The major influential western print media are engaged in a prolonged, large-scale effort to demonize Russian President Putin, his politics and persona. There is an article (or several articles) every day in which he is personally stigmatized as a dictator, authoritarian, czar, ‘former KGB operative’ and Soviet-style ruler; anything but the repeatedly elected President of Russia.
He is accused of hijacking Russia from the ‘road to democracy’, as pursued by his grotesquely corrupt predecessor Boris Yeltsin; of directing the bloody repression of the ‘freedom loving Chechens’; of jailing innocent, independent, and critical oligarchs and robber barons; of fomenting an uprising in the ‘democratic, newly pro-Western’ Ukraine and seizing control of Crimea; of backing a ‘bloody tyrant’ in Syria (elected President Bashar Assad) in a civil war against ISIS terrorists; of running the Russian economy into the ground; and of militarily threatening the Baltic and Eastern European NATO member countries.
In a word, the media have propagated an image of an ‘out-of-control autocrat’, who makes a mockery of ‘democratic’ norms and ‘Western values’, and who seeks to revive the ‘Soviet (aka Evil) Empire’.
The corollary is that ‘Western powers’, despite their peace-loving propensities and fraternal attempts to bring Russia into the democratic ‘fold’, have been ‘forced’ to now surround Russia with NATO military bases and missiles; to finance a violent coup in the Ukraine (on Russia’s frontier) and arm the Ukrainian putsch government and neo-fascist militias to ‘restore democracy’ and violently suppress ethnic Russian ‘separatists’ in Eastern Ukraine. We are told that US and EU sanctions against Russia were carefully crafted ‘diplomatic’ measures designed to punish the Moscow ‘aggressor’.
In reality, the Western media has relentlessly demonized Vladimir Putin in a campaign to further NATO military expansion and undermine the Russian economy and its national security. The goal is ultimately to force a ‘regime change’, restoring the neo-liberal elites who had pillaged Russia’s economy during the 1990s and whose brutal economic policies led to the premature death of over 6 million Russians due to deprivation and the collapse of the healthcare system.
Putin: Demon or Realist, Autocrat or Democrat, Vassal or Independent Leader?
The Western media has backed every oligarch, gangster, and fraudster who has gone on trial and been convicted during Putin’s term in office. The propagandists tell us the reason for this affinity between the Western media and the gangster-oligarchs is that these convicted felons, who claim to be ‘political dissidents’ and critics of Putin’s rule, have been dispossessed, and jailed for upholding ‘Western values’.
The Western media conveniently ignore the well-documented studies on the source of the gangster-oligarchs’ wealth: The violent and illegal seizure of multi-billion dollars-worth of natural resources (aluminum, oil and gas), banks, factories, pension funds and real estate. During the Yeltsin period the oligarchs controlled thousands of armed gangsters and engaged in internal warfare during which thousands were killed, including top government regulators, police officials and journalists who dared to oppose or expose their pillage and property grabs.
Putin’s prosecution of a mere fraction of the most notorious oligarch-gangsters has won the support of the vast majority of Russian citizens because it represents a return to law and order and the return of stolen public wealth.
Only the Western media has dared to refer to these convicted felons as ‘political victims and reformers’. They did so because the oligarchs had become the most loyal and submissive assets in the US and EU governments’ efforts to convert Russia into an irreversibly weak vassal state.
The Western media constantly refer to President Putin as the ‘authoritarian ruler’, despite the fact that he has been repeatedly elected by large majorities in competitive elections against Western backed and funded candidates. His popularity is attested to by opinion polls conducted by Western agencies.
In 2015, President Putin’s support soared to over 85%. The pro-Western Russian neo-liberal politicians scored in the low single digits according to the same independent polls.
Clearly the Russian public does not want to return to the poverty and chaos of the Western-backed gangster politics of the 1990s.
Whatever reservations working and middle class Russians have over President Putin’s style of decision-making, they clearly value his crackdown on gangster-controlled elections, Chechen terrorism, and his restoration of Russian military defense of its frontiers, including the annexation of Crimea, following the US-engineered coup in Ukraine.
Every day, the Western media recycle reports of the ‘decline and demise’ of the Russian economy, blaming ‘statist’ mismanagement of the economy by Putin. They claim ‘declining living standards’, the ‘negative growth’ of the economy and the ‘growing isolation’ of an ‘expansionist’ Russia in the face of Western sanctions.
These media claims are laughable. Readily available data demonstrate that living standards of the vast majority of Russian citizens have significantly increased under President Putin’s administration, especially after the utter collapse under the free marketers of the 1990s. Russian workers receive their pay, pensioners their pensions, enterprises their loans – on time. During the ‘free market’ days of Boris Yeltsin, workers went up to a year without pay, pensioners were selling their heirlooms in the street to survive and enterprises paid extortionate interest rates to oligarch-gangster controlled banks! Comparative data, easily obtained, are deliberately ignored by the mass media because it doesn’t fit the demonological narrative.
The mass media present the neo-liberal ‘opposition’ and ‘liberal critics’ as Russian democrats defending ‘Western values’. They forget to mention that these ‘liberal critics’ have been directly funded by Western foundations (National Endowment for Democracy, Soros Foundation, etc.) and Russian non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) with longstanding ties to US and EU governments, intelligence agencies and exiled Russian billionaires. The so-called ‘Russian’ democratic opposition revealed their abject servility to Western interests when they openly supported the Ukrainian coup and Kiev’s bloody assault on ethnic Russian-Ukrainians in the eastern ‘Donbas’ regions of Donetsk, Luhansk and Odessa. Whatever shreds of respectability and credibility the ‘democratic opposition’ retained with the Russian public, up to that point, was lost. They were seen for what they are: propaganda arms of Western imperialism and mouth-pieces for neo-fascists.
The Western mass media charge Putin’s government with the same crimes that their own governments commit. After the US State Department’s Victoria Nuland admitted to channeling $5 billion to fund the 2014 coup in Ukraine and after the Polish regime boasted of training far right street fighters, whose mob violence served as a pretext for the coup, and after neo-fascist coalition partners in Odessa of burned alive four dozen ethnic Russian-Ukrainian citizens opposed to the coup, the Western mass media accused Putin of ‘intervening’ in Ukraine. This was because Russia had convoked a referendum in Crimea, in which over 80% of the electorate voted to secede from the illegitimate Ukrainian coup regime and rejoin Russia.
In truth, the Putin government is a victim of the Western power grab in the Ukraine, with Russia having to absorb hundreds of thousands of ethnic Russian refugees driven out of the Donbas, yet the Western media portray Putin as the executioner. Meanwhile the Western coup-makers and their far-right allies are depicted as victims… forced to bomb and decimate the Donbas region.
The charade continued. The Western media portray the subsequent punitive, economic sanctions imposed by the expansionist US and EU on Russia as a result of Putin’s ‘aggression’, referring to Russia’s defense of Crimea’s self-determination and the rights of the millions of bilingual ethnic Russian citizens of Ukraine.
The absurdity and convoluted nature of Western demonological propaganda has reached new even more bizarre heights with their hysteria against Russia’s military support of the secular Syrian government against ISIS and other jihadi terrorists.
The Western mass media have launched a global campaign charging that the Russian air force bombs ‘non-ISIS military bases’, presumably the bases of Western-backed ‘friendly’ jihadi terrorists. This ridiculous ‘reportage’ and its accompanying ‘photos’ were published before the Russian air strikes even took place!!
Apparently timing doesn’t matter in Washington’s ‘alternative universe of lies’!
NATO passed its political line to the media that Russian support for the legitimate regime of President Assad must be discredited; that the Russian presence is ‘provocative’ and responsible for ‘creating tensions’ in the region – after years of Western-sponsored jihadi terrorism against Syria!
Obedient to its masters, the Western media breathlessly ‘reported’ that the Russians were ‘really’ engaged in Syria in order destroy the pro-Western ‘fighters’, leaving ISIS alone.
No credible evidence for this propaganda was ever presented. They trotted out aerial photos of wreckage, which had likely been lifted from previous US bombings.
The media’s clumsy execution of the Pentagon’s line managed to embarrass even the US Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, who backed off of such claims and called for an explanation from Russia. Even Secretary Kerry, who now seeks to secure Putin’s military support for the US against ISIS while withdrawing Russia’s political backing of President Assad, has cautioned the media to modify its line, now that the US favors ‘greater coordination’ with Russia — but under US leadership. The media has recently conformed to this line, although it has not managed to explain how Washington could now work with the demonic President Putin.
Western media is engaged in an intense long-term propaganda campaign to demonize President Putin. Its role is to convince world public opinion and world leaders to blindly follow the US and EU, as well as their ‘allies’ and vassal states, in a campaign to degrade and undermine Russia, and consolidate a unipolar empire under US tutelage.
The Western mass media is important; but it must be remembered that the media is an instrument of imperial state power. Its lies and fabrications, its demonization of leaders, like President Putin, are one part of a global military offensive to establish dominance and to destroy adversaries.
The more intense the imperial campaign, the riskier the power grab, the greater the need to demonize the victims.
This explains how the escalation of the rabid anti-Putin propaganda campaign coincides with the single biggest Western power grab — the Ukraine coup (‘regime change’) — since West Germany annexed East Germany, and NATO and the EU incorporated the Baltic States, Eastern Europe and the Balkans into the West’s strategic alliance. The West’s bloody break-up of the Yugoslav federation was part of this strategic program.
The problem with the Western demonization of adversaries, whether it is Russia, Iran and China today, or earlier Cuba, Libya and Yemen in the past, is that Washington and the EU face severe economic crises at home and military defeats abroad by armed Islamic and nationalist resistance movements.
The US had invested hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up a shaky puppet regime in US-occupied Iraq, yet the US-trained and supplied Iraqi Army fled as the Baathist-Islamist ‘ISIS’ quickly over-ran half the country.
