ThereAreNoSunglasses

American Resistance To Empire

John McCain Speech Against Torture, In Defense of the Rights of All Men

FLOOR STATEMENT BY SENATOR JOHN McCAIN ON SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE REPORT ON CIA INTERROGATION METHODS

Dec 09 2014

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today delivered the following statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on CIA interrogation methods:

“Mr. President, I rise in support of the release – the long-delayed release – of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s summarized, unclassified review of the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that were employed by the previous administration to extract information from captured terrorists. It is a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that I believe not only failed their purpose – to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies – but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.

“I believe the American people have a right – indeed, a responsibility – to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values.

“I commend Chairman Feinstein and her staff for their diligence in seeking a truthful accounting of policies I hope we will never resort to again. I thank them for persevering against persistent opposition from many members of the intelligence community, from officials in two administrations, and from some of our colleagues.

“The truth is sometimes a hard pill to swallow. It sometimes causes us difficulties at home and abroad. It is sometimes used by our enemies in attempts to hurt us. But the American people are entitled to it, nonetheless.

“They must know when the values that define our nation are intentionally disregarded by our security policies, even those policies that are conducted in secret. They must be able to make informed judgments about whether those policies and the personnel who supported them were justified in compromising our values; whether they served a greater good; or whether, as I believe, they stained our national honor, did much harm and little practical good.

“What were the policies? What was their purpose? Did they achieve it? Did they make us safer? Less safe? Or did they make no difference? What did they gain us? What did they cost us? The American people need the answers to these questions. Yes, some things must be kept from public disclosure to protect clandestine operations, sources and methods, but not the answers to these questions.

“By providing them, the Committee has empowered the American people to come to their own decisions about whether we should have employed such practices in the past and whether we should consider permitting them in the future. This report strengthens self-government and, ultimately, I believe, America’s security and stature in the world. I thank the Committee for that valuable public service.

“I have long believed some of these practices amounted to torture, as a reasonable person would define it, especially, but not only the practice of waterboarding, which is a mock execution and an exquisite form of torture. Its use was shameful and unnecessary; and, contrary to assertions made by some of its defenders and as the Committee’s report makes clear, it produced little useful intelligence to help us track down the perpetrators of 9/11 or prevent new attacks and atrocities.

“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering. Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.

“I know, too, that bad things happen in war. I know in war good people can feel obliged for good reasons to do things they would normally object to and recoil from.

“I understand the reasons that governed the decision to resort to these interrogation methods, and I know that those who approved them and those who used them were dedicated to securing justice for the victims of terrorist attacks and to protecting Americans from further harm. I know their responsibilities were grave and urgent, and the strain of their duty was onerous.

“I respect their dedication and appreciate their dilemma. But I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods, which this report makes clear were neither in the best interests of justice nor our security nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend.

“The knowledge of torture’s dubious efficacy and my moral objections to the abuse of prisoners motivated my sponsorship of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ of captured combatants, whether they wear a nation’s uniform or not, and which passed the Senate by a vote of 90-9.

“Subsequently, I successfully offered amendments to the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which, among other things, prevented the attempt to weaken Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and broadened definitions in the War Crimes Act to make the future use of waterboarding and other ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ punishable as war crimes.

“There was considerable misinformation disseminated then about what was and wasn’t achieved using these methods in an effort to discourage support for the legislation. There was a good amount of misinformation used in 2011 to credit the use of these methods with the death of Osama bin Laden. And there is, I fear, misinformation being used today to prevent the release of this report, disputing its findings and warning about the security consequences of their public disclosure.

“Will the report’s release cause outrage that leads to violence in some parts of the Muslim world? Yes, I suppose that’s possible, perhaps likely. Sadly, violence needs little incentive in some quarters of the world today. But that doesn’t mean we will be telling the world something it will be shocked to learn. The entire world already knows that we water-boarded prisoners. It knows we subjected prisoners to various other types of degrading treatment. It knows we used black sites, secret prisons. Those practices haven’t been a secret for a decade.

“Terrorists might use the report’s re-identification of the practices as an excuse to attack Americans, but they hardly need an excuse for that. That has been their life’s calling for a while now.

