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The Chinese-Russian ‘Power of Siberia’ … thanks to EU, US foot-in-mouth

By Dmitry Babich | The BRICS Post | May 22, 2014

The Russian press is rarely unanimous in its opinions, but there are two points in today’s coverage of the Russia-China gas deal where all the experts agree.

First, it is not yet clear whether the new deal is a boon for Russia.

But it is certainly a huge failure for the US and the European Union, who lose out on Eastern Siberia’s gas.

Second, in light of the sharp deterioration of Russia’s relations with the West because of the mishandled Western-supported “revolution” in Ukraine, the deal with China now becomes a strategic necessity for Moscow.

The West’s hostile attitudes toward both Russia and China (during his Asia tour last month, US President Barack Obama sided 100 per cent with Japan and the Philippines in their maritime disputes with China), pushed Beijing and Moscow closer together.

The Russo-Chinese contract, which had been in the works for 10 years, was finalized at 4 O’clock in the morning on Wednesday, on the second day of the visit to Beijing by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It became a dramatic ending to several months of marathon negotiations.

The new contract is supposed to determine the next 30 years of Russo-Chinese cooperation in developing the Russian natural gas fields in Siberia (the eastern part of Russia) and the Russian Far East.

According to the words of Alexei Miller, the head of Russia’s largest gas company, Gazprom, the total cost of the contract is $400 billion.

The volume of gas to be delivered is estimated at a gargantuan amount of over 1 trillion cubic metres. Mr. Miller refused to reveal the price tag, as it is usually done after signing these sorts of deals.

He simply said it was a “commercial secret” for the moment.

“The Force of Siberia”

Nevertheless, most experts agree that Russia has been lucky to sign the deal.

The competition among countries willing to supply energy to China is very intense.

In the ten years that have passed since the start of Russo-Chinese negotiations on the deal, Beijing managed to sign contracts with several Central Asian states, including Turkmenistan, a country boasting gas deposits second only to Russia’s in the former Soviet Union.

Experts estimate an average price of $387 per thousand cubic metres for the 38 billion cubic meters of gas Russia is going to supply to China in the first years of deliveries beginning in 2018.

The deliveries will start once the construction of the pipeline nicknamed “The Force of Siberia” has been completed.

The pipeline is supposed to connect the Russian gas reserves in Eastern and possibly (in future) Western Siberia with the Chinese border.

The project will require investments, which both Russia and China agreed to provide.

The Russian participation is estimated at $55 billion and the Chinese are expected to add $22 billion.

Alexander Birman, a journalist specializing in energy issues, writes in the respected Russian daily Izvestia that the Chinese leader Xi Jinping showed a certain nicety to his Russian counterpart, since he did not pressure Moscow given its deteriorated ties with the EU and US.

“If the West had started applying the so called “sector-geared” economic sanctions, targeting Russia’s energy companies – if such sanctions had been applied, even the price of $350 [per thousand cubic metres of gas] would look good to Gazprom [Russia’s leading energy provider],” he writes of the gas deal.

However, Birman notes that the current standoff between Russia and the West is hurting first and foremost the West’s long-term interests.

(This standoff was made possible by the coup d’etat in Ukraine at the end of February when the legally elected president Viktor Yanukovich was toppled by crowds of pro-Western protesters in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.)

“Having assured for itself the supply of cheap energy, China will reaffirm its position as the world’s most competitive cost-cutting workshop,” Birman writes.

Obama, the pro-Russian lobbyist?

For Russia, diversifying the directions of its gas supplies has become a vital necessity.

The gas deal opens a market corridor for Gazprom to potentially access Asian super guzzlers Japan and South Korea, and allow it to become a player in the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) sector.

This is particularly poignant when considering that EU ministers day and night publicize how they want to decrease their “energy dependence” on Russia.

The Soviet Union and Russia have maintained a good reputation with the West since they began supplying gas to Western Europe in the 1960s.

