Mexico’s government oil and gas giant Pemex confirmed the discovery of a crude reserve which could hold over 500 million barrels, and described as the largest on land strike in the last decade.
“Navegante 1” is located in the southern state of Tabasco, 20 kilometres from the state capital of Villahermosa and was drilled to 6.800 metres. The 3P reserves test (proven, possible, probable) of the well is estimated in over 500 million barrels, although other exploratory wells in the basin could take that figure to a billion barrels.
Pemex said that the drilling showed the existence of a column of 315 metres of light crude covering an area of 87 square kilometres, which makes it the largest discovery on land in the last decade in the country.
“The assessment of the oil potential of the field which covers 87 square kilometres indicates a 3P reserve estimate of over 500 million barrels of oil equivalent” said Pemex anticipating that further wells to establish the delimitation of the deposit are to be drilled.
The ‘Navegante 1’ on land adds to several discoveries offshore in the Gulf of Mexico which ensures Pemex can recover its level of reserves that have been falling for years. The discovery was also excellent news for the recently sworn in President Enrique Peña Nieto. Oil is a major export of the country and a strong contributor to the national budget.
By JEAN BRICMONT | December 4, 2012
Ever since the 1990s, and especially since the Kosovo war in 1999, anyone who opposes armed interventions by Western powers and NATO has to confront what may be called an anti-anti-war left (including its far left segment). In Europe, and notably in France, this anti-anti-war left is made up of the mainstream of social democracy, the Green parties and most of the radical left. The anti-anti-war left does not come out openly in favor of Western military interventions and even criticizes them at times (but usually only for their tactics or alleged motivations – the West is supporting a just cause, but clumsily and for oil or for geo-strategic reasons). But most of its energy is spent issuing “warnings” against the supposed dangerous drift of that part of the left that remains firmly opposed to such interventions. It calls upon us to show solidarity with the “victims” against “dictators who kill their own people”, and not to give in to knee-jerk anti-imperialism, anti-Americanism, or anti-Zionism, and above all not to end up on the same side as the far right. After the Kosovo Albanians in 1999, we have been told that “we” must protect Afghan women, Iraqi Kurds and more recently the people of Libya and of Syria.
It cannot be denied that the anti-anti-war left has been extremely effective. The Iraq war, which was sold to the public as a fight against an imaginary threat, did indeed arouse a fleeting opposition, but there has been very little opposition on the left to interventions presented as “humanitarian”, such as the bombing of Yugoslavia to detach the province of Kosovo, the bombing of Libya to get rid of Gaddafi, or the current intervention in Syria. Any objections to the revival of imperialism or in favor of peaceful means of dealing with such conflicts have simply been brushed aside by invocations of “R2P”, the right or responsibility to protect, or the duty to come to the aid of a people in danger.
The fundamental ambiguity of the anti-anti-war left lies in the question as to who are the “we” who are supposed to intervene and protect. One might ask the Western left, social movements or human rights organizations the same question Stalin addressed to the Vatican, “How many divisions do you have?” As a matter of fact, all the conflicts in which “we” are supposed to intervene are armed conflicts. Intervening means intervening militarily and for that, one needs the appropriate military means. It is perfectly obvious that the Western left does not possess those means. It could call on European armies to intervene, instead of the United States, but they have never done so without massive support from the United States. So in reality the actual message of the anti-anti-war left is: “Please, oh Americans, make war not love!” Better still, inasmuch as since their debacle in Afghanistan and in Iraq, the Americans are leery of sending in ground troops, the message amounts to nothing other than asking the U.S. Air Force to go bomb countries where human rights violations are reported to be taking place.
Of course, anyone is free to claim that human rights should henceforth be entrusted to the good will of the U.S. government, its bombers, its missile launchers and its drones. But it is important to realize that that is the concrete meaning of all those appeals for “solidarity” and “support” to rebel or secessionist movements involved in armed struggles. Those movements have no need of slogans shouted during “demonstrations of solidarity” in Brussels or in Paris, and that is not what they are asking for. They want to get heavy weapons and see their enemies bombed.
The anti-anti-war left, if it were honest, should be frank about this choice, and openly call on the United States to go bomb wherever human rights are violated; but then it should accept the consequences. In fact, the political and military class that is supposed to save the populations “massacred by their dictators” is the same one that waged the Vietnam war, that imposed sanctions and wars on Iraq, that imposes arbitrary sanctions on Cuba, Iran and any other country that meets with their disfavor, that provides massive unquestioning support to Israel, which uses every means including coups d’état to oppose social reformers in Latin America, from Arbenz to Chavez by way of Allende, Goulart and others, and which shamelessly exploits workers and resources the world over. One must be quite starry-eyed to see in that political and military class the instrument of salvation of “victims”, but that is in practice exactly what the anti-anti-war left is advocating, because, given the relationship of forces in the world, there is no other military force able to impose its will.
Of course, the U.S. government is scarcely aware of the existence of the anti-anti-war left. The United States decides whether or not to wage war according to the chances of succeeding and to their own assessment of their strategic, political and economic interests. And once a war is begun, they want to win at all costs. It makes no sense to ask them to carry out only good interventions, against genuine villains, using gentle methods that spare civilians and innocent bystanders.
For example, those who call for “saving Afghan women” are in fact calling on the United States to intervene and, among other things, bomb Afghan civilians and shoot drones at Pakistan. It makes no sense to ask them to protect but not to bomb, because armies function by shooting and bombing.
A favorite theme of the anti-anti-war left is to accuse those who reject military intervention of “supporting the dictator”, meaning the leader of the currently targeted country. The problem is that every war is justified by a massive propaganda effort which is based on demonizing the enemy, especially the enemy leader. Effectively opposing that propaganda requires contextualizing the crimes attributed to the enemy and comparing them to those of the side we are supposed to support. That task is necessary but risky; the slightest mistake will be endlessly used against us, whereas all the lies of the pro-war propaganda are soon forgotten.
Already, during the First World War, Bertrand Russell and British pacifists were accused of “supporting the enemy”. But if they denounced Allied propaganda, it was not out of love for the German Kaiser, but in the cause of peace. The anti-anti-war left loves to denounce the “double standards” of coherent pacifists who criticize the crimes of their own side more sharply than those attributed to the enemy of the moment (Milosevic, Gaddafi, Assad, and so on), but this is only the necessary result of a deliberate and legitimate choice: to counter the war propaganda of our own media and political leaders (in the West), propaganda which is based on constant demonization of the enemy under attack accompanied by idealization of the attacker.
The anti-anti-war left has no influence on American policy, but that doesn’t mean that it has no effect. Its insidious rhetoric has served to neutralize any peace or anti-war movement. It has also made it impossible for any European country to take such an independent position as France took under De Gaulle, or even Chirac, or as Sweden did with Olof Palme. Today such a position would be instantly attacked by the anti-anti-war left, which is echoed by European media, as “support to dictators”, another “Munich”, or “the crime of indifference”.
What the anti-anti-war left has managed to accomplish is to destroy the sovereignty of Europeans in regard to the United States and to eliminate any independent left position concerning war and imperialism. It has also led most of the European left to adopt positions in total contradiction with those of the Latin American left and to consider as adversaries countries such as China and Russia which seek to defend international law, as indeed they should.
