Kill Capitalism Before It Kills Us

Do CounterPunch, Janeiro 27, 2023

The Police Were Created to Control Poor and Working Class People

I am a 20th Century Escaped Slave

Bring Back the Fun in Democracy

Citizen Activism has Shut Down the Vermont Yankee Nuke

Cops and Ideological Profiling

The Need to Know

Goodbye Privacy, Hello Censorship

Missing Flight Syndrome

The CIA’s Torture Program Breeds Hate

10 Good Things About the Year 2014

Who Was Behind the Cyberattack on Sony?

Cuba at the Crossroads

Words Alone Won’t End Torture

Why Capitalism Will be the Death of Us

Partners in Apartheid

The West Needs More Than a White Knight to Defeat ISIS

The Company that Almost Ruined Cuban Hip Hop is a Profitable Global Operation

Why We Supported the Hawkins Campaign for Governor of New York State

Broken Countries Policing

Irreversible Decline?

A Chronology of the Sony Hacking Incident

A World Without Police

American Exceptionalism and American Torture

A Wildly Unproven Theory About “The Interview” Based on Ancient Hollywood Wisdom

Turned Backs, The Mayor and the Police

Sea Change In US-Cuba Relations Makes Waves Deep In Desert

Challenges of Water Access in Africa

Marketing Madness

Who Is the “Most Evil” American in History?

The Impoverished Imagination of Seth Rogen

Cuba Will Not Renounce Its Ideas

Across Colombia by Train, with Garcia Marquez

Has the IMF Been Reformed?

From Panama to Ferguson

why not

in bed


Preying on Mexican Populism

Why Aaron Sorkin is No Ring Lardner, Jr.

Pomo Agonistes and Dada Anti-Science

Escape from Guantanamo Bay


Inside the Occupation of Haiti

Why Obama Won’t Reach a Deal With Iran

Nothing Changes as Much as the Past

The Contrition of Warlords

Reading Trotsky While Watching Kurosawa

Poison Pills in the National Defense Authorization Act

The Year of Piketty

The Greatest Threat to Cultural Heritage in Syria

“It seems to be easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and then of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism”

Fredric Jameson, The Seeds of Time, 1994

What kind of culture is it which pushes distraction, in its ordinary selection even of news, to the point where there is hardly any sustained discussion of the central and interlocking issues of human survival?

Raymond Williams, The Year 2000, 1983

Radicals seek to go to the root of current problems, taking on the main currents beneath the melting ice brought to us by capitalist “modernity.” Liberals and progressives prefer to skate around on the liquifying surface.

Take the (just-suggested) topic of climate change, arguably the biggest issue of our or any time (there’s no democracy, common good, equality and social justice on a dead planet).

Turning the Planet into a Giant Greenhouse Gas Chamber

A recent episode of the archetypal progressive media outlet Democracy Now (DN) was dedicated to arguing the obviously accurate fact that recent extreme and lethal weather — more frequent and extreme storms, rainfalls, floods, snowfalls, heat, drought — are the result of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change and most especially from the excessive burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas). Reflecting on recent deadly flooding in California, a UCLA climate scientist explained to DN what has long been well known in his field:

“All weather events are evolving in the context of a changed climate… The question is, really, to what extent is climate change influencing certain kinds of events, not really whether it is in the first place….in this case, we know that the primary link between climate change and extreme precipitation events is through a fairly basic fundamental principle of atmospheric thermodynamics. That sounds complicated, but it just comes down to the fact that the atmosphere has a much higher capacity to hold water vapor when it’s warmer. In fact, the increase in the water vapor-holding capacity of the atmosphere is exponential, even for a linear or an incremental warming.”

Climate warming is clearly behind the recent record-setting winter heat-wave in Europe, the rising heat that has sparked drought and rampant wildfires in the US-American West, and numerous other forms and symptoms of extreme weather at home and abroad. It is also behind the deep freeze “polar vortexes” that have chilled much of the US has experienced in recent years. These are a result of the meandering northern jet streams produced by the accelerated warming of the Arctic that has resulted from “modern civilization’s” massive carbon emissions. As the Buffalo meteorologist Don Paul explained to the “P”BS NewsHour three days after last Christmas, reflecting on an epic winter storm that had killed 38 people in his city by the time he spoke:

“The Arctic, which is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the globe, by warming up has caused the polar jet stream episodically to weaken. A strong polar vortex keeps most of the polar air bottled up over the polar region. But when that polar jet weakens, it can allow episodic stretching of the polar vortex far to the south, generally east of the Rockies. And this can happen in the midst of an otherwise milder-than-average winter. It sounds counterintuitive, especially to nonscientist denialists, but we can see some of the most extreme winter weather events for short periods. And, as you may have heard by now, we’re going to — most of the eastern two-thirds of the country are going to go back to well-above-average temperatures over the next three or four days into next week. A lot of the snow will melt, but it’s not going to erase the tragedy…. these episodes not only will be happening more often, but they already have been happening more often than prior to the accelerated warming… we have also seen some tropical events that appear to be related to the change in the jet stream.”

Extreme weather is coming harder and faster than the climate scientists originally thought, suggesting rather forcefully that the climate catastrophe – “crisis” doesn’t do the problem justice – is already underway. It’s not just something for “our grandchildren” to deal with. Consider some crucial findings. And it’s going to get worse in the coming years. According to Nature:

“Arctic permafrost stores nearly 1,700 billion metric tons of frozen and thawing carbon. Anthropogenic warming threatens to release an unknown quantity of this carbon into the atmosphere.… Carbon dioxide emissions are proportionally larger than other greenhouse gas emissions in the Arctic, but expansion of anoxic conditions within thawed permafrost and soils stands to increase the proportion of future methane emissions. Increasingly frequent wildfires in the Arctic will also lead to a notable but unpredictable carbon flux.”

It is terrible to learn, that, as DN reports, citing research by Media Matters, “national TV news is largely ignoring the link between climate change and the deluge devastating California. [Media Matters] looked at 60 segments that aired on national TV news networks between December 31st and January 4th. Only one mentioned climate change.”

That’s awful, but typical of the dominant US media, which is dedicated by its very capitalist and commercial nature to pre-emptively cancel deep critical thinking on the origins and nature of the many tragedies produced by racist, sexist, and eco-cidal capitalism-imperialism. (When’s the last time you heard a nightly news anchor link the inner-city violence that typically leads US city’s local six and ten o’clock news broadcasts to the savage race-class segregation that characterizes imperial America? When’s the last time you heard a national news anchor connect the southern border migrant crisis to US imperialist policy in Latin America or indeed to US-led climate change.)

But let’s go deeper on the climate. Extreme weather is just the tip of the cataclysmic. iceberg. The number of people directly killed in and by floods, tornados, bomb cyclones, wildfires, hurricanes, derechos, and the like is nothing compared to the millions upon millions — nay, billions — who will perish from famine, water-shortage, heat stress, war, economic collapse, disease, and “civilizational collapse” resulting from and intimately related to “humanity’s” carbon-emitting charge past ecological tipping points. Human extinction is a real possibility in some serious scientific scenarios.

“Today, at just 1.2 degrees [Celsius],” David Wallace Wells wrote last October:

“The planet is already warmer than it has been in the entire history of human civilization, already beyond the range of temperatures that gave rise to everything we have ever known as a species. Passing 1.5 and then two degrees of warming will plot a course through a truly foreign climate, bringing a level of environmental disruption that scientists have called ‘dangerous’ when they are being restrained. Island nations of the world have called it ‘genocide,’ and African diplomats have called it ‘certain death.’ It is that level that the world’s scientists had in mind when they warned, in the latest I.P.C.C. report, published in February, that ‘any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future’” (emphasis added).

It is already well understood by climate scientists that Earth will pass the long-dreaded dreaded 1.5 Celsius benchmark in this century, likely falling closer to 3 degrees. This is a gruesome experiment that has never been run: “civilization” is turning the entire planet into a giant Greenhouse Gas Chamber, a crime that would have horrified Adolph Hitler.

Welcome to the Capitalocene: Nobody Gets Out Alive

What’s the cause? What is the solution?

You may have noticed something in what I wrote above – I put the word “humanity” in quote-marks while typing the words “ ‘humanity’s’ carbon-emitting charge past ecological tipping points.” (I also just put quote marks around the word “civilization.”)

Is it really humanity that has created the climate catastrophe? Is it really “anthropogenic climate change?”

The eco-Marxist world systems geographer/sociologist/historian Jason W. Moore rightly prefers to put the focus on capital and, more to the point, capitalism. Moore explains on why he prefers the term “Capitalocene” over “Anthropocene” when it comes to naming the era in which human activities have altered Earth systems in ways that pose dire challenges to livable ecology: “It was not humanity as a whole that created large-scale industry and the massive textile factories of Manchester in the 19th century or Detroit in the last century or Shenzhen today. It was capital.”

It’s an important point. It is not all homo sapiens that has warmed and otherwise polluted the planet to the point where a “livable future” (Welles) is at severe risk. It is not all of humanity but rather executives at Exxon Mobil who suppressed their own firm’s earth scientists’ findings on how the burning of fossil fuels would warm the planet. It is not homo-sapiens as such but rather Fossil Capital and its political allies who have conducted a deadly anti-scientific propaganda campaign to obfuscate the findings, projections, and increasingly dire warnings of respectable climate science.

If you must blame “humanity,” than at least say “humanity under the command of capital.” Or humanity subjected to the inhumanity of capital.

But let’s go deeper. What drives capital to destroy the planet is not some inner demonic pathology on the part of individual capitalists and managers but rather the underlying dynamics of the profits system. It’s not just capital or capitalists that have caused this mess. It is capitalism, with its endless pursuit of surplus value and “cheap nature” – chiefly cheap raw materials, cheap energy sources, and cheap labor power – to buoy up its holy rate of profit.

Competition between capitals compels investors to constantly seek new profitable markets, raw materials, energy sources, labor power, transport routes, political environments, and technologies in every corner of the world. Livable ecology be damned: gas and oil must be extracted; forests must be razed; pipelines must be built; labor supplies must be tapped; new forms of built-in-obsolescence must be designed; lakes and rivers must be poisoned; barriers between humans and zoonotic viruses must be collapsed; sustainable local agriculture must be trumped by mass chemical farming to feed animals for slaughter; fertile soil must be raped to make way for carbon-spewing trucks, cars, and airports and soulless real estate developments; Indigenous people must be removed and defeated to carry out toxic mining and drilling operations; politicians must be bought to prevent government interference with the endless commodification of the planet and its species (people included); melting Arctic ice must be seen as an opportunity for new shipping lanes instead of an existential warning to cease and desist from the relentlless capitalist war on “a livable future.”