US troops have occupied Afghanistan for fourteen years, losing tens of thousands of lives and limbs and yet the nationalist-Islamist Taliban can easily take over Afghanistan’s third largest city, Kunduz (population 300,000), and occupies three quarters of the rest of the countryside.
Libya and Somalia are a disaster. And still Washington allocates a half billion dollars to train pro-Western mercenaries to overthrow Syria’s President Assad – mercenaries who give up their arms or join ISIS the moment they cross the border from Jordan or Turkey. The US trained mercenaries have handed over untold millions of dollars worth of heavy and light weapons and armored carriers to ISIS and Al Qaeda. The EU and the US face the dismal reality that Libya, Somalia and Syria are over-run by anti-Western Islamic fighters.
In Asia, China is demonized in the Western media, portrayed as being on the verge of collapse, facing a hard landing, even as China grows at 7%. The Western media wring their collective hands over the crisis in China while Beijing finances two new international development banks for $100 billion, raises its contribution to the IMF and brings 50 countries, including most of the EU but minus the US and Japan, into a new infrastructure lending institution.
Two big questions face the US and EU:
Why do the Western media launch a campaign of demonization that doesn’t correspond to reality? What is the goal of such demonization, which objectively undermines the possibility of forming tactical alliances to end the US’ military losses, political defeats and diplomatic isolation? The US needs Russia to defeat ISIS.
For Moscow, the fight against ISIS is crucial to Russian national security: thousands of Chechen terrorists (some trained by the US) are fighting with ISIS and threaten to return to the Caucuses and terrorize Russia. Unlike the US public’s opposition to Washington’s role in forcing ‘regime change’ in Syria, the Russian public supports Moscow’s military support for the Syrian government because the Chechens’ campaign of terror within Russia, especially the 2004 massacre of hundreds of school children, teachers, and parents in Beslan, is seared into their memory – a fact conveniently ignored by Western media when it ‘sympathizes’ with Chechen ‘freedom fighters’.
In reality, Washington should have a common interest to ally with Russia in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. However Obama is committed to ousting Assad (Russia’s ally) to expand US dominance in the Middle East in partnership with Israel and Saudi Arabia. Clearly there are insurmountable contradictions between short-term military objectives (fighting ISIS) and strategic imperial political imperatives (consolidating US-Israeli hegemony over the Middle East and Iran).
Washington has moved to end its isolation in Latin America by re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. Meanwhile, Washington retains the economic blockade of Cuba and its huge US military base in Guantanamo. Cuba is seen as a tactical political ally in ‘moderating’ the leftist government of Venezuela and pressuring the Colombian FARC to disarm, even as Washington deepens its military presence in the continent.
Obama signed off on a nuclear agreement with Iran (but the crippling sanctions and blockade remain in place) in order to secure Tehran’s support for the war against ISIS in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Temporarily, the Western mass media has ‘toned-down’ its demonological reporting on Iran and Cuba, for tactical purposes.
The Obama regime has adopted a ‘good cop/bad cop’ (or schizophrenic) posture with Russia on Syria – Secretary of State John Kerry speaks of joint co-operation with Moscow while Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter proposes to militarily confront ‘Russian aggression’. The media hasn’t made the switch because they don’t know which orders to obey or which line to ‘parrot’.
In the meantime, the domestic economic crisis deepens, ISIS advances, the Taliban approaches Kabul, the Russians are arming and defending President Assad and millions of refugees, fleeing the war zones, have over- run Europe. European border wars are raging. And Obama wrings his hands in impotence. Demonology offers no allies, no solutions and no positive path to peace and co-existence.
A U.S. hedge fund is threatening to sue Peru for payment of US$5.1 billion in unpaid bonds issued by the country’s former military government.
The fund, Gramercy, purchased the defaulted debt in 2008 for pennies on the dollar and is now demanding full repayment.
The tactic is similar to one employed by another U.S. hedge fund, Elliot Management, which has tried to use the U.S. legal system to compel the government of Argentina to repay the full amount of its own defaulted bonds.
“It’s ironic that this threat is coming amidst global meetings in Peru that continue to try and stop this kind of predatory behavior,” said Jubilee USA executive director Eric LeCompte, referring to the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund currently taking place in Lima.
Firms that try to collect defaulted debt in this manner are disparagingly referred to as “vulture funds.”
Gramercy is specifically threatening to sue Peru through a tribunal system known as the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism, or ISDS.
Peru’s finance minister, Alonso Segura, said on Friday that the government would oppose any legal action outside its borders. “That’s not going to happen,” he said. “This issue will be dealt with by Peruvian laws.”
The ISDS is comprised of special legal tribunals, often established through “free trade” agreements, that allow corporations in one country to collect on debts in another. Critics argue the system prevents country’s from overcoming crippling debts—in Peru’s case, debts incurred by an unelected military regime.
An ISDS-style trade tribunal is reportedly part of the recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes Peru and 11 other Pacific Rim nations.
As an alternative to the ISDS, the Union of South American Nations is currently reviewing a proposal to establish a regional Arbitration Center, which would analyze and propose mechanisms to reform arbitration proceedings that could take into account the broader needs of the society and continent as a whole.
Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko considers a $40 billion assistance program from the IMF not enough to guarantee Ukraine’s economic stability in the long-term.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Yaresko called for the United States, the EU and other loaners to double financial assistance to the conflict-torn state in 2016.
“Ukraine did everything possible to show its international partners that we do our best and that we are able to live up to our promises,” she explained. “I think it means that international partners should unanimously support us.”
Kiev’s government has won praise from the IMF and sponsors such as the US for making significant progress in implementing economic reforms, although the fund still expects the Ukrainian economy to contract 11 percent this year.
Still, Yaresko said the government needs more financial aid from the international community “to help finance infrastructure and other investment and demonstrate progress to its own citizens.”
Yaresko also announced that Kiev is not going to offer any special conditions to Russia over a $3 billion debt expected to be repaid by December 2015. The Finance Minister insisted on restructuring the debt under the terms of an agreement reached with other creditors in summer.
A four-year $17.5-billion assistance package to Ukraine was approved by the IMF on March 11 in an effort to put the country’s ailing economy on the path of recovery. The overall external financial aid package to Kiev amounts to about $40 billion, to be administered over the next four years and comprising loans from the International Monetary Fund, the United States and the European Union among others.
This year Ukraine already received $6,7 billion from 10 billion allocated for 2015.
Most good spy stories involve political blackmail. In the first season of the popular television show HOMELAND, about the CIA’s post-9/11 terror wars, the bearded old CIA veteran Saul meets with a federal judge to get a court order to conduct surveillance on someone in the United States without probable cause. The judge appears to balk for a moment, until Saul cryptically reminds him about that thing. With a look that says, “You got me, you bastard,” the judge relents and signs the order. The CIA, we are meant to understand, knows something about this judge that the judge does not want the rest of the world to know.
Knowledge actually is power.
We know that the NSA and FBI have for over a decade been collecting the phone records of every person in United States, which includes every member of congress. An NSA whistleblower alleges that the NSA deliberately spied on Supreme Court justices. For decades, the FBI under Hoover ran a counterintelligence program (codename: COINTELPRO) that brandished political blackmail as a central weapon for control and manipulation. In a piece of political theater that may never have come to light had it not been for the courage of a few dissidents, the FBI wrote an anonymous letter to Martin Luther King, Jr., urging him to commit suicide. We know you are a pervert, the letter said. You should just end it now, and save yourself the embarrassment when we expose you to the press.
Today, even local law enforcement agencies and private corporations possess incredibly sensitive information about all of us—elected and appointed political and judicial figures included. Although I don’t have data to support this claim, my experience growing up in the United States leads me to strongly assume that most Americans would like to believe that this is a country in which secretive law enforcement and spy agencies do not routinely manipulate sensitive information for political purposes. Blackmail is a thing that happens in the mob or in corrupt foreign countries, I assume many people think—not in the US government.
But I assume the opposite. The cliché that absolute power corrupts is a cliché for a reason—and it’s why basic democratic norms like checks and balances on government power are so important. When civil libertarians and rights advocates repeat the words ‘transparency, accountability, and oversight’ over and over again in innumerable contexts, it’s not because we like how they sound rolling around our mouths. These three practices are foundational in any society that seeks to be democratic (as opposed to just using democratic rhetoric) and fight the human tendency to abuse power.
Corruption is only natural. That’s why we build systems to check greed, selfishness, and abuse of power. Or, rather, it’s why we should.
Take the case of Congressman Jason Chaffetz. The GOP Congressman was highly critical of the Secret Service during a time when it seemed like the press was every week reporting on another in a series of embarrassing agency mistakes. It turns out that the Secret Service did not appreciate Chaffetz’ public criticisms. Instead of investing energy in fixing the problems with the agency that the Congressman wanted to discuss publicly, the assistant director of the agency used his access to confidential government databases to leak embarrassing information about Chaffetz to the press, which subsequently published it. “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair,” the assistant director wrote in an email to colleagues before the leak.
I don’t have lots of money, but if there was a way of discovering the whole truth about these secretive and powerful members of our society, I would bet one thousand dollars that law enforcement and security agencies from police departments all the way up to the NSA, and everywhere in between, routinely deploy confidential information for political purposes. I’ve seen far too many scandals come to light to assume anything other than rampant corruption at agencies like the FBI, CIA, and NSA—not to mention state and local police departments. Do you really think the CIA would torture and murder people, and then destroy the evidence and try to interfere with an investigation into its activity, but not engage in a little political blackmail on the side? Torture and murder are all good, but the use of sensitive personal information to acquire political power is going too far?