When the media announce that a massacre is imminent, we hear at times that action is “urgent” to save the alleged future victims, and time cannot be lost making sure of the facts. This may be true when a building is on fire in one’s own neighborhood, but such urgency regarding other countries ignores the manipulation of information and just plain error and confusion that dominate foreign news coverage. Whatever the political crisis abroad, the instant “we must do something” reflex brushes aside serious reflection on the left as to what might be done instead of military intervention. What sort of independent investigation could be carried out to understand the causes of conflict and potential solutions? What can be the role of diplomacy? The prevailing images of immaculate rebels, dear to the left from its romanticizing of past conflicts, especially the Spanish Civil War, blocks reflection. It blocks realistic assessment of the relationship of forces as well as the causes of armed rebellion in the world today, very different from the 1930s, favorite source of the cherished legends of the Western left.
What is also remarkable is that most of the anti-anti-war left shares a general condemnation of the revolutions of the past, because they led to Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot etc. But now that the revolutionaries are (Western backed) Islamists, we are supposed to believe that everything will turn out fine. What about “drawing the lesson from the past” that violent revolutions are not necessarily the best or the only way to achieve social change?
An alternative policy would take a 180° turn away from the one currently advocated by the anti-anti-war left. Instead of calling for more and more interventions, we should demand of our governments the strict respect for international law, non-interference in the internal affairs of other States and cooperation instead of confrontation. Non-interference means not only military non-intervention. It applies also to diplomatic and economic actions: no unilateral sanctions, no threats during negotiations, and equal treatment of all States. Instead of constantly “denouncing” the leaders of countries such as Russia, China, Iran, Cuba for violating human rights, something the anti-anti-war left loves to do, we should listen to what they have to say, dialogue with them, and help our fellow citizens understand the different ways of thinking in the world, including the criticisms that other countries can make of our way of doing things. Cultivating such mutual understanding could in the long run be the best way to improve “human rights” everywhere.
This would not bring instant solutions to human rights abuses or political conflicts in countries such as Libya or Syria. But what does? The policy of interference increases tensions and militarization in the world. The countries that feel targeted by that policy, and they are numerous, defend themselves however they can. The demonization campaigns prevent peaceful relations between peoples, cultural exchanges between citizens and, indirectly, the flourishing of the very liberal ideas that the advocates of interference claim to be promoting. Once the anti-anti-war left abandoned any alternative program, it in fact gave up the possibility of having the slightest influence over world affairs. It does not in reality “help the victims” as it claims. Except for destroying all resistance here to imperialism and war, it does nothing. The only ones who are really doing anything are in fact the succeeding U.S. administrations. Counting on them to care for the well-being of the world’s peoples is an attitude of total hopelessness. This hopelessness is an aspect of the way most of the Left reacted to the “fall of communism”, by embracing the policies that were the exact opposite of those of the communists, particularly in international affairs, where opposition to imperialism and the defense of national sovereignty have increasingly been demonized as “leftovers from Stalinism”.
Interventionism and European construction are both right-wing policies. One of them is linked to the American drive for world hegemony. The other is the framework supporting neoliberal economic policies and destruction of social protection. Paradoxically, both have been largely justified by “left-wing” ideas : human rights, internationalism, anti-racism and anti-nationalism. In both cases, a left that lost its way after the fall of the Soviet bloc has grasped at salvation by clinging to a “generous, humanitarian” discourse, which totally lacks any realistic analysis of the relationship of forces in the world. With such a left, the right hardly needs any ideology of its own; it can make do with human rights.
Nevertheless, both those policies, interventionism and European construction, are today in a dead end. U.S. imperialism is faced with huge difficulties, both economic and diplomatic. Its intervention policy has managed to unite much of the world against the United States. Scarcely anyone believes any more in “another” Europe, a social Europe, and the real existing European Union (the only one possible) does not arouse much enthusiasm among working people. Of course, those failures currently benefit solely the right and the far right, only because most of the left has stopped defending peace, international law and national sovereignty, as the precondition of democracy.
 On the occasion of the recent NATO summit in Chicago, Amnesty International launched a campaign of posters calling on NATO to “keep up the progress” on behalf of women in Afghanistan, without explaining, or even raising the question as to how a military organization was supposed to accomplish such an objective.
- Noam Chomsky’s Savage UN Warmongering (economicpolicyjournal.com)
The proposed language in the 2013 NDAA and the recent Feinstein Amendment do not fix the multiple Constitutional infirmities in section 1021 of the 2012 NDAA. Unfortunately, Congress is now poised to reaffirm the President’s ability to prosecute persons within the USA though military tribunals, potentially allow continued indefinite detention without charge or trial, and do nothing to limit the practice of extraordinary rendition.
The most troubling provisions of section 1021 of the 2012 NDAA provide that the all persons within the USA – including U.S. citizens – whom the President unilaterally determines “substantially supported” the Taliban, Al Qaeda or “Associated forces” may be designated as enemy combatants subject to indefinite detention, extraordinary rendition (the transfer to foreign jurisdiction or entities) or military tribunals. Importantly, there is no knowing and willful requirement to one’s “substantial support.”
While the indefinite detention language in the 2012 NDAA purports to allow no Due Process whatsoever, it is tempered – inadequately tempered — by Supreme Court precedent that requires limited Due Process rights for those designated as enemy combatants subject to indefinite detention.
By way of background: in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court ruled that Hamdi – a U.S. citizen captured on a foreign battlefield and held indefinitely within U.S. jurisdiction – generally possessed the right to a meaningful opportunity to challenge his enemy combatant status before a neutral military decision-maker.
In Boumediene v. Bush the Court then further defined the due process rights of enemy combatants captured on a foreign battlefield and held within U.S. jurisdiction. They possess Habeas rights in an Article III court to review the neutral decision-marker. However, as a review of a military decision, the Habeas procedures for continued indefinite detention are shockingly lacking and inadequate compared to normal criminal proceedings. There is no 6th Amendment jury right. Hearsay is freely admissible, i.e. the 6th Amendment right to confront right to face accusers is absent. The burden of proof is not beyond a reasonable doubt, not clear and convincing evidence, but a mere preponderance of the evidence. That is more likely than not based on hearsay that someone “substantially supported” a terrorist organization.
Then came the NDAA. The NDAA purports to extend the President’s war powers to the U.S. homeland. All persons within the USA — citizen and non-citizen alike — would now be subject to the Law of War with regards allegations of supporting terrorism, including the same indefinite detention limited Due Process rights articulated in Hamdi and Boumediene, as well as military tribunals and extraordinary rendition.
After the obvious outcry from citizens and States alike, Congress is now poised to pass the 2013 NDAA with what at first blush appear to be fixes to the indefinite detention provisions of the 2012 NDAA. However, the proposed text, and the recent Feinstein Amendment, may do little to restrict the President’s homeland war powers.
The operative language of the 2013 NDAA is contained in Section 1033(a):
“Nothing in the Authorization for Use of Military Force or the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 shall be construed to deny the availability of the writ of habeas corpus or to deny any Constitutional rights in a court ordained or established by or under Article III of the Constitution for any person who is lawfully in the United States when detained pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force and who is otherwise entitled to the availability of such writ or such rights.”
First, section 1033 still speaks to ‘detention’ of persons within the USA – as in indefinite detention without charge or trial. And the Constitutional rights purportedly preserved by section 1033 of the 2013 NDAA are likely only the limited protections that are already judicially required under Hamdi and Boumediene for indefinite detention; the right to a limited Habeas reviewin an Article III Court wherein the Constitution does not require numerous procedural safeguards available in normal criminal proceedings. Section 1033 of the 2013 NDAA only appears to be a mere legislative codification of these limited Hamdi and Boumediene indefinite detention procedures. Importantly, the President’s 2012 NDAA authority to dispose of persons captured in the USA — including U.S. citizens – through military tribunal and extraordinary rendition are not curtailed.
