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Israel, threat to world peace: Nobel laureate Gunter Grass

Press TV – April 4, 2012

German Nobel literature laureate Gunter Grass has called Israel a threat to world peace, slamming the West’s hypocrisy over Tel Aviv’s nuclear arsenal.

In a controversial poem titled “What Must Be Said” which was published in Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Wednesday, Grass expressed concern over the consequences of Israel’s plan to attack Iran.

“Why do I say only now … that the nuclear power Israel endangers an already fragile world peace? Because that must be said which may already be too late to say tomorrow,” Grass wrote.

“We could be suppliers to a crime that can be foreseen, which is why none of the usual excuses would erase it,” Grass writes, referring to Germany’s plan to sell Israel a sixth nuclear-capable Dolphin-class submarine that can carry nuclear warheads.

“I will be silent no longer, because I am weary of the West’s hypocrisy,” Grass added.

Three earlier-model Dolphin submarines had been delivered to Israel between 1998 and 2000. In 2006, Tel Aviv placed its fourth and fifth orders for two more advanced subs.

The fourth one is scheduled for delivery by 2013. The fifth and the sixth orders are due for delivery in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

Israel is the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East and it has never allowed inspections of its nuclear facilities nor has it joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) based on its policy of nuclear ambiguity.

According to a survey conducted in 2011 by the Berlin-based Friedrich Ebert Foundation, more than 50 percent of the European people believe Israel is the most serious threat to global security.

April 4, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Worse than SOPA? CISPA to censor Web in name of cybersecurity

RT | April 4, 2012

As congressmen in Washington consider how to handle the ongoing issue of cyberattacks, some legislators have lent their support to a new act that, if passed, would let the government pry into the personal correspondence of anyone of their choosing.

H.R. 3523, a piece of legislation dubbed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (or CISPA for short), has been created under the guise of being a necessary implement in America’s war against cyberattacks. But the vague verbiage contained within the pages of the paper could allow Congress to circumvent existing exemptions to online privacy laws and essentially monitor, censor and stop any online communication that it considers disruptive to the government or private parties. Critics have already come after CISPA for the capabilities that it will give to seemingly any federal entity that claims it is threatened by online interactions, but unlike the Stop Online Privacy Act and the Protect IP Acts that were discarded on the Capitol Building floor after incredibly successful online campaigns to crush them, widespread recognition of what the latest would-be law will do has yet to surface to the same degree.

Kendall Burman of the Center for Democracy and Technology tells RT that Congress is currently considering a number of cybersecurity bills that could eventually be voted into law, but for the group that largely advocates an open Internet, she warns that provisions within CISPA are reason to worry over what the realities could be if it ends up on the desk of President Barack Obama. So far CISPA has been introduced, referred and reported by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and expects to go before a vote in the first half of Congress within the coming weeks.

“We have a number of concerns with something like this bill that creates sort of a vast hole in the privacy law to allow government to receive these kinds of information,” explains Burman, who acknowledges that the bill, as written, allows the US government to involve itself into any online correspondence, current exemptions notwithstanding, if it believes there is reason to suspect cyber crime. As with other authoritarian attempts at censorship that have come through Congress in recent times, of course, the wording within the CISPA allows for the government to interpret the law in such a number of degrees that any online communication or interaction could be suspect and thus unknowingly monitored.

In a press release penned last month by the CDT, the group warned then that CISPA allows Internet Service Providers to “funnel private communications and related information back to the government without adequate privacy protections and controls.

The bill does not specify which agencies ISPs could disclose customer data to, but the structure and incentives in the bill raise a very real possibility that the National Security Agency or the DOD’s Cybercommand would be the primary recipient,” reads the warning.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, another online advocacy group, has also sharply condemned CISPA for what it means for the future of the Internet. “It effectively creates a ‘cybersecurity’’ exemption to all existing laws,” explains the EFF, who add in a statement of their own that “There are almost no restrictions on what can be collected and how it can be used, provided a company can claim it was motivated by ‘cybersecurity purposes.’”

What does that mean? Both the EFF and CDT say an awfully lot. Some of the biggest corporations in the country, including service providers such as Google, Facebook, Twitter or AT&T, could copy confidential information and send them off to the Pentagon if pressured, as long as the government believes they have reason to suspect wrongdoing. In a summation of their own, the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of the Library of Congress, explains that “efforts to degrade, disrupt or destroy” either “a system or network of a government or private entity” is reason enough for Washington to reach in and read any online communiqué of their choice.