Maybe you disagree with my assumption that agencies with access to loads of sensitive information about people likely routinely use it to secure and expand their power, but it doesn’t matter if my assumptions are totally wrong. Even if you believe that security agencies are generally good, and only bad apples misuse their access to sensitive information, we have enough examples of such abuse to support the obvious conclusion that transparency, accountability, and oversight over security agencies are basic requirements in a free society. The only way to ensure people don’t abuse their access to information is to limit that access, and then institute and uphold rigorous transparency and oversight mechanisms to ensure they aren’t improperly using information they legitimately hold.
Ultimately, the ACLU’s call for a 21st century warrant requirement for the tracking and monitoring of our electronic communications and devices is a conservative call for basic reform. Nonetheless, it’s an uphill battle in many states to fold information age technology into foundational Fourth Amendment law.
But lawmakers considering bills like those currently before the Massachusetts state legislature, on license plate, drone, social media, and electronic privacy, should remember that corruption happens everywhere. In a state that suffered the terror reign of Whitey Bulger and his FBI cronies, you’d think that lawmakers would be clear on the need for basic accountability in law enforcement. As of today, however, Massachusetts falls far behind other states in the category of passing basic electronic privacy law.
Let’s hope we don’t wait until someone in Massachusetts state government gets Jason Chaffetzed before we take essential steps towards protecting personal information in the digital age. It’s a simple matter of common sense, and for legislators, might someday mean the difference between having a lovely morning and waking up to an embarrassing headline screaming their name.
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony Wayne said that “evidence of heavy-handed police tactics” was “strong and disconcerting” after a 2011 clash with student protestors from Ayotzinapa normal school left two youths and a gas station employee dead and several others wounded, according to a declassified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
Authorities in the Mexican state of Guerrero “reacted defensively and insensitively by blaming the victims and denying any responsibility” for their part in what the Embassy cable called a “chaotic student protest” in which “both police and protestors resorted to violent tactics.”
The newly-declassified cable was obtained by the National Security Archive under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and was the focus of an article published today by the award-winning team of investigative journalists at Mexico’s Aristegui Noticias.
The deadly 2011 incident against students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Normal School in Ayotzinapa came less than three years before 43 students from the university were disappeared and six others were killed after being detained by police forces in Iguala, Guerrero on the night of September 25-26, 2014. More than a year later, the federal government’s theory about what happened that night lies in ruins, and the families of the victims are no closer to knowing the fates of their loved ones.
Last month, a group of independent investigators invited by the Mexican government and appointed by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of American States rejected the government’s version of the 2014 case, which held that a cabal of local politicians, municipal police forces and members of a drug gang had kidnapped and killed the students before burning the bodies at a garbage dump. The group of experts said the government lacked physical evidence connecting the alleged perpetrators to the case, that security forces had tortured many of the witnesses, and that a fire in which the government claims the bodies were burned could not have happened.
The 2011 Embassy document describes how “about 500” students from Ayotzinapa and allied organizations blocked a tollbooth along a federal highway near the city of Chilpancingo and demanded a meeting with Guerrero governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero to discuss deteriorating conditions at the state-funded school. Both state and federal police participated in the ensuing confrontation.
State and Federal authorities were “pointing fingers,” said Wayne, with both sides accusing the other of firing the shots the killed the two students. “Regardless of who is responsible for the deaths, the evidence of heavy-handed police tactics is strong and disconcerting,” Ambassador Wayne said in his comments.
Governor Aguirre, who later resigned in the wake of the 2014 student disappearances, was taking steps “to control the political damage,” according to Wayne. “The case is being investigated by state and federal authorities and Aguirre and his collaborators will be under immense pressure to conduct a thorough investigation, though results are not expected anytime soon.”
In 2012, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) found that government agents were responsible for numerous human rights violations in the 2011 incident, including arbitrary detentions, torture, cruel treatment and beatings.
Two Guerrero state agents were later investigated for the shootings but were released after 16 months in detention when a judge found the evidence against them insufficient. The then-prosecutor of Guerrero, Alberto López Rosas, who was accused by CNDH of covering up the crime, was exonerated in 2013 and went back to work for Governor Aguirre. The head of the federal police at that time, Facundo Rosas Rosas, who was also accused of abuses during the 2011 confrontation, was later removed from his post but continued as Secretary of Public Security in the state of Pueblo before it was announced that he was under investigation for leading a criminal group that had systematically stolen fuel from the state oil company, Pemex.
We still don’t know all the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal tentatively agreed to on Oct. 5 by negotiators from 12 Pacific Rim countries, but already critics are slamming it for many reasons, including its generous concessions to the pharmaceutical industry.
Doctors Without Borders claims the TPP will “go down in history as the worst trade agreement for access to medicines in developing countries.”  That’s because the TPP will extend patent protection for brand-name drugs, thereby preventing similar generic drugs (which are far less costly) from entering the market. This will drive up the prices.
Judit Rius Sanjuan, legal policy adviser for Doctors Without Borders, told vox.com that TPP creates patent-related obligations in countries that never had them before. People in “Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Mexico” will be especially affected, she said. “They’ll face higher prices for longer periods of time.” 
Ruth Lopert, a professor at George Washington University, told Bloomberg News that provisions in the TPP agreement will affect health-care budgets and drug access in all signatory countries, but especially the poorest. “She said as many as 40,000 people in Vietnam, the poorest country in the agreement, could stop getting drugs to fight HIV because of provisions that will boost the price of [pharmaceutical] therapy.” 
Other countries like Canada will also be hit with higher costs. The Council of Canadians says that if the TPP is ratified, “[p]harmaceutical patents will be extended, delaying the release of more affordable generic drugs and adding $2 billion to our annual public health care bill.”  In the U.S., many people already cannot afford to pay for the expensive medicines that could save their lives, and they try to access generics available elsewhere.
Extending patent rights for life-saving drugs is an obvious gift to Big Pharma. Conor J. Lynch at opendemocracy.net has called it “a clear corporate handout that would greatly affect international access and most definitely cause preventable deaths. The clear objective here is to increase industry profits, plain and simple. This is not surprising, that’s what private industry does, but there is a serious moral dilemma here.”  That moral dilemma is made even more apparent by recent findings.
In an ironic coincidence, the TPP agreement was reached on the same day that a damning report on corporate tax-avoidance – Offshore Shell Games 2015 – was released by Citizens for Tax Justice and the US Public-Interest Research Group Education Fund. The report reveals the extent to which top U.S. companies use tax havens like Bermuda, Luxembourg, Cayman Islands, and the Netherlands to set up “tax haven subsidiaries” that are usually little more than a post-office box.
Of the top 30 Fortune 500 companies with the most money held in offshore tax-havens, nine are pharmaceutical companies: Pfizer ($74 billion held offshore), Merck ($60 billion), Johnson & Johnson ($53.4 billion), Proctor & Gamble ($45 billion), Amgen ($29.3 billion), Eli Lilly ($25.7 billion), Bristol Myers Squibb ($24 billion), AbbeVie Inc. ($23 billion), and Abbott Laboratories ($23 billion). 
Concerning Pfizer, the world’s largest drug maker (declared profits of $22 billion in 2013), the report states: “The company made more than 41 percent of its sales in the U.S. between 2008 and 2014, but managed to report no federal taxable income for seven years in a row. This is because Pfizer uses accounting techniques to shift the location of its taxable profits offshore. For example, the company can transfer patents for its drugs to a subsidiary in a low- or no-tax country. Then when the U.S. branch of Pfizer sells the drug in the U.S., it ‘pays’ its own offshore subsidiary high licensing fees that turn domestic profits into on-the-books losses and shifts profit overseas.”
Overall, the study found that the 500 largest U.S. companies hold more than US$2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore. “For many companies, increasing profits held offshore does not mean building factories abroad, selling more products to foreign customers, or doing any additional real business activity in other countries,” but simply establishing a PO box.
Some companies use the money supposedly “trapped” offshore as “implied collateral” in order to borrow funds at negligible rates for investing in U.S. assets, paying dividends to shareholders, or repurchasing stock.
Of course, as the report makes clear, “Congress, by failing to take action to end this tax avoidance, forces ordinary Americans to make up the difference. Every dollar in taxes that corporations avoid by using tax havens must be balanced by higher taxes on individuals, cuts to public investments and public services, or increased federal debt.”
The report finds that, through a variety of tax-avoidance measures, an estimated US$620 billion in U.S. taxes is collectively owed by the 500 largest companies with headquarters in the U.S.
Now the TransPacific Partnership – which is being called “NAFTA on steroids” – would award Big Pharma and other multinationals even more corporate “rights” in more countries, including the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism by which they can sue signatory governments for regulatory changes that affect their profits.
As the Canadian website rabble.ca notes: “The Canadian government is currently being sued through NAFTA by Eli Lilly, an American pharmaceutical company, for invalidating the firm’s patent extensions on two mental health drugs. A Canadian Federal Court decided in 2010 that the patent extensions had not delivered the promised benefits and the drugs should therefore be opened up to generic competition. Generic drugs significantly reduce the cost for end users, but Eli Lilly cried foul and launched an ISDS claim against the government, demanding US$500 million in compensation for lost profits. The case is still in progress, but regardless of the outcome we can expect the TPP to lead to similar ISDS disputes. Powerful multinational pharmaceutical companies will use any available means to cling to over-priced drug monopolies. Greater intellectual property protections in the TPP will give these companies an even stronger quasi-legal basis to sue governments and crowd out generic [drug] competition.” 
The final text of the TransPacific Partnership agreement won’t be available for at least a month, likely weeks after the Canadian federal election on October 19. The details will undoubtedly reveal more generous concessions to the multinationals. It will be up to the elected legislators in all twelve countries to approve or reject the TPP. In Canada, NDP leader Tom Mulcair has pledged to scrap the deal if elected as Prime Minister, explaining that the Stephen Harper government had no mandate to sign it during an election campaign when it is merely a “caretaker” government.
