Guaranteed profits—at any price
Last Tuesday, President Barack Obama told beltway bullhorn Chris Matthews that Senator Elizabeth Warren was “wrong” about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest trade deal in American history, linking United States and Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam in a pervasive and binding treaty. The president was referring to Warren’s claim that the trade treaty will license corporations to sue governments, and her contention that this was, to put it mildly, a bad idea.
Warren isn’t wrong, Obama is. And he knows it. The entire TPP, as understood, is based on a single overarching idea: that regulation must not hinder profiteering. This is a fundamentally anti-democratic concept that—if implemented—would effectively eliminate the power of a demos to make its own law. The final authority on any law’s validity would rest elsewhere, beyond the reach of popular sovereignty. From the TPP point-of-view, democracy is just another barrier to trade, and the corporate forces behind the draft treaty are intent on removing that barrier. Simple as that.
That’s why the entire deal has been negotiated in conclave, deliberately beyond the public purview, since the president and his trade representatives know that exposing the deal to the unforgiving light of popular scrutiny would doom it to failure. That’s why the president, like his mentor President Clinton, has lobbied hard for Trade Promotion Authority, or Fast Track, which reduces the Congressional role in the passage of the bill to a ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’
Cracks have begun to show in the formidable cloak behind which the deal has been structured. A coalition of advocacy groups advanced on the U.S. Trade Representatives office this week. Wikileaks has obtained and released chapters from the draft document. Senator Harry Reid declared his position on Fast Track as “… not only no, but hell no.” Warren has proved to be a persistent thorn in the side of White House efforts to smooth over troubling issues with the deal. But the monied interests that rule the beltway have all pressed for passage. And as a Fast Track draft makes its way through Congress, stakes are high. The TPP is, in the apt estimation of political activist Jim Hightower, a “corporate coup d’état.”
Not for the first time, the president and his Republican enemies are yoked by the bipartisan appeal of privilege against this faltering fence of protest. The marriage of convenience was described in last Friday’s sub-head to a New York Times article on TPP: “G.O.P. Is Allied With President Against His Own Party.”
All The Usual Suspects
Who else supports the TPP? Aside from this odd confection of neoliberals, the corporations that rule the beltway feverishly back the TPP. From the leak of Sony digital data we learn that it and its media peers have enthusiastically pressed for the passage of the deal. Sony is joined by major agricultural beneficiaries (Monsanto), mining companies like Infinito Gold, currently suing Costa Rica to keep an ecology-harming mine pit active, as well as pharmaceutical coalitions negotiating stiff intellectual property rights unpopular even in Congress, and various other technology and consumer goods groups. And don’t forget nicotine kingpins like Philip Morris.
Obama reinforces the corporate line: “We have the opportunity to open even more new markets to goods and services backed by three proud words: Made in America.” Perhaps he isn’t aware that our leading export is the workforce that once took pride in that moniker. We’ve exported five million manufacturing jobs since 1994, largely thanks to NAFTA, the model on which the TPP is built. The TPP will only continue that sad trend. The only jobs not being offshored are the ones that can’t be: bartenders and waitresses and health care assistants. That’s the Obama economy: a surfeit of low-wage service jobs filled by debt-saddled degree holders. As Paul Craig Roberts argued in The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism, between 2007 and 2014, some eight million students would graduate from American universities and likely seek jobs in the United States. A mere one million degree-requiring jobs would await them. The irony of Obama’s statement is that the TPP would actually move to strip the use of labels like, “Buy American,” since they unduly advocate for local goods.
In truth, the authors of the treaty already know all this. The bill concedes as much, with Democrats building in some throwaway provisions of unspecified aid to workers whose jobs have been offshored, and a tax credit to ostensibly help those ex-workers purchase health insurance. Cold comfort for the jobless, as they are exhorted by the gutless paladins of globalization to ‘toughen up’ and deal with the harsh realities of a globalized economy. As neoliberal stooge Thomas Friedman has said, companies in the glorious global marketplace never hire before they ask, “Can this person add value every hour, every day — more than a worker in India, a robot or a computer?” Of course, the answer is invariably no, so the job goes to Bangladesh or a robot. No moral equation ever enters the picture. Just market discipline for the vulnerable and ingenious efforts by a captive state to shelter capital from the market dynamics it would force on others.
The Investment Chapter
Despite Obama’s disingenuous clichés about “… fully enforceable protections for workers’ rights, the environment and a free and open Internet,” the trade deal makes it clear that labor law and environmental law are both barriers to profitability. We know this thanks to Wikileaks, which once again proved its inestimable value by acquiring and releasing another chapter from the cloak-and-dagger negotiations. This time it was the investment chapter, in which so much of the treaty’s raison d’etre is expressed.
As Public Citizen points out in its lengthy analysis of the chapter, any domestic policy that infringes on an investor’s “right” to a regulatory framework that conforms to their “expectations,” is grounds for a suit. Namely, the suit may be pressed to “the extent to which the government action interferes with distinct, reasonable investment-backed expectations.”
Here’s what the TPP says about such legislation as it relates to investor expectations:
For greater certainty, whether an investor’s investment-backed expectations are reasonable depends, to the extent relevant, on factors such as whether the government provided the investor with binding written assurances and the nature and extent of governmental regulation or the potential for government regulation in the relevant sector.
