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ICTR: "no mastermind behind genocide"

March 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Former Colonel Theoneste Bagosora
Former Colonel Theoneste Bagosora

In the article “ICTR: Rwandan genocide – no master plan” published by Radio Netherlands Worldwide we read that, “After seventeen years of investigations and trials, the ICTR ends up with no mastermind behind the genocide.”

This is reported at the same time as “the Appeals Chamber of the ICTR reduced Colonel Bagosora’s factual responsibility in the genocide to a minimum, and his life sentence to 35 years.”

While this is good news it is still a far cry from justice because Bagosora is still being treated as “guilty by inference.” RNW reports that,

After the presidential plane was shot down on April 6, 1994, a wave of political assassinations marked the beginning of the massacres. There was no credible and reliable proof of Bagosora’s direct participation, the trial judges wrote. But he was found guilty by inference. Considered to be the person having authority over the army at the time, the order to attack could only have come from him, said the judges.

What needs to be understood is that the ICTR is first and foremost a political institution, not a judicial one. It has been constructed to serve the political interests of the West—in particular the U.S. So while it is being reported that there is “no mastermind behind the genocide” that is for one simple reason: the ICTR refuses to look at Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). A look at the judgement and sentencing of Bagosora et al, on December 18, 2008 demonstrates this. The focus is on “Hutu extremists,” and particular accusations against four men, “the Accused.” The historical context of the “genocide,” as we are told in the judgement, “precede the Tribunal’s temporal jurisdiction.” What happened before January 1, 1994 is “irrelevant” to the court. Even the crimes of the RPF are “irrelevant.”

Despite the fact that the court acknowledges that “a cycle of ethnic violence against Tutsi civilians has often followed attacks by the RPF or earlier groups associated with Tutsis, such as Union Nationale Rwandaise party,” or that “[f]ollowing the October 1990 RPF invasion, there were mass arrests as well as localised killings at the time and in subsequent years in several northern communes and the Bugesera region,” and despite the fact that the court ruled that “the alternative explanations for the events have added relevant context to a few allegations against the Accused,” there is just one problem: “they are irrelevant to the core issues in this case, namely whether the Accused are responsible for the specific criminal allegations charged against them.” There is no look at Kagame’s as being “the person having authority over the” main perpetrators of the genocide.

So while the tribunal admits that the military preparations that the prosecution said was proof of a genocidal plan was “consistent with preparations for a political or military power struggle,” and that “in the context of the ongoing war with the RPF, this evidence does not invariably show that the purpose of arming and training these civilians or the preparation of lists was to kill Tutsi civilians,” or that when you view the creation of lists and arming and training of civilians “in the context of the immediate aftermath of the RPF’s violation of the cease fire agreement, it does not necessarily show an intention to use the forces to commit genocide,” the focus is still on “the Accused,” and not the RPF for the responsibility of what transpired.

In other words, that “the Accused” are innocent of planning a genocide, and that what happened is “consistent with preparations for a political or military power struggle” due to an RPF invasion in 1990, that after more than two years of terror by the RPF resulted in a power-sharing government that recognized the RPF as a legitimate force, but also in a cease fire that the RPF violated—which would explain why the Rwandan government kept “lists” of Tutsis and armed and trained civilians in the north (they were being attacked by invading forces)—the men are still guilty of “genocide” because atrocities against Tutsis occured after the RPF assassinated their president and began a massive invasion which resulted in massacres of Hutus. Any Tutsis killed by Hutus following the invasion and power struggle are “genocide,” whereas the targeting of Hutus by the RPF from 1990 onward is “irrelevant.”

There is simply no other reason for why the ICTR is so selective in its focus than that it is a kangaroo court trial. Bearing in mind that Kagame has close ties to the U.S. government, who was instrumental in creating the ICTR at the UN Security Council, and that even according to UNSCR 955 the trial was created at “the request of the Government of Rwanda,” who is apparently behind the ICTR’s “temporal jurisdiction” considering UNSCR 955 said the tribunal should be for crimes committed “between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994.” Which is why Ed Herman and David Peterson wrote in their book, The Politics of Genocide, that: “Although it has failed to convict a single Hutu of conspiracy to commit genocide, the ICTR has never once entertained the question of an RPF conspiracy—despite the RPF’s rapid overthrow of the Hutu government and capture of the Rwandan state.”

It would be as if some American terrorist trained at military schools of foreign governments (Paul Kagame was trained at Fort Leavenworth), created a terrorist army in Canada with close ties to its military, invaded the U.S., and then assassinated the president, and overthrew the government in an orgy of destruction that lasted 100 days, creating a massive refugee crisis whereupon the invaders chased them into foreign countries and slaughtered them in absolute barbarism, and that the American forces who committed massacres in response to the campaign of terror and invasion were singled out as genocidaires and tried in an international tribunal, as requested by the new dictatorship, and that restricted its “temporal scope” to the crimes of its victims, and dismissed the historical context and crimes of the invaders as “irrelevant.”