The authors of CISPA say the bill has been made “To provide for the sharing of certain cyber threat intelligence and cyber threat information between the intelligence community and cybersecurity entities,” but not before noting that the legislation could be used “and for other purposes,” as well — which, of course, are not defined.

April 4, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | , , , | 2 Comments

ACLU calls for closure of Tamms supermax facility

By Rachel Myers, ACLU | April 4, 2012

David Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project, testified today in favor of closing Tamms Correctional Center at a hearing before the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability in Ullin, Illinois. Tamms is a supermax prison where prisoners are held in long-term solitary confinement, often for a decade or longer.

The following is an excerpt from the ACLU’s testimony:

Tamms is a supermax facility in which prisoners — many of them mentally ill — are held in solitary confinement, sometimes for years on end. A 2009 study by the Belleville News-Democrat found that 54 Tamms prisoners had been in continuous solitary confinement for more than ten years.

The shattering effects of solitary confinement on the human psyche have long been well known.

In 1890, the United States Supreme Court described the devastating effects of solitary confinement as practiced in the nation’s early days:

A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others, still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.

Half a century later, the Court referred to solitary confinement as one of the techniques of “physical and mental torture” that have been used by governments to coerce confessions.

More recently, the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit observed that “the record shows, what anyway seems pretty obvious, that isolating a human being from other human beings year after year or even month after month can cause substantial psychological damage, even if the isolation is not total.” The court recognized that “there is plenty of medical and psychological literature concerning the ill effects of solitary confinement (of which segregation is a variant)[.]“

And in 2010, an Illinois federal court found that “Tamms imposes drastic limitations on human contact, so much so as to inflict lasting psychological and emotional harm on inmates confined there for long periods.”

A number of states have dramatically reduced their use of solitary confinement, preserving prison and public safety and saving millions of dollars in the process. None of these states have experienced any adverse effect on prison or public safety as a result of reducing their use of solitary confinement. This is not surprising, as evidence shows that prisoners released from solitary confinement have higher recidivism rates than comparable prisoners released from general population.

Because of the profoundly damaging effects of solitary confinement, particularly on prisoners with mental illness, a number of federal courts have ruled that conditions in supermax prisons like Tamms cause such extreme suffering that they violate the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments.

A federal court in California characterized housing prisoners with mental illness in a supermax unit as “the mental equivalent of putting an asthmatic in a place with little air to breathe.” And a federal court in Wisconsin ordered prison officials to remove prisoners with mental illness from the state’s Supermax Correctional Institution.

Conditions at Tamms are also inconsistent with international human rights principles. In a global study on solitary confinement, presented last year to the United Nations General Assembly, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture called on all countries to ban the practice, except in very exceptional circumstances, as a last resort, and for as short a time as possible. The Special Rapporteur concluded that solitary confinement can amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and in some cases even torture. He recommended a ban on solitary confinement exceeding 15 days, and the abolition of solitary confinement for juveniles and mentally disabled persons.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture, the official body established pursuant to the Convention Against Torture — a treaty ratified by the United States — has also recommended that the practice of long-term solitary confinement be abolished altogether.

Because it is inconsistent with international human rights norms, the use of supermax prisons like Tamms threatens the ability of the United States to secure the extradition of criminal suspects from other nations. The European Court of Human Rights has temporarily blocked the extradition of three terrorism suspects to the United States on the ground that if convicted, their eventual confinement in a U.S. supermax prison might violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

Closing Tamms will advance human rights, preserve public safety, and save Illinois taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. The ACLU respectfully urges the Commission to take this long overdue step.

The full text of the written testimony submitted to the Commission by the ACLU and the ACLU of Illinois is available here. You can also listen to a new podcast with former Tamms prisoner Brian Nelson (pictured above), who spent 23 years in solitary confinement.

April 4, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Leave a comment

DHS won’t explain its order of 450 million hollow point bullets

RT | 04 April, 2012

After 9/11, the United States government created the Department of Homeland Security to prevent future acts of terrorism and deal with other domestic issues. Now in order to keep doing such, the agency is asking for 450 million hollow point bullets.

The DHS has signed off on an “indefinite delivery” from defense contractors ATK that will include, for some reason, nearly 500 million high-power ammunition for .40 caliber firearms. The department has yet to discuss why they are ordering such a massive bevy of bullets for an agency that has limited need domestically for doing harm, but they say they expect to continue receiving shipments from the manufacturer for the next five years, during which they plan to blow through enough ammunition to execute more people than there are in the entire United States.

“We are proud to extend our track record as the prime supplier of .40 caliber duty ammunition for DHS,” reads an official statement from Ron Johnson, ATK’s president of Security and Sporting, who adds that his group will also be giving up weaponry to the DHS subdivision of ICE, or Immigrations and Custom Enforcement.