The U.S. website zerohedge.com calls the Trans-Pacific Partnership “a Trojan horse” and “a coup by multinational corporations who want global subservience to their agenda.” In no uncertain terms, it adds: “Buyer beware. Citizens beware.” 
 Julia Belluz, “How the Trans-Pacific Partnership could drive up the cost of medicine worldwide,” Vox, October 5, 2015.
 “Pacific Deal Rewrites Rules on Trade in Autos, Patented Drugs,” Bloomberg News, October 5, 2015.
 Council of Canadians, “Tell party leaders: Reject the TPP,” October 6, 2015.
 Conor J. Lynch, “Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Big Pharma giveaway,” Open Democracy, February 14, 2015.
 Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, “Trans-Pacific Partnership a big win for corporate interests,” Rabble.ca, October 6, 2015.
 Tyler Durden, “Trans-Pacific Partnership Deal Struck As ‘Corporate Secrecy’ Wins Again,” Zero Hedge, October 5, 2015.
The U.S. government is missing – or withholding – audit documents about the finances and possible accounting irregularities at a $150 million U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund when it was run by Ukraine’s Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, who has become the face of “reform” for the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev and who now oversees billions of dollars in Western financial aid.
Before taking Ukrainian citizenship and becoming Finance Minister in December 2014, Jaresko was a former U.S. diplomat who served as chief executive officer of the Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF), which was created by Congress in the 1990s with $150 million and placed under the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help jumpstart an investment economy in Ukraine.
After Jaresko’s appointment as Finance Minister — and her resignation from WNISEF — I reviewed WNISEF’s available public records and detected a pattern of insider dealings and enrichment benefiting Jaresko and various colleagues. That prompted me in February to file a Freedom of Information Act request for USAID’s audits of the investment fund.
Though the relevant records were identified by June, USAID dragged its feet on releasing the 34 pages to me until Aug. 28 when the agency claimed nothing was being withheld, saying “all 34 pages are releasable in their entirety.”
However, when I examined the documents, it became clear that a number of pages were missing from the financial records, including a total of three years of “expense analysis” – in three-, six- and nine-month gaps – since 2007. Perhaps even more significant was a missing paragraph that apparently would have addressed an accounting irregularity found by KPMG auditors.
KPMG’s “Independent Auditors’ Report” for 2013 and 2014 states that “except as discussed in the third paragraph below, we conducted our audits in accordance with auditing standards generally accepted in the United States of America,” accountant-speak that suggests that “the third paragraph below” would reveal some WNISEF activity that did not comply with generally accepted accounting principles (or GAAP).
But three paragraphs below was only white space and there was no next page in what USAID released.
Based on the one page that was released for 2013-14, this most recent audit also lacked the approval language used in previous audits, in which KPMG wrote: “In our opinion, the consolidated financial statements … present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of Western NIS Enterprise Fund and subsidiaries.” That language was not in the 2013-14 analysis, as released by USAID.
The KPMG report for 2013-14 does note that “The [audit] procedures selected depend on the auditors’ judgment, including the assessment of the risks of material misstatement of the financial statements, whether due to fraud or error. … An audit also includes evaluating the appropriateness of accounting policies used and the reasonableness of significant accounting estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the financial statements.”
That page then ends, “We believe that the audit evidence we have obtained is sufficient and appropriate to provide a basis for our audit opinion.” But the opinion is not there.
After I brought these discrepancies to the attention of USAID on Aug. 31, I was told on Sept. 15 that “we are in the process of locating documents to address your concern. We expect a response from the bureau and/or mission by Monday, September 28, 2015.”
After the Sept. 28 deadline passed, I contacted USAID again and was told on Oct. 2 that officials were “still working with the respective mission to obtain the missing documents.”
Yet, whether USAID’s failure to include the missing documents was just a bureaucratic foul-up or a willful attempt to shield Jaresko from criticism, the curious gaps add to the impression that the management of WNISEF fell short of the highest standards for efficiency and ethics.
A previous effort by Jaresko’s ex-husband Ihor Figlus to blow the whistle on what he considered improper business practices related to WNISEF was met by disinterest inside USAID, according to Figlus, and then led to Jaresko suing him in a Delaware court in 2012, using a confidentiality clause to silence Figlus and getting a court order to redact references to the abuses he was trying to expose.
Feeding at the Taxpayer Trough
Other public documents indicate that Jaresko and fellow WNISEF insiders enriched themselves through their association with the U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund. For instance, though Jaresko was limited to making $150,000 a year at WNISEF under the USAID grant agreement, she managed to earn more than that amount, reporting in 2004 that she was paid $383,259 along with $67,415 in expenses, according to WNISEF’s filing with the Internal Revenue Service.
Among the audit documents that I received under FOIA, the “Expense Analysis” for 2004 shows $1,282,782 being paid out as “Exit-based incentive expense-equity incentive plan” and another $478,195 being paid for “Exit-based incentive expense-financial participation rights.” That would suggest that Jaresko more than doubled her $150,000 salary by claiming bonuses from WNISEF’s investments (bought with U.S. taxpayers’ money) and sold during 2004.
Jaresko’s compensation for her work with WNISEF was removed from public disclosure altogether after she co-founded two related entities in 2006: Horizon Capital Associates (HCA) to manage WNISEF’s investments (and collect around $1 million a year in fees) and Emerging Europe Growth Fund (EEGF), a private entity to collaborate with WNISEF on investment deals.
Jaresko formed HCA and EEGF with two other WNISEF officers, Mark Iwashko and Lenna Koszarny. They also started a third firm, Horizon Capital Advisors, which “serves as a sub-advisor to the Investment Manager, HCA,” according to WNISEF’s IRS filing for 2006.
According to the FOIA-released expense analyses for 2004-06, the taxpayer-financed WNISEF spent $1,049,987 to establish EEGF as a privately owned investment fund for Jaresko and her colleagues. USAID apparently found nothing suspicious about these tangled business relationships despite the potential conflicts of interest involving Jaresko, the other WNISEF officers and their affiliated companies.
For instance, WNISEF’s 2012 annual report devoted two pages to “related party transactions,” including the management fees to Jaresko’s Horizon Capital ($1,037,603 in 2011 and $1,023,689 in 2012) and WNISEF’s co-investments in projects with the EEGF, where Jaresko was founding partner and chief executive officer. Jaresko’s Horizon Capital managed the investments of both WNISEF and EEGF.
From 2007 to 2011, WNISEF co-invested $4.25 million with EEGF in Kerameya LLC, a Ukrainian brick manufacturer, and WNISEF sold EEGF 15.63 percent of Moldova’s Fincombank for $5 million, the report said. It also listed extensive exchanges of personnel and equipment between WNISEF and Horizon Capital. But it’s difficult for an outsider to ascertain the relative merits of these insider deals — and the transactions apparently raised no red flags for USAID officials, nor during that time for KPMG auditors.
Regarding compensation, WNISEF’s 2013 filing with the IRS noted that the fund’s officers collected millions of dollars in more bonuses for closing out some investments at a profit even as the overall fund was losing money. According to the filing, WNISEF’s $150 million nest egg had shrunk by more than one-third to $94.5 million and likely has declined much more during the economic chaos that followed the U.S.-backed coup in February 2014.
But prior to the coup and the resulting civil war, Jaresko’s WNISEF was generously spreading money around to various insiders. For instance, the 2013 IRS filing reported that the taxpayer-financed fund paid out as “expenses” $7.7 million under a bonus program, including $4.6 million to “current officers,” without identifying who received the money although Jaresko was one of the “current officers.”
WNISEF’s filing made the point that the “long-term equity incentive plan” was “not compensation from Government Grant funds but a separately USAID-approved incentive plan funded from investment sales proceeds” – although those proceeds presumably would have gone into the depleted WNISEF pool if they had not been paid out as bonuses.
The filing also said the bonuses were paid regardless of whether the overall fund was making money, noting that this “compensation was not contingent on revenues or net earnings, but rather on a profitable exit of a portfolio company that exceeds the baseline value set by the board of directors and approved by USAID” – with Jaresko also serving as a director on the board responsible for setting those baseline values.
Another WNISEF director was Jeffrey C. Neal, former chairman of Merrill Lynch’s global investment banking and a co-founder of Horizon Capital, further suggesting how potentially incestuous these relationships may have become.
Though compensation for Jaresko and other officers was shifted outside public view after 2006 – as their pay was moved to the affiliated entities – the 2006 IRS filing says: “It should be noted that as long as HCA earns a management fee from WNISEF, HCA and HCAD [the two Horizon Capital entities] must ensure that a salary cap of $150,000 is adhered to for the proportion of salary attributable to WNISEF funds managed relative to aggregate funds under management.”
But that language would seem to permit compensation well above $150,000 if it could be tied to other managed funds, including EEGF, or come from the bonus incentive program. Such compensation for Jaresko and the other top officers was not reported on later IRS forms despite a line for earnings from “related organizations.” Apparently, Horizon Capital and EEGF were regarded as “unrelated organizations” for the purposes of reporting compensation.
The KPMG auditors also took a narrow view of compensation only confirming that no “salary” exceeded $150,000, apparently not looking at bonuses and other forms of compensation.
Neither AID officials nor Jaresko responded to specific questions about WNISEF’s possible conflicts of interest, how much money Jaresko made from her involvement with WNISEF and its connected companies, and whether she had fully complied with IRS reporting requirements.
Gagging an Ex-Husband
In 2012, when Jaresko’s ex-husband Figlus began talking about what he saw as improper loans that Jaresko had taken from Horizon Capital Associates to buy and expand her stake in EEGF, the privately held follow-on fund to WNISEF, Jaresko sent her lawyers to court to silence him and, according to his lawyer, bankrupt him.
The filings in Delaware’s Chancery Court are remarkable not only because Jaresko succeeded in getting the Court to gag her ex-husband through enforcement of a non-disclosure agreement but the Court agreed to redact nearly all the business details, even the confidentiality language at the center of the case.
