Leading the Multipolar Revolution

How Russia and China are Creating a New World Order

by Federico Pieraccini

Strategic Culture Foundation (June 20 2017)

The last thirty days have shown another kind of world that is engaging in cooperation, dialogue and diplomatic efforts to resolve important issues. The meeting of the members of the Belt and Road Initiative (“BRI”) laid the foundations for a physical and electronic connectivity among Eurasian countries, making it the backbone of sustainable and renewable trade development based on mutual cooperation. A few weeks later, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (“SCO”) meeting in Astana outlined the necessary conditions for the success of the Chinese project, such as securing large areas of the Eurasian block and improving dialogue and trust among member states. The following Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (“AIIB”) meeting in the Republic of Korea (“ROK”) will lay out the economic necessities to finance and sustain the BRI projects.

The SCO and the BRI have many common features, and in many ways seem complementary. The SCO is an organization that focuses heavily on economic, political and security issues in the region, while the BRI is a collection of infrastructure projects that incorporates three-fifths of the globe and is driven by Beijing’s economic might. In this context, the Eurasian block continues to develop the following initiatives to support both the BRI and SCO mega-projects. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (“CTSO”) is a Moscow-based organization focusing mainly on the fight against terrorism, while the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (“AIIB”) is a Beijing-based investment bank that is responsible for generating important funding for Beijing’s long-term initiatives along its maritime routes (ports and canals) and overland routes (roads, bridges, railways, pipelines, industries, airports). The synergies between these initiatives find yet another point of convergence in the Eurasian Economic Union (“EEU”). Together, the SCO, BRI, CTSO, AIIB, and EEU provide a compelling indication of the direction in which humanity is headed, which is to say towards integration, cooperation and peaceful development through diplomacy.

On the other side, we have the “old world order” made up of the IMF, the World Bank, the European Union, the UN, Nato, the WTO, with Washington being the ringmaster at the center of this vision of a world order. It is therefore not surprising that Washington should look askance at these Eurasian initiatives that threaten to deny its central and commanding role in the global order in favor of a greater say by Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi and even Tehran.

One of the most significant and noteworthy events in the last month, or even in recent years, has been the admission into the SCO of India and Pakistan, two nuclear powers with a history of tension and conflict between them. These two countries are critical to the peaceful and fruitful integration of Eurasia. The slow, two-year process of India and Pakistan’s admission into the SCO benefited greatly from China and Russia’s mediation, culminating in the historical agreement signed by Modi, Sharif, Putin, and Xi. This is not to mention Afghanistan’s Ghani being at the same table with Modi and Sharif, representing one of the most infamous locations where Eurasian powers have clashed with each other, acting as an obstacle to the integration and development of the region. The main goal of the new SCO organization is a peaceful mediation between New Delhi and Islamabad, and certainly to reach a wider agreement that can include Afghanistan. Kabul is a good example of how the SCO can offer the ideal framework for achieving a definitive peace settlement. This reflects the sentiment that was expressed during the meeting that took place a few weeks ago in Moscow between Pakistan, India, China, Russia, and Afghanistan over the complicated situation in the country. Clearly, there are conflicting interests, and it is only through the mediation of Beijing and Moscow that it will be possible to reach a wider agreement and end the sixteen-year-old conflict.

Afghanistan is a good example of how the SCO intends to support the BRI. In this sense, it is important to note that Moscow and Beijing have decided to engage in a partnership that looks more like an alliance with long-term projects planned deep into 2030. The extent to which Russia and China are committed to common initiatives and projects can be seen in the BRI, SCO, AIIB, and CTSO.

 

 

Security and Development

 

 

Beijing is fully aware that it is impossible to defeat terrorism without laying the foundation for economic growth in underdeveloped countries in Africa, Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. Terrorist organizations are generally better able to recruit from populations suffering from low income and poor schooling. The SCO is required to manage and control its members’ most unstable areas (Central Asian republics, Afghanistan, India-Pakistan border, Beijing-New Delhi relations) and mediate between parties. The BRI and SCO go hand in hand, one being unable to operate without the other, as Xi and Putin have reiterated.

The SCO and BRI are both capable of meeting the challenges of economic growth through development and progress. Just looking at the BRI’s major projects helps one understand the level and extent of integration that has been agreed. The Eurasian Land Bridge begins in Western China and ends in Western Russia. The China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor begins in Northern China and arrives in Eastern Russia. Central Asia will be connected to Western Asia, which practically means China linking with Turkey. The China-Indochina corridor runs from Southern China to Singapore, and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor starts in Southern China and arrives in India. The nearly completed China-Pakistan corridor starts in south-western China and reaches Pakistan. Finally, the maritime route running from the Chinese coast through to Singapore will reach the Mediterranean in Greece or, in the future, Venice.

What is evident is that countries like India, Singapore, Turkey, and Myanmar, just to name a few, do not wish to miss the opportunity to join this initiative that promises to revolutionize trade and globalization as we know it. Today’s main economic problems, as well as the problem posed by terrorism, stem from the lack of economic growth brought on by a globalization that enriches the elites at the expense of ordinary people. The BRI aims to reinvent globalization, avoiding the protectionist drift that many countries today adopt in response to an aggressive and failed approach to globalization. Beijing intends to bring about a radical change to its industries by restructuring its production and boosting its investment in technology, generating more internal consumption, and becoming a country that offers services and not only manufacturing. For this process to be successful, it will be fundamental to reorganize the regional supply chain by transferring production to more competitive countries that will play important roles in sectors such as agriculture, energy, logistics, and industry. Southeast Asia, in particular, seems to offer ideal destinations for transferring Chinese industries.

In this process of transforming a good part of the globe, some countries currently outside of the SCO organization are nevertheless fully part of the integration schemes and will play a decisive role in the future. In particular, Iran, Turkey, and Egypt are the main focus when one looks at their geographical position. The importance of these three countries vis-a-vis the SCO arises mainly from the need of the organization to pursue its work of political expansion and, in the future, to counter militarily the problem of terrorism and its spread. Naturally, countries like Iran and Egypt already devote a large part of their resources towards counteracting the terrorist phenomenon in the Middle East and North Africa. Their entry into the SCO would be seen by many protagonists of the BRI, especially China, as providing the opportunity to expand their projects in areas in North Africa and the Middle East that are currently tumultuous.

This should not come as a surprise since even countries like Jordan and Israel have been taken into account by Beijing for important infrastructure projects related to the transport of desalinated water to regions with a high rate of drought. With Israel, the Chinese partnership is stronger than ever, counting on various factors such as technological development and the expansion of several Israeli ports to connect more Chinese maritime routes with destinations in the Mediterranean like Piraeus in Greece and probably Venice in Italy. Turkey’s entry into the SCO is mainly aimed at gathering the region’s major oil and gas suppliers and consumers under a single umbrella guaranteed by the SCO. These operations take time and a degree of cooperation that is hard to maintain, although the resolution of the situation in Syria, in addition to the crisis in the Gulf between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, could accelerate synergies and easily facilitate them.

The entry of Iran, Egypt, and Turkey into the SCO is inevitable, receiving the strong encouragement of China and Russia, especially as regards the future connection between BRI and other infrastructure projects that are part of the EEU. The advantages are quite obvious to everyone, bringing about greater integration and infrastructure links, the increase of trade between nations, and general cooperation in mutual development. Products can travel from one country to another based on conditions determined bilaterally, something that often favors bigger nations rather than smaller ones. The intention of China’s Globalization 2.0, coupled with a Eurasian revival of the EEU, is to change the future of humanity by shifting the global pole of globalization and development towards the east. The BRI is immense and mind-boggling in its scope, given that it embraces realities ranging from Panama (focused on the extended channel and the Nicaragua project for a new channel) to Australia, passing through Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Persian Gulf.