Unfortunately, the Feinstein Amendment to the 2013 NDAA may also do little to fix the multitude of problems with the 2012 NDAA, because it 1) may reaffirm the limited indefinite detention Due Process articulated in Hamdi and Boumediene, 2) does not restrict military tribunals with numerous Due Process infirmities for persons within the USA, 3) and it does nothing to limit extrodinary rendition.
The operative language of the Feinstein amendment is as follows:
“(b)(1) An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or a similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charges or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.”
. . . .
“(b)(3) Paragraph (1) shall not be construed to authorize the detention of a citizen of the United States, a lawful permanent resident of United States, or any other person who is apprehended in the United States.”
The initial question is; how does the Feinstein’s amendment actually affect the 2012 NDAA? Feinstein Amendment paragraph (b)(1) still purports to allow indefinite detention upon the express authorization of Congress, and (b)(3) says that the amendment should not be construed to authorize such detention. Yet, section 1021 of the 2012 NDAA, intended to clarify the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, specifically authorizes such indefinite detention. Moreover, section 1021 applies broadly to include all persons, including those within the United States (as advocated by the Obama Administration and numerous members of Congress). Thus, section 1021 may still be interpreted as a specific enough authorization under the Feinstein Amendment for indefinite detention of persons within the USA; making the Feinstein Amendment worthless.
Now, let’s suppose the 2012 NDAA does not specify persons within the USA sufficiently to meet the Feinstein Amendment’s specific authorization requirement for indefinite detention; IT LIKELY CHANGES LITTLE.
Here’s why. The Feinstein Amendment does not specify what “charge” or “trial” mean. While this may seem like semantics, it is a very important omission because the judicial forum and attendant Constitutional protections present are not specified.
On one hand, the Feinstein Amendment could be interpreted as requiring the same limited Due Process articulated in Hamdi and Boumediene. Hamdi and Boumediene already require that those subject to indefinite detention are entitled to an opportunity to contest their enemy combatant status before a neutral decision maker, followed by civilian Article III Habeas review (with the extremely limited Due Process articulated above). By requiring charge and trial, the Feinstein Amendment may only legislatively codify the existing Hamdi and Boumediene limited Due Process rights those indefinitely detained under the 2012 NDAA are already entitled to. While this interpretation seems a stretch, we must remember that the Obama Administration has gone so far to declare that the President’s contemplation was sufficient Due Process prior to the drone assassination of U.S. citizens Al Allawaki and son.
On the other hand, it is more likely that the Feinstein Amendment’s “charge and trial” require more than the Hamdi and Boumediene procedures to contest indefinite detention as an enemy combatant (which procedures are not the product of formal charges or trials). We must remember that in addition to indefinite detention without trial or charge, section 1021 of the 2012 NDAA purports to authorize military tribunals. Military tribunals are initiated through formal charges and are deemed trials. Although the 2013 NDAA seeks to preserve Habeas rights and Constitutional protections when in an Article III Court, neither the 2013 NDAA or the Feinstein Amendment require that the actual charge and trial occur in an Article III civilian court (where all the Constitutional protections of normal criminal proceedings are present). The military tribunals authorized in the 2012 NDAA are simply not restricted. Thus, the “charge and trial” specified by the Feinstein Amendment likely refers to a military tribunal; the same tribunals ongoing in Guantanamo Bay.
The Constitutional protections in military tribunals are still woefully inadequate for a civilian arrested within the USA. The right to confront accusers is limited because significant testimonial hearsay can be admissible, the jury is composed of military members instead of peers, an unanimous verdict is not necessary for conviction, Miranda warnings are not applicable and search warrants are not required for admission of evidence. Importantly, Article III, Section III’s requirement that treason be proved by the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act may not be applicable.
Finally, and perhaps most troubling, is that the 2012 NDAA also authorizes the transfer of alleged enemy combatants to foreign jurisdictions and entities; that’s extraordinary rendition. The 2013 NDAA and the Feinstein Amendment do nothing to curb this horrific practice. The Constitution, laws and courts are completely irrelevant once someone has been transferred outside the jurisdiction of the USA. In this context, an accused’s Constitutional rights (and any rights purportedly preserved under in the 2013 NDAA and Feinstein Amendment) are only enforceable when within the jurisdiction of the courts. Nothing has been done to limit the President’s purported authority in the 2012 NDAA to transfer someone outside of the United States to some foreign country, entity, or military base, where they have no ability to compel a hearing to determine enemy combatant status, seek to be charged or tried, or pursue Habeas relief.
At most, the 2013 NDAA and the Feinstein Amendment require that persons within the USA designated as enemy combatants are at least entitled to military tribunals. Thus, the president retains the authority to prosecute according to the Laws of War. While military tribunals are a slight improvement over the Hamdi and Boumediene indefinite detention procedures, they still provide woefully insufficient civilian Constitutional protections. And nothing has been done about the President’s extraordinary rendition powers. Our Founders certainly did not intend for the president to have such domestic war powers – especially over citizens – without a Congressional declaration of War. Instead, Congress unconstitutionally purported to provide these war powers in the 2012 NDAA multi-hundred-page-appropriation-bill, and has done little to limit them with the ineffectual 2013 NDAA and its Feinstein Amendment.
If Congress intends to uphold the Constitution, it must immediately ban indefinite detention and require charge and trial in Article III civilian courts for persons within the USA – especially for civilians and legal aliens – and strike the President’s purported extraordinary rendition powers. Congress must restore the rule of law! Otherwise, the terrorists have won
Blake Filippi [send him email] is a Legal Analyst for the Tenth Amendment Center. He is also the director of the Rhode Island Liberty Coalition, a constitutional attorney and the initial author of resolutions opposing NDAA detention provisions being introduced around the country. Visit RI Liberty online at www.riliberty.com.
- NDAA Detention Powers Remain: Blake Filippi Takes on the Talking Heads (tenthamendmentcenter.com)
- Nothing to Worry About on Indefinite Detention? Guess Again (tenthamendmentcenter.com)
- NDAA Nullification Moves Forward in Michigan (tenthamendmentcenter.com)
- Actually, The Newest Version Of NDAA Makes It EASIER To Detain Citizens Indefinitely (economicpolicyjournal.com)
In a recent interview with the Jewish Journal, unfunny comedian Bill Maher has once again praised Israel for its restraint in only committing rampant war crimes in Gaza rather than a full-scale nuclear genocide of a civilian population.
Two-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a lengthy post about Maher’s appalling anti-Islam bigotry and staggering ignorance regarding the factual history of his favorite colonial-settler ethnocracy, Israel. While Maher’s vitriolic attacks on Muslims, grotesque caricature of Palestinians in particular and unconditional fealty to Zionist propaganda has continued unabated in the intervening years, comments made in his Jewish Journal interview – conducted just days after the Israeli military concluded its latest criminal bombardment of besieged Gaza that succeeded in murdering over 160 people, including 42 children – concisely illustrate his warped understanding of reality.
Condemning religious people for ignorance of their own doctrinal scripture, Maher says, “I think if they read the bible, especially the Old Testament, I think they would be appalled,” adding that if biblical stories were de-contextualized and read only as a vengeful deity “wiping these people out and ethnically cleaning [sic] them for no apparent reason, how he does things on a whim and how he’s jealous; They’d go, ‘This is terrible.'”
While Maher may be correct on this point, he then claims that Judaism is “certainly not as dangerous as Islam and Christianity. Those are warlike religions.” One is left to wonder if Maher knows what the Old Testament actually is.
