Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Why I Still Dislike Israel

Netanyahu Should Leave Us Alone as a New Year's Present

BY 

I little more than two years ago I wrote an article for antiwar.com that was entitled “Why I dislike Israel.” The editors were a bit nervous about running it but eventually allowed it to appear after I agreed to some minor deletions. It turned out to be by far the most successful piece I ever did for that website in terms of readership and it attracted 166 comments. My critique was basically that the contrived special relationship with Israel is very bad for the United States on a number of levels. I argued that Washington should treat Israel like any other country, based on actual American national interests. I continue to hold those views, now more than ever as the Israeli government sinks into something approximating madness and drags Washington along with it, and I have often thought that it would be interesting to revisit my discontent with Israel in light of recent developments.
There are good historic reasons to dislike Israel. In the so-called Lavon Affair in 1952 the Israelis were prepared to blow up a U.S. Information Center in Alexandria and blame it on the Egyptians. In the 1960s Israelis stole enriched uranium from a lab in Pennsylvania to build atom bombs. They also obtained nuclear triggers through a spying operation run by Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan that included current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In 1967, the Israelis attacked and nearly sank the American vessel USS Liberty in international waters, killing 34 crewmen. President Lyndon Johnson subsequently blocked an investigation into what had occurred, a cover-up that has persisted to this day. In 1987, Jonathan Pollard, the mostdamaging spy in the history of the United States, was convicted of carrying out espionage for Israel. He is up for parole next year. And Israel gets away with literally and directly killing individual American citizens in the cases of Rachel Corrie in 2003 and Furkan Dogan of the Mavi Marmarain 2010.
I noted two years ago that the few mainstream critics of Israel tend to apologize in advance by explaining that they have a lot of Jewish friends and actually like Israelis before engaging in what is usually a very mild critique. That milquetoast approach has, fortunately, shifted considerably in the past two years largely due to the steady march of Israeli politics to the hard right coupled with the horrific Israeli attacks on Gaza, which together killed more than 3,000 civilians, including many women and children, and featured deliberate bombings of schools and hospitals. Israel’s development into what is transparently a racist apartheid style state has also come at great cost to the United States, which has looked and acted increasingly ridiculous as a result of the contortions necessary to continue to serve as Tel Aviv’s indispensable patron and protector.
Unlike two years ago, there are now a lot of mainstream critics of Israel and they are pulling no punches, leaving the phony narrative of Israel as the beleaguered little democracy in a sea of nasty enemies in tatters. Many of the most effective critics are themselves Jewish, having finally decided that enough is enough. I defy anyone to read the first few chapters of Max Blumenthal’s splendid Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel and come away with any remaining illusions about Israeli society and politics intact. And then there are John Judis’s book Genesis: Truman, American Jews and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli ConflictPeter Beinart’s The Crisis of Zionism and the Mondoweisswebsite run by Phil Weiss.
There are two basic complaints I have about Israel and its powerful lobby in the United States. The first is the more important, that the relationship with Israel does actual damage to the U.S. government, its national interests and to the American people. One notable example of Israel’s direct interference with the U.S. political process was evident two years ago when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear his preference for GOP candidate Mitt Romney over incumbent Barack Obama. This was manifested in ads that ran in crucial swing state Florida, where there are many retired Jews. Obama, clearly fearing to offend the Lobby, did not even object at blatant interference from a foreign leader when the ads appeared.
But lacking a presidential election this time around, the vetting of candidates was less focused, though individual congressmen and other elected officials were systematically scrutinized for their views on the Middle East. Fact sheets were distributed to legislators explaining away the attack on Gaza. Candidates perceived as being particularly friendly to Israel continue to receive large donations in support of their campaigns.
In the upcoming year, pro-Israel groups will begin taking all new congressmen on sponsored toursto Israel where they will be presented with what might charitably described as a bowdlerized version of what is taking place in the Holy Land.    
But Israeli engagement with Washington power brokers does not end with elections. There is also the little matter of more than $3 billion dollars going from the American taxpayer to Tel Aviv every year on top of more than $233 billion given in total, all in spite of the fact that Israel has a booming economy and an average income level similar to Western Europe.
Washington’s unlimited support for Israel also inspires terrorists to kill Americans. Osama bin Ladendescribed it as a major issue motivating him and his supporters to attack the United States. The partisan U.S. role makes all of Israel’s enemies de facto America’s enemies. Pressure to manipulate Washington’s policy towards Iran has been incessant both directly from Tel Aviv and from the Israel Firsters deeply ensconced in the media and think tank punditry. Israel and its friends want Washington to go to war with Iran and have sought to force the White House to take “red line” positions that would trigger an automatic military response. That an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program has not already been achieved is largely attributable to the actions of the Lobby and runs directly contrary to the interests and desires of Washington and Tehran, both of which should be cooperating to meet the threat of ISIS. Lessening regional tensions would also benefit Israel itself if its leadership were not so immersed in crying wolf over its neighbor while expecting the world to fail to notice its own nuclear arsenal.
And the spying and theft of U.S. technology continues unabated. Israel has long been the most active “friendly nation” when it comes to stealing American secrets, and when its spies are caught, they are either sent home or, if they are U.S. citzens, rarely prosecuted. A little reported recent case in California revealed a new Israeli spying operation at CalTech’s government funded Jet Propulsion Lab. A successful attempt to steal and send to Israel U.S. high technology was characteristically ignored by both the university and Justice Department, leading to punishment of the whistleblower rather than the Israeli scientist involved
Finally there is the worldwide perception of the United States as being firmly in Israel’s pocket, a wag the dog phenomenon that has done grave damage to the integrity and reputation of the U.S. Washington blocks any United Nations resolution that Israel objects to, damaging its own interests and making it complicit in a growing list of war crimes. Further, the United States links itself to an Israeli government identifiable as a rogue regime by most international standards, engaging as it does in torture, arbitrary imprisonment, and continued occupation of territories seized by its military. America’s own torture program was in fact modeled on Israeli practices.
Tel Aviv has also played a key role in encouraging Washington’s own foreign policy blunders, to include the Iraq invasion and a global war on terror widely perceived to be directed against the entire Muslim world. The U.S. also continues to humiliate itself by going through the charade of Middle East peace talks that have demonstrated the hypocrisy of a White House that will never pressure Tel Aviv in any substantive way while demanding instant surrender by the Palestinian leadership.
The second broad complaint that one might have about Israel is its behavior distinct from its ability to manipulate Washington. Some might regard what Israel does as the heart of the problem, which in a sense it is, but if one is concerned about American interests how Tel Aviv behaves when it is not directly doing damage to Washington is certainly a secondary concern. Israeli politicians are notably among the world’s most corrupt but they only damage their own people and if Tel Aviv chooses to do certain things to “defend” itself from its neighbors so be it. But Israel has to grow up and take responsibility for its own actions without an American deus ex machina to fix things, write checks and bail it out politically every time it screws up.
And there is also the moral dimension. Israel has increasingly been transformed into a militarist theocracy that is substantially racist in its orientation. If Washington is truly concerned about human rights, which may or may not be the case, it should articulate a position on perceived abuses no matter where they occur. In a similar situation, the United States actively opposed South Africa’s apartheid government, which helped make Pretoria vulnerable to international pressure and eventually led to majority rule.
The United States government is hardly a paragon of model behavior and in truth has become more like Israel than vice versa, but I like what Israel does even less and it is time to stake out very clearly what should occur to break the tie that binds. No more money, no more political support, no more acceptance of the wholesale suborning of congress, no more tolerance of spying, and no more having to listen to demands for red lines to go to war. The United States government was created to serve the American people, not a powerful foreign interest. My fervent New Year’s wish is for the monstrous Bibi Netanyahu or whoever succeeds him in office to just leave us alone in 2015. Israel will have to stand on its own two feet for a change while Washington will not have to be constantly looking over its collective shoulder concerned about “Israeli interests.” It would be a divorce that would be beneficial for everyone involved.