Naturally, in this delicate balance, Europe is called on to play a decisive role in the future. The United States, with its “America First” policy, has already burned bridges with the Chinese BRI revolution, and indeed hopes to throw a spanner in China’s works. European countries including England, France, Germany, and Italy have already begun to sign onto various Chinese proposals. It looks as if America’s allies are no longer listening to their former boss. The European Central Bank has for the first time diversified $500 million into Yuan currency, and London, together with Rome, Berlin, and Paris, was present in Beijing for the launch of the BRI. France, Germany, and England sent high-level representations and delegations, Italy directly the Prime Minister. For Europe, the largest exporter to China and the second-largest regional block importing from China, it is inevitable that it will be an integral part of the BRI, looking to reach Iran, Turkey and Egypt for energy supplies and diversifying sources, all within the framework of the BRI.

In this process of Eurasian integration, there are some key countries to keep in mind, but the first steps have already been made with almost indissoluble ties having been made between Moscow and Beijing, as well as the monumental inclusion of Pakistan and India at the same table. With an understanding between India, Russia and China, as well as a lack of hostility to the project in Iran, Israel, Germany, England, Turkey and Egypt, it will be possible to speed up this global change, bringing it to the African countries, Gulf monarchies, South Asian countries, and even South and Central America. Even Washington’s historic allies like Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the EU vacillate in the face of such an opportunity to broaden their horizons with significant gains. As far as their alliance with the United States, in this world rapidly heading towards a multipolar world order, not even Riyadh, Tel Aviv or London can afford the luxury of ignoring the project that perhaps more than any other will revolutionize the future of humanity in the near future. Not being a part of it is simply not an option.

The United States has two diametrically opposed options before it. It can operate alongside the BRI project, trying to fashion its own sphere of influence, albeit smaller than the countries residing within the Eurasian continent; but of course for Washington, simply being part of a grand project may not be enough, since it is used to getting its own way and subordinating the interests of other countries to its own. If the US decides to try and sabotage the BRI with their normal tools like terrorism, it is very likely that the countries historically aligned with Washington in these affairs (such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) will be subjected to Chinese economic pressure and encouraged to instead participate in a more positive manner.

 

 

Cooperation Against Threats

 

 

The main question is the extent to which Chinese economic persuasion will succeed in overcoming US military threats. In this respect, the SCO will be a decisive factor as it expands its influence beyond the Eurasian bloc into Africa and the Middle East. To date, the SCO cannot be considered a military bloc opposed to Nato. Everything will depend on the pressures that the United States will bring to bear on participating countries. Therefore, it is likely that the SCO will evolve to include a strong military aspect in order to counter American destabilization efforts.

It is difficult to predict whether the US will be neutral or belligerent. But considering recent history, American hostility is likely to force Moscow and Beijing into an asymmetric response that will hit Washington where it hurts most, namely its economic interests. Aiming at the dollar, and in particular, the petrodollar seems to be the best bet for advancing the BRI, threatening a massive de-dollarization that would end in disaster for Washington. This is the nuclear option that Beijing and Moscow are looking into, with more than a desire to accelerate this economic shift.

The future of humanity seems to be changing in exciting and unprecedented ways. The full integration of the Eurasian bloc will eventually end up changing the course of history, allowing nations that are currently weak and poor to withstand colonial pressures and broaden their cooperation and dialogue. Peace as a method for developing synergies and prosperity seems to be the new paradigm, contrasting with war and destruction as has been the case in the last decades.

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Republishing is welcomed with reference to Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal http://www.strategic-culture.org.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/06/20/leading-multipolar-revolution-how-russia-china-creating-new-world-order.html

Categories: Uncategorized

Israel’s Dirty Little Secret

How it drives US policies exploiting a spineless Congress and White House

by Philip Giraldi

The Unz Report (June 20 2017)


Israeli PM Netanyahu Addresses Joint Meeting Of Congress

At a recent panel discussion in Washington, screenwriter, film director and producer Oliver Stone briefly addressed the issue of alleged Russian interference in the recent national election, observing that “Israel interfered in the US election far more than Russia and nobody is investigating them” A few days later, in an interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, Stone returned to the theme, responding to an aggressive claim that Russia had interfered in the election by challenging Colbert with

 

 

Israel had far more involvement in the US election than Russia. Why don’t you ask me about that?

 

 

Don’t look for the exchange with Colbert on YouTube. CBS deleted it from its broadcast and website, demonstrating once again that the “I” word cannot be disparaged on national television. Stone was, of course, referring to the fact that the Israel Lobby, most notably acting through its American Israel Public Affairs Committee (“AIPAC”), is undeniably a foreign lobby, no less so than anyone representing the presumed interests of Russia or China. It operates with complete impunity on Capitol Hill and also at state and local levels and no one dares to require it to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, which would permit scrutiny of its finances and also end its tax-exempt “educational” status. Nor does Congress or the media see fit to inquire into AIPAC’s empowerment of candidates based on their fidelity to Israel, not to mention the direct interference in the American electoral process which surfaced most visibly in its support of candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

The last president that sought to compel the predecessor organization of AIPAC to register was John F Kennedy, who also was about to take steps to rein in Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program when he was assassinated, which was a lucky break for Israel, particularly as Kennedy was replaced by the passionate Zionist Lyndon Baines Johnson. Funny how things sometimes work out. The Warren Commission looked deeply into a possible Cuban connection in the shooting and came up with nothing but one has to wonder if they also investigated the possible roles of other countries. Likewise, the 9/11 Commission Report failed to examine the possible involvement of Israel in the terrorist attack in spite of a considerable body of evidence suggesting that there were a number of Israeli-sourced covert operations running in the US at that time.

Looking back from the perspective of his more than forty years of military service, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer described the consequences of Jewish power vis-a-vis US policy towards Israel, stating that

 

 

I’ve never seen a president – I don’t care who he is – stand up to them [the Israelis]. It just boggles your mind. They always get what they want. The Israelis know what is going on all the time. I got to the point where I wasn’t writing anything down. If the American people understood what a grip those people have got on our government, they would rise up in arms. Our citizens don’t have any idea what goes on.

 

 

He also addressed the 1967 Israeli assault on the USS Liberty, saying

 

 

Israel attempted to prevent the Liberty’s radio operators from sending a call for help by jamming American emergency radio channels. [And that] Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned lifeboats at close range that had been lowered to rescue the most-seriously wounded.

 

 

He concluded with

 

 

our government put Israel’s interests ahead of our own? If so, Why? Does our government continue to subordinate American interests to Israeli interests?

 

 

It is a question that might well be asked today, as the subservience to Israeli interests is, if anything, more pervasive in 2017 Washington than it was in 2002 when Moorer spoke up. And, as in Moorer’s day, much of the partiality towards Israel makes its way through Congress with little or no media coverage lest anyone begin to wonder whose tail is wagging which dog. To put it succinctly, there is an Israeli hand in much of what the United States does internationally, and the involvement is not intended to do anything good for the American people.

During the past several weeks alone there has been a flurry of legislation backed by Israel and its Lobby. One bill might actually have been written by AIPAC. It is called Senate 722, Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017. The bill has 63 co-sponsors, most of whom are the usual suspects, but it also included an astonishingly large number of Democrats who describe themselves as progressive, including Corey Booker and Kamila Harris, both of whom are apparently terrified lest they say “no” to Israel. With 63 co-sponsors out of 100 senators, the bill was certain to pass overwhelmingly, and it was indeed approved 98 to 2, with only Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders voting “no”.

And there’s more to S.722 than Iran – it’s subtitle is “An act to provide congressional review and to counter Iranian and Russian governments’ aggression”. Much of it is designed to increase sanctions on both Iran and Russia while also limiting the White House’s ability to relieve any sanctions without approval by Congress. Regarding Iran, the bill mandates that

 

 

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every two years thereafter, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Director of National Intelligence shall jointly develop and submit to the appropriate congressional committees a strategy for deterring conventional and asymmetric Iranian activities and threats that directly threaten the United States and key allies in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond.