Maher finds elements of Judaism “insane” and “funny” and, in his world, the religion seems to boil down to kooky inventions like the Shabbos Elevator which “doesn’t really threaten anybody’s life.”
For Maher, who seems to be channeling the myopia of Jon Stewart here, every Muslim is a brainwashed terrorist, while every Jew is just a hapless nebbish – one part Catskills-era Jackie Mason, one part whining Yiddish Bubbe. Muslims are violent fanatics who blow things up, whereas Jews are more concerned with hikes in bus fares and guilt-tripping their children. Never in Maher’s mind could Jewish people be seen as racists, occupiers, ethnic cleansers, and colonists. Never could they level neighborhoods, attack civilian populations with the most high-tech killing machines and chemical weapons, or discriminate against communities based solely on their religion or ethnicity. They are victims – always – never aggressors.
It is therefore unsurprising that Maher stated, “Y’know, maybe Arabs and Jews are both crazy, but Jews save a tiny piece of their mind for science, math, and writing sitcoms. Arabs, on the other severed hand, seem to spend all their time handing down grudges from one generation to the next.”
Maher has apparently never stopped to wonder what the world would be like without coffee, carpets, windmills, parachutes, soap, fountain pens, romantic poetry, algorithms, trigonometry, rose windows, pointed arches, scalpels, forceps, dissolving stitches, anesthesia, cataract surgery, cameras and the science of optics – to name just a few – all products of Arab and Muslim minds. And where would we all be without Khalil Gibran, Steve Jobs, and 1980’s pop sensation Tiffany, whose last name is Darwish?
Because he is generally seen as “liberal” in mainstream discourse, the inconsistencies and ignorance in Maher’s conception of world religions and his passionate attachment to Israel are cause for concern.
To his credit, Maher is honest about his proclivities. “I’ve never hid the fact that I don’t think it’s a conflict where both sides are equally guilty,” he told Danielle Berrin, who writes the “Hollywood Jew” column for the Jewish Journal. “I’m more on the side of the Israelis; that’s why Benjamin Netanyahu did my show a few years ago, before he was Prime Minister.”
Is Maher saying here that Netanyahu will only do interviews with Zionists? Maher also neglects to mention that his interview with Netanyahu was in 2006, soon after Israel had decimated southern Lebanon for a month, killing 1,180 people (about a third of whom were children), wounding over 4,050, and displacing about 970,000 others as direct result of the more than 7,000 air attacks by the Israeli Air Force and an additional 2,500 bombardments by the Israeli Navy that deliberately contravened international law and targeted civilian infrastructure.
Maher repeatedly praised the assault in which Lebanese men, women and children were being blown to pieces, claiming that condemning Israeli war crimes (which he benignly referred to as Israel being “forced to kill people in its own defense”) was the same thing as anti-Semitism. Maher seemed blissfully oblivious to the facts, including evidence that Israel had actually instigated the conflict and willfully continued the “widespread destruction of apartments, houses, electricity and water services, roads, bridges, factories and ports… even when it became clear that the victims of the bombardment were predominantly civilians, which was the case from the first days of the conflict.”
At the end of his fawning interview with the once-and-future Prime Minister, Maher quotes a Jerusalem Post article: “The Foreign Ministry would do well to watch Bill Maher to learn how to sell Israel’s case to a TV audience… ,” then asks Netanyahu, “What do you think? I could roll that way!”
Netanyahu’s response? “Hey Bill, watch it, if I’m Prime Minister, you’ll get the job.”
Clearly, they both got their wish.
Maher’s original admission that he is “more on the side of the Israelis” acknowledges that he finds Palestinians – an indigenous population that was dispossessed, displaced and all but destroyed by militarily superior Zionist forces and which has lived as refugees under perpetual occupation, deliberately denied sovereignty, self-determination and self-defense for over six decades; a people demonized, dehumanized and traumatized who are routinely condemned in their desperate resistance to subjugation, colonization and collective punishment for not taking enough care to protect the lives and collective identity of its oppressors and occupiers – far more culpable for the persistence of a century-old “conflict” than the Israelis – a nuclear-armed, superpower-backed, settler society that institutionally discriminates against the non-Jewish communities whose lives it controls.
And this guy is called “liberal”?
Maher’s take on Israel/Palestine boils down to this: “It’s not that complicated: Stop firing rockets into Israel and perhaps they won’t annihilate you,” he told Berrin. Perhaps. Annihilate. That Israel might cease its occupation, blockade, night raids, airstrikes and land theft is obviously not the problem here. No, it’s the futile and frustrated reaction to such trifles that is beyond Maher’s pale. Again, one hundred years of history is erased and replaced by an invented narrative of violent Arabs endlessly attacking innocent Israeli Jews. Maher is obviously unaware that, according to a 2009 study, “it is overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine, that kills first” following a ceasefire, thus instigating retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza. “Indeed,” the study concluded, “it is virtually always Israel that kills first after a lull lasting more than a week.” The recent Israeli bombing campaign against Gaza is no exception.
Moreover, Maher seems to be unaware that four years have passed since Israel’s massacre in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, claiming that Palestinians “lost over 1,000 people” in the recent Israeli offensive. Keeping abreast of facts, of course, isn’t Maher’s concern when describing a week of devastation wrought upon a caged population of 1.7 million with nowhere to run and no viable means to protect itself as Gaza gets, in Maher’s words, its “ass kicked.” One can assume that, in his childhood, Maher spent many an hour kicking the asses of ants with a magnifying glass.
But all this is merely prologue to where both Maher and his interlocutor Berrin were about to go. Berrin posed a leading question to Maher about proportionality and the vast discrepancy between Israeli and Palestinian death tolls and got the answer she was hoping for:
Its obvious that Israelis, in all of their battles with the Palestinians, show restraint. Because they have nuclear weapons. And if the situation was reversed, I don’t doubt for a second that Palestinians would fire them immediately. They’d use the maximum of what they have available and the Israelis don’t.
Ok, ignore the hypothetical nature of role-reversal (how would an indigenous population occupy and colonize parts of its own land?) and leave aside the sheer stupidity of assuming Palestinians in Gaza would launch nuclear weapons at a state in which 20% of the population are themselves Palestinian or that Tel Aviv is roughly 50 miles away from Gaza meaning that Palestinians would essentially be dropping a nuke on themselves. Or the weirdness of suggesting that the Palestinian goal of self-determination, statehood and equal rights in their historic homeland could be achieved by physically obliterating that very homeland and making it literally uninhabitable. And forget that the “restraint” Maher lauds in Israel’s recent round of murder is a casualty ratio of 33-1.
Maher actually contends here that Israel shows “restraint” merely by not engaging in the complete nuclear holocaust of Palestinians, a desperate refugee population Israel itself created through ethnic cleansing and continued occupation. The fact that Israel’s conventional military might and capacity for lethal destruction far surpasses that of most countries on the planet is obviously irrelevant, as is the tragedy that such “restraint” in late November included the murder of ten members of the al-Dalou family, including four children, crushed to death when Israel bombed their three-story home in Gaza. Such is the Israeli conception of “restraint” and Maher’s explicit endorsement of excessive Israeli force against a civilian Palestinian population.
Maher has said similar things before. A few years ago he suggested that, if rockets were fired into the United States from Canada, “we would have nuked them a hundred times by now,” despite the fact that the analogy literally makes no sense. In fact, Maher’s penchant for recycling material is nothing new. On November 21, when a ceasefire was announced, Maher tweeted:
Glad Hillary was able to get a cease-fire in Gaza. Otherwise known as Stopping to Reload.