While ammunition itself seems not too unreasonable of a request by a major federal entity that emphasizes domestic durability and safeguarding the country from coast to coast, the choice — and quantity — of its hollow point order raises a lot of questions about future plans for the DHS. ATK says they won their contract with the US government by being able to provide them with 450 million HST bullets, which it describes as “the next generation in high performance duty ammunition.”

What does that mean, exactly? On their website, the contractor claims that the ammunition is specifically designed so that it can pass through a variety of obstructions and offers “optimum penetration for terminal performance.” Or, in other words, this is the kind of bullet designed to stop any object dead in its tracks and, if emptied into the hands of the DHS a few hundred million times, just might do as much.

Since its inception, the Department of Homeland Security has not only absorbed ICE and other government entities, but has arguably extended its powers much more broadly than many had imagined. Under the recently authorized Trespass Bill, H.R. 347, protesters that allegedly disrupt occurrences acknowledged by the DHS of being a National Special Security Event will be charged with a federal crime. As the DHS gains more and more ground in fighting terrorism domestically, the US at the same time has turned the tables to make its definition of terrorist far less narrow. With any free thinking American blogger on the fringe of what the government can go after under H.R. 347, or the National Defense Authorization Act that allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens without charge, the DHS could just … want to ensure that each agent is more than able to assassinate Americans.

April 4, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

EU Adds Venezuela’s State Airline to its List of Banned Airlines

By Tamara Pearson | Venezuelanalysis.com | April 3rd 2012

Mérida – The Venezuelan government rejected the European Union’s announcement today that it is adding Venezuela’s state-owned airline Conviasa to its list of carriers banned from its airspace.

The Venezuelan government created Conviasa in 2004 to replace the private airline Viasa, which was liquidated in 1997. Conviasa flies numerous national and Latin American routes, as well as to Spain, Ecuador, and Syria, at affordable prices. The government has also used it to deliver humanitarian aid to countries in need such as Japan and Haiti.

In June last year, U.S. politicians, during a hearing in the House of Representatives, requested that a number of measures be taken against the Venezuelan government, including sanctions against Conviasa for “supporting terrorism” because of its flights to Syria.

According to the European Commission press statement released today, the ban is due to “numerous safety concerns arising from accidents and the results of ramp checks at EU airports.” The decision, it says, is “based on the unanimous opinion of the Air Safety Committee, composed of representatives of the 27 Members States of the EU, Croatia, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)”.

“The safety performance of two other Venezuelan air carriers, Estellar Latinoamerica and Aerotuy, was also reviewed in depth; however, measures were not considered necessary at this stage. Nonetheless, these two air carriers remain subject to increased monitoring,” read the statement.

The Venezuelan government has expressed its “firm rejection” of the measure in an official statement today.

The decision is “completely disproportionate and contrary to the conclusions of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding [Conviasa’s] safety performance,” said the Venezuelan government.

“The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is evaluating reciprocal and proportionate actions to protect its fundamental interests and safeguard the prestige of the state-run airline for the Venezuelan people and the international community,” the statement concluded.

The European Union first wrote its blacklist in March 2006, and has since updated it four times a year. It is apparently based on deficiencies found during checks at European airports.

According to Bloomberg, “In addition to imposing an operational ban in Europe, the blacklist can act as a guide for travellers worldwide and influence safety policies in non-EU countries”.

All airlines from Afghanistan, Angola, Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Philippines, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Swaziland, and Zambia, are banned from EU airspace. People wishing to travel between those countries must use European airlines or airlines from other countries.

In other cases, only specific airlines are banned, such as Air Madagascar, Air Koryo of North Korea, Iran Air, and Jordan Aviation. In Latin America, only Conviasa of Venezuela and Rollins Air of Honduras are now banned.

April 4, 2012 Posted by | Deception | , , , , | Leave a comment

Capriles and Chavez Neck and Neck, and Pigs Might Fly, or Conduct a Poll

By Rachael Boothroyd – Venezuelanalysis.com -  April 3rd 2012

According to Latin American polling companies such as Datanalisis and Consultores 21, this year’s presidential elections in Venezuela will be a close-knit affair, with Consultores 21 claiming that there is currently a “technical draw” between the country’s support for incumbent President Chavez and his opponent, Capriles Radonski, and Datanalisis claiming that Chavez leads his rival by just 13 points (44% to 31%). According to other polls, however, Chavez is expected to sweep the elections, with polling companies such as IVAD, confirming that 57 .6% of voters would vote for the president and just 26.6% for Capriles.