Try putting that tax on financial transactions. Forget it. Barrier to a reasonable return. Don’t believe it? Just read the TPP investment protocols that would ban capital controls, which is what a financial tax is considered to be by TPP proponents. Try passing that environmental legislation. Not a chance. Hindrance to maximum shareholder value. Just ask Germany how it felt when a Swiss company sued it for shutting down its nuclear industry after Fukushima. Try enacting that youth safety law banning tobacco advertising. Sorry. Needless barrier to profits. Just ask Australia, which is being sued by Philip Morris for trying to protect kids from tar and nicotine.
Public Citizen has tabulated that, “The TPP would newly empower about 9,000 foreign-owned firms in the United States to launch ISDS cases against the U.S. government, while empowering more than 18,000 additional U.S.-owned firms to launch ISDS cases against other signatory governments.” It found that “foreign investors launched at least 50 ISDS claims each year from 2011 through 2013, and another 42 claims in 2014.” If these numbers seem small, recall that for a crucial piece of labor legislation to be struck down, only one firm need win in arbitration in order to financially hamstring a government and set a precedent that would likely ice the reformist urge of future legislatures.
As noted earlier, the text also appears to suggest to ban the practice of promoting domestic goods over foreign—another hurdle to shareholder value. This would effectively prohibit a country from implementing an import-substitution economy without threat of being sued. Governments would be relieved of tools, like tariffs, historically used to protect fledgling native industries. This is exactly what IMF prescriptions often produce—agricultural reforms, for instance, that wipe out native crop production and substitute for it the production of, say, cheap Arabica coffee beans, for export to the global north. Meanwhile, that producer nation must then accept costly IMF lending regimes to pay to import food it might have grown itself.
Of course, it is rarely mentioned that protectionism is how the United States and Britain both built their industrial economies. Or that removing competitor market protections is how they’ve exploited developing economies ever since. The TPP would effectively lock in globalization. It’s a wedge that forces markets open to foreign trade—the textual equivalent of Commodore Perry sailing his gunships into Tokyo Harbor.
The bill’s backers point to language in which natural resources, human and animal life, and public welfare are all dutifully addressed in the document. The leaked chapter explicitly says that it is not intended to prevent laws relating to these core concerns from being implemented. So then, what’s the problem? The problem is that these tepid inclusions lack the teeth of sanctions or punitive fines. They are mere rhetorical asides designed to help corporate Democrats rationalize their support of the TPP. If lawmakers really cared about the public welfare, they’d move to strip the treaty of its various qualifiers that privilege trade over domestic law. By all means, implement your labor protection, but just ensure “… that such measures are not applied in an arbitrary or unjustifiable manner, or do not constitute a disguised restriction on international trade or investment.”
If lawmakers cared about national sovereignty, they wouldn’t outsource dispute settlement to unelected arbitration panels, more fittingly referred to as, “tribunals.” (Think of scrofulous democracy hunched in the dock, peppered with unanswerable legalese by a corporate lawyer, a surreal twist on the Nuremberg Trials.) Just have a glance at Section B of the investment chapter. Suits will be handled using the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) model, itself predicated on the tribunal precedent. And in the event a government lost a suit or settled one, legal costs would be picked up by taxpayers, having been fleeced by an unelected committee whose laws it has no recourse to challenge.
Perhaps investor protections like ISDS were once intended to encourage cross-border investment by affording companies a modicum of reassurance that their investments would be safeguarded by international trade law. But the ISDS has been used for far more than that. The ISDS tribunals have a lovely track record of success (first implemented in a treaty between Germany and Pakistan in 1959). Here’s Public Citizen:
Under U.S. “free trade” agreements (FTAs) alone, foreign firms have already pocketed more than $440 million in taxpayer money via investor-state cases. This includes cases against natural resource policies, environmental protections, health and safety measures and more. ISDS tribunals have ordered more than $3.6 billion in compensation to investors under all U.S. FTAs and Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs). More than $38 billion remains in pending ISDS claims under these pacts, nearly all of which relate to environmental, energy, financial regulation, public health, land use and transportation policies.
New Era, New Priorities
Now the ISDS is a chisel being used to destroy the regulatory function of governments. All of this is being negotiated by corporate trade representatives and their government lackeys, which appear to have no qualms about the deleterious effects the TPP will have on the general population. But then the corporations these suits represent have long since discarded any sense of patriotic duty to their native nation-states, and with it any obligation to regulate their activities to protect vulnerable citizenries. That loyalty has been replaced by a pitiless commitment to profits. In America, there may have been a time when “what was good for Ford was good for America,” as memorably put by Henry Ford. But not anymore. Now what’s good for shareholders is good for Ford. This was best articulated a couple of years ago by former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond, who bluntly reminded an interviewer, “I’m not a U.S. company, and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.” Those decisions usually include offshoring, liberalizing the labor market, practicing labor arbitrage, relocating production to “business friendly climates” with lax regulatory structures, the most vulpine forms of tax evasion, and so on—all practices that ultimately harm the American worker.
Apple says it feels no obligation to solve America’s problems nor, one would assume, any gratitude to the U.S. taxpayer for funding essential research that Apple brilliantly combined in the iPod and iPhone. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich finally admits corporations don’t want Americans to make higher wages. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce encourages shipping American jobs abroad. World Bank chiefs point to the economic logic of sending toxic waste to developing nations. Wherever you look, there seems to be little if any concern for citizenry.