Obviously, for Maher, those “reloading” are the Palestinians and not the Israelis, who are annually gifted with $3 billion in military aid from the United States, have their own booming arms industry, and have some of the planet’s most sophisticated and deadly weaponry in its own perennially loaded arsenal. Maher used the same line on March 18, 2011 during an obsequious Real Time interview with Israeli ambassador Michael Oren because, hey, when it’s disingenuous and not funny the first time, why not roll it out a year-and-a-half later?
Before wrapping up the Jewish Journal interview, Maher resorted to tossing out some hackneyed hasbara talking points. While it should be remembered that “the Palestinians do have gripes,” he said (yes, gripes), the real threat to Israel is “becoming a minority Jewish state within their own country.” Whose country? Oh, and, yeah, calling for demographic engineering isn’t particularly progressive, Bill. It’s just racist.
Maher of course can’t let the interview end without interjecting the mother of all hasbara canards: that Israeli actions against the Palestinians in Gaza (aka war crimes) are motivated primarily by “self-defense.” As always, the occupied indigenous refugees with homemade rockets and smuggled AK-47s are transformed into eliminationist aggressors while the colonizing occupiers armed with drones, Apache helicopters, F-16 jets, tanks, warships, white phosphorous and nuclear bombs are the innocent victims of senseless anti-Semitic violence. It goes without saying that, for Maher, Palestinians are never entitled to defend themselves.
But remember, as Maher told the Jewish Journal, Judaism simply isn’t a “warlike religion” like the others – despite the fact that a self-proclaimed “Jewish State” was established atop Palestine, its native inhabitants massacred or driven from the land by Zionist militias, its towns, villages, groves and orchards razed and reduced to rubble by Israeli bombs, tank treads and bulldozers.
Never mind that, during the 2008-9 massacre of Gaza known in Israel as Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli military rabbinate actively called upon Jewish soldiers not to “show mercy” towards its “enemy,” comparing Palestinians to ancient Philistines, ripe for righteous slaughter. It disseminated material declaring “a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [the Land of Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses,” and insisting, “We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it.”
Never mind that chief army rabbi, Brigadier General Avichai Rontzki, made it perfectly clear that the rabbinate’s goal in relation to Israeli soldiers was “to fill them with yiddishkeit and a fighting spirit.” In that campaign, the Israeli military killed over 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of whom were non-combatant men, women and children, and wounding thousands upon thousands more in just over three weeks. Despite the worldwide condemnation of Israeli war crimes in Gaza, Rontzki remained convinced that “[i]n Israel’s wars, warriors are God-fearing people, righteous people, people who don’t have sins on their hands.”
Never mind that, in November 2009, rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, an Israeli settler who lives in the illegal West Bank colony of Yitzhar near Nablus, published The King’s Torah, which “describes how it is possible to kill non-Jews according to halakha (Jewish religious law).” According to the Israeli press, “the book contains no fewer than 230 pages on the laws concerning the killing of non-Jews, a kind of guide for anyone who ponders the question of if and when it is permissible to take the life of a non-Jew” and states that, as non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature,” even children are legitimate targets for murder. “One must consider killing even babies,” the book says, “because of the future danger that will be caused if they are allowed to grow up to be as wicked as their parents.”
Never mind that during the most recent Israeli attacks, with the Biblical moniker Operation Pillar of Cloud, Gilad Sharon, son of former Prime Minister/comatose war criminal Ariel Sharon, declared in The Jerusalem Post that – because Hamas won a majority in Parliamentary elections in January 2006 – “the residents of Gaza are not innocent,” urging the Israeli military to “flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza,” just like the United States decimated the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. “There is no middle path here,” Sharon concluded, “either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip.”
Never mind that Knesset minister Michael Ben-Ari echoed Sharon’s sentiments, saying, “There are no innocents in Gaza,” imploring the Israeli military to “mow them!” Referring to Gaza as the Biblical Sodom, Ben-Ari addressed soldiers directly, asserting that “there are no righteous men, turn it into rubble. Paint it red! We are worried about you and rely on you. We all do, all of the Nation of Israel,” an unmistakable reference to all Jewish people worldwide, not merely citizens of the State of Israel.
Never mind that, on November 21, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon declared that “most of the people” in Gaza killed by Israel “deserved it,” falsely claiming that those killed and wounded “were just armed terrorists,” when in fact the vast majority were unarmed civilians, including dozens of women, children and babies.
Never mind that more than 90% of Jewish Israelis supported Israel’s November 2012 bombardment of Gaza. Never mind that roughly 94% supported Cast Lead. Never mind that, according to a recent study, Israel remains the single most militarized nation in the world, a distinction it has held for nearly 20 straight years.
Back in September 2010, Maher told Larry King that, along with Saudi Salafis and the Afghan Taliban, he thought “Hamas is crazy.” When King asked how “a civilized world” should “deal with crazies,” Maher replied, “I would say, first thing is don’t use the Army.” Considering his obvious affinity for and justification of Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza, either Maher somehow exempts the Israeli military from such a prescription or, more appropriately, he doesn’t find Israel to be part of the “civilized world.” It is doubtful Maher would pick the latter option.
To make the point that Maher is uninformed on the topic of Israel and Palestine is obvious. That his enthusiastic promotion of Zionist propaganda and apologia seems not to affect his reputation as a mainstream liberal mouthpiece is considerably more alarming.
- Oh Bill Maher, There You Go Again… (randomrationality.com)
Colombian rebel militants FARC seek dialogue and peace with the country’s government, FARC negotiator Tanja Nijmeijer told RT in an exclusive interview. But despite renewed peace talks, government forces killed at least 20 rebels in a recent attack.
Dutch militant Tanja Nijmeijer – who left the Netherlands 10 years ago to join the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and fight for what she calls social justice – spoke with RT, saying that the rebel organization wants to end the country’s 50-year conflict.
“We as an armed organization have always wanted a dialogue, we’ve always wanted peace, we have always asked for peace,” she said.
“We have not taken the arms because we wanted so. We have taken the arms because the Colombian State and the United States imperialism have obliged us to do so,” Nijmeijer said.
Talks between the Colombian government and FARC over fragile peace negotiations are set to resume in Havana, Cuba, on December 7.
At least 20 left-wing rebels were killed in Colombia on Sunday after airstrikes against their camp near the Ecuadorian border, the army said. The attack came after FARC announced a ceasefire until January 1, 2013, for the negotiations.
“People who are in Colombia want to fight for ideas different from neoliberal are killed,” Nijmeijer told RT. “So how is it possible to participate in politics if people who have other ideas are killed. And that’s the reason of arm struggle in Colombia. That’s the reason why we are still fighting.”
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has set a deadline of November 2013 for an agreement to be reached in the peace talks with FARC. “This has to be a process of months, rather than years. In other words, this should not last any longer than November next year at the latest,” Santos said.
The president’s statement followed an acknowledgement by FARC that it was holding “prisoners of war” – reportedly soldiers or police captured during combat. FARC stated that the prisoners would be freed in exchange for the release of rebels held by the government.
The Colombian government currently detains around 700 rebel prisoners, according to Sandra Ramirez, one of FARC’s representatives.
The US has been criticized for its role in helping the Colombian government kill members of FARC; Washington’s military assistance to Columbia has been directed primarily towards killing FARC militants.
In nearly a half-century of conflict in Columbia, an estimated 600,000 people have died and another 15,000 gone missing. Some 4 million people have also been internally displaced.
Find out more about FARC and the peace process from RT’s full exclusive interview with Tanja Nijmeijer, airing Wednesday at 18:45 GMT.