Despite the almost disorientating levels of differences between poll results, the international press and in fact, Capriles himself, have decided to cherry pick the Datanalysis and Consultores 21 statistics, and it’s not hard to see why. Part of the opposition’s strategy in the run up to this year’s elections has been to emphasise its unity and its position of strength in relation to the sick/ailing Chavez – for instance, by claiming that over 3 million people had voted in this year’s Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition primary elections, when this is almost certainly a physical impossibility, if not a verifiable one, given that the opposition burnt all the ballot books before an investigation could be conducted.

This could all just be political showmanship in the face of past failures, but it is also possible that this forms part of a broader strategy to contest this year’s election results in October; when it is entirely likely that a sick Chavez will beat the opposition hands down yet again. Notably, the opposition coalition, unlike Chavez, has still not publically confirmed that they will accept the election results no matter what their outcome might be.

Tellingly, whilst Capriles has stated that he does not recognise the results of the other polling companies; he has made an exception for Consultores 21, stating: “personally, I believe in Consultores. I’ve been looking at Consultores’ polls for many years”.

Despite this being exceptionally convenient; it is also a foolhardy thing to say, because Consultores has made some disastrously bad predictions over the past few years.  In the 2004 presidential recall, Consultores predicted that there would be a tie between those wanting Chavez to stay in office and those wanting him out, just before Chavez was then ratified as president by 60% of the population. And this wasn’t just a one-off glitch. In 2006 during the presidential run-off between Chavez and opposition candidate Manuel Rosales, Consultores maintained that Chavez had just a 13% lead over his opponent. The president then went on to take the presidential elections with almost a 30% advantage over Rosales (65.8% to 36.9%).

But Consultores is not alone in Neverland, with Datanalisis also possessing a penchant for pie in the sky polling. In 2009, in the run-up to the referendum on whether to eliminate presidential term limits, the polling company consistently predicted that the electorate would vote against the changes in a victory for the opposition – right up until releasing their final poll results, which suddenly showed that 51.5% would vote in favour of eliminating term limits, whilst 48.1% would vote against. Not only was this a dramatic change that was never explained by the company, but it also underestimated the pro-government vote and inflated the opposition’s support. The actual figures demonstrated almost a 10% margin in favour of the reforms, which were passed with 54.5% in favour and 45.15% against.

Of course, in an interview with Globovision last week, Datanalisis’ Director, Luis Vicente Leon, was quick to rectify that the company’s recently released figures are subject to change, given the “unpredictability of polls” – a somewhat surprising statement given that at least three other polls have consistently shown that Chavez’s support has remained stably around the 57% mark for the past 6 months.

These rather serious blunders, which at best could be interpreted as poor polling methodology and at worst, deliberate attempts to manipulate the electorate, are not the only thing which discredits these companies. In fact, both directors of these pollsters have direct relationships to the opposition and the U.S. government, with Leon in particular featuring frequently in Wikileaks’ Cablegates giving advice to U.S. officials at the embassy in Caracas.

Equally, Datanalisis’ surveys are funded by the somewhat ambiguously named private and international “clients,” and despite the company’s alleged commitment to “transparency” on its webpage, there is absolutely no information regarding who the donors and financers of this poll are and in what ways they contributed; with the “Clients” section of their webpage simply featuring a rather ambiguous road sign.

According to Mayor of the Libertador district in Caracas, however, Jorge Rodriguez, one of the company’s principal clients is the Democratic Action party, one of Venezuela’s traditional parties which maintained a rotating democracy with the Christian Democrat Party during the Fourth Republic (1958-1998) and which incidentally forms part of the MUD with Capriles.

Whilst they dismiss other polling companies as state “propaganda,” the media neglects to mention the very obvious links between these polling companies and the opposition, as well as the fact that even pollsters such as Hinterlaces, which are sympathetic to the opposition, are currently putting President Chavez well ahead of Capriles at 52% versus 34%. And although Leon has described these surveys as not “serious”, it is true that pollsters such as IVAD, which despite consistently underestimating the pro-Chavez vote, have evidently been much more effective in predicting the outcome of electoral processes than Datanalisis; including in predicting the public’s rejection of the 2007 constitutional reforms.

Despite this, both companies remain almost exclusively the mainstream press’ sources of choice when hypothesising over the elections. Anyone living in the U.S. or Europe would be forgiven for thinking that Capriles is the “man who would beat Hugo Chavez,” as Reuters UK reports.

However, the media’s fixation on the Datanalisis poll in particular is illuminating for another aspect, and that is because the poll revealed two important political factors which fundamentally contradict the usual representation of the Venezuelan process and which the media have decided to totally ignore.