That is what has happened. Paul Kagame is a mass-murderer serving U.S. interests by reinstating colonialism (it was the Belgians who put the Tutsi minority in power), blocking the emergence of democracy in the region (as a part of the Arusha Accords, elections were to be held in 1995 and Kagame had an incentive to avoid the elections since demographics make it clear the Tutsi’s would not return to power), and ensuring the natural resources are at the disposal of the U.S. empire. His 1990 invasion, and violation of the Arusha Accords, and assassination of Habyarimana, and April 1994 invasion and coup, and the expansion of the war into the Congo (where Rwandan forces killed hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees, sometimes right in front of international forces) have all gone unpunished, while the crimes of the RPF’s governmental and military victims have been picked over and the perpetrators brought to “justice.” But since the role of victim and perpetrator have been inverted, all the ICTR can say is that there is “no mastermind behind the justice” and that the victims are “guilty by inference.”

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The NYT is Seriously Misleading on Congo

March 29, 2012 Leave a comment
In recent months, fighting between the militias and armed insurgent groups has forced tens of thousands to flee their homes. Sven Torfinn for the International Herald Tribune.


There are a number of seriously misleading statements made in Stephen Castle’s recent New York Times article, “In Congo, Self-Defense Can Offer Its Own Risk.”

For starters, Castle writes that “few trust the Congolese Army” but provides no context for readers to make sense of this statement other than the Congolese Army hasn’t done enough to protect Congolese people from armed groups, so civilians have started forming their own “militias” which Castle says “have worsened an already grave humanitarian crisis in one of the world’s poorest countries.” The unstated implication seems to be, in the wake of the Kony 2012 propaganda film, complimenting the recent focus on Africa where the continent is presented as incapable of handling their own affairs, and thus the West needs to send in their militaries to restore order. As the title of the article suggests, “self-defense” is risky.

Castle also goes on to write that “violence is a constant curse” in this region where “a five-year conflict, which drew in several neighboring countries, officially ended in 2003 after claiming an estimated three to four million lives.”

This particular statement is misleading on two fronts: (1) the conflict did not draw in neighboring countries. Two neighboring countries, namely Rwandan and Uganda, backed by the U.S. invaded and started the conflict; and (2) the estimate is much higher than four million deaths. Some estimates go up as high as ten million.

Castle then writes that, “Last December, the incumbent, Joseph Kabila, was declared the winner of the presidential election, which was criticized by international monitors,” but he says nothing more. Instead, Castle proceeds to say that, “In the north, the Lord’s Resistance Army, the guerrilla force led by Joseph Kony, has continued to carry out attacks, terrorizing the population.” But the scope of the LRA’s “terrorizing” is not stated, just like the results of Kabila’s fraudulent election is not stated. So it’s useful to actually provide information. After a nearly year long lull in activity, and following President Obama’s declaration to send in the Marines and hunt down Joseph Kony, the LRA did carry out some twenty attacks resulting in one death and 17 abductions.

Following last years bogus elections the Congolese government went on a violent crackdown against its political opponents that the UN recently issued a report on. The report stated that,

At the end of its investigation, the UNJHRO is able to confirm that at least 33 people were killed, including 22 by gunshot, as well as at least 83 others injured, including 61 by gunshot, between 26 November and 25 December 2011 by members of the defense and security forces. At least 16 people remain unaccounted for. Furthermore, the UNJHRO documented the arrest of at least 265 civilians, most of whom have been detained illegally and/or arbitrarily, mainly due to their real or alleged affiliation to a political opposition party or for coming from Mr. Etienne Tshisekedi’s home province or to other provinces where he enjoys significant support. These human rights violations were attributed mainly to elements of the Garde républicaine (GR), officers of the National Congolese Police (PNC) and its specialized units, such as the Légion nationale d’intervention (LENI), the criminal investigation brigade and the Groupe mobile d’intervention (GMI), and to a lesser extent, to soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) not belonging to the GR. Moreover, agents of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) were also allegedly responsible for several cases of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention.

The ratio of people killed by the Congolese Army to the LRA is 33 : 1, while the abduction rate is 15 : 1. However, Castle says nothing about the U-S.-backed Congolese Army “terrorizing the population,” just as he deflates the casualties from the recent war, and is completely silent on the main perpetrators: the U.S.-backed regimes in Rwanda and Uganda.

And if that weren’t bad enough Castle writes that these supposed self-defense militias are killing “guerrillas of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by their French initials, F.D.L.R., which include remnants of the Hutu fighters who carried out the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994 and who have since made a haven in Congo.”

Apparently a New York Times article on Africa is not complete without regurgitating the lie that it was “Hutu fighters who carried out the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994 and who have since made a haven in Congo.” Rather, it was the Rwandan Patriotic Front headed by current Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame who, as an agent of the Ugandan government, invaded Rwanda in 1990 U.S. support. The armed invasion aimed at destabilizing the Rwandan government continued until April of 1994 when the RPF assassinated President Habyarimana and carried out a major offensive that overthrew the government in one hundred days.

In their book, The Politics of Genocide, authors Edward Herman and David Peterson write:

Although the mass killings followed this assassination, with the RPF rapidly defeating any military resistance by the successor to Habyarimana’s coalition government and establishing its rule in Rwanda, these prime génocidaires were, and still are today, portrayed as heroic defenders of Rwanda’s national unity against Hutu “extremists” and the Interahamwe militia, who were the RPF’s actual victims.