Since Figlus had given some of his information to a Ukrainian journalist, Jaresko’s complaint also had the look of a leak investigation, tracking down Figlus’s contacts with the journalist and then using that evidence to secure the restraining order, which Figlus said not only prevented him from discussing business secrets but even talking about his more general concerns about Jaresko’s insider dealings.
The heavy redactions make it hard to fully understand Figlus’s concerns or to assess the size of Jaresko’s borrowing as she expanded her holdings in EEGF, but Figlus did assert that he saw his role as whistle-blowing about improper actions by Jaresko.
In a Oct. 31, 2012, filing, Figlus’s attorney wrote that “At all relevant times, Defendant [Figlus] acted in good faith and with justification, on matters of public interest, and particularly the inequitable conduct set forth herein where such inequitable conduct adversely affects … at least one other limited partner which is REDACTED, and specifically the inequitable conduct included, in addition to the other conduct cited herein, REDACTED.”
The defendant’s filing argued: “The Plaintiffs’ [Jaresko’s and her EEGF partners’] claims are barred, in whole or in part, by public policy, and particularly that a court in equity should not enjoin ‘whistle-blowing’ activities on matters of public interest, and particularly the inequitable conduct set forth herein.” But the details of that conduct were all redacted.
In a defense brief dated Dec. 17, 2012 [see Part One and Part Two], Figlus expanded on his argument that Jaresko’s attempts to have the court gag him amounted to a violation of his constitutional right of free speech:
“The obvious problem with the scope of their Motion is that Plaintiffs are asking the Court to enter an Order that prohibits Defendant Figlus from exercising his freedom of speech without even attempting to provide the Court with any Constitutional support or underpinning for such impairment of Figlus’ rights.
“Plaintiffs cannot do so, because such silencing of speech is Constitutionally impermissible, and would constitute a denial of basic principles of the Bill of Rights in both the United States and Delaware Constitutions. There can be no question that Plaintiffs are seeking a temporary injunction, which constitutes a prior restraint on speech. …
“The Court cannot, consistent with the Federal and State Constitutional guarantees of free speech, enjoin speech except in the most exceptional circumstances, and certainly not when Plaintiffs are seeking to prevent speech that is not even covered by the very contractual provision upon which they are relying. Moreover, the Court cannot prevent speech where the matter has at least some public interest REDACTED, except as limited to the very specific and exact language of the speaker’s contractual obligation.”
A Redacted Narrative
Figlus also provided a narrative of events as he saw them as a limited partner in EEGF, saying he initially “believed everything she [Jaresko] was doing, you know, was proper.” Later, however, Figlus “learned that Jaresko began borrowing money from HCA REDACTED, but again relied on his spouse, and did not pay attention to the actual financial transactions…
“In early 2010, after Jaresko separated from Figlus, she presented Figlus with, and requested that he execute, a ‘Security Agreement,’ pledging the couple’s partnership interest to the repayment of the loans from HCA. This was Figlus first realization of the amount of loans that Jaresko had taken, and that the partnership interest was being funded through this means. … By late 2011, Jaresko had borrowed approximately REDACTED from HCA to both fund the partnership interest REDACTED. The loans were collateralized only by the EEFG partnership interest. …
“Figlus became increasingly concerned about the partnership and the loans that had been and continued to be given to the insiders to pay for their partnership interests, while excluding other limited partners. Although Figlus was not sophisticated in these matters, he considered that it was inappropriate that HCA was giving loans to insiders to fund their partnership interests, but to no other partners. …
“He talked to an individual at U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington D.C., because the agency was effectively involved as a limited partner because of the agency’s funding and supervision over WNISEF, but the agency employee did not appear interested in pursuing the question.”
In the court proceedings, Jaresko’s lawyers mocked Figlus’s claims that he was acting as a whistle-blower, claiming that he was actually motivated by a desire “to harm his ex-wife” and had violated the terms of his non-disclosure agreement, which the lawyers convinced the court to exclude from the public record.
The plaintiffs’ brief [see Part One and Part Two] traced Figlus’s contacts with the Ukrainian reporter whose name is also redacted: “Figlus, having previously received an audit from the General Partner, provided it to REDACTED [the Ukrainian reporter] with full knowledge that the audit was non-public. Also on or about October 2, 2012, REDACTED [the reporter] contacted multiple Limited Partners, informed them that he possessed ‘documented proof’ of alleged impropriety by the General Partner and requested interviews concerning that alleged impropriety.”
The filing noted that on Oct. 3, 2012, the reporter told Figlus that Jaresko “called two REDACTED [his newspaper’s] editors last night crying, not me, for some reason.” (The Ukrainian story was never published.)
After the competing filings, Jaresko’s lawyers successfully secured a restraining order against Figlus from the Delaware Chancery Court and continued to pursue the case against him though his lawyer has asserted that his client would make no further effort to expose these financial dealings and was essentially broke.
On May 14, 2014, Figlus filed a complaint with the court claiming that he was being denied distributions from his joint interest in EEGF and saying he was told that it was because the holding was pledged as security against the loans taken out by Jaresko. But, on the same day, Jaresko’s lawyer, Richard P. Rollo, contradicted that assertion, saying information about Figlus’s distributions was being withheld because EEGF and Horizon Capital “faced significant business interruptions and difficulties given the political crisis in Ukraine.”
The filing suggested that the interlocking investments between EEGF and the U.S.-taxpayer-funded WNISEF were experiencing further trouble from the political instability and civil war sweeping across Ukraine.
A Face of Reform
By December 2014, Jaresko had resigned from her WNISEF-related positions, taken Ukrainian citizenship and started her new job as Ukraine’s Finance Minister. In an article about Jaresko’s appointment, John Helmer, a longtime foreign correspondent in Russia, disclosed the outlines of the court dispute with Figlus and identified the Ukrainian reporter as Mark Rachkevych of the Kyiv Post.
“It hasn’t been rare for American spouses to go into the asset management business in the former Soviet Union, and make profits underwritten by the US Government with information supplied from their US Government positions or contacts,” Helmer wrote. “It is exceptional for them to fall out over the loot.”
When I contacted George Pazuniak, Figlus’s lawyer, about Jaresko’s aggressive enforcement of the non-disclosure agreement, he told me that “at this point, it’s very difficult for me to say very much without having a detrimental effect on my client.” Pazuniak did say, however, that all the redactions were demanded by Jaresko’s lawyers.
I also sent detailed questions to USAID and to Jaresko via several of her associates. Those questions included how much of the $150 million in U.S. taxpayers’ money remained, why Jaresko reported no compensation from “related organizations,” whether she received any of the $4.6 million to WNISEF’s officers in bonuses in 2013, how much money she made in total from her association with WNISEF, what AID officials did in response to Figlus’s whistle-blower complaint, and whether Jaresko’s legal campaign to silence her ex-husband was appropriate given her current position and Ukraine’s history of secretive financial dealings.
USAID press officer Annette Y. Aulton got back to me with a response that was unresponsive to my specific questions. Rather than answering about the performance of WNISEF and Jaresko’s compensation, the response commented on the relative success of 10 “Enterprise Funds” that AID has sponsored in Eastern Europe and added:
“There is a twenty year history of oversight of WNISEF operations. Enterprise funds must undergo an annual independent financial audit, submit annual reports to USAID and the IRS, and USAID staff conduct field visits and semi-annual reviews. At the time Horizon Capital assumed management of WNISEF, USAID received disclosures from Natalie Jaresko regarding the change in management structure and at the time USAID found no impropriety during its review.”
One Jaresko associate, Tanya Bega, Horizon Capital’s investor relations manager, said she forwarded my questions to Jaresko, but Jaresko did not respond.
Despite questions about whether Jaresko improperly enriched herself at the expense of U.S. taxpayers and then used a Delaware court to prevent disclosure of possible abuses, Jaresko has been hailed by the U.S. mainstream media as the face of reform in the U.S.-backed Ukrainian regime that seized power in February 2014 after a violent coup overthrew democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych.
For instance, last January, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman cited Jaresko as an exemplar of the new Ukrainian leaders who “share our values” and deserve unqualified American support. Friedman uncritically quoted Jaresko’s speech to international financial leaders at Davos, Switzerland, in which she castigated Russian President Vladimir Putin:
“Putin fears a Ukraine that demands to live and wants to live and insists on living on European values — with a robust civil society and freedom of speech and religion [and] with a system of values the Ukrainian people have chosen and laid down their lives for.”
However, from the opaqueness of the WNISEF records and the gagging of her ex-husband, Jaresko has shown little regard for transparency or other democratic values. Similarly, USAID seems more intent on protecting Jaresko and the image of the Kiev regime than in protecting America tax dollars and ensuring that WNISEF’s investments were dedicated to improving the lot of Ukrainian citizens.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Crises ‘solutions’ to advance global agenda behind closed doors
Lana and Andy Wachowski’s classic 1999 film, “The Matrix”, introduced viewers to the wonderfully fascinating question of how systems of domination and control reproduce themselves. In the film, we learn that the matrix periodically re-boots itself. Most often the reload is so seamless that it is unnoticed by the masses oblivious to the system of power that constitutes their reality. Sometimes, however, a “glitch” in power’s reproduction temporarily reveals the system to humanity, making for a moment of awareness that leads to a potential escape from the matrix. At the United Nation’s General Assembly the matrix was re-loaded on Sept. 25 with the passing of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs are a set of 17 goals with 169 targets that carry an ambitious agenda for eliminating deeply rooted global inequities and inequalities, including the end of poverty. The agenda is to be accomplished by 2030. The SDG’s also aim to be sustainable for the planetary eco-system. The SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and are the outcome of the Rio+20 meeting in 2012, which began the global discussions about the post-2015 global agenda. Post-2015 refers to a grander re-loading of the development agenda by U.N. agencies, such as the renegotiation of the Hyogo Framework for disaster risk reduction in Spring 2015 and the upcoming re-booting of U.N. Habitat’s urban agenda, which will happen with the launch of Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2015.