 

 

The premise is, of course, nonsensical as Iran’s ability to threaten anyone, least of all the United States, is limited. It is far outgunned by its neighbors and even more so by the US, but it has become the enemy of choice for Congress as well as for the former generals who serve as White House advisers. The animus against Iran comes directly from Israel and from the Saudi Arabians, who have managed to sell their version of developments in their part of the world through a completely acquiescent and heavily Jewish-influenced western media.

And there’s more. A bill has surfaced in the House of Representatives that will require the United States to “consult” with Israel regarding any prospective arms sales to Arab countries in the Middle East. In other words, Israel will have a say, backed up undoubtedly by Congress and the media, over what the United States does in terms of its weapons sales abroad. The sponsors of the bill, one Brad Schneider of Illinois and Claudia Tenney of New York, want “closer scrutiny of future military arms sales” to maintain the “qualitative military edge” that Israel currently enjoys.

Schneider is, of course, Jewish and a life member of AIPAC, so it is hardly as if he is a disinterested party. Tenny runs for office in New York State, so it is hardly as if she is disinterested either, but the net result of all this is that American jobs and US international security arrangements through weapons sales will be at least in part subject to Israeli veto. And you know that is precisely what will happen as Israel could give a damn what happens to the struggling American entity that it so successfully feeds off of.

And there’s still more. Bill HR 672 Combating European Anti-Semitism Act of 2017 was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives on June 14th. Yes, I said “unanimously”. The bill requires the State Department to monitor what European nations and their police forces are doing about anti-Semitism and encourages them to adopt “a uniform definition of anti-Semitism”. That means that criticism of Israel must be considered anti-Semitism and will therefore be a hate crime and prosecutable, a status that is already de facto true in Britain and France. If the Europeans don’t play ball, there is the possibility of repercussions in trade negotiations. The bill was co-sponsored by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida and Nita Lowey of New York, both of whom are Jewish.

There is also a Senate companion bill on offer in the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act of 2017. The bill will make the Anti-Semitism Envoy a full American Ambassador and will empower him or her with a full staff and a budget permitting meddling worldwide. The bill is sponsored by Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Marco Rubio of Florida. Gillibrand is unlikely to miss co-sponsoring anything relating to Israel due to her own self-interest and Rubio wants to be president real bad so he is following the money.

And finally, the US Senate has also approved a resolution celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Israel’s conquest of East Jerusalem. Again, the vote was unanimous. The resolution was co-sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer and Mitch McConnell, two reptiles who give snakes a bad name and about whom the less said the better. Schumer is Jewish and has described himself as the “shomer” or guardian of Israel in the Senate. That the resolution opposes long established US government policy that the occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank by Israel is in contravention of international law and is an impediment to any peace process with the Palestinians apparently bothered not even one Senator.

I might note in passing that there has been no Senate resolution commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the bravery exhibited by the officers and crew of the USS Liberty as they were being slaughtered by the Israelis at the same time as Jerusalem was being “liberated”. There is probably even more to say, to include secret agreements with the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, but I will stop at this point with one final observation. President Donald Trump traveled to the Middle East claiming to be desirous of starting serious negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, but it was all a sham. Benjamin Netanyahu took him aside and came out with the usual Israeli bullshit about the Palestinians “inciting” violence and hatred of Jews and Trump bought into it. He then went to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and shouted at him for being a liar and opposed to peace based on what Netanyahu had told him. That is what passes for even-handed in the US government, no matter who is president. A few days later the Israelis announced the building of the largest bloc of illegal new settlements on the West Bank since 1992, an action that they claim is being coordinated with Washington.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once boasted about owning the United States. I guess he was right.

http://www.unz.com/pgiraldi/israels-dirty-little-secret/

Categories: Uncategorized

Multipolar World Order

The Big Picture in the Qatar-Saudi Fracture

by Federico Pieraccini

Strategic Culture Foundation (June 13 2017)

In a climate of outright confrontation, even the Gulf monarchies have been overtaken by a series of unprecedented events. The differences between Qatar on one side, and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on the other, have escalated into a full-blown diplomatic crisis with outcomes difficult to foresee.

Officially, everything started with statements made by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani that appeared on the Qatar News Agency (“QNA”) on May 23 2017. A few hours before the conference between the fifty Arab countries and the US President, Al Thani was reported to have said the same words that appeared on QNA. The speech was very indulgent towards Iran and described the idea of an “Arab Nato” as unnecessary. The exact words are not known because the event in which Al Thani had made such incendiary remarks concerned military matters and was thus not accessible to the general public. Especially to be noted is that QNA denies having published the words in question and attributed them to a cyber-attack.

The public dissemination of the Emir’s words on QNA promptly provoked an unprecedented diplomatic crisis in the Gulf. Immediately, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”), Bahrain, Egypt and the Maldives took advantage of the confusion created by Al Thani’s alleged words by enacting a series of extreme measures while accusing Doha of supporting international terrorism (through Hamas, al-Qaeda, Iran, and Daesh). Qatar’s ambassadors in the countries mentioned were requested to return home within 48 hours, and Qatari citizens were given fourteen days to leave Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. At the same time, Riyadh proceeded to close its airspace as well as land and sea borders to Qatar, effectively isolating the peninsula from the rest of the world.

Realistically, what interest would Qatar have had in promulgating the words of Al Thani in order to antagonize Riyadh and Abu Dhabi? Even if the Emir had made such remarks, Doha would certainly not have given them to QNA to publish on its website. If it was not a cyber-attack, it was certainly a miscalculation on Doha’s part or, worse, possibly internal sabotage to damage the Al Thani family.

To explain the dynamics that have officially created this unprecedented situation, it is necessary to sift through the facts in order to discern reality from fiction.

There is no Difference between Saudi Arabia and Qatar

The Saudi charge that Qatar supports terrorism is well supported by the facts, Doha having long supported terrorist groups in North Africa and the Middle East, from Libya to Syria through to Egypt and Iraq. The problem is that the one throwing the charge, Saudi Arabia, is as guilty of it as is the accused. Both countries have provided the financial backing for much of the extremism that has been infesting the globe for decades. The Saudi royal family is the ultimate expression of the Wahhabi heresy that historically corresponds to the ideology of al Qaeda. Riyadh’s support for terrorist organizations was complemented by the US neoconservative strategy designed to destabilize Afghanistan in the context of anti-USSR geopolitics, as admitted by the recently deceased Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has deep roots and affects not only the ideological difference between Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood, but also the increased religious tolerance of Doha as opposed to the ideological intransigence of Riyadh.

Qatar, through the Muslim Brotherhood, has supported the Arab Spring that deposed Mubarak and placed Morsi in charge of Egypt, creating in the process strong tensions with the Saudis. Riyadh supported al-Sisi to remedy the situation in Egypt, financing the coup that sent Morsi to jail. In 2014 this prompted a crisis between Gulf Cooperation Council (“GCC”) countries, with Qatar’s ambassadors being expelled from the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Differences were soon patched up by the convergence of interests in destabilizing Syria and Iraq with extremist terrorism funded by both nations together with Turkey’s important contribution.

The Neocon Zionist and Wahhabi Plans

What is interesting to note in connection with the Gulf crisis is the change in strategy in recent months by the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Washington’s plan, shared by Tel Aviv and supported by Riyadh, is to pin the blame for sponsoring international terrorism on Tehran and Doha, fingering Qatar as the key financier of Hamas, al Qaeda, and Daesh. The reason and purpose behind this are manifold.

The problem of Islamic terrorism has become a subject of focussed attention for European and American citizens because of frequent attacks. Security agencies are incapable of preventing terrorist attacks from the same elements they have for years funded and supported as part of their anti-Iranian and anti-Syrian strategy. The difficulties faced by secret services in halting such attacks (as opposed to rogue secret services who aid terrorist networks a la Operation Gladio) have made people question.

Citizens, increasingly frightened and angry with their governments for the lack of security, are beginning to realize that the extremists receive their financial support from the Gulf countries, who are known to be in business with many European capitals. The last thing that the governments of France, Italy, Germany, the UK and the US want is the revelation that they are in league with Islamic terrorism for geopolitical purposes. The consequences would be disastrous for the already fragile credibility of the West.