The Financial Times refers to ISDS as, “investor protection.” But what it really is, is a profitability guarantee, a legal bulwark against democracy expressed as regulation. Forgive me for thinking that navigating a fluid legislative environment was a standard investment risk. Evidently the champions of free trade can’t be bothered to practice it. Still the White House croons that it has our best interests at heart. If that were true, it would release the full text, launch public charettes to debate its finer points, or perhaps just stage a referendum asking the American people to forfeit their hard-won sovereignty. No such thing will ever happen, of course. As it turns out, democracy is the price of corporate plunder. After all, the greatest risk of all is that the mob might vote the wrong way. And, as the language of the TPP makes explicitly obvious, there are some risks that should be avoided at all costs.
Jason Hirthler can be reached at: email@example.com.
As the fear campaign advances into ever-more delirious extremes, Westerners continue to be submerged in sensationalist headlines about ‘homegrown terrorism’ and ‘ISIS recruits.’
The American, Australian, Canadian, British, French, German and other governments have been on the hunt lately, swooping up a handful of would-be ISIS recruits before they could make their journey to Syria and Iraq. The arrests appear to be part of a stage-managed public relations effort to 1) keep up the false pretense that the West is actually trying to stop people from joining ISIS, when in fact they have been gleefully turning a blind eye to it if not aiding and abetting it, and 2) to justify the growing surveillance state across the West.
ABC News tells us that more than 2000 Westerners, mostly from immigrant communities but also a number of white converts to Islam, have joined ISIS and other terrorist groups fighting to topple the Syrian government. Knowing the high level of surveillance and monitoring that Western agencies already employ against Muslim communities, it beggars belief that all of these individuals simply evaded the all-seeing eye of Western intelligence which includes the “Five Eyes” spy network consisting of the combined espionage might of the US, Canada, UK, New Zealand and Australia. The massive resources of the spy agencies of those countries in conjunction with the data mining brigands of the NSA makes it hard for one to believe that they’re just unable to track and intervene before Western citizens depart for the phony ‘jihad’ against Israel’s adversaries in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.
The Intercept revealed that in a recent FBI ‘bust’ of an alleged ISIS sympathizer who was purportedly planning an attack inside the US, the suspect was goaded by FBI informants, as is the case with nearly every major foiled ‘terror plot’ in recent American history. John T. Booker Jr., the Kansas man accused of plotting a terrorist attack on behalf of ISIS, had checked himself into a mental hospital about a year before his arrest. The Intercept reports that the two FBI informants who initiated contact with Booker Jr. “provided the 20-year-old with the materials and support that led to his arrest on Friday on charges stemming from his alleged plans to carry out an attack against Fort Riley in support of the Islamic State.”
This example is merely one of many hundreds of cases involving the FBI’s army of 15,000 plus informants who infiltrate Muslim communities then work to incite and coerce impressionable, dejected young Muslims into completely inept and doomed-to-fail ‘terror plots.’
Canadian authorities have been caught mimicking the FBI’s duplicitous and unethical tactics of fabricating terror plots by way of informants. One recent case involved a bumbling British Columbia couple, John Nuttall and his wife Amanda Korody, who were prodded and pushed into a laughable ‘terrorist conspiracy’ by undercover RCMP agents. The Vancouver Sun reported that the undercover agents “spent more than four months in a futile attempt to have John Nuttall articulate a real [terrorist] plan.” Another Sun report described the ‘terror couple’ as “impoverished addicts” and delineated how an undercover agent coddled and encouraged them every step of the way, making suggestions about explosives and targets.
A story that broke earlier this year unveiled the West’s two-faced gambit as it relates to ISIS. The Turkish government exposed the identity of a Syrian national on the payroll of Canadian intelligence who was acting as a human trafficker for ISIS, escorting dozens of Europeans through Turkey and delivering them to ISIS strongholds in Syria, including three British schoolgirls.
“Turkish news agencies reported … that a foreign intelligence agent detained in that country on suspicion of helping the [three British] girls travel to neighbouring Syria to join ISIL was working for the Canadian government,” stated an Ottawa Citizen report on the scandal. The agent in question, Mohammed Mehmet Rashid, told Turkish authorities that he made routine trips to the Canadian embassy in Jordan where he received his marching orders from CSIS, Canada’s spy agency. That embassy was headed by Bruno Saccomani, a former RCMP officer and the former chief of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s security detail. Harper handpicked Saccomani to be the ambassador to Jordan.
Another issue routinely overlooked by mainstream media is that ISIS is not the only violent radical group that Western citizens are bustling to join. Hundreds of Canadians, Americans, Australians and Europeans have joined the Israeli military over the years, participating in the murder of thousands of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, the mass destruction of property and other war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In an article entitled “Supporting ‘terror tourism’ to Israel gets Canadian tax credits,” Yves Engler, an expert on Canadian foreign affairs, observes that in Canada “[i]t is illegal for Somali Canadians to fight in that country but it is okay for Canadian Jews to kill Palestinians in Gaza. And the government will give you a charitable tax credit if you give them money to support it.” Engler documents the activities of pro-Israel charities operating freely in Canada that recruit young Jews to fight for Israel. “At least 25 volunteers from the Greater Toronto Area fought in Gaza during Israel’s 22-day 2008/2009 assault that left some 1,400 Palestinians dead,” notes Engler, adding that “during Israel’s 2006 attack on Lebanon the Canadian Jewish News reported that ‘Canadian youths leave home to join Israeli army.’”
“The double standard is extreme,” Engler writes, pointing out how Canadians are proscribed from recruiting for foreign militaries under the Foreign Enlistment Act, but this law apparently doesn’t apply to Jews who enjoy a privileged status in Canada and other Western countries.