Collectively, the post-2015 agenda defines how the global community will respond to major issues such as food security, climate change, public health, urbanization, gender inequality and poverty. It sets the normative framework for how our key institutions will address the most pressing issues of the 21st Century. These institutions include the core global power brokers in the world of development, such as The World Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, or USAID. But, it also includes the wide range of NGOs, such as Oxfam or World Resources Institute, along with an even wider range of consultancy companies that contribute to policy formulation and implementation. Of course, the private sector is present as major stakeholders in how development will solve 21st Century crises. Taken together these actors constitute a development complex of interconnected interests and agendas fundamental to how power functions globally. With the SDGs, these power brokers have reproduced their position as the creators of the agenda as well as the actors who implement the agenda.
A key to the power elite’s reproduction of their capacity to define the agenda for what will become 9 billion people is the seamless transition they executed in New York City on Sept. 25. Amazingly, 193 nations signed onto the agenda, “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Their signatures resulted from a process of closed-door meetings that created the core agenda before the illusion of consultation was created through a series of engagements with organizations that ostensibly represented civil society. The making of the SDGs largely focused on responding to the criticisms of the MDGs, which complained of inadequate benchmarks for any honest assessment that could determine the success or failure of the development goals. Hence, the SDGs give us a bewildering list of 169 targets to be met in accomplishing the goals. Additionally, growing concerns about the deepening planetary ecological crisis, especially in its climate change articulation, brought the power brokers to the point of needing to include sustainability within the development agenda. To use “The Matrix” metaphor, all of this work happened without a “glitch to the system” as it rebooted. Hardly anyone took notice, scarce was the debate, and few have asked questions about the fundamental premises of what is now called “sustainable development.”
Like lipstick on a pig, the SDGs are a continuation of the thinking within the MDGs approach to global poverty offering nothing more than a cosmetic makeover. The thinking goes by the name “development,” which itself is a continuation of the modernization paradigm which was the neo-colonialist attempt in the 1950s and 1960s at putting lipstick on the pig of colonialism. The MDG’s brand of lipstick attempted to lift people out of poverty by promoting economic growth, while refusing to acknowledge that this capitalist cure was the cause of the ill it created in the first place. The SDG’s retain the growth paradigm, while tinting the lipstick’s color with “sustainability.” In the seamless reloading of the matrix, the making of the SDGs advanced the argument that the MDGs were, for the greater part, successful in the goal of reducing global poverty by half. However, that thesis depends on how poverty is measured. If we keep an absurdly low metric of US$1-2 dollars per day, then the MDGs succeeded. But, if the global elite, those who create the parameters of success behind closed-door meetings used humane measurements for a dignified life, then the MDGs were an unquestionable failure. … Full article
A government watchdog report released on Wednesday contains information suggesting that an assistant director of the Secret Service wanted “embarrassing” information leaked about a congressman who was critical of the agency.
“Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out,” Assistant Director Edward Lowery wrote in an email to another director regarding Representative Jason Chaffetz. “Just to be fair.”
The email was sent on March 31, and two days later media outlets reported that Chaffetz had applied to be a Secret Service agent in 2003, and was rejected.
The Agency’s anger followed a House hearing on March 24 during which Chaffetz scolded Lowery as well as the Agency for their record of security lapses and misconduct.
Following the hearing, 45 Secret Service agents looked into Chaffetz’ file that was contained in a restricted database. Some of them shared the information amongst themselves.
Chaffetz’ personnel file was restricted and required to be kept private by law.
Lowery maintained during an inspector general’s probe that he was simply venting in the email and did not tell anyone to leak the private information.
Immediately following the revelation, Chaffetz released a statement condemning the agency’s actions.
“Certain lines should never be crossed,” he wrote. “The unauthorized access and distribution of my personal information crossed that line. It was a tactic designed to intimidate and embarrass me and frankly, it is intimidating. It’s scary to think about all the possible dangers in having your personal information exposed. The work of the committee, however, will continue. I remain undeterred in conducting proper and rigorous oversight.”
Journalist John Gibler investigates the disappearance of the 43 students at Ayotzinapa.
A year has passed and we still do not know the fate of the 43 rural college students from Ayotzinapa forcibly disappeared on Sept. 26, 2014 in Iguala, Mexico.
We do know now, however, more than we did last year. We know that the police attacks against the students lasted more than three hours, took place at nine different locations in and around Iguala, involved officers from municipal, state and federal police corps, resulted in six people murdered, 40 wounded—one of whom remains in a coma—, and 43 disappeared.
We also know that the government has amassed a case file totaling 115 volumes and accused 82 people, but mostly based their investigation on three mutually contradicting confessions.
A recent report by an independent group of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—the group is known in Mexico as the GIEI for their Spanish initials—debunked the government’s conclusion that gangsters confused the students for members of a rival drug trafficking gang, sent the Iguala police to capture and hand them over, and then drove them out to an isolated trash dump in near-by Cocula, killed them and incinerated their bodies on a trash and wood pyre that burned until 5 pm local time the following day.
The GIEI’s fire expert, José Torero, a Peruvian with a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, concluded that to generate the heat necessary to incinerate 43 human bodies at the Cocula trash dump, the fire would have needed 30,000kg of wood, 60 hours to burn and would have raged so high as to have set the entire dump and surrounding forest aflame creating a plume of smoke 300 meters in the air and radiated such intense heat that anyone who approached close enough to throw more fuel on the fire—as the confessed witnesses claim they did—would themselves have been singed beyond recognition.
I traveled to the Cocula dump several times over the past year. Twice I spoke with Cocula municipal trash workers. The two men who worked on Saturday, Sept. 27 last year both told me that they went to the dump around one in the afternoon—when the killers’ fire would have still been blazing—and deposited the trash there without incident. There was no fire. No one was there, they said, and the area was still wet from the previous night’s rain.
After Marcela Turati published in Proceso magazine in October 2014 that the dump was still in use after Sept. 26, the workers told me that federal agents went to their homes, took them to Mexico City and threatened to send them to maximum security prison if they didn’t “stop telling lies.” One of the workers said that he clearly told the federal agents he is unable to read or write and still was forced to put his thumb print on “countless sheets of paper.”
The GIEI’s conclusion that the 43 students were not incinerated at the Cocula trash dump on Sept. 27, 2014 is thus supported not only by forensic analysis, but by two eyewitnesses (not to mention hundreds of Cocula residents who could not recall seeing high plumes of smoke in late September). Yet the government insists on pushing the Cocula theory, twisting and ignoring evidence, as in Attorney General Arely Gómez’s recent false claim that a second student’s remains had been positively identified.
This insistence on the trash dump scenario has diverted attention from witness testimony and documentary evidence of Guerrero state and Mexican federal police participation in the attacks against the students. Over the past year, I interviewed more than 30 survivors of the attacks in Iguala. Several witnesses identified state and federal police participating in the attacks at four distinct locations over a period of several hours.
The GIEI report confirmed these testimonies, though that confirmation has largely been unreported, overshadowed by the debate over the trash dump.
The GIEI report goes further, citing testimony from the case file by two civilian-dressed military intelligence officers who told state officials that they observed the attacks at the two locations from which the 43 were disappeared. These facts alone—state and federal police participation in and military observation of the attacks—undermine the federal prosecutor’s story of gangsters confusing the students for a rival gang.
The GIEI report also revealed major flaws in the government’s investigation: crime scenes that were never analyzed; suspects that were very likely tortured; essential witnesses never interviewed; security camera footage of one of the sites of the forced disappearance that was retrieved and destroyed by an unidentified official; clothing found at the crimes scenes that was never analyzed; and, perhaps most astoundingly, a missing bus.
For months both the Mexican government and the press reported that police attacked the students aboard four commandeered buses. That is incorrect: the students travelled aboard five commandeered buses that night. This fact is of fundamental importance first, because police took the 43 disappeared students from two buses (not one, as originally reported) at two distinct locations in Iguala.
At one of those locations—beneath an overpass, just in front of the Iguala office of the Guerrero state prosecutors—numerous witnesses identified federal police participating in the disappearances.
The location of the bus from which the police took them is visible from the very security camera from which the footage of that night was mysteriously retrieved and destroyed. It is also important because the GIEI report revealed that the other bus at that location, what they call the fifth bus, about 100 meters away from the overpass, is missing.
When the experts asked to see that bus, they were led to an entirely different one, made up to look like it had been attacked. The problem, though, is that that particular bus was not attacked: federal police aiming their weapons at them confronted the students, who then got off the bus and escaped into the surrounding hills. When the GIEI proved that the other bus was not the one they were looking for, federal officials were unable to produce the now famous “fifth bus.”
This conspicuous absence both in the case file and in real life led the GIEI to propose a possible motive to explain the complexity of the attacks and the overwhelmingly disproportionate use of violence against the students that night: the sandal and t- shirt-clad young men from some of Mexico’s most destitute regions had unwittingly commandeered a bus carrying a major heroin shipment en route to the United States.
If this hypothesis were to be proved true, it would be a searing indictment of both Mexico and the United State’s so-called war on drugs. For here we would have a case showing that when a major drug load is placed at risk, whom do its caretakers call to save it? The State. Not just the local “corrupt” cops, but also the state and federal police all acting in coordination and with military intelligence watching on. This would give new meaning to the Ayotzinapa protesters’ constant chant: Fue el estado, (The State did it).
John Gibler is the author of Mexico: Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt.
teleSUR report ends
Science Repudiates Mass Cremation Stories
Labour Friends of Israel, a pro-“Israel” political advocacy group, has invited Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to speak at its annual reception(1) in Brighton on Tuesday. The power of the “Israeli” lobby in Whitehall(2) is not news to those with a keen eye on British politics. That being said, for any British voter this should raise eyebrows at the very least.
Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) is a Jewish lobby group(3) which,
“promotes a negotiated two state solution for two peoples; with Israel safe, secure and recognised within its borders; living alongside a democratic, independent Palestinian state”
The above synopsis, garbed in liberal, peaceful and noble language, gives LFI (and “Israel”) an innocuous image to the layperson.
Typical of Zionist rhetorical trickery, this false appraisal is fraudulent for a number of reasons.
“Israel” has to this day not declared its borders for the simple reason that it has an expansionist, hegemonic agenda. It exists on land (every inch – from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean sea) it violently stole from the native Palestinians in 1948. The actual goal of LFI (as with CFI and LDFI – the Conservative and Liberal Democrat sister lobbies) is to influence British policy to ensure continued British support for the brutal, immoral and illegal occupation of Palestine and the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people.
“Israel”: Friend or Foe?
“Israel” is a belligerent foreign nation whose interests are far removed from those of Britain.
We are talking about a country that can fake British passports and use them to commit murder on foreign soil with complete and total impunity.(4) We are talking about a nation that celebrates the slaughter of Britons in a Jewish terror attack on a Jerusalem hotel.(5) We are talking about a nation whose cowardly snipers can murder British civilians(6) with zero legal or diplomatic repercussions.
“Israel” is by no means a friend of Britain, so why should British party leaders be humiliated into proving they are “friends” of hers? Here we have a lobby group representing a belligerent foreign nation, that has the power to summon party leaders to explain themselves like naughty schoolchildren.
Aside from brazenly representing a foreign nation from within the British Parliament, Ryan has demonstrated her contempt for the British taxpayer and voter in other ways – namely by disgracing herself in the MP expenses scandal.
In October 2007, the Evening Standard reported that in the 2006/2007 tax year, Ryan claimed a staggering £173,691 in expenses(7) – more than any other MP.
The British voter could be forgiven for asking Ryan where her loyalties lie – with Britain? Or with the belligerent foreign nation that she duplicitously represents?
That a foreign lobbying organisation can subvert the political decision making process in such a brazen way – with Jewish MPs literally acting as moles in parliament – makes a mockery of British democracy. I shudder to imagine the tsunami of outrage that would ensue if Muslim MPs were in the same position, lobbying for a hostile foreign government.
(1) ‘Labour Friends of Israel invites Jeremy Corbyn to explain his Palestine policy to them’ – The Independent, 22 September 2015.
(2) ‘All in the Family: David Cameron’s Jewish Roots and the Coreligionists Who Brought Him to Power’ – EmpireStrikesBlack, 7 January 2014.
(3) ‘About Labour Friends of Israel’ – lfi.org.uk, 27 September 2015.
(4) ‘Dubai Hamas assassination: ‘Israeli hit-squad’ used fake British passports’ – The Telegraph, 17 February 2010.
(5) ‘Israel celebrates Irgun hotel bombers’ – The Telegraph, 22 July 2006.
(6) ‘In memory of Tom Hurndall, shot in the head by Israeli sniper 10 years ago today’ – tomhurndall.co.uk, 11 April 2013.
(7) ‘Revealed: London MPs claiming £9m expenses’ – Evening Standard, 26 October 2007.
In broad daylight on May 2, 1997, 50 armed men set upon a television station in Istanbul with gunfire. The attackers unleashed a fusillade of bullets and shouted slogans supporting Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Tansu Ciller. The gunmen were outraged over the station’s broadcast of a TV report critical of Ciller, a close U.S. ally who had come under criticism for stonewalling investigations into collusion between state security forces and Turkish criminal elements.
Miraculously, no one was injured in the attack, but the headquarters of Independent Flash TV were left pock-marked with bullet-holes and smashed windows. The gunfire also sent an unmistakable message to Turkish journalists and legislators: don’t challenge Ciller and other high-level Turkish officials when they cover up state secrets.
Former Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller
For several months, Turkey had been awash in dramatic disclosures connecting high Turkish officials to the right-wing Grey Wolves, the terrorist band which has preyed on the region for years. In 1981, a terrorist from the Grey Wolves attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in Vatican City.
But at the center of the mushrooming Turkish scandal is whether Turkey, a strategically placed NATO country, allowed mafiosi and right-wing extremists to operate death squads and to smuggle drugs with impunity. A Turkish parliamentary commission is investigating these new charges.
The rupture of state secrets in Turkey also could release clues to other major Cold War mysteries. Besides the attempted papal assassination, the Turkish disclosures could shed light on the collapse of the Vatican bank in 1982 and the operation of a clandestine pipeline that pumped sophisticated military hardware into the Middle East — apparently from NATO stockpiles in Europe — in exchange for heroin sold by the Mafia in the United States.
The official Turkish inquiry was triggered by what could have been the opening scene of a spy novel: a dramatic car crash on a remote highway near the village of Susurluk, 100 miles southwest of Istanbul. On Nov. 3, 1996, three people were crushed to death when their speeding black Mercedes hit a tractor.
The crash killed Husseyin Kocadag, a top police official who commanded Turkish counter-insurgency units. But it was Kocadag’s company that stunned the nation. The two other dead were Abdullah Catli, a convicted fugitive who was wanted for drug trafficking and murder, and Catli’s girlfriend, Gonca Us, a Turkish beauty queen turned mafia hit-woman.
A fourth occupant, who survived the crash, was Kurdish warlord Sedat Bucak, whose militia had been armed and financed by the Turkish government to fight Kurdish separatists. At first, Turkish officials claimed that the police were transporting two captured criminals.
But evidence seized at the crash site indicated that Abdullah Catli, the fugitive gangster, had been given special diplomatic credentials by Turkish authorities. Catli was carrying a government-approved weapons permit and six ID cards, each with a different name. Catli also possessed several handguns, silencers and a cache of narcotics, not the picture of a subdued criminal.
When it became obvious that Catli was a police collaborator, not a captive, the Turkish Interior Minister resigned. Several high-ranking law enforcement officers, including Istanbul’s police chief, were suspended. But the red-hot scandal soon threatened to jump that bureaucratic firebreak and endanger the careers of other senior government officials.
Grey Wolves Terror
The news of Catli’s secret police ties were all the more scandalous given his well-known role as a key leader of the Grey Wolves, a neo-fascist terrorist group that has stalked Turkey since the late 1960s.
A young tough who wore black leather pants and looked like Turkey’s answer to Elvis Presley, Catli graduated from street gang violence to become a brutal enforcer for the Grey Wolves. He rose quickly within their ranks, emerging as second-in-command in 1978. That year, Turkish police linked him to the murder of seven trade-union activists and Catli went underground.
Three years later, the Grey Wolves gained international notoriety when Mehmet Ali Agca, one of Catli’s closest collaborators, shot and nearly killed Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981. Catli was the leader of a fugitive terrorist cell that included Agca and a handful of other Turkish neo-fascists.
Testifying in September 1985 as a witness at the trial of three Bulgarians and four Turks charged with complicity in the papal shooting in Rome, Catli (who was not a defendant) disclosed that he gave Agca the pistol that wounded the pontiff. Catli had previously helped Agca escape from a Turkish jail, where Agca was serving time for killing a national newspaper editor.
In addition to harboring Agca, Catli supplied him with fake IDs and directed Agca’s movements in West Germany, Switzerland, and Austria for several months prior to the papal attack. Catli enjoyed close links to Turkish drug mafiosi, too. His Grey Wolves henchmen worked as couriers for the Turkish mob boss Abuzer Ugurlu.
At Ugurlu’s behest, Catli’s thugs criss-crossed the infamous smugglers’ route passing through Bulgaria. Those routes were the ones favored by smugglers who reportedly carried NATO military equipment to the Middle East and returned with loads of heroin. Judge Carlo Palermo, an Italian magistrate based in Trento, discovered these smuggling operations while investigating arms-and-drug trafficking from Eastern Europe to Sicily.
Palermo disclosed that large quantities of sophisticated NATO weaponry — including machine guns, Leopard tanks and U.S.-built Cobra assault helicopters — were smuggled from Western Europe to countries in the Middle East during the 1970s and early 1980s. According to Palermo’s investigation, the weapon delivers were often made in exchange for consignments of heroin that filtered back, courtesy of the Grey Wolves and other smugglers, through Bulgaria to northern Italy.
There, the drugs were received by Mafia middlemen and transported to North America. Turkish morphine base supplied much of the Sicilian-run “Pizza connection,” which flooded the U.S. and Europe with high-grade heroin for several years.
[While it is still not clear how the NATO supplies entered the pipeline, other investigations have provided some clues. Witnesses in the October Surprise inquiry into an alleged Republican-Iranian hostage deal in 1980 claimed that they were allowed to select weapons from NATO stockpiles in Europe for shipment to Iran. [Iranian arms dealer Houshang Lavi claimed that he selected spare parts for Hawk anti-aircraft batteries from NATO bases along the Belgian-German border. Another witness, American arms broker William Herrmann, corroborated Lavi’s account of NATO supplies going to Iran. [Even former NATO commander Alexander Haig confirmed that NATO supplies could have gone to Iran in the early 1980s while he was secretary of state. “It wouldn’t be preposterous if a nation, Germany, for example, decided to let some of their NATO stockpiles be diverted to Iran,” Haig said in an interview. For more details, see Robert Parry’s Trick or Treason. ]A Vatican Mystery
Italian magistrates described the network they had uncovered as the “world’s biggest illegal arms trafficking organization.” They linked it to Middle Eastern drug empires and to prestigious banking circles in Italy and Europe.
At the center of this operation, it appeared, was an obscure import-export firm in Milan called Stibam International Transport. The head of Stibam, a Syrian businessman named Henri Arsan, also functioned as an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to several Italian news outlets.
