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Some really weird things are happening in the financial world right now. If you go back to 2008, there was lots of turmoil bubbling just underneath the surface during the months leading up to the great stock market crash in the second half of that year. When Lehman Brothers finally did collapse, it was a [...]
The post Why Are Exchange-Traded Funds Preparing For A ‘Liquidity Crisis’ And A ‘Market Meltdown’? appeared first on The Economic Collapse.
Global Research 17/2/2014
Current bilateral free trade agreement negotiations are shrouded in secrecy and are closed to proper public scrutiny (1,2). This is because they effectively constitute part of the ongoing corporate hijack of democracy and the further restructuring of economies in favour of elite interests (3,4,5).
In the 39 documents which were “partially released”, large parts of text (“non releasable” or “not relevant”) have been hidden. In some cases, every single word has been removed from the document.
In many cases parts of text are removed because they contain the views of industry lobby groups “on particular aspects of the EU/US trade negotiations.” “Release of that information could have a negative impact on the position of the industry", the Commission argues. CEO argues that it is entirely unclear this means and why the views of the lobby groups should be hidden from public scrutiny.
The Commission has also removed all names of lobbyists from the 44 documents arguing that “disclosure would undermine the protection of […] privacy and the integrity of the individual”. Again CEO argues that this is an absurd line of argument as these are professional lobbyists who are not acting in an individual capacity. There is clear public interest in transparency around who is lobbying on whose behalf and who is getting access to EU decision-makers.
A leaked EU document (10) from the winter of 2013 shows the Commission proposing an EU-US Regulatory Cooperation Council, a permanent structure to be created as part of the TTIP deal. Existing and future EU regulation will then have to go through a series of investigations, dialogues and negotiations in this Council. This would move decisions on regulations into a technocratic sphere, away from democratic scrutiny. Is it not enough that EU member states could find domestic laws to protect the public interest quite useless under proposed investor-state dispute settlement provisions (9)?.Also, there would be compulsory impact assessments for proposed regulation, which will be checked for their potential impact on trade. What about whether they protect people’s health or are good for the environment?
CEO concludes on its website:
“Ending the secrecy around the negotiations is crucial for allowing citizens to assess what is being negotiated in their name. This transparency should include the EU's negotiating position, and also shed a clear light on the involvement of corporate lobbyists in preparing the negotiations.”
A US Air Force B1 bomber dropping cluster bombs.
Human rights advocates are warning that a US plan to further deregulate its arms exports would have serious human rights consequences across the globe, according to a new report.
The largest deregulation in the history of US arms exports took place on Tuesday as part of the Barack Obama administration’s export reform initiative, the Inter Press Service reported on Friday.
“We’re seriously concerned that the reforms will open a floodgate of weapons technology and equipment to governments that have bad human rights records,” Adotei Akwei, the managing director for government relations at Amnesty International USA, a global human rights movement, told IPS. “This could further facilitate the commission of human rights abuses around the world."
The plan is part of the Export Control Reform Initiative (ECRI) -- brought forward by the Obama administration in 2010-- to simplify US arms exports through eliminating redundant restrictions and regulations.
Former government officials and human rights activists fear that these extensive export deregulation measures will have serious human rights consequences and negative impact for US foreign policy.
“We in the human rights community have been fighting for the past 30 years to try to bring more oversight and regulation to the global trade in arms because of the link with human rights violations such as killings, displacement of population, and torture,” Akwei told IPS. “And now we see the US stepping back from these commitments. It is extremely alarming.”
The new initiative will transfer the oversight of arms exports from the Department of State to the US Department of Commerce. Critics warn that this change will only increase the risks connected with arms exports.
The new deregulation comes as the US Department of Defense plans to sell missiles and "bunker-buster" bombs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in two separate deals worth $11.8 billion.
In August, the Cluster Munition Coalition denounced the United States for planning to supply cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia.
The United States and its Middle Eastern ally have refused to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the production, transfer, use, and stockpiling of cluster munitions.
Saudi Arabia and the US are amongst the twelve countries that have used cluster munitions in the past, with the US using them in multiple locations and Saudi Arabia against Iraq in 1991.
WASHINGTON - Earlier this week, the largest deregulation in the history of U.S. arms exports took place as part of the Barack Obama administration’s export reform initiative.
The military items that will move to Commerce Department oversight are primarily small parts such as aircraft components, electronic equipment, night vision equipment, and automatic firearms. (Credit: West Midlands Police/cc by 2.0) But a day after the new reforms came into effect, former government officials and critics from the human rights community are warning of the serious human rights consequences and of the negative long-term impact for U.S. foreign policy.
The reforms are part of the Export Control Reform Initiative (ECRI) brought forward by the Obama administration in 2010, with the goal of simplifying U.S. export practices by eliminating redundant restrictions and regulations.
The most problematic aspect of the reforms is the extensive deregulation of military exports by categorising them as ‘dual-use’ goods, which currently face no trade restrictions under international commercial law.
But according to critics, this large deregulation of armaments trade will have serious long-term consequences for U.S. military strategy and for human rights abuses across the globe.
“This could further facilitate the commission of human rights abuses around the world.” -- Amnesty's Adotei Akwei
The arms export reforms will transfer the oversight of military export items from the U.S. Department of State to the U.S. Department of Commerce. This change will only increase the risks connected with arms exports, critics say.
“Unlike standard armaments, dual-use goods currently face little or no restriction because they’ve always been considered normal commercial goods,” said William J. Lowell, a former U.S. State Department official and now the managing director of Lowell Defense Trade, a national security consulting firm here.
"What this deregulation does is move as much as 75 percent of our arms exports to the Commerce Department, with no regulation,” Lowell told IPS.
The military items that will move to Commerce Department oversight are primarily small parts such as aircraft components, electronic equipment, night vision equipment, and automatic firearms.
But these are the items that will inevitably threaten U.S. military strategy, critics suggest.
“When you allow these items to be traded with no restrictions and no licensing, you’re basically allowing places like China and Iran to obtain our military technology and our spare parts with no restrictions whatsoever,” Steven W. Pelak, a former U.S. Justice Department official and now a partner at Holland & Hart, an international law firm, said here on Wednesday. “In the long-term, this can put American lives at risk.”
And while some emphasise the potential backfiring effect of the new deregulation on U.S. interests, others highlight the damaging effect the reforms will have on the international arms export regime.
Since World War II, the U.S. has been in the forefront in urging other countries to control conventional arms more closely, Lowell says.
“We’re the world’s largest arms provider. And now we’re basically retreating from our leadership,” he told IPS. “This means that other countries, like Russia, will be only too happy to agree with decontrolling some of their international arms transfers.”
Human rights abuses
And as critics consider the implications for U.S. foreign policy and military stability in troublesome areas around the world, human rights advocates warn of the human rights abuses that are going to take place after the deregulation.
“We’re seriously concerned that the reforms will open a floodgate of weapons technology and equipment to governments that have bad human rights records,” Adotei Akwei, the managing director for government relations at Amnesty International USA, a global human rights movement, told IPS. “This could further facilitate the commission of human rights abuses around the world."
Indeed, according to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia, the second-largest arms exporter after the U.S., has provided Algeria, where human rights records are troublesome, with over 90 percent the country’s armaments between 2008 and 2012.
The trend may spread to other problematic spots, including Sub-Saharan Africa. In early 2012, Sierra Leone’s People’s Party raised concerns over large imports of small weapons and ammunition from China, as it feared the weapons could be used to persecute political opponents in the upcoming elections, the SIPRI reports.
Human rights activists fear that these types of scenarios will only increase after the extensive export deregulation measures took effect on Tuesday.
“We in the human rights community have been fighting for the past 30 years to try to bring more oversight and regulation to the global trade in arms because of the link with human rights violations such as killings, displacement of population, and torture,” Amnesty International USA’s Akwei told IPS. “And now we see the U.S. stepping back from these commitments. It is extremely alarming.”
It is still unclear why the U.S. administration has opted for this arms export deregulation, the largest and most comprehensive in the country’s history.
The shift from the State to the Commerce Department also comes with a change in the definition of what constitutes a “military item.” Before the reforms, the U.S. State Department maintained jurisdiction and control over all items on the U.S. Munitions List, the list containing all military-related items requiring an export license prior to being shipped to foreign countries.
Now, however, the Commerce Department defines a military item as an item that is “inherently military or [one that] possess[es] parameters or characteristics that provide a critical military or intelligence advantage to the United States.”
According to critics, the new definition is alarming.
“This definition is so unclear that the U.S. military industry simply won’t know what will fall under that category. Because of this confusion, we’ll see a real damage for U.S. industry,” Holland & Hart’s Pelak said Wednesday.
And as opponents wonder why the U.S. government will implement reforms that will damage its national industry, U.S. servicemen warn of the deadly consequences of such a massive deregulation.
Kevin McDonnell, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, recently noted that exporting night vision equipment to foreign states, now allowed under Commerce Department rules, would put U.S. lives at risk.
“In enemy hands, these devices can enable hostile forces to track and fire on our aircraft at night,” he says. “The direct result is the loss of American lives.”
© 2013 IPS North America
Russia has begun shipping arms to Iraq under a historic multi-billion-dollar contract signed between Baghdad and Moscow last year.
Ali al-Musawi, top media advisor to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told Russia Today on Thursday that the agreement “entails primarily weapon shipments to combat terrorism.”
Baghdad and Moscow signed the $4.3-billion contract in October 2012, making Russia Iraq’s largest arms supplier after the US, but Iraqi authorities announced a month later that the deal had been annulled over Prime Minister Nouri Maliki concerns about "corruption" within his own team.
However, Anatoly Isaykin, the director general of Russia’s state-run arms trader Rosoboronexport, said in February that the agreement was not canceled, but it has not come into effect yet.
Musawi went on to say, “We really did have suspicions about this contract,” adding, “But in the end the deal was signed. We have currently started the process of implementing one of the stages of this contract.”
The Iraqi official also stated that Baghdad does not have any plan to acquire “offensive weapons” and said, “Bagdad only strives for securing its own sovereignty, defense of its wealth and fight against terrorism.”
Reports at the time of inking the deal indicated that it involved Iraq’s purchase of 30 Mi-28 attack helicopters and 42 Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile systems.