The Canadian government’s pro-Israel extremism showed its ugly face in 2014 when the Harper administration added IRFAN-Canada, a Muslim charity which helped raise funds for the besieged people of Gaza and the occupied West Bank, to its list of banned ‘terrorist organizations.’ According to the Harper regime’s skewed Zionist logic, Muslim charities that work with the democratically elected leadership of Gaza in order to dispense humanitarian aid to the suffering Palestinians are engaged in ‘supporting terrorism.’ Yet Jewish-Zionist charities are allowed, even aided and abetted by the Canadian state through ‘tax credits’ for donors, to raise funds for the Israeli military and even to recruit radicalized Canadian Jews to fight in Israel’s bloody wars of aggression – but this somehow does not constitute material support for terrorism.
Evidently, in Harper’s pro-Zionist fantasy world ‘terrorist’ is a smear word applied exclusively to the opponents of Israeli imperialism, whereas a state birthed through ethnic cleansing and maintained by way of bribery, blackmail, and state-sponsored mass murder is praised to the heavens merely for allowing its privileged Jewish citizens and disenfranchised Arab subjects to vote for whichever hawkish Zionist politician will continue the policies of terror in the holy land.
Copyright 2015 Brandon Martinez
Hints of the dark place he is taking us
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | April 24, 2015
Obama has been quoted saying he “takes full responsibility” for the two hostages, one American and one Italian, killed recently in a drone attack. At the same time, Obama praised the United States for its transparency in such matters.
What in God’s name does he mean? How can you have responsibility with no consequences? Isn’t that a bit like patting yourself on the back for high principles, having just committed murder? And transparency? That also is a word without meaning when applied to a country which runs a string of secret wars and coups, a country which spies on virtually the entire planet, and a country whose warehouses bulge with so many classified documents it would take a thousand years to review them.
Obama’s use of words has no meaning, much like the lack of meaning inherent in the kind of world into which he is eagerly helping to pitch us.
He has killed two innocent people in the course of an extrajudicial killing of others who were themselves, as is usual in these attacks, mere suspects.
And it is not the first time he has done this, only the first time where we know the names and faces of his victims. We only know the names and faces here because they were an American and an Italian. Our feeble and utterly corrupt press never lifts a finger to investigate who the thousands of others have been.
Estimates vary, but something on the order of 2,500 people have been murdered this way by the United States, almost all of them innocent, ordinary people, and even America’s intended targets, supposed terrorists, are guilty of nothing in law.
If a leader uses the word terror today, he can pretty much do anything he or his sadistic military/ security/ intelligence creeps want to do. I do not see any difference in these acts from those of the former military juntas in South America who made thousands of “undesirable” people simply disappear.
There’s an old saying about democratic governments that you pretty much deserve the government you get, but the glib saying is, of course, considerably less than true. Besides, it is not a great stretch to say of America today that it is about as much a democracy as was the former Soviet Union, with the key difference being voters in America get two choices instead of one on their ballots, each of them however ready to do exactly the same things, with only minor stylistic variations. You might say the choices represent two fashion statements in one official party.
However, if Western people in general just quietly accept the institutional barbarism Obama represents, they will indeed deserve the governments they get.
And what’s hurtling towards us, far more quickly than many realize, is government entirely by and for elites – wealthy, wealthy people with their paid mouthpiece political leaders and the vast military/ security apparatus they employ – the rest of humanity being reduced to unimportant mobs to be kept under control at the smallest sign of their becoming difficult, not so very much different from prisoners and perhaps even livestock.
We actually have an early prototype of the kind of society our leaders are working towards. We see it in Israel. The word “terror” there plays the same ugly role, almost like an air raid siren, justifying literally any response.
Has the world said one word of the 2,200 people slaughtered in Gaza recently and left to rot in its rubble? How about Israel’s treatment of refugees of color? I see no protest over their being horribly abused and even being turned away against international laws and conventions.
And now Israel uses dirty tricks like shipping refugees off to questionable African states whose leaders have been paid bribes to take them. Can you imagine a bright future for any of them under such circumstances? They too are more than a little likely to disappear.
Of course, assassination in many forms and in many places has played a large role in Israel’s brief history. Anyone Israel does not like is expendable, and America’s whole response to “terror” is right out of an official Israeli manual.
Israel loves to sing tired songs about democracy, but half the people under its control have no rights, no vote, no future, and are frequently openly told they are undesirable and should get out. Thousands are kept in prisons, and brutal acts like spraying farm land with filthy waste-water or with potent herbicides or cutting off power supplies are fairly regular events. When those on the receiving end get too uppity, they will be either assassinated or bombed or have their homes stolen through some of the most unjust laws on the planet.
Apart from the ghastly lives enforced upon millions of non-Jews by the “Jewish state,” Israel’s Jewish population demonstrates another part of the social model. Ordinary Israelis have quite unpleasant lives by Western standards, with home ownership out of reach, the price of everything exorbitant, being subject to oppressive army service, and living in a place which in many ways resembles a high security prison with guards, spies, and restrictions everywhere. The elites of Israel do very handsomely, thank you, just as oligarchs anywhere do, all the groaning mass of other residents’ problems and limits providing them with boundless opportunities, and most of the oligarchs freely move back and forth between continents with their dual passports to cut deals or avoid troubles.
That set of conditions and practices has become a model now for the United States, and where the United States goes, so go its weak-kneed allies like Britain, France, Germany, and even our once fair-minded Canada.