Firstly, as opposed to the usual claims in the mainstream press that the Chavez ranks are made up of a die-hard Chavista core, the poll found that Chavez’s support was strongest, and indeed growing, amongst the country’s youth, who, according to Jorge Rodriguez, “feel more identified…with the proposal for the future which President Chavez’s presidency represents”. Interestingly, the poll also revealed that whilst 46% of the electorate would vote for Chavez, 40% of those would vote for another member of the PSUV, including Chavez’s brother Adnan or Vice-president Elias Jaua.

What we can glean from this is that a decent majority of government supporters vote for a party and a program, and not simply for Chavez’s “personality cult,” as is usually inferred. A reality which was confirmed when I did a number of interviews outside a rally for the president’s health in February, where every interviewee informed me that they would vote for another PSUV candidate in the event that Chavez were unable to stand; but never for the opposition, which one woman told me would be like “going backwards”.

Given the rather suspect source of these figures, it would be unwise to take them as given. However, they are in fact backed up by other polls conducted by GISXXI and IVAD, which also confirm that over 50% of Venezuela’s youth support Chavez. Similarly, the results of a poll released in February this year by IVAD also reveal that whilst 42.8% of participants belonged to the PSUV party (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), only 3.7% belonged to Justice First (Capriles party), 3.6% to Democratic Action, 3.4% to a New Time, 2.5% to Project Venezuela, with the membership of other parties falling to below 2%. With this in mind, the suggestion that Capriles is currently running neck and neck with Chavez seems about as likely as pigs developing the ability to speak Spanish, sprouting a pair of opposable thumbs and setting about conducting their own set of polls.

The most salient characteristic of all these polls, no matter which one you look at and no matter from what angle; is that after 13 years in government, with a financial crisis, a sick Chavez, and an endless string of destabilisation attempts under its belt, the government still manages to maintain incredible levels of support, and this continues to both baffle and infuriate the opposition; who for all the funding they receive and for all their control of the country’s media, have once again failed to present an alternative to the revolution which is capable of resonating with the Venezuelan people.

April 4, 2012 Posted by | Deception | , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela is the Fifth Happiest Country in the World

AVN / Press Office –  March 30, 2012

On Friday, the Washington Post highlighted a global happiness survey released last year by the polling firm Gallup, which found that Venezuela is the fifth happiest country in the world. According to the poll, 64 percent of Venezuelan respondents said their well-being was thriving.

The poll measured how people in 124 countries rated their lives at the current time and their expectations for the next five years.

Topping the list were Denmark (72 percent), Sweden (69 percent), Canada (69 percent), and Australia (65 percent). Finland is tied with Venezuela, sharing the fifth spot.

Venezuela is the Latin American country with the highest wellbeing, followed by Panama (11), Costa Rica (14), Brazil (15) and Mexico (19).

The classifications according to which respondents rated their wellbeing included “thriving,” “struggling,” or “suffering.” People who considered themselves to be thriving rated their lives a 7 or higher on a scale from 0 to 10.

According to the Post, the poll showed that the respondents with highest wellbeing also reported fewer health problems, less stress and sadness, and more happiness, respect and enjoyment.

Out of the 124 countries polled in 2010, the majority of residents in only 19 countries (mostly in Europe and the Americas) rated their lives “thriving.”

An article published on the Gallup website states that the list “is largely dominated by more developed and wealthier nations, as expected given the links between wellbeing and GDP.”

Nevertheless, it states: “Global wellbeing improved little between 2009 and 2010, remaining relatively steady when Gallup groups all these countries into four major global regions: Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe.”

Results have 95 percent confidence rate with a maximum margin of error of ±1.7 to ±5.7 percentage points.

Click here to see the poll results.

April 4, 2012 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

The Real Nuclear Outlaws

How the US and Israel are Shredding the NPT

By CARL BOGGS | April 4, 2012

While United States and Israeli leaders, duly assisted by a warmongering media, ramp up war talk against Iran, two troublesome pieces of information are ritually ignored.  First, even American intelligence reports conclude that Iran is not close to building a nuclear-weapons program.   Second, it is the U.S. and Israel – not Iran – that stand in flagrant violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  The real nuclear outlaws are located in Washington and Tel Aviv rather than in Tehran.