The anarchy of capital in the material base undermines any effort by the political and state superstructure to impose adequate decent environmental rules. The state and its regulatory agencies and the overall politico-ideological and media culture are captured by profit-mad capitalists whose superior wealth translates into superior political and (anti-)intellectual power. The needs and demands of workers and the broader populace subjected to class rule and exploitation compel constant quantitative expansion – “growth” – for capital and its political operatives to provide the “solution” to structural unemployment and poverty (both of which are built into the capitalist system). Growth, the holy expansion of GDP, is capitalism’s timeworn deadly answer to mass complaints over the economic insecurity that is built into its chaotic system. Politicians take up the cry, citing statistics and the pursuit of quantitative expansion — job growth, income growth, stock market growth — as the basis for their legitimacy and power even as poisoned quantity leads to the qualitative degradation of air, water, and soil and the Earth’s rising self-protective determination to burn the human race off its face.

There is also the anarchy and conflict of competing nations. The disorderly multiplicity of nation states in the world capitalist system as it has evolved for half a millennium militates against the establishment of the central political and regulatory authority required for humanity to overcome the planet-wide collapse of “a livable future.”

“Accelerating the Race to the Abyss”

When leading military powers atop that world state system come into violent conflict each other (as they recurrently and inevitably do), moreover, the prospects of common global action to stop “the thoroughgoing deterioration of earth and nature” (Jameson) are badly damaged. Perhaps some skilled researchers will calculate the carbon footprint of the current inter-imperialist US-Russia proxy war underway in Ukraine before Washington and Moscow solve the problem of global warming with planetary nuclear winter. The investigators will want to factor in how the conflict has accelerated the extraction and burning of fossil fuels outside Russia. As Noam Chomsky observed with his usual eloquent brilliance last fall:

“The Ukraine war finds its natural place in [our] collective [eco-cidal] madness. One outcome of Putin’s criminal aggression and the consequent sanctions regime is to restrict the fossil fuel flow from Russia on which Europe relies, particularly the German-based system that is its economic powerhouse. Economic consequences for Europe are severe, though not for the U.S., which is largely immune; or for that matter for Russia, which at least for now is profiting handsomely from rising oil prices and has many eager customers outside of Europe. Europe is seeking alternative sources of oil and gas, a bonanza for the U.S. fossil fuel industry, rewarded with new markets and expansive drilling opportunities to enable it to destroy life on Earth more effectively. And the military industry could hardly be more ecstatic as the killing and destruction mount….One can think of other reasons to bring the horrors to a quick end, but the fate of organized human society is surely one. The Ukraine war has reversed the limited efforts to address the mounting crisis of environmental destruction. While it should have accelerated efforts to move rapidly towards sustainable energy, that was not the path chosen by the political leadership. Rather, the choice has been to accelerate the race to the abyss.”

(The giant US capitalist global military Empire — with “roughly 750 military spread across 80 nations!” [so boasts the imperialist Soldiers’ Project] — certainly has the largest carbon footprint of any single institution on Earth. Under the direction of either of the nation’s two capitalist-imperialist parties, it may soon be setting new carbon emissions records in a deadly war over Taiwan with state-capitalist China, itself no carbon-spewing slouch despite its heavy investment in wind and solar.)

Thanks to how the war in Ukraine has deepened the dangers of both nuclear war and climate catastrophe, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has just moved its Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds to Midnight, its highest level in history.

Then there’s the endless diversion and flight from historical-material reality provided by a corporate media that fascinates millions with the sex lives and consumption patterns of mediocre celebrities and that – yes, Amy Goodman – commonly reports an endless and accelerating number of extreme weather events without mentioning the climatological context for those events, much less the capitalist context behind the climate calamity. Many more USAers could tell you the name of Gisele Bundchen’s possible new boyfriend (personal trainer Joaquim Valente) than could tell you what a Greenhouse Gas is.

“What kind of culture is it,” the Marxist cultural critic Raymond Williams asked forty years ago, “when some serious analysis (of environmental menace — PS) appears and is almost at once placed as another installment of ‘doom and gloom’? What kind of culture is it which pushes distraction, in its ordinary selection even of news, to the point where there is hardly any sustained discussion of the central and interlocking issues of human survival? There are times, in the depth of the current crisis, when the image materialises of a cluttered room in which somebody is trying to think while there is a fan dance going on in one corner and a military band blasting away in the other corner. It is not the ordinary enjoyments of life that are diverting serious concern, as at times, in a natural human rhythm, they must and should. It is a systematic cacophony which may indeed not be bright enough to know that it is jamming and drowning the important signals, but which is nevertheless, and so far successfully, doing just that” (Raymond Williams, The Year 2000 [New York: Pantheon, 1983], p. 18).

What kind of culture does that? A capitalist culture.

Greta’s Right: Revolution, Nothing Less

David Wallace Wells’ October 2022 New York Times essay, “Beyond Catastrophe,” is surprisingly and excessively impressed by the prospects for “decarbonization” short of eco-socialist revolution in this century? Is he right to suggest that environmental catastrophe can be avoided under capitalism, as numerous other progressive thinkers seems to think? No. We’d do better to take counsel from the 19-year old climate justice icon Greta Thunberg, who recently told an audience in London that climate activists and others must overthrow “the whole capitalist system.”

She’s right. That system is far too deeply invested in fossil fuels to give them up before final tipping points are breached (and there are more than enough such fuels still in the ground for capitalism to extract and burn to the point of no return). It is far too anarchic, competitive, exploitation-based, authoritarian, plutocratic, and decentralized, and too attached to nation states, imperialism, and war to be seriously reigned-in by environmental considerations.

I’m not sure Ms. Thunberg has worked all of this out yet but she’s on the right track: it really does come down to the title of the U.S. Revolutionary Communist Party’s (RCP) weekly YouTube television show: “Revolution Nothing Less.”

The leading left intellectual Chomsky has recently been suggesting that the main problem is “savage capitalism,” not capitalism as such. My guess is that he knows better than this (he’s too smart not to) — that livable ecology is simply impossible under the class dictatorship of capital — but sees the prospect of eco-socialist transformation as so remote and the climate catastrophe as so urgent that we have no choice but to place our hopes in reversing climate destruction under the profits system.

I get it but I don’t. The only thing crazier than calling for global socialist/eco-socialist people’s revolution now is not doing so. Many older, white, and male left-identified people I know reflexively roll their eyes in response to me when I voice this opinion. To them, “saying that we need a socialist revolution is required to save chances for a decent future is to say that we are doomed. That’s not going to happen.” This judgement typically comes my way without any disagreement over my diagnosis that capitalism is killing us – without any Wellsyian or Chomskyan pretense that the environmental crisis could maybe be solved under bourgeois rule. But, to paraphrase Gramsci, the pessimism of my despairing correspondents’ minds has gotten the better of the “optimism of their will (as recent mind and body research would predict, incidentally). They find it easier to imagine the end of life itself than to envision the end of capitalism. They find it more comfortable to surrender and fade away before capitalist eco-cide than to rise up with others against the system that cancels a livable environment – and they project this surrender on to younger and future generations cursed with trying to survive under the conditions imposed by the planet-poisoning bourgeois regime their predecessors failed to properly confront.

Enough with the idiotic and self-fulfilling cynicism, nihilism, and hopelessness. Of course we can make a revolution. Or die trying. Because it’s not about the crystal ball, is it? Are the odds bad? Change them with human agency – yours and that of others with whom you join against a lethal system wired to destroy life on Earth. Make no mistake: capitalism isn’t done until it has made “a livable future” impossible. We have an existential duty to kill it before it kills humanity along with the giant mass of other species it has already wiped out.

DECEMBER 31, 2014
The Police Were Created to Control Poor and Working Class PeopleBY SAM MITRANI

In most of the liberal discussions of the recent police killings of unarmed black men, there is an underlying assumption that the police are supposed to protect and serve the population. That is, after all, what they were created to do. If only the normal, decent relations between the police and the community could be re-established, this problem could be resolved. Poor people in general are more likely to be the victims of crime than anyone else, this reasoning goes, and in that way, they are in more need than anyone else of police protection. Maybe there are a few bad apples, but if only the police weren’t so racist, or didn’t carry out policies like stop-and-frisk, or weren’t so afraid of black people, or shot fewer unarmed men, they could function as a useful service that we all need.

This liberal way of viewing the problem rests on a misunderstanding of the origins of the police and what they were created to do. The police were not created to protect and serve the population. They were not created to stop crime, at least not as most people understand it. And they were certainly not created to promote justice. They were created to protect the new form of wage-labor capitalism that emerged in the mid to late nineteenth century from the threat posed by that system’s offspring, the working class.

This is a blunt way of stating a nuanced truth, but sometimes nuance just serves to obfuscate.

Before the nineteenth century, there were no police forces that we would recognize as such anywhere in the world. In the Northern United States, there was a system of elected constables and sheriffs, much more responsible to the population in a very direct way than the police are today. In the South, the closest thing to a police force was the slave patrols. Then, as Northern cities grew and filled with mostly immigrant wage workers who were physically and socially separated from the ruling class, the wealthy elite who ran the various municipal governments hired hundreds and then thousands of armed men to impose order on the new working class neighborhoods.

Class conflict roiled late nineteenth century American cities like Chicago, which experienced major strikes and riots in 1867, 1877, 1886, and 1894. In each of these upheavals, the police attacked strikers with extreme violence, even if in 1877 and 1894 the U.S. Army played a bigger role in ultimately repressing the working class. In the aftermath of these movements, the police increasingly presented themselves as a thin blue line protecting civilization, by which they meant bourgeois civilization, from the disorder of the working class. This ideology of order that developed in the late nineteenth century echoes down to today – except that today, poor black and Latino people are the main threat, rather than immigrant workers.