“What might come as a surprise, not just to our enemies, but to many Americans, is how little these practices did to aid our efforts to bring 9/11 culprits to justice and to find and prevent terrorist attacks today and tomorrow. That could be a real surprise, since it contradicts the many assurances provided by intelligence officials on the record and in private that enhanced interrogation techniques were indispensable in the war against terrorism. And I suspect the objection of those same officials to the release of this report is really focused on that disclosure – torture’s ineffectiveness – because we gave up much in the expectation that torture would make us safer. Too much.

“Obviously, we need intelligence to defeat our enemies, but we need reliable intelligence. Torture produces more misleading information than actionable intelligence. And what the advocates of harsh and cruel interrogation methods have never established is that we couldn’t have gathered as good or more reliable intelligence from using humane methods.

“The most important lead we got in the search for bin Laden came from using conventional interrogation methods. I think it is an insult to the many intelligence officers who have acquired good intelligence without hurting or degrading prisoners to assert we can’t win this war without such methods. Yes, we can and we will.

“But in the end, torture’s failure to serve its intended purpose isn’t the main reason to oppose its use. I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world.

“We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily.

“Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. This executive summary of the Committee’s report makes clear that acting without conscience isn’t necessary, it isn’t even helpful, in winning this strange and long war we’re fighting. We should be grateful to have that truth affirmed.

“Now, let us reassert the contrary proposition: that is it essential to our success in this war that we ask those who fight it for us to remember at all times that they are defending a sacred ideal of how nations should be governed and conduct their relations with others – even our enemies.

“Those of us who give them this duty are obliged by history, by our nation’s highest ideals and the many terrible sacrifices made to protect them, by our respect for human dignity to make clear we need not risk our national honor to prevail in this or any war. We need only remember in the worst of times, through the chaos and terror of war, when facing cruelty, suffering and loss, that we are always Americans, and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.

“Thank you.”

Pleading With the Conscience Of A Nation With No Soul

Washington Post Op-ed: CIA report shows need for national conscience

Our belief in the national image is astonishingly resilient. Over more than two centuries, our conviction that we are a benign people, with only the best of intentions, has absorbed the blows of darker truths, and returned unassailable. We have assimilated the facts of slavery and ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, and we are still a good people; we became an empire, but an entirely benevolent one; we bombed Southeast Asia on a scale without precedent, but it had to be done, because we are a good people.

Even the atrocities of Abu Ghraib have been neutralized in our conscience by the overwhelming conviction that the national image transcends the particulars of a few exceptional cases. And now the Senate torture report has made the unimaginable entirely too imaginable, documenting murder, torture, physical and sexual abuse, and lies, none of them isolated crimes, but systematic policy, endorsed at the highest levels, and still defended by many who approved and committed them.

Again, it has become a conversation about the national image, this phoenix of self-deception that magically transforms conversations about what we have done into debates about what we look like. The report, claimed headlines, “painted a picture of an agency out of control,” and “portrays a broken CIA devoted to a failed approach.” The blow to the U.S. reputation abroad was seen as equally newsworthy as the details themselves, and the appalling possibility that there will never be any accountability for having broken our own laws, international law and the fundamental laws of human decency.

The national image is essentially a metaphor, and that metaphor operates differently in the United States than outside. Today, when we speak of how we are perceived in the wider world, we don’t seem to mean a coherent set of ideals about what America represents, or even an image at all, but rather something like a stock ticker that registers upticks and downdrafts in the value of our international brand. What people envision when they think about America isn’t really knowable, and in any case, it’s far easier to simply poll for the favorable and unfavorables. In April, a Gallup poll gave us the latest news from the market: up in Asia, recovering (after the spying scandals) in Europe, flat in South America, falling off peak in Africa. Expect a bear market in coming months.

The idea of a national image as essentially like a marketplace is an appealing one, especially in a country so in love with the market, so convinced they always rise, always recover, always recalibrate. America is always right, and markets are always right, so any deviation from a high-value assessment of the American brand is necessarily temporary. This conviction helps us keep at bay the thought that in many parts of the world, the national image includes scenes of waterboarding, of Americans smashing heads, forcing men to stand on broken limbs, killing by hypothermia and “rectal feeding,” which is rape.