The consensus of 17 U.S. agencies, as reported by National Intelligence Estimates of 2007 and 2011, finds that Iran has not enriched uranium above 20 percent purity, far short of the nearly 90 percent essential to weapons development.  Further, no viable nuclear delivery system or command structure has been uncovered.  High-powered U.S. surveillance and espionage operations, many inside Iran, have revealed nothing beyond (an entirely legal) civilian energy program.  Recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigations, the latest in November 2011 and February 2012, cite “continuing enrichment processes” but nothing beyond the 20 percent level.  The IAEA merely states what should be obvious – that some Iranian sites “could be” used for a weapons program at some point in the future.

Some Western “experts” of the neocon variety say Iran is just 18 months away from producing a Bomb, but they have echoed the same refrain for many years with no weapons in sight.  In fact there is nothing yet to suggest that Iranian leaders have made the crucial decision to even embark on such a program.

Meanwhile, in the face of crippling economic sanctions, heightened political pressure, cyber sabotage, assassinations of nuclear scientists, and threats of military attack, the Iranians remain steady in their drive toward what from all credible evidence is a peaceful civilian project.  In fact, Iran, a member in good standing of the NPT, is just one of at least 30 nations currently possessing high-level nuclear capacity.

The Iranians have every right within existing international rules to carry out their program – a fact conveniently obscured by the Western media and politicians.  Their Israeli antagonists, on the other hand, not only possess a nuclear arsenal of up to 400 warheads – possibly fifth largest in the world – but breezily dismiss the NPT as a worthless nuisance.  Its nuclear outlawry, along with that of non-NPT state India, has for decades received material aid and diplomatic cover from Washington.  As President Obama and the Republican White House hopefuls boorishly repeat that “all options are on the table” in facing off against Iran, the NPT and kindred global conventions end up as so much camouflage for naked geopolitical ambitions.

Drafted in the late 1960s, the NPT was inspired by efforts to control the spread of doomsday weapons on the world scene.  It came into force in March 1970, signed by 189 states including the U.S. and the four other atomic powers.  While U.S. leaders endorsed the treaty, beneath the surface they approached it with considerable ambivalence, even hostility, since the NPT was created to limit production and deployment of nuclear weapons for all nations.  One inescapable problem was that the U.S. was the only nation to have dropped by Bomb and its nuclear strategy (including first-use doctrine) remained, and still remains, central to its general military outlook.  Nuclearism became an indelible feature of postwar American political and popular culture.  That Washington had also resorted to other WMD – biological in Korea, chemical in Vietnam – would make the Pentagon even more wary of dismantling its mass-destruction arsenals, much less embrace moves toward disarmament, as the NPT stipulated.  Put simply, U.S. rhetorical opposition to WMD never extended to its own policies or its view of the NPT.

The NPT called on all parties to fight proliferation while allowing for peaceful atomic development under international monitoring.  Article I stated that nuclear powers agree not to assist non-nuclear countries in their nuclear programs, while Article IV affirmed the right of all NPT members to develop nuclear energy and Article VI obliged nuclear states to begin dismantling nukes in “good faith”. At present nine countries have nuclear arsenals with the strong likelihood others will follow, as an increasing number of states have adequate research, facilities, materials, and reactors for processing uranium at high levels.  Several countries, aside from Iran, now have the technology and resources to achieve nuclear-weapons status within the next decades, including Japan, Brazil, Australia, Argentina, Turkey, and South Africa.  All of these states, as NPT members, are fully entitled to nuclear sources of energy – though so far only Iran has been singled out for international scrutiny and targeted with economic sanctions and military threats.

As for Article I, the U.S. (along with France) offered substantial aid and protection to the hyper-secret Israeli nuclear-weapons program going back to the 1950s.  Israel has never wanted anything to do with the NPT, fearful of any meddling into its accumulation of between 200 and 400 warheads, thinly concealed behind a façade of “ambiguity”.   Aside from nukes, Tel Aviv reportedly owns an abundant stockpile of chemical and biological weapons while again refusing to join the relevant global conventions.

Make no mistake:  despite the media fiction of a small, weak, relatively defenseless country isolated and surrounded by aggressive foes, Israel currently rivals Britain, France, and China as a world nuclear power, central to its shared goal (with the U.S.) of military supremacy in the Middle East.  Credible sources indicate that Israel possesses not only neutron bombs but an array of tactical nukes, ballistic missiles, atomic land mines, cruise missiles, nuclear-armed subs, and high-explosive artillery shells.   The subs alone are armed with four cruise missiles each, replete with multiple warheads.   The general Israeli military arsenal dwarfs the actual or potential armed forces of all other Middle Eastern nations combined.  Several U.N. resolutions calling for Israel to join the NPT, open up its nuclear facilities to inspection, and agree to a regional nuclear-free zone have been stonewalled by the U.S. and Israel.   After the CIA reported that Israel had the Bomb in 1968 (fully 18 years before Mordecai Vanunu’s insider revelations), no outside visits to Israeli military sites have been allowed.