Canadian government has decided to send troops to Ukraine in a non-combat role, CTV News reported, citing official sources. The troops could arrive in the country in the coming weeks or months, but the details of the mission are still being worked out.
The Canadian soldiers are likely to be sent for a training mission and could cooperate with American soldiers, the report said.
“While the government is still working out the details, sources told CTV News a training mission is one of the options on the table. Canada is likely to work closely with American allies who are already in the region,” CTV News reporter Mercedes Stephenson said.
The Conservative government has been leaning towards a more significant Canadian involvement in the Ukrainian crisis for the past few months.
In February, Canada updated the list of its sanctions against Russia with travel bans slapped on 37 Russian and Ukrainian individuals. It also applied economic sanctions against 17 Russian and Ukrainian companies, which included Russian oil giant Rosneft.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich labelled the new sanctions as an anti-Russian step that looks like “an awkward attempt to hinder the implementation of the conflict settlement agreements, reached in Minsk on February 12 with Russia’s active constructive role.”
In December, Canada signed an agreement to send its military police to Ukraine to “look into the possibilities of cooperation,” while it also looked to help the government in Kiev with security issues.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) barred a Ukrainian-born pianist from playing in a scheduled program for expressing views on the situation in Ukraine via Twitter.
The orchestra dropped pianist Valentina Lisitsa who was due to play a concerto by Rachmaninoff. The hashtag #LetValentinaPlay surged in popularity on social media, and thousands of supporters spoke out for the artist, who was offered to be paid not to play.
Read more ‘Dangerous process’: Russia warns against US, NATO military instructors in Ukraine
Thomas Mulcair, MP
Leader of the Opposition
Dear Mr. Mulcair:
Thank you for opposing Harper’s extended and expanded war in Iraq and Syria, and for pointing out in parliament that conducting a military intervention in Syria, without the permission of the Syrian government and the UN Security Council, is a flagrant violation of international law. It’s reassuring to know that “an NDP-led government will end Canada’s involvement in this war immediately.”
I am writing today to make three comments on your e-mail message to me, entitled “New Democrats on War in Iraq and Syria.”
First, I would like to draw to your attention that Tunisia is the latest of several countries to re-establish diplomatic ties with the government of Syria. (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32172974) The Tunisian government went so far as to invite its Syrian counterpart to send an envoy to Tunis.
I feel that it is now incumbent upon you and the New Democratic Party to call upon the government of Canada to re-establish diplomatic relations with the Syrian government as well. This move would help pave the way for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis. It would assist in ending over four years of terrible violence and the suffering of millions of Syrian refugees. It could contribute to the peace process under UN auspices at Geneva, as more and more countries realize that there is no military solution to the tragedy in Syria.
My second comment is that, to the best of my knowledge, neither you nor the NDP caucus have ever publicly declared that you are in favour of the UN-sponsored peace process for Syria. If I am wrong, please correct me. Canadians need to know that the opposition is indeed in favour of the peace process.
Instead, you and other members of the NDP caucus have raised unsubstantiated allegations about the conduct of the Syrian government, namely that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against its own citizens and that it cooperates with ISIS. Repeating these allegations, which are not supported by the facts or by various UN investigations, is counterproductive to the peace process, since it impedes opening a dialogue with the Syrian government, without whose participation no peace process is possible.
If you have concerns about the conduct of any of the warring parties in Syria, the appropriate place for these concerns to be raised is at the peace conferences at Geneva. Raising these allegations at other times only serves to reinforce the demonization of the Syrian government, which is part and parcel of the Harper government’s determination to have a military, rather than a humanitarian, mission in Iraq and Syria. We all know that this extended and expanded military mission in Syria could easily morph into a regime change operation.
My third comment is that your job as leader of the opposition requires that you hold the Canadian government to account. You might ask why the Harper government saw fit to help the USA organize the pre-conference in Tunisia (in December 2011) for the founding conference in Tunis in February, 2012, of the Friends of Syria Group of Countries (FSG), which group, in turn, organized a covert war for regime change in Syria – partly with Canadian tax dollars. You might demand an accounting for the several millions of our tax dollars that the Harper government donated directly to Syrian “rebels”, who are, in fact, the terrorist mercenaries who morphed into ISIS and invaded Iraq in 2014. You might question the wisdom of the Harper government’s hosting in Ottawa in June of 2013 – with our tax dollars – of a meeting of FSG countries for the purpose of co-ordinating economic sanctions against Syria – again without the approval of the UN Security Council.
Please focus your criticism on the Harper government of Canada and seek positively to influence public opinion for a resumption of diplomatic relations with the government of Syria and the continuation of the UN-sponsored peace process at Geneva.
I look forward to your reply on this very important matter,
member, Hamilton Mountain Federal Riding Association
exec member, Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War
Ray Boisvert, a former assistant director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), has been busy trying to deflect blame from his former employer in the developing scandal involving an alleged CSIS asset who helped three British schoolgirls and others join ISIS.
Boisvert’s impetus is to shield CSIS and the Canadian state when their hand is exposed in duplicitous activity at home and abroad. He has frequently appeared as a pundit on mainstream media programs, and unsurprisingly was trotted out by the usual suspects to comment on revelations that a Syrian national who spied for CSIS was acting as a liaison for ISIS, helping Westerners travel through Turkey to join the militant group in Syria.