Protests against Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto during his inauguration on Dec. 1 quickly turned into violent confrontations between police and demonstrators that disrupted much of downtown Mexico City. The protests were called by the National Convention Against the Imposition, a coalition of groups holding that Peña Nieto’s election last July was manipulated, and #YoSoy132 (“I’m number 132”), a student movement that arose in the spring in response to the election campaign [see Update #1130]. But masked youths, many of them wearing black t-shirts with anarchist symbols, quickly became the center of attention at the Dec. 1 demonstration.
The confrontations began around 7 am near the San Lázaro subway and bus stations at the heavily guarded and barricaded Chamber of Deputies, where the inauguration was to take place about three hours later. Determined to break through the metal barriers, the masked youths threw rocks, metal pipes and Molotov cocktails at the federal police, who responded with exceptional violence, using tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons. The media reported that the agents also used rubber bullets; police spokespeople denied the reports. Many #YoSoy132 supporters moved away from the masked youths, as did the famously militant teachers from the southern state of Oaxaca, although both groups organized brigades to assist protesters who were wounded or were overwhelmed by the tear gas.
Dozens of protesters were injured. At around 10 am #YoSoy132 reported that a youth named Carlos Yahir Valdés had been killed by a tear gas canister or a rubber bullet; Adrián Ramírez, president of the Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights (LIMEDDH), said the victim was named Carlos Valdivia and had been seriously wounded but not killed.
Eventually the youths in black moved west towards the Zócalo plaza and then on to the Palacio de Bellas Artes cultural center and the Alameda park. Along the way they smashed windows, streetlights, phone booths and ATMs; looted stores and gas stations; and battled the Mexico City police. At times passers-by supplied the protesters with bricks to throw at the police, while smiling tourists took pictures. At least one private car was destroyed and one motorcycle was set on fire. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/2/12)
During his first day in office, President Peña Nieto announced “13 specific decisions” to improve the situation in Mexico, including a universal social security system, life insurance for heads of households, educational reforms, and revival of passenger railroads. He also promised to maintain a zero deficit in the budget while carrying out his programs. (LJ 12/2/12)
Outgoing president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012)–whose militarized fight against drug trafficking set off the violence in which 50,000 Mexicans died, according to critics—is planning to leave Mexico, at least temporarily. On Nov. 28 Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced that Calderón will hold a one-year fellowship at the school starting in January. “This fellowship will be a tremendous opportunity for me to reflect upon my six years in office,” Calderón said in a statement.
Calderón received a master’s degree from the Kennedy school in 2000. The Reuters wire service noted that other recent students at the school include Bo Guagua, son of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai, and Paula Broadwell, co-author of a book about former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned after acknowledging that he’d had an affair with her. (Reuters 11/28/12) Another former student was the late Guatemalan general Héctor Alejandro Gramajo Morales. At his graduation in June 1991 human rights activists served Gramajo with court papers for a federal civil suit under the Alien Tort Claims Act; nine Guatemalans charged him with acts of torture, abduction and murder during counterinsurgency operations in western Guatemala in 1982, when he was army chief of staff. Gramajo lost that and another human rights suit later in the year by default [see Update #737].
- Photos: Protests as Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto takes office (photos.denverpost.com)
Against the sharply contrasting backdrop of violent conflicts in the streets and carefully staged official events, Enrique Peña Nieto took office yesterday. The general outlines of the plan for his six-year term, although still not detailed, reveal proposed changes not unlike the new president–mostly cosmetic and devoted to appearances on the surface.
After taking the oath of office in the Chamber of Deputies at San Lazaro and swearing in his cabinet, the newly inaugurated president appeared before guests at the National Palace in the central plaza to deliver his first speech as Chief Executive.
Peña Nieto began his speech with a rapid pass through Mexican history, citing pre-hispanic and Spanish culture, the liberal and revolutionary currents and “the recent past”. Without mentioning the PRI, he emphasized the orderly change of power since 1934 and “accelerating democracy”, ironically dating from 1968–the year his party massacred hundreds of students in Tlatelolco.
He concluded with what would be the tonic of the speech-that Mexico is “ready to take off” and “everyone agrees that we have an historic opportunity.” His speech centered on the “Mexican Moment”, the idea of a turning point when Mexico would finally enter into a period of peace, prosperity and global recognition.
He did mention the challenges along the way, stating that Mexico is a nation that “grows at two speeds, one of progress and development and the other in backwardness and poverty” and citing the lack of employment and educational opportunities. His speech included a number of specific if not detailed measures that provide fodder for analysis.
Peña Nieto began with the “five strategic points” of his new government:
1. Mexico at peace: Peña offered to “put the citizen at the center of security policy.” He referred to this as a “change in paradigm”, without mentioning the drug war by name or the 60 to 80,000 killed under this model during the Calderon administration. He promised greater coordination between agencies and an effort to combat impunity and concluded, “There can be no security as long as there is no justice.”
2. An inclusive Mexico: Peña Nieto promoted to build an “inclusive” Mexico and close the gap of inequality so all mothers and fathers can support their families. He said Mexico should become a fair, middle-class society.
3. Quality education for all: that educates students to be responsible and committed to their communities.
4. Economic growth: through greater competitiveness, more credit, more investment in infrastructure, strengthening the domestic market and expanding the global market so Mexico can take its place as an emerging economy.
5. Mexico as a responsible global actor: Participation in the world through modern diplomacy, so Mexico becomes a factor of stability in the world and a voice that defends liberty. He also used this point to thank the leaders from abroad present.
Behind the promises
The five points are formulated in vague terms, as is usually the case with presidential promises. However, we can use what was said to anticipate the challenges and possible contradictions they pose, and gauge the political will to carry them out over the next six years.
Security policy. Peña Nieto explicitly referred to “a change in paradigm”. This is notable, since it is what the peace movement and critical analysts (CIP Americas Program among them) have been calling for for years. But there is very little in the strategic point or the “13 decisions” listed afterward to back it up.
A real change in paradigm would require two measures that the Peña government has said it will not take: withdrawing the armed forces from counternarcotics efforts and renegotiating security cooperation with the U.S. government. Peña has proposed a “gendarmery”, which is a militarized police force, or a military force charged with police duties among civilian populations. This is what Mexico already has, as the lines between police and military have been blurred precisely by the drug war. Without a plan for reducing militarization, promises to “rethink” the drug war pale.
The U.S. government has actively promoted and supported the drug war model of enforcement and interdiction through the Merida Initiative and spearheaded the massive expansion of U.S. counternarcotics activities in the country. Although both the US and Mexican governments have privately (in Wikileaks cables) and publicly admitted that the strategy has not worked — they insist it’s just a matter of time–the response is to continue with no major adjustments or real evaluations.
U.S. defense, intelligence and security companies depend on the Mexican drug war to obtain multi-million dollar government contracts. The Pentagon and other U.S. agencies have achieved unprecedented freedom to act and even direct actions on Mexican soil as a result of the Merida Initiative. The hawks in government and the war industry will not give that up easily. Peña Nieto knows that and he also knows that his nation’s economy is highly dependent on its northern neighbor. U.S. politicians worried aloud that his government would attempt to negotiate deals with drug cartels, an option which is practically impossible now due to the changes in structures of organized crime. Peña Nieto has reassured the U.S. that his administration will continue the drug war. That means continued deaths, disappearances and social upheaval. There is no mention of redefining security or human security, although the concept of putting the citizen in the center, rather the state, could be construed as coming closer to that concept.