At home, our sense of ourself is more psychologically constructed, like an amalgam of individual pictures. We bring to it the deep love of the lives we lead, so it becomes a composite, made of innumerable images of family and friends, of grandfathers who fought in the war, Thanksgiving dinners and the nice people from church who tend to the soup kitchen. It is a mostly stable image that comprises sepia-toned data points and the sentimental soft colors of Polaroid snapshots of picnics, beaches and candles on the birthday cake. This is who we are.

But that is not at all who we are. As long as the crimes done in our name remain unpunished, they remain our crimes. The lives we love — as many apologists for torture now openly claim — are purchased at the cost of extreme violence and brutality perpetrated on other people, many of them innocent, none of them deserving of torture.

We have come to a critical moment in the debate about torture. It’s no longer possible, as it was when the images of Abu Ghraib emerged in 2004, to pretend that these events were rare, exceptional or the work of a few rogue agents. Nor will it be easy to assimilate them into that beloved average image of our national goodness. We are confronted with our own barbarity, as we have been confronted with the barbarity of the Islamic State. We torture, they behead. We beat men senseless, slam their heads into walls, strip them naked and leave them to die, while they march men into a field and put bullets in their heads. We might still cling to the idea that our crimes are not quite so bad as theirs. But to quibble over the degree of cruelty we tolerate is to acknowledge that cruelty is now standard practice. Unless we punish the guilty, we can have no more illusions that there is anything fundamental about who we are, how we are governed or what religion we practice, that distinguishes us from the worst in the world.

How does the national image survive this? The usual forces will struggle to resist the new information. Some will wear blinders; others will see things selectively. But what do the rest of us do, everyone one of us who woke up, yesterday, to a powerful feeling of helplessness and shame? If the report leads to no further investigation, no indictments or prosecution, does it then just lay there, on the side of history, as something that can’t be assimilated, while the national image slowly comes back to its usual, gauzy, soft focus on our own unquestionable goodness?

If no one in public life is capable of punishing the guilty, if nothing comes of this but more denials and obfuscations, if the CIA is indeed more powerful than the president, the Congress and the Constitution, what is left of our beloved and benign national image?

Moral revolution begins at home, with a revolution in one’s own values. If you are horrified by what has happened, then you must remake your own mental picture of America, in yourself, in your own mind, ruthlessly and mercilessly, until it conforms to the truth of who we are. The first duty is not to look away.

But the crimes are so horrible, the injustice so vast, that it must go further than that. We should take our cues from a species of painting made throughout the Renaissance, vanitas images, which were a type of still life laden with reminders of death: skulls and hourglasses, guttering candles and fruit going bad. Vanitas elements, which also occurred in other kinds of paintings, reminded the living of the inexorable fact of death and Christians of the inevitable day of judgment. They compelled the faithful to see the skull always under the skin.

We are all, to some degree, narcissists, in love with our lives. But we must re-envision those lives with the hard truth of vanitas paintings. We must have the discipline to see the extent of our national depravity. We must bring it home to the very texture of the lives we lead. When you look at your children, remember dead children, torn to shreds by our smart bombs. When you sit by a warm fire, remember the windowless dungeons we made to break our enemies — and not infrequently innocent men accidentally caught up in our wars. When you fall asleep in your bed, remember the sleep deprivation “for up to 180 hours, usually standing or in stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads.”

If you can, if only for a day, or an hour, let every comforting thought be infected with the truth of what we have done.

And will that right the national image? Will it correct its contours, average in a little ugliness? Perhaps not. But we must atone. And we must learn that the national image is a hollow conceit. What we desperately need is a national conscience.

AMERICAN HOLOCAUST–We Inspired Hitler and S. Africa

The powerful and hard-hitting documentary, American Holocaust, is quite possibly the only film that reveals the link between the Nazi holocaust, which claimed at least 6 million Jews, and the American Holocaust which claimed, according to conservative estimates, 19 million Indigenous People.