There was a ‘pause’ only once in the winter of 2008-2009, when the Ukrainian authorities stole the Russian gas destined for Western Europe.

Despite this reputation, however, EU member countries make no secret of their preference for gas from Qatar, Algeria, Norway or even the US, where fracking technology has led to a surplus of gas at the domestic market.

“Politically, the Russo-Chinese contract is a success,” says Grigory Vygon, the Director of the Energy Center of the prestigious Skolkovo Business School, near Moscow.

“The Ukrainian risks and the position of Europe make diversification a vital necessity.”

One could add that Obama revealed himself (inadvertently) to be the best lobbyist for Russo-Chinese rapprochement during his recent visits to countries having territorial disputes with China.

By directly supporting the “revolution” in Kiev and by lending support to all of China’s challengers in the South China Sea and East China Sea, Obama helped Moscow and Beijing to bridge during their intense negotiations the gap in desired prices for their mammoth deal.

~

Dmitry Babich is a senior journalist based in Moscow who has worked with the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, Moscow News and Ria Novosti. He is currently a political analyst for Voice of Russia.

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Comments Off on The Chinese-Russian ‘Power of Siberia’ … thanks to EU, US foot-in-mouth

Congress reaffirms indefinite detention of Americans under NDAA

RT | May 22, 2014

The US House of Representatives approved an annual defense spending bill early Thursday after rejecting a proposed amendment that would have prevented the United States government from indefinitely detaining American citizens.

An amendment introduced in the House on Wednesday this week asked that Congress repeal a controversial provision placed in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 that has ever since provided the executive branch with the power to arrest and detain indefinitely any US citizen thought to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda or associated organizations.

“This amendment would eliminate indefinite detention in the United States and its territories,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington), a co-author of the failed amendment, said during floor debate on Wednesday, “So basically anybody that we captured, who we suspected of terrorist activity, would no longer be subject to indefinite detention, as is now, currently, the law.”

“That is an enormous amount of power to give the executive, to take someone and lock them up without due process,” Smith added. “It is an enormous amount of power to grant the executive, and I believe places liberty and freedom at risk in this country.”

Pres. Barack Obama vowed when he signed the 2012 NDAA into law on December 31, 2011 that he would not use the indefinite detention powers provided to him by Congress. When that provision was challenged in federal court, however, the White House fought back adamantly and appealed a District Court ruling that initially reversed the indefinite detention clause, eventually sending the challenge to the Supreme Court where it stalled until earlier this month when the justices there said they would not consider the case.

The bill sponsored by Smith and co-author Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia) would have given the legislative branch a chance to repeal the same provisions that SCOTUS declined to hear, but the bipartisan amendment failed on a vote of 191 to 230.

A separate proposal from Rep. Smith meant to expedite the shut-down of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was also rejected early Thursday; an amendment from Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Florida) intended to cut federal funding for recreational facilities at Gitmo, however, was approved in the NDAA draft that left the House on Thursday.

On Twitter, Smith said he was “disappointed” but “won’t stop fighting to pass this critical legislation.”

And while the White House is unlikely to abandon its own fight with regards to keeping the indefinite detention provision intact, the Obama administration threatened to veto this year’s NDAA because it would continue to complicate the president’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay facility — a vow older than his own administration.

“If this year’s Defense Authorization bill continues unwarranted restrictions regarding Guantanamo detainees, the president will veto the bill,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement Wednesday evening.

When the 2011 NDAA passed Congress with the controversial indefinite detention provision included, the White House said at the time that it would veto the legislation before Pres. Obama eventually balked.

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Comments Off on Congress reaffirms indefinite detention of Americans under NDAA

Capitalists, Technocrats and Fanatics: The Ascent of a New Power Bloc

By James Petras :: 05.21.2014

Introduction

The sweeping electoral victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India is the latest expression of the world-wide advance of a new power bloc which promises to impose a New World Order harnessing ethno-religious fanaticism and narrowly trained technocrats to capitalist absolutism.