Referring to the need for justice and eliminating impunity is a politically correct but unsubstantiated move. Impunity underlies government institutions and the corruption of the justice system historically is a PRI construct. Impunity has to be attacked from above, because it has been condoned and even promoted from above for so long. The examples of what has happened to former PRI governors accused of serious crimes against the population such as Ulises Ruiz in Oaxaca and Mario Marín in Puebla and even Peña Nieto himself for his role in the murders and rapes in the community of Atenco are illustrative. Nothing at all has happened to them. The teflon coating of PRI politicians has been carefully preserved, with a few notable exceptions such as ex-governors Tomas Yarrington (charged and on the run) and Mario Villanueva (extradited to the U.S.), who have been prosecuted for drug war crimes at the behest of U.S. authorities.
Economic policy:Making Mexico truly “inclusive” would require some structural changes in economic policy that are not likely to come about in a Peña government. The goal of this strategy is largely contradicted by the formula for economic growth indicated in the fourth point and in other statements by the new president.
He has committed to deepening rather than fixing NAFTA, meaning the countryside will continue to be decimated by unfair competition with subsidized U.S. agricultural imports and the state is barred from basic measures such as favoring national industries in purchases and contracting or protecting vulnerable sectors from oblivion. Strengthening the internal market while expanding the global market sounds great, very balanced, but in reality they require different, and often contradictory, policies.
For example, building a strong domestic market requires supporting national production, which is logical and needed but prohibited under neoliberal trade rules, where Mexico is a world leader in signing draconian free trade agreements. It also requires having a population with purchasing power, while emphasizing foreign investment and being competitive on a global market rigged against workers requires suppressing salaries–something Mexican governments have been doing over the past three decades of PRI and PAN governments.
The laudable goal of investment in infrastructure begs the question of ‘investment for who?’ and leaves open how the administration will deal with controversial infrastructure projects that violate indigenous and human rights. More credit would be a good idea, but up to now what little has been available has gone overwhelmingly to large and powerful producers, further skewing the distribution of income.
Improving education: This requires two major moves–devoting more public resources to education and taking on the entrenched leadership of the corrupt teachers’ union. Several analysts have stated that the appointment of Emilio Chauyfett as Secretary of Education is a blow to Elba Esther Gordillo, the life-long leader of the teachers’ union (SNTE). I am not convinced.
Gordillo is a political operator who climbed to the top by wielding the power of an enormous machine for generating votes and political clientele. This machine was created and sustained by the PRI. Her capacity to exchange favors allows her to call the shots in the nation’s education system. To change that would require democratizing the union. The principle forces to democratize do, and must, come from below. The CNTE, organized to crack open the patronage and corruption of the union, is largely anti-PRI and opposed Peña Nieto. His administration is unlikely to do anything that would strengthen the grassroots union democracy (his party blocked the transparency in union matters part of the labor reform) or permanently alienate the SNTE leadership.
Global affairs: So little of substance was said here that it’s hard to know what the Peña administration will change. The written version speaks of restoring Mexico’s rightful place in the concert of nations” as a “country supportive and committed to the best causes of humanity”. It’s anyone’s guess what that refers to. Peña Nieto told Wolf Blitzer of CNN, who pointedly asked what relations with Castro and Hugo Chavez would be like, that he would be building relations in the south and north. This is a recognition that the PAN governments were early exclusively oriented northward to the U.S. and hostile to center-left governments of the South.
Mexico has at times acted as a U.S. proxy in the region, causing other countries to view it with certain suspicion. The U.S. government has actively used the Mexican government in this sense. As the Obama administration pushes divisions in the region with the Pathways to Prosperity program that allies only nations that agreed to sign free trade agreements with the US and increasing military presence of allied countries under the drug war strategy, it will not be easy for Peña Nieto to trace a neutral or balanced foreign policy within the hemisphere, if that is indeed the objective.
Opposition organizations have vowed to shift their efforts from challenges to the elections to challenges to policies they believe are harmful to the country. The center-left leader and former candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador refused to recognize the new president and is building a new party. The youth movement now is stunned and angered by the violent response of the police while also calling on its members to reject violent confrontation.
The most commonly heard phrase from analysts following Peña Nieto’s inaugural speech, is “the devil’s in the details”. Although Peña Nieto followed up on these five strategic points with 13 decisions that included more specific actions, he still left much room to speculate.
Political promises are often, if not usually, set aside when the real task of governing begins, and one is left to wonder if they were sincere and not practical, or designed to build an image, not a government. The PRI is well-practiced in the art of simulation, of developing a public discourse and a backroom practice.
In any case, the country and the rest of the world now have more clues as to what the return of the PRI will mean for Mexico, for the United States and for the region.
Laura Carlsen is Director of the CIP Americas Program in Mexico City http://www.cipamericas.org.
Unidentified men on motorcycles shot Honduran campesino Adelmo Leiva dead the morning of Nov. 25 as he was waiting for a bus with his wife and daughter in Trujillo, in the northern department of Colón. Leiva was a member of the Despertar Cooperative, one of the cooperatives forming the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA). Along with other campesino organizations, MARCA has sponsored occupations of estates in the Lower Aguán River Valley in Colón since December 2009 to regain land that the campesinos say big landowners bought illegally in the 1990s.
Although some of the land disputes have been settled this year, other struggles continue, as has the killing of campesinos [see Update #1151]. According to the French wire service Agence France Presse, the number of dead in the violence over the past three years is now about 90, the great majority of them campesinos. After Leiva’s murder the Honduran branch of the international campesino movement Vía Campesina said that living in the Aguán region involved “high risk.” “The terror appears to be a well thought-out strategy to provoke a mass exodus from the zone with pernicious and dangerous objectives,” the group charged. (Adital (Brazil) 11/26/12; AFP 11/26/12 via La Tribuna (Honduras))
- Stop World Bank Funding Of ‘Death Squads’ In Honduras (intercontinentalcry.org)
- Honduras: Now Open for Political Murder (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The FBI has the e-mails of nearly all US citizens, including congressional members, according to NSA whistleblower William Binney. Speaking to RT he warned that the government can use information against anyone it wants.
One of the best mathematicians and code breakers in NSA history resigned in 2001 because he no longer wanted to be associated with alleged violations of the constitution.
He asserts, that the FBI has access to this data due to a powerful device Naris.
This year Binney received the Callaway award. The annual award was established to recognize those, who stand out for constitutional rights and American values at great risk to their personal or professional lives.
RT: In light of the Petraeus/Allen scandal while the public is so focused on the details of their family drama one may argue that the real scandal in this whole story is the power, the reach of the surveillance state. I mean if we take General Allen – thousands of his personal e-mails have been sifted through private correspondence. It’s not like any of those men was planning an attack on America. Does the scandal prove the notion that there is no such thing as privacy in a surveillance state?
William Binney: Yes, that’s what I’ve been basically saying for quite some time, is that the FBI has access to the data collected, which is basically the e-mails of virtually everybody in the country. And the FBI has access to it. All the congressional members are on the surveillance too, no one is excluded. They are all included. So, yes, this can happen to anyone. If they become a target for whatever reason – they are targeted by the government, the government can go in, or the FBI, or other agencies of the government, they can go into their database, pull all that data collected on them over the years, and we analyze it all. So, we have to actively analyze everything they’ve done for the last 10 years at least.