Musawi said Iraq was primarily interested in possessing helicopters in an effort to enable its army to hunt down the terrorists staging attacks across the country.
Iraq has been grappling with a spike in bombings and shooting attacks over the past months.
The CIA reportedly has a hand in clandestine supply of arms to Syrian rebels by Gulf States. At least 3,500 tons of have been delivered - some ending up on the black market, with the Turkish government an active player, a media report says.
The flow of arms continues with the help of US agents as Washington criticizes Iran and Russia for delivering weapons to the Syrian regime, the New York Times says. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Iraq on Sunday to close its airspace to Iranian flights just as the latest arms delivery from Qatar for Syrian rebels was landing in Turkey, according to the daily’s report.
The newspaper cites air traffic data, US and foreign officials and rebel commanders in its investigation.
The airlift reportedly began in early 2012 with a Qatari Emir Air Force C-130 transport aircraft flight. Saudi Arabia and Jordan have joined in in November, when it became a major operation. More than 160 military flights have landed in Turkey over the time. Esenboga Airport near Ankara was the prime destination, but others were also involved, the newspaper claims.
“A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment,” Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told the newspaper. He added that it appears as a “well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation.”
Indeed, CIA agents have a direct input on the deliveries, albeit mostly consultative, NYT says. The spy agency reportedly helps with procurement of weapons in Croatia and vets Syrian rebel groups, which would receive the weapons.
The involvement was supposedly motivated by the fact that the Arab states would supply arms to the Syrian militants anyway. The hopes CIA its can steer away the arms from Islamists’ hands and prevent weapons which can potentially be used by terrorist against civilian targets from being delivered, a former US official told the newspaper.
The operation was a limited success apparently, NYT says, citing two Islamist commanders.
“There are fake Free Syrian Army brigades claiming to be revolutionaries, and when they get the weapons they sell them in trade,” Hassan Aboud of Soquor al-Sham told the newspaper.
The former official described the program as “a cataract of weaponry.” He said: “People hear the amounts flowing in, and it is huge, but they burn through a million rounds of ammo in two weeks.”
Instrumental to setting up the operation was David H. Petraeus, the CIA director until November, the official said. He had prodded various countries to work together on it.
The scale of the operation increased considerably in November, after the Turkish government agreed to it, the report says. The tipping point may also have been the presidential election in the United States.
Ankara reportedly has oversight over much of the program, down to affixing transponders to trucks ferrying the arms through Turkish territory and across the border. Some in Turkey say Ankara is de facto at war with Damascus because of its involvement in the conflict.
“The use of Turkish airspace at such a critical time, with the conflict in Syria across our borders, and by foreign planes from countries that are known to be central to the conflict, defines Turkey as a party in the conflict,” said Attilla Kart, a member of the Turkish Parliament from the CHP opposition party, who confirmed details about several Saudi shipments. “The government has the responsibility to respond to these claims.”
Still, rebel commanders complain that they do not receive enough weapons and do not get heavier kinds of weapons like anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.
“The outside countries give us weapons and bullets little by little,” said Abdel Rahman Ayachi, a commander in Soquor al-Sham, an Islamist fighting group in northern Syria.
They accuse Washington of blocking such deliveries.
“Arming or not arming, lethal or nonlethal — it all depends on what America says,” Mohammed Abu Ahmed, who leads a band of anti-Assad fighters in Idlib Province, told NYT.
The CIA and General Petraeus would not comment when contacted by the newspaper. Turkish and Saudi Arabian officials declined to discuss the arms flights. Croatia and Jordan both denied any role in supplying weapons to the Syrian rebels, NYT says. Jordanian aviation officials reportedly went so far as to insist that no cargo flights occurred, and cut communication after presented evidence to the contrary.
The United Nations is hosting talks in New York today as more than 150 countries discuss a global arms treaty designed to lessen the illicit gun trade, especially as it intersects with international conflict zones.
The NRA's Wayne LaPierre lashes out at gun control efforts during his CPAC speech last week. (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP) The National Rifle Association, however, is using the opportunity to once again prove that their primary mission is not the altruistic promotion of individual gun rights, but rather to serve the interests of the powerful US gun industry.
In a statement put out ahead of the conference, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, "It is our collective responsibility to put an end to the inadequate regulation of the global trade in conventional weapons — from small arms to tanks to combat aircraft."
Reiterating his support for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), Ban said agreement on the pact would "alleviate the plight of the millions of people affected by conflicts and armed violence and enable the United Nations to better carry out its mandate to promote peace, development and human rights around the world."
Describing the treaty and the nature of the negotiations, Reuters reports:
Diplomats say that if the treaty conference fails to reach the required consensus because the United States, Russia or another major arms producer opposes it, nations can still put the draft treaty to a vote in the U.N. General Assembly.
The other alternative is to amend the draft to make it acceptable to the U.S. and other delegations. But supporters of the treaty fear that could lead to a weak and meaningless pact.
"The U.S. traditionally has an allergy to treaties," a European diplomat told Reuters. "It might be better to have a good treaty without the U.S. and hope they come around later."
But as The Guardian's Karen McVeigh points out:
For years, the NRA has painted the UN as a bogeyman figure, claiming in its literature and fundraising drives that there is an international conspiracy to "grab your guns". Last July, when negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty broke down – in part because of US resistance to global regulations on gun sales – the gun lobby group claimed victory for "killing the UN ATT".
Supporters of the treaty accuse the NRA of deceiving the US public about the pact, which they say will have no impact on US domestic gun ownership as it applies only to exports.
Michelle Ringuette, chief of campaigns and programs at Amnesty International USA, said they had witnessed a resurgence in the NRA's attempts to influence lawmakers and to use its opposition to the UN treaty as an opportunity for fundraising.
"We monitor what they send out to membership and put online" Ringuette told the Guardian. "It's nothing like the efforts they put in back in June and July but we have seen them step up. They have done exactly what we expected them to do, to stir up anti-UN panic."
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Roughly 3,000 great apes are stolen, traded, or killed each year, according to a new report by the UN Environment Program, which warns that the vast disappearance of primates will do great harm to the forest ecosystems of Africa and South-east Asia.
(Photo: Corbis) The report “Stolen Apes: The Illicit Trade in Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Bonobos and Orangutans” says traders within an organized trans-boundary network trade the apes in "the same ways as drugs, arms and laundered money," which has amounted to over 22,000 stolen apes since 2005.
"This trade is thriving and extremely dangerous to the long term survival of great apes," said Doug Cress, coordinator for the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).
"At this rate, apes will disappear very quickly," Cress stated. “Great apes are extremely important for the health of forests in Africa and Asia, and even the loss of 10 or 20 at a time can have a deep impact on biodiversity."
The majority of the apes traded are chimpanzees but also include bonobos, gorillas and orangutans. They are commonly killed during the hunt or die in captivity.
Those who survive are sold as exotic pets for wealthy individuals, zoos, and the entertainment and tourist industries, the report stated.
"Great apes are used to attract tourists to entertainment facilities such as amusement parks and circuses. They are even used in tourist photo sessions on Mediterranean beaches and clumsy boxing matches in Asian safari parks," it said.
The report coincides with the UN-backed Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) currently underway in Bangkok, Thailand.
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A new International Labor Rights Forum report claims that Theo Chocolate's management practices contradict its trendy "fair trade" image. (TheLivingRoominKenmore / Flickr / Creative CommonSince the 1990s, an unprecedented--but sometimes uneasy--alliance of activists and industry has tried to braid together business and humanitarianism under the label of “fair trade,” a system of standards aimed at injecting ethical checks into the sprawling global trade structure. Today, fair-trade branded coffees, skincare products and designer chocolates are hot commodities. But beneath the label lie ideological tensions over what “fair” means.
According to the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), the fair-trade certification system is riddled with loopholes that enable corporations to suppress labor rights and union activism. The ILRF’s new report focuses on the Seattle-based Theo Chocolate and its fair trade certification body, Switzerland-based Institute for Market Ecology (IMO). According to workers interviewed for the report, a campaign to form a union affiliated with the Teamsters in early 2010 at Theo's Seattle factory was met with discrimination, intimidation and anti-union propaganda.
A campaign to discourage unionization would not be unusual in a typical U.S. workplace, but the ILRF has called out Theo Chocolate for simultaneously deterring unionization in its workplace while publicizing itself as a “fair trade” brand. ILRF also criticizes Theo’s much-touted partnership with the IMO in a certification system designed to ensure compliance with fair trade standards—its Fair for Life certification program. The ILRF’s report grew out of its work with the Teamsters to help Theo workers complain to the IMO about the management's alleged anti-union actions.
According to the ILRF, in early 2010, a group of Theo workers sought to form a union to address problems they had discussed among themselves, including “safety issues in the factory, short notice shift and furlough changes, untenable workloads, low wages... and suspicion of wage discrimination against non-English speaking workers.” In the end, the report says, 19 out of 30 eligible workers signed cards affirming their approval of union representation. In a company like Theo, with a brand built on a hip, youthful image of global social responsibility, workers might well have expected that such organizing would be welcomed.
Instead, according to the report, Theo’s management fought to keep out the union through tried-and-true pressure strategies, including hiring a consultant to aid with union-deterrence efforts. One psychological tactic described in the report was painting unionization as an act of grave disloyalty:
Workers were made to feel that forming a union would ruin the gains that fair trade principles had made for cocoa farmers supplying Theo its cocoa.... A senior manager told one union supporter, “You can’t imagine how hard life is in Africa—your situation pales in comparison to theirs.”
True, Theo’s working conditions may be a cut above your average cocoa plantation. But according to testimonies in the ILRF report, the company still failed to address the supposedly pettier complaints that employees raised with management. The report criticized the company's attempt to resolve the conflicts by setting up non-union mediations that seemed aimed primarily at preempting the union, not comprehensively addressing workplace grievances.
The ILRF’s report focuses on the role of the IMO and the dubious integrity of fair trade certification when it comes to workplace fairness. When the ILRF and the Teamsters brought workers’ allegations of union-busting to the IMO, they found there was no effective way to seek fair recourse. Despite explicit provisions on freedom of association in the Fair for Life code, the ILRF says, “IMO’s certification of Theo Chocolate provided no independent mechanism for workers to challenge IMO’s flawed investigation of Theo’s violations of workers’ human rights.”