The far-right is no longer at the margins of western political discourse. It is center-stage. It is no longer dependent on contributions by local militants; it receives financing from the biggest global corporations. It is no longer dismissed by the mass media. It receives feature coverage, highlighting its ‘dynamic and transformative’ leadership.

Today capitalists everywhere confront great uncertainty, as markets crash and endemic corruption at the highest levels erode competitive markets. Throughout the world, large majorities of the labor force question, challenge and resist the massive transfers of public wealth to an ever reduced oligarchy. Electoral politics no longer define the context for political opposition.

Capitalism, neither in theory nor practice, advances through reason and prosperity. It relies on executive fiats, media manipulation and arbitrary police state intrusions. It increasingly relies on death squads dubbed “Special Forces” and a ‘reserve army’ of para-military fanatics.

The new power bloc is the merger of big business, the wealthy professional classes, upwardly mobile, elite trained technocrats and cadres of ethno-religious fanatics who mobilize the masses.

Capitalism and imperialism advances by uprooting millions, destroying local communities and economies, undermining local trade and production, exploiting labor and repressing social solidarity. Everywhere it erodes community and class solidarity.

Ethno-Religious Fanatics and Elite Technocrats

Today capitalism depends on two seemingly disparate forces. The irrational appeal of ethno-religious supremacists and narrowly trained elite technocrats to advance the rule of capital. Ethno-religious fanatics seek to promote bonds between the corporate-warlord elite and the masses, by appealing to their ‘common’ religious ethnic identities.

The technocrats serve the elite by developing the information systems, formulating the images and messages deceiving and manipulating the masses and designing their economic programs.

The political leaders meet with the corporate elite and warlords to set the political-economic agenda, deciding when to rely on the technocrats and when to moderate or unleash the ethno-religious fanatics.

Imperialism operates via the marriage of science and ethno-religious fanaticism- and both are harnessed to capitalist domination and exploitation.

India: Billionaires, Hindu Fascists and IT “Savants”

The election of Narendra Modi, leader of the BJP and long-time member of the Hindu fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) para-military organization was based on three essential components:

(1) Multi-billion rupee funding from corporate India at home and abroad.

(2) Thousands of upwardly mobile IT technocrats mounting a massive propaganda campaign.

(3) Hundreds of thousands of RSS activists spreading the “Hindutva” racist doctrine among millions of villagers.

The Modi regime promises his capitalist backers that he will “open India”– namely end the land reserves of the tribes, convert farmland to industrial parks, deregulate labor and environmental controls.

To the Brahmin elite he promises to end compensatory quotas for lower castes, the untouchables, the minorities and Muslims. For the Hindu fascists he promises more temples. For foreign capitalists he promises entry into all formerly protected economic sectors. For the US, Modi promises closer working relations against China, Russia and Iran… The BJP’s ethno-religious Hindu fanaticism resonates with Israel’s notion of a “pure”Jewish state. Modi and Netanyahu have longstanding ties and promise close working relations based on similar ethno-racist doctrines.

Turkey: The Transition to Islamic-Capitalist Authoritarianism

Turkey under the rule of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party has moved decisively toward one-man rule: linking Islam to big capital and police state repression. Erdogan’s ‘triple alliance’ is intent on unleashing mega-capitalist projects, based on the privatization of public spaces and the dispossession of popular neighborhoods. He opened the door to unregulated privatization of mines, communications, banks – leading to exponential growth of profits and the decline of employment security and a rising toll of worker deaths. Erdogan has shed the mask of ‘moderate Islam’ and embraced the jihadist mercenaries invading Syria and legislation expanding religious prerogatives in secular life. Erdogan has launched massive purges of journalists, public officials, civil servants, judges and military officers. He has replaced them with ‘party loyalists’; Erdogan fanatics!