http://www.unz.com/article/why-i-still-dislike-israel/

The CIA’s Torture Program Breeds Hate

An Interview with Norman Pollack


by KOUROSH ZIABARI

The recent report issued by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence disclosing the sophisticated torturing methods used by the CIA against the terrorism suspects has stirred widespread debate across the world on the permissibility of using such torture techniques against prisoners of war.
An American historian and political commentator says the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program which oversaw the torturing of tens of prisoners in the overseas jails of the US government, including the Guantanamo bay detention facility, the Bagram air base in Afghanistan and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has not only failed to address the United States’ national security concerns, but has turned “much of the world against America.”
According to Prof. Norman Pollack, the United States used the soil of third countries to set up its jails and detention facilities there in order to escape accountability before the international law.
Prof. Pollack tells Fars News Agency that such methods as waterboarding, rectal feeding, sleep deprivation and chaining to wall that were used by the CIA agents and operatives against the terrorism suspects are utterly illegal and “represent the full negation of human rights.”
Norman Pollack is a professor of history emeritus at the Michigan State University. He got his Ph.D. from the Harvard University in 1961 and has been a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Pollack regularly writes commentaries and essays for the CounterPunch newsletter. His book “The Populist Response to Industrial America” was published in 1962 by the Harvard University Press.
Prof. Norman Pollack talked to FNA about the recent Torture Report and its repercussions for the United States intelligence apparatus and how this scandal has embarrassed President Obama internationally. The following is the text of the interview.
Kourosh Ziabari: Do you think that the CIA officials deceived the Bush and Obama administrations regarding the efficacy of the torture methods used against the terrorism suspects held in the overseas US-run prisons, referred to as the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques? Have the CIA operatives really been able to elicit useful information from the inmates through resorting to the complicated torture methods detailed in the SSCI’s recent report? Has the torture program contributed to the solidification of US national security?
Norman Pollack: The antecedent question, not did the CIA deceive these administrations about the efficacy of EITs, but, as the Senate Report claims, were the administrations even aware of the programs? The Senate Report is seeking to give Obama deniability—i.e., that he was kept in the dark—lest he be held accountable for war crimes. I am in no position to judge whether EITs yielded relevant information. But on solidification of security, no; if anything, torture has turned much of the world against America, and has created the basis for the rise of militant groups and the desire for retribution.
KZ: There have been different reports regarding the outsourcing of the CIA’s “interrogation programs” and that about 85% of the interrogation teams consisted of private contractors, not the CIA employees. Does it mean that the CIA operatives refused to take part in torturing the inmates at Guantanamo bay detention facility, Parwan Prison at the Bagram air base and other US jails?
NP: First, I don’t accept the 85% figure; in addition to CIA, there were US service personnel, e.g., Bagram, as well as foreign nationals at the black sites [in] Poland, Thailand, etc. Outsourcing, of course was to shield US individuals from prosecution for war crimes, but outsourcing [was] also for giving vent to sadism. My sense is that once black sites are involved, Americans were perfectly willing torturers, their identities protected.
KZ: Had the torture methods used against the 119 individuals detained by CIA following the invasion of Afghanistan been authorized by the Bush administration and the Justice Department? Was George W. Bush personally aware of the fact that the terrorism suspects were subject to the most humiliating and degrading types of torture and persecution?
NP: I have no specific knowledge about how much Bush knew, but it is clear [that] the Office of Legal Counsel, especially under John Yoo, crafted legal opinions which were then taken as authorizations drawn in such a way as to keep pace with the tortures. In turn, these memos served as rationalization and legitimation for the practices. The Eichmann Syndrome, we were only following orders.
KZ: What’s your viewpoint regarding the complicity of some 50 nations with the United States in its extraordinary rendition program? It’s said that countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Thailand, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Romania, Finland and Poland allowed the CIA to abduct, secretly imprison and torture terrorism suspects in their soil. Most of these countries have resisted accountability and refused to comment on their cooperation with CIA. What do you think about that?
NP: Complicity is the operative term. The US has a vast web of political, economic and military penetration, both through the establishment of bases and the granting of military aid, to the countries named—and a good deal more. The purpose of rendition, the prison system, etc., on foreign soil is to discourage and deny accountability. Why else black sites? Accountability should by rights lead directly to The Hague and the International Criminal Court. Essentially, this whole aspect of the counterterrorism effort is that it is a covert operation.