RT:And it’s not just about those, who could be planning, who could be a threat to national security, but also those, who could be just…
WB: It’s everybody. The Naris device if it takes in the entire line, so it takes in all the data. In fact they advertised they can process the lines at session rates, which means 10 gigabit lines. I forgot the name of the device (it’s not the Naris) – the other one does it at 10 gigabits. That’s why the building Buffdale, because they have to have more storage, because they can’t figure out what’s important, so they are just storing everything there. So, e-mails are going to be stored there for the future, but right now stored in different places around the country. But it is being collected – and the FBI has access to it.
RT:You mean it’s being collected in bulk without even requesting providers?
RT:Then what about Google, you know, releasing this biannual transparency report and saying that the government’s demands for personal data is at an all-time high and for all of those requesting the US, Google says they complied with the government’s demands 90% of the time. But they are still saying that they are making the request, it’s not like it’s all being funneled into that storage. What do you say to that?
WB: I would assume, that it’s just simply another source for the same data they are already collecting. My line is in declarations in a court about the 18-T facility in San Francisco, that documented the NSA room inside that AST&T facility, where they had Naris devices to collect data off the fiber optic lines inside the United States. So, that’s kind of a powerful device, that would collect everything it was being sent. It could collect on the order over one hundred billion one thousand character e-mails a day. One device.
RT:You say they sift through billions of e-mails. I wonder how do they prioritize? How do they filter it?
WB: I don’t think they are filtering it. They are just storing it. I think it’s just a matter of selecting when they want it. So, if they want to target you, they would take your attributes, go into that database and pull out all your data.
RT:Were you on the target list?
WB: Oh, sure! I believe I’ve been on it for quite a few years. So I keep telling them everything I think of them in my e-mail. So that when they want to read it they’ll understand what I think of them.
RT:Do you think we all should leave messages for the NSA mail box?
RT:You blew the whistle on the agency when George W. Bush was the President. With President Obama in office, in your opinion, has anything changed at the agency – in the surveillance program? In what direction is this administration moving?
WB: The change is it’s getting worse. They are doing more. He is supporting the building of the Buffdale facility, which is over two billion dollars they are spending on storage room for data. That means that they are collecting a lot more now and need more storage for it. That facility by my calculations that I submitted to the court for the electronic frontiers foundation against NSA would hold on the order of 5 zettabytes of data. Just that current storage capacity is being advertised on the web that you can buy. And that’s not talking about what they have in the near future.
RT:What are they going to do with all of that? Ok, they are storing something. Why should anybody be concerned?
WB: If you ever get on the enemies list, like Petraeus did or… for whatever reason, than you can be drained into that surveillance.
RT:Do you think they would… General Petraeus, who was idolized by the same administration? Or General Allen?
WB: There are certainly some questions, that have to be asked, like why would they target it (to begin with)? What law were they breaking?
RT:In case of General Petraeus one would argue that there could have been security breaches. Something like that. But with General Allen – I don’t quite understand, because when they were looking into his private e-mails to this woman.
WB: That’s the whole point. I am not sure what the internal politics is… That’s part of the program. This government doesn’t want things in the public. It’s not a transparent government. Whatever the reason or the motivation was, I don’t really know, but I certainly think, that there was something going on in the background, that made them target those fellows. Otherwise why would they be doing it? There is no crime there.
RT:It seems that the public is divided between those, who think that the government surveillance program violates their civil liberties, and those, who say: “I’ve nothing to hide. So, why should I care?” What do you say to those, who think that it shouldnt concern them.
WB: The problem is if they think they are not doing anything that’s wrong, they don’t get to define that. The central government does, the central government defines what is right and wrong and whether or not they target you. So, it’s not up to the individuals. Even if they think they are doing something wrong, if their position on something is against what the administration has, then they could easily become a target.
RT:Tell me about the most outrageous thing that you came across during your work at the NSA.
WB: The violations of the constitution and any number of laws that existed at the time. That was the part that I could not be associated with. That’s why I left. They were building social networks on who is communicating and with whom inside this country. So that the entire social network of everybody, of every US citizen was being compiled overtime. So, they are taking from one company alone roughly 320 million records a day. That’s probably accumulated probably close to 20 trillion over the years. The original program that we put together to handle this to be able to identify terrorists anywhere in the world and alert anyone that they were in jeopardy. We would have been able to do that by encrypting everybody’s communications except those, who were targets. So, in essence you would protect their identities and the information about them until you could develop probable cause, and once you showed your probable cause, then you could do a decrypt and target them. And we could do that and isolate those people all alone. It wasn’t a problem at all. There was no difficulty in that.
RT:It sounds very difficult and very complicated. Easier to take everything in and…
WB: No. It’s easier to use the graphing techniques, if you will, for the relationships for the world to filter out data, so that you don’t have to handle all that data. And it doesn’t burden you with a lot more information to look at, than you really need to solve the problem.
RT:Do you think that the agency doesn’t have the filters now?
RT:You have received the Callaway award for civic courage. Congratulations! On the website and in the press release it says: “It is awarded to those, who stand out for constitutional rights and American values at great risk to their personal or professional lives.” Under the code of spy ethics (I don’t know if there is such a thing) your former colleagues, they probably look upon you as a traitor. How do you look back at them?
WB: That’s pretty easy. They are violating the foundation of this entire country. Why this entire government was formed? It’s founded with the constitution and the rights were given to the people in the country under that constitution. They are in violation of that. And under executive order 13526, section 1.7 (governing classification) – you can not classify information to just cover up a crime, which this is- and that was signed by President Obama. Also President Bush signed it earlier executive order, a very similar one. If any of this comes into Supreme court and they rule it unconstitutional, then the entire house of cards of the government falls.
RT:What are the chances of that? What are the odds?
WB: The government is doing the best they can to try to keep it out of court. And, of course, we are trying to do the best we can to get into court. So, we decided it deserves a ruling from the Supreme court. Ultimately the court is supposed to protect the constitution. All these people in the government take an oath to defend the constitution. And they are not living up to the oath of office.
RT:Thank you for this interview.
WB: You are welcome.
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has captured a US ScanEagle drone over the Persian Gulf waters upon its intrusion into the Iranian airspace.
IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi made the announcement on Tuesday, adding that the Iranian armed forces enjoy full intelligence command over foreign movements in the Persian Gulf region.
Referring to the captured ScanEagle drone, the Iranian commander pointed out, “Such drones are usually launched from large aircraft carriers.”
The ScanEagle drone, which has a 10ft (3m) wingspan, is a long-endurance aircraft built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing.
Iran has released footage of the captured drone.
A report on the website of the Wall Street Journal on Sunday cited US officials as saying that Washington has stepped up its spying operations on Bushehr nuclear plant in southern Iran “over the past two months”. The report said that the increased spying missions by the US on the Iranian nuclear facility “has been conducted in part with the Pentagon’s fleet of drones operating over the Persian Gulf.”
Commander Fadavi further said that the IRGC Navy is fully monitoring all the movements of the foreign forces in the Persian Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz to counter any potential threats against the country.
Earlier in December 2011, the Iranian military also grounded a US RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft while it was flying over the Iranian city of Kashmar, some 140 miles (225km) from the Afghan border.
The US RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft was downed with minimal damage by the Iranian Army’s electronic warfare unit. The drone was one of America’s most advanced spy aircraft.
Last month, Iran repelled a US drone that had entered the country’s airspace above the territorial waters of the Islamic Republic in the Persian Gulf.
Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Aerospace Division of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), said that the drone had been driven away by Iranian forces as it attempted to gather intelligence around Kharg Island in southern Iran.
Hajizadeh also warned that the country’s armed forces would respond with stronger action if US drones attempted to violate Iran’s airspace again.
- Navy: No US drones missing after Iran claim (news.yahoo.com)