Of course, the ruling class did not get everything it wanted, and had to yield on many points to the immigrant workers it sought to control. This is why, for instance, municipal governments backed away from trying to stop Sunday drinking, andwhy they hired so many immigrant police officers, especially the Irish. But despite these concessions, businessmen organized themselves to make sure the police were increasingly isolated from democratic control, and established their own hierarchies, systems of governance, and rules of behavior. The police increasingly set themselves off from the population by donning uniforms, establishing their own rules for hiring, promotion, and firing, working to build a unique esprit des corps, and identifying themselves with order. And despite complaints about corruption and inefficiency, they gained more and more support from the ruling class, to the extent that in Chicago, for instance, businessmen donated money to buy the police rifles, artillery, Gatling guns, buildings, and money to establish a police pension out of their own pockets.

There was a never a time when the big city police neutrally enforced “the law,” or came anywhere close to that ideal (for that matter, the law itself has never been neutral). In the North, they mostly arrested people for the vaguely defined “crimes” of disorderly conduct and vagrancy throughout the nineteenth century. This meant that the police could arrest anyone they saw as a threat to “order.” In the post-bellum South, they enforced white supremacy and largely arrested black people on trumped-up charges in order to feed them into convict labor systems.

The violence the police carried out and their moral separation from those they patrolled were not the consequences of the brutality of individual officers, but were the consequences of careful policies designed to mold the police into a force that could use violence to deal with the social problems that accompanied the development of a wage-labor economy. For instance, in the short, sharp depression of the mid 1880s, Chicago was filled with prostitutes who worked the streets. Many policemen recognized that these prostitutes were generally impoverished women seeking a way to survive, and initially tolerated their behavior. But the police hierarchy insisted that the patrolmen do their duty whatever their feelings, and arrest these women, impose fines, and drive them off the streets and into brothels, where they could be ignored by some members of the elite and controlled by others. Similarly, in 1885, when Chicago began to experience a wave of strikes, some policemen sympathized with strikers. But once the police hierarchy and the mayor decided to break the strikes, policemen who refused to comply were fired. In these and a thousand similar ways, the police were molded into a force that would impose order on working class and poor people, whatever the individual feelings of the officers involved.

Though some patrolmen tried to be kind and others were openly brutal, police violence in the 1880s was not a case of a few bad apples – and neither is it today.

Much has changed since the creation of the police – most importantly the influx of black people into the Northern cities, the mid-twentieth century black movement, and the creation of the current system of mass incarceration in part as a response to that movement. But these changes did not lead to a fundamental shift in policing. They led to new policies designed to preserve fundamental continuities. The police were created to use violence to reconcile electoral democracy with industrial capitalism. Today, they are just one part of the “criminal justice” system which continues to play the same role. Their basic job is to enforce order among those with the most reason to resent the system – who in our society today are disproportionately poor black people.

A democratic police system is imaginable – one in which police are elected by and accountable to the people they patrol. But that is not what we have. And it’s not what the current system of policing was created to be.

If there is one positive lesson from the history of policing’s origins, it is that when workers organized, refused to submit or cooperate, and caused problems for the city governments, they could back the police off from the most galling of their activities. Murdering individual police officers, as happened in in Chicago on May 3rd 1886 and more recently in New York on December 20th, 2014, only reinforced those calling for harsh repression – a reaction we are beginning to see already. But resistance on a mass scale could force the police to hesitate. This happened in Chicago during the early 1880s, when the police pulled back from breaking strikes, hired immigrant officers, and tried to re-establish some credibility among the working class after their role in brutally crushing the 1877 upheaval.

The police might be backed off again if the reaction against the killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and countless others continues. If they are, it will be a victory for those mobilizing today, and will save lives – though as long as this system that requires police violence to control a big share of its population survives, any change in police policy will be aimed at keeping the poor in line more effectively.

We shouldn’t expect the police to be something they’re not. As historians, we ought to know that origins matter, and the police were created by the ruling class to control working class and poor people, not help them. They’ve continued to play that role ever since.

Sam Mitrani is an Associate Professor of History at the College of DuPage. He earned his PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2009. He is the author of The Rise of the Chicago Police Department: Class and Conflict, 1850-1894 (University of Illinois Press).

This essay was originally published by LAWCHA, t he Labor and Working Class History Association.

DECEMBER 30, 2014
I am a 20th Century Escaped SlaveBY ASSATA SHAKUR

My name is Assata Shakur, and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984.

I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it “greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.

In 1978, my case was one of many cases bought before the United Nations Organization in a petition filed by the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, exposing the existence of political prisoners in the United States, their political persecution, and the cruel and inhuman treatment they receive in US prisons. According to the report:

“The FBI and the New York Police Department in particular, charged and accused Assata Shakur of participating in attacks on law enforcement personnel and widely circulated such charges and accusations among police agencies and units. The FBI and the NYPD further charged her as being a leader of the Black Liberation Army which the government and its respective agencies described as an organization engaged in the shooting of police officers.

This description of the Black Liberation Army and the accusation of Assata Shakur’s relationship to it was widely circulated by government agents among police agencies and units. As a result of these activities by the government, Ms. Shakur became a hunted person; posters in police precincts and banks described her as being involved in serious criminal activities; she was highlighted on the FBI’s most wanted list; and to police at all levels she became a ‘shoot-to-kill’ target.”

I was falsely accused in six different “criminal cases” and in all six of these cases I was eventually acquitted or the charges were dismissed. The fact that I was acquitted or that the charges were dismissed, did not mean that I received justice in the courts, that was certainly not the case. It only meant that the “evidence” presented against me was so flimsy and false that my innocence became evident. This political persecution was part and parcel of the government’s policy of eliminating political opponents by charging them with crimes and arresting them with no regard to the factual basis of such charges.

On May 2, 1973 I, along with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for a “faulty tail light.” Sundiata Acoli got out of the car to determine why we were stopped. Zayd and I remained in the car. State trooper Harper then came to the car, opened the door and began to question us. Because we were black, and riding in a car with Vermont license plates, he claimed he became “suspicious.” He then drew his gun, pointed it at us, and told us to put our hands up in the air, in front of us, where he could see them. I complied and in a split second, there was a sound that came from outside the car, there was a sudden movement, and I was shot once with my arms held up in the air, and then once again from the back.

Zayd Malik Shakur was later killed, trooper Werner Foerster was killed, and even though trooper Harper admitted that he shot and killed Zayd Malik Shakur, under the New Jersey felony murder law, I was charged with killing both Zayd Malik Shakur, who was my closest friend and comrade, and charged in the death of trooper Foerster. Never in my life have I felt such grief. Zayd had vowed to protect me, and to help me to get to a safe place, and it was clear that he had lost his life, trying to protect both me and Sundiata. Although he was also unarmed, and the gun that killed trooper Foerster was found under Zayd’s leg, Sundiata Acoli, who was captured later, was also charged with both deaths. Neither Sundiata Acoli nor I ever received a fair trial We were both convicted in the news media way before our trials. No news media was ever permitted to interview us, although the New Jersey police and the FBI fed stories to the press on a daily basis. In 1977, I was convicted by an all- white jury and sentenced to life plus 33 years in prison.

In 1979, fearing that I would be murdered in prison, and knowing that I would never receive any justice, I was liberated from prison, aided by committed comrades who understood the depths of the injustices in my case, and who were also extremely fearful for my life.

The U.S. Senate’s 1976 Church Commission report on intelligence operations inside the USA, revealed that “The FBI has attempted covertly to influence the public’s perception of persons and organizations by disseminating derogatory information to the press, either anonymously or through “friendly” news contacts.” This same policy is evidently still very much in effect today.

On December 24, 1997, The New Jersey State called a press conference to announce that New Jersey State Police had written a letter to Pope John Paul II asking him to intervene on their behalf and to aid in having me extradited back to New Jersey prisons. The New Jersey State Police refused to make their letter public. Knowing that they had probably totally distorted the facts, and attempted to get the Pope to do the devils work in the name of religion, I decided to write the Pope to inform him about the reality of’ “justice” for black people in the State of New Jersey and in the United States. (See attached Letter to the Pope).

In January of 1998, during the pope’s visit to Cuba, I agreed to do an interview with NBC journalist Ralph Penza around my letter to the Pope, about my experiences in New Jersey court system, and about the changes I saw in the United States and it’s treatment of Black people in the last 25 years. I agreed to do this interview because I saw this secret letter to the Pope as a vicious, vulgar, publicity maneuver on the part of the New Jersey State Police, and as a cynical attempt to manipulate Pope John Paul II. I have lived in Cuba for many years, and was completely out of touch with the sensationalist, dishonest, nature of the establishment media today. It is worse today than it was 30 years ago.

After years of being victimized by the “establishment” media it was naive of me to hope that I might finally get the opportunity to tell “my side of the story.” Instead of an interview with me, what took place was a “staged media event” in three parts, full of distortions, inaccuracies and outright lies. NBC purposely misrepresented the facts. Not only did NBC spend thousands of dollars promoting this “exclusive interview series” on NBC, they also spent a great deal of money advertising this “exclusive interview” on black radio stations and also placed notices in local newspapers.

Like most poor and oppressed people in the United States, I do not have a voice. Black people, poor people in the U.S. have no real freedom of speech, no real freedom of expression and very little freedom of the press. The black press and the progressive media has historically played an essential role in the struggle for social justice. We need to continue and to expand that tradition. We need to create media outlets that help to educate our people and our children, and not annihilate their minds. I am only one woman.

I own no TV stations, or Radio Stations or Newspapers. But I feel that people need to be educated as to what is going on, and to understand the connection between the news media and the instruments of repression in Amerika. All I have is my voice, my spirit and the will to tell the truth. But I sincerely ask, those of you in the Black media, those of you in the progressive media, those of you who believe in true freedom, to publish this statement and to let people know what is happening. We have no voice, so you must be the voice of the voiceless.

Free all Political Prisoners, I send you Love and Revolutionary Greetings From Cuba, One of the Largest, Most Resistant and Most Courageous Palenques (Maroon Camps) That has ever existed on the Face of this Planet.

Assata Shakur lives in Havana, Cuba.

DECEMBER 30, 2014
Bring Back the Fun in Democracy

Presidential politics in the United States have long been a repository, and a vehicle, for the people’s aspirations towards a better life and a better country. Quite apart from the mechanics of elections and the actuarial plausibility of various contenders, any number of wild presidential dreams can be found—guarded, nurtured, cherished—among the citizenry. All across America, multitudes of ordinary civic-minded people sit at home reading, chatting, watching C-SPAN (especially C-SPAN); amid the morass of stupidity and pettiness that characterizes our public life, these disenchanted Americans, desperate for a tonic to cure their democracy blues, allow themselves to daydream: “If only _________ were president, we just might have a chance!”