KZ: Jose Rodriguez, the former director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service and the officer who was in charge of running the torture and abuse program has recently argued that the interrogation techniques were quite legal and effective. We’ve already talked about their effectiveness. What about their legality? Are there certain legal gaps in the US statutory laws that permit the intelligence apparatus to use coercive means of torturing against the inmates held on political and security charges?
NP: I am not a lawyer, and therefore not versed on US statutory laws, but the whole point of covert action, torture, drone assassination, is to be able to practice with impunity what are viewed as imperative means of creating and operating The National Security State. We don’t need Kafka to recognize that Law is readily perverted in a totalitarian state. To address these activities, one must start with the nature of the society itself. In a democracy, statutory law sanctioning these known practices would be nullified and the practices themselves exposed, perpetrators tried and imprisoned, and the general public properly angered and disgusted.
KZ: Have the policies adopted by the Bush administration following the 9/11 attacks, including the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program and monitoring the phone calls and email conversations of the American citizens, the enforcement of the USA PATRIOT Act and unwarranted searches and seizures been consistent with the principles of the US Constitution? Don’t such practices undermine democracy and civil liberties in the American society?
NP: The questions answer themselves. These practices are abhorrent to constitutionalism. By themselves, the individual is stripped of privacy and identity, exactly the human condition on which totalitarianism thrives. Democracy and civil liberties are misnomers under condition of massive surveillance. That NSA has been given such wide latitude, including eavesdropping on foreign leaders, all pretence at guidance or enforcement by the FISA court a sick joke, speaks to the repressive nature of state and society.
KZ: Which officials have been complicit in the wrongdoings that paved the way for the illegal invasion of Iraq and the intensified US military presence in the Middle East, contributed to the withholding of the documents that showed Saddam Hussein didn’t possess Weapons of Mass Destruction and embroiled the US government into a horrific program of prosecuting terrorism suspects across the world and torturing them using the most complicated and brutal methods?
NP: My take is quite different. Specific individuals—members of national security staffs, leaders of the military and intelligence communities, public intellectuals and think-tank members of Neo-con persuasion, and the list goes on, to Congress, major industrial, financial, commercial leaders, Treasury and other Cabinet officials, the president himself—names, in most cases, with whom I am unfamiliar, all have a significant role to play, but more important, one starts with the historical development of public policy, the actual record of intervention, the clear delineation of US foreign-policy goals, a total context within which all that is mentioned, Middle East, Iraq, WMD, counterterrorism measures, could not otherwise arise. Policy, however irrational as measured by democratic-humanistic standards, is consecutive, integrative and systematic, perfectly in order from a society bent on unilateral global hegemony, including the expansion of its political economy. The names mentioned are implementing a course whose boundaries have been in progress for decades, predicated on, among other things, the ideology and political economy of the society. But yes, individuals do count, primarily those at the highest levels of government and business, themselves holding policies, views, goals defining a common core.
KZ: With the disclosure of the Senate’s Torture Report which shows the terrorism suspects held by the CIA in Afghanistan , Iraq, Cuba and other countries were treated in the most denigrating and humiliating ways, it seems that the United States has lost its moral standing for criticizing other countries for their alleged violation of human rights, because these torture methods, including waterboarding, rectal feeding, sexual harassment, sleep deprivation and psychological persecution explicitly represent the most cruel violations of the human rights one may think of. Do you agree?
NP: Yes, emphatically, [they are] practices which represent the full negation of human rights. The question is, why such depravity of conduct? Here one enters a cold realm of psychopathology, not just the torturer, but societal leadership indifferent to, if not perversely wanting to destroy, human rights—and for clues one must go to the foundations of the society. What factors engender moral emptiness? What promotes the desire to hurt, injure, even kill? Rather than try for an explanation, I would emphasize the abnormality, yes, evil, itself. A society must be judged by how it treats its human beings and all others with which it comes in contact. And as part of that evaluation of society, one must not neglect its institutional features: culture, law, political economy, etc. Too, one must take such cases, e.g., waterboarding, and demand prosecution and punishment, no matter how high up the ladder—and in these cases labeled as war crimes committed by war criminals.
Kourosh Ziabari is an independent journalist from Iran.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/30/the-cias-torture-program-breeds-hate/