Meanwhile, India – still a non-NPT state – has long benefited from a massive transfer of atomic resources and technology from the U.S., dating to years before the Indian weapons breakthrough of 1974.   As an imagined counterweight to Chinese military power, India was empowered to build as many as 65 warheads, manufactured and deployed in the absence of external monitoring and made possible by the work of 1100 U.S.-trained scientists.  Like Israel and also Pakistan, India maintains a hostile attitude toward IAEA monitoring.  In July 2005 the U.S. signed an historic deal with New Delhi for nuclear cooperation, just when India was busy modernizing its illegal atomic stockpile and delivery systems.  (The deal was approved by Congress in October 2008.) Those profiting, of course, included dozens of U.S. technical and military corporations.

Non-NPT states naturally fight international pressure to limit their weapons systems, so that reducing nuclear arsenals in the midst of such outlawry, consistent with Article VI, is unthinkable.  Nor has U.S. membership as such meant compliance with Article VI: while lecturing and threatening others about proliferation, Washington unapologetically modernizes its own nuclear research agendas, facilities, weapons, and delivery systems, fueled by the decades-old aim of world atomic supremacy.  Alone among nations, the U.S. retains a first-use doctrine embellished by its unparalleled global nuclear presence across land, sea, and air, bolstered by a fleet-based missile defense system.   The U.S. deploys several dozen tactical nukes in such NATO countries as Germany, Belgium, Italy, Holland, and Turkey, in another violation of the NPT.

As it preaches against the horrors of proliferation, the U.S. spends hundreds of billions to upgrade its own state-of-the-art weapons systems.   Obama’s 2009 plea for a “world without nukes” is best understood as a preposterous deceit.   According to a 2011 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report, Washington now devotes more resources to nuclear weapons than the rest of the world combined – that is, roughly equivalent to the general military picture.  The U.S. earmarked $61.3 billion for nukes in 2012, compared to $14.8 billion allocated by Russia, $7.6 billion by China, $6.0 billion by France, and $4.9 billion by India.  The most recent (2010) Nuclear Posture Review restates the long-term U.S. priority of a nuclearized military, a linchpin of Pentagon strategy. The NPR calls for designing, testing, construction, and deployment of a new class of atomic subs to replace the aging Ohio-class fleet, which, armed with eight multiple-warhead missiles apiece, already has enough firepower to incinerate most of the planet.  The Review calls for a “robust SSBN [missile] Security Program” to upgrade Pentagon nuclear capacity.   Among nine distinct U.S. nuclear modernizing schemes, the Air Force has on the drawing boards a new long-range penetrating bomber with enhanced nuclear capacity.  The 2012 Procurement Plan calls for 80 to 100 of these aircraft at an outlandish $550 each – a total of some $50 billion.

The U.S. nuclear establishment has recently fixated on a plutonium bomb-core production facility at Los Alamos, referred to as the Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR), with costs already running into several billions.  The bomb-core project has emerged as the centerpiece of a new generation of modernized warheads even as Washington feigns interest in atomic demobilization and negotiates with Russia to reduce its general stockpile.   The Obama administration favors a “surge” in nuclear development, with CMRR one of the vital programs.  Started in 2006, this project – to be completed in three stages – may not be finished until 2022, with a price tag likely in the tens of billions.  It is expected to triple the plutonium-storage capacity of the Los Alamos lab, expanding infrastructure needed for new weapons systems – surely a violation of the spirit if not letter of the NPT.

While the much-celebrated START agreement with Russia (only with Russia) anticipates a reduction to 1550 American warheads by 2017, the present count is more than 5000 warheads, but even the lower number will carry far more explosive potential than the larger, older arsenals.  It should also be remembered that START places no restrictions on research, testing, production, or deployment of nuclear weapons.

The NPR is hardly timid about its strategic objectives: “The U.S. will modernize the nuclear weapons infrastructure, sustain the science, technology, and engineering base, invest in human capital, and ensure senior leadership focus.”   Pentagon atomic capability remains as much of an obsession today as it was during the height of the Cold War, with its modernizing agenda, first-use doctrine, and multiple “contingency” plans for unleashing nukes against nations deemed in violation of the NPT.   So much for Article VI of the (now thoroughly-bankrupt) NPT.