Erdogan has recruited a small army of technocrats who design his mega projects and provide the political infrastructure and programs for his electoral campaigns. Technocrats provide a development agenda that accommodates the foreign and domestic crony corporate elite.

The Anatolian Islamists, small and medium provincial business elite, form the mass base – mobilizing voters, by appealing to chauvinist and ethnocentric beliefs. Erdogan’s repressive, Islamist, capitalist regime’s embrace of the “free market” has been sharply challenged especially in light of the worst mining massacre in Turkish history: the killing of over 300 miners due to corporate negligence and regime complicity. Class polarization threatens the advance of Turkish fascism.

Israel and the “Jewish State”: Billionaires , Ethno-Religious Fanatics and Technocrats

Israel, according to its influential promoters in the US, is a ‘model democracy’. The public pronouncements and the actions of its leaders thoroughly refute that notion. The driving force of Israeli politics is the idea of dispossessing and expelling all Palestinians and converting Israel into a ‘pure’ Jewish state. For decades Israel, funded and colonized by the diaspora, have violently seized Palestinian lands, dispossessed millions and are in the process of Judaizing what remains of the remnant in the “Occupied Territories”.

The Israeli economy is dominated by billionaires. Its “society” is permeated by a highly militarized state. Its highly educated technocrats serve the military-industrial and ethno-religious elite. Big business shares power with both.

High tech Israeli’s apply their knowledge to furthering the high growth, military industrial complex. Medical specialists participate in testing the endurance of Palestinian prisoners undergoing torture (“interrogation”). Highly trained psychologists engage in psych-warfare to gain collaborators among vulnerable Palestinian families. Economists and political scientists, with advanced degrees from prestigious US and British universities (and ‘dual citizenship’) formulate policies furthering the land grabs of neo-fascist settlers. Israel’s best known novelist, Amos Oz condemned the neo-fascist settlers who defecate on the embers of burnt-out mosques.

Billionaire real estate moguls bid up house prices and rents “forcing” many “progressive” Israelies, who occasionally protest, to take the easy road of moving into apartments built on land illegally and violently seized from dispossessed Palestinians. ‘Progressives’ join neo-fascist vigilantes in common colonial settlements. Prestigious urbanologists further the goals of crude ethno-racist political leaders by designing new housing in Occupied Lands. Prominent social scientists trade on their US education to promote Mid-East wars designed by vulgar warlords. Building the Euro American Empire: Riff-Raff of the World Unite!

Empire building is a dirty business. And while the political leaders directing it, feign respectability and are adept at rolling out the moral platitudes and high purposes, the ‘combatants’ they employ are a most unsavory lot of armed thugs, journalistic verbal assassins and highly respected international jurists who prey on victims and exonerate imperial criminals.

In recent years Euro-American warlords have employed “the scum of the slaughterhouse” to destroy political adversaries in Libya, Syria and the Ukraine.

In Libya lacking any semblance of a respectable middle-class democratic proxy, the Euro-American empire builders armed and financed murderous tribal bands, notorious jihadist terrorists, contrabandist groups, arms and drug smugglers. The Euro-Americans counted on a pocketful of educated stooges holed up in London to subdue the thugs, privatize Libya’s oil fields and convert the country into a recruiting ground and launch pad for exporting armed mercenaries for other imperial missions.

The Libyan riff-raff were not satisfied with a paycheck and facile dismissal: they murdered their US paymaster, chased the technocrats back to Europe and set-up rival fiefdoms. Gadhafi was murdered, but so went Libya as a modern viable state. The arranged marriage of Euro-American empire builders, western educated technocrats and the armed riff-raff was never consummated. In the end the entire imperial venture ended up as a petty squabble in the American Congress over who was responsible for the murder of the US Ambassador in Benghazi.