The Need to Know

A Half-Digested Version of Reality
by FRED BROWN
News organizations are the beneficiaries of two basic but unrelated principles: the right to know and the need to know. The first is grounded politically and gives these organizations the license to invade our privacy and conceal sources of defamatory or illegally obtained information. The second is grounded existentially and is related to our survival, and like all evolutionary principles, once it is established it operates blindly and indiscriminately. Therefore, just as all dreams are reflexively distorted in order to protect us (the Freudian censor), whether or not their secrets are potentially harmful to our peace of mind, so the need to know operates in us whether or not a given piece of information is essential to our well-being, and therefore it expresses itself even when nothing is at stake but the satisfaction of our curiosity. This curiosity does not require a correct reading of events to satisfy itself. Any plausible set of facts will do. Curiosity then is very much like hunger: any food will alleviate it. Ironically, this is precisely what enables the news organizations to flourish despite the fact that more often than not their reading of events is anything but correct.
Evolution provides us with the tools of self-preservation. One of the most essential of these tools is our ability to recognize danger, namely the ability to read the environment correctly. Consequently, when matters are in doubt, the ensuing state of uncertainty produces anxiety and unrest as an evolutionary response, driving us, as it were, to clarify matters, whether they are life-threatening or trivial. Unless we are unconnected to the world or to ourselves, we always want to know what we do not know, what ISIS is up to, if it’s going to rain in the afternoon and who is sleeping with whom in Hollywood. And since very little that is labeled “news” has a direct and immediate effect on us, it is, again, really irrelevant what version of events we receive. Any version that is the least bit plausible will serve to establish order, satisfy curiosity, alleviate anxiety, calm the nerves. No one is keeping score. No one holds the pundits accountable for what they said a week ago or a month ago. No one even remembers. Nor does anyone remember who said the latest serial killer was twenty-five years old or who said he was twenty-eight years old, married or unmarried, born in Florida or Mississippi. It doesn’t matter which set of circumstances applies. It is not knowledge that we seek in the news but reassurance.
This is paradoxical of course, since the journalistic profession represents itself as setting great store by getting the facts straight. That is its entire raison d’√™tre. Yet not only do they fail at this, it isn’t even required of them. It is not required because these facts are for the most part irrelevant to our daily concerns, though at the same time facts as such, any facts, are necessary for our peace of mind. Does this call into question the entire value of truth? Certainly it does insofar as journalistic truth is concerned, for when they aren’t entirely irrelevant, journalistic truths are generally shortsighted. They do not reveal social and historical processes, for the simple reason that journalists are not equipped to recognize such processes. They are not historians, scholars or political scientists. They are not writers or thinkers.
What journalists generally do get right are their headlines or news bulletins. Anything beyond this basic recitation of information that is gleaned from official sources, including the weather report and ball scores, quickly degenerates into opinion, speculation, gossip, innuendo and calumny. That is how talk shows and newspaper columns fill their time and space. At the end of the day an extremely distorted picture of the world is obtained, put together by people who rarely understand the languages and consequently the culture, religion, history and politics of the countries they report from and comment on and also lack the perception to understand their own country. For the public, this suffices. Half-digested in any case, it gives ordinary people something to hold on to, a version of reality that does not necessarily correspond to anything but is at least coherent and thus helps them get through the day.
Fred Russell is the author of the novels Rafi’s World  and The Links in the Chain.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/30/the-need-to-know/

New NSA leak reveals scope of agency's war against crypto

The National Security Agency boasts the ability to compromise computer protocols meant to encrypt private internet data, leaked documents have revealed. But the NSA has fallen short of totally winning its war against crypto.
Classified NSA files taken by former contractor Edward Snowden and published for the first time by Der Spiegel on Sunday reveal that, while the United States’ intelligence agency is indeed adept at cracking encryption, its efforts are no match when it comes to some of the more popular protocols used to keep communications private.
The NSA – along with its Five Eyes partners in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK – spends millions of dollars annually to break encryption standards used to keep the web secure, Spiegel reported over the weekend. Yet while previous files published from the Snowden trove have already exposed to a degree the scope of the NSA’s efforts, the latest installment acknowledges for the first time that protocols including TSL/SSL, SSH, PPTP and Ipsec are exploited in order to give spies an intimate look at internet traffic intended to be kept secret.
Released concurrently with a presentation given at the 31st annual Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany by two of the article’s authors, the Spiegel piece explains that the NSA and its allies use a plethora of practices to compromise computer protocols, random number generators, and third-party software advertised as being supposedly secure in an effort to gather intelligence on alleged terrorists.
"Did you know that ubiquitous encryption on the Internet is a major threat to NSA's ability to prosecute digital-network intelligence (DNI) traffic or defeat adversary malware?" reads an excerpt from one of dozens of classified government documents published by the German paper.
“For the past decade, NSA has lead [sic] an aggressive, multi-pronged effort to break widely used internet encryption technologies,” reads another.
Jacob Appelbaum, a co-author of the Spiegel piece, said during Sunday’s event that the NSA’s efforts could best be understood as being “a kind of neocolonialism” taking place in the digital era, in which the US has invested billions over the last few decades to tackle the tools that allow private communications to occur over the web – but in secret.
“Wherein the colonies, [the] networks they do not have through coercion of the state or through other surveillance practices, they have to be compromised,” said Appelbaum. “And those [become] targets and they become legitimate targets, in theory, and in actuality, because of its usefulness, because of the leverage that it provides against a speculative target someday in the future.”
“That is, these networks become compromised in service of being able to compromise future networks and other people, just because they can. They set out to do that.”
Indeed, past Snowden leaks have revealed that major US-based tech companies – including Skype, Yahoo and Facebook – participate in an NSA program dubbed “PRISM,” in which they allow government intelligence collectors to soak up data transmissions on the fly. One of the just released documents says explicitly that the fact the NSA “obtains cryptographic details of commercial cryptographic information security systems through industry relationships” must be kept top secret.
The latest Spiegel article notes that, with regards to Skype, audio and video data is routinely taken into possession by the NSA when an alleged suspect is on at least one end of the conversation. In instances where companies won’t voluntarily be complicit, however, agencies like the NSA are driven to exploiting those systems – like the PPTP and Ipsec mechanisms used by Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), or TSL/SSL protocol meant to secure web traffic (by whatever means necessary).
That isn’t to say, though, that all is lost. According to the Snowden docs, codebreakers at the NSA may have met their match when it comes to certain software standards, even for the more inexperienced online privacy proponents. The stand-alone anonymity-centric operating system known as TAILS, and one of its major components – Tor – pose major problems when it comes to eavesdropping, the documents reveal, as does the TrueCrypt software that aims to secure files and documents shared among persons or stored in secret on hard drives and OTR – a protocol that offers end-to-end encryption for instant messaging chats.
“For surveillance experts, it becomes very difficult to trace the whereabouts of a person who visits a particular website or to attack a specific person while they are using Tor to surf the Web,” the Spiegel journalists reported. When used in concert with OTR, TAILS, and other options, communications seem close to impossible to crack, the report suggests.
As quoted by Spiegel, the source of the documents, Snowden said more than a year ago that, indeed, encryption used correctly may be the best option available for foiling efforts from the NSA to eavesdrop on digital communications.
"Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on," Snowden said in June 2013.
http://rt.com/usa/218563-31c3-appelbaum-spiegel-encryption/