In 2006 Hans Blix, former chief U.N. weapons inspector, authored a report titled “Weapons of Terror”, sponsored by the Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction, addressing the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological stockpiles.  It called on major powers to take international laws and treaties more seriously, pointedly urging the U.S. and its closest allies to refrain from blocking arms control, disarmament, and moves to curtail nuclear proliferation.   It states: “All parties to the [NPT] should implement the decision on principles and objectives for nonproliferation and disarmament [embraced in] the resolution of the Middle East as a zone free of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction.”  The latter idea had been proposed by Egypt, Iran, and a few other states but was quickly dashed by the U.S. and Israel – two nations deploying a combined several hundred warheads in the region.  The report also recommended that the strongest nuclear states offer security guarantees to weaker non-nuclear states, but neither the U.S. nor its clients were ready to comply.

In his book laying out the WMD Commission recommendations, Why Disarmament Matters (2008), Blix predicted imminent catastrophe in a global setting where the leading nuclear states randomly and brazenly violate the NPT.   A question recurs: how can proliferation be reversed when the nuclear outlaws routinely privilege their own military ambitions over international rules and norms?   By 2008 efforts to induce Israel, India, and Pakistan to submit to NPT protocols had been effectively abandoned, Blix adding: “Convincing states that do not need weapons of mass destruction would be significantly easier if all U.N. members practiced genuine respect for existing [U.N.] restraints on the threat and use of force.”  Aside from NPT considerations, threats like those made by the U.S. and Israel constitute a flagrant violation of the U.N. Charter.

Back to Iran: it turns out the mortal challenge posed by what Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu calls a “nuclearized mullocracy” does nothing so much as threaten Israeli hopes for regional domination.  Iranian “defiance” and “belligerence” is ultimately less a matter of Iran rejecting NPT statutes or IAEA inspections than of resisting (illegitimate) demands for total nuclear shutdown.  The famous Israeli “red line”, or threshold of tolerance, refers not to an actual Iranian military threat but to the “technical capability” of some day reaching weapons status – a “capability” already held, as mentioned, by more than 30 nations.  Further, while Iran is completely encircled by U.S. and Israeli military forces, possessing advanced nuclear arsenals, an Iranian attack on Israel (for which no motive is evident) would be suicidal, as large parts of the country would be quickly reduced to rubble.

Current U.S./Israeli threats against Iran are based much less in fear of a military attack than in prospects for a challenge to regional supremacy it raises.  The “red line” barrier pertains to an eventual Iranian surrender to U.S./Israeli geopolitical interests that, sooner or later, lead to “regime change”.  For the moment, however, it appears that a campaign of atomic sabotage has emerged as the key method for subverting Iranian nuclear objectives.   A military attack, now or later, remains fraught with enormous risk and uncertainty.

In the end, the Iranian “crisis” is symptomatic of a deeper predicament:  nothing will be resolved until every state – not just the targeted villains – is held accountable to the same universal norms.   This means, above all, the U.S., Israel, and other nuclear outlaws.  Blix noted that the NPT “is not a treaty that appoints the nuclear-weapons states individually or jointly to police non-nuclear weapons states and threaten them with punishment.  It is a contract in which all parties commit themselves to the goal of a nuclear weapons-free world.”  There can be no meaningful “contract” without an internationalization of security arrangements that, in the end, will require a dismantling of the American warfare state that underpins its nuclear outlawry and that of its clients.

CARL BOGGS is the author of Ecology and Revolution, Phantom Democracy, and The Crimes of Empire among other recent books.

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April 4, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Thirty Palestinians killed by Israel in March, 300 imprisoned

MEMO | April 2, 2012

A human rights organisation has reported that the Israeli occupation forces have stepped up what it calls their “racist and aggressive practices” against the Palestinian people over the past month, during which Israel carried out dozens of operations and military incursions in the occupied Palestinian territories. “Thirty Palestinians were killed by Israel in March,” said the International Solidarity Foundation for Human Rights, “most of them in the besieged Gaza Strip.”

The Foundation said that three children under the age of eighteen were martyred in the West Bank. Two of the children – named as Hamza Zayed Jaradat and Zayed Jomah Jaradat, both age 12 ‑ from the area of Wadi Al Reem, near Hebron, were killed when a suspicious object left in the area by the Israeli occupation army exploded. The third minor was Zakaria Jamal Abu Arram, age 17 from the town of Yatta, near Hebron, who was killed during a confrontation with Israeli soldiers when local Palestinians tried to stop the security forces from re-arresting one of the detainees released in the last prisoner exchange deal.

According to the Foundation, Israel’s arrests of Palestinians have also increased in the past month. “More than 300 Palestinians, including 56 children and seven women, and many ex-detainees who have already spent many years in prison, were taken into detention by the Israelis,” it said in its statement.

April 4, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

   

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