Further confirmation of this strategy to gang up on Qatar can be seen in the economic field. S&P downgraded the credit rating of Qatar a short time ago to AA-, setting the stage for a further downgrade that could have important implications for the future economic stability of the emirate.

Trump and other leaders of the G7 seem to have made up their minds, agreeing with Saudi wishes, heaping on Qatar all the blame for Islamic terrorism. The US administration, more eagerly than its European vassals, also insists on including Tehran in the charge of state sponsors of terrorism. For Washington, the aim is to curtail covert Western support for terrorism, all the more urgent given the worsening state of affairs in Europe. Politicians from the Old Continent understand that it is fundamental for a culprit to be found before being accused of being unable to stop Islamist terrorism. It is a desperate exit strategy that aims to attribute primary blame to Qatar and secondary blame to Iran.

Europeans are more reluctant to endorse this vision, given the possible trade opportunities for the European private sector in Iran following the removal of sanctions. It is even possible that some European leaders are opposed to Trump’s idea, probably discussed during the G7 in Italy, given Qatar’s billions of investment poured into the dying European economy.

Israel has officially maintained a neutral position concerning the Arab Spring, benefiting from the chaos in the region and the weakening of geopolitical opponents like Syria and Egypt. Qatar’s support for Hamas, Israel’s historic enemy, is a factor that has contributed to Tel Aviv’s support for Riyadh’s maneuvers against Doha.

The Saudis, on the other hand, have multiple reasons for attacking Qatar. Firstly, it brings Doha’s foreign policy back into line after showing leanings towards Tehran. Secondly, it aims to incorporate Qatar in order to absorb its enormous financial resources, as an extreme measure to help solve Saudi Arabia’s disastrous economic situation.

Chaos as a Means of Preserving Global Hegemony

Behind a convergence of convenience involving the triumvirate of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar lies a well-outlined project of preventing Tehran from becoming a regional hegemon. The Saudis regard Iran as a heretical nation with regard to Islam and have always promoted policies against Tehran. Israel considers Iran the only real danger in the region as it is also a military powerhouse like Israel. As for the United States, the main objective is to mediate a diplomatic rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which is needed for the two nations to officially develop a military alliance against Tehran. The final goal is the creation of an Arab Nato to contain Iran, mirroring Nato’s stance towards the Russian Federation.

The Fault Lies in Qatar

Washington sees only one possible way to at once allay the concerns of her European allies suffering an onslaught of Islamist attacks while simultaneously giving the impression to a domestic audience of fighting extremists. It plans to do this by entering into a major agreement with the two nations closest to Islamist terrorism – Israel and Saudi Arabia – while blaming a third terrorist-supporting nation for all the terrorism – Qatar. Of course the weakest and strategically least relevant of these three countries is Qatar.

The Real Challenge: Unipolarity vs Multipolarity

The most salient point in this story is the contrast between the new multipolar order and the American unipolar world order. Qatar, thanks to its enormous financial resources, has maintained high-level contacts with a wide variety of countries that are not necessarily allied to Riyadh.

From the point of view of energy, Qatar is the region’s second power after Riyadh, getting ninety percent of its revenue from exports of liquefied natural gas from the world’s largest deposit that is shared with Iran. In the case of relations with Moscow, the problem is not significant given the relations between Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation. For example, Qatar has recently injected capital into Rosneft by acquiring a large share of stocks. Qatar foreign minister meet with Lavrov in Moscow a couple of days ago discussing how to de-escalate tensions but also reaffirming the importance of relations between Doha and Moscow. Qatar, on the back of its economic wealth, has expanded its political horizons by moving away from Riyadh, infuriating Washington and Tel Aviv.

The strengthening of the Iranian position in the region was achieved thanks to two main factors, namely the victories in the Syrian war and the agreement with the Obama administration over Iranian nuclear power. This rehabilitation of Iran on the international scene following the signing of the agreement slowly led Doha to advance back-channel dialogue with Tehran to reach a compromise, especially in relation to the exploitation of the South Pars / North Dome gas field. About three months ago, Qatar removed the moratorium on exploiting the field and carried out dialogue with Iran over its development. It seems that an agreement has been reached between Qatar and Iran for the future construction of a gas pipeline from Iran to the Mediterranean or Turkey that will also carry Qatari gas to Europe. In exchange, Doha’s ending of support for terrorism has been demanded, openly contravening Saudi and American directives to destroy Syria.

The Saudis have bet all their chips on the continuation of American hegemony. They prefer to please the United States by avoiding the sale of oil to China in yuan and are consequently paying the price, with China buying more and more oil from Angola and Russia instead. Moscow Central Bank has even opened a bank branch in Shanghai to convert yuan into gold, creating something that resembles the US dollar gold standard of yesteryear.

In Yemen, Riyadh has compromised its future by squandering huge amounts of wealth, with the only thing to show for it is a pending military defeat at the hands of the poorest Arab country on the planet. The collapse of the price of oil has only exacerbated these difficulties. Qatar has avoided these problems by virtue of having huge gas reserves as well as a somewhat more diversified foreign policy than Riyadh. For the Saudis, placing under their control the world’s largest gas reserve, as well as an obscene amount of cash, would offer the opportunity of at least recovering in part the huge losses experienced recently.

In this bloody game, Qatar is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the mainstream media’s coverage of the events leaves us with little doubts as to what the future for Doha will be. CNN’s interview with the Qatari ambassador to the United States represented a rare example of journalistic integrity when the ambassador was embarrassed by the CNN host’s airing accusations of Qatar’s support for terrorists.

Neocon Deep State vs Neoliberal Deep State

The fratricidal war within the US deep state also affects the Middle East, especially in the clash between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It has long been known that Huma Abedin has deep ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, as did the previous American administration as well as Hillary Clinton. This proximity has had repercussions on the relationship between Obama and the Sunni countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

Until a few months ago, Washington was full of rumors about alleged lobbying efforts by former Trump adviser Michael Flynn on behalf of Erdogan. Considering that the former general was fired, this could be an important indicator of Trump’s position on Qatar, as the Turkish President is very close to the Muslim Brotherhood, a Doha-backed ideological movement. Flynn could have been fired by Trump for his close indirect relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The mainstream media close to the Clinton/Obama clan may have used the alleged links between Flynn and Russia to obscure the hidden links between Washington and the Muslim Brotherhood. On the other hand, the evidence of collusion between the Muslim Brotherhood and Washington dates even before 2010, with Obama’s speech in Cairo in 2009 and the resulting Arab springs, all funded by Qatar via the Muslim Brotherhood, with Washington’s blessing. The consequences of those actions are well known, having increased the chaos in the region, forced a greater US presence in the Middle East, and contributed to increasing synergies between the Shiite axis in response to terrorist aggression.

In this context, Turkey backed the same terrorist groups as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and the abortive July 2016 coup only served to strengthen the takeover of power by Erdogan and the Muslim Brotherhood faction supporting him. Even today the consequences of the coup reverberate in the region, with the alliance between Ankara and Doha recently strengthened with the presence of Turkish troops in Qatar. Another element not to underestimate was Iran’s attitude towards Ankara following the failed coup d’etat, with Tehran declaring its solidarity with Ankara.

The strategic choices of previous administrations in the Middle East were disastrous in every respect. They strengthened enemies and weakened historic allies. No wonder Trump has decided to hit the rewind button, placing strong confidence in the two main allies in the Middle East, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

Trump and the deep-state faction loyal to him aim to create an Arab Nato able to confront Iran in its own right, freeing Washington from a constant presence in the Middle East. The United States is focussed on two key factors in this strategy, namely the sale of Saudi oil in US dollars, and the sale of weapons to US allies to keep its military-industrial complex happy. These goals coincide with what happened recently in the Emirates with Trump’s visit. The United States and Saudi Arabia have signed agreements worth over 350 billion dollars. Saudi Arabia strongly supports the creation of an Arab Nato. The organization would make official Tehran’s role as the greatest danger for the entire region. Moreover, the project of an Arab Nato would suit Israel fine, as it hates Tehran.