According to private email correspondence provided to In These Times, the IMO recently indicated it was open to reviewing some provisions of Fair for Life, without saying whether it would consider major changes in accordance with ILRF’s concerns. Underscoring some of the intrinsic conflicts highlighted by labor activists, the IMO referred to “confidentiality” protocols for client companies, which complicated issues of transparency in the auditing process.
Theo has criticized the report and its allegations as unfair and unfounded. In a statement sent to In These Times, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Debra Music argued that Theo honors labor rights, pointing out that in October 2010 (well after the initial pro-union vote described in the ILRF report), “our employees initiated, drafted, and distributed a petition indicating they did not want to unionize.” According to Music, this petition (like the management) denied “[a]ccusations made about Theo’s reaction to the proposed introduction of a union" and claimed that when employees met to discuss the issue, "it was made clear that the majority of [workers] were not interested in a Teamsters union.” (Statement posted here.)
To the ILRF, Theo’s labor dispute represents a broader dilemma in the fair trade world—a lack of attention to the labor rights of hired workers, who play a significant role in sectors targeted by global fair-trade campaigns. Because the fair trade movement was born from initiatives to promote small cooperative farms in the Global South, the system has historically been oriented toward traditional grassroots agriculture, rather than wage labor or industrialized workplaces.
The ILRF recommends that the fair-trade community partner with groups in the labor movement to set up an independent system for pursuing recourse against fair trade violators, which might operate parallel to legal structures like the National Labor Relations Board. The report also points out that the industry and its auditors must “identify, recognize and address the inherent conflicts of interest that arise when a fair trade certifier or auditor, working with or paid by the employer, is also the judge between a worker-management dispute about worker organizing or collective bargaining.”
"Fair trade is meant to be a social movement,” ILRF Executive Director Judy Gearhart tells ITT. “It's therefore looked [toward] to be answerable to the poorest individuals meant to benefit from [the] system."
As a consumer-driven effort to draw an ethical baseline in global commerce, fair trade certification alone can’t answer all of the labor and economic justice issues that corrode industrial supply chains. But the principles of fairness in trade should take us deeper into a global conversation about what we value as consumers and as workers, and whether the labels we choose reflect those ideas.
Mr. Obama, administration officials say, is unlikely to discuss specific numbers in the address, but White House officials are looking at a cut that would take the arsenal of deployed weapons to just above 1,000. Currently there are about 1,700, and the new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia that passed the Senate at the end of 2009 calls for a limit of roughly 1,550 by 2018.
But Mr. Obama, according to an official who was involved in the deliberations, “believes that we can make pretty radical reductions — and save a lot of money — without compromising American security in the second term. And the Joint Chiefs have signed off on that concept.”
The big question is how to accomplish a reduction that Mr. Obama views as long overdue, considering that Republicans in the Senate opposed even the modest cuts in the new arms reduction treaty, called Start. The White House is loath to negotiate an entirely new treaty with Russia, which would lead to Russian demands for restrictions on American and NATO missile-defense systems in Europe and would reprise a major fight with Republicans in the Senate over ratification.
Instead, Mr. Obama is weighing how to reach an informal agreement with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for mutual cuts within the framework of the new Start — but without the need for ratification. Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon, is planning to travel to Russia next month, officials say, to lay the groundwork for those talks. Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin will hold two summit meetings in the early summer.
Even as he revives a nuclear agenda that has been nearly moribund for two years, Mr. Obama is also expected to try to address new threats.
Within days of the State of the Union address, officials say, he plans to issue a long-anticipated presidential directive on combating cyberattacks aimed at American companies, financial institutions and critical infrastructure like the electric grid. The announcement comes at a moment of heightened attacks from China and, most recently, from Iran.
A lobbying effort by American companies last year defeated a bill in Congress that, in some versions of the legislation, would have required private companies to meet minimum standards of protection and to report attacks to the government. It died over objections that the bill would incur huge new costs and involve the government more deeply into private computer networks.
While Mr. Obama cannot impose the failed bill’s mandates by executive order, he is expected to give companies that control “critical infrastructure” access to an experimental government program that has been aimed at protecting defense contractors. The directive will also require the government to inform industry officials of cyberthreats detected by American intelligence agencies; that, in turn, may create some liability for companies that fail to react to the warnings.
The nuclear reduction plan has been debated inside the administration for two years, and the options have been on Mr. Obama’s desk for months. But the document was left untouched through the presidential election. The president wanted to avoid making the reductions a campaign issue with Mitt Romney, who declared at one point that Russia was now America’s “No. 1 geostrategic foe,” a comment that Mr. Obama later mocked as an indication that Mr. Romney had failed to move beyond the cold war.
Mr. Romney, in turn, leapt on a remark that Mr. Obama intended to make privately to Russia’s then president, Dmitri A. Medvedev. He was picked up by an open microphone telling Mr. Medvedev that “after my election I have more flexibility” on missile defense, which Republicans said was evidence that he was preparing to trade away elements of the arsenal.
Among the most outspoken advocates of a deep cut has been a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James E. Cartwright, whom Mr. Obama continues to turn to on strategic issues. General Cartwright has argued that a reduction to 900 warheads would still guarantee American safety, even if only half of them were deployed at any one time.
“The world has changed, but the current arsenal carries the baggage of the cold war,” General Cartwright said last year. The challenges of North Korea, which is preparing a third nuclear test, and the possibility that Iran will get the bomb pose very different kinds of threats to the United States, and do not require the ability to deliver the kind of huge first strike that was the underlying logic of a large arsenal to face off against the Soviet Union.
“What is it we’re really trying to deter?” General Cartwright asked. “Our current arsenal does not address the threats of the 21st century.”
It is unclear how much money would be saved by the nuclear reduction plan that Mr. Obama is about to endorse; partly that depends on how the cuts are spread among the three elements of America’s nuclear “triad”: land-based missiles in silos, missiles aboard hard-to-find nuclear submarines, and nuclear bombers.
“These cuts don’t require a radical change in the triad, and that makes it politically easier,” said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, which has argued for deep cuts. General Cartwright’s more radical plans, by some estimates, would have saved at least $120 billion over the next two decades.
But Mr. Obama is already moving quietly, officials acknowledge, to explore whether he can scale back a 10-year, $80 billion program to modernize the country’s weapons laboratories.
The White House agreed to the spending on the weapons labs as the price of winning Republican votes on the new Start three years ago, but one senior defense official said late last year that “the environment of looking for cuts in the national security budget makes this an obvious target.”
Mr. Obama’s advisers have said he is unlikely to simply announce American cuts unilaterally, though President George W. Bush took a similar step his first year in office before negotiating a short treaty with Mr. Putin that passed the Senate with little rancor.
Along with the executive order on cybersecurity, the administration plans to try again this year to get comprehensive cyberlegislation passed by Congress.
Last month, Senators Tom Carper, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, introduced a cybersecurity bill similar to the one that administration had hoped to pass in 2012.
“We want to foster notice and we want to foster information-sharing requirements,” Janet Napolitano, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a recent interview on the legislation. “We want to take care of some of the nuts and bolts like relaxing Civil Service requirements so we can hire more competitively. Really the things that can’t be done by an executive order.”
Ms. Napolitano said that she hoped it would be a high priority for Congress. But “in the meantime we can’t stand still,” she said.
You can also add to that ten million, countless others whose lives have been sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit, which did not rely on the military to bomb peoples and countries into submission but on the IMF, World Bank and WTO. It begs the question how many lives have been cut short across the world because of the inherent structural violence or silent killing of the everyday functioning of predatory capitalism?
Peddling their high salaried deceptions, they have failed and continue to fail the public and genuinely hold power to account. By shining their ‘investigative’ light on ‘parliamentary procedures’, personalities, the rubber stamping of policies and the inane machinations of party politics, they merely serve to maintain and perpetuate the status quo and keep the public in the dark as to the unaccountable self-serving nature of power broking and the unity ofinterests that enable Big Oil, Big Finance, Big Pharma, Big Agra and the rest of them via their secretive think tanks and policy initiatives to keep bleeding us all dry.
But that’s the role of the media: to help reinforce and reproduce the material conditions of a divisive social system on a daily basis. It’s called having a compliant, toothless media. It’s what the corporate media itself calls part of ‘liberal democracy’. And in this type of 'liberal democracy', it is people like Edward Snowden or Julian Assange who expose the wrongdoings of the political-corporate elites that are hounded.
MI5 targeted labour correspondents in both newspapers and broadcasting right up to the 80s; they were recruited in droves for their contacts with a wide range of trade union officials and with each other. According to Peter Wright, MI5 always had about twenty senior journalists working for it in the national press. “They were not employed directly by us, but we regarded them as agents because they were happy to be associated with us.”
At the BBC, Brigadier Ronald Stonham liaised with MI5 and Special Branch and advised the corporation on whether or not to employ people. Names of applicants for editorial posts in the BBC were similarly ‘vetted’ by MI5.
“There should be times when the journalist, when he’s examined all the facts and tested all his sources, should come down on the side of the government of the day, the established order and the Establishment as a whole.” - Chairman of the Radio Authority
“We are in a period of considerable social change. There may be social unrest, but we can cope with the Toxteths… but if we have a highly-educated and idle population, we may possibly anticipate more serious conflict. People must be educated to once more know their place.” – from a secret Department of Education Report.
The Market Oracle, Global Research and Countercurrents 8/1/2014
British Chancellor George Osborne this week announced massive cuts of £25 billion after 2015. This included further welfare cuts of £12bn. Osbourne said that 2014 would be a year of hard truths. He claimed that his economic policies were working, but admitted that the bad news is there's still a long way to go.
"We understood the Conservative government's determination to use the state machine against us. In order to dismember the welfare state, they had to break the trade union movement and they needed to break the miners first."
"Osborne is busy lining the pockets of the people at the top of the pile."
UK parl. faces action day in fortnight
British campaigners will demonstrate outside the parliament building in London on April 15 to call on the government to cut military budget on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending.