The Euro-American-Saudi proxy war against Syria follows the Libyan script. Thousands of Islamic fundamentalists are financed, armed, trained and transported from bases in Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Libya to violently overthrow the Bashar Assad government in Syria. The world’s most retrograde fundamentalists travel to the Euro-American training bases in Jordan and Turkey and then proceed to invade Syria, seizing towns, executing thousands of alleged ‘regime loyalists’ and planting car bombs in densely populated city centers.

The fundamentalist influx soon overwhelmed the London based liberals and their armed groups.

The jihadist terrorists fragmented into warring groups fighting over the Syrian oil fields. Hundreds were killed and thousands fled to Government controlled regions. Euro-US strategists, having lost their original liberal mercenaries, turned toward one or another of the fundamentalist groups. No longer in control of the ‘politics’ of the terrorists, Euro-US strategists sought to inflect the maximum destruction on Syrian society. Rejecting a negotiated settlement, the Euro-US strategists turned their backs on the internal political opposition challenging Assad via presidential elections.

In the Ukraine, the Euro-Americans backed a junta of servile neo-liberal technocrats, oligarchical kleptocrats and neo-Nazis, dubbed Svoboda and the Right Sector. The latter were the “shock troops” to overthrow the elected government, massacre the federalist democrats in Odessa and the eastern Ukraine, and back the junta appointed oligarchs serving as “governors”.

The entire western mass media white-washed the savage assaults carried out by the neo-Nazis in propping up the Kiev junta. The powerful presence of the neo-fascists in key ministries, their strategic role as front line fighters attacking eastern cities controlled by pro-democracy militants, establishes them as central actors in converting the Ukraine into a military outpost of NATO.

Euro-America Empire Building and the Role of Riff-Raff

Everywhere the Euro-American imperialists choose to expand – they rely on the ‘scum of the earth’: tribal gangs in Libya, fundamentalist terrorists in Syria, neo-Nazis in the Ukraine.

Is it by choice or necessity? Clearly few consequential democrats would lend themselves to the predatory and destructive assaults on existing regimes which Euro-US strategists design. In the course of imperial wars, the local producers, workers, ordinary citizens would “self-destroy”, whatever the outcome. Hence the empire builders look toward ‘marginal groups’, those with no stake in society or economy. Those alienated from any primary or secondary groups. Footloose fundamentalists fit that bill – provided they are paid, armed and allowed to carry their own ideological baggage. Neo-Nazis hostile to democracy have no qualms about serving empire builders who share their ideological hostility to democrats, socialists, federalists and culturally ‘diverse’ societies and states. So they are targeted for recruitment by the empire builders.

The riff-raff consider themselves ‘strategic allies’ of the Euro-American empire builders. The latter, however, have no strategic allies – only strategic interests. Their tactical alliances with the riff-raff endure until they secure control over the state and eliminate their adversaries. Then the imperialists seek to demote, co-opt, marginalize or eliminate their ‘inconvenient’ riff-raff allies. The falling out comes about when the fundamentalists and neo-Nazis seek to restrict capital, especially foreign capital and impose restrictions on imperial control over resources and territory. At first the empire builders seek ‘opportunists’ among the riff-raff, those willing to sacrifice their ‘ideals’ for money and office. Those who refuse are relegated to secondary positions distant from strategic decision-making or to remote outposts. Those who resist are assassinated or jailed. The disposal of the riff-raff serves the empire on two counts. It provides the client regime with a fig leaf of respectability and disarms western critics targeting the extremist component of the junta.

The riff-raff, however, with arms, fighting experience and financing, in the course of struggle, gains confidence in its own power. They do not easily submit to Euro-US strategies. They also have ‘strategic plans’ of their own, in which they seek political power to further their ideological agenda and enrich their followers.

The riff-raff, want to ‘transition’ from shock troops of empire into rulers in their own right. Hence the assaults on the US embassy in Libya, the assassination of Euro-American proxies in Syria, Right Sector riots against the Kiev junta.