The former CSIS big-wig told media that:
If [the suspected ISIS liaison Mohammed Mehmet] Rashid worked in some capacity for CSIS, and based on reports his computer contained images of passport and travel documents of several apparent ISIL recruits, it’s conceivable he was actually gathering intelligence for CSIS about those recruits and the methods, logistics and contacts for spiriting them into Syria.
Boisvert implied that,
If [Rashid] was a CSIS asset, he’s likely an observer whose only job is to report what he saw. If Rashid was working for CSIS in some fashion, the spy agency’s current mandate would prevent him or the organization from doing anything to have stopped the three British girls from reaching Syria. Under current Canadian law, CSIS and its assets are only allowed to gather intelligence.
Boisvert’s damage control narrative is ludicrous. He is obviously trying to exonerate CSIS from culpability in this by erroneously suggesting that CSIS’s asset Rashid, who was essentially helping people join ISIS, could not act to stop them from linking up with ISIS in Syria because that is not in CSIS’s mandate. The asset could only ‘observe’ the situation and report back to his handlers. This hogwash is dumbfounding.
Firstly, he is presuming that CSIS always abides by its ‘mandate,’ when there’s no reasons to believe that they do. Secondly, the fact is that the CSIS asset did not just ‘observe’ the ISIS recruits, he directly facilitated their safe travel through Turkey and entry into Syria to link up with ISIS. Without him, many of these recruits would likely not have made it to their destination. He was in effect ensuring that the recruits made it safely into the hands of ISIS. He wasn’t sitting by a window with binoculars observing from afar or listening in to phone calls, he was directly participating in the recruiting process, facilitating that process every step of the way.
This means that CSIS, which represents the Canadian government, is aiding and abetting ISIS – an extremely damaging revelation for the Western ‘coalition’ who maintain the bogus pre tense that they are presently ‘at war’ with the radical group.
Copyright 2015 Non-Aligned Media
The Ottawa Citizen has reported that an individual who authorities believe helped three British schoolgirls travel to Syria to join ISIS is linked to Canada’s intelligence agency, CSIS.
The Citizen noted that, “Turkish news agencies reported Thursday that a foreign intelligence agent detained in that country on suspicion of helping the girls travel to neighbouring Syria to join ISIL was working for the Canadian government.”
Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the suspect in question was working for an intelligence agency that is part of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS, adding that it wasn’t the US or an EU member.
Turkish media reports later identified the suspect as a CSIS agent, citing sources close to the Turkish government.
Ottawa issued a prototypical denial that one of their operatives was involved.
The story confirms what many analysts have been saying all along, which is that ISIS is an elaborate Western intelligence operation.
Thousands of Western citizens have joined ISIS over the past year, but who is arranging their safe travel out of their countries of origin and into Syria without being nabbed by authorities?
As this case demonstrates, these individuals are being safely escorted to Syria by Western operatives.
The idea that Western intelligence agencies don’t have the resources to track these people is absurd. Russia Today ran a report showing how a Canadian open source intelligence research group called iBRABO geo-tracked a Canadian woman who joined ISIS through her Twitter account. Every tweet she posted revealed her exact location. Intelligence agencies have far more resources at their disposal than a private research group, so the suggestion that these people just slip under the radar doesn’t hold up.
Analysts contend that Western intelligence agencies are trolling for young, impressionable, and disenfranchised people to send off to fight and die in Syria. This is done in accordance with the West’s ‘regime change’ policy in Syria.
US Senator Rand Paul recently told CNN that the United States is “allied” with ISIS in Syria as Washington aims to depose the secular government of Bashar al-Assad. Former US General Wesley Clark said that America’s allies (and by extension America itself) funded ISIS to weaken the Shia arc of resistance consisting of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.
While the West fights an artificial ‘fake war’ against ISIS officially, it continues to clandestinely support the group as it beheads its way to Damascus, and on to Beirut and Tehran.
Copyright 2015 Non-Aligned Media
Canadian military intelligence knew that NATO’s March 2011 intervention in Libya would aid militant theocratic Islamists aligned with al-Qaeda and could create long-term chaos in the country, according to David Pugliese, a reporter with The Ottawa Citizen, who obtained Canadian intelligence documents.
At the time, NATO military leader, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, denied that opposition to the secular leftist Libyan leader Muamar Gaddafi was dominated by rightwing Islamist theocrats, calling the bulk of the opposition forces “responsible men and women.”
But Canadian intelligence was clear-eyed about the nature of the Libyan opposition.
Pugliese revealed that “A Canadian intelligence report written in late 2009 described the anti-Gadhafi stronghold of eastern Libya,” from which the uprising against Gaddafi erupted, “as an epicentre of Islamist extremism.”
And Canadian pilots joked privately that they were part of al-Qaeda’s air force, “since their bombing runs helped to pave the way for rebels aligned with the terrorist group.”
Pugliese reports that just days before NATO’s intervention in Libya,
Canadian intelligence specialists sent a briefing report shared with senior officers. ‘There is the increasing possibility that the situation in Libya will transform into a long-term tribal/civil war,’ they wrote in their March 15, 2011 assessment. ‘This is particularly probable if opposition forces receive military assistance from foreign militaries.’
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper later denied that NATO’s intervention created the chaos that has paralyzed Libya, despite his own military’s warning that there was a good chance it would.
This reveals a dishonest attempt to manipulate public opinion through outright deception, in line with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s efforts to mobilize support for military intervention in Iran by warning in 2012 that Iran was only a year away from making a nuclear bomb when his own intelligence agency had concluded that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”.
Pugliese’s report can be read here.