For the US deep state, or at least part of it, the most urgent strategy concerns the transfer of American forces in terms of presence and focus, from the Middle East and Europe to Asia in order to face the main challenge of the future, namely China’s intention to dominate the Asian region. What is happening in the Philippines with Daesh, which the author wrote about last week, is simply the continuation of a wider strategy that also affects the Saudi-Qatar conflict.

With Obama and the ruling Democrats, much attention had been paid to the issue of human rights. In particular, the component of the deep state close to the Clinton/Obama clan embraced the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempt to subvert power in the Middle Eastern region through the Arab Spring. The approach of neoconservatives and neoliberals towards hegemony is very different and shows conflicting strategies, highlighting the diversity between the two souls of the US deep state that has long been battling each other.

On one hand, the neoliberal/human-rights clan is very close to Obama and Clinton as well as supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar indirectly. Neoconservatives, however, are historically more aligned with Saudi Arabia and Israel, both of whom seem to support Trump in order to make the US role in the Middle East less central, thanks to an Arabian Nato that would free the US up to shift its attention to Asia by delegating regional control to Riyadh and Tel Aviv.

In this regard, the nuclear agreement between the Obama administration and Tehran is explained. The neoliberals hoped to see Iranian revolts in the wake of the Arab Spring, leading to the overthrowing of the regime and the ushering in of democracy. Neoliberal human-rights interventionists abuse the word democracy, wielding it as a baton. The results of these efforts can be seen in the disasters in Libya and Syria. Paradoxically, Obama and Clinton’s strategy has backfired on Washington, since Iran, thanks to the nuclear agreement, has increased its weight in the region, forcing the Neocon-Saudi-Zionist faction to try to sabotage it in any way.

Conclusion

Qatar is at a crossroads. Acquiescing to Saudi pressure means falling into line and abandoning its dalliance with the multipolar world order. The fate of Doha is probably already determined, with Iran and Russia hardly desirous of becoming too much involved in the sanguinary game. A likely outcome is that the Al Thani family will, in the end, acquiesce to Saudi demands after resisting thanks to foreign partners help. What is interesting to note is that the situation in Washington has deteriorated to such an extent that even Washington’s historic allies are fighting each other.

Iran, Russia, and China – assisting Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya – have created the necessary conditions to end Middle-Eastern destabilization, even prompting an internal crisis in the Gulf Cooperation Council. The bet that Riyadh, Tel Aviv, and Washington embarked on with the aggression against Doha could prove to be an unforgivable strategic error, even leading to the end of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the weakening of the anti-Iran coalition in the region.

If Qatar should decide to resist Saudi pressure, which is only possible with the covert support of Russia, China and Iran, it is likely that the Syrian war has its days numbered. This is not to mention the fact that such an outcome would provide Turkey with an even easier path to transition into the Eurasian alliance.

Should Doha decide to oppose the demands of Riyadh (their economic capacity is certainly not lacking), it will be up to Russia, Iran and China to decide whether to risk supporting Qatar against Saudi Arabia in order to stabilize the region. The hostility of the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel hold towards Qatar are warning signs for the Eurasian bloc, already facing many obstacles in the world as it is.

Despite this, Tehran and Moscow are providing and offering Qatar’s first needed goods in terms of food and medicine. Iran is also opening its own airspace to Doha-based companies. Iran, in addition to being a nation usually ready to help when demanded, sees the opportunity to continue the destruction of the axis opposed to it. An overall assessment (in Astana at the SCO meeting?) will be needed to determine which strategy is best to follow. Above all it will be necessary to understand how Qatar will want to proceed in this unprecedented crisis in the Gulf region.

Even in Syria, the terrorist groups funded by the monarchies and Turkey are fighting each other, reflecting the divisions and tensions within the Gulf. It is only a matter of time before the conflicts between various organizations extend to other places in Syria, leading to the collapse of the opposition groups. In light of these developments, it appears that Iran and Syria have proposed to Qatar that they switch from supporting terrorism and instead cooperate in the reconstruction of Syria with Chinese and Iranian partners. Receiving credible responses to such a proposition is impossible, but following dialogue between Doha and Tehran on the development of the North Pars Gas Field, one cannot rule out that an agreement could be reached in Syria in the medium term, which would also bring enormous benefits to Doha as well as to Damascus and Tehran.

The American century is rapidly coming to an end. Terrorists are biting their masters’ hands and the vassals are rebelling. The unipolar world order that defers to the United States is rapidly disappearing, and the consequences are being felt in many areas of the world.

_____

Republishing is welcomed with reference to Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal http://www.strategic-culture.org.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/06/13/multipolar-world-order-big-picture-qatar-saudi-fracture.html

Categories: Uncategorized

Building Up

Not Bombing Down

Kunming and the New Burma Road

New Eastern Outlook (June 06 2017)

While the cowardly Trump Administration and its Generals pathetically try to parade their manliness to a puzzled world by lobbing giga-bombs and cruise missiles around the world from Syria to Yemen to Somalia to Afghanistan, China and her Eurasian neighbors, notably the Russian Federation, and the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union, are building up the peaceful economic alternative. It’s centered around Xi Jinping’s visionary One Belt, One Road (“OBOR”) or New Economic Silk Road infrastructure project that is quietly transforming the economic development energy of the world away from the depression, bankruptcy, wars and debt crises of the EU and the United States.

It is instructive to merely note the most recent developments of this multi-trillion dollar infrastructure plan that far exceeds anything being discussed in the United States or Europe. The OBOR is very serious, very real and very feared by the United States’ warmakers.

 

 

China-Myanmar-Persian Gulf

 

In early April this year, a 770-kilometer oil pipeline began to flow oil as Myanmar opened a new deep water port at Kyaukphyu on the Indian Ocean. The project, officially begun in 2007 well before the strategic concept of a New Economic Silk Road was mature, is a vital part of China’s OBOR strategy. It consists of a US$2.45 billion port and pipeline project that will carry crude oil from the Middle East to China’s Kunming, the city near the border with Laos that is rapidly becoming a transportation crossroads in the Eurasian OBOR. The oil pipeline is a joint venture between China National Petroleum Corporation (“CNOC”) and Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (“MOGE”), both state companies. The landing port in Myanmar’s Bay of Bengal has twelve storage tanks with capacity to store 520,000 barrels oil. When the oil pipeline is at full capacity, according to CNOC, the pipeline will be able to transport an estimated 400,000 barrels of oil per day from oil producers in the Middle East and Africa. Refineries to receive the oil inside China are completing construction.

The new deep water Indian Ocean port of Burma links the interior of China to oil flows from the Middle East, averting the risky Malacca Straits.

In geopolitical terms, the Myanmar-China port and pipeline will allow China to import oil from Persian Gulf producers as well as African, without having to take a far longer and militarily more risky route through the narrow Malacca Straits. The Malacca Straits, a narrow water passage is today the shipping route connecting the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean in the region of the South China Sea.

The Myanmar link will greatly shorten transport time and costs. The next phase of the new infrastructure corridor through Myanmar, the former Burma, will involve the construction of a port for dry containerized and bulk cargoes, and a high-speed railway linking Kyaukphyu to Kunming, in Yunnan Province in central China. A modern industrial city of some seven million people which I had the honor to visit two years ago, Kunming is called by the Chinese the “City of Eternal Spring”.

The opening of the Kunming to the Indian Ocean pipeline is being called by oil analysts “one of the biggest developments of the decade for global crude flows”. It will allow China to receive oil from key producing centers like the Middle East and Africa directly off the Indian Ocean – eliminating days of sailing through the Strait of Malacca route between Indonesia and Malaysia.

Kunming, under the OBOR blueprint, will now become the hub and terminus for what will be called the “Pan Asia High-Speed Network” with high-speed trains to connect China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

The vast multi-route Pan-Asia Rail Network when finished will efficiently integrate the economies of Southeast Asia with China for the first time creating huge new markets.