Conclusion

A new power bloc is emerging on a global scale. It is already flexing its muscles. It has come to power in India, Turkey, Ukraine and Israel. It brings together big business, technocrats and ethno-religious fascists. They promote unrestrained capitalist expansion in association with Euro-American imperialism.

Scientists, economists, and IT specialists design the programs and plans to realize the profits of local and foreign capitalists. The ethno-fascists mobilize the ‘masses’ to attack minorities and class organizations threatening high rates of returns.

The Euro-Americans contribute to this ‘new power bloc’ by promoting their own ‘troika’ made up of ‘neo-liberal clients’, fundamentalists and neo-Nazis to overthrow nationalist adversaries. The advance of imperialism and capitalism in the 21st century is based on the harnessing of the most advanced technology and up-to-date media outlets with the most retrograde political and social leaders and ideologies.

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Capitalists, Technocrats and Fanatics: The Ascent of a New Power Bloc

Florida man cooked to death in scalding shower as punishment by prison guards

Police State USA | May 21, 2014

MIAMI, FL — A torturous “punishment” session turned fatal for a mentally-ill prisoner, when prison guards forced him to stand in a tiny shower stall while being blasted by scalding hot water until his skin began to shrivel away from his body and he died.  Fellow inmates say he begged for his life before collapsing in the shower.

 * * * * *

Darren Rainey, 50, died while incarcerated a the Dade Correctional Institution.  He was serving a 2-year sentence for a victimless crime; possession of cocaine. At the time of his death, he had only one month to go before his release.

Rainey, who suffered from mental illness, was accused of defecating in his cell without cleaning it up. The Florida’s Department of Corrections often comes up with cruel and imaginative punishments for prisoners — allegedly ranging from starvation diets to forcing prisoners to fight so the guards could place bets.

Rainey’s punishment was to stand confined in a narrow chamber, being blasted with hot water and steam, and left to suffer there for over one hour.

“I can’t take it no more, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again,’’ Rainey screamed over and over, the Miami Herald discovered from a fellow inmate’s grievance complaint.

The Miami Herald reports that it was DOC Officer Roland Clarke who was on video placing Rainey in the shower at 7:38 p.m on June 23, 2012. He was found dead at 9:30 p.m.

When Rainey’s body was found, his skin was cooked to the point where it was coming loose from his body, a condition known as slippage.

The facility then did its best to cover up the death.  Sources say that it was alleged that Rainey had a heart attack, yet DOC refused to perform an autopsy. The official cause of death has never been announced.

Conveniently, the camera outside the shower “malfunctioned” right after Rainey was forced in.

The Rainey investigation has remained open since 2012, with no explanation about why it has taken so long. No one has been charged with the death of Darren Rainey.

“Two years is a very long time to wait to find out why your brother was found dead in a shower,” said Rainey’s brother, Andre Chapman.

When a fellow inmate tried to provide information to police and the media about the Rainey case, he was threatened with punishments of his own. Numerous other inmate complaints paint a disturbing picture of what justice looks like in Florida’s prisons.

Justice seems to be a fleeting concept in a society where people are imprisoned for non-violent, victimless offenses, and housed by sadistic torturers who themselves belong in a cage.

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , | 3 Comments

Remember When Venezuela and Bolivia Kicked the U.S. DEA Out of Their Countries, Accusing It of Espionage? Looks Like They Were Right…

By Stephan Lefebvre | CEPR Americas Blog | May 22, 2014

In their latest article on U.S. government spying for The Intercept, Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras review and publish leaked documents that show that the U.S. government may have used the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to aid the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on U.S. citizens and non-citizens in foreign countries. The NSA is shown to have assisted the DEA with efforts to capture narcotraffickers, but the leaked documents also refer to “a vibrant two-way information sharing relationship” between the two intelligence agencies, implying that the DEA shares its information with the NSA to aid with non-drug-related spying. This may explain how the NSA has gathered not just metadata but also the full-take audio from “virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas.”