It is seldom noted anywhere in fact, be it in textbooks or on the internet, that Hitler studied America’s “Indian policy”, and used it as a model for what he termed “the final solution.”

He wasn’t the only one either. It’s not explicitly mentioned in the film, but it’s well known that members of the National Party government in South Africa studied “the American approach” before they introduced the system of racial apartheid, which lasted from 1948 to 1994. Other fascist regimes, for instance, in South and Central America, studied the same policy.

Noted even less frequently, Canada’s “Aboriginal policy” was also closely examined for its psychological properties. America always took the more ‘wide-open’ approach, for example, by decimating the Buffalo to get rid of a primary food source, by introducing pox blankets, and by giving $1 rewards to settlers in return for scalps of Indigenous Men, women, and children, among many, many other horrendous acts. Canada, on the other hand, was more bureaucratic about it. They used what I like to call “the gentleman’s touch”, because instead of extinguishment, Canada sought to “remove the Indian from the Man” and the Women and the Child, through a long-term, and very specific program of internal breakdown and replacement – call it “assimilation“. America had it’s own assimilation program, but Canada was far more technical about it.

Perhaps these points would have been more closely examined in American Holocaust if the film had been completed. The film’s director, Joanelle Romero, says she’s been turned down from all sources of funding since she began putting it together in 1995.

Perhaps it’s just not “good business” to invest in something that tells so much truth? In any event, Romero produced a shortened, 29-minute version of the film in 2001, with the hope of encouraging new funders so she could complete American Holocaust. Eight years on, Romero is still looking for funds.

American Holocaust may never become the 90-minute documentary Romero hoped to create, to help expose the most substantial act of genocide that the world has ever seen… one that continues even as you read these words.

Obama’s No Fault Foreign Policy

daily star LEB

It is exasperating to listen to American officials pontificate about events in the Middle East and offer what sounds like reasonable proposals to resolve the area’s problems, when those same officials and the entire political power structure they represent refuse to acknowledge that they have played a major role in creating or expanding those problems. This is why it is astounding to watch the United States now lead the military assault against ISIS by using the same techniques that contributed in a major way to the birth and growth of the militant Islamist ideology at the core of ISIS and its criminal deeds.

The latest example of this is a statement the U.S. State Department put out Monday quoting Secretary of State John Kerry.

He stated that “[t]he fight against violent extremism in the Middle East can only truly be won if there are clear and appealing alternatives.”

This simplistic statement sounds so logical and reasonable, but in fact is full of dishonesty and disgraceful critical omissions. I say this because the United States itself played a direct and clear role in helping to foment the spread of ISIS-style violent extremism by creating the conditions for it in 2003 when it invaded Iraq and wiped away the former Iraqi state and government. That war created chaotic conditions that provided an opening for Osama bin Laden to send Abu Musab al-Zarqawi into Iraq to set up a local branch of Al-Qaeda. This small group of killers and anti-Shiite Sunni sectarian extremists expanded slowly and eventually rebranded itself as ISIS.

Kerry’s statement is also problematic in mentioning the absence of alternatives. There are no strong alternatives in large part because for over half a century – and today still – the United States and other major foreign powers have enthusiastically supported Arab autocrats and tyrants whose disdain for their own citizens has been the single most important reason for the growth of ISIS-like mentalities and behavior. The status quo in the Middle East that the U.S. favored and supported for so long made it impossible for any alternatives to emerge.

Kerry’s simplistic statement Monday reveals either dishonesty or sheer ignorance, or perhaps a bit of both. That is truly troubling given that his country has a massive amount of military force that it unleashes regularly around the Middle East, most often leading to troubling conditions such as what we are witnessing in Iraq and Syria today. To then follow up with simplistic statements for public consumption in which he offers solutions to the problems the U.S. helped create is an incredible act of disregard for the basic intelligence and common sense of billions of people around the world who do not share the kind of political and intellectual dishonesty he displays in this case.