Herman and Peterson later went on to write of the casualty statistics that,

An investigation in July and August 1994, sponsored by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to document Hutu massacres of Tutsis, found instead massacres of Hutu civilians in RPF-controlled areas of Rwanda on the order of 25,000-45,000. This finding led the UNHCR to take the extraordinary step of blocking Hutu refugees from returning to Rwanda in order to protect them. Prepared by Robert Gersony, the report, covered in the New York Times, “concluded that there was ‘an unmistakable pattern of killings and persecutions’ by soldiers of the [RPF]…‘aimed at Hutu populations.’” But the Gersony report “set off a bitter dispute within the world organization and led the Secretary General to demand that the United Nations officials refrain from discussing it,” in an effort to placate the RPF and, more importantly, its Western sponsors.

And Herman and Peterson write of , “A memorandum drafted in September 1994 for the eyes of Secretary of State Warren Christopher reported that the UNHCR team ‘concluded that a pattern of killing had emerged’ in Rwanda, the ‘[RPF] and Tutsi civilian surrogates [killing] 10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month, with the [RPF] accounting for 95% of the killing,’ ” and that,

This memorandum added that “the UNHR team speculated that the purpose of the killing was a campaign of ethnic cleansing intended to clear certain areas in the south of Rwanda for Tutsi habitation. The killings also served to reduce the population of Hutu males and discouraged refugees from returning to claim their lands.”

Of course Castle makes no reference to any of this even though, as Herman and Peterson note, the New York Times was well aware by July of 1994 that the main perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide was the RPF, and that the fleeing Hutu’s were the victims, not those “who carried out the genocide,” as Castle put it.

Furthermore, there is also ample evidence from UN peacekeepers who witnessed with horror how the Rwandan government was butchering thousands of unarmed refugees right in front of their eyes. According to the Herald Sun:

By early 1995, the displaced persons’ camp at Kibeho was the biggest in Rwanda, sprawling for 9sq km and containing 80,000 to 100,000 people.

The 32 Australian soldiers and medical officers arrived there as part of the UN peacekeeping force on April 18, 1995.

There were daily random killings by the Rwandan soldiers, but the slaughter exploded out of control soon after 10am on April 22. The Australians had a grandstand view of the nightmare from the Zambian compound.

The RPA soldiers murdered women and children right up to the UN wire. Bodies were everywhere. For the Diggers behind the wire, the next few hours were agonising.

For the refugees, there was nowhere to run.

As the Australians collected the wounded from among the piles of dead, the crisis began to escalate as panic-stricken Hutus overran the Zambian compound, driven forward by machete-and rifle wielding militia.

Hundreds were killed in the crush and the Australians were forced to repel at bayonet point the terrified victims they were supposed to be protecting, pushing them back into the RPA killing zone.

The RPA went wild and cut loose with another hail of fire on the panicking crowd.

It is even being reported this month by allAfrica.com that, “Thousands of Rwandan refugees living in Uganda remain unwilling to return home, citing a fear of persecution.”

It is an amazing achievement for Stephen Castle and the New York Times to get so much wrong. In an article that pulls at the heartstrings and is intended to have readers weep for the plight of the Congolese people, how can it be explained that there is not one mention of the extent of brutality by the Congolese Army, or how they are backed by the U.S. government, or how the U.S.-backed regimes in Rwanda and Uganda have been determining factors in the “constant curse” that plagues the region, except that the reporting is sheer propaganda designed to have readers think Africa needs outside help (i.e. American military intervention)? One might think the certain omissions that are so relevant to the story of what has happened, and is happening, in Congo is intentional.

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How the New York Times Sets the Boundary on Solving Income Inequality

March 27, 2012 2 comments

For the most part I appreciated Steven Rattner’s recent op-ed piece for the New York Times, “The Rich Get Even Richer.” Acknowledgement in the mainstream media that “a dizzying 93 percent of the additional income created in [2010] went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers” is both greatly welcomed, and largely due to the success of Occupy Wall Street, which continues to shine a bright light on the issue.

Rattner then went on to to write that,

Still more astonishing was the extent to which the super rich got rich faster than the merely rich. In 2010, 37 percent of these additional earnings went to just the top 0.01 percent, a teaspoon-size collection of about 15,000 households with average incomes of $23.8 million. These fortunate few saw their incomes rise by 21.5 percent.

Meanwhile “the bottom 99 percent received a microscopic $80 increase in pay per person in 2010, after adjusting for inflation.”

Rattner says the findings are “not completely surprising” since “the rapid growth of new American industries — from technology to financial services — has increased the need for highly educated and skilled workers,” while “at the same time, old industries like manufacturing are employing fewer blue-collar workers.” What this translates to is “pay for college graduates has risen by 15.7 percent over the past 32 years (after adjustment for inflation) while the income of a worker without a high school diploma has plummeted by 25.7 percent over the same period.”