The authors write,

The DEA has long been in a unique position to help the NSA gain backdoor access to foreign phone networks. “DEA has close relationships with foreign government counterparts and vetted foreign partners,” the manager of the NSA’s drug-war efforts reported in a 2004 memo. Indeed, with more than 80 international offices, the DEA is one of the most widely deployed U.S. agencies around the globe.

But what many foreign governments fail to realize is that U.S. drug agents don’t confine themselves to simply fighting narcotics traffickers. “DEA is actually one of the biggest spy operations there is,” says Finn Selander, a former DEA special agent who works with the drug-reform advocacy group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “Our mandate is not just drugs. We collect intelligence.”

What’s more, Selander adds, the NSA has aided the DEA for years on surveillance operations. “On our reports, there’s drug information and then there’s non-drug information,” he says. “So countries let us in because they don’t view us, really, as a spy organization.”

While the documents accompanying the article reveal detailed information that has never before been available to the public, this is not the first time that the DEA has faced allegations of spying.

In 2005, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela stopped cooperating with the DEA after accusing it of espionage in his country. At the time, a State Department spokesperson responded by saying, “the accusations that somehow the Drug Enforcement Agency is involved in espionage are baseless. There’s no substance or justification for them.” Using arguments that would change very little over the next nine years, a State Department official said at the time, “I think it’s pretty clear to us that the motivation for this is not the accusation itself or not what they state is the problem. The motivation is an effort to detract from the government’s increasingly deficient record of cooperation.”

Three years later, President Evo Morales expelled the DEA from Bolivia saying, “there were DEA agents who worked to conduct political espionage.” He also said, “we can control ourselves internally. We don’t need any spying from anybody.” The State Department spokesperson said in response, “the charges that have been made are just patently absurd. We reject them categorically”, and the news agency EFE reported that “Washington has repeatedly denied that the DEA has been involved in any activities in Bolivia apart from the war on drugs.”

Few of the press reports from 2005 or 2008 took these accusations seriously, and the State Department dismissed the allegations categorically, but in 2008, CEPR’s co-director Mark Weisbrot wrote that “To the Bolivians, the U.S. is using the “war on drugs” throughout Latin America mainly as an excuse to get boots on the ground, and establish ties with local military and police forces.” To this list, we can now add access to national phone and communication networks, and storage of the content of phone calls.

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Intellectual Conformity

By Lawrence Davidson | Consortium News | May 21, 2014

World Wars I and II created watershed moments in the lives of Western intellectuals, defined here as those who are guided by their intellect and critical thinking and who understand various aspects of the world mainly through ideas and theories which they express through writing, teaching and other forms of public address.

Just how were they to respond to the call of patriotic duty that seduced the vast majority of citizens to support acts of mass slaughter? What constituted a proper response is often debated. How most of them did respond is a matter of historical record.

During the world wars most intellectuals on all sides of the conflicts uncritically lent their talents to their government’s war efforts. Some did so as propagandists and others as scientists. Some actually led their nations into the fray, as was the case with President Woodrow Wilson.

Wilson held a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University, had taught at Cornell, Bryn Mawr and Wesleyan, and became president of Princeton University. Eventually he was elected President of the United States and, having taken the nation to war, sanctioned the creation of a massive propaganda machine under the auspices of the “Committee on Public Information.” He also supported the passage of the Sedition Act of 1918 to suppress all anti-war sentiments.

Wilson never experienced combat, but another intellectual, the British poet Siegried Sassoon, did so in the trenches of the Western front. After this experience he wrote, “war is hell and those who initiate it are criminals.” No doubt that was his opinion of the intellectual President Woodrow Wilson.

In 1928, the French philosopher and literary critic Julien Benda published an important book, The Betrayal of the Intellectuals. In this work Benda asserted that it is the job of the intellectual to remain independent of his or her community’s ideologies and biases, be they political, religious or ethnic. Only by so doing could he or she defend the universal practices of tolerance and critical thinking that underpin civilization.