It is not the responsibility of the United States or any other foreign power to fix the problems of the Middle East, which are mainly home-grown and stem from over half a century of autocratic or dictatorial rule, massive incompetence and mismanagement in governance, rampant corruption, declining education quality, misguided militarism, environmental irresponsibility, and the trampling of the rule of law and citizens’ rights. The United States knew about all this and more, but nevertheless resolutely supported the political systems that ultimately drove many young people into the realm of Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

How can anyone possibly take seriously statements such as those of Kerry? Moreover, why does the United States keep insulting us and the world by making such statements that lack so much logic, credibility and veracity? Presumably, the answer is that the United States feels no real repercussions either from pursuing the corrosive policies it has for half a century, or from adding insult to injury by saying that we need attractive alternatives to stem the flow of our young men into killer movements such as ISIS.

This highlights the wider problem that we continue to suffer from in the Arab world’s relations with the U.S. and other major world powers. That is the perpetuation of colonial attitudes among both American and other foreign elites who toy with the Arab peoples, on the one hand, and Arab ruling elites who play the game of dependent colonial subject, on the other. ISIS represents one of the few fractures in that process that shatters the prevailing conditions of the past century, and, not surprisingly, frightens both Western and Arab rulers. Until those same Arab, Western and other foreign rulers accept that their shared policies were the main underlying reason that allowed ISIS and other such movements to come into being, statements such as Kerry’s this week will only be met with ridicule and disbelief, and have zero impact on anyone other than his poor press secretary who has to disseminate this kind of ridiculous nonsense.

Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR. He can be followed on Twitter @RamiKhouri.

- See more at: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Columnist/2014/Dec-10/280488-the-us-just-refuses-to-take-the-blame.ashx#sthash.DMeEXbIY.dpuf

Malaysia Gets International Permission To Investigate Downing of Its Own Aircraft

‘Malaysia plays crucial role in criminal probe’

new-straits-times

 

MALAYSIA’S participation as a full and equal member of the MH17 joint investigation team tasked with the criminal investigation into the downing of the Malaysia Airlines aircraft is expected to result in the identification of the perpetrators of the heinous act, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

He said the investigation was ongoing, with Malaysia jointly participating with the investigation teams from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine in the criminal and technical
investigation group.

“Our participation in the investigation is important and I am confident it can help the team find vital evidence to bring those responsible to justice,” he said after the Kojadi Institute convocation at Wisma MCA here yesterday.

Last Monday, the Attorney-General’s Chambers had said in a statement that Malaysia had been accepted as a full and equal member of the joint investigation team that focused on the criminal investigation into the downing of the MAS aircraft.

It was conveyed by the Netherlands National Public Prosecutor’s Office in a letter dated Nov 28 to Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.

As part of the international criminal investigation process, Gani and Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar left for The Hague last Wednesday to attend the third Eurojust Coordination Meeting on the criminal investigation, which was scheduled last Thursday.

Flight MH17 is believed to have been shot down in Ukraine while flying from Amsterdam to here on July 17, and all 298 passengers, including 44 Malaysians, died in the crash.

On the intention of families of victims to take legal action against Malaysia, Liow said the government was prepared for any possibility.

However, he said, his ministry had yet to receive any information on the matter.

“I just returned from Chongqing, China, and have yet to receive any information related to these cases (filing of suits), but Malaysia is prepared to face any charge in court,” he said in response to a news portal report in the Daily Mail of the United Kingdom last Wednesday, which quoted news.com.au as saying that family members of eight of the MH17 victims from Australia would sue Russia, Ukraine and Malaysia.

Aviation lawyer Jerry Skinner, who will represent the eight Australian families from New South Wales, Canberra, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, was quoted as saying that he was awaiting information before filing the case at the European Court of Human Rights.

Skinner is known for his negotiation in a US$2.7 billion settlement (RM9.4 billion) for the 270 victims with Libya over the 1988 Lockerbie disaster. Bernama

An American, A Lithuanian and A Georgian Walk Into the Ukrainian Govt.

[SEE: Obama’s Russian War Resolution Passes By 411 to 23]

Ukraine’s new finance minister is a former U.S. State Department employee who graduated from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Even though the struggling country’s new cabinet now contains three high-profile foreigners, it remains the focus of a crude internal power struggle that will hamper crucial economic changes and could lead to a financial meltdown.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who visited Kiev two weeks ago, told President Petro Poroshenko that Ukraine needed to form a new government “within days, not weeks.” After an International Monetary Fund mission concluded its work Nov. 25, the IMF stated that “discussions will continue after the new Ukrainian government is formed.” That meant Ukraine wouldn’t find out when it might receive the much-needed next tranche of an IMF bailout package until Poroshenko complied with Biden’s wishes.

Pro-European politicians who form the ruling coalition rushed to find a compromise on the attribution of cabinet portfolios. The resulting lineup is a motley crew.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, whose party performed unexpectedly well in October’s parliamentary elections, remains prime minister. The coalition parties distributed the rest of the 19 posts on a quota system, and Poroshenko had the parliament approve the lineup en bloc, avoiding individual votes for each minister.

Poroshenko’s party proposed three foreigners:  Natalie Jaresko, a U.S. citizen, for finance minister, Lithuanian Aivaras Abromavicius for economics minister and Georgian Alexander Kvitashvili for health minister. Poroshenko granted them Ukrainian citizenship yesterday, hours before the parliamentary vote that approved the appointments. The nationalities of the three officials sent a clear message: Ukraine aspires to be a U.S. ally and a good IMF client, and it admires the reforms that rid Lithiuania and Georgia of their Soviet economic and cultural heritage. The choice of personalities, however, is less straightforward.

Jaresko, who grew up in a Ukrainian family in Chicago, has lived in Kiev for 20 years. She started her career in Ukraine distributing U.S. government aid to small and medium-sized businesses, then co-founded a small private equity firm, Horizon Capital, which has invested $255 million in Ukrainian companies. She has a few successful exits under her belt and an untarnished reputation as a thorough and enthusiastic manager, as well as a competent financier. She has no experience of the convoluted Ukrainian budget, however, and the finance minister will have to cut spending by about 10 percent of gross domestic product within weeks, a group of international economists recently concluded. Jaresko will need to learn quickly and act decisively in an unfamiliar, antiquated bureaucratic environment with elaborate, ritualistic paper-based procedures and lots of political traps.

Abromavicius, too, was living in Kiev at the time of his appointment. A partner at the Swedish investment company East Capital, he is married to a Ukrainian. But he also was responsible for managing East Capital’s Russian investments, the core of the company’s business. East Capital Russia Fund has been underperforming for a while: Its five-year return is minus 6.63 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and the fund’s net asset value is down 55 percent from its 2007 peak.

Kvitashvili, who has a U.S. master’s degree in public management, ran the Georgian Health Ministry for almost three years under former President Mikheil Saakashvili. Yet, according to Larisa Burakova, who wrote a book about Saakashvili’s libertarian reforms, Kvitashvili had no part in designing and implementing the large-scale privatization of Georgia’s health care system.

Kakha Bendukidze, the real architect of Georgia’s economic transformation, told me in one of his last interviews before he died last month that Ukraine had to get rid of many of its ministries and state agencies. “Who needs them when the government’s sole function these days is to take money from the International Monetary Fund and pass them on in payment for Russian gas?” he asked.

The Vox Ukraine group of pro-Western experts recently suggested cutting at least 20 ministries and agencies. Doing that, however, would have made it difficult for coalition parties to reach a compromise because there would have been fewer portfolios to hand out.

The new cabinet even added one portfolio — an Information Ministry. It will be headed By Yuri Stets, who ran Poroshenko’s Channel 5 TV and is a close friend of the president. Stets had recently vowed not to accept any appointment from Poroshenko because it would be seen as a conflict of interest. Now he is setting up an agency whose goal will be to counter Russia’s anti-Ukrainian propaganda.

The new appointment created a furor among Ukrainian journalists, who fear Poroshenko has created a ministry for censorship and propaganda. Even a top Poroshenko administration official recently said Ukraine “doesn’t earn enough” to set up another ministry.

There was another reason for Poroshenko’s dismissal of legislators’ requests that each minister be approved separately: Such a procedure would have buried the coalition compromise. The populist Radical Party, for example, proposed Valery Voshchevsky, the former chief of Ukraine’s perennially corrupt road construction and maintenance agency under deposed President Viktor Yanukovich, for deputy prime minister. Voshchevsky’s chances of separate approval would have been slim, but now he has the job.

Some pro-European legislators, including those elected on Poroshenko’s party ticket, were openly dismayed at this heavy-handedness. Borys Filatov, a close ally of billionaire Igor Kolomoiskiy, called the vote a “disgrace” and an example of “non-transparent Byzantian policies.” “It’s a great way to mess up something the country badly needs, no matter what pretty words are used to cover it up,” he wrote on Facebook.

An official in Poroshenko’s party told me the president’s plan was to undermine Yatsenyuk’s power over the cabinet and perhaps allow him to fail before Team Poroshenko moved in. At the same time, Poroshenko faces a growing rift with Kolomoiskiy, who runs the important Dnepropetrovsk region and finances much of Ukraine’s war effort in the rebellious eastern regions. This political maneuvering has nothing to do with driving down Ukraine’s 20 percent inflation, cutting exorbitant government spending on pensions and energy subsidies and eliminating corruption. According to Transparency International‘s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, Ukraine is the 142nd most corrupt of 175 countries, up just two spots from 2013, when Yanukovych’s shameless regime ran the country for personal enrichment. Pro-European Ukraine, according to the index, is more corrupt than Vladimir Putin’s Russia, in 136th place.

Although the new cabinet lineup makes the requisite symbolic nods to Ukraine’s Western orientation, and provides the IMF with a comfortable negotiating partner in Jaresko, it is another step toward turning Ukraine into a failed state. The “revolution of dignity” that freed many Ukrainians from a feeling of inferiority early this year will probably need to continue before the country finally sheds the burden of its Soviet past.

To contact the author on this story:
Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net

Embracing Struggle In the New World Order

[Austerity measures and social upheaval without end, fit in very neatly with an endless terror war.]

Sisyphean

A Sisyphean task

ekathimerini

By Nikos Xydakis

The most likely outcome of the government’s ongoing negotiations with the troika is that Greek Parliament will vote through all the proposed measures and that the budget which was drafted without the prior approval of the international lenders will be amended to meet their demands. These include reforms adding the unbearable burden of an additional 2.5-3 billion euros’ worth of measures on a population that is exhausted from austerity and an economy that had been bled dry. They include a hike in the value-added tax on medicines, books, the press, tourism services, rural parts of the country and islands, no pensions before the age of 62 and the abolition of a recently approved scheme for overdue debts to the state to be paid in 100 installments.

The troika, in short, is forcing the Greek coalition government to stand before the citizens of this country and tell them that all the sacrifices they have made over the past four years have failed to yield the desired results, that they have fallen short and that more cutbacks will be required despite the fact that there can be no guarantees that the end is anywhere in sight.

Unfortunately, the core of these measures are outlined in the midterm fiscal program and the memorandum, two agreements that were ratified by the country’s MPs but were not studied by the ministers signing them; not at the time and not now either. And again, yet another Greek government is being called upon to lead another tax raid, basically to switch off the light at the end of the tunnel. It is as if four-and-a-half years have not passed since that day when then PM George Papandreou announced in an address to the nation that Greece would be signing a memorandum of understanding with the EU, ECB and IMF.

More than the material cost of the stringent austerity Greece has had to pursue, the greatest toll on the people has been on their morale as they have seen the promise of a decent and viable future dashed. The bailout program is seen by Greeks more like an endless Sisyphean task and it now comes to threaten the country’s social cohesion by distorting the meaning of terms such as “reforms” and “acquis communautaire” to stir violent reactions.

In Cyprus, the bail-in brought back memories of the 1974 invasion. This is how collective conscience works, by drawing correlations that can be extremely powerful. In this context, how can a lengthening of the Sisyphean martyrdom and the annulment of future prospects be perceived? What kind of collective conscience will be formed? It is as though our lenders/partners are pushing the so-called Greek, but actually European problem, into a vicious cycle, transforming it into a black hole.

athens

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