Goodbye Privacy, Hello Censorship

The Trade In Services Agreement

by PETE DOLACK

Internet privacy and net neutrality would become things of the past if the secret Trade In Services Agreement comes to fruition. And on this one, the secrecy exceeds even that shrouding the two better-known corporate giveaways, the Trans-Pacific and Transatlantic partnerships.
Yet another tentacle in the octopus of multi-national corporations’ attempt to achieve dictatorial control, the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) is intended to eliminate government regulations in the “professional services” such as accounting and engineering but goes well beyond that, proposing sweeping de-regulation of the Internet and the financial industry.
Another snippet of TISA’s text has been leaked, this time by the freedom-of-information organization Associated Whistleblowing Press. Without this leak, and an earlier leak published by WikiLeaks in June 2014, we would know absolutely nothing about TISA and its various annexes. No matter what a negotiating government might claim about it, should one actually deign to discuss it, TISA is not about your right to hire your accountant of choice. Here is Article X.4 on “movement of information”:
“No Party may prevent a service supplier of another Party from transferring, accessing, processing or storing information, including personal information, within or outside the Party’s territory, where such activity is carried out in connection with the conduct of the service supplier’s business.”
What that proposal means is that any regulation safeguarding online privacy would be deemed illegal. (“Party” in the quoted text refers to national governments.) European rules on privacy, much stronger than those found in the United States, for example, would be eliminated. Further, any rule that in any way mandates local content (Article X.2) or provides any advantage to a local technology (Article X.3) would also be illegal. Thus the domination of U.S.-based Internet companies, such as Google or Facebook, would be locked in, along with their vacuuming of your personal data. A French anti-dumping law intended to help bookstores withstand predatory practices by Amazon.com is the type of law likely to come under attack.
What this has to do with the provision of “professional services” is not clear. TISA seems intended to be a catch-all to eliminate regulation and allow multi-national corporations to muscle their way into as many areas as possible unimpeded, and the benign-sounding surface purpose of liberalizing access to foreign engineers may be intended as a wedge to force open all barriers to corporate profiteering.

Taking aim at net neutrality
The text is written in sufficiently ambiguous language that net neutrality seems strongly at risk. A reference to “open networks” contains the caveat that Internet usage is “subject to reasonable network management.” An analysis prepared by Professor Jane Kelsey of the University of Auckland and Burcu Kilic of Public Citizen in Washington says:
“ ‘Reasonable network management’ is code for an exception to ‘net neutrality,’ whereby everything on the Internet is treated the same. There is no guidance on the meaning of ‘reasonable network management.’ The concept has been highly controversial when the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed it in the US. The FCC says it ‘consists of practices which are reasonable,’ which is a vague and circular meaning that could be a rubber stamp for anything the network operator wants to do.” [page 22]
U.S. telecommunications corporations bitterly oppose net neutrality because, under this principle, they can’t speed up or slow down online content according to who pays them, or doesn’t, for special treatment. And any dilution of net neutrality opens the floodgates to censorship of the Internet, whether government or corporate.
The analysis by Professor Kelsey and Dr. Kilic discerns three broad goals of TISA on the part of the U.S. government, which is pushing hardest for it, as it does with other “free trade” agreements:
*To advance the commercial interests of its services industry that supplies services across the border. There would be particular gains to the information telecommunications and technology sector, but would protect U.S. competitive advantage and monopoly rights over intellectual property and technology.
*To serve “a range of ‘national security’ and commercial purposes” by consolidating data repositories to the benefit of the U.S. government, transnational companies and third-party commercial interests.
*To prevent or restrict government regulation that impedes the activities and profits of the major global services industries, and guarantees unrestricted cross-border movement of data.
letter sent to TISA negotiators by 342 civil society groups based in Europe and elsewhere in 2013 asking that the negotiations be immediately halted, states:
“The proposed TISA is an assault on the public interest as it fails to ensure that foreign investments in service sectors actually promote public goals and sustainable economies. We are particularly wary of further undermining of essential services such as health care and insurance, water and energy provision, postal distribution, education, public transportation, sanitation, and others if they are handed over to private and foreign corporations motivated only by profits and available only to those who can pay market rates.”
Restrictions on the financial industry would be illegal
TISA, as revealed by WikiLeaks in June, also would require signatory governments to allow any corporation that offers a “financial service” — that includes insurance as well as all forms of trading and speculation — to expand operations at will and would prohibit new financial regulations. These offensives are incorporated in TISA’s Financial Services Annex, which would:
*Require countries to change their laws to conform to the annex’s text (Annex Article 3).
*Require countries to “eliminate … or reduce [the] scope” of state enterprises (Article 5).
*Prohibit any “buy local” rules for government agencies (Article 6).
*Prohibit any limitations on foreign financial firms’ activity (articles 7 and 10).
*Prohibit restrictions on the transfer of any data collected, including across borders (articles 8 and 11).
*Prohibit any restrictions on the size or expansion of financial companies and a ban on new regulations (Article 15).
*Require any government that offers financial products through its postal service to lessen the quality of its products so that those are no better than what private corporations offer (Article 22).
The ninth, and most recent, round of TISA negotiations took place on December 1 to 5 in Australia. In a typically bland statement providing no actual information, the Australian government said:
“Good progress was made in advancing the enhanced disciplines (trade rules) for e-commerce and telecommunications, domestic regulation and transparency, financial services, temporary entry of business persons, professional services, maritime and air transport services and delivery services. There was also further discussion of proposals on government procurement, environmental and energy services, and the facilitation of patient mobility. Parties reported on progress in bilateral market access discussions held since the September Round and committed to advance these further in 2015.”
Canberra’s likely overstating of “progress” is nonetheless more than is offered by other governments. The office of the United States Trade Representative, for example, last issued a public update about TISA negotiations in November 2013, and then merely said that the then-latest round of talks “was positive and productive.”
Tightening secrecy of “free trade” agreements
The next round of TISA negotiations are scheduled for Geneva February 9 to 13, 2015. Fifty countries are negotiating TISA, including the 28 countries of the European Union, which are collectively represented by the unelected and unaccountable European Commission. Among other countries are Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Norway and Switzerland. The negotiating countries, with perhaps more transparency than intended, refer to themselves as the “Really Good Friends of Services.” Good friends of working people they are not.
Although any sections detailing enforcement have yet to be leaked, TISA would likely depend on the “investor-state dispute mechanism” generally mandated in “free trade” agreements. Deceptively bland sounding, the mechanism is a secret tribunal to which a “dispute” is sent when a corporation wants a safety or environmental regulation or law changed so as to increase its profits. One of the most frequently used of these tribunals is an arm of the World Bank.
Many of the judges who sit on these tribunals are corporate lawyers who otherwise represent corporations in similar disputes with governments, and there is no appeal to their decisions. These rulings become a benchmark for subsequent disputes, thereby pushing the interpretations further in favor of multi-national capital.
That the Trade In Services Agreement, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement(CETA), have to be negotiated in total secrecy, with only corporate lobbyists having access to texts or meaningful input, speaks for itself. 