Britain’s annual military budget is a massive £39 billion, which is the fourth largest in the world and the country is planning to replace its Trident nuclear weapons system at a cost the Stop the War Coalition estimates to reach £100 billion.
The government is also providing subsidies to 55,000 arms trade jobs that amount to a dizzying £700 million a year while the NHS is facing 56,000 job cuts due to austerity measures.
This is while the government is cutting vital public services including the National Health Service “efficiency savings” by £20 billion in three years, social housing by £4 billion, sickness benefits by £2 billion and Mental health services and youth services by £150 million and £200 million, respectively.
“Demilitarize” campaigners now want convey the message to the parliament that the billions of pounds spent on the military can be better used on education, development and health services.
Their action is part of a global initiative calling for a shift of the international military spending, which stood at £1.15 trillion in 2011, to fund human needs.
The Global Day of Action on Military Spending is set in April to coincide with the release of the Stockholm international Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) annual figures on world military expenditures.
On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, the Global Research News Hour interviews Richard Sanders of the Coalition Opposed to the Arms Trade (COAT) about the myth of Canada’s non-involvement in Iraq.
There is a follow-up interview with former UN Humanitarian Coordinator Hans Von Sponeck about the deterioration of the social conditions in Iraq from before the 1991 Gulf War to the present and the potential for redress against these and future war crimes.
LISTEN TO THE SHOW
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Transcript- Richard Sanders Interview, March 21, 2013
March 19th marks the tenth anniversary of the day the US military and its allies began the offensive against Iraq known as Operation Iraqi freedom.
The military campaign that ensued coming on top of more than ten years of sanctions devastated the country and is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians as well as thousands of coalition troops, including over 4000 US troops.
Jean Chretien, prime minister at the time of the Iraq war has received praise for keeping Canada out of the Iraq war. A closer examination, however, reveals that far from withdrawing from that conflict, Canada actively supported it.
Ottawa-based Richard Sanders, coordinator of the Coalition Opposed to the Arms Trade, an anti-war group, has outlined in detail the ways in which Canada supported the Iraq war. He joins us now to explain his analysis.
Michael Welch: Well, Canada did not become an official member of the coalition of the willing, but yet Canada did, according to your research do quite a lot to support the war in Iraq. Could you maybe list off some of the ways that Canada was involved in that war?
Richard Sanders: Yeah, for sure, because we were very involved in many different ways. Okay, well one of the ways which we were involved was through our navy. We often hear that we didn’t have that many boots on the ground, that we didn’t have much of an army participation, and that seems to be the one and only criteria by which many people in the mainstream media want to decide whether Canada was involved, how many army people did we have on the ground.
So but Canadian participation through the navy was quite significant, we had thousands of people aboard numerous multi-billion dollar frigates and a destroyer that were involved in leading and protecting and supplying the coalition navy in the initial invasion in 2003, as well as many times since over the years. We also did have army generals, Canadian army generals, there were three different Canadian generals who held command positions leading the entire war, they were deputy commanders, so number two in command of the Iraq war. There were three of them and they each spent a year to a year and a half in Iraq. There was another Canadian general who led a US base where they trained thousands of us soldiers and sent them off to war in Iraq. We provided war planners which helped to organize the strategy for the wars, once it started.
Michael Welch: –the logistics?
Richard Sanders: …we helped conduct the air war, so we had can pilots and crew aboard these kinds of aircraft that coordinated the air strikes. It’s like a traffic controller– air traffic controllers– except instead of being in a tower, they’re in an air craft, which is like especially designed to coordinate all the different fighters and bombers. We provided airspace and re-fuelling for the US, thousands of US planes that were going to and from Iraq over the years since the war started. So, we basically let the US fly over our airspace, land in our airports in Newfoundland—two of them, possibly three, and then refuel there and then take off for the rest of the trip. We provided some air transport for the war, so we had C130 aircraft, with Canadian pilots flying US troops and their weapons into and out of Iraq. By taking over in Afghanistan, which we did, from the US, we helped free up US troops. We did supply some ground troops; three, four, five dozen troops at least…
Michael Welch: —was that part of–?
Richard Sanders: …on the ground. So there are some of the ways, but there are quite a few other ways. One of the ways I’ll just quickly mention is through the Canadian arms trade. We sell, Canada sells, 5-7.5 billion dollars of military equipment per year, every year, and 75% of that goes to the United States. In my research I found that about forty, at least forty different major US weapons systems that were used in Iraq, all of the major war planes for example, used in Iraq, have very important Canadian components. So these war planes, fighters and bombers that conducted the air strikes against Iraq, they would not have been able to do their missions unless they had the Canadian components in them, and there are quite a few other ways as well that we helped support. By training Iraqi police, training Iraqi troops, providing RADARSAT data, so we have this billion dollar satellite system orbiting the earth and it provides data for US weapons system. We facilitate US weapons training, testing in Canada, so they test their weapons systems that they used in Iraq, they tested them in Canada. So those are some of the ways that Canada was involved, and I think that pretty much proves that Canada was involved. I mean it’s pretty hard to deny it, there were so many ways that we were involved, I think it’s incredible that they can say “Canada was not involved, or Canada sat out the war, isn’t it great”. We’re asked to celebrate how Canada didn’t get involved. Well, we did get involved, we were very involved, and I find it really incredibly mind-blowing that they can pretend, they can put up this phony official narrative that says that we weren’t involved– we were so deeply involved. Very few other countries were as involved in Canada I mean, obviously the United States and Britain were more involved than we were. Australia had quite a few troops there, but they didn’t provide all these other things which Canada provided.
Michael Welch: Well if you include all the various ways in which Canada did help, I mean, where would we rank among the so-called coalition of the willing, did we actually contribute more than some who were listed amongst the coalition of the willing?
Richard Sanders: Oh, absolutely. We provided more than almost everyone in the whole world, I mean other than the US, Britain, and Australia, I think that a very good case can be made that Canada provided more than any country except for those three. So, I’d say we were at least in the top five. Now, its interesting the whole issue of the Coalition of the Willing, because when that was announced on March 18 2003, Secretary David Colin Powell said “We now have a coalition of the willing who have publicly said they could be included in such a listing”. And then he said, quote: “there are fifteen other nations, who, for one reason or another, do not wish to be publicly named, but will be supporting the coalition”, unquote. So in other words, the coalition of the willing is just a list of the countries that were participating in one way or another and were willing to publicly say that they were involved. And then he says, very clearly, that there are fifteen other countries that do not want to be publicly named but they were supporting the coalition. So Canada was obviously part of that group, they did not want to be publicly named as part of the coalition of the willing, so they were unwilling to be named as part of the coalition of the willing, but they were very willing to be involved.
Michael Welch: Now, you mention a lot of various ways in which Canada was involved, you did mention a few dozen people—boots on the ground—were there were actually Canadian soldiers there in Iraq, in a combat capacity… how was that possible when the official line was “We aren’t sending soldiers to Iraq?”
Richard Sanders: Okay, that’s done through having these soldiers working under the command of British or American forces, so they’re kind of on—it’s called an exchange—so it’s the same way that we had pilots flying US warplanes during the war. Flying, for example these massive transport planes that drop tanks, that carry tanks in, they’re C17– they’re called GlobeMasters, and we had Canadian pilots flying during the Iraq war, part of the Iraq war flying vast amounts of war material, weapon systems including huge tanks, flying them right into battle zones. So there were Canadians flying US war planes. And they do that by being “on exchange”, they’re on exchange missions. The other things is that these Canadian generals that are leading international forces of ground troops—they were on the ground. A general is not the guy that is back kicking doors in and running in and kidnapping people and shooting people, but he is overseeing. And, we had three Canadian generals that took turns overseeing that, they had boots on the ground, they were in Iraq. So that’s another way that we had Canadian boots on the ground, army guys—they were actual generals
Michael Welch: And these generals, how many people would you say they had oversight over?
Richard Sanders: That’s a good question, I can’t remember now, its been a few years since I researched it. Many thousands—let me see if I can very quickly find that. And, these guys received medals for their, for what they did.
Michael Welch: I believe one of those generals became-
Richard Sanders:– the Chief of Defense Staff. Walt Natynczyk- he led thirty-five thousand US troops in Iraq in 2004. He was there for over a year—sorry, about a year. So, from January 2004 to January 2005. He was given a medal by the Canadian governor general, Michaelle Jean, saying—and I can quote to you on what it said, the text that is associated with the medal, it said: “Major General Natynczyk led the corps ten separate brigades consisting of more than thirty-five thousand soldiers stationed throughout the Iraq theatre of operations. He also oversaw the planning and execution of all corps level commanding support and combat service support operations. His pivotal role in the development of numerous plans and operations resulted in a tremendous contribution by the multinational corps to operation Iraqi freedom”—that’s what they called the Iraq war—“… and has brought great credit to the Canadian forces and to Canada.” So, this is a medal that he receives for his leading role, commanding more than thirty-five thousand troops in Iraq, and then they have the gall to say that Canada wasn’t involved in the war. I mean, it’s just, it’s ludicrous.
Michael Welch: If you saw the—
Richard Sanders: We’re supposed to celebrate that Canada wasn’t involved? All we’re doing is celebrating that we’ve been deceived. That they’ve done a PR job, that they’ve been incredibly successful in their propaganda, and that they’ve been able to pull the wool over our eyes and deceive us and trick us in a psychological operation. Are we supposed to celebrate that? That’s incredible.
Michael Welch: Richard Sanders, I notice that many of the ways in which Canada was, as you say, supporting the war, it was in terms of components and all this sort of connections that seem to go right to the guts of the military. I’m wondering if it’s even possible for Canada to stay out of any US conflict given the level of, the tentacles between the Canadian and United States military industrial complex?