When the Pan-Asian link of OBOR is finished within the next five years – and Chinese construction projects are generally on time and on target – among other aspects it will enable rail travel between Kunming and the city-state of Singapore – as the crow flies some 2,600 kilometers – in just ten hours.

The Pan-Asia High-Speed Network section of OBOR consists of three separate high-speed lines of each between 4,500 and 5,500 kilometers (2,800 and 3,400 miles) that will run through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, railway lines that will link China for the first time integrally with the economics of mainland Southeast Asia, a market combined of more than 250 million people, carrying both passengers and freight.

The Myanmar-Kunming-Pan-Asia High-Speed Network development is but a small part of the ongoing transformation of the economic and political space of the world’s largest landmass, Eurasia. I have termed this the building up of the Eurasian Century. Today more than 65 countries have formally agreed to participate in the One Belt, One Road development including in addition to China, the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Romania, Poland. A look at the world map will underline the scope of this remarkable vision that was first formally presented by China President Xi Jinping in 2013 in Kazakhstan.

 

 

Another Concept of Globalization

 

 

Today, China and Russia and the Eurasian nations centered around the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are in the pursuit of building up economies, of building bridges, land, and sea, of using diplomacy and respect for national sovereignty, non-intervention into domestic national affairs to foster peace and development.

When he was in Florida meeting Donald Trump, Xi Jinping also invited the United States President to join the vast OBOR infrastructure. This, despite the fact that Trump and Company had deliberately timed the US illegal bombing of the Syrian airbase to coincide with dessert toasts in a state dinner with a not-informed Xi, a deliberate attempt to make China’s president “lose face”. It seems by his subsequent actions that the Chinese President is well above Trump’s infantile games.

On May 14, Beijing hosts a major international conference to discuss the One Belt, One Road. As of this writing, 28 heads of state or government will attend. The United States, Germany, UK, and France are conspicuously absent, as is the European Union as an institution. EU member states including Hungary, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Serbia, Spain will be there. This speaks volumes about the deepening fault lines within the failing European Union, where the unelected de facto Politburo called the EU Commission has done much to ignore the potential economic benefit of embracing the OBOR, an open-ended project which has as major aim to integrate all of Eurasia including the European part of Eurasia to the Atlantic.

Notable is that China’s version of OBOR is an entirely different concept of economic globalization, one based on diplomatic negotiations between sovereign nation states no matter how large or small. Washington’s globalization is about the destruction of nation states and of sovereignty.

While Washington and Nato are busy warring around the world all over the place, trying desperately to put the broken pieces of their global hegemony back together at the barrel of a gun or impact of a giga-bomb, blowing up bridges, China, Russia and others are about building bridges. It is a contrast notable.

_____

F William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook.

http://journal-neo.org/2017/06/11/kunming-and-the-new-burma-road-building-up-not-bombing-down/

Categories: Uncategorized

Mass Incarceration, Prison Labor in the United States

by John Stanton

CounterPunch (June 20 2017)

The Federal Prison Industries (“FPI”) under the brand UNICORE operates approximately 52 factories (prisons) across the United States. Prisoners manufacture or assemble a number of products for the US military, homeland security, and federal agencies according to the UNICORE/FPI website. They produce furniture, clothing and circuit boards in addition to providing computer aided design services and call center support for private companies.

UNICORE/FPI makes its pitch for employing call center support personnel to firms thinking about offshoring their call center functions. The logic is that, hey!, they may be prisoners, but it’s keeping the jobs in the USA that matters. Fair enough. That approach cuts out the middleman though, those Americans desperate for any kind of work but, through no fault of their own, are not behind prison bars and employable by UNICORE/FPI.

Sure, it seems a heartless statement and there are any number of angles to take on why the USA is the world’s number one incarcerator: Capitalism, racism, social and political injustice, a pay-as-you-go legal system, bone-headed policy makers, prison lobbyists, the death penalty, employment/unemployment, drugs, gangs, costs/prices and a host of behavioral, psychological and environmental issues that I have missed.

Inevitably the black hole that is money eventually sucks in and corrupts everyone from those in local communities desperate for the work a prison facility provides to those investors who profit from the prison industry. They earn their livelihoods and take their profits from the misery and labor squeezed from their human property – those prisoners who self-destructed and others who are serving terms way too long for the crime committed.

For the Love of Money

From October 2016 through March 2017, UNICORE/FPI sold $252,414,987 worth of goods and services.

The prison labor industry is very keen on promoting its role in assembling the US military’s widely used Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (“SINCGARS”). In January defense contractor Harris Corporation was awarded a $403 million contract by the US Defense Logistics Agency for spare parts supporting tactical radio systems, which includes SINCGARS.

 

 

UNICOR/FPI is a major supplier of SINCGARS radios, mounts, antennas, and installation and repair kits and when hard-mounted, our SINCGARS equipment meets rigorous military standards for shock and vibration in aircraft and tactical vehicles, such as Bradley’s and Humvees. Through our nationwide network of factories and trained technicians, we have successfully met aggressive production and distribution needs for this crucial communication equipment in Middle East military operations.

 

 

Some of the purchases by the US Department of Defense include $14.8 million for electronic components, $887 thousand for communications equipment, $26.7 million for office furniture, $27.1 million for special purpose clothing and $7.5 million for body armor. The Department of Homeland Security spent $372,255 on administrative support. The Executive Office of the US President spent $389 for signs and identification plates.

Fight Fire with Inmates

According to a Mother Jones article in 2015, somewhere between thirty and forty percent of California’s forest firefighters are state prison inmates with some 4,000 working at any one time on fire lines. So dependent on the inmates was California that prison reforms that would see the release of some of the incarcerated firefighters were put on hold for fear of losing the manpower to fight California blazes. Then California attorney general Kamala Harris, now a US Senator, was behind the effort to keep the “cheap” firefighters behind bars,

 

 

Prison reform advocates have raised concerns that the state is so reliant on the cheap labor of inmate firefighters that policymakers may be slow to adopt prison reforms as a result. The concern was magnified last fall, when lawyers for state Attorney General Kamala Harris argued that extending an early prison-release program to “all minimum custody inmates at this time would severely impact fire camp participation – a dangerous outcome while California is in the middle of a difficult fire season and severe drought”. Harris has since said she was “troubled” by the argument, and the state has ruled that minimum custody inmates, including firefighters, are eligible for the program so long as it proves not to deplete the numbers of inmate firefighters.

 

 

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detains women, men, children, and LGBTQI individuals in over 200 county jails and for-profit prisons, according to the grassroots group CIVIC. Some of these individuals include legal permanent residents with longstanding family and community ties, asylum-seekers, and victims of human trafficking.

It was former President Bill Clinton (Democrat) who started to load up detention centers and jails with immigrants, CIVIC noted:

 

 

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (“IIRIRA”), which doubled the number of people in immigration detention from 8,500 each day in 1996 to 16,000 in 1998. Today, the detention population has increased fourfold to approximately 34,000 individuals each day, due in part to a congressionally mandated lockup quota.

 

 

President Donald Trump’s (Republican) animosity to immigrants is well known. He and his aptly named attorney general Jefferson Beauregard Sessions will make sure detention centers and prisons are overfilled with men, women, and children from Mexico, Central America, and South America. Trump and Session’s maniacal quest wage war on crime, drugs, and terrorism will likely ensure that many thousands more will find themselves locked away and working for UNICORE/FPI or lining the pockets of private prison company owners.

Immigrants Too

The non-profit group Towards Justice reported that a lawsuit is moving forward pitting private prison corporation against immigrants who were forced into labor while in detention.

 

 

For the first time in history, a federal court allowed a class of immigrant detainees to jointly proceed with forced labor claims against the country’s second-largest private prison provider. Judge Kane in the District of Colorado certified a class of between 50,000 and 60,000 current and former immigrant detainees held at GEO’s Aurora, Colorado detention facility since 2004. These individuals, some of whom were found to legally reside in this country after months in detention, allege that they were forced to clean the detention center without pay and under threat of solitary confinement. This practice allowed GEO to reduce labor costs at the Aurora facility, where it employs just one custodian to maintain a detention center that houses up to 1,500 people at a time.