February 18, 2015
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Dear Prime Minister:
Many Americans love Canada and the specific benefits that have come to our country from our northern neighbor’s many achievements (see Canada Firsts by Nader, Conacher and Milleron). Unfortunately, your latest proposed legislation—the new anti-terrorism act—is being described by leading Canadian civil liberties scholars as hazardous to Canadian democracy.
A central criticism was ably summarized in a February 2015 Globe and Mail editorial titled “Parliament Must Reject Harper’s Secret Policeman Bill,” to wit:
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper never tires of telling Canadians that we are at war with the Islamic State. Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.
Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties. Our existing laws and our society are strong enough to stand up to the threat of terrorism without compromising our values.”
Particularly noticeable in your announcement were your exaggerated expressions that exceed the paranoia of Washington’s chief attack dog, former vice-president Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney periodically surfaces to update his pathological war mongering oblivious to facts—past and present—including his criminal war of aggression which devastated Iraq—a country that never threatened the U.S.
You are quoted as saying that “jihadi terrorism is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced” as a predicate for your gross over-reaction that “violent jihadism seeks to destroy” Canadian “rights.” Really? Pray tell, which rights rooted in Canadian law are “jihadis” fighting in the Middle East to obliterate? You talk like George W. Bush.
How does “jihadism” match up with the lives of tens of millions of innocent civilians, destroyed since 1900 by state terrorism—west and east, north and south—or the continuing efforts seeking to seize or occupy territory?
Reading your apoplectic oratory reminds one of the prior history of your country as one of the world’s peacekeepers from the inspiration of Lester Pearson to the United Nations. That noble pursuit has been replaced by deploying Canadian soldiers in the belligerent service of the American Empire and its boomeranging wars, invasions and attacks that violate our Constitution, statutes and international treaties to which both our countries are signatories.
What has all this post-9/11 loss of American life plus injuries and sickness, in addition to trillions of American tax dollars, accomplished? Has it led to the stability of those nations invaded or attacked by the U.S. and its reluctant western “allies?” Just the opposite, the colossal blowback evidenced by the metastasis of al-Qaeda’s offshoots and similar new groups like the self-styled Islamic state are now proliferating in and threatening over a dozen countries.
Have you digested what is happening in Iraq and why Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said no to Washington? Or now chaotic Libya, which like Iraq never had any presence of Al-Qaeda before the U.S.’s destabilizing military attacks? (See the New York Times’ editorial on February 15, 2015 titled “What Libya’s Unraveling Means”.)
Perhaps you will find a former veteran CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, Robert L. Grenier more credible. Writing in his just released book: 88 Days to Kandahar: A CIA Diary (Simon & Schuster), he sums up U.S. government policy this way: “Our current abandonment of Afghanistan is the product of a…colossal overreach, from 2005 onwards.” He writes, “in the process we overwhelmed a primitive country, with a largely illiterate population, a tiny agrarian economy, a tribal social structure and nascent national institutions. We triggered massive corruption through our profligacy; convinced a substantial number of Afghans that we were, in fact, occupiers and facilitated the resurgence of the Taliban” (Alissa J. Rubin, Robert L. Grenier’s ‘88 Days to Kandahar,’ New York Times, February 15, 2015).
You may recall George W. Bush’s White House counterterrorism czar, Richard Clarke, who wrote in his 2004 book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror—What Really Happened, “It was as if Osama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush, chanting, ‘Invade Iraq, you must invade Iraq.’”
Mr. Bush committed sociocide against that country’s twenty-seven million people. Over 1 million innocent Iraqi civilians lost their lives, in addition to millions sick and injured. Refugees have reached five million and growing. He destroyed critical public services and sparked sectarian massacres—massive war crimes, which in turn produce ever-expanding blowbacks.
Canadians might be most concerned about your increased dictatorial policies and practices, as well as this bill’s provision for secret law and courts in the name of fighting terrorism—too vaguely defined. Study what comparable practices have done to the United States – a course that you seem to be mimicking, including the militarization of police forces (see The Walrus, December 2014).
If passed, this act, piled on already stringent legal authority, will expand your national security bureaucracies and their jurisdictional disputes, further encourage dragnet snooping and roundups, fuel fear and suspicion among law-abiding Canadians, stifle free speech and civic action and drain billions of dollars from being used for the necessities of Canadian society. This is not hypothetical. Along with an already frayed social safety net, once the envy of the world, you almost got away with a $30 billion dollar purchase of unneeded costly F-35s (including maintenance) to bail out the failing budget-busting F-35 project in Washington.
You may think that Canadians will fall prey to a politics of fear before an election. But you may be misreading the extent to which Canadians will allow the attachment of their Maple Leaf to the aggressive talons of a hijacked American Eagle.
Canada could be a model for independence against the backdrop of bankrupt American military adventures steeped in big business profits… a model that might help both nations restore their better angels.
Canada has added Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft, and the CEO of Rostec, to a sanctions blacklist along with 37 Ukrainians and 17 Russian and Ukrainian organizations. They are all covered by economic sanctions and travel bans.
It’s a coordinated move with the European Union and the United States, who have already imposed a number of sanctions on Russia, according to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“In coordination with our EU and US partners, Canada is once again intensifying its response to the situation by announcing further sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian individuals and entities,” Harper said in a statement on his official website on Tuesday.
Canada has been trying for months to resist the pressure on taking any further restrictive measures against Russia, despite the fact it had already sanctioned 80 Russian and Ukrainian officials last year.Last May, the country decided not to impose sanctions against Rosneft and Rostec because it didn’t want politics to hurt Canada’s biggest business projects.