Rattner attributes this unequal distribution of wealth to factors like the George W Bush tax cuts, and says “the contours of solving” income inequality are “becoming better known” (i.e. “better education and training, a fairer tax system, more aid programs for the disadvantaged to encourage the social mobility needed for them escape the bottom rung, and so on”), and closes by saying,

The only way to redress the income imbalance is by implementing policies that are oriented toward reversing the forces that caused it. That means letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthy and adding money to some of the programs that House Republicans seek to cut. Allowing this disparity to continue is both bad economic policy and bad social policy. We owe those at the bottom a fairer shot at moving up.

This is good and all but it’s not the “only way.” And it’s not as if income inequality didn’t exist before the Bush tax cuts, or before Bill Clinton gleefully repealed the Glass-Steagall Act. It most certainly did, and it was a problem even then.

And we must look into why “old industries like manufacturing are employing fewer blue-collar workers.” These jobs are being sent overseas so that companies like Apple can profit from slave-like conditions in Chinese factories. This also has the added effect of creating a trading deficit, which is a very big problem.

One solution that is never entertained in Rattner’s piece is the democratization of the economy, which cannot happen so long as productive assets are privately owned, and its resources allocated through market systems.

And recognizing the limitations of private enterprise and market systems opens room to exploring much deeper as to why income inequality exists at all. Why do certain people make more than others? Why does having a legal document, or occupying a specific job, entitle someone to more wealth? Does a banker work harder than a school teacher, or a garbage collector? In a system with private enterprise and corporate divisions of labor it is not surprising that class divisions arise, and that these divisions result in inequalities. Those who either own businesses, or are hired to manage them, are “entitled” to the bulk of the wealth created because they enjoy a position of power of either ownership or decision-making skills that allow them to bargain for more. While those who sell their labor and perform functions lower on the corporate totem pole can only bargain for less.

But what if the economy was socially owned and operated? What if labor was divided more fairly so that all had some access to the tasks, knowledge and power to make informed work decisions? What if we developed a truly classless economy?

Political reforms to constrain the natural tendencies of capital that lead to social and economic inequalities are very helpful in the short term, but Rattner is wrong to assert they are “the only way to redress” the problems. What his piece does is it serves as a boundary of thought; a virtual glass ceiling to contain ideas and to keep them from going too far.

And it makes sense. As an editor from the Financial Times recently wrote: “Behind their journalistic missions, most news organisations have always been commercial operations that sell audiences to advertisers.” The New York Times is a business struggling to make a profit. Within in the Times there exists the hierarchical divisions of labor and profit motive that are a problem for the entire economy. It is reasonable to expect it to reinforce these same boundaries. Decency can only go so far, and that is why it is important to have independent media sources like the NYTimes eXaminer to bring these boundaries into focus.

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This Is About More Than Trayvon Martin: Institutional Racism and White Supremacy

March 26, 2012 1 comment
NBA players from the Miami Heat wear hoodies as a symbolic protest against the killing of Trayvon Martin.

I have been following the protests over the murder of Trayvon Martin, a young black male who was shot and killed under very questionable circumstances. While Martin was unarmed and his killer has admitted to killing him, Martin’s killer is still free.

However, the growing outrage is—or at least it should be—about more than Trayvon Martin, or so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws. It is about deeply entrenched racism and white supremacy, and addressing the roots of the problem so that no more young boys like Trayvon are victimized.

And to get a glimpse of those roots, here is a sample of the reality in America:

Whites outnumber blacks 6 to 1.

Yet blacks outnumber whites on deathrow by more than 2 to 1.

Blacks are six times more likely to be killed by homicide than whites.

Yet 80% of murder victims where the killer gets the death penalty are white.

Here is another important statitistic:

80% of those shot by NYPD are either black or Latino.

“Official” unemployment rate for whites is nearly half that of blacks.

Even predatory lending, and the subsequent foreclosures, have been shown to be highly racialized. Guess who is feeling the brunt?

And to top it off, recently a black mother in Ohio was jailed, and put on probation, for sending her kids to better schools.

There is literally one America for whites, and another for blacks. We are not all citizens of the same country, with equal access and opportunities and protections. There is no level playing ground. We are not viewed and treated the same.

Justice is not blind.

Arresting Martin’s killer would be a positive development towards achieving justice. As is the case for the ongoing protests. But justice involves a lot more than wearing a hoodie, or arresting a murderer—justice involves addressing the social, cultural, economic, and political roots of racism in our society.

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Why is the NYT Silent on President Obama’s Executive Order?

March 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Some speak the sounds
But speak in silent voices
Like radio is silent
Though it fills the air with noises
Its transmissions bring submission
As ya mold to the unreal
And mad boy grips the microphone
Wit’ a fistful of steel

That’s a line from Rage Against the Machine’s song Fistful of Steel. This song plays in the back of my mind with each column I write. It is astounding how much noise we find in the New York Times on a daily basis. And as loud as the “paper of record” is—with as much noise as it generates—it’s silence is deafening.

Case in point: President Obama’s recent Executive Order—National Defense Resources Preparedness that was issued on March 16, 2012. Even if there is nothing in the works to actually implement this, and it’s all just some sort of psyop, it’s still very alarming. But what is more alarming is that the New York Times, has not even mentioned this order  . . . that was signed a week ago! Not one word. It’s also worth pointing out that neither has the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, or USA Today.

President Obama’s executive order states that,

The United States must have an industrial and technological base capable of meeting national defense requirements and capable of contributing to the technological superiority of its national defense equipment in peacetime and in times of national emergency.

Nothing new here. The U.S. economy has long relied on state protectionism and intervention, a sort of corporate-state fascism that is often carried out under the banner of “national defense.” It is widely known that the war economy of World War Two pulled the U.S. out of the Great Depression. Following the war there were concerns that the economy could slide right back into it.

In the spring of 1950 the White House’s National Security Council said that “there are grounds for predicting that the United States and other free nations will within a period of a few years at most experience a decline in economic activity of serious proportions unless more positive governmental programs are developed than are now available.” And in the same document— NSC68—it goes on to talk about the decline in industrial production and increased unemployment, but the kinds of “positive governmental programs” the NSC had in mind was not renewable energy, mass public transportation, free housing, education, health care, etc., but “a build-up of the economic and military strength of the United States.” That is to say, the permanent war economy.

A year before NSC 68, Business Week ran a piece titled “From Cold War to Cold Peace” where it argued for “military pump-priming”: “Military spending doesn’t really alter the structure of the economy. It goes through the regular channels. As far as business is concerned, a munitions order from the government is much like an order from a private customer.” And that’s just it, “a munitions order from the government” boosts demand, where as such “an order from a private customer” would likely not exist.

And in January of 1948 Fortune magazine noted that,

[The U.S. aircraft industry] is today producing at a rate that is less than 3 per cent of its wartime peak. . . .  [An industry spokesperson] speak frequently of “free enterprise,” but they speak just as frequently of “long-range planning.” It is crystal clear to them that they cannot live without one kind or another of governmental support — yet “subsidy” is a shocking word to them. . . Its respected heads . . . freely play the game of nagging and chiding the government, but it then transpires that their reproaches are made because the government has not gone far enough toward stating “clearly and frankly” its “obligation to help develop new and improved air transports and efficient networks of air transportation,” as well as fostering new programs for military planes. . . .

Every one of these proposals acknowledges the inability of unaided “private” capital to venture any deeper into the technological terra incognita of the aircraft industry. Every one acknowledges that only the credit resources of the U.S.A. are sufficient to keep the aircraft industry going: to enable it to hire its engineers, buy its materials, pay wages to its labor force, compensate its executives — and pay dividends to its stockholders. The fact seems to remain, then, that the aircraft industry today cannot satisfactorily exist in a pure, competitive, unsubsidized, “free-enterprise” economy. It never has been able to. Its huge customer has always been the United States Government, whether in war or in peace.

Returning to President Obama’s executive order, we read that to maintain America’s “superiority” President Obama requires various government agencies to

assess on an ongoing basis the capability of the domestic industrial and technological base to satisfy requirements in peacetime and times of national emergency, specifically evaluating the availability of the most critical resource and production sources, including subcontractors and suppliers, materials, skilled labor, and professional and technical personnel

and to

be prepared, in the event of a potential threat to the security of the United States, to take actions necessary to ensure the availability of adequate resources and production capability, including services and critical technology, for national defense requirements.

Where the “adequate resources” are located, and what the “actions necessary” to acquire them are is not stated. But when Obama’s order also mentions how “the Director of Selective Service, and in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, assist the Director of Selective Service in development of policies regulating the induction and deferment of persons for duty in the armed services,” you start to get an idea: the “adequate resources” are overseas, and they will be taken by force.

One likely reading of the passage is it is a threat directed at Iran. With tensions rising and Iran’s threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, this could be President Obama’s way of upping the ante. And it is puzzling that the New York Times has failed to comment on this.

Another interesting passage worth the Time’s attention was when President Obama said, “The authority of the President,” allows him “to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense,” even on issues “with respect to food resources, food resource facilities, livestock resources, veterinary resources, plant health resources, and the domestic distribution of farm equipment and commercial fertilizer,” as well as “with respect to all forms of energy,” “health resources,” “water resources,” “to all forms of civil transportation,” and even includes “all other [“Commerce”] materials, services, and facilities, including construction materials.”

While the U.S. government has played a defining role in the building up and protecting the economy in the past, this is considerably different. President Obama is talking about a much more centrally planned role for the state; a virtual GOSPLAN (an abbreviation for Gosudarstvenniy Komitet po Planirovaniyu, which was the Soviet economic planning system).

The President’s order not only calls for “[t]he Secretary of each agency” to “plan for and issue regulations to prioritize and allocate resources and establish standards and procedures by which the authority shall be used to promote the national defense” for “emergency” conditions, but also under “non-emergency conditions.”

President Obama is not talking about such a wide-reaching plan for emergency purposes only, but even under “peacetime.” Which begs the question: Is this order also a forecast for economic trouble as the European economy worsens, and possibly spills over into the U.S.?

We even read that “this order may be used” by Homeland Security “to support programs [… ] including civil defense and continuity of Government.” Naturally, the programs and methods of doing so are not elaborated on. Where is the media outrage at the president positioning himself to declare martial law (even in so-called “peacetime”)?

And of course the collusion between government and Wall Street will continue, and is about more than an effort to

foster cooperation between the defense and commercial sectors for research and development and for acquisition of materials, services, components, and equipment to enhance industrial base efficiency and responsiveness

—but also to further enrich and empower the financial system that is dominating not only America’s economy, but the global economy too: “To reduce current or projected shortfalls of resources, critical technology items, or materials essential for the national defense, the head of each agency engaged in procurement for the national defense […] is authorized […] to guarantee loans by private institutions.”

As government agencies position to takeover a wide spectrum of the economy under the banner of “national defense”—even under times of peace—one of their functions is to protect against “current or projected shortfalls of resources.” Which they will do in ways that gives more and more taxpayer money to Wall Street.

It is possible that the comment on “shortfall of resources” may be another aspect of the threat directed at Iran. It could also be about peak oil, or peak water. President Obama’s order does mention control of “energy” and “water resources.”

I am not that shocked by President Obama’s executive order, especially since the (escalated) rise of the national security state since 9/11. What I am shocked by is the media silence. The press did not fail to at least mention the PATRIOT Act, the Military Commissions Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, or even Attorney General Holder’s recent argument about the right to kill Americans without due process of law. And when the President of the United States issues an executive order declaring his authority to create a military draft system, and to takeover planning pretty much the entire economy in order to ensure access to vital resources, and to maintain our “superiority,” you really would think that the New York Times would say something, anything. Even if it is their typical bad reporting. Alas, that is not the case.

That it’s not just the Times, but other mainstream news sources too, is even more troubling. I honestly don’t understand. When thinking about how an editor from the Financial Times was surprisingly honest when they recently wrote that, “Behind their journalistic missions, most news organisations have always been commercial operations that sell audiences to advertisers,” I try to keep that in mind when making sense of how the media does or does not cover certain issues. But I must confess: I struggle to understand how the media’s silence on President Obama’s executive order would have an adverse effect on their profits, or their ability to sell advertisers to their readers. So I don’t think that’s it. I don’t know what it is, and I am hesitant—or maybe scared—to follow the white rabbit down the conspiracy hole.

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NYT on ‘Conflict Minerals’: What Doesn’t Get ‘Scrutiny’

March 21, 2012 Leave a comment
Miners near the village of Kobu in northeastern Congo. The region’s resources are used to support military aims. Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

It was sheer business propaganda featured on page B1 of the New York Times, and it was designed to make doing the right thing look exceedingly difficult—like “a tangle of questions.”

I am referring to Edward Wyatt’s article on the mining and sale of “conflict minerals” in Africa which was published yesterday under the headline of “Behind the Blood Money.”

Wyatt’s asks his readers: “An iPhone can do a lot of things. But can it arm Congolese rebels?”

Now, it is interesting that Wyatt even mentions Apple’s iPhone, because the normal practice when covering this kind of story is to not allow readers to see how their consumption lifestyle is fueling wars and human rights abuses in Africa. But Wyatt does not try to answer his own question in a straight forward way. He steers Times readers away from the role of governments to “rebels.”

Wyatt provides no historical context. He does not explain to his readers how Uganda and Rwanda invaded Congo in the 1990s, killing millions of people, and effectively controlling the mineral resources. Wyatt reports how “the brutal militia groups that have often taken over the mining and sale of so-called conflict minerals to finance their military aims.” But Wyatt doesn’t say who these groups has “taken over the mining” from.

Instead of giving Times’ readers the human dimension of the story Wyatt focuses on the business element. In particular, an “odd provision” of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act which was signed into law by President Obama in 2010, and that “requires publicly traded companies whose products use certain minerals commonly mined in strife-torn areas of Central Africa to report to shareholders and the S.E.C. whether their mineral supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Wyatt writes that, “Just about every company affected by the law says they support it, but many business groups have also been pushing aggressively to put wiggle room in the restrictions, calling for lengthy phase-in periods, exemptions for minimal use of the minerals and loose definitions of what types of uses are covered,” because,

Nearly every consumer product that includes electronic parts uses a derivative of one of the four minerals: columbite-tantalite, which when refined is used in palm-size cellphones and giant turbines; cassiterite, an important source of the tin used in coffee cans and circuit boards; wolframite, used to produce tungsten for light bulbs and machine tools; and gold, commonly used as an electronic conductor (and, of course, jewelry).

Wyatt then goes on to inform his readers that, “Given their broad application, the minerals have been a primary target of humanitarian groups concerned about genocide, sexual violence, child soldiers and other issues that have been common outgrowths of conflicts in Central Africa.”

With no mention of state actors, Wyatt implies that the perpetrators of “genocide, sexual violence, child soldiers and other issues that have been common outgrowths of conflicts in Central Africa” are the “rebels.” But that is very misleading. While rebel groups certainly are guilty of these things, it is the military forces of states like Rwanda and Uganda—backed by the United States—who have the lion’s share of blood on their hands. Yet these forces go unmentioned by Wyatt.

For example, not even six months ago President Obama lifted a ban on giving military aid to countries who use children soldiers. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was one of them. It is also worth pointing out that the UN recently issued a report on DRC violence against protesters late last year. Following a fraudulent election we read how,

At the end of its investigation, the UNJHRO is able to confirm that at least 33 people were killed, including 22 by gunshot, as well as at least 83 others injured, including 61 by gunshot, between 26 November and 25 December 2011 by members of the defense and security forces. At least 16 people remain unaccounted for. Furthermore, the UNJHRO documented the arrest of at least 265 civilians, most of whom have been detained illegally and/or arbitrarily, mainly due to their real or alleged affiliation to a political opposition party or for coming from Mr. Etienne Tshisekedi’s home province or to other provinces where he enjoys significant support. These human rights violations were attributed mainly to elements of the Garde républicaine (GR), officers of the National Congolese Police (PNC) and its specialized units, such as the Légion nationale d’intervention (LENI), the criminal investigation brigade and the Groupe mobile d’intervention (GMI), and to a lesser extent, to soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) not belonging to the GR. Moreover, agents of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) were also allegedly responsible for several cases of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention.

Wyatt goes on to quote Corinna Gilfillan, the head of United States office of Global Witness, as saying, “We don’t think you need to have people being killed in order to have these metals in our cellphones.” But either Gilfillan is unaware of, or no space was provided to her to say, that the Western corporations doing business in Africa do in fact “need to have people being killed.” Writers like Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman have done an amazing job in documenting the link between human rights abuses and foreign investment. In the Preface of their book, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism: The Political Economy of Human Rights Volume 1, Herman and Chomsky write that,

The ugly proclivities of the U.S. clients, including the systematic use of torture, are functionally related to the needs of U.S. (and other) business interests, helping to stifle unions and contain reformist threats that might interfere with business freedom of action. The proof of the pudding is that U.S. bankers and industrialists have consistently welcomed the “stability” of the new client fascist order, whose governments, while savage in their treatment of dissidents, priests, labor leaders, peasant organizers or others who threaten “order,” and at best indifferent to the mass of the population, have been most accommodating to large external interests. In an important sense, therefore, the torturers in the client states are functionaries of IBM, Citibank, Allis Chalmers and the U.S. government, playing their assigned roles in a system that has worked according to choice and plan.

It is no wonder that the continent of Africa, rich in minerals and resources, comprises the “least developed economies” while also being the place of highest returns for foreign investors. In late 2002 the World Bank said that, “The rate of return on FDI [foreign direct investment] was highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, compared with other regions in the world.”

The link between the profits of foreign investors and the poverty of third world people is also cynically advanced by institutions like the UN. A recent UN report, Investment Climate and Foreign Direct Investment in Africa, openly stated that African countries can attract foreign investors “if they would institute reforms that will improve the investment climate in their country through improving the business regulations that promotes friendly business environment.”

However, these “reforms” often go hand-in-hand with human rights abuses as Chomsky and Herman note above. In the documentary film Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering the Truth, there is a scene where Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost, makes a similar point:

When you have great wealth, no government—it’s an open invitation, and it’s been a sort of free-for-all war [where some] have just gone in there and helped themselves to this enormous natural wealth.

Remember, the “no government” was brought about by a U.S.-backed invasion by Uganda and Rwanda that Wyatt is completely silent on. When the ability of government to defend and provide for its people is reduced to “no government” as it has pretty much been done in Africa, in order to “improve the investment climate,” it can come as no surprise that what we see is private tyrannies coming in, and through their armed gangs, helping themselves at the expense of the people of Africa.

And again, this is not the concern of Wyatt. The concern is what it means for business: “The [SEC] estimates companies will have to spend $71 million to comply with its regulations. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates the regulations will cost $9 billion to $16 billion.” The writing on the wall is clear: profits before people.

Another concern Wyatt discusses is about how enforcing the “odd provision” would be problematic: “Irma Villarreal, chief securities counsel for Kraft Foods, said during the S.E.C. roundtable that Kraft produced 40,000 distinct products and used 100,000 suppliers, creating a Herculean task of auditing supply chains for conflict minerals.”

If you’re reading the online version of Wyatt’s article look to your left towards the top of page one. You see an image of “Rick Goss of the Information Technology Industry Council [who] says eliminating one revenue stream would not stop such conflicts.” Goss is photographed standing in his comfortable office, dressed in his nice suit, arms folded and telling us we shouldn’t stop companies from making bookoos of money because the criminal, murderous black thugs will always find a way. The racism is right there in your face. Wyatt is providing a special place for Goss to tell his readers at the New York Times that this is the nature of Africans. Why bother disrupting the profits of American businesses if the “rebels” will keep doing what is in their nature?

The grim reality for the people of Central Africa are treated as inferior to the business interests of Western corporations, while the criminal role played by Western governments, and primarily the U.S. and its subordinate allies in Uganda and Rwanda, are safely buried so as not to disturb Wyatt’s readers.

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‘National Defense Resources Preparedness’: President Obama’s Big Power Grab of 2012

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Shortly after the “October Revolution” in Russia nearly a century ago, the Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Lenin, issued a decree that gave Russia’s leader broad power over the country’s economy. His “draft decree on workers control,” was more about taking away that control than giving it. It stated that, “In all enterprises of state importance all owners and all representatives of the workers and office employees elected for the purpose of exercising workers’ control shall be answerable to the state for the maintenance of the strictest order and discipline and for the protection of property,” not to the workers themselves.

That, and Germany’s Enabling Act of 1933 less than two decades later, is what I am reminded of by President Obama’s recent Executive Order—National Defense Resources Preparedness that was issued on March 16, 2012. Rather than being a move to protect freedom, it looks like another power grab by the federal government. A big power grab.

Keep this in mind when thinking about: (1) the PATRIOT Act; (2) Guantanamo Bay as a “legal blackhole” to store and torture; (3) policies of indefinite detention and (4) drone attacks; (5) the Military Commissions Act; (6) National Defense Authorization Act; (7) Obama’s legal argument for killing Americans without due process of law, and now this. The National Security State apparatus is feeling threatened by a “shortfall of resources,” and political and economic instability. So President Obama is implementing an Act passed in 1950. Not sound alarmist but the frog may already be boiled.

President Obama’s Executive Order (EO) states that,

The United States must have an industrial and technological base capable of meeting national defense requirements and capable of contributing to the technological superiority of its national defense equipment in peacetime and in times of national emergency.

To maintain this “superiority” the EO requires various government agencies to

assess on an ongoing basis the capability of the domestic industrial and technological base to satisfy requirements in peacetime and times of national emergency, specifically evaluating the availability of the most critical resource and production sources, including subcontractors and suppliers, materials, skilled labor, and professional and technical personnel

and to

be prepared, in the event of a potential threat to the security of the United States, to take actions necessary to ensure the availability of adequate resources and production capability, including services and critical technology, for national defense requirements.

Where the “adequate resources” are located, and what the “actions necessary” to acquire “materials, skilled labor, and professional and technical personnel” are, are questions left unanswered (though we will get to a possible clue in a moment).

“The authority of the President,” the order notes, allows the President “to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense,” even on issues “with respect to food resources, food resource facilities, livestock resources, veterinary resources, plant health resources, and the domestic distribution of farm equipment and commercial fertilizer,” as well as “with respect to all forms of energy,” “health resources,” “water resources,” and even “to all forms of civil transportation,” which the order says “includes movement of persons and property by all modes of transportation in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce within the United States, its territories and possessions, and the District of Columbia, and related public storage and warehousing, ports, services, equipment and facilities, such as transportation carrier shop and repair facilities.” In fact, it even includes “all other [“Commerce”] materials, services, and facilities, including construction materials.”

The manner in which these “persons and property” are moved, or why—like the acquirement of materials and resources—is not stated.

The order not only calls for “The Secretary of each agency” to “plan for and issue regulations to prioritize and allocate resources and establish standards and procedures by which the authority shall be used to promote the national defense” for “emergency” conditions, but also under “non-emergency conditions.”

We even read of Homeland Security being empowered to ensure the “continuity of Government.” Naturally, the methods of doing so are not elaborated on.

And the collusion between government and Wall Street is about more than an effort to

foster cooperation between the defense and commercial sectors for research and development and for acquisition of materials, services, components, and equipment to enhance industrial base efficiency and responsiveness

—but also to further enrich and empower Wall Street: “To reduce current or projected shortfalls of resources, critical technology items, or materials essential for the national defense, the head of each agency engaged in procurement for the national defense […] is authorized […] to guarantee loans by private institutions.”

And that seems to be what this order is all about: “shortfalls of resources.”

As government agencies takeover a wide spectrum of industries under the banner of “national defense” they are also empowered to “collect and maintain data necessary to make a continuing appraisal of the Nation’s workforce needs for purposes of national defense.”

We have long known that resources like oil and water are reaching their “peak,” and it looks as if the federal government is getting prepared to deal with the situations by a massive government takeover.

The reinstatement of a draft system is also being put into the works:

upon request by the Director of Selective Service, and in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, assist the Director of Selective Service in development of policies regulating the induction and deferment of persons for duty in the armed services.

This may shed light on where and how the materials and resources are to be acquired.

The EO calls on the heads of agencies to consult with one another in order to achieve “contemplated actions on labor demand and utilization” so as to “assist in making the exercise of priority and allocations functions consistent with effective utilization and distribution of labor.” That may be the only “good” thing about this: unemployment may not be an issue.

Again, this wide-reaching plan by the White House is not just a wartime, or emergency plan, but a “peacetime” plan that will reinstate a draft system for the military, and possibly beyond into civilian production. The government clearly forsees some “shortfall of resources” that it fears can disrupt the “continuity of Government” and is getting ready. That it follows on the heels of Attorney General Eric Holder declaring the government has the right to kill Americans without due process of law is just another example of the fascist tendencies of our government, and I must stress: not only of the Republican Party, but even of the supposed liberal Democratic resident of the White House.

Serious question: who recalls having read any Executive Order like this from President George W Bush, or Ronald Reagan, or Richard Nixon? This all comes back to what Glen Ford, the editor from Black Agenda Report, said last December in his article “The Wasteland of Democratic Politics.”

The Republicans are ugly, nasty and evil. President Obama is the most attractive and articulate servant of Wall Street and war – and, therefore, an even more effective evil. There is only one alternative, and that is mass political action in opposition to the rule of the rich. Without a people’s movement, the people inevitably lose.

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