The empty shell of formal democracy under capitalism gets ever emptier.
Pete Dolack writes the Systemic Disorder blog. He has been an activist with several groups.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/30/goodbye-privacy-hello-censorship/

Bolivia´s Morales: US 'Backs Drug Trafficking'

According to the Bolivian President, Washington “uses its War on Drugs to pursue its own geo-political agenda.”

By Telesur


 The so-called War on Drugs pushed by Washington is just one of the many means that the United States uses to pressure and control governments in Latin America, according to Bolivian President Evo Morales.

“(U.S. government) uses its War on Drugs to pursue its own geo-political agenda and now they use it to accuse other governments and take them down,” Morales, one of the Latin American leaders who has most fiercely criticized U.S. policy in the region, told the Mexican newspaper La Jornada in an article published Monday.

“They even named me the ‘Andinean Bin Laden’ and accused us of being terrorists and drug traffickers and at the same United States is the top-nation that backs and benefits from drug trafficking,” the Bolivian president continued.

Morales, whose political career began as a coca leaf farmer, said that drug trafficking is one of the many ways that the U.S. government uses to impose its own agenda in the region.

“Drug trafficking seems like the big business of the capitalist system. (United States) is a very developed country, with a lot of technology and the one who consumes the most drugs. How is it that they cannot control drug trafficking?,” asked Morales. “I think the country that drives the drug trade is the U.S., it’s big business; the big, illegal business of the capitalist system.”

Since electing Morales as President in 2006, Bolivia has been in dispute with Washington the coca leaf production in the South American nation, which the country’s indigenous majority use for a range of non-narcotic purposes, including religious ceremonies.

The coca plant is considered sacred in several Andean countries.

Morales also slammed U.S. policy in the region, including the recent announcement by the Obama administration to imposediplomatic sanctions against Venezuela.

Morales urged all Latin American leaders to unite against U.S. imperialism. “Unity is the only way to guarantee a future in Latin America,” the Bolivian leader concluded.

La nueva Televisión del Sur C.A. (TVSUR)

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40591.htm

The Imperial Collapse Playbook

By Dmitry Orlov

 Some people enjoy having the Big Picture laid out in front of them—the biggest possible—on what is happening in the world at large, and I am happy to oblige. The largest development of 2014 is, very broadly, this: the Anglo-imperialists are finally being forced out of Eurasia. How can we tell? Well, here is the Big Picture—the biggest I could find. I found it thanks to Nikolai Starikov and a recent article of his.

Now, let's first define our terms. By Anglo-imperialists I mean the combination of Britain and the United States. The latter took over for the former as it failed, turning it into a protectorate. Now the latter is failing too, and there are no new up-and-coming Anglo-imperialists to take over for it. But throughout this process their common playbook had remained the same: pseudoliberal pseudocapitalism for the insiders and military domination and economic exploitation for everyone else. Much more specifically, their playbook always called for a certain strategem to be executed whenever their plans to dominate and exploit any given country finally fail. On their way out, they do what they can to compromise and weaken the entity they leave behind, by inflicting a permanently oozing and festering political wound. “Poison all the wells” is the last thing on their pre-departure checklist.

• When the British got tossed out of their American Colonies, they did all they could, using a combination of import preferences and British “soft power,” to bolster the plantation economy of the American South, helping set it up as a sort of anti-United States, and the eventual result was the American Civil War.

• When the British got tossed out of Ireland, they set up Belfast as a sort of anti-Ireland, with much blood shed as a result.

• When the British got tossed out of India, they set up Pakistan, as a sort of anti-India, precipitating a nasty hot war, followed by a frozen conflict over Kashmir.

• When the US lost China to the Communists, they evacuated the Nationalists to Taiwan, and set it up as a sort of anti-China, and even gave it China's seat at the United Nations.