Russia’s oil giant Rosneft owns about 30 percent of an ExxonMobil oil field in the Canadian province of Alberta. Rosneft purchased a stake in the Cardium basin deposit in 2012; the deal became Russia’s first Canadian presence and was expected to benefit Canada’s economy by accelerating resource development.
Russian state-owned industrial and defense firm Rostec, and Canadian plane and train maker Bombardier signed a $3.4 billion deal two years ago. The companies had decided to establish joint venture to produce Q400 aircraft, which Canada recognized as a “landmark opportunity for the Q400 NextGen aircraft program.” The venture intended to build 24 aircraft a year, with some 250 constructed by 2030. The deal was postponed last year due to the anti-Russian sanctions imposed then by the Canadian government.
Iranian musician and Kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor along with Indian sitar maestro Shujaat Husain Khan is slated to perform in New York, Boston and Irvine
The duo is planning to present their program accompanied by Ghazal Ensemble in the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University on March 22, 2015.
Ghazal (with Shujaat Hussein Khan and Sandeep Das) March 2015 events are:
13 Mar: Kay Meek Theater, Vancouver, Canada
15 Mar: Skirball Center, Los Anegeles, CA
17 Mar: Irvine Barclay Theater, Irvine, CA
19 Mar: Freer Gallery, Washington, DC
21 Mar: Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA
22 Mar: Schimmel Center at Pace University, NY
25-28 Mar: Agha Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada
29 Mar: Asia Society Texas Center, Houston, TX
Other Kayhan Kalhor early 2015 events (Europe, US): www.facebook.com/kalhor.kayhan
Ghazal Ensemble, formed in 1997 by Kalhor and Husain Khan, has been touring the world and it is acclaimed for performing Indo-Persian music.
Described by the Los Angeles Times as “utterly captivating… an irresistible expression of creative musical passion,” Ghazal’s performances and recordings have garnered critical acclaim as well as a 2004 Grammy nomination for Best Traditional World Music Album for their 2003 live album The Rain. Amazon named Ghazal’s first CD, Lost Songs of the Silk Road, to its list of the best 100 world music albums ever recorded.
Kalhor is known for his brilliant performances on the traditional instrument Kamancheh and creating a unique mixture of classical Persian music with folk tunes of the Kurdistan region.
He held many concerts along with the world-renowned musicians and ensembles such as the string quartet, Brooklyn Rider ensemble, in Minneapolis, United States, in 2012.
Kalhor also presented joint programs with the veteran Turkish Baglama player Erdal Erzincan in New York’s GlobalFest held at the Marlin Room on January 13, 2013.
He also performed introspective performances with a number of world-class Asian musicians at BT River of Music in London.
Shujaat Husain Khan is one of today’s greatest North Indian artists, who represent the seventh generation of illustrious musicians, which includes his father, the great sitarist Ustad Vilayat Khan.
BIOGRAPHY – KAYHAN KALHOR
Kayhan Kalhor is an internationally acclaimed virtuoso on the kamancheh (Persian spiked fiddle). His performances of Persian music and his many collaborations have attracted audiences around the globe.
Born in Tehran, Iran, he began his musical studies at the age of seven. At thirteen, he was invited to work with the National Orchestra of Radio and Television of Iran, where he performed for five years. When he was seventeen he began working with the Shayda Ensemble of the Chavosh Cultural Center, the most prestigious arts organization in Iran at the time. At a musical conservatory in Tehran around age 20 Kalhor worked under the directorship of Mohammad-Reza Lotfi who is from Northern Khorasan. He has traveled extensively throughout Iran, studying the music of its many regions, in particular those of Khorason and Kordestan. … http://theotheriran.com/2015/02/03/keyhan-kalhor-iranian-music-maestro-and-former-grammy-awards-nominee-to-perform-in-the-us-and-canada/
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has introduced new anti-terror laws, which significantly expands the powers of the country’s spy agencies.
The proposed legislation announced on Friday would allow anyone suspected of being involved in a terror plot to be taken into custody for up to a week without any charges.
The law would make it a felony for any person to call for a terrorist attack, even without making any specific threat.
In addition, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), would receive additional powers to track and arrest suspects, including preventing Canadian citizens from traveling abroad for terror purposes by cancelling their plane or other travel reservations.
Furthermore, authorities will have the right to remove terror-related material posted on any Canadian website.
Harper said the new law is required as militants have declared war on Canada and it would be wrong to ignore their threats.
The proposed law still has to be approved by the country’s parliament. However, the legislation is likely to be adopted as Harper’s Conservative administration holds the majority of seats in the assembly.
The legislation has drawn criticism from a number of figures including, opposition leader Tom Mulcair, who expressed concern about oversight and abuses.
Kent Roach, a law professor at the University of Toronto, also voiced concern over the proposed law, saying it has a “potential” of suppressing expression.
Harper’s proposal comes in the wake two so-called terrorism-related attacks in the capital of Ottawa and in the city of Quebec last October.
On October 22, 2014, an armed assailant, identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, killed a soldier at the country’s national war memorial in the capital and then stormed the parliament before being shot dead by police.
In another incident just two days earlier, a radicalized Quebec man, identified as Martin Couture-Rouleau, was shot dead by police after he ran down two soldiers, killing one of them, with his vehicle near a military compound.
Canada monitors all internet downloads January 28, 2015
Canada police allowed to search phones December 12, 2014