The corollary to such furtive bursts of optimism, naturally, would be that if we continue to ratify, four years at a time, different versions of business-as-usual, then America is finished. For the conscientious voter, then, it becomes a serious question: how much longer do we have before it’s too late? Does the future depend, in an absolute way, on the outcome of the next election—that is to say, would the wrong choice mean that the next election would also be the last one?

In the universe of America’s political journalism, questions like these—altogether justified and urgent in light of present circumstances—matter not at all. Our media’s approach to the democratic process is indistinguishable from the kind of speculation and analysis one finds on ESPN. This actually makes perfect sense, in that the well-appointed elites who cover politics have a stake in the outcome of elections only in the sense that Dick Vitale has a stake in the outcome of the NCAA tournament: they might harbor passions for this or that contender, but whatever happens, the only certainty is that come next March (or November, as it were) they will still be well-payed and comfortable in their court-side seat.

This athletic analogy can be fruitfully extended. With elections in general, and the presidency especially, the rules for deciding who makes the playoffs are most important limiting factor. In the world of sports, different arrangements allow for varying measures of “democratic possibility”. At one extreme, the NCAA basketball tournament makes room for sixty-six teams. The resulting contest, where the mighty fall with delightful frequency and the lowly win glory, is thrilling precisely because of this “egalitarian” openness.

Contrast the spontaneity of March Madness with the tamer and more exclusive playoffs in the major professional leagues. The leagues are divided up regionally, and records in the regular season tabulated like the delegates in party primaries. Admission to the playoffs rests on strict mathematics, which are taken as a fair abstraction of the truth of matters on the field of play. (Elections are taken to express the “will of the people” rather in the sense that the “ball don’t lie”—the only caveat being “…except when it do”) Interestingly, most leagues have provided for a “wild-card” playoff bid, which in a fashion concedes that chance must be allowed a foot in the door.

Lastly, consider the process used, until very recently, to determine which two teams would compete for the NCAA Football championship. Simply put, an obscure and unaccountable computer algorithm was applied to the raw data of the college football season, and the machine would render a judgment. In parallel, an arbitrarily chosen assortment of college-football bigshots would vote for their own choices of the best two teams.

The computer and human results were then mashed together in some unfathomable way to produce the pair of teams for the championship game. The result, which frequently offended the football-following public, was rightly seen as an outrage against democratic sensibilities; in the most infamous instances of decisions widely at variance with popular opinion, the ensuing scandals had something of the flavor of popular uproar over the 2000 election.

Having surveyed the range of playoff procedures in the world of sports, I expect the reader will readily see the significance of the analogy with electoral politics. The field of American politics is not nearly so vibrant as that of NCAA basketball—go ahead, try to come up with 64 remotely plausible presidential candidates…32?…16?….8?….4?….and you get the picture.

Insofar as the competitive logic of sport obtains in presidential politics, we find it most readily in the formalized, televised debate. The beau-ideal for such contests, the Lincoln-Douglass debates, is far enough in the past to serve as an empty signifier for an admirable, if utterly unattainable, democratic ideal. The “debates” held today are thoroughly sterilized by minute procedural rules, and circumscribed by the artificial requirement of concision; as Noam Chomsky wisely pointed out, concision imposes a marvelous ideological discipline while appearing to be neutral, since 90 seconds is just enough to parrot conventional pieties, but hardly enough time to get across an unconventional point.

As if the heavy regulation of debate conduct were not enough, participation in the debates for both the primaries and the general election is jealously guarded by the political parties, separately as well as in concert. In the primary phase, where ideological diversity is at least nominally encouraged, this is harder to pull off—you have to let the Ron Pauls and the Mike Gravells the chance, however fleeting, to speak. However, in this case the cunning of reason is on the side of the status quo. As if animated by the spirit of conformity herself, the candidates team up in felicitous combinations to enforce the party line. The result is an antipathy toward ideologically proscribed opinions as powerful and effective as any Stalinist central committee.

The systematic suppression and frustration of democratic aspirations, election after election, in the interest of a monolithic bipartisan consensus, has taken its toll, and left us where we now find ourselves as a nation. We have streamlined the democratic process in such a way that the element of chance has been seemingly banished; the hopes of citizens for anything better than the choice between “inevitable” centrisms have been consigned to the realm of wistful fantasy. In short, we have all but abolished democracy, because true democracy is fun, and politics these days sure ain’t fun.

Hunter S. Thompson was perhaps the first to equate “the death of fun” in America with a more profound and pervasive tendency of national decline (variously known as “the grim slide”, “the downward spiral of dumbness”, and other vivid Thompsonian monikers). Thompson knew a thing or two about elections, having masterfully covered the saga of 1972 in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. He also knew something about sports. In much of his best work, the line between politics and sport begins to blur and melt away. In Campaign Trail 72 the long and hard-fought Democratic primary race is punctuated throughout by Thompson’s successful gambling, in the manner of sports, on the outcomes with other members of the press. And along the way, he manages to score an exclusive audience with Richard Nixon in the back of a limousine, on condition that the only subject for discussion would be football.

Any reader of Thompson’s election coverage will likely appreciate how that older world of electoral politics, suffused with whimsy, chaos, and popular enthusiasm, is so completely different and alien to our own. Can you imagine the journalists of today wagering hard money (for more plentiful, in their case, than for their predecessors) gambling on a presidential election? At this point, there isn’t much to bet for.

On the other hand, the very windlessness and boringness of the 2016 contest so far might just be a spell of calm before a glorious storm of surprises. No one’s counting, much less betting, on a savior candidate to emerge from obscurity to win the White House and solve all our problems—we’ve spent the past six years watching how that turns out. But a more modest hope can, indeed must, be entertained. Namely, that the fates will conspire, over and against the vacuums of imagination, to make democracy fun again. Place your bets.

Dawson Gage is a writer living in Wilmington, North Carolina.

DECEMBER 30, 2014
Citizen Activism has Shut Down the Vermont Yankee Nuke HARVEY WASSERMAN

The Vermont Yankee atomic reactor is now permanently shut down. Citizen activists have made it happen. The number of licensed US commercial reactors is now under 100, where once it was to be 1000.

VY pumped out its last few electrons yesterday, December 29, 2014.

Had it not been for decades of hard grassroots roots campaigning by dedicated, non-violent nuclear opponents, working for a Solartopian green-powered economy, the reactor’s corporate owner might have let it limp along for years to come.

Entergy says VY was losing money. Though fully amortized, it could not compete with the onslaught of renewable energy and fracked gas. Throughout the world, nukes once sold as generating juice “too cheap to meter” are financial failures. Even with their capital costs long-ago stuck to the public, these radioactive junk heaps have no place in today’s economy—except as magnets for massive ratepayer and taxpayer handouts.

So in Illinois and elsewhere around the US, their owners are begging bought and rented state legislators and regulators to force the public to eat their losses. Arguing for “base load power” or other nonsensical corporate constructs, reactor owners are trying to prolong operations while losing out in the market. Where they can throw their “campaign donations” around, they are gouging the public to keep increasingly dangerous radioactive jalopies on line.

Such might have been the fate of Vermont Yankee had it not been for citizen opposition. Opened in the early 1970s, VY was the northern tip of clean energy’s “golden triangle.” Down the Connecticut River, grassroots opposition successfully prevented two reactors from being built at Montague, Massachusetts, where the term “No Nukes” was coined. A weather tower was toppled, films were made, books were written and an upwelling of well-organized grassroots activism helped feed into a rising global movement.

A bit to the southwest, in the early 1990s, it shut the infamous Yankee Rowe reactor, which had been hit by lightening and could not be subjected to a verifiable test of its dangerously embrittled core.

But VY persisted. Entergy, a “McNuke” operator based in New Orleans, bought Yankee from its original owners about a dozen years ago. It signed a complex series of agreements with the state, then brazenly trashed them to keep VY spiraling ever-downwardhoin its fleet of heavily-subsidized decaying reactors.

But hard-core organizers like Deb Katz’s Citizen Awareness Network never let up. Working through a network of stage and local campaigns, the safe energy movement has finally forced Entergy to flip the off switch.

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH and edits His Green Power & Wellness Show is at

A former wide receiver, Harvey Wasserman wrote THE PEOPLE’S SPIRAL OF US HISTORY: FROM JIGONSASEH TO SOLARTOPIA. Most Mondays @ 2-4pm PT, he co-convenes the Green Grassroots Election Protection Zoom (www.electionprotection2024).

DECEMBER 30, 2014
Cops and Ideological Profiling

Cops. I’ve never met one that wasn’t about to crack. Put 10,000 of them together at a copy funeral, you got mass hysteria in uniform, the armed rank and file, a brown shirt show of military force, more than an overt threat to the political leadership, a gun to the head: do what I say, or else….

Cops. Call them St. Patty’s Lynch mob, that deadly combination of Patrick Lynch, PBA, and racism on parade, the triumph of ill-will, of corruption, as the purest expression of the fascist American state.

Cops. Mock the porkers till they squeal like stuck pigs, the only way to stop them from terrorizing you, from torturing you and killing you for stepping out of ideological line, for not kissing their fat asses, for not showing your moral support for their supremacy.

Cops. They’re so fucking bound, so emotionally uptight, they have only one purpose, to control you, so you don’t upset their fragile, homicidal sensibilities, the myth they believe of their heroism, of their centrality in their delusional universe.

Cops. Tip your hat and spit in their wind, resist, disobey as if your freedom depended on it, and it does, the revolution has begun, the oinkers are working for the oligarchs, the Omidyars, not for you, they are the shock troops, watching your computer, studying your habits, ready to administratively detain.

Cops will be the ones to judge, unless you put them in their place.

Doug Valentine is the author of The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs, and The Strength of the Pack: The Personalities, Politics, and Espionage Intrigues that Shaped the DEA.

Douglas Valentine is the author of The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs, and The Strength of the Pack: The Personalities, Politics, and Espionage Intrigues that Shaped the DEA.