The goal is always the same: if they can't have the run of the place, they make sure that nobody else can either, by setting up a conflict scenario that nobody there can ever hope to resolve. And so if you see Anglo-imperialists going out of their way and spending lots of money to poison the political well somewhere in the world, you can be sure that they are on their way out. Simply put, they don't spend lots of money to set up intractable problems for themselves to solve—it's always done for the benefit of others.

Fast-forward to 2014, and what we saw was the Anglo-imperialist attempt to set up Ukraine as a sort of anti-Russia. They took a Slavic, mostly Russian-speaking country and spent billions (that's with a “b”) of dollars corrupting its politics to make the Ukrainians hate the Russians. For a good while an average Ukrainian could earn a month's salary simply by turning up for an anti-Russian demonstration in Kiev, and it was said that nobody in Ukraine goes to protests free of charge; it's all paid for by the US State Department and associated American NGOs. The result was what we saw this year: a bloody coup, and a civil war marked by numerous atrocities. Ukraine is in the midst of economic collapse with power plants out of coal and lights going off everywhere, while at the same time the Ukrainians are being drafted into the army and indoctrinated to want to go fight against “the Muscovites.” 

But, if you notice, things didn't go quite as planned. First, Russia succeeded in making a nice little example of self-determination in the form of Crimea: if it worked for Kosovo, why can't it work for Crimea? Oh, the Anglo-imperialist establishment wishes to handle these things on a case-by-case basis, and in this case it doesn't approve? Well, that would be a double-standard, wouldn't it? World, please take note: when the West talks about justice and human rights, that's just noise.
Next, the Russians provided some amount of support, including weapons, volunteers and humanitarian aid, to Ukraine's eastern provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk, which declared themselves People's Republics and successfully fought Ukraine's so-called “anti-terrorist operation” to a stalemate and an imperfect, precarious cease-fire. Very significantly, Russia absolutely refused to get involved militarily, has withheld official recognition of these republics, has refused to consider breaking up Ukraine, and continues to insist on national dialogue and a peace process even as the bullets fly. According to Putin, Ukraine must be maintained as “a contiguous political space.” Thus, the Russians have responded to the Anglo-imperialists' setting up of an anti-Russia in the form of Ukraine by setting up an anti-Ukraine in the form of DPR and LPR, thereby shunting the Anglo-imperialist attempt to provoke a war between Ukraine and Russia into a civil war within Ukraine.

You might also notice that the Anglo-imperialists have been getting very, very angry. They have been doing everything they can to vilify Russia, comparing Putin to Hitler and so on. This is because for them it's all about the money, and they didn't get what they paid for. What the Anglo-imperialists were paying for in corrupting Ukraine's politics was a ring-side seat at a fight between Ukraine and Russia. And what they got instead is a two-legged stool at a bar-room brawl between Eastern and Western Ukraine. Eastern Ukraine accounts for a quarter of the Ukrainian economy, produces most of the coal that had formerly kept the lights on in the rest of the country, and contains most of the industry that had made Ukraine an industrialized nation. Western Ukraine is centered on the unhappy little rump of Galicia, where the political soil is so fertile for growing neo-Nazis. So, paying billions to watch a bunch of Ukrainians fight each other inconclusively while Russia gets to play peacemaker is not what the Anglo-imperialists wanted, and they are absolutely livid about it. If they don't get the war they paid for PDQ, they will simply cut their losses, pack up and leave, and then do what they always do, which is pretend that the country in question doesn't exist, which, the way things are going in the Ukraine, it barely will.

Note that leaving, and then pretending that a place doesn't exist, is something the Anglo-imperialists have been doing a lot lately. When they left Iraq, they did succeed in setting up a sort of anti-Iraq in the form of Iraqi Kurdistan, but that all blew up in their face. Their attempts to set up an anti-Syria or an anti-Libya died in their infancy, and they don't seem to have any plan at all with regard to Afghanistan, unless it is to repeat every single blunder the Soviets made there as carefully and completely as possible.

What's more, it's starting to look like they are about to get kicked out of Eurasia altogether. Most of the major Eurasian players—China, Russia, India, Iran, much of Central Asia—are cementing their ties around the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to which the United States isn't even admitted as an observer. As for the European Union, the current crop of EU politicians is very much bought and will be paid for upon retirement by the Anglo-imperialists, but the only reason they are still in power is that there are lots of older voters in Western Europe, and older people tend to cling to what they know even after it stops working—for them or, especially, for their kids. If it was up to the young people, the Anglo-imperialists would face open rebellion. In fact, the trends in voting patterns show that their departure from the region is a matter of time.

Here is a preview of possible coming attractions. On their way out, the Anglo-imperialists will of course try to set up an anti-Europe, and the obvious choice for that is Britain. Of all the European nations, it is the most heavily manipulated by their Anglo cousins from across the pond. It would take minimal effort for them to hurt Britain economically, then launch a propaganda campaign to redirect the blame for the bad economy toward the continent. They wouldn't even have to hire translators for their propaganda—a simple “spelling-chequer” (or whatever) would suffice. And so, to make sure that their efforts to provoke a large-scale, hugely destructive, festering conflict between Britain and Europe fail, Europe would do well to set up an anti-Britain within Britain.

And the obvious choice for an anti-Britain is of course Scotland, where the recent independence referendum failed because of... the recalcitrance of older voters. A dividing line between the Anglo empire and Eurasia running through the English Channel/La Manche would be a disaster for Europe and moving it somewhere west of Bermuda would pose a formidable challenge. On the other hand, suppose that line ran along Hadrian's Wall, with the traditionally combative and ornery Scots, armed with the remnants of North Sea oil and gas, aligning themselves with the Continent, while England remains an ever-so-obedient vassal of the Anglo-imperialists? That would reduce the intercontinental conflict to what Americans like to call a “pissing contest”: not worth the high price of admission. Yes, there would be some strong words between the two sides, and some shoving and shouting outside of pubs, and even some black eyes and loose teeth should diplomacy fail, but that should be the extent of the damage. That I see as the best-case outcome.
So that's the big picture I see heading into 2015, which I am sure will be a most tumultuous year. Not to make a prediction as to timing (don't worry, you won't ever get one out of me!) but 2015 could be the year the Anglo-imperialist franchise finally starts shutting down in obvious ways. We know it will have to shut down eventually, because failing all the time is not conducive to its survival. The bonus question is, what sort of anti-America will these parasites set up inside America before they abandon their host and scatter to their fortified compounds in undisclosed locations around the world? Or will they not even bother, and just provoke a war of all against all?