Richard Sanders: One of the examples I mentioned was the Canadian military exports, with the, the five billion a year or whatever to the US… that would be really hard, I mean, obviously we are so thoroughly integrated into the US war machine that Canadian parts are right in there on all these major weapons systems so if they called a war tomorrow, all of our, all of that stuff that Canadians made stuff, and these companies have received billions of dollars from the Canadian government to support their export industries… I mean, yeah, what can we do? We can say “we don’t want you to fly these planes because they have all that equipment in it?”, no, we couldn’t withdraw our support from that, it’s too late for that. So in whatever war they happen to be fighting, Canada is playing its part. But there are other things, many of the other examples—training Iraq police, training Iraqi troops, we set up the phony elections, Elections Canada was a major part in setting up phony democratic elections in Iraq. Providing RADARSAT data, sending in these exchange troops, they could be withdrawn, sending in the generals- we didn’t have to do that. Sending in our ships in the Persian gulf, we didn’t have to do that. We even had a Canadian commodore that was leading the entire multinational fleet of warships escorting the US warships into place for the initial bombardment of Iraq. And we didn’t have to do that—we could have called, we could have stopped all those things. And yeah, once you’ve sold them the equipment, you can’t stop them from using it. But they could have stopped—let’s say we found out that Canadian companies were selling weapons to oh, Syria. You don’t think that they could stop it? Of course they could. But, you’re right. We’re so thoroughly integrated into the US war machine it is very difficult to pull out.
Michael Welch: So why is this meme so pervasive, this idea that Canada said no to the war in Iraq. Why is it that people continue to believe this in spite of all the documentation that you’ve put forwards?
Richard Sanders: Well, all the research that I do and that other people do doesn’t mean anything in comparison to the mainstream media. Right, I mean I’ve got very little help from the mainstream media. The corporate media and also the… it fits into a huge mythology that we’ve had for a few decades, the whole myth of Canada as a great force for peace in the world, so it fits so nicely into that mythology that it was easy to sell this particular spin on that mythology because it fits in so nicely, so people will just go ‘yeah, that’s right, of course, because Canada is not a war-fighter, we’re a peace loving country, all that, blahblah” so it’s easy for the media to lie to us. The NDP was not much help, they basically went along with the mythology. They did do some work to expose the ways in which Canada was involved, but basically when the government said “Okay, so we’ve decided not to be involved” even though they were, they basically said “okay, we’re not involved” then the NDP was bending over backwards to congratulate itself for having pressured the government to not being involved in the war. So, they got credit, they got support from their membership.
Michael Welch: But you know Richard, it seems to me that even so-called progressive forces who are even instinctively suspicious of the mainstream media, they seem to buy into that message as well, don’t you find?
Richard Sanders: Many do. Many people don’t have, just haven’t seen the evidence. When you see it, it’s really hard to ignore, it’s really hard to not realize that we were involved when you see the list of all the things that we did. But somehow, there are peace activists- – I think there is an overlap with people who are big supports of the international criminal court, big supporters of the so-called responsibility to protect, this new doctrine that the US and NATO countries use as a pretext for going to war, you know, that used to be called humanitarian intervention. So there is an overlap between these different mythologies, or these different doctrines that are used to put a nice façade on war and participation in war. So you have people in the peace movement that are willing to go along with these pretenses, you have to ask them how they managed to wrap their minds among these things, because it seems to me that the cognitive dissonance that these contradictions would create in your mind would be so strong that you wouldn’t be able to keep such complete opposite idea going in your mind at the same time. How can you believe that Canada wasn’t involved, and at the same time know that we did this and this and this and this and this to help the war. I mean, it so completely contradictory, that you think it would cause some discomfort in your mind hat you wouldn’t be able to continue to believe these things. But somehow, they manage to. Or—the whole responsibility to protect thing, how can they believe that the United States can lead a war to protect human rights? Don’t they know anything about the long history of US wars? So, you have to ask, it would be good for you to interview people and question them about that… how do they support these ideas like the responsibility to protect and the idea that Canada is a great and wonderful peace-keeping country when it is engaged in war to the extent that it is?
Michael Welch: Well, Richard Sanders I want to thank you very much for shedding some light there on why there, on the reality of Canada’s involvement in Iraq , and I guess if people want more information about your publication or your website, where would you direct them?
Richard Sanders: Well, if you do a search for the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade then you’ll find our website, and there is lots of detailed information there with references and footnotes and whatnot to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt to prove that Canada was very, very deeply involved in the Iraq war, not only during the initial invasion, but in the many years since.
Michael Welch: Richard Sanders has been involved with the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, and publishes Press for Conversion magazine. Thank you very much for joining us Richard.
Richard Sanders: Thank you very much for having me.
LISTEN TO THE SHOW
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The Global Research News Hour, hosted by Michael Welch, airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Thursdays at 10am CDT. The programme is now broadcast weekly by the Progressive Radio Network in the US, and is available for download on the Global Research website.
After thirteen hours of voting that lasted into the early hours of the morning, the US Senate passed its first budget in nearly four years just after 3 am on Saturday.
The budget passed narrowly 50 to 49 on a largely partisan vote at 4:56 a.m. (AP) There was much to yawn about, however, and seemingly little to cheer for a Senate this week that found it impossible to find enough votes to re-instate the assault weapons ban or put any meaningful measures in place to curtail the runaway gun violence in the country.
In addition to a vote calling for the approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from Canada and a vote against signing an international arms trade treaty, the Senate voted on nearly a hundred other separate amendments.
Among those were a slew of Republican-backed amendments designed to undermine protections for the nation’s air, land, wildlife and public health.
According to the Center of Biological Diversity, the GOP's "backdoor" proposals included efforts to stop the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and slash funding for protection of native wildlife under the Endangered Species Act, placing hundreds of animals and plants at risk of extinction.
“Senate Republicans once again pandered to powerful special interests at the expense of wildlife, our climate and a healthy environment for people,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s ugly to see so many politicians doing so much to try to dismantle crucial environmental laws.”
The Senate's budget, which passed 50-49, was recounted by the Associated Press with the following:
Many of the proposals were offered in hopes of inflicting political damage on Democratic senators up for re-election in GOP-leaning states like Alaska and Louisiana.
Some $1 trillion in new revenue would flow to the government over the coming decade — on top of more than $600 billion in taxes on upper-income earners approved in January — and would be coupled with a net $875 billion in spending cuts. Those reductions would be generated by modest cuts to federal health care programs, domestic agencies and the Pentagon and reduced government borrowing costs. The budget proposes $100 billion in new spending for infrastructure projects and job training programs.
The president will reveal his own overdue tax-and-spending plan in two weeks, a plan that will be judged in part by whether it offers new, more politically risky proposals that could form the foundation for a bipartisan agreement between the two houses.
And Politico added:
The 12-hour series of votes — more than 100 amendments were considered, breaking a previous “vote-a-rama” record — is mostly political theater and gives both sides the opportunity to force votes on pet issues. The budget is non-binding, therefore none of the passed amendments will likely carry the weight of law.
But the votes are symbolic victories, demonstrating the ability of one side to rally enough senators to support a measure in hopes of using those votes for future bills. It also gives both sides a litany of roll calls to try to clobber their opponents during the next election.
The Hill cataloged just some of the most distracting and ideological of the GOP amendments, all of which went down to defeat:
- Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) amendment 184, to expedite exports from the United States through reform of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 in such a manner that greenhouse gas emissions produced outside the United States by any good exported from the United States are not subject to the requirements of that Act, passed by voice vote.
- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) amendment 382, to increase funding for interstate bridges and pay for it with funding that would have gone to for foreign assistance and the Department of Energy loan guarantees, failed 26-72.
- Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) amendment 526, to require photo ID to vote in federal elections, 44-54
- Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) amendment 338, to end subsidized mobile phone service, failed 46-53.
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) amendment 471, to reduce aid to Egypt to pay for the East Coast Missile Defense Shield, 25-74.
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) amendment 702, to raise a point of order to prohibit funds to the United Nations while any member nation forces involuntary abortions, 38-61
- Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) amendment 673, to raise a point of order on a bill that would limit the Second Amendment, failed 50-49 to waive the budget act (60 votes are required).
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Every year, more than 30,000 people are shot and killed in the US.
A large number of Americans have rushed to purchase the Turkish-made firearms as gun control restrictions loom in the country.
The Turkish defense and aerospace industry has amplified its sales of guns and industrial goods sold to the United States for the months of January and February this year, a 5.6 percent mark-up since the same period last year, reported Hurriyet Daily News.
“Turkey could easily achieve its USD 25 billion arms trade target by 2023, with five or six Turkish companies ranking among the top 100 arms companies,” said Aral Alis, chairman of the Union of Defense and Aerospace Industry Exporters, earlier this week.
America has become the top market for Turkish firearms, motivated by potential gun control measures initiated by US President Barack Obama.
Following the Newtown shooting spree, Obama appointed Biden to lead an effort to find proposals "to reduce the epidemic of gun violence.”
On December 14, 2012, a 20-year-old man, identified as Adam Lanza, killed twenty children and six adults before pointing the gun at himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
There have been several deadly shootings across the United States over the past few months, putting the issue of lax gun control laws back in the spotlight.
Every year, more than 30,000 people are shot and killed in the US.
The US averages 87 gun deaths each day as a function of gun violence, with an average of 183 injured, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Centers for Disease Control.
The year 2012 has been a record-setting year for gun sales in the US.
About 4.5 million firearms are sold annually in the United States at a cost of 2 to 3 billion dollars.
February 27, the German parliament voted by a large majority to support the French colonial war in Mali. In April, up to 330 German soldiers are to be stationed in that country.
The parliamentary motion includes two mandates. As part of the European Union (EU)-led training mission EUTM, 180 soldiers will be used to train the Malian army. The German army (Bundeswehr) will send 40 scouts and 40 medics and doctors to Koulikoro, 65 kilometres northeast of the capital city, Bamako. Another 100 soldiers are on standby to intervene “if necessary” to “protect the German soldiers.”
According to the commander of the EUTM mission, General François Lecointre, the military trainers from the EU will commence training more than 2,500 Malian soldiers beginning April 2.
The aim of the mission is to stabilise the ailing Malian army and enable it to support the combat mission conducted by French troops in the north of the country. About one year ago and before the French invasion, the Malian army had been driven out of the region by a coalition of Islamist rebels and Tuareg warriors.
The second mandate involves an additional 150 soldiers to logistically support the combat mission of the French Air Force. The plan is to use an Airbus to refuel French Rafale and Mirage fighter jets in the air. In addition, 63 soldiers and three Transall planes will continue to transport French combat troops and troops from the Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to Mali.