DECEMBER 30, 2014

News organizations are the beneficiaries of two basic but unrelated principles: the right to know and the need to know. The first is grounded politically and gives these organizations the license to invade our privacy and conceal sources of defamatory or illegally obtained information. The second is grounded existentially and is related to our survival, and like all evolutionary principles, once it is established it operates blindly and indiscriminately. Therefore, just as all dreams are reflexively distorted in order to protect us (the Freudian censor), whether or not their secrets are potentially harmful to our peace of mind, so the need to know operates in us whether or not a given piece of information is essential to our well-being, and therefore it expresses itself even when nothing is at stake but the satisfaction of our curiosity. This curiosity does not require a correct reading of events to satisfy itself. Any plausible set of facts will do. Curiosity then is very much like hunger: any food will alleviate it. Ironically, this is precisely what enables the news organizations to flourish despite the fact that more often than not their reading of events is anything but correct.

Evolution provides us with the tools of self-preservation. One of the most essential of these tools is our ability to recognize danger, namely the ability to read the environment correctly. Consequently, when matters are in doubt, the ensuing state of uncertainty produces anxiety and unrest as an evolutionary response, driving us, as it were, to clarify matters, whether they are life-threatening or trivial. Unless we are unconnected to the world or to ourselves, we always want to know what we do not know, what ISIS is up to, if it’s going to rain in the afternoon and who is sleeping with whom in Hollywood. And since very little that is labeled “news” has a direct and immediate effect on us, it is, again, really irrelevant what version of events we receive. Any version that is the least bit plausible will serve to establish order, satisfy curiosity, alleviate anxiety, calm the nerves. No one is keeping score. No one holds the pundits accountable for what they said a week ago or a month ago. No one even remembers. Nor does anyone remember who said the latest serial killer was twenty-five years old or who said he was twenty-eight years old, married or unmarried, born in Florida or Mississippi. It doesn’t matter which set of circumstances applies. It is not knowledge that we seek in the news but reassurance.

This is paradoxical of course, since the journalistic profession represents itself as setting great store by getting the facts straight. That is its entire raison d’être. Yet not only do they fail at this, it isn’t even required of them. It is not required because these facts are for the most part irrelevant to our daily concerns, though at the same time facts as such, any facts, are necessary for our peace of mind. Does this call into question the entire value of truth? Certainly it does insofar as journalistic truth is concerned, for when they aren’t entirely irrelevant, journalistic truths are generally shortsighted. They do not reveal social and historical processes, for the simple reason that journalists are not equipped to recognize such processes. They are not historians, scholars or political scientists. They are not writers or thinkers.

What journalists generally do get right are their headlines or news bulletins. Anything beyond this basic recitation of information that is gleaned from official sources, including the weather report and ball scores, quickly degenerates into opinion, speculation, gossip, innuendo and calumny. That is how talk shows and newspaper columns fill their time and space. At the end of the day an extremely distorted picture of the world is obtained, put together by people who rarely understand the languages and consequently the culture, religion, history and politics of the countries they report from and comment on and also lack the perception to understand their own country. For the public, this suffices. Half-digested in any case, it gives ordinary people something to hold on to, a version of reality that does not necessarily correspond to anything but is at least coherent and thus helps them get through the day.

Fred Russell is the author of the novels Rafi’s World and The Links in the Chain.

DECEMBER 30, 2014
Goodbye Privacy, Hello Censorship

Internet privacy and net neutrality would become things of the past if the secret Trade In Services Agreement comes to fruition. And on this one, the secrecy exceeds even that shrouding the two better-known corporate giveaways, the Trans-Pacific and Transatlantic partnerships.

Yet another tentacle in the octopus of multi-national corporations’ attempt to achieve dictatorial control, the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) is intended to eliminate government regulations in the “professional services” such as accounting and engineering but goes well beyond that, proposing sweeping de-regulation of the Internet and the financial industry.

Another snippet of TISA’s text has been leaked, this time by the freedom-of-information organization Associated Whistleblowing Press. Without this leak, and an earlier leak published by WikiLeaks in June 2014, we would know absolutely nothing about TISA and its various annexes. No matter what a negotiating government might claim about it, should one actually deign to discuss it, TISA is not about your right to hire your accountant of choice. Here is Article X.4 on “movement of information”:

“No Party may prevent a service supplier of another Party from transferring, accessing, processing or storing information, including personal information, within or outside the Party’s territory, where such activity is carried out in connection with the conduct of the service supplier’s business.”

What that proposal means is that any regulation safeguarding online privacy would be deemed illegal. (“Party” in the quoted text refers to national governments.) European rules on privacy, much stronger than those found in the United States, for example, would be eliminated. Further, any rule that in any way mandates local content (Article X.2) or provides any advantage to a local technology (Article X.3) would also be illegal. Thus the domination of U.S.-based Internet companies, such as Google or Facebook, would be locked in, along with their vacuuming of your personal data. A French anti-dumping law intended to help bookstores withstand predatory practices by is the type of law likely to come under attack.

What this has to do with the provision of “professional services” is not clear. TISA seems intended to be a catch-all to eliminate regulation and allow multi-national corporations to muscle their way into as many areas as possible unimpeded, and the benign-sounding surface purpose of liberalizing access to foreign engineers may be intended as a wedge to force open all barriers to corporate profiteering.

Taking aim at net neutrality

The text is written in sufficiently ambiguous language that net neutrality seems strongly at risk. A reference to “open networks” contains the caveat that Internet usage is “subject to reasonable network management.” An analysis prepared by Professor Jane Kelsey of the University of Auckland and Burcu Kilic of Public Citizen in Washington says:

“ ‘Reasonable network management’ is code for an exception to ‘net neutrality,’ whereby everything on the Internet is treated the same. There is no guidance on the meaning of ‘reasonable network management.’ The concept has been highly controversial when the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed it in the US. The FCC says it ‘consists of practices which are reasonable,’ which is a vague and circular meaning that could be a rubber stamp for anything the network operator wants to do.” [page 22]

U.S. telecommunications corporations bitterly oppose net neutrality because, under this principle, they can’t speed up or slow down online content according to who pays them, or doesn’t, for special treatment. And any dilution of net neutrality opens the floodgates to censorship of the Internet, whether government or corporate.

The analysis by Professor Kelsey and Dr. Kilic discerns three broad goals of TISA on the part of the U.S. government, which is pushing hardest for it, as it does with other “free trade” agreements:

*To advance the commercial interests of its services industry that supplies services across the border. There would be particular gains to the information telecommunications and technology sector, but would protect U.S. competitive advantage and monopoly rights over intellectual property and technology.

*To serve “a range of ‘national security’ and commercial purposes” by consolidating data repositories to the benefit of the U.S. government, transnational companies and third-party commercial interests.

*To prevent or restrict government regulation that impedes the activities and profits of the major global services industries, and guarantees unrestricted cross-border movement of data.

A letter sent to TISA negotiators by 342 civil society groups based in Europe and elsewhere in 2013 asking that the negotiations be immediately halted, states:

“The proposed TISA is an assault on the public interest as it fails to ensure that foreign investments in service sectors actually promote public goals and sustainable economies. We are particularly wary of further undermining of essential services such as health care and insurance, water and energy provision, postal distribution, education, public transportation, sanitation, and others if they are handed over to private and foreign corporations motivated only by profits and available only to those who can pay market rates.”

Restrictions on the financial industry would be illegal

TISA, as revealed by WikiLeaks in June, also would require signatory governments to allow any corporation that offers a “financial service” — that includes insurance as well as all forms of trading and speculation — to expand operations at will and would prohibit new financial regulations. These offensives are incorporated in TISA’s Financial Services Annex, which would:

*Require countries to change their laws to conform to the annex’s text (Annex Article 3).

*Require countries to “eliminate … or reduce [the] scope” of state enterprises (Article 5).

*Prohibit any “buy local” rules for government agencies (Article 6).

*Prohibit any limitations on foreign financial firms’ activity (articles 7 and 10).

*Prohibit restrictions on the transfer of any data collected, including across borders (articles 8 and 11).

*Prohibit any restrictions on the size or expansion of financial companies and a ban on new regulations (Article 15).

*Require any government that offers financial products through its postal service to lessen the quality of its products so that those are no better than what private corporations offer (Article 22).

The ninth, and most recent, round of TISA negotiations took place on December 1 to 5 in Australia. In a typically bland statement providing no actual information, the Australian government said:

“Good progress was made in advancing the enhanced disciplines (trade rules) for e-commerce and telecommunications, domestic regulation and transparency, financial services, temporary entry of business persons, professional services, maritime and air transport services and delivery services. There was also further discussion of proposals on government procurement, environmental and energy services, and the facilitation of patient mobility. Parties reported on progress in bilateral market access discussions held since the September Round and committed to advance these further in 2015.”

Canberra’s likely overstating of “progress” is nonetheless more than is offered by other governments. The office of the United States Trade Representative, for example, last issued a public update about TISA negotiations in November 2013, and then merely said that the then-latest round of talks “was positive and productive.”

Tightening secrecy of “free trade” agreements

The next round of TISA negotiations are scheduled for Geneva February 9 to 13, 2015. Fifty countries are negotiating TISA, including the 28 countries of the European Union, which are collectively represented by the unelected and unaccountable European Commission. Among other countries are Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Norway and Switzerland. The negotiating countries, with perhaps more transparency than intended, refer to themselves as the “Really Good Friends of Services.” Good friends of working people they are not.

Although any sections detailing enforcement have yet to be leaked, TISA would likely depend on the “investor-state dispute mechanism” generally mandated in “free trade” agreements. Deceptively bland sounding, the mechanism is a secret tribunal to which a “dispute” is sent when a corporation wants a safety or environmental regulation or law changed so as to increase its profits. One of the most frequently used of these tribunals is an arm of the World Bank.

Many of the judges who sit on these tribunals are corporate lawyers who otherwise represent corporations in similar disputes with governments, and there is no appeal to their decisions. These rulings become a benchmark for subsequent disputes, thereby pushing the interpretations further in favor of multi-national capital.

That the Trade In Services Agreement, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), have to be negotiated in total secrecy, with only corporate lobbyists having access to texts or meaningful input, speaks for itself. The empty shell of formal democracy under capitalism gets ever emptier.

Pete Dolack writes the Systemic Disorder blog. He has been an activist with several groups.

Pete Dolack writes the Systemic Disorder blog and has been an activist with several groups. His first book, It’s Not Over: Learning From the Socialist Experiment, is available from Zero Books and his second book, What Do We Need Bosses For?, is forthcoming from Autonomedia.

DECEMBER 30, 2014
Missing Flight SyndromeBY BINOY KAMPMARK

As European flights lay freezing in airports across the capitals, with various de-icing procedures being implemented, the news about missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 began to makes its own way through the various channels. That sent a different sort of chill through discussions about air safety. The flight in question, with its 162 passengers, lost contact with air traffic control after take off on Saturday over the Java Sea heading to Singapore from Surabaya.

