Weekend Edition

March 16th, 2018

Lie after lie: What Colin Powell knew about Iraq 15 years ago and what he told the U.N.

March 16th, 2018


US Secretary of State Colin Powell holding up a vial that could be used to hold anthrax, in his presentation to the UN in February 2003, ahead of the Iraq invasion. PHOTO/Timothy A Clary/EPA/Common Dreams

Colin Powell delivered his presentation making the case for war with Iraq at the United Nations 15 years ago, on February 5, 2003.

As much criticism as Powell received for this — he’s called it “painful” and something that will “always be a part of my record” — it hasn’t been close to what’s justified. Powell, who was secretary of state under President George W. Bush, was much more than just horribly mistaken: He fabricated “evidence” and ignored repeated warnings that what he was saying was false.

Unfortunately, Congress never investigated Powell’s use of the intelligence he was given, so we don’t know many of the specifics. Even so, what did reach the public record in other ways is extremely damning. While the corporate media has never taken a close look at this record, we can go through Powell’s presentation line by line to demonstrate the chasm between what he knew and what he told the world. As you’ll see, there’s quite a lot to say about it.

Powell’s speech can be found on the State Department website here. All other sources are linked below.

Public Certainty, Private Doubt

On that February 5 in front of the U.N. Security Council, was Colin Powell certain what he was saying was accurate? He certainly was:

POWELL: My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.

Later, regarding whether Iraq had reconstituted a nuclear weapons program, he said:

POWELL: There is no doubt in my mind …

That’s in public. What about in private? According to Larry Wilkerson, Powell’s chief of staff, here’s what Powell was thinking at the time:

WILKERSON: [Powell] had walked into my office musing and he said words to the effect of, ‘I wonder how we’ll all feel if we put half a million troops in Iraq and march from one end of the country to the other and find nothing.’

Unambiguous Lies

This is some of what Powell said about the infamous aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq, supposedly meant for their covert nuclear weapons program:

POWELL: It strikes me as quite odd that these [aluminum] tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that far exceeds U.S. requirements for comparable rockets. Maybe Iraqis just manufacture their conventional weapons to a higher standard than we do, but I don’t think so.

Powell’s own intelligence staff, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, prepared two memos commenting on drafts of the presentation. They were later quietly released as appendices to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on WMD intelligence.

The second INR memo, written on February 3, 2003, told Powell this:

Our key remaining concern is the claim that the tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that “far exceeds U.S. requirements for comparable rockets.” In fact, the most comparable U.S. system is a tactical rocket — the U.S. Mark 66 air-launched 70mm rocket — that uses the same, high-grade (7075-T6) aluminum, and that has specifications with similar tolerances. Note that the Mk 66 specifications are unclassified, and the Department is planning to share them with the [International Atomic Energy Agency].

Fabricated Evidence

Powell played an intercept of a conversation between Iraqi army officers about the U.N. inspections. However, when he translated what they were saying, he knowingly embellished it, turning it from evidence Iraq was complying with U.N. resolutions to evidence Iraq was violating them. This appears in Bob Woodward’s book “Plan of Attack”:

Powell had decided to add his personal interpretation of the intercepts to the rehearsed script, taking them substantially further and casting them in the most negative light. … Concerning the intercept about inspecting for the possibility of “forbidden ammo,” Powell took the interpretation further: “Clean out all of the areas. … Make sure there is nothing there.”

None of this was in the intercept.

Intercept for more

Meet the CIA: Guns, drugs and money

March 16th, 2018


PHOTO/Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs/CC by 2.0

On November 22, 1996, the US Justice Department indicted General Ramón Guillén Davila of Venezuela on charges of importing cocaine into the United States. The federal prosecutors alleged that while heading Venezuela’s anti-drug unit, General Guillén smuggled more than 22 tons of cocaine into the US and Europe for the Calí and Bogotá cartels. Guillén responded to the indictment from the sanctuary of Caracas, whence his government refused to extradict him to Miami, while honoring him with a pardon for any possible crimes committed in the line of duty. He maintained that the cocaine shipments to the US had been approved by the CIA, and went on to say that “some drugs were lost and neither the CIA nor the DEA want to accept any responsibility for it.”

The CIA had hired Guillén in 1988 to help it find out something about the Colombian drug cartels. The Agency and Guillén set up a drug-smuggling operation using agents of Guillén’s in the Venezuelan National Guard to buy cocaine from the Calí cartel and ship it to Venezuela, where it was stored in warehouses maintained by the Narcotics Intelligence Center, Caracas, which was run by Guillén and entirely funded by the CIA.

To avoid the Calí cartel asking inconvenient questions about the growing inventory of cocaine in the Narcotics Intelligence Center’s warehouses and, as one CIA agent put it, “to keep our credibility with the traffickers,” the CIA decided it was politic to let some of the cocaine proceed on to the cartel’s network of dealers in the US. As another CIA agent put it, they wanted “to let the dope walk” – in other words, to allow it to be sold on the streets of Miami, New York and Los Angeles.

When it comes to what are called “controlled shipments” of drugs into the US, federal law requires that such imports have DEA approval, which the CIA duly sought. This was, however, denied by the DEA attaché in Caracas. The CIA then went to DEA headquarters in Washington, only to be met with a similar refusal, whereupon the CIA went ahead with the shipment anyway. One of the CIA men working with Guillén was Mark McFarlin. In 1989 McFarlin, so he later testified in federal court in Miami, told his CIA station chief in Caracas that the Guillén operation, already under way, had just seen 3,000 pounds of cocaine shipped to the US. When the station chief asked McFarlin if the DEA was aware of this, McFarlin answered no. “Let’s keep it that way,” the station chief instructed him.

CounterPunch for more

Did Marx base Capital on Dante’s Inferno?

March 15th, 2018



Marx’s Inferno: The Political Theory of Capital by William Clare Roberts (Princeton University Press, 2017), £27.95

Marx’s Inferno by William Clare Roberts seems unsure what kind of book it is supposed to be. On the one hand, it is a detailed investigation of the pre-Marxist context for some of Karl Marx’s ideas. But on the other hand, it attempts to find, in Dante’s Inferno, a precursor to Capital not only to the way Marx writes about his ideas, but the shape of the ideas themselves. In his introduction, Roberts writes:

My argument takes its orientation from some of the literary aspects of Marx’s book—its use of tropes and metaphors, its allusions and citations. For all that, however, I do not treat Capital as a work of literature. Rather, I treat it as a work of political theory. Its tropes, metaphors, allusions and citations are approached as signs to be interpreted, as the linguistic traces of intuitions that can be fleshed out in theoretical terms (p3).

The connection between these two ways of interpreting Capital, according to Roberts, lies in the fact that the moral categories described in the Inferno (force, fraud, treachery, etc) were in common usage among pre-Marxist socialists like Robert Owen, Henri de Saint-Simon and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. By analysing each of these categories in turn and showing how earlier socialists considered them both politically and economically, Roberts hope to explain how and why these categories—and the metaphors that supported them—appear in Marx’s Capital. Roberts’s focus on Dante’s influence on Marx, rather than on a Marxist reading of Dante, leads him to ignore, for example, Antonio Gramsci’s political reading of Dante.

The significance of Dante as a model lies, for Roberts, in the fact that the structure of Marx’s Capital—his “method of presentation”—has long been an object of investigation. “At least since Lenin first read Hegel’s Logic”, Roberts writes, readers have been trying to understand the structure of Capital by referring back to the structure of Hegel’s Science of Logic (p9). Roberts argues that rather than Hegel, the key to the structure of Capital lies in the structure of Dante’s Inferno. This argument is based not only on the importance of Dante in the European cultural tradition, but on the metaphorical use of Dante’s work in pre-Marxist political thought and discussion. Even here, however, Roberts seems not to be completely convinced of the weight of his own argument: “While it would be foolish to argue that it is Dante, not Hegel, who provides the key to the structure of Marx’s book, Hegel cannot claim our complete attention” (p12).

Roberts’s argument about the importance of Dante’s categorisation of sin to Marx is actually a stronger argument than that in favour of Dante as a structural influence precisely because these were the terms in which pre-Marxist socialists understood the evils of capitalism. These political discussions, and the use of Dante to connect Marx with the Owenites and Proudhon, are interesting, but tend to be weakened by Roberts’s insistence on the structural importance of Dante.

International Socialism for more

Does Duterte really care about overseas workers?

March 15th, 2018


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wears a hardhat at the country’s customs bureau PHOTO/AFP/Ted Aljibe

Populist leader’s championing of migrant labor cast into doubt with knee-jerk response to brutal murder of Filipina in Kuwait

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is under pressure to better protect the country’s millions of overseas workers after the body of a Filipina was discovered dead in a freezer in a Kuwait City apartment on February 6.

Joanna Daniela Demafelis, 29, was first declared missing by her Lebanese and Syrian employers in November last year. Bearing signs of torture, Demafelis’ body had sustained stab wounds to her neck. Her remains were flown back to the Philippines and received by her grieving family on February 16.

Demafelis’ murder, however, is not in isolation. Faced with seven other deaths of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait, the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) had already ordered a temporary ban on new Filipinos working in the Gulf nation on January 19.

DOLE is still investigating the circumstances of the deaths of the seven Filipino household services workers, namely Vanessa Karissha Esguerra, Devine Riche Encarnacion, Patrick Sunga, Liezl Truz Hukdong, Mira Luna Juntilla, Marie Fe Saliling Librada, and Arlene Castillo Manzano.

On February 12, Duterte responded by issuing a total ban on migrant workers being sent to Kuwait. With populist panache, he asked Gulf states broadly, “Can I ask you now just to treat my countrymen as human beings with dignity? I do not want to fight with you. We need your help to improve our country.”

According to official statistics, more than half of OFWs worldwide are employed in the Middle East, a rich source of the remittances that help to fuel the Philippine economy. The World Bank and Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development ranked the Philippines as the third largest recipient nation of remittances worldwide, trailing only China and India.

Duterte appealed to the country’s legions of OFWs on the campaign trail, promising to ease their processing times and tackle fraudulent agencies that often act as de facto human trafficking rackets.

Asia Times Online for more

The Revolution and its impact

March 15th, 2018


An important contribution to an understanding of the Russian Revolution’s long-term implications for democratic politics and its relevance for struggles for social justice across the world.

Achala Moulik’s book is an important contribution to our understanding of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and its impact on global political developments in the 20th century and after. The author seeks to emphasise that the revolution, far from being a one-off event, is of a permanent character with long-term implications and has contributed to the continued relevance of the concept of welfare state in an era of free-market capitalism. Achala Moulik’s narration of the events is indeed fascinating and comprehensive not only in the national context of Russia but in the international context as well. Her courage, commitment and candour in explicating the complexities of the politics of the Soviet Union that emerged from the revolution become relevant for the struggles for social justice across the world.

The author is a former civil servant and writer on European cultural history, physical heritage and of biography and novels. A Pushkin Medal awardee, her play, Pushkin’s Last Poem, was performed in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the Moscow session. Educated in Washington, New York, Rome and London, Achala Moulik took an honours degree in economics, history and international law from the University of London.

The book is dedicated to the memory of Alexander Mikhailovich Kadakin, an eminent diplomat and friend of India. The author was admittedly never posted in the Indian Embassy in Moscow. The book is based entirely on her independent study supplemented by discussions with informants and experts. Her interest in Russia began early when as a schoolgirl she read Rabindranath Tagore’s Letters from Russia (in Bengali), which prepared the ground for her later pursuit of Russian literature and history as a student in London.

In her brilliant conclusion (pages 456-458), the author notes that while the Western world could adjust to the emerging social justice concerns of the times, the conflagration of the First World War and the ideology of communism were required to shake up Russia’s tsarist regime and trigger the Bolshevik Revolution, leaving behind an enduring legacy. The universality of the ideology of Marxism, according to the author, made its impact felt not just in the Western world but also in the non-Western world under colonial rule. Marx, Engels and Lenin had indeed critically evaluated European colonialism. Although many changes had taken place in the Soviet Union since 1917, including the dissolution of the Soviet state and the emergence of the Russian Federation, the ideas generated by the Russian Revolution have remained relevant, says the author, who does not fall into the trap of fashionable denunciation of Marxist-Leninist ideas.

An interesting feature of the book is the detached manner in which the author is able to explicate the collapse of the Soviet Union under President Mikhail Gorbachev and the emergence of leaders such as Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.

The 461-page book is divided into six parts.

Part 1 titled “A Stormy Prelude” has four chapters, which briefly explain the history of Russia and the context of the revolution.

Part 2, “The Revolution and its Aftermath”, with 10 chapters, explores the post-revolutionary situation touching on Lenin’s new economic policy; has pen portraits of Lenin and Stalin and an interesting account of Stalin and Hitler; narrates the consequences of the Second World War, which made the Soviet Union a superpower; and talks about Nikita Khrushchev’s “Thaw” and the “Brezhnev Era”.

Part 3 explores the “Intellectual and Creative Ferment in the Soviet Union” with chapters on education, health care, science, art, literature, ballet and theatre, music composers, the Red Army Ensemble, chess and sports.

Part 4 on “Soviet Union and the World” begins with a chapter on the ideological foundations of Soviet foreign policy; the Cold War (1946-1991) and the Soviet Union’s relations with several countries, especially Afghanistan, India and Iran.

The most important section, Part 5, titled “A New Age is Created by a Dying One”, includes several chapters on the decline and collapse of the Soviet Union and the creation of the Russian Federation and the roles especially of Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Putin and Medvedev. It includes an interesting chapter on “Road to Damascus”.

Part 6 on “Resurgent Russia” has two chapters, “A New Prelude” and “November 1917 Revisited”. In the concluding chapter, the author provides an amazingly positive vision of the overall impact of the Russian Revolution on global politics.

for more

Don’t dare mention Yemen

March 14th, 2018


PHOTO/Geopolitics Alert

AS an occasional guest on one of the dime-a-dozen talk shows that Pakistanis watch avidly every evening, I remarked that Donald Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem was certainly condemnable. But shouldn’t Pakistanis be more concerned about the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen — and Pakistan’s murky role in it? The other guest ‘experts’ froze and the anchorperson turned speechless; she subsequently called for a commercial break.

This is typical of how public discussion on Yemen is avoided. A glance at Pakistan’s TV channels and Urdu newspapers confirms the absence of news or critical discussion. While English language newspapers occasionally take a potshot, our obedient media generally echoes the civil and military establishment — which fully sides with fabulously rich Saudi Arabia against its desperately poor neighbour, Yemen.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office made its position perfectly clear on Dec 19. Just hours after Houthi rebels failed to target a royal palace in Riyadh, it rushed to offer congratulations: “The attack was successfully intercepted by the Saudi-led Coalition, by the grace of God Almighty, before it could cause any damage”.

The communique went on to condemn the “increasing frequency and ferocity of the missile strikes, targeted at innocent civilians by Houthi rebels” and declared that Pakistan stands “shoulder to shoulder” with Saudi Arabia.

Siding with those who deliberately seek to starve Yemen’s children has degraded Pakistan’s moral status.

Whether the credit actually goes to God Almighty or to Raytheon’s Patriot missile system — in which the Saudis have invested a few billion dollars — the fact is that primitive rebel rockets have done little damage to a country fortified by the US and UK defence industries. Yemen no longer has an air force or air defences left; Saudi-directed aircraft roam its skies at will.

In the last year, Yemen’s markets, schools, and hospitals have been bombed and famine is around the corner. Even sanitary systems have been destroyed and nearly a million cholera cases have been reported. According to the UN, at least 10,000 have died, with air strikes responsible for 60 per cent of casualties. Over 2.5m Yemenis have been internally displaced.

We can be amazed by Theresa May criticising Saudi Arabia for using the £4.6bn worth of weapons Britain sold to it after the Yemen war began. And it’s almost unbelievable that Donald Trump had actually demanded that Saudi Arabia end its blockade of Hudaydah port. Even this vicious white supremacist does not relish starving Yemenis en masse. These might be pangs of guilt or perhaps a reluctant move to appease international opinion.

Trump and May are, at best, hypocrites. But what shall we say about Pakistan’s damning silence on Yemen’s grade-3 humanitarian catastrophe (Syria and South Sudan are also grade-3)? The Foreign Office has not condemned Saudi-led coalition airstrikes that have deliberately targeted food and water supplies, considered a crime under the Geneva Convention. Nor has it demanded an end to the food blockade. Only the threat to Saudi royal palaces and princes has mattered.

What explains Pakistan’s support? That puny Yemen somehow threatens Saudi territorial integrity, although a claim sanctimoniously repeated from time to time, is unbelievable. The Houthis are unknown to Pakistanis.

Dawn for more

Does your country have a satellite orbiting the earth?

March 14th, 2018


A technician putting the finishing touches on Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite AFP PHOTO/NASA/HO

See how many active satellites orbit the Earth, and to whom they belong

Just 60 years ago, there were no man-made objects above the planet Earth. Now, there are nearly 500,000 objects circling over Earth in various orbits. These include debris, inactive and active satellites.

The tiny Sputnik, which means “satellite” or “fellow traveller” in Russian, was the first artificial satellite to be launched into Earth’s orbit on October 4, 1957, and it changed the course of human history.

The 58cm diameter, 83.6kg metallic orb, with four antennae that transmitted radio pulses, launched by the Soviet Union, heralded the space race between the USSR and the US – ushering in an era of scientific advances, not only in military, but also in communications and navigation technologies.

There are approximately 1,500 active satellites currently orbiting the Earth. Modern society is heavily dependent on satellite technology, which is used for television and radio broadcasting, telephone calls, GPS navigation, mapping, weather forecasting and other functions.

Al Jazeera for more

Top 10 Inventions by African-Americans

March 14th, 2018


George Washington Carver in his laboratory PHOTO/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When asked to name an African-American inventor, many people might think of George Washington Carver and peanut butter. The two have gone as well together as peanut butter and jelly in many history textbooks, but it’s actually a myth that Carver came up with peanut butter. Carver’s fascination with the peanut began when he was convincing Southern farmers to adopt his method of crop rotation. Instead of growing cotton every year, which was depleting the soil, Carver urged farmers to alternate cotton with legumes, which provided nutrients to the soil. The farmers obliged, but they had no way to sell all those peanuts. Carver went into the laboratory to come up with products that would make peanuts marketable. Carver is credited with devising more than 300 different uses for peanuts, including dye, soap, coffee and ink, and his innovations provided the South with an important crop — but peanut butter wasn’t one of his ideas.

Beyond George Washington Carver, though, many people aren’t familiar with black inventors. In this article, we’ll consider 10 more notable inventions credited to African-American innovators.

Science for more

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years later: The struggle against racism, war and poverty continues

March 13th, 2018


Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life for the elimination of national oppression, the war policy of the Pentagon and the necessity for the lifting of the masses of people out of poverty. His assassination was a by-product of a system built on forced removals of the indigenous people, the enslavement of Africans and the super-exploitation of workers in general.

Behind the Trump veneer is a system of oppression and exploitation, which must be uprooted.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of the central figure in the movement for civil rights and peace in the United States during the 1960s.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life for the elimination of national oppression, the war policy of the Pentagon and the necessity for the lifting of the masses of people out of poverty. His assassination was a by-product of a system built on forced removals of the indigenous people, the enslavement of Africans and the super-exploitation of workers in general.

Today, some five decades later, the presidency of Donald Trump is by no means an aberration within the socio-political context of American history. The dominant choice between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her Republican counterpart Trump during 2016 represented two sides of the same fraudulent process of maintaining the status quo.

As First Lady in the 1990s, Clinton witnessed the criminalisation of tens of millions of African Americans and Latinos. The dreaded crime bill, the effective death penalty act and other reactionary legislation would facilitate the growth of the prison-industrial-complex incarcerating even larger numbers of oppressed peoples.

Although the myth exists of economic expansion in the 1990s, the growth was illusory in the sense that it empowered the financial institutions, which ensnarled many into deeper debt both on a personal and institutional level. The following decade of the 2000s brought about the collapse of the financial matrix designed to maximise profits for the banks, insurance companies and their operatives within the private sector.

Millions were subjected to individual bankruptcies, home foreclosures and evictions. By 2008-2009, the working people of the US were forced into paying for a bailout of the same banks and corporations, which created the crisis. There was the initial $700 billion congressional gift to the financial institutions in the fall of 2008. Later came the “restructuring” of two out of three auto firms being Chrysler and General Motors. Moreover, the Federal Reserve Bank forwarded trillions [of dollars] to the banks after 2008 with the explicit purpose of saving and fortifying international finance capital.

As a result of this process wages fell, homes were lost and many municipalities suffered from drastic declines in services, the lay-off of teachers and closing of schools, along with a heightening of state repression to reinforce the imposed austerity. African American wealth, largely deriving from home ownership, fell by at least 50 percent.

Pambazuka for more