In January, shortly after the beginning of the war, the German army commenced logistical support of combat French and African troops, without a mandate from the German parliament. Since then, the Transall planes have transported some 570 soldiers and about 290 tons of material in 117 flights carried out in the area of operation.
According to official estimates, the German military operation will cost at least €55.5 million. In addition to the governing parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Christian Social Union and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens also voted in favour. From a total of 567 MPs, 496 voted in favour of the training mandate, and 492 for the deployment of “logistical support.”
The mandate initially runs for 12 months but is likely to be extended. Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere (CDU) had already prepared parliamentarians in the first discussion in parliament for a prolonged military campaign, declaring, “No deployment is a walk in the park.”
The parliamentary vote is a further expansion of the dirty imperialist colonial war in Mali. The official website of the federal parliament states, “Germany [will] contribute, through its actions, to bring under state control those areas in northern Mali still under the influence of terrorist, extremist and armed groups.”
Officially, the Bundeswehr missions in both Mali and Afghanistan have been justified with the alleged “war against terrorism”.
In parliament, Rainer Stinner, foreign policy spokesman of the FDP parliamentary group, declared that the situation in Mali “has long-term influence on our German security interests” and that there was “a risk that terrorist forces or forces with evil intent would spread in another regions of the world.”
The reference to “terrorism” by imperialist powers to justify their colonial wars is hypocritical. The same Islamists active in northern Mali were in 2011 important allies of Western powers in their campaign against the Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Now, these powers and their regional allies are backing similar reactionary forces in Syria to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and install a pro-Western puppet regime.
In reality, the wars in Mali and Afghanistan have nothing to do with a “struggle against terrorism,” but are rooted in definite geo-strategic and economic interests.
The latest military campaign in Mali is part of the imperialist campaign for a renewed colonial subjugation of Africa, which began with the NATO war against Libya two years ago. In common with the entire Sahel region, Mali is rich in natural resources. The major imperialist powers are seeking to secure these resources in an increasingly aggressive competitive race with China, which has close economic ties with Mali and other countries in the region.
After hesitating to participate in the Libya campaign, the German bourgeoisie is determined to gain a share of the spoils in Mali. German companies have made clear they intend to join the race for raw materials in Africa.
A long and detailed report last week in the German business newspaperHandelsblatt made clear that the German business and political elite are preparing to intensify their capacity to wage wars to secure the resources so necessary for the German export industry. The article lists China as one of Germany’s biggest competitors in this race, and explicitly identifies North Africa as one of the most strategically important regions in this respect.
The article relates that the German ambassador to NATO has been “given the job of reassessing north Africa and Middle East, along with its regional allies, to define which countries are of particular importance for Western and German security interests.”
German imperialism also regards the war against Mali as a prelude to further wars in the region. This was indicated in a comment by the foreign affairs spokesperson for the Greens, Kerstin Müller, who declared that the German operation amounted to “emergency surgery in order to prevent an even worse situation.” She then added: “If we want avoid intervention in the future in Niger or Burkina Faso, then we need a strategy for the entire Sahel.”
A particularly cynical role in the return of German imperialism is being played by the Left Party. Well aware that the motion would be passed overwhelmingly, the party voted against for tactical reasons.
In her speech before the vote, the “peace spokeswoman” of the Left Party, Christine Buchholz, gave the other parties a clear signal that the Left Party is quite willing to support future German military operations. She argued against a “general debate on the war policy of the federal government” and called instead for “a general discussion about how we can solve economic and social problems and the extreme problems that the arms trade causes in the world.”
The readiness of the Left Party to support military intervention in the interests of German imperialism was already clear from the position it took towards the Western aggression against Syria. In December of last year, leaders of the party backed an appeal for an intervention in Syria. The statement was also supported by the leaders of the CDU, the SPD and the Greens.
By Felix Imonti
Russia is back. President Vladimir Putin wants the world to acknowledge that Russia remains a global power. He is making his stand in Syria.
The Soviet Union acquired the Tartus Naval Port in Syria in 1971 without any real purpose for it. With their ships welcomed in Algeria, Cuba or Vietnam, Tartus was too insignificant to be developed. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia lacked the funds to spend on the base and no reason to invest in it.
The Russian return to the Middle East brought them first to where the Soviet Union had its closest ties. Libya had been a major buyer of arms and many of the military officers had studied in the Soviet Union. Russia was no longer a global power, but it could be used by the Libyans as a counter force to block domination by the United States and Europeans.
When Gaddafi fell, Tartus became Russia’s only presence in the region. That and the discovery of vast gas deposits just offshore have transformed the once insignificant port into a strategic necessity.
Earlier at the United Nations, Russia had failed to realize that Security Council Resolution 1973 that was to implement a new policy of “responsibility to protect” cloaked a hidden agenda. It was to be turned from a no-fly zone into a free-fire zone for NATO. That strategic blunder of not vetoing the resolution led to the destruction of Gaddafi’s regime and cost Russia construction contracts and its investments in Libyan gas and oil to the tune of 10 billion dollars.
That was one more in a series of humiliating defeats; and something that Putin will not allow to happen again while he is president. Since his time as an officer in the KGB, he has seen the Soviet Empire lose half of its population, a quarter of its land mass, and most of its global influence. He has described the collapse of the Soviet Union as a “geopolitical catastrophe.”
In spite of all of the pressure from Washington and elsewhere to have him persuade Bashar Al-Assad to relinquish power, Putin is staying loyal to the isolated regime. He is calculating that Russia can afford to lose among the Arabs what little prestige that it has remaining and gain a major political and economic advantage in Southern Europe and in the Eastern Mediterranean.
What Russia lost through the anti-Al-Assad alliance was the possibility to control the natural gas market across Europe and the means to shape events on the continent. In July 2011, Iran, Iraq, and Syria agreed to build a gas pipeline from the South Pars gas field in Iran to Lebanon and across the Mediterranean to Europe. The pipeline that would have been managed by Gazprom would have carried 110 million cubic meters of gas. About a quarter of the gas would be consumed by the transit countries, leaving seventy or so million cubic meters to be sold to Europe.
Violence in Iraq and the Syrian civil war has ended any hope that the pipeline will be built, but not all hope is lost. One possibility is for Al-Assad to withdraw to the traditional Aliwite coastal enclave to begin the partitioning of Syria into three or more separate zones, Aliwite, Kurdish, and Sunni. Al-Assad’s grandfather in 1936 had asked the French administrators of the Syrian mandate to create a separate Alawite territory in order to avoid just this type of ethnic violence.
What the French would not do circumstance may force the grandson to accept as his only choice to survive. His one hundred thousand heavily armed troops would be able to defend the enclave.
The four or five million Alawites, Christians, and Druze would have agricultural land, water, a deep water port and an international airport. Very importantly, they would have the still undeveloped natural gas offshore fields that extend from Israel, Lebanon, and Cyprus. The Aliwite Republic could be energy self-sufficient and even an exporter. Of course, Russia’s Gazprom in which Putin has a vital interest would get a privileged position in the development of the resource.
In an last effort to bring the nearly two year long civil war to an end, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov urged Syrian president Bashar al-Assad at the end of December to start talks with the Syrian opposition in line with the agreements for a cease fire that was reached in Geneva on 30 June. The Russians have also extended the invitation to the Syrian opposition National Coalition head, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib. The National Coalition refuses to negotiate with Al-Assad and Al-Assad will not relinquish power voluntarily.
The hardened positions of both sides leaves little hope for a negotiated settlement; and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has made it clear that only by an agreement among the Syrians will Russia accept the removal of Al-Assad. Neither do they see a settlement through a battlefield victory which leaves only a partitioning that will allow the civil war to just wind down as all sides are exhausted.
The Russians are troubled by what they see as a growing trend among the Western Powers to remove disapproved administrations in other sovereign countries and a program to isolate Russia. They saw the U.S involvement in the Ukraine and Georgia. There was the separation of Kosovo from Serbia over Russian objections. There was the extending of NATO to the Baltic States after pledging not to expand the organization to Russia’s frontier.
Again, Russia is seeing Washington’s hand in Syria in the conflict with Iran. The United States is directing military operations in Syria with Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia at a control center in Adana about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to the American air base in Incirlik. The Program by President Obama to have the CIA acquire heavy weapons at a facility in Benghazi to be sent to Turkey and onward to Syria is the newest challenge that Putin cannot allow to go unanswered. It was the involvement of Ambassador Chris Stevens in the arms trade that may have contributed to his murder; and the Russians are not hesitating to remind the United States and Europeans that their dealings with the various Moslem extremists is a very dangerous game.
The Russians are backing their determination to block another regime change by positioning and manning an advanced air defense system in what is becoming the Middle East casino. Putin is betting that NATO will not risk in Syria the cost that an air operation similar to what was employed over Libya will impose. Just in case Russia’s determination is disregarded and Putin’s bluff is called, Surface to surface Iskander missiles have been positioned along the Jordanian and Turkish frontiers. They are aimed at a base in Jordan operated by the United States to train rebels and at Patriot Missile sites and other military facilities in Turkey.
Putin is certain that he is holding the winning hand in this very high stakes poker game. An offshore naval task force, the presence of Russian air defense forces, an electronic intelligence center in Latakia, and the port facilities at Tartus will guarantee the independence of the enclave. As the supplier of sixty percent of Turkey’s natural gas, Moscow does have leverage that Ankara will not be able to ignore; and Ankara well knows that gas is one of Putin’s diplomatic weapons.
When the Turks and U.S see that there is little chance of removing Al-Assad, they will have no option other than to negotiate a settlement with him; and that would involve Russia as the protector and the mediator. That would establish Russia’s revived standing as a Mediterranean power; and Putin could declare confidently that “Russia is back.” After that, the Russians will be free to focus upon their real interests in the region.
And what is Russia’s real interest? Of course, it is oil and gas and the power that control of them can bring.
Published time: February 27, 2013 12:28
Edited time: February 27, 2013 06:10
The US and Europe may begin equipping the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) with vehicles, body armor, night vision gear and binoculars, as well as military training. The decision is expected after a key conference on Syria in Rome.
Until now, Western countries’ official support to the forces fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad was limited to direct contact, logistical assistance and political backing.
Several top figures in the Obama administration, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former CIA chief David Petraeus pushed for closer engagement with the Syrian rebels last year, which would likely include arming them.
The White House rejected the plan at the time, fearing that the arms would end up in the hands of Islamist forces like the Nursa Front group, which the US considers a terrorist organization. US officials said it was too difficult to fully vet the recipients of the proposed deliveries; that policy has now apparently changed.
The pending shift was hinted at on several occasions as new US Secretary of State John Kerry toured Europe recently. He pledged not to leave the Syrian opposition “dangling in the wind,” after meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague. The new US policy will likely be voiced after an international conference of the ‘Friends of Syria’ in Rome on Thursday.
A delegation from the exiled Syrian National Coalition will be attending the Rome conference, despite earlier threats to boycott it. The group reversed course and agreed to attend after a series of phone calls to the coalition leader Mouaz Khatib from top US officials.
European advocates said the Free Syrian Army should be provided with large supplies of munitions, including military vehicles, body armor and night vision goggles, as well as tactical and strategic training. This position is privately supported by Britain, France, Germany and Italy, a European official told the Washington Post on condition of anonymity.
London and Paris have pushed to lift an EU embargo on arms trades to Syria. However, the ban was prolonged until at least May, as some nations in the 27-member union have refused to lift it.
The US appears more skeptical, and is reluctant to include body armor and training in the package, Washington sources told AP, though it would not oppose its European allies on the matter, sources said.
When asked Tuesday about the prospects for expanding US military support for the rebels, Kerry said he would not speculate on the outcome of the meeting with opposition leaders.
“We’re going to Rome to bring a group of nations together precisely to talk about this problem,” Kerry said. “I don’t want to get ahead of that meeting or ability to begin to think about exactly what will be a part of it.”
The Syrian opposition relies on arms smugglers from Turkey and Jordan, and raids on Syrian army depots, for weapons and ammunition; rebel groups with better financial standing and more ruthlessness end up with the best equipment. Most of the arms funneled to Syria went to hardline Islamists, according to a US assessment cited by the New York Time last October.
The Nusra Front, which is estimated to have some 5,000 fighters operating in Syria in small semi-independent groups, has to a large degree sidelined the relatively moderate Free Syrian Army. The groups remain at odds not only with the Assad government in Damascus, but also with each other, holding different visions for the future of Syria.
In an effort to boost the FSA and undermine the Nursa Front, Washington had Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries deliver arms to the FSA from Croatia, according to the New York Times. Rebels said that the shipment included anti-aircraft and armor-piercing weapons, mortars and rocket launchers.
The British Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster (Reuters / Darrin Zammit Lupi)
Amid an undeclared arms race among European defense contractors to reequip Libya’s armed forces, Britain is sending a Royal Navy war ship to Tripoli to act as a floating show room for security firms.
A British government agency, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), is organizing an arms fair on a Royal Navy frigate, which will dock in Tripoli, Libya at the beginning of April.
UKTI has so far refused to disclose exactly what businesses will be there and what gear they will be showcasing.
“There is a scramble among European arms firms to sell to Libya with the Italians and French leading the way. In 2001 before the imposition of the arms embargo, EU countries had approved licenses to Libya worth 34 million euro,” Kaye Stearman, Media Co-ordinator for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) told RT.
UKTI describes the event on its website as “an opportunity for UK defense and security to promote equipment and services to the Libyan navy aboard a Royal Navy vessel in Tripoli” and that it hoped to “attract key senior military personal from the Libyan government”.
A UN arms embargo is still in place and with the UK Foreign Office describing Libya as a “country of concern” with regard to its human rights abuses; Britain is restricted in terms of what it can sell. Sir John Stanley, who chairs the committees of arms export control, has said he expects the government to adhere to the criteria of arms export licenses.
UKTI has said that no weapons will be offered for sale and the Libyans will be offered specialist equipment for port security, such as inflatable dinghies or uniforms.
However, Stearman believes that the sale of arms is the ultimate priority of the event.
“When an arms company takes part in an arms fair or exhibition, it is with the expectation of sales, and it is hard to believe that the only equipment on sale will relate to security,” she said.
The exhibition appears to be part of a wider policy by the UK government of a strategy to foster relations with countries where Britain has security and business interests.
In the past the UKTO listed Libya as a “priority market” for UK arms sales, which were openly sold to Gaddafi’s regime before the uprising against him. There was also a Libyan delegation at the Farnborough Air Show in July 2012, which showcased British aerospace defense equipment such as the Typhoon fighter jet.
Speaking at the Farnborough airshow last year Chris Baker, the operations director of UKTI’s defense arm, said the UKTI was looking at Libya’s border and maritime security and “at rebuilding their defense infrastructure” and “getting their air force back on its feet from scratch”.
By March 2011 British companies had won £62 million ($95.8 million) worth of arms exports to Gaddafi since the arms embargo on Libya was lifted in October 2004. Since the fall of Gaddafi, Britain has also offered to train Libya’s army and police.
But prominent Libyans have raised concerns that the race to win defense contract could end up with weapons falling into the wrong hands, in a country which is already awash with weapons and where security is a major issue.
“I can’t see the point in having this kind of exhibition in Libya now. One of our problems is that there are arms everywhere,” Hassan el-Amin, who is chair of the congress communications committee, and lived in Britain for 28 years, told the Guardian.
Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North, said he was not against Britain having a strong arms industry, which exports worldwide, but questioned the timing of the fair and was saddened by the UKTI attempting to establish a relationship with a country in terms of arms when Britain has so many other things for sale.
“I think it is deeply regrettable that the first thing the UK should be trying to export to a country recovering from a conflict situation is arms. It would be much better if we were offering them support in other ways such as helping to rebuild their infrastructure,” Gardiner told RT.
Stearman also voiced concern that the UKTI has not released a date for the exhibition or said which companies will be attending and said that “part of the reason for the lack of information about this event, is that the government would be embarrassed by a more high profile event”.
A survey carried out by the Sunday Times in 2011found that 77% of the British public felt it was wrong to sell arms to Gaddafi’s regime.
“What is needed in Libya are efforts to demilitarize and invest in civil infrastructure,” said Stearman.
Global Research News Hour Episode 13
“It’s easy to take an issue like the 9/11 truth movement and demonize it…that happened in the election of 2008. Even though at the time it was a rising tide and growing numbers of people… had actually rejected the official explanation and were actively looking at the evidence hoping to find out what really happened, even though that was happening, the Conservatives in that election chose to demonize those folks, and I guess I appeared to be one of them because I was willing to talk about it with respect.”
During the Canadian federal election of 2008, Lesley Hughes, overnight, went from the Liberal Party’s star candidate to a political liability.
An article Hughes wrote in 2002 entitled “Get the Truth” offered readers a contrarian viewpoint on the war in Afghanistan as retaliation for 9/11.
The anonymous blogger Black Rod, unearthed the article, conflated it into an anti-Semitic 9/11 conspiracy theory, and circulated it throughout the on-line community and the mainstream press.
Liberal leader Stephan Dion, under pressure from B’Nai Brith, the Canadian Jewish Congress, and his political opponents, not to mention uncomfortable media scrutiny, removed the candidacy of Ms. Hughes without ever confronting her about it directly.
Hughes, humiliated, dropped off the media radar screen and spent the subsequent few months licking her wounds. She finally found herself a lawyer and launched a defamation suit against the above-named groups, as well as Conservative candidate Peter Kent, the entities she saw as most responsible for this disastrous blow to her reputation.
In December of last year, at the end of a four year ordeal, Hughes was finally cleared of all charges of anti-Semitism.
Who is Lesley Hughes?
Hughes is much more than the “earnest middle-aged mother and community activist” described by National Post columnist and author Jonathan Kay in his 9/11 Truth hit-piece “Among the Truthers.”
Lesley Hughes is a Winnipeg-based broadcast and print journalist.
In the province of Manitoba, she became a house-hold name as co-host of the popular morning program Information Radio, a CBC show she helmed for more than ten years.
Her prowess as an interviewer earned her the distinction of sitting in briefly for CBC icon Peter Gzowski on the nationally broadcast Morningside, earning her praise from executive producer Patsey Pehleman for being “fresh and different.”
Over the course of a career that has spanned more than three decades, Lesley has interviewed a multitude of global movers and shakers, including former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, humanitarian Mother Theresa, South African President Nelson Mandela, dissident intellectual Noam Chomsky, French President Francois Mitterand, and playwright Tennessee Williams to name just a few.
She has since contributed articles to major newspapers. She covered the 1992 Earth Summit from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for the Globe and Mail. She reported from the World Poverty Summit in Copenhagen, and the Information Summit in Geneva. She has authored book reviews for the Winnipeg Free Press. She continues to write the back column for the distinguished Canadian organ of progressive political thought known as Canadian Dimension Magazine.
Hughes has had her work carried by Radio Denmark, Radio Antilles and the Grenadian Voice.
Hughes has been a media trainer, instructing students at the University of Winnipeg. She was designated as the University of Manitoba’s Outstanding Alumnus for Distinguished Achievement, named one of Canada’s top three columnists for a weekly community newspaper by the Canadian Community Newspaper Association, and honoured Manitoba’s Woman of the Year in Communications and Best Interviewer (Radio) by Winnipeg ACTRA among other accolades.
The recent court ruling has affirmed what informed people, supporters and detractors alike, know all too well. Lesley Hughes has not an anti-Semitic bone in her body!
Lesley Hughes, regardless of what one might think of her politics, is an inspirational, compassionate, hard-working, brilliant and breath-takingly decent human being. It is a sad commentary on the times we live in that she could be brought down from her well-earned pedestal in Canadian life, simply for…well…doing her job as a journalist.
In this exclusive interview for the Global Research News Hour, Lesley Hughes from the living room of her Winnipeg home explains how she was affected personally and professionally by the allegations, her take on the corrosive effect of anonymous blogging on journalism, and about how attacks on 9/11 skeptics signals a new kind of McCarthyism.
She also introduces her upcoming memoir, “Hit and Run: My Brilliant Life in Canadian Politics.”
Also featured in this one hour programme is an interview with Richard Sanders of the Coalition Opposed to the Arms Trade, (coat.ncf.ca) about how Canadian Pension Plan investments are aiding and abetting Israeli War Crimes. We also hear an assessment of the recent Israeli elections by Chicago based writer and broadcaster Stephen Lendman.
LISTEN TO THE SHOW
Click to download the audio (MP3 format)
The Global Research News Hour hosted by Michael Welch airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Thursdays at 10am CDT. The programme is now broadcast weekly by the Progressive Radio Network in the US, and is available for download on the Global Research website.
Given these last weeks, who doesn’t know what an AR-15 is? Who hasn’t seen the mind-boggling stats on the way assault rifles have flooded this country, or tabulations of accumulating Newtown-style mass killings, or noted that there are barely more gas stations nationwide than federally licensed firearms dealers, or heard the renewed debates over the Second Amendment, or been struck by the rapid shifts in public opinion on gun control, or checked out the disputes over how effective an assault-rifle ban was the last time around? Who doesn’t know about the NRA’s suggestion to weaponize schools, or about the price poor neighborhoods may be paying in gun deaths for the present expansive interpretation of the Second Amendment? Who hasn’t seen the legions of stories about how, in the wake of the Newtown slaughter, sales of guns, especially AR-15 assault rifles, have soared, ammunition sales have surged, background checks for future gun purchases have risen sharply, and gun shows have been besieged with customers?
If you haven’t stumbled across figures on gun violence in America or on suicide-by-gun, you’ve been hiding under a rock. If you haven’t heard about Chicago’s soaring and Washington D.C.'s plunging gun-death stats (and that both towns have relatively strict gun laws), where have you been?
Has there, in fact, been any aspect of the weaponization of the United States that, since the Newtown massacre, hasn’t been discussed? Are you the only person in the country, for instance, who doesn’t know that Vice President Joe Biden has been assigned the task of coming up with an administration gun-control agenda before Barack Obama is inaugurated for his second term? And can you honestly tell me that you haven’t seen global comparisons of killing rates in countries that have tight gun laws and the U.S., or read at least one discussion about life in countries like Colombia or Guatemala, where armed guards are omnipresent?
After years of mass killings that resulted in next to no national dialogue about the role of guns and how to control them, the subject is back on the American agenda in a significant way and -- by all signs -- isn’t about to leave town anytime soon. The discussion has been so expansive after years in a well-armed wilderness that it’s easy to miss what still isn’t being discussed, and in some sense just how narrow our focus remains.
Think of it this way: the Obama administration is reportedly going to call on Congress to pass a new ban on assault weapons, as well as one on high-capacity ammunition magazines, and to close the loopholes that allow certain gun purchasers to avoid background checks. But Biden has already conceded, at least implicitly, that facing a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a filibuster-prone Senate, the administration’s ability to make much of this happen -- as on so many domestic issues -- is limited.
That will shock few Americans. After all, the most essential fact about the Obama presidency is this: at home, the president is a hamstrung weakling; abroad, in terms of his ability to choose a course of action and -- from drones strikes and special ops raids to cyberwar and other matters -- simply act, he’s closer to Superman. So here’s a question: while the administration is pledging to try to curb the wholesale spread of ever more powerful weaponry at home, what is it doing about the same issue abroad where it has so much more power to pursue the agenda it prefers?
Flooding the World With the Most Advanced Weaponry Money Can Buy
As a start, it’s worth noting that no one ever mentions the domestic gun control debate in the same breath with the dominant role the U.S. plays in what’s called the global arms trade. And yet, the link between the two should be obvious enough.
In the U.S., the National Rifle Association (NRA), an ultra-powerful lobbying group closely allied with weapons-making companies, has a strong grip on Congress -- it gives 288 members of that body its top “A-rating” -- and is in a combative relationship with the White House. Abroad, it’s so much simpler and less contested. Beyond U.S. borders, the reality is: the Pentagon, with the White House in tow, is the functional equivalent of the NRA, and like that organization, it has been working tirelessly in recent years in close alliance with major weapons-makers to ensure that there are ever less controls on the ever more powerful weaponry it wants to see sold abroad.
Between them, the White House and the Pentagon -- with a helping hand from the State Department -- ensure that the U.S. remains by far the leading purveyor of the “right to bear arms” globally. Year in, year out, in countries around the world, they do their best to pave the way (as the NRA does domestically) for the almost unfettered sales of ever more lethal weapons. In fact, the U.S. now has something remarkably close to a monopoly on what’s politely called the “transfer” of weaponry on a global scale. In 1990, as the Cold War was ending, the U.S. had cornered an impressive 37% of the global weapons trade. By 2011, the last year for which we have figures, that percentage had reached a near-monopolistic 78% ($66.3 billion in weapons sales), with the Russians coming in a distant second at 5.6% ($4.8 billion).
Admittedly, that figure was improbably inflated, thanks to the Saudis who decided to spend a pile of their oil money as if there were no tomorrow. In doing so, they created a bonanza year abroad for the major weapons-makers. They sealed deals on $33.4 billion in U.S. arms in 2011, including 84 of Boeing’s F-15 fighter jets and dozens of that company’s Apache attack helicopters as well as Sikorsky Blackhawk helicopters -- and those were just the highest-end items in a striking set of purchases. But if 2011 was a year of break-the-bank arms-deals with the Saudis, 2012 doesn’t look bad either. As it ended, the Pentagon announced that they hadn’t turned off the oil spigot. They agreed to ante up another $4 billion to Boeing for upgrades on their armada of jet fighters and were planning to spend up to $6.7 billion for 20 Lockheed 25 C-130J transport and refueling planes. Some of this weaponry could, of course, be used in any Saudi conflict with Iran (or any other Middle Eastern state), but some could simply ensure future Newtown-like carnage in restive areas of that autocratic, fundamentalist regime’s land or in policing actions in neighboring small states like Bahrain.
And don’t think the Saudis were alone in the region. When it came to U.S. weapons-makers flooding the Middle East with firepower, they were in good company. Among states purchasing (or simply getting) infusions of U.S. arms in recent years were Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Tunisia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen. As Nick Turse has written, “When it comes to the Middle East, the Pentagon acts not as a buyer, but as a broker and shill, clearing the way for its Middle Eastern partners to buy some of the world's most advanced weaponry.”
Typically, for instance, on Christmas Day in 2011, the U.S. signed a deal with the UAE in which, for $3.5 billion, it would receive Lockheed Martin’s Theater High Altitude Area Defense, an advanced antimissile interception system, part of what Reuters termed “an accelerating military buildup of its friends and allies near Iran.” Of course, selling to Arab allies without offering Israel something even better would be out of the question, so in mid-2012 it was announced that Israel would purchase 20 of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, America’s most advanced jet (and weapons boondoggle), still in development, for $2.7 billion.
From tanks to littoral combat ships, it would be easy to go on, but you get the idea. Of course, U.S. weapons-makers in Pentagon-brokered or facilitated deals sell their weaponry and military supplies to countries planet-wide, ranging from Brazil to Singapore to Australia. But it generally seems that the biggest deals and the most advanced weaponry follow in the wake of Washington’s latest crises. In the Middle East at the moment, that would be the ongoing U.S.-Israeli confrontation with Iran, for which Washington has long been building up a massive military presence in the Persian Gulf and on bases in allied countries around that land.
A Second Amendment World, Pentagon-Style
It’s a given that every American foreign policy crisis turns out to be yet another opportunity for the Pentagon to plug U.S. weapons systems into the “needs” of its allies, and for the weapons-makers to deliver. So, from India to South Korea, Singapore to Japan, the Obama administration’s announced 2012 “pivot to” or “rebalancing in” Asia -- an essentially military program focused on containing China -- has proven the latest boon for U.S. weapons sales and weapons-makers.
As Jim Wolf of Reuters recently reported, the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group that includes Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and other weapons companies, “said sales agreements with countries in the U.S. Pacific Command's area of activity rose to $13.7 billion in fiscal 2012, up 5.4% from a year before. Such pacts represent orders for future delivery.” As the vice president of that association put it, Washington’s Asian pivot “will result in growing opportunities for our industry to help equip our friends." We’re talking advanced jet fighters, missile systems, and similar major weapons programs, including F-35s, F-16s, Patriot anti-missile batteries, and the like for countries ranging from South Korea to Taiwan and India.
All of this ensures the sharpening of divides between China and its neighbors in the Pacific amid what may become a regional arms race. For the Pentagon, it seems, no weaponry is now off the table for key Asian allies in its incipient anti-China alliance, including advanced drones. The Obama administration is already brokering a $1.2 billon sale of Northrop Grumman's RQ-4 "Global Hawk" spy drones to South Korea. Recently, it has been reported that Japan is preparing to buy the same model as its dispute sharpens with China over a set of islands in the East China Sea. (The Obama administration has also been pushing the idea of selling advanced armed drones to allies like Italy and Turkey, but -- a rare occurrence -- has met resistance from Congressional representatives worrying about other countries pulling a “Washington”: that is, choosing its particular bad guys and sending drone assassins across foreign borders to take them out.)
Here’s the strange thing in the present gun control context: no one -- not pundits, politicians, or reporters -- seems to see the slightest contradiction in an administration that calls for legal limits on advanced weaponry in the U.S. and yet (as rare press reports indicate) is working assiduously to remove barriers to the sale of advanced weaponry overseas. There are, of course, still limits on arms sales abroad, some imposed by Congress, some for obvious reasons. The Pentagon does not broker weapons sales to Iran, North Korea, or Cuba, and it has, for example, been prohibited by Congress from selling them to the military regime in Myanmar. But generally the Obama administration has put effort into further easing the way for major arms sales abroad, while working to rewrite global export rules to make them ever more permeable.
In other words, the Pentagon is the largest federally licensed weapons dealer on the planet and its goal -- one that the NRA might envy -- is to create a world in which the rights of those deemed our allies to bear our (most advanced) armaments “shall not be infringed.” The Pentagon, it seems, is intent on pursuing its own global version of the Second Amendment, not for citizens of the world but for governments, including grim, autocratic states like Saudi Arabia which are perfectly capable of using such weaponry to create Newtowns on an unimaginable scale.
A well regulated militia indeed.