It has been a tragic year for air travel, and its promoters. The body count relative to other accidents or incidents in travel is always negligible relative to the actual loss of life in the air, but scale tends to be distorted in the context of the macabre and the spectacular. Adding to that the zest of conspiracy, sweetened by cloudy narratives and apologias behind the demise of a flight, and one is already inhabiting a very different world of reasoning.

The conspicuous, heavily reported loss of the AirAsia airliner craft adds to this troubling ledger, which already weighs heavily with the loss of Malaysian Airlines flights MH370 and MH17, the former a continuing vanishing act whose remains have yet to be found, the latter the victim of a missile over the troubled areas of Ukraine.

The loss has all the hallmarks of commentary that is running out of constructive breath, of speculation that is hugging, rather desperately, some reason as to why 162 people would perish without coherent, let alone obvious reason. The search for some rational explanation seems to be a permanently flawed quest, much of it undertaken in the twenty-four hour news cycle of chatter.

The talking heads, centred around aviation specialists and safety analysts, bubble with speculation even as the search continues. A host of theories always tend to make their noisy march in search of the vain truth, masquerading under the title of “known facts” however disputed those facts may be. The AirAsia airline was likely at the “bottom of the sea”, claims the latest confetti line from cable television networks and self-designated official channels.

Then there is that of the troubled pilot, an almost caricature-like beast and product of undergraduate psychology who manifests power at the cockpit and afflicts an act of lethal madness. The account from AirAsia is somewhat milder: the pilot in question had requested a “deviation” in response to bad weather, wishing to take the aircraft to a higher altitude.

Experience and skills are also thrown into the analysis, if one can call it that. Again, it is the pilot who fronts the criticism, and brings a rather pointed accusation of prevalent incompetence in the Southeast Asian aviation industry. This is notwithstanding the remarks by AirAsia that the pilot was more than experienced, an observation that is casually dismissed by some critics.

Joshua Kurlantzick of Bloomberg Business (Dec 29) theorises that the pummelling to the region’s aviation industry was occasioned by its approach to the embrace of “low-cost carriers, leading to a proliferation of flights throughout Southeast Asia, stretching air traffic controllers, and possibly allowing some airlines to expand too rapidly.”

The conclusion to be drawn by Kurlantzick here is that safety regulations have been weakened even as the demand for pilots and personnel has increased. While he concedes that AirAsia’s safety record till now have actually been near faultless, he takes note of specific pilot behaviour, a view that doesn’t shy away from a good lashing of innuendo.

Experience was what tickled his interest regarding the AirAsia pilot, who had 6,000 hours of flight experience on the Airbus he was flying. But did he have experience in flying at 34,000 feet or higher? Then there were three pilots from the Indonesian charrier Lion Air – an unconnected matter, you would think – that the author proceeds to link by association. They were arrested for the use of methamphetamine use, something not entirely unusual for those working long shifts.

Not that this suggests a good deal of imperiousness on the part of commentators who see superior, experienced staff in the airline companies of Europe and the Middle East. After all, pilots of other nationalities are not infrequent in the new budget airlines, and the missing AirAsia plane did have a French co-pilot, Rémi-Emmanuel Plesel. What the Wall Street Journal (Dec 29) poses is a problem rather than a flaw in the argument. Diversity does not defeat the argument on inexperience and skill, but instead suggests “a big management challenge”. Innuendo again takes flight as truth puts its boots on.

Naturally, this necessitates the hunt for the holy grail – the black box, which has become something of a mystical solution. (Little is said about the fact that a black box is only ever as useful as what is said on it, and unlocking its code is not necessarily a solution to anything.)

Then come the head numbing statistics about dramatic changes of course, dizzying fall in altitude, and such other disruptions, including faulty wiring. “Let’s break this down for you…” poses the resident CNN weatherman, who merely proceeds to lard a table already heavy with presumptions. This is where plausible officialdom retreats before salaried speculators on the fate of doomed passengers.

Turbulence is usually treated as a red herring, a child hood presumption that a plane will be knocked out of the sky by a bolt from Thor. Weather alone is not deemed sufficient to direct the plane to an imminent doom, though in such cases, the lines between mythological surmising and supposed scientific speculation seem on common ground.

This is evident in Alex Davies’ account in Wired (Dec 29), which notes that, for all the strengths standard aircraft have against weather challenges, the old terror of the “thunderstorm” is still to be taken seriously. “About 60 people in the US are injured by turbulence annually, according to the FAA, and three people died between 1980 and 2008.”

The disappearance of yet another airline has also provided ample, excruciating aviation speak, including that of such boisterous types as Richard Quest of CNN fame, whose observations act like a prophylactic against cognition.

The accounting types have also found themselves busy this year. Flight companies risk going bankrupt, with a run being made on their stocks. There are plummeting shares and profits. The insurance companies move into less than enthusiastic gear.

What such events seem to reveal is that, even as the state of technology in human life emphasises increased connectedness and identification, spectacular incidents of disappearance can still happen. The contemporary age does nothing to upset the historical trend associated with grand and supposedly mysterious disappearances. We are linked in an unprecedented way, but we are still unable to locate crash sites in open oceans. The missing flight syndrome is bound to continue in the new year.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was as Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email:

DECEMBER 30, 2014
The CIA’s Torture Program Breeds Hate

The recent report issued by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence disclosing the sophisticated torturing methods used by the CIA against the terrorism suspects has stirred widespread debate across the world on the permissibility of using such torture techniques against prisoners of war.

An American historian and political commentator says the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program which oversaw the torturing of tens of prisoners in the overseas jails of the US government, including the Guantanamo bay detention facility, the Bagram air base in Afghanistan and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has not only failed to address the United States’ national security concerns, but has turned “much of the world against America.”

According to Prof. Norman Pollack, the United States used the soil of third countries to set up its jails and detention facilities there in order to escape accountability before the international law.

Prof. Pollack tells Fars News Agency that such methods as waterboarding, rectal feeding, sleep deprivation and chaining to wall that were used by the CIA agents and operatives against the terrorism suspects are utterly illegal and “represent the full negation of human rights.”

Norman Pollack is a professor of history emeritus at the Michigan State University. He got his Ph.D. from the Harvard University in 1961 and has been a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Pollack regularly writes commentaries and essays for the CounterPunch newsletter. His book “The Populist Response to Industrial America” was published in 1962 by the Harvard University Press.

Prof. Norman Pollack talked to FNA about the recent Torture Report and its repercussions for the United States intelligence apparatus and how this scandal has embarrassed President Obama internationally. The following is the text of the interview.

Kourosh Ziabari: Do you think that the CIA officials deceived the Bush and Obama administrations regarding the efficacy of the torture methods used against the terrorism suspects held in the overseas US-run prisons, referred to as the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques? Have the CIA operatives really been able to elicit useful information from the inmates through resorting to the complicated torture methods detailed in the SSCI’s recent report? Has the torture program contributed to the solidification of US national security?

Norman Pollack: The antecedent question, not did the CIA deceive these administrations about the efficacy of EITs, but, as the Senate Report claims, were the administrations even aware of the programs? The Senate Report is seeking to give Obama deniability—i.e., that he was kept in the dark—lest he be held accountable for war crimes. I am in no position to judge whether EITs yielded relevant information. But on solidification of security, no; if anything, torture has turned much of the world against America, and has created the basis for the rise of militant groups and the desire for retribution.

KZ: There have been different reports regarding the outsourcing of the CIA’s “interrogation programs” and that about 85% of the interrogation teams consisted of private contractors, not the CIA employees. Does it mean that the CIA operatives refused to take part in torturing the inmates at Guantanamo bay detention facility, Parwan Prison at the Bagram air base and other US jails?

NP: First, I don’t accept the 85% figure; in addition to CIA, there were US service personnel, e.g., Bagram, as well as foreign nationals at the black sites [in] Poland, Thailand, etc. Outsourcing, of course was to shield US individuals from prosecution for war crimes, but outsourcing [was] also for giving vent to sadism. My sense is that once black sites are involved, Americans were perfectly willing torturers, their identities protected.

KZ: Had the torture methods used against the 119 individuals detained by CIA following the invasion of Afghanistan been authorized by the Bush administration and the Justice Department? Was George W. Bush personally aware of the fact that the terrorism suspects were subject to the most humiliating and degrading types of torture and persecution?

NP: I have no specific knowledge about how much Bush knew, but it is clear [that] the Office of Legal Counsel, especially under John Yoo, crafted legal opinions which were then taken as authorizations drawn in such a way as to keep pace with the tortures. In turn, these memos served as rationalization and legitimation for the practices. The Eichmann Syndrome, we were only following orders.

KZ: What’s your viewpoint regarding the complicity of some 50 nations with the United States in its extraordinary rendition program? It’s said that countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Thailand, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Romania, Finland and Poland allowed the CIA to abduct, secretly imprison and torture terrorism suspects in their soil. Most of these countries have resisted accountability and refused to comment on their cooperation with CIA. What do you think about that?

NP: Complicity is the operative term. The US has a vast web of political, economic and military penetration, both through the establishment of bases and the granting of military aid, to the countries named—and a good deal more. The purpose of rendition, the prison system, etc., on foreign soil is to discourage and deny accountability. Why else black sites? Accountability should by rights lead directly to The Hague and the International Criminal Court. Essentially, this whole aspect of the counterterrorism effort is that it is a covert operation.

KZ: Jose Rodriguez, the former director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service and the officer who was in charge of running the torture and abuse program has recently argued that the interrogation techniques were quite legal and effective. We’ve already talked about their effectiveness. What about their legality? Are there certain legal gaps in the US statutory laws that permit the intelligence apparatus to use coercive means of torturing against the inmates held on political and security charges?

NP: I am not a lawyer, and therefore not versed on US statutory laws, but the whole point of covert action, torture, drone assassination, is to be able to practice with impunity what are viewed as imperative means of creating and operating The National Security State. We don’t need Kafka to recognize that Law is readily perverted in a totalitarian state. To address these activities, one must start with the nature of the society itself. In a democracy, statutory law sanctioning these known practices would be nullified and the practices themselves exposed, perpetrators tried and imprisoned, and the general public properly angered and disgusted.