 

 

Everyone Has Their Hands in the Pie

In January 2017, the Prison Policy Initiative (prisonpolicy.org) worked up a study titled “Following the Money of Mass Incarceration”. It shines the light on some of the unsettling reasons why the USA will never be able to reduce its reliance on mass incarceration. Those who depend on money that the prison industry provides will never give it up. It’s not just private companies but local communities, bondsmen, unions all the way up to the US Department of Defense who collect fees or purchase UNICORE/FPI products and services at dirt cheap prices.

 

 

Bail bond companies that collect $1.4 billion in nonrefundable fees from defendants and their families actively work to block reforms that threaten their profits, even if reforms could prevent people from being detained in jail because of their poverty. Specialized phone companies win monopoly contracts and charge families up to $24.95 for a fifteen-minute phone call. Commissary vendors that sell goods to incarcerated people – who rely largely on money sent by loved ones – is an even larger industry that brings in $1.6 billion a year. In 38 towns and cities in the US, more than ten percent of all revenue is collected from court fines and fees. In Saint Louis County, five towns generated more than forty percent of their annual revenue from court fines and fees in 2013.

 

 

The over-incarceration of Americans is just one more vexing issue, piled on many – Afghanistan, Syria, education, Trump and Clinton’s health care, taxes – in which US citizens find themselves trapped and unable to reach across the pro/con divide and cause change.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/20/mass-incarceration-prison-labor-in-the-united-states/

Categories: Uncategorized

The Militarized Police State Opens Fire

by John W Whitehead

CounterPunch (June 20 2017)

 

 

It is often the case that police shootings, incidents where law enforcement officers pull the trigger on civilians, are left out of the conversation on gun violence. But a police officer shooting a civilian counts as gun violence. Every time an officer uses a gun against an innocent or an unarmed person contributes to the culture of gun violence in this country.

– Journalist Celisa Calacal

 

 

Legally owning a gun in America could get you killed by a government agent.

While it still technically remains legal to own a firearm in America, possessing one can now get you pulled over, searched, arrested, subjected to all manner of surveillance, treated as a suspect without ever having committed a crime, shot at and killed.

This same rule does not apply to government agents, however, who are armed to the hilt and rarely given more than a slap on the wrists for using their weapons to shoot and kill American citizens.

According to The Washington Post, “one in thirteen people killed by guns are killed by police”.

Just recently, for example, a Minnesota jury acquitted a police officer who shot and killed 32-year-old Philando Castile, a school cafeteria supervisor, during a routine traffic stop merely because Castile disclosed that he had a gun in his possession, for which he had a lawful conceal-and-carry permit. That’s all it took for police to shoot Castile four times as he was reaching for his license and registration. Castile’s girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter witnessed the entire exchange.

Earlier this year, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that Florida police will not be held accountable for banging on the wrong door at 1:30 am, failing to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shooting and killing the innocent homeowner who answered the door while holding a gun in self-defense. Although 26-year-old Andrew Scott had committed no crime and never fired a single bullet or lifted his firearm against police, he was gunned down by police who were investigating a speeding incident by engaging in a middle-of-the-night “knock and talk” in Scott’s apartment complex.

As attorney David French writes for the National Review,

 

 

Shooting an innocent man in his own home because he grabs a gun when an unidentified person pounds on his door or barges through it isn’t just an “unreasonable search or seizure”. It’s a direct violation of his clearly established right to keep and bear arms.

 

 

Continuing its own disturbing trend of siding with police in cases of excessive use of force, a unanimous United States Supreme Court recently acquitted police who recklessly fired fifteen times into a backyard shack in which a homeless couple – Angel and Jennifer Mendez – was sheltering. Angel Mendez suffered numerous gunshot wounds, one of which required the amputation of his right leg below the knee, and his wife Jennifer was shot in the back. Incredibly, the Court ruled that the Los Angeles County police officers’ use of force against the homeless couple was justified as a defensive action because Angel was allegedly seen holding a BB gun that he used for shooting rats.

In yet another case, a Texas homeowner was subjected to a no-knock, SWAT-team style forceful entry and raid based solely on the suspicion that there were legally-owned firearms in his household. Making matters worse, police panicked and opened fire through a solid wood door on the homeowner, who had already gone to bed.

In Maryland, a Florida man traveling through the state with his wife and kids was stopped by a police officer and interrogated about the whereabouts of his registered handgun. Despite the man’s insistence that the handgun had been left at home, the officer spent nearly two hours searching through the couple’s car, patting them down along with their children, and having them sit in the back of a patrol car. No weapon was found.

In Philadelphia, a 25-year-old man was confronted by police, verbally threatened and arrested for carrying a gun in public, which is legal within the city. When Mark Fiorino attempted to explain his rights under the law to police, police ordered him to get on his knees or else “I am gonna shoot ya”. Fiorino was later released without charges.

What these cases add up to is a new paradigm in which legally owning a gun turns you into a target for government sharpshooters.

Ironically, while America continues to debate who or what is responsible for gun violence – the guns, the gun owners, or our violent culture – little has been said about the fact that the greatest perpetrator of violence in American society and around the world is the US government.

Government violence is the missing link in the gun control debate.

Violence has become the government’s calling card, starting at the top and trickling down, from the more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year on unsuspecting Americans by heavily armed, black-garbed commandos and the increasingly rapid militarization of local police forces across the country to the drone killings used to target insurgents. The government even exports violence worldwide, with one of this country’s most profitable exports being weapons.

Thus, any serious discussion about minimizing the violence in our society needs to address the manner in which the government and its cohorts (the police, the various government agencies that are now armed to the hilt, the military, the defense contractors, et al) use violence as a means to an end, whether domestically or in matters of foreign policy.

You want to reduce gun violence? Start with the government.

Except that the government has no intention of scaling back on its weapons. To the contrary, the government’s efforts to militarize and weaponize its own agencies and employees is reaching epic proportions, with federal agencies as varied as the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration placing orders for hundreds of millions of rounds of hollow point bullets.

Talk about a double standard.

The government’s arsenal of weapons makes the average American’s handgun look like a Tinker Toy.

Under the auspices of a military “recycling” program, which allows local police agencies to acquire military-grade weaponry and equipment, more than $4.2 billion worth of equipment has been transferred from the Defense Department to domestic police agencies since 1990. Included among these “gifts” are tank-like, twenty-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (“MRAP”) vehicles, tactical gear, and assault rifles.

Ironically, while gun critics continue to clamor for bans on military-style assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets, expanded background checks, and tougher gun-trafficking laws, the US military boasts all of these and more, including some weapons the rest of the world doesn’t have.

Included in the government’s arsenal are armed, surveillance Reaper drones capable of reading a license plate from over two miles away; an AA12 Atchisson Assault Shotgun that can shoot five 12-gauge shells per second and “can fire up to 9,000 rounds without being cleaned or jamming”; an ADAPTIV invisibility cloak that can make a tank disappear or seemingly reshape it to look like a car; a PHASR rifle capable of blinding and disorienting anyone caught in its sights; a Taser shockwave that can electrocute a crowd of people at the touch of a button; an XM2010 enhanced sniper rifle with built-in sound and flash suppressors that can hit a man-sized target nine out of ten times from over a third of a mile away; and an XM25 “Punisher” grenade launcher that can be programmed to accurately shoot grenades at a target up to 500 meters away.

In the hands of government agents, whether they are members of the military, law enforcement or some other government agency, these weapons have become accepted instruments of tyranny, routine parts of America’s day-to-day life, a byproduct of the rapid militarization of law enforcement over the past several decades.

This lopsided, top-heavy, authoritarian state of affairs is not the balance of power the Founders intended for “we the people”.