With satellite offices in New York, London, Zurich, and Sofia, Bulgaria, Stibam officials recycled their profits through Banco Ambrosiano, Italy’s largest private bank which had close ties to the Vatican until its sensational collapse in 1982. The collapse of Banco Ambrosiano came on the heels of the still unsolved death of its furtive president, Roberto Calvi, whose body was found hanging underneath Blackfriar’s Bridge in London in June 1982.
While running Ambrosiano, Calvi, nicknamed “God’s banker,” served as advisor to the Vatican’s extensive fiscal portfolio. At the same time in the mid- and late 1970s, Calvi’s bank handled most of Stibam’s foreign currency transactions and owned the building that housed Stibam’s Milanese headquarters.
In effect, the Vatican Bank — by virtue of its interlocking relationship with Banco Ambrosiano — was fronting for a gigantic contraband operation that specialized in guns and heroin. The bristling contraband operation that traversed Bulgaria was a magnet for secret service agents on both sides of the Cold War divide.
Crucial, in this regard, was the role of Kintex, a Sofia-based, state-controlled import-export firm that worked in tandem with Stibam and figured prominently in the arms trade. Kintex was riddled with Bulgarian and Soviet spies — a fact which encouraged speculation that the KGB and its Bulgarian proxies were behind the plot against the pope.
But Western intelligence also had its hooks into the Bulgarian smuggling scene, as evidenced by the CIA’s use of Kintex to channel weapons to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in the early 1980s. The Reagan administration jumped on the papal assassination attempt as a propaganda opportunity, rather than helping to unravel the larger mystery.
Although the CIA’s link to the arms-for-drugs traffic in Bulgaria was widely known in espionage circles, hard-line U.S. and Western European officials promoted instead a bogus conspiracy theory that blamed the papal shooting on a communist plot.
The so-called “Bulgarian connection” became one of the more effective disinformation schemes hatched during the Reagan era. It reinforced the notion of the Soviet Union as an evil empire. But the apparent hoax also diverted attention from extensive — and potentially embarrassing — ties between U.S. intelligence and the Turkey’s narco-trafficking ultra-right.
Fabrication of the conspiracy theory might have even involved suborning perjury. During his September 1985 court testimony in Rome, Catli asserted that he had been approached by the West German BND spy organization, which allegedly promised him a large sum of money if he implicated the Bulgarian secret service and the KGB in the attempt on the pope’s life.
Five years later, ex-CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman disclosed that his colleagues, under pressure from CIA higher-ups, skewed their reports to try to lend credence to the contention that the Soviets were involved. “The CIA had no evidence linking the KGB to the plot,” Goodman told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Friends of the Wolves
Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, the CIA station chief in Rome at the time of the papal shooting, had previously been posted in Ankara. Clarridge was the CIA’s man-on-the-spot in Turkey in the 1970s when armed bands of Grey Wolves unleashed a wave of bomb attacks and shootings that killed thousands of people, including public officials, journalists, students, lawyers, labor organizers, social democrats, left-wing activists and ethnic Kurds. [In his 1997 memoirs, A Spy for All Seasons, Clarridge makes no reference to the Turkish unrest or to the pope shooting.]
During those violent 1970s, the Grey Wolves operated with the encouragement and protection of the Counter-Guerrilla Organization, a section of the Turkish Army’s Special Warfare Department. Headquartered in the U.S. Military Aid Mission building in Ankara, the Special Warfare Department received funds and training from U.S. advisors to create “stay behind” squads comprised of civilian irregulars.
They were supposed to go underground and engage in acts of sabotage if the Soviets invaded. Similar Cold War paramilitary units were established in every NATO member state, covering all non-Communist Europe like a spider web that would entangle Soviet invaders. But instead of preparing for foreign enemies, U.S.-sponsored stay-behind operatives in Turkey and several European countries used their skills to attack domestic opponents and foment violent disorders.
Some of those attacks were intended to spark right-wing military coups. In the late 1970s, former military prosecutor and Turkish Supreme Court Justice Emin Deger documented collaboration between the Grey Wolves and the government’s counter-guerrilla forces as well as the close ties of the latter to the CIA.
Turkey’s Counter-Guerrilla Organization handed out weapons to the Grey Wolves and other right-wing terrorist groups. These shadowy operations mainly engaged in the surveillance, persecution and torture of Turkish leftists, according to retired army commander Talat Turhan, the author of three books on counter-guerrilla activities in Turkey.
But the extremists launched one wave of political violence which provoked a 1980 coup by state security forces that deposed Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit. The Turkish security forces cited the need to restore order which had been shattered by rightist terrorist groups secretly sponsored by those same state security forces.
Cold War Roots
Since the earliest days of the Cold War, Turkey’s strategic importance derived from its geographic position as the West’s easternmost bulwark against Soviet communism. In an effort to weaken the Soviet state, the CIA also used pan-Turkish militants to incite anti-Soviet passions among Muslim Turkish minorities inside the Soviet Union, a strategy that strengthened ties between U.S. intelligence and Turkey’s ultra-nationalists.
Though many of Turkish ultra-nationalists were anti-Western as well as anti-Soviet, the Cold War realpolitik compelled them to support a discrete alliance with NATO and U.S. intelligence. Among the Turkish extremists collaborating in this anti-Soviet strategy were the National Action Party and its paramilitary youth group, the Grey Wolves.
Led by Colonel Alpaslan Turkes, the National Action Party espoused a fanatical pan-Turkish ideology that called for reclaiming large sections of the Soviet Union under the flag of a reborn Turkish empire. Turkes and his revanchist cohorts had been enthusiastic supporters of Hitler during World War II.
“The Turkish race above all others” was their Nazi-like credo. In a similar vein, Grey Wolf literature warned of a vast Jewish-Masonic-Communist conspiracy and its newspapers carried ads for Turkish translations of Nazi texts.
The pan-Turkish dream and its anti-Soviet component also fueled ties between the Grey Wolves and the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN), a CIA-backed coalition led by erstwhile fascist collaborators from East Europe.
Ruzi Nazar, a leading figure in the Munich-based ABN, had a long-standing relationship with the CIA and the Turkish ultra-nationalists. In the 1950s and 1960s, Nazar was employed by Radio Free Europe, a CIA-founded propaganda effort.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the shifting geopolitical terrain created new opportunities — political and financial — for Colonel Turkes and his pan-Turkish crusaders. After serving a truncated prison term in the 1980s for his role in masterminding the political violence that convulsed Turkey, Turkes and several of his pan-Turkish colleagues were permitted to resume their political activities.
In 1992, the colonel visited his long lost Turkish brothers in newly independent Azerbaijan and received a hero’s welcome. In Baku, Turkes endorsed the candidacy of Grey Wolf sympathizer Abulfex Elcibey, who was subsequently elected president of Azerbaijan and appointed a close Grey Wolf ally as his Interior Minister.
The Gang Returns
By this time, Abdullah Catli was also back in circulation after several years of incarceration in France and Switzerland for heroin trafficking. In 1990, he escaped from a Swiss jail cell and rejoined the neo-fascist underground in Turkey.
Despite his documented links to the papal shooting and other terrorist attacks, Catli was pressed into service as a death squad organizer for the Turkish government’s dirty war against the Kurds who have long struggled for independence inside both Turkey and Iraq.
Turkish Army spokesmen acknowledged that the Counter-Guerrilla Organization (renamed the Special Forces Command in 1992) was involved in the escalating anti-Kurdish campaign. Turkey got a wink and a nod from Washington as a quid pro quo for cooperating with the United States during the Gulf War.
Turkish jets bombed Kurdish bases inside Iraqi territory. Meanwhile, on the ground, anti-Kurdish death squads were assassinating more than 1,000 non-combatants in southeastern Turkey. Hundreds of other Kurds “disappeared” while in police custody. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the European Parliament all condemned the Turkish security forces for these abuses.
Still, there was no hard evidence that Turkey’s security forces had recruited criminal elements as foot soldiers. That evidence surfaced only on Nov. 3, 1996, when Catli died in the fateful auto accident near Susurluk.
Strewn amidst the roadside wreckage was proof of what many journalists and human rights activists had long suspected — that successive Turkish governments had protected narco-traffickers, sheltered terrorists and sponsored gangs of killers to suppress Turkish dissidents and Kurdish rebels.
Colonel Turkes confirmed that Catli had performed clandestine duties for Turkey’s police and military. “On the basis of my state experience, I admit that Catli has been used by the state,” said Turkes. Catli had been cooperating “in the framework of a secret service working for the good of the state,” Turkes insisted.
U.S.-backed Turkish officials, including Tansu Ciller, Prime Minister from 1993-1996, also defended Catli after the car crash. “I don’t know whether he is guilty or not,” Ciller stated, “but we will always respectfully remember those who fire bullets or suffer wounds in the name of this country, this nation and this state.”
Eighty members of the Turkish parliament urged the federal prosecutor to file charges of criminal misconduct against Ciller, who was serving as Turkey’s Foreign Minister, as well as Deputy Prime Minister. They asserted that the Susurluk incident provided Turkey “with a historic opportunity to expose unsolved murders and the drugs and arms smuggling that have been going on in our country for years.”
The scandal momentarily reinvigorated the Turkish press, which unearthed revelations about criminals and police officials involved in the heroin trade. But journalists also were victims of death squads in those years. The violent attack on Independent Flash TV was a reminder. Prosecutors have faced pressure, too, from superiors who are not eager to delve into state secrets. [Ultimately, the corruption case against Ciller was covered up.]
Across the Atlantic in Washington, the U.S. government did not acknowledge any responsibility for the Turkish Frankenstein that U.S. Cold War strategy helped to create. When asked about the Susurluk affair, a State Department spokesperson said it was “an internal Turkish matter.” He declined further comment.