Not only were intellectuals to maintain their independence, but they were also obligated to analyze their community’s actions and, where necessary, call them into question.

However, as the memory of the intellectuals’ complicity in World War I faded, so did the memory of Benda’s standard of behavior. By World War II it held little power against the renewed demands of national governments for citizens to rally around the flag.

Thus, in that war, with even greater atrocities being committed, most intellectuals either supported the slaughter or remained silent. Some became fascists, others communists, and all too many once more lent their talents to propaganda machines and war industries in all the fighting states.

As a result, the debate over the proper role of the intellectual in relation to power and ideology continues to this day. It is not a question that needs a world war to be relevant. There are any number of ongoing situations where nationalism, ethnicity or religious views spark intolerance and violence. And with each of them the intellectuals, particularly those whose home states are involved, have to make the same age-old choice: Do they follow Woodrow Wilson’s path or that of Julian Benda?

Fate of the Jewish Intellectual

This problem has recently been raised in reference to the seemingly endless Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On April 14, Eva Illouz, a professor of sociology at Hebrew University, published an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz entitled, “Is It Possible to Be a Jewish Intellectual?

In this piece, she sets forth two opposing positions: one is the Zionist/Israeli demand for the primacy of “ahavat Israel,” or the “love of the Jewish nation and people” – the claim that all Jews have a “duty of the heart” to be loyal to the “Jewish nation.” The other position is that of the lone intellectual (here her model is the philosopher Hannah Arendt), whose obligation is to maintain the “disinterested intelligence” necessary to, if you will, speak truth to power.

Illouz explains that Zionists have a “suspicion of critique” and use “the memorialization of the Shoah” (the Holocaust) and “ahavat Israel” to mute it, adding: “The imperative of solidarity brings with it the injunction to not oppose or express publicly disagreement with official Jewish bodies.”

It is within this context that she can ask if it is still possible to be a Jewish intellectual, at least as portrayed by Julien Benda. Illouz’s conclusion is that it has become exceedingly difficult to be so, particularly in the diaspora communities, where the demands for Jewish solidarity are particularly “brutal.”

Illouz is unhappy with this situation. While she feels the allure of “ahavat Israel,” she ultimately supports the position of the independent-mindedness of Benda’s thinker. She insists that the “contemporary Jewish intellectual has an urgent task … to unveil the conditions under which Jewish solidarity should or should not be accepted, debunked or embraced. In the face of the ongoing, unrelenting injustices toward Palestinians and Arabs living in Israel, his/her moral duty is to let go, achingly, of that solidarity.”

Primacy of Group Solidarity 

While the portrayal of the intellectual as a thinker insisting on and practicing the right of critical thinking about society and its behavior is an ancient one (consider Socrates here), such behavior is not common in practice. This, in turn, calls Benda’s notion of a proper intellectual into question.

Thus, the description of an intellectual offered at the beginning of this essay (which is in line with common dictionary definitions) does not reference any particular direction of thought. For instance, in practice there is nothing that requires an intellectual to think about societal or government behaviors, much less take a critical public position on such matters.

And, no doubt, there are many very talented minds who, deeply involved in aesthetic matters or certain branches of scientific, linguistic, literary or other pursuits, do not involve themselves with issues of the use or abuse of power.

In addition, one might well be judged an intellectual and be a supporter or even a perpetrator of criminal policies and actions. Woodrow Wilson might fall within this category, as might Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice and many others.

Indeed, from a historical perspective most people of high intellect have sought to serve power and not critique or question it. This is quite in line with the fact that most non-intellectuals accept the word of those in power as authoritative and true.

According to Eva Illouz, this reflects the primacy of group solidarity over truth. She is correct in this judgment. That, no doubt, is why the independent-minded, outspoken intellectuals demanding moral integrity and responsibility from those in power are so rare, be they Jewish or gentile.

~

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment