The high price of U.S. puppetry

The high price of U.S. puppetry

Remember Manuel Noriega, our man in Panama?  Until he wasn’t?  Somebody else down south has similar reasons to worry.  Atilio Borón explains why.

image004Uribe’s Mirror

by Atilio Borón

Translation: David Brookbank for ALAI (Latin America in Movement)

August 26, 2009

The UNASUR summit in Bariloche, Argentina will have to face two grave problems weighing heavily on Latin America: the military coup in Honduras and the militarization of the region as a result of the installation of not one but seven U.S. military bases in Colombia.

Regarding the first problem, UNASUR ought to demand consistency from Barack Obama in his statements of support for a new era of inter-American relations.  As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, the coup is a trial balloon intended to test the reactions of the peoples and governments of the region.  And that it happened in Honduras is precisely because that is the country most intensely subjected to the ideological influence and political dominance of Washington.

With OAS negotiations having failed, Washington has proceeded to suspend the issuance of visas to Honduran citizens, a very lukewarm measure but an indicator of the fact that the U.S. is taking note of the prevailing political atmosphere in the region.  Nevertheless, Obama ought to do much more, and abandon the fallacious argument expressed several days ago when he referred to the contradiction of the critics of imperialism who demand that the U.S. intervene in Honduras. It is “ironic,” Obama said on that occasion, “that the people that were complaining about the U.S. interfering in Latin America are now complaining that we are not interfering enough”.

It is clear that Obama is not well informed about the actions of his military and civilian subordinates, not to mention his intelligence services.  But he ought  to know, because it is so basic, that the U.S. has been intervening in Honduras since 1903, the year in which for the first time U.S. Marines landed in that country to protect North American interests in the midst of a political crisis.  In 1907, on the occasion of war between Honduras and Nicaragua, U.S. troops were stationed for three months in the cities of Trujillo, Ceiba, Puerto Cortes, San Pedro Sula, Laguna, and Choloma.  In 1911 and 1912, they repeated the invasions, in the latter case to prevent the expropriation of a railroad in Puerto Cortes.  In 1919, 1924, and 1925 imperialist expeditionary forces again invaded Honduras, always under the same pretext – protect the lives and property of North American citizens residing in the country.

But the largest invasion occurred in 1983 when, under the direction of a sinister figure, Ambassador John Negroponte, a huge base of operations was established from which the U.S. launched its reactionary offensive against the Sandinista government and the Salvadoran Farabundo Marti guerrilla movement.  Obama cannot ignore this nefarious history and must know that the coup against Honduran President Zelaya was only possible due to the acquiescence of his government.  What is now being asked is that the U.S. stop its intervention, that it withdraw its support for the coup government (the only thing keeping it in power), and thereby facilitate the return of Zelaya to Tegucigalpa.  The White House has at its disposal many economic and financial tools with which to discipline its ally.  If it does not do so, it is because it does not want to, and the governments and peoples of Latin America will then reach their own conclusions.

In relation to the second problem – U.S. bases in Colombia – the following must be said.  First, the U.S. empire does not maintain 872 bases and military missions spread across the entire planet so that its troops can experience the delights of multiculturalism or breathe life’s fresh air.  It maintains them at enormous cost, as Noam Chomsky has said on numerous occasions, because they are the principle instrument in a plan of global domination comparable only to that which obsessed Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.

To think that those troops and weapons systems are based in Latin America for any reason other than to ensure U.S. territorial and political control of a region that experts consider to be the planet’s richest in terms of natural resources – water, energy, biodiversity, minerals, agriculture, etcetera – would be unforgivably stupid.  These bases are the front-line of a military aggression that may or may not occur today or tomorrow, but will certainly occur when the imperialists consider it convenient.

For this reason, UNASUR must forcefully reject their presence and demand the suspension of the installation of these bases.  Furthermore, it should make clear that this is not an “internal matter” of Colombian sovereignty.  No one in their right mind can invoke rights of national sovereignty to justify the installation in their territory of troops and military equipment that can only bring destruction and death to its neighbors.   During the 1930’s, as Hitler rearmed Germany, the U.S. and its allies screamed to the high heavens, knowing that the next step would be war, and they were right.  Why should it be any different now?

Secondly, as long as Uribe is president of Colombia there will be no solution to this problem.  Uribe knows, as does the rest of the world, that the U.S. has put together a growing dossier that identifies him as a narcotics trafficker and accomplice to the crimes of the Colombian paramilitaries.  In 2004, the National Security Archives released a 1991 document in which the U.S. accused the then-Senator Alvaro Uribe Velez of being one of Colombia’s principle narcotics traffickers, ranking him number 82, just behind  Pablo Escobar Gaviria, the head of the Medellin cartel, who ranked number 79.

The report, which can be read here, makes clear that the current president of Colombia “was dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high government levels.  Uribe was connected with a business involved in narcotics activities in the U.S.  His father was murdered in Colombia for his connection to narcotics traffickers.  Uribe has worked for the Medellin cartel and is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar Gaviria … (and) was one of the politicians who, from the Senate, have attacked all forms of the extradition treaty.”

As a result, Uribe has no margin of freedom to oppose any demands coming from Washington.  His task is to be the empire’s Trojan horse and he knows that if he resists that ignominious role his fate will be no different from that of another Latin American figure, also a president, Manuel Antonio Noriega.  Noriega, having completed the mission that the White House had set out for him, was arrested in 1989 after the bloody U.S. invasion of Panama and was condemned to 40 years in prison for his connection with the Medellin cartel.

When Noriega ceased to be useful to the interests of the imperialists, he went in short order from being president to being a prisoner in a U.S. maximum-security cell.  This is the mirror into which Uribe looks day and night, and explains his constant tenseness, his lies, and his desperation to be re-elected president of Colombia.  At the same time, Uribe is converting that Latin American nation into a U.S. protectorate and himself into a sort of proconsul-for-life of the empire, willing to cast a shadow of despair over an entire continent to spare himself the same fate as his Panamanian counterpart.

Atilio Borón is professor of political theory at the University of Buenos Aires.  He is the recipient of the 2009 UNESCO International Jose Marti Award for outstanding contribution to the unity and the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean and to the preservation of their identities, cultural traditions and historical values.

Hezbollah rejects new Israeli threats.

Hezbollah rejects new Israeli threats.

By Joyce Chediac and Paul Wilcox, Dahia, Lebanon
Workers World

At mass rally in Lebanon Hezbollah rejects new Israeli threats

Dahia, Lebanon - The pride was palpable and the emotion stirring. It was the pride of a people who have twice freed their land from U.S.-backed Israeli forces.

Huge crowd outside Beirut commemorates<br>defeat of Israel’s 2006 invasion.
Huge crowd outside Beirut commemorates
defeat of Israel’s 2006 invasion.
WW photos: Joyce Chediac

Tens of thousands of men, women and children gathered in this poor neighborhood south of Beirut on Aug. 14 to stand firm against a new round of Israeli threats to Lebanon. They also marked the anniversary of the Lebanese people’s victory over the U.S.-backed Israeli invasion, siege and bombardment of their country in 2006.

The Divine Victory rally called by Hezbollah, Lebanon’s national resistance movement, took place in the Shia suburb of Dahia, which was punished brutally by Israeli bombers three years ago.

Just days before the planned rally, several Israeli officials—including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—challenged Hezbollah’s right to have arms and threatened more violence against Hezbollah and Lebanon. Israel has invaded Lebanon nine times since 1945, but was driven out by the Lebanese people in 2000 and again in 2006.

Addressing the rally via a satellite television hookup, Hezbollah General Secretary Sayyed Hassan Nasrullah answered these threats. He called Hezbollah’s forces “deterrent,” adding, “We do not want war, but we are not afraid of it, and we say to you: If you bomb Beirut or its suburb, we will bomb Tel Aviv.”

Nasrullah said that the strength of the Hezbollah movement was not its weapons but the unity of the Lebanese people and the determination of its supporters. If the Aug. 14 rally was any indication, Hezbollah’s support among Lebanese people, particularly the oppressed Shiite population, is hard-won, enthusiastic and enduring.

People’s victory in 2006

The people, under the leadership of Hezbollah, withstood Israel’s devastating military assault during the 2006 war while simultaneously fighting back against enormous odds. Lebanon’s resistance stopped cold a ground advance of Israeli soldiers less than a mile into Lebanon and sent them scuttling back home. It was a huge disaster for Israel.

In retaliation, Tel Aviv waged war on the civilian population of Lebanon. For 34 days it bombed houses and apartment buildings and destroyed Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure, including its main power and water purification plants and 60 bridges. In this scorched-earth assault, more than 1,000 Lebanese civilians were killed, a third of them children.

The U.S. government and media blamed the victims and the resistance. Just as the U.S. ruling class showed no sympathy for the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 who perished fighting the Nazis during World War II, it has no sympathy for the heroes of southern Lebanon who in 2006 stood up to the Israeli army and its modern U.S.-supplied weapons. Hezbollah, the defender of the Lebanese people, has been branded as a “terrorist” group by Washington.

New threats from Israel backed by U.S.

Once again, Israel is rattling the saber of war. On Aug. 5 Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel was “not ready to accept” the Lebanese resistance’s “40,000 rockets aimed at Israel.” (Daily Star, Aug. 13)

On Aug. 10 Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon added, “If one hair on the head of an Israeli representative or tourist is harmed” anywhere in the world, “we will see Hezbollah as responsible.”

The next day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that if Hezbollah joins the Lebanese government, “the Lebanese government will be held responsible for any attacks coming from its territory against Israel.” These threats and blatant interference into Lebanon’s internal affairs come at a time when Lebanon is trying to form a cabinet.

Israel would never have made these threats without full support from Washington. In fact, two weeks before the recent Lebanese election, Vice President Joseph Biden went to Beirut and said that if Hezbollah made significant electoral gains, the U.S. would cut off all aid to Lebanon. Nevertheless, Hezbollah held its own in that election.

Rally reviews people’s victory

The Dahia rally began with footage on a giant television screen of some of the people’s victories. Cheers went up when an Israeli tank was taken out and an F-16 helicopter brought down. A huge roar rose from the crowd when an Israeli gunship was hit by the people’s forces. A caption followed on the screen with the equivalent of “This is Lebanon, stupid!” In other words, “Haven’t you learned yet? Lebanon fights back!”

Nasrullah was welcomed with tears and shouts of support.

He called the 2006 victory “a miracle made in Lebanon and by the Lebanese people.” Nasrullah said that after the Israelis were forced out of Lebanon in 2000, then had to withdraw from Gaza, and three years ago had to pull back after the second Lebanon war, “It is evident that Israel is no longer an unbeatable state.”

He restated Hezbollah’s position that the organization had no problem with Judaism, that the problem was Zionism. He said that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s warnings were “psychological warfare” and served to sow discord among Lebanese parties, hinder the formation of a cabinet, and prevent Hezbollah from joining a new Lebanese government.

Regarding Israeli charges about Hezbollah’s weaponry, he said, “Search for what we are made of before researching on arms, combat formation, strategies and tactics.” He added, “Ultimately those who have the determination can fight and win.”

Nasrullah ruled out an imminent war, but said that in case Israel waged war, there were two options, “To surrender, disarm ourselves and become weak—this is out of the question. The second option is to be ready and to consolidate our power to prevent war; and in this way if war is waged on us, we will win it.

“Can we prevent an Israeli war on Lebanon? Yes, we can. Can we stop Israel from thinking about waging war on Lebanon? Yes, we can by having a deterrent force. In Israel it is not easy anymore to take a decision to go to war with Lebanon.

“The objective of any coming war will be to eradicate the resistance, but can this current Israeli army and this Israeli government wage a war to eradicate the resistance in Lebanon? They cannot . … It is our right to tell the Israelis that if you bomb Dahia or Beirut, we will bomb Tel Aviv. We have the ability to hit any city or town in your entity. Carry out as many drills as you want, develop your tanks’ armors and train your brigades; they will be crushed in our towns, villages, valleys and hills. …

“Our strength lies in our resistance and the future is ours; we make it with our own hands, with the blood of our martyrs, with our faith and belief. This is the lesson of this historic victory.”

- All quotes from Nasrullah
are from almanar.com.lb.

Fathers put their sons on their shoulders; women held up pictures of fallen leaders and destroyed Israeli tanks. Thousands waved the yellow Hezbollah flag and the red, white and green flag of Lebanon. The crowd stood and roared in pride, determination and dignity.


Bonus by Paul Wilcox

WW’s ‘Top Ten’ reasons. Why U.S. ruling class hates Hezbollah

  1. It isn’t Hezbollah Inc.

  2. Unlike the Pentagon, when Hezbollah gets money for reconstruction, it uses it for reconstruction.

  3. Unlike the Israeli army, it is defending its legitimate homeland.

  4. Unlike in New Orleans, it helps people return home after a disaster.

  5. Unlike U.S. military recruits, its volunteers know what they are fighting for.

  6. And they actually believe in it.

  7. Hezbollah doesn’t have to pay its recruits $30,000 signing bonuses.

  8. It doesn’t send its militia to fight poor people overseas.

  9. Like George Washington, it is called “terrorist” by the colonialists, but Hezbollah has never owned slaves.

  10. It doesn’t need the “private option” to provide health care to the Lebanese people



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US’s ‘arc of instability’ just gets bigger

US’s ‘arc of instability’ just gets bigger

By Pepe Escobar

The New Great Game is not only focused on the face-off between the United States and strategic competitors Russia and China – with Pipelineistan as a defining element.

The full spectrum dominance doctrine requires the control of the Pentagon-coined “arc of instability” from the Horn of Africa to western China. The cover story is the former “global war on terror”, now “overseas contingency operations” under the management of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Most of all, the underlying logic remains divide and rule. As for the divide, Beijing would call it, without a trace of irony, “splittist”. Split up Iraq – blocking China’s access to Iraqi oil. Split up Pakistan – with an independent Balochistan preventing China from accessing the strategic port of Gwadar there. Split up Afghanistan – with an independent Pashtunistan allowing the building of the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline bypassing Russia. Split up Iran – by financing subversion in Khuzestan and Sistan-Balochistan. And why not split up Bolivia (as was attempted last year) to the benefit of US energy giants. Call it the (splitting) Kosovo model.

Kosovo, incidentally, is known as the Colombia of the Balkans. What Washington calls the “Western hemisphere” is a sub-section of the New Great Game. The linkage between the recent military coup in Honduras, the return of the living dead – that is, the resurrection of the US Navy’s Fourth Fleet in July 2008 – and now the turbo-charging of seven US military bases in Colombia is not to be blamed merely on continuity from president George W Bush to Obama. Not really. This is all about the internal logic of Full Spectrum Dominance.

Touching bases
Twelve South American nations, under the Union of South American Nations umbrella, got together in Bariloche, Argentina, last week and after a heated seven-hour discussion only managed to stress, somewhat meekly, that “foreign troops cannot be a threat to the region” – in reference to the US military presence in Colombia. At least President Lula da Silva of Brazil will be asking Obama to get together with South American presidents and reveal what this new military pact with Colombia is really all about.

Spin, of course, prevailed. Influential Brazilian conservative newspaper O Globo, which for all practical purposes looks like it’s been redacted in Washington, practically blamed Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez for everything.

It’s instructive to examine how some of the sharpest South American minds view it. Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano (whose book, Open Veins of Latin America was offered to Obama by Chavez at the recent Organization of American States summit) in an interview to an Ecuadorian paper, stressed how the US had spent a century fabricating military dictatorships in Latin America, so when there’s a military coup, such as in Honduras, Washington is at a loss for words.

As for the military bases in Colombia, Galeano said they “offend not only Latin America’s collective dignity but one’s intelligence”.

The US has already set up three military bases in Colombia, plus a dozen radar stations. Now this will be upgraded by the Colombian government to seven bases, one of them – Palanquero – with air access to the whole hemisphere. Seven bases in Colombia is a natural Pentagon response to the US losing the Manta base in Ecuador, and losing its grip on now leftist Paraguay. Washington already trains

the Colombian armed forces, special forces and the national police.

The infamous Fort Benning-based School of the Americas, the flagship US training ground for ultra-repressive military dictatorships, that is, the “School of Assassins”, re-baptized in 2001 the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation, trained not only over 10,000 Colombians, but the coup leaders in Honduras as well.

Argentine political scientist Atilio Boron goes for the jugular; for him, “To think that those troops and weapons systems are based in Latin America for some reason other than to insure the territorial and political control of a region that experts consider the richest one on the planet in terms of its natural resources – water, energy, biodiversity, minerals agriculture, etc – would be unforgivably stupid.”

American political activist and author, Noam Chomsky, in an interview to Venezuelan-American lawyer Eva Golinger during his recent visit to Venezuela, explained how the “rose wave” of South American leftism is scaring Washington so much that it’s forcing it to collaborate with every government that would have been summarily deposed a few decades ago. Chomsky refers to the Joao Goulart government in Brazil, which was toppled in 1964, giving way, under US supervision, to “the first national security state neo-Nazi-style”. Lula’s policies today are not that different from Goulart’s.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization all over
Colombia has received over US$5 billion from the Pentagon since Plan Colombia was launched by president Bill Clinton way back in … the year 2000. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe rules over a captivating land infested with paramilitaries and extra-judicial killings – scores of peasants and trade unionists killed in cold blood. But he’s praised in Washington as a human-rights hero.

Isn’t that swell? In a 1991 unclassified Pentagon intelligence report, then-senator Alvaro Uribe Velez is described as “dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high government levels”. The report stresses Uribe “has worked for the Medellin cartel and is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar Gaviria”, the archetypal, now dead, Colombian drug lord. No wonder Uribe has always fiercely fought any possible form of extradition treaty.

Boron describes Uribe as “the empire’s Trojan Horse”. It’s this Trojan Horse that allows what is in fact a counter-insurgency operation to be packaged as a “war on drugs”. Needless to say, Colombia remains the number one supplier of cocaine to the US – Plan Colombia or not.

The counter-insurgency is also in large part directed against, who else, Venezuela’s Chavez, who, in his innumerable casual moments, makes no secret that he “knows Uribe, and his psychology, very well”. Golinger, author of a must-read book on Washington’s overall strategy, Bush vs Chavez: Washington’s war on Venezuela, told Russia Today that “Plan Colombia really does not have the objective of addressing directly the war on drugs”; it’s more about the “control of natural resources and strategic resources”.

Way beyond Venezuela, this is all about the militarization of the Andes and beyond. Colombia is, yes, the Trojan Horse in charge of policing virtually all of South America, not to mention Central America, now that US political, economic and military hegemony is shrinking by the hour.

The beauty of Plan Colombia is its one-size-fits-all status – from AfPak to Mexico. Few people know that in April 2007, the former US ambassador to Colombia, William Wood, was sent to Afghanistan to implement … a Plan Colombia, that is, counter-insurgency disguised as a war on drugs. Colombia is a mirror of Afghanistan – and vice-versa. It goes without saying that counter-insurgency-heavy Afghanistan – now under the supreme boot of former death-squad operator to General Davis Petraeus in Iraq, General Stanley McChrystal – still produces over 90% of the world’s opium.

And inevitably that’s where NATO comes in. The only part of the world where NATO is still not active is … South America. Few people also know that a few months ago, the head of the Pentagon’s Southern Command, Admiral James Stavridis, became NATO supreme commander. Three of the past five NATO top military commanders – Stavridis, Bantz Craddock and Wesley Clark – moved to NATO glory from … the Southern Command, certainly adding another meaning to the gloomy expression “School of the Americas”.

No wonder Bolivian President Evo Morales said in Cuba, in mid-July, “I have first-hand information that the empire, through the US Southern Command, made the coup d’etat in Honduras.” And all this while not only Mexico and Argentina - but also Brazil and Ecuador – are on their way to decriminalizing drugs.

War on drugs? So much for the cover story. More like the Pentagon stuck in the business, to quote Galeano, of insulting Latin America’s intelligence for a long time to come.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

US’s ‘arc of instability’ just gets bigger
By Pepe Escobar

The New Great Game is not only focused on the face-off between the United States and strategic competitors Russia and China – with Pipelineistan as a defining element.

The full spectrum dominance doctrine requires the control of the Pentagon-coined “arc of instability” from the Horn of Africa to western China. The cover story is the former “global war on terror”, now “overseas contingency operations” under the management of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Most of all, the underlying logic remains divide and rule. As for the divide, Beijing would call it, without a trace of irony, “splittist”. Split up Iraq – blocking China’s access to Iraqi oil. Split up Pakistan – with an independent Balochistan preventing China from

Beijing’s derivative default stance rattles banks

Beijing’s derivative default stance rattles banks

BEIJING, Aug 31 (Reuters) – A report that Chinese state-owned companies will be allowed to walk away from loss-making commodity derivative trades provoked anger and dismay among investment bankers on Monday as they feared it may set a damaging precedent.

The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the regulator and nominal shareholder for state-owned enterprises (SOEs), told six foreign banks that SOEs reserved the right to default on contracts, Caijing magazine quoted an unnamed industry source as saying in an article published on Saturday.

While the details of the report could not be confirmed, it was Monday’s hot topic in financial circles from Shanghai to Singapore as commodity marketers feared that companies holding underwater price hedges could simply renege on the deals, costing banks millions of dollars in profit.

The warning from SASAC follows a series of measures from Beijing this year to crack down on the sale of derivative products by foreign banks to Chinese enterprises, principally big consumers, who bought protection against higher prices last year only to watch the market collapse — leaving them with losses.

While many companies including top airlines have come clean on the losses, some analysts fear another wave may follow.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if more state firms emerge with big derivatives trading losses, otherwise SASAC wouldn’t come out with such a radical move,” said a Hong Kong-based derivatives analyst, who like most other industry officials and bankers declined to be named due to the high sensitivity of the issue.

A SASAC media official said on Monday that he was waiting for the “relevant department’s” official comment before he can clarify to media. A government official said that the Bureau of Financial Supervision and Evaluation under SASAC was handling the issue. The official declined to be named and did not elaborate.

Spokespersons at Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and UBS (UBSN.VX) declined comment, and media officials at Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and JPMorgan (JPM.N) were not immediately available for comment. All are major global providers of commodity risk management.

No bank were named in the Caijing report. The SASAC media officer also declined to identify any specific banks.

“It’s a handful of companies who are being encouraged by regulators to re-negotiate,” said a second banking source. “It’s outrageous, but it’s China, so everyone is treading very carefully.”

DAMAGING PRECEDENT

For banks that are hoping to sell more derivatives hedges in China, the world’s fastest-expanding major economy and top commodities consumer, the danger goes beyond the immediate risk to existing contracts to the longer-term precedent that suggests Chinese companies can simply renege on deals when they like.

The report follows an order from SASAC in July that required all central government-controlled state companies engaged in trading derivatives to make quarterly reports about their investments, including details of holdings and performance.

But the reported letter opened several important questions that could not immediately be answered.

“If we were among the banks receiving that letter, we would be very angry. But now the key is to find out more details on the letter: In whose name the letter was issued, the government or the corporate’s? And under what was the reason for defaulting?” said a Singapore-based marketing executive with a foreign bank.

The source, whose bank did not receive a letter, said that Air China, China Eastern and shipping giant COSCO — among the Chinese companies that have reported huge derivatives losses since last year — had issued almost identical notices to banks.

“If it’s in the name of the government, the impact will be very negative,” said the source, who declined to be named.

Beijing-based derivatives lawyers said the so-called “legal letter” has no legal standing — SASAC as a shareholder has no business relationship with international banks.

“It’s like the father suddenly told the creditors of his debt-ridden son that his son won’t pay any of his debt,” said a lawyer from the derivatives risks committee of the Beijing Lawyers Association.

It’s also unclear why Chinese state firms, which have complained that their foreign banks sometimes did not disclose full information of potential risks when selling them complicated products, did not seek redress through the courts.

“If that is the case, these firms should seek through legal measures to safeguard their rights, instead of turning to the authorities for political interference,” said a different lawyer.

SASAC took over the job of overseeing SOEs’ derivatives trading from the securities regulator in February after several Chinese firms reported huge losses from derivatives.

For a factbox of China’s derivatives debacles:[ID:nPEK206094] (Reporting by Eadie Chen and Chen Aizhu in Beijing, Alfred Cang in Shanghai, George Chen and Michael Flaherty in Hong Kong; Editing by Jonathan Leff)

Cheney’s dark side – and ours

Cheney’s dark side – and ours

By Derrick Z. Jackson Globe Columnist

The more Dick Cheney defends torture, the more we Americans must end our tortured ambivalence. Either we are above using the same interrogation practices that police states use, or we are are not.

This past weekend, the former vice president said he knew about waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques used by CIA personnel on terror suspects and even defended officers who went beyond authorized methods. He said they were “absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives and preventing further attacks against the United States.’’

Going further, he said it “offends the hell out of me’’ that the Obama administration has decided to investigate prisoner abuse by the CIA. He called it an “outrageous political act’’ that will demoralize the intelligence community to the point where “nobody’s going to sign up for those kinds of missions.’’

It would be easy at this juncture to demonize Cheney, who was so wrong so often in his eight years in office, most notably about the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction that he and President Bush used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. That war has cost the lives of more than 4,300 American soldiers, with another 31,400 wounded, and about 100,000 documented deaths of Iraqi civilians, according to Iraqbodycount.org.

But Cheney’s role is an old, if still developing story. After all, he warned us five days after Sept. 11 that our government would work on the “dark side.’’ He told the late Tim Russert, “We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies.’’ A majority of Americans thought Cheney was right. Despite the false pretenses for war and Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses that were exposed in the spring of 2004, Bush and Cheney were reelected.

Now, as Cheney continues to defend the dark side – even without conclusive proof that waterboarding coughed up critical intelligence – he is daring Americans to come out of the shadows to demand a bright light on interrogation and prisoner-treatment practices that render us hypocrites on human rights. To some degree, Attorney General Eric Holder is attempting this with his probe. But it appears that the inquiry will be limited to any CIA officers who went beyond legally authorized methods.

That is not enough. President Obama has sought to avoid controversy – and avoid demoralizing the CIA – by saying he wants to look forward, not backward. But these last eight years have revealed too many brutal abuses to write them off as only the actions of a few rogues.

We are at the point where nothing less than full congressional hearings, or a full Justice Department investigation, will let us know how high the rot started and how deep it went.

The rot in our national morality is evident in a June poll by the Associated Press, which found that 52 percent of Americans said torture was sometimes or often justified to obtain information from terror suspects. An April CNN poll found that even though 60 percent of Americans thought harsh techniques including waterboarding constituted torture, 50 percent approved of them. A Washington Post/ABC News Poll was almost evenly split between Americans who say we should never use torture (49 percent) and should use torture in some cases (48 percent).

Whether it is because of the politics of fear that defined the Bush-Cheney years, the recession engulfing the Obama administration, or simply an indifference to foreigners languishing in jail, Americans have displayed scant curiosity about the dark side. A May McClatchy poll found Americans to be almost evenly split on having a “bipartisan blue-chip commission’’ on interrogations, and the CNN poll found nearly two-thirds disapproving of either a congressional investigation or independent panel.

This is a level of apathy, even civic debasement that makes it no wonder Cheney can spout off despite leaving America in a disgraceful place. He feels empowered to defend the dark side, because we have yet to shine a light.

Derrick Z. Jackson’s e-mail address is jackson@globe.com.

CIA at Odds With Obama Over Torture, ACLU Claims

CIA at Odds With Obama Over Torture, ACLU Claims

  • By David Kravets Email Author

Citing national security concerns, the Central Intelligence Agency is refusing to divulge dozens of documents in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit surrounding its torture and rendition program adopted in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The withholding of documents dating to President George W. Bush’s administration leaves to the imagination just how damaging are those papers, one of which is a classified presidential directive authorizing CIA “black sites,” or secret prisons.

That’s because the government has already released reports detailing abusive interrogation techniques including waterboarding and sleep deprivation. Among other things, the government has also divulged its legal rational for its torture program.

President Barack Obama walks with CIA Director Leon Panetta, right, and Deputy CIA Director Steve Kappes after delivering remarks at the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia., Monday, April 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)President Barack Obama walks with CIA Director Leon Panetta, right, and Deputy CIA Director Steve Kappes after delivering remarks at the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia in April. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Yet the CIA told a federal judge late Monday in an ongoing American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that there likely would be no more documents forthcoming. “The documents at issue contain information that implicates intelligence activities, sources, and methods, and information relating to the foreign relations and activities of the United States,” Wendy Hilton, a CIA officer, wrote (.pdf) to U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York, who is presiding over a FOIA lawsuit.

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said the CIA’s position “is entirely incompatible with the Obama administration’s stated commitment to ending torture and restoring governmental transparency.”

Jaffer said in a statement that Obama has publicly recognized that “torture undermines the rule of law and America’s standing in the world, but on the other, the CIA continues to argue in court that it cannot disclose information about its torture techniques because it would jeopardize the CIA’s interrogation program.”

Hilton, an associate information review CIA officer, wrote that the information sought “is classified, as its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to result in serious or exceptionally grave damage to the national security.”

Among other things, here’s what the government’s wants kept secret:

“The classified and otherwise protected information at issue includes information concerning the capture, detention, confinement, and interrogation of known and suspected terrorists. The information impacting foreign relations contained within the documents includes the locations of CIA intelligence activities overseas and the assistance provided by certain foreign governments in furtherance of those activities.”

The ACLU has won the release of parts or all of about five dozen documents.

Af-Pak: US plays Chinese checkers

Af-Pak: US plays Chinese checkers

Besides compelling India to withdraw into a shell in Afghanistan, the US is trying to bring in the Chinese to stabilise Pakistan – a clever ploy by Pakistan to stymie Indian influence in Afghanistan
Sanjay Kapoor Hardnews Delhi

A strange game is being played out in Afghanistan. After hailing the recent presidential elections as a triumph of democracy, the US administration is doing a rethink on Karzai continuing as president and future structure of the government in Kabul.

This ambivalence towards Karzai has been reinforced by reports emanating from Kabul that US presidential envoy, Richard Holbrooke, had a showdown with the Afghanistan president where he alleged that his workers rigged the elections. Subsequently, there have been many articles in the western press trashing the polls and giving precedence to Karzai’s opponent Abdullah Abdullah’s allegations that there was large scale rigging in many parts of the country.

Results of Afghanistan elections getting delayed due to allegations of rigging would hurt Karzai and consequently Indian interests.

Experts on Afghanistan like Bruce Reidel and David Kilcullin, advisor to US General Stanley McCrystal has begun to see problems in the elections and merit in the Afghan Taliban. Kilcullin claimed that the Taliban were showing better administrative acumen than the Afghan government, which in his reckoning was corrupt and inept. Quoting Bernard Fall, a famous counter-insurgency theorist of the 1960s, he said that government is losing out to an insurgency. The government is not being out-fought, but it’s being out-governed. Kilcullin claimed that the Taliban were dispensing quality justice and had a good and fair taxation system. He also tries to break the stereotype about the Talibani justice system when he says it’s not all about stoning people to death or cutting up their limbs. According to him, 95 per cent of judicial decisions pertain to commercial law.

This loss in confidence in Karzai stems not only from poor governance, as made out by the US advisors, but also by the manner in which the Pakistanis are manipulating them. Pakistanis have been telling US interlocutors that they cannot carry out their operations against the Islamic militants if Indian influence in Afghanistan does not mitigate. Pakistan’s military establishment fears that Indians will fill the vacuum if the US and other western powers pull out in the next few years. They have not shied away from pointing out that Indian consulates in Afghanistan are destabilising Balochistan on their western border. The insertion of Balochistan in the joint statement at Sharm-el-Sheikh was Islamabad’s attempt to put India on the defensive.

What is also queering India’s pitch is that the US relies heavily on Pakistan to fight its war against terror in the ungoverned space that it shares with Afghanistan. It is, therefore, reluctant to rub it on the wrong side. Worse, it is shoring up Pakistan’s battered economy by giving colossal amount of funds. Large part of this aid has been ending up in the coffers of generals or in buying expensive weaponry that can only be used against India. Recent reports in The New York Times and Federation of American Scientists (www.fas.org) show how Pakistani army establishment is gearing up to take on India.

The US is following a two-tack approach in its efforts to provide regional solution to the Af-Pak problem, which it considers the epicentre of global terror. Besides compelling India to withdraw its feet under its shell in Afghanistan, it is also trying to bring in the Chinese to ostensibly stabilise Pakistan. Beijing is being lured by the offer of larger investment in rebuilding Afghanistan. This is a clever ploy on the part of Pakistan to ensure that Indian influence in Afghanistan is nixed for good and a friendly superpower is brought in to neuter both Washington and New Delhi.

During the recent meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Heads of Missions in Delhi, the matter of pressure on India to follow a “hands off” policy in Afghanistan and the possibility of the US withdrawing in the near future had come up. Hardnews learnt that a high-powered committee is working on different scenarios about how India should countenance the happenings in Af-Pak.

It is not clear how the Indian government views attempts of some US advisors to rope in the Taliban in the future administrative setup for a “durable” solution to the Af-Pak issue. Reports reaching Hardnews from Kabul suggests that the Americans want a run-off as they believe that Karzai would not win 50+1 votes. This could provide a possibility of either Abdullah Abdullah winning the polls or presenting an opportunity for him to enter the new government. A source in Kabul told Hardnews, “Americans are in no mood to allow President Karzai a second term without ensuring that Dr Abdullah Abdullah is accommodated in the power structure. And, more importantly, the Taliban should also be accommodated in the power structure.”

According to this source, the US policy now aims at cutting a deal with the Taliban to bring an increasingly frustrating war to a close and to secure certain key goals.

Elements of this deal are supposed to be as follows:

 Giving Taliban positions of power in the government in Kabul and also allow them broad control over the southern and south eastern Pashtun region of Afghanistan – the provinces of Nimroz, Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul, Ghazni, Paktika, Paktia, Khost, Lowghar, Nangarhar, Konar and Nuristan -adjoining the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

 Taliban to be allowed to enforce the Sharia in this region, run the opium business, and extract levies on the trade from and to Pakistan. In lieu of this the Taliban must agree to scale down their anti-Coalition attacks including those on supply convoys. The Taliban should also stop attacking or threatening government offices and employees in the provinces or in Kabul.

 Most importantly, the Taliban should agree to allow, unhindered, the building of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline that will enable oil and gas from the vast Turkmenistan reserves to be extracted via the Af-Pak Frontier region to Karachi, and, later, from Gwadar on the Balochistan coast. ‘Oil drives’ is the eternal mantra.

The thinking goes that the ‘arrangement’ with the Taliban, facilitated, of course, by their mentors in Pakistan’s army/ ISI leadership and the Saudi royal house, will relieve pressure on the US and other coalition forces in Afghanistan. This and will enable a large contingent to return home with attendant euphoric scenes in their respective home countries and spin-off political benefits thereof. It will also enable the US to focus more directly on Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and further northwards into central Asia and CIS states, as has been the US strategic aim ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Interestingly, India is not really factored in these scenarios.

Last has not been heard of how this great game is going to unfold. Be that as it may, tricky times ahead for Indian foreign policy as it cannot allow itself to be dictated by US interests.