I would think that they would at least try to leverage their expensively engineered red/blue divide within the United States. This fake cultural/political divide, with all the pseudoliberal/pseudoconservative indoctrination and university- and church-based brainwashing that put it in place, cost them a pretty penny. It was engineered to produce the appearance of choice at election-time while making sure that there isn't any. But could it not be pressed into service in some more extreme manner? How about leveraging it to organize some sort of rabidly homophobic racist fundamentalist separatist enclave somewhere down south? Or perhaps one somewhere in the north, where zoophilia is de rigeur while heterosexual intercourse requires a special permit from a committee stocked with graduates in women's studies? Now, fight, you idiots! Don't you see how well that could work in practice? Would they waste such a nice opportunity to set up a system of controlled mayhem? I think not!

I leave all of that up to you to imagine.

Happy New Year!

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and a writer on subjects related to "potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States," something he has called “permanent crisis”. http://cluborlov.blogspot.com

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40585.htm

Why Capitalism Will be the Death of Us

Reason Number 13,336


by WILLIAM BLUM

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria – the “superbugs” – if left unchecked, could result in 10 million deaths a year by 2050. New drugs to fight the superbugs are desperately needed. But a panel advising President Obama warned in September that “there isn’t a sufficiently robust pipeline of new drugs to replace the ones rendered ineffective by antibiotic resistance.”
The problem, it appears, is that “Antibiotics generally provide low returns on investment, so they are not a highly attractive area for research and development.”
Aha! “Low returns on investment”! What could be simpler to understand? Is it not a concept worth killing and dying for? Just as millions of Americans died in the 20th century so corporations could optimize profits by not protecting the public from tobacco, lead, and asbestos.
Corporations are programmed to optimize profits without regard for the society in which they operate, in much the same way that cancer cells are programmed to proliferate without regard for the health of their host.

Words Alone Won’t End Torture

Our Burden

by CESAR CHELALA


“We are going to smash your hands to pulp like the Chileans did to Victor Jara.” Those were the words of the torturers in a Uruguayan prison spoken to my friend Miguel Angel Estrella, a pianist from Argentina. They were referring to the fate of the imprisoned Chilean singer and guitarist Victor Jara, whose hands were destroyed so that he would never play the guitar again. Jara, a fervent opponent of the Pinochet regime, was brutally tortured and later machine-gunned to death following the coup that brought Pinochet to power in 1973.
Estrella was being held in Uruguay’s Libertad prison, accused of being a guerrilla from Argentina fighting the Argentine military regime. Unable to prove the charges against him, and given the unprecedented international pressure, the Uruguayan government released him in 1978 after having kidnapped him at the end of 1977.
Estrella was luckier than most of those imprisoned by the South American military. Although tortured and held for a long time in isolation, Estrella eventually recovered, leads a brilliant career as a musician, and is now Argentina’s ambassador to UNESCO.
One of those who trained the Uruguayan torturers was an American operative, Daniel (Dan) Mitrione, who was later captured and killed by Uruguayan guerrillas. According to A.J. Langguth, a former New York Times bureau chief in Saigon, Mitrione was among the U.S. advisers who taught torture to the Brazilian police.
Mitrione’s method for the application of torture was carefully orchestrated. Langguth reports that the method was described in detail in a book by Manuel Hevia “Cosculluela,” a Cuban double agent who worked for the CIA, “Passport 11333, Eight Years with the CIA.”
This is Mitrione’s voice: “When you receive a subject, the first thing to do is to determine his physical state, his degree of resistance, through a medical examination. A premature death means a failure by the technician. Another important thing to know is exactly how far you can go given the political situation and the personality of the prisoner. It is very important to know beforehand whether we have the luxury of letting the subject die . . . before all else, you must be efficient. You must cause only the damage that is strictly necessary, not a bit more. We must control our tempers in any case. You have to act with the efficiency and cleanliness of a surgeon and with the perfection of an artist..”
In Uruguay, Mitrione was the head of the Office of Public Safety, a U.S. government agency established in 1957 by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower to train foreign police forces. At Mitrione’s funeral, Ron Ziegler, the Nixon administration’s spokesman, stated that Mitrione’s “devoted service to the cause of peaceful progress in an orderly world will remain as an example for free men everywhere.” Thanks to former U.S. Sen. James Abourezk’s efforts, the policy advisory program was abolished in 1974.
Mitrione’s case was far from unique. Through the School of the Americas, thousands of military and police officers from Latin America were trained in repressive methods, including torture. On Nov. 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, a coworker and her teenage daughter were massacred in El Salvador. I knew one of those killed, Ignacio Martin-Baro, vice rector of the Central American University. He was the closest I have ever been to a saint.
A U.S. Congressional Task Force concluded that those responsible for their deaths were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Human beings make culture. And we also make torture, that bastard child of culture. It is up to us to change this situation. When running for president, Barack Obama stated, referring to the Iraq war, “It is not enough to get out of Iraq; we have to get out of the mind-set that led us into Iraq.”
A similar assertion could be made about torture. It is not enough to say that torture will not be practiced any longer by the U.S. We need to get out of the mind-set that made torture possible in the first place.
Dr. Cesar Chelala, a writer on human rights issues, is a winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and a national journalism award from Argentina.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/30/words-alone-wont-end-torture/