The Second Amendment, in conjunction with the multitude of prohibitions on government overreach enshrined in the Bill of Rights, was supposed to serve as a clear shackle on the government’s powers. As twentieth-century libertarian Edmund A Opitz observed in 1964,

 

 

No one can read our Constitution without concluding that the people who wrote it wanted their government severely limited; the words “no” and “not” employed in restraint of government power occur 24 times in the first seven articles of the Constitution and 22 more times in the Bill of Rights.

 

 

To founders such as Thomas Jefferson, who viewed the government as a powerful entity that must be bound “down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution”, the right to bear arms was no different from any other right enshrined in the Constitution: it was intended to stand as a bulwark against a police state.

Without any one of those freedoms, we are that much more vulnerable to the vagaries of out-of-control policemen, benevolent dictators, genuflecting politicians, and overly ambitious bureaucrats.

Writing for CounterPunch, journalist Kevin Carson suggests that prohibiting Americans from owning weapons would be as dangerously ineffective as Prohibition and the War on the Drugs:

 

 

What strict gun laws will do is take the level of police statism, lawlessness and general social pathology up a notch in the same way Prohibition and the Drug War have done. I’d expect a War on Guns to expand the volume of organized crime, and to empower criminal gangs fighting over control over the black market, in exactly the same way Prohibition did in the 1920s and strict drug laws have done since the 1980s. I’d expect it to lead to further erosion of Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure, further militarization of local police via SWAT teams, and further expansion of the squalid empire of civil forfeiture, perjured jailhouse snitch testimony, entrapment, planted evidence, and plea deal blackmail.

 

 

This is exactly what those who drafted the US Constitution feared: that laws and law enforcers would be used as tools by a despotic government to wage war against the citizenry.

This phenomenon is what philosopher Abraham Kaplan referred to as the law of the instrument, which essentially says that to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. As I explain in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we the citizenry have become the nails to be hammered by the government’s battalion of laws and law enforcers (its police officers, technicians, bureaucrats, spies, snitches, inspectors, accountants, et al), and we’re supposed to take the beatings without complaint or reproach.

Now don’t get me wrong.

I do not sanction violence, nor do I believe that violence should ever be the answer to our problems. As John Lennon warned,

 

 

When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you.

 

 

Still, there’s something to be said for George Orwell’s view that “that rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer’s cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.”

The Second Amendment serves as a check on the political power of the ruling authorities. It represents an implicit warning against governmental encroachments on one’s freedoms, the warning shot over the bow to discourage any unlawful violations of our persons or property.

Certainly, dictators in past regimes have understood this principle only too well.

As Adolf Hitler noted, “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that starting in December 1935, Jews in Germany were prevented from obtaining shooting licenses, because authorities believed that to allow them to do so would “endanger the German population”.

In late 1938, special orders were delivered barring Jews from owning firearms, with the punishment for arms possession being twenty years in a concentration camp.

The rest, as they say, is history. Yet it is a history that we should be wary of repeating.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/20/the-militarized-police-state-opens-fire/

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Facebook boosts AI …

… to block terrorist propaganda

by Sam Schechner

The Wall Street Journal (June 15 2017)

Under intense political pressure to better block terrorist propaganda on the internet, Facebook is leaning more on artificial intelligence.

The social-media firm said Thursday that it has expanded its use of Artifical Intelligence (“AI”) in recent months to identify potential terrorist postings and accounts on its platform – and at times to delete or block them without review by a human. In the past, Facebook and other tech giants relied mostly on users and human moderators to identify offensive content. Even when algorithms flagged content for removal, these firms generally turned to humans to make a final call.

Companies have sharply boosted the volume of content they have removed in the past two years, but these efforts haven’t proven effective enough to tamp down a groundswell of criticism from governments and advertisers. They have accused Facebook, Google parent Alphabet Inc and others of complacency over the proliferation of inappropriate content – in particular, posts or videos deemed as extremist propaganda or communication – on their social networks.

British Prime Minister Theresa May ratcheted up complaints this month in the wake of a series of deadly terror attacks in the UK and sought new international agreements to regulate the Internet and force technology companies to pre-emptively filter content.

In response, Facebook disclosed new software that it says it is using to better police its content. One tool, in use for several months now, combs the site, including live videos, for known terrorist imagery, like beheading videos, to stop them from being reposted, executives said Thursday. The tool, however, doesn’t identify new violent videos like the Cleveland murder that was posted on Facebook in April.

Another set of algorithms attempts to identify – and sometimes autonomously block – propagandists from opening new accounts after they have already been kicked off the platform. Another experimental tool uses AI that has been trained to identify language used by terrorist propagandists.

Facebook declined to say what portion of extremist material it removes is being blocked or removed automatically, and what percentage is reviewed by humans. The firm’s moves reflect a growing willingness to trust machines to help even in part with thorny tasks like distinguishing inappropriate content from satire or news coverage – something firms resisted after a spate of attacks just two years ago as a potential threat to free speech.

One factor in the changed approach, Facebook executives say, has been the improved ability of algorithms to identify unambiguously terrorist content in some cases, while referring other content for human review.

While an Isis propaganda photo posted without a caption may be an easy removal for an algorithm, the same image with a caption might, for instance, require human review, said Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management. Similarly, a beheading video that has previously been removed is easy to block. Short clips of the same video, or a never-before-seen but similar looking video, might need a reviewer to check if they are part of a news report or other commentary.

“Our AI can know when it can make a definitive choice, and when it can’t make a definitive choice”, said Brian Fishman, lead policy manager for counter-terrorism at Facebook. “That’s something new”.

Another factor in the fresh AI push: a spate of recent terrorist attacks and scandals involving ads being shown before jihadist videos.

Just days before a general election in the UK, for instance, the campaigns for the country’s two main parties pulled political ads from Alphabet’s YouTube video-sharing site after being alerted those ads were appearing before extremist content.

Germany earlier this year proposed a bill that could fine firms up to fifty million euros ($56 million) for failing to remove fake news or hate speech – including terrorist content. The UK and France published a counter-terrorism action plan this week that calls on technology companies to go beyond deleting content that is flagged and instead identify it beforehand to prevent publication.

“There have been promises made. They are insufficient”, said French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday.

Facebook has expanded its use of human reviewers to look at what executives say are difficult cases. In May, the company said it would add about 3,000 new moderators to its community operations team that takes down content that violates Facebook policies, expanding the team by two-thirds. Across the company, Facebook says it has 150 people focused on counter-terrorism as their core job.

Facebook already has rolled out software to identify other questionable content such as child pornography and fake news stories. Ahead of French and German elections this year, the company began tagging “disputed” stories when outside news organisations ruled them as false.

The issue of content removal remains at times fraught for Silicon Valley companies, whose values often place a premium on permitting debate. At times, firms have also acknowledged that algorithms have gone too far. Last July, Facebook was criticised for removing live video from Minnesota woman Diamond Reynolds, who showed her boyfriend, Philando Castile, dying after being shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. Facebook blamed the removal on a technical glitch and restored the video.

Social-media firms including Facebook, Yahoo Inc, and Twitter Inc are adamant that they want to stamp out terrorism on their platforms – and already do a lot to remove such content. Twitter says it is expanding its use of automated technology to combat terrorist content, too. From July through December last year, Twitter said internal tools flagged 74% of the 376,890 accounts it removed.

YouTube said Thursday that it uses automated software to block users from uploading videos that have already been flagged and removed from the site, adding that more than half of the content removed for terrorism in the last six months was removed at least in part using such technology.

Along with Facebook, it is collaborating with the other social media firms on a shared database of previously identified terrorist imagery, first announced in December, which allows the companies to more quickly identify posts that use them. But the company doesn’t use technology to screen new content for policy violations, saying computers lack the nuance to determine the difference between propaganda and newsworthy or religious speech in a previously uncategorised video.

“These are complicated and challenging problems, but we are committed to doing better and being part of a lasting solution”, a YouTube spokesman said.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-boosts-a-i-to-block-terrorist-propaganda-1497546000

Categories: Uncategorized