KZ: Have the policies adopted by the Bush administration following the 9/11 attacks, including the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program and monitoring the phone calls and email conversations of the American citizens, the enforcement of the USA PATRIOT Act and unwarranted searches and seizures been consistent with the principles of the US Constitution? Don’t such practices undermine democracy and civil liberties in the American society?

NP: The questions answer themselves. These practices are abhorrent to constitutionalism. By themselves, the individual is stripped of privacy and identity, exactly the human condition on which totalitarianism thrives. Democracy and civil liberties are misnomers under condition of massive surveillance. That NSA has been given such wide latitude, including eavesdropping on foreign leaders, all pretence at guidance or enforcement by the FISA court a sick joke, speaks to the repressive nature of state and society.

KZ: Which officials have been complicit in the wrongdoings that paved the way for the illegal invasion of Iraq and the intensified US military presence in the Middle East, contributed to the withholding of the documents that showed Saddam Hussein didn’t possess Weapons of Mass Destruction and embroiled the US government into a horrific program of prosecuting terrorism suspects across the world and torturing them using the most complicated and brutal methods?

NP: My take is quite different. Specific individuals—members of national security staffs, leaders of the military and intelligence communities, public intellectuals and think-tank members of Neo-con persuasion, and the list goes on, to Congress, major industrial, financial, commercial leaders, Treasury and other Cabinet officials, the president himself—names, in most cases, with whom I am unfamiliar, all have a significant role to play, but more important, one starts with the historical development of public policy, the actual record of intervention, the clear delineation of US foreign-policy goals, a total context within which all that is mentioned, Middle East, Iraq, WMD, counterterrorism measures, could not otherwise arise. Policy, however irrational as measured by democratic-humanistic standards, is consecutive, integrative and systematic, perfectly in order from a society bent on unilateral global hegemony, including the expansion of its political economy. The names mentioned are implementing a course whose boundaries have been in progress for decades, predicated on, among other things, the ideology and political economy of the society. But yes, individuals do count, primarily those at the highest levels of government and business, themselves holding policies, views, goals defining a common core.

KZ: With the disclosure of the Senate’s Torture Report which shows the terrorism suspects held by the CIA in Afghanistan , Iraq, Cuba and other countries were treated in the most denigrating and humiliating ways, it seems that the United States has lost its moral standing for criticizing other countries for their alleged violation of human rights, because these torture methods, including waterboarding, rectal feeding, sexual harassment, sleep deprivation and psychological persecution explicitly represent the most cruel violations of the human rights one may think of. Do you agree?

NP: Yes, emphatically, [they are] practices which represent the full negation of human rights. The question is, why such depravity of conduct? Here one enters a cold realm of psychopathology, not just the torturer, but societal leadership indifferent to, if not perversely wanting to destroy, human rights—and for clues one must go to the foundations of the society. What factors engender moral emptiness? What promotes the desire to hurt, injure, even kill? Rather than try for an explanation, I would emphasize the abnormality, yes, evil, itself. A society must be judged by how it treats its human beings and all others with which it comes in contact. And as part of that evaluation of society, one must not neglect its institutional features: culture, law, political economy, etc. Too, one must take such cases, e.g., waterboarding, and demand prosecution and punishment, no matter how high up the ladder—and in these cases labeled as war crimes committed by war criminals.

Kourosh Ziabari is an independent journalist from Iran.

Kourosh Ziabari is an independent journalist from Iran.

DECEMBER 30, 2014
10 Good Things About the Year 2014

It’s been a year of fervent activism on police accountability, living wages, climate change, personal freedoms, immigrant rights, an open internet and diplomacy over war. The electoral beating the Democrats received has prompted both the Administration and some spineless congresspeople to realize that support for progressive issues could reinvigorate their base —a realization that has already led to Obama’s executive action on immigration and the opening to Cuba.

So here are some of the 2014 highlights.

1. Uprising for police accountability. The movement for police accountability has swept the nation, spawning brilliant new leaders from communities most affected, giving a voice to the families who have lost loved ones and opening people’s eyes to the militarization of our police forces. It is an organic, grassroots movement destined to have a transformative impact on the struggle for racial equality. Keep an eye out in 2015 for CODEPINK’s campaign to demilitarize the police, Communities Organize to Demilitarize Enforcement.

2. Historic opening with Cuba. President Obama’s announcement that the US would work to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in over 50 years was historic. It including a prisoner swap that led to the release of the final three members of the “Cuban 5”—a group unjustly imprisoned for trying to stop terrorist acts against Cuba. And it marks the end of Cuba policy being dominated by a small cabal of right-wing Cuban Americans. (CODEPINK is taking a delegation to Cuba for Valentines Day, learn more about it at

3. Progress in talks with Iran. Iran and the six world powers announced they would extend an interim nuclear deal seven more months, and gave themselves four more months to reach a political agreement for a comprehensive nuclear accord. Despite intense opposition from the Israel lobby group AIPAC, as well as Republican and Democratic hawks, the U.S. and Iran are closer than ever to securing a historic agreement. It is a rare and commendable example of the Obama administration engaging in Middle East diplomacy instead of militarism.

4. Triumph of the fractivists. Out of a year of environmental progress ranging from the People’s Climate March to the US-China bilateral agreement on climate change, one of the most monumental victories has been in the anti-fracking movement. The New York State ban on fracking imposed by Governor Cuomo followed a long campaign waged by tireless grassroots activists. But that wasn’t the only victory. Voters in eight locales from Mendocino County, California to Athens, Ohio to Denton, Texas, won fracking bans on the ballot in the 2014 election. So did Canadian citizens in Quebec and New Brunswick. These victories have spawned a national conversation on fracking, with public support for the practice plummeting.

5. New gains for legalizing marijuana. With the majority of the country now supporting legalization, and Colorado and Washington proving that it actually works, new gains were achieved at the ballot box in Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. World leaders like former UN head Kofi Annan and presidents from Latin America called for an end to the drug war and for legally regulating drugs. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder continued to speak out against racist mandatory minimum drug laws and mass incarceration, while President Obama made national news declaring that marijuana is not more harmful than alcohol.

6. Massive wins for gay marriage. In decision after decision, courts in 18 states struck down gay marriage bans. It is now legal for gay couples to marry in 35 of the 50 states. A year ago, only about a third of Americans lived in states that permitted same-sex marriage. Today, nearly 65 percent of Americans do, making 2014 perhaps the biggest turning point in the history of same-sex marriage in the United States.

7. Raises for minimum wage workers. From ballot initiatives and grassroots organizing to major legislative efforts, campaigns to raise the minimum wage gained momentum across the country. Voters, cities and statehouses passedminimum wage increases. The states included Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, New Jersey and South Dakota; cities included San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Louisville and Portland,OR. And the calls for raises came from workers themselves: Black Friday saw the largest strikes ever against Walmart, with pickets and strikes at 1,600 stores in 49 states. And on December 5, fast-food workers went on strike in 190 cities. Congress might not be able to push through national legislation, but workers and local communities are not waiting!

8. Reform of immigration policy. In November, President Obama signed an executive order stopping five million people from being deported and allowing many to work legally. While it does not offer a pathway to citizenship, it does provide relief for millions of immigrants. And it was only possible because of the sophisticated organizing and sacrifices made by so many activists in the immigrant community.

9. Release of the torture report. For years, human rights advocates have been pushing for the release of the 6,000-page torture report compiled by the Senate Intelligence Committee–against vehement opposition from the CIA. The full report remains classified, and the 600-page executive summary was redacted by the CIA itself. The public deserves to see the entire report, but the fact that any of it was released is also a tribute to Senator Dianne Feinstein and her colleagues. It marks the beginning of our nation coming to grips with this sordid page of our history. The next chapter should include accountability–bringing to justice all those who authorized and participated in these shameful acts.

10. Palestine solidarity becomes mainstream. 2014 was horrific for Palestinians, with the Israeli war against the Gaza killing nearly 2,200, mostly civilians. But the invasion spawned unprecedented international solidarity with Palestine and huge steps forward for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS won the support of Christian congregations including the Presbyterian Church USA and academic groups like the American Studies Association. Activists shut down ports in California to stop the unloading of Israeli ships; they forced SodaStream to close its settlement-based factory, and the online shopping site GILT dropped AHAVA cosmetics, made in an illegal Israeli settlement in Palestine. In Europe, the movement has been hugely successful with country after country voting to recognize Palestine as a state and the European court ruling to remove Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations. Keep an eye out in 2015 for CODEPINK’s new campaign, No Open House on Stolen Land, targeting RE/MAX real estate company for selling illegal Israeli settlement homes.


The 2014 low electoral turnout and the Democratic defeat revealed how unenthused the public is about national politics. But it also revealed the popularity of progressive ballot measures. And the campaign pushing Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to run for President is putting populist economic issues into the national limelight and already influencing the positions of likely presidential contender Hillary Clinton. With this framework and the new energy infused into social justice and environmental activism, the progressive movement is poised to make significant gains in 2015.

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights organizations Global Exchange. She is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human right organization Global Exchange. Follow her on twitter at @MedeaBenjamin.

DECEMBER 30, 2014
Who Was Behind the Cyberattack on Sony?

The cyberattack on Sony Pictures unleashed a torrent of alarmist media reports, evoking the image of North Korean perfidy. Within a month, the FBI issued a statement declaring the North Korean government “responsible for these actions.” Amid the media frenzy, several senators and congresspersons called for tough action. Arizona Senator John McCain blustered, “It’s a new form of warfare that we’re involved in, and we need to react and react vigorously.” President Barack Obama announced his administration planned to review the possibility of placing North Korea on the list of states sponsoring terrorism, a move that would further tighten the already harsh sanctions on North Korea. “They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond,” Obama warned darkly. “We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.”

In the rush to judgment, few were asking for evidence, and none was provided. Computer security analysts, however, were vocal in their skepticism.

In its statement, the FBI offered only a few comments to back its attribution of North Korean responsibility. “Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in the attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed,” it reported, including “similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.” The FBI went on to mention that the IP addresses used in the Sony hack were associated with “known North Korean infrastructure.” Tools used in the attack “have similarities to a cyberattack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.”

The major problem with the evidence offered by the FBI is that it is self-referential, all of it pointing back to the 2013 attack on South Korean banks and media that was carried out by the DarkSeoul gang. At that time, without supplying any supporting evidence, the United States accused North Korea of being behind DarkSeoul. In effect, the FBI argues that because the U.S. spread the rumor of North Korean involvement in the earlier attack, and some of the code is related, this proves that North Korea is also responsible for the Sony hack. One rumor points to another rumor as ‘proof,’ rendering the argument meaningless.

The logical fallacies are many. To date, no investigation has uncovered the identity of DarkSeoul, and nothing is known about the group. The linking of DarkSeoul to North Korea is purely speculative. “One point that can’t be said enough,” emphasizes Risk Based Security, “is that ‘attribution is hard’ given the nature of computer intrusions and how hard it is to ultimately trace an attack back to a given individual or group. Past attacks on Sony have not been solved, even years later. The idea that a mere two weeks into the investigation and there is positive attribution, enough to call this an act of war, seems dangerous and questionable.”

Consider some of the other flaws in the FBI’s statement. The IP addresses that were hard-coded in the malware used in the Sony hack belonged to servers located in Thailand, Poland, Italy, Bolivia, Singapore, Cypress, and the United States. The FBI implies that only the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – the formal name for North Korea) could have used these servers. The Thai port is a proxy that is commonly used in sending spam and malware. The same is true of the Polish and Italian servers. All of the servers used in the Sony attack have been previously compromised and are among the many computers that are widely known and used by hackers and spam distributors. Anyone with the knowhow can use them.

Whether or not these machines were used is another matter. Hackers often use proxy machines with phony IP addresses to mislead investigators. No hackers use their own computers to launch an attack. Vulnerable systems are hijacked in order to route traffic. For the FBI to point to IP addresses either reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of cybersecurity or a cynical attempt to deliberately mislead the public.

The Sony hack also bears similarities with the 2012 Shamoon cyberattack on computers belonging to Saudi Aramco. Those responsible for that attack have never been identified either, although the United States accused Iran without providing any evidence. Using the FBI’s logic, one could just as easily argue that the Sony hack was the work of Iran. One groundless accusation is used to buttress another. As evidentiary matter, it is worthless. It should also be recalled that in 1998, the United States blamed Iraq for the Solar Sunrise hack into Defense Department computers, only for it be ultimately revealed that it was the act of a few teenagers.

Nor do the similarities in code between the Sony hack and the earlier Shamoon and DarkSeoul attacks indicate a shared responsibility. Malware is freely available on the black market. Hackers operate by purchasing or borrowing, and then tweaking commonly available software, including both illegal and legal components. Code is shared among hackers on forums, and malware is assembled by linking various elements together.

One of the components used in the Sony cyberattack was the RawDisk library from EldoS, a commercial application that allows direct access to Windows hardware bypassing security. Anyone can legally purchase this software. There is nothing to tie it to the DPRK.

“There’s a lot of malware that’s shared between different groups, and all malware is built on top of older malware,” reports Brian Martin of Risk Based Security. “They’re also built on top of hacking tools. For example, you’ll find lots of malware that uses pieces of code from popular tools like Nmap. Does that mean that the guy who wrote Nmap is a malware author? No. Does it mean he works for North Korea? No.”

Robert Graham of Errata Security regards the evidence offered by the FBI as “complete nonsense. It sounds like they’ve decided on a conclusion and are trying to make the evidence fit.” Graham adds: “There is nothing unique in the software. We know that hackers share malware on forums. Every hacker in the world has all the source code available.”

Trojan-Destover, the malware used in the Sony cyberattack, included at least six components utilized earlier by Shamoon and DarkSeoul. “Even in such damaging scenarios, the cyber attacker’s tools are reused,” points out Sariel Moshe of CyActive. “For them, if it worked once, tweak it a bit and it will work again. The attack on Sony demonstrates quite clearly that this method works quite well.” Indeed, while Shamoon and DarkSeoul are the most commonly mentioned predecessors to the Sony hack, it is thought that this software has been used on several occasions in the past against multiple targets.

The software utilized in the Sony cyberattack is atypical for a nation state. “It’s a night and day difference in quality,” says Craig Williams of Cisco’s Talos Security Intelligence and Research Group. “The code is simplistic, not very complex, and not very obfuscated.”

Four files used in the attack were compiled on a machine set to the Korean language. That fact proves nothing, notes computer security analyst Chris Davis. “That is pretty weak evidence. I could compile malware code that used Afrikaans and where the timestamp matched JoBerg in about five seconds.” Any reasonably competent hacker would change the language setting in order to misdirect investigators. Had North Korean conducted this attack, it certainly would have taken the basic step of changing the language setting on the machine used to compile code.

What about North Korean resentment over Sony Picture’s tasteless lowbrow comedy, The Interview, which portrays the assassination of DPRK leader Kim Jong-un? It is doubtful that Americans would find themselves any more amused by a foreign comedy on the subject of killing a U.S. president than the North Koreans are by The Interview.

Among the emails leaked by the cyberattack on Sony was a message from Bruce Bennett of the Rand Corporation. Bennett was a consultant on the film and opposed toning down the film’s ending. “I have been clear that the assassination of Kim Jong-un is the most likely path to a collapse of the North Korean government,” he wrote, adding that DVD leaks of the film into North Korea “will start some real thinking.” In another message, Sony CEO Michael Lynton responded: “Bruce – Spoke to someone very senior in State (confidentially). He agreed with everything you have been saying. Everything.” Lynton was also communicating with Robert King, U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues in regard to the film.

The Western media portray North Korean reaction to The Interview as overly sensitive and irrational, while U.S. officials and a Rand Corporation consultant saw the film as having the potential to inspire the real-life assassination of Kim Jong-un. The scene of Kim’s assassination was not intended merely for so-called ‘entertainment.’

The mass media raced to attribute the Sony hack to the DPRK, based on its reaction to the Sony film. A closer look at the cyberattack reveals a more likely culprit, however. The group taking responsibility for the hack calls itself ‘Guardians of Peace’, and in one of the malware files the alternate name of ‘God’sApstls’ is also used. In the initial attack, no reference was made to the film, nor was it mentioned in subsequent emails the attackers sent to Sony. Instead, the hackers attempted to extort money: “Monetary compensation we want. Pay the damage, or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as whole.”

In an interview with CSO Online, a person represented as belonging to Guardians of Peace said the group is “an international organization…not under the direction of any state,” and included members from several nations. “Our aim is not at the film The Interview as Sony Pictures suggests,” the hacker wrote, but mentioned that the release of a film that had the potential of threatening peace was an example of the “greed of Sony Pictures.”

For two weeks following the cyberattack, the media harped on the subject of North Korean culpability. Only after that point did the Guardians of Peace (GOP) make its first public reference to The Interview, denying any connection with the DPRK. Yet another week passed before the GOP denounced the movie and threatened to attack theaters showing the film.

It appears that the narrative of North Korean involvement repeated ad nauseam by the media and the U.S. government presented a gift to the hackers too tempting to pass up. The GOP played to the dominant theme and succeeded in solidifying the tendency to blame the DPRK, with the effect of ensuring that no investigation would pursue the group.

For its part, the Obama Administration chose to seize the opportunity to bolster its anti-North Korea policy in preference over tracking down the culprits.

There are strong indications that the cyberattack involved one or more disgruntled Sony employees or ex-employees, probably working together with experienced hackers. The malware used against Sony had been modified to include hard-coded file paths and server names. System administrator user names and passwords were also hard-coded. Only someone having full access with system administrator privileges to Sony’s computer network could have obtained this information.

The GOP could have hacked into the Sony system months beforehand in order to gather that data. But it is more likely that someone with knowledge of Sony’s network configuration provided the information. Arguing against the possibility that critical information had been siphoned beforehand through a hack, cybersecurity expert Hemanshu Nigam observes, “If terabytes of data left the Sony networks, their network detection systems would have noticed easily. It would also take months for a hacker to figure out the topography of the Sony networks to know where critical assets are stored and to have access to the decryption keys needed to open up the screeners that have been leaked.”

The most likely motivation for the attack was revenge on the part of current or former Sony employees. “My money is on a disgruntled (possibly ex) employee of Sony,” Marc Rogers of CloudFlare wrote. “Whoever did this is in it for the revenge. The info and access they had could have easily been used to cash out, yet, instead, they are making every effort to burn Sony down. Just think what they could have done with passwords to all of Sony’s financial accounts.”

Nation states never conduct such noisy hacking operations. Their goal is to quietly infiltrate a system and obtain information without detection. Sony had no data that would have been of interest to a nation state. Computer security blogger The Grugq wrote, “I can’t see the DPRK putting this sort of valuable resource onto what is essentially a petty attack against a company that has no strategic value.”

It would have been reckless for a North Korean team to draw attention to itself. Cybersecurity specialist Chris Davis says, “All the activity that was reported screams Script Kiddie to me. Not advanced state-sponsored attack.” Davis adds, “Well, the stupid skeleton pic they splashed on all the screens on the workstations inside Sony…is not something a state-sponsored attack would do…Would ANY self-respecting state-sponsored actor use something as dumb as that?” The consensus among cybersecurity experts is clear, Davis argues. “The prevalent theory I am seeing in the closed security mailing lists is an internet group of laid off Sony employees.”

Following his cybersecurity firm’s investigation, Kurt Stammberger of Norse echoes that view. “Sony was not just hacked. This is a company that was essentially nuked from the inside. We are very confident that this was not an attack master-minded by North Korea and that insiders were key to the implementation of one of the most devastating attacks in history.”

“What is striking here is how well they knew to exploit Sony’s vulnerabilities,” reports Nimrod Kozlovski of JVP Labs. “The malware itself is not creative or new; there are plenty of actors that could have manifested this particular attack.” The hackers “knew more about the company, Sony, and its vulnerabilities than they knew, or needed to know, about hacking.”

As an indication of the hacker’s real motivation, it should be noted that the first communications focused on a different issue than the Sony film. The content of an email sent by the GOP to the IDG News Service refers to Sony’s restructuring, in which thousands of employees lost their jobs: “Sony and Sony Pictures have made terrible racial discrimination and human rights violation, indiscriminate tyranny and restructuring in recent years. It has brought damage to a lot of people, some of whom are among us. Nowadays, Sony Pictures is about to prey on the weak with a plan of another indiscriminate restructuring for their own benefits. This became a decisive motive for our action.” In an email to The Verge, the GOP wrote, “We want equality. Sony doesn’t…We worked with other staff with similar interests to get in.”

Seeking to diffuse tensions, North Korea proposed to conduct a joint investigation with the United States into the Sony cyberattack. Predictably, the United States quickly rebