did Joe Barton’s apology to BP yesterday.
The political question of the moment is whether the Barton moment finally convinces the President and Democratic leaders it’s safe to fully embrace the other story line. The problem for many of them, of course, is that a large percent of their campaign money is coming from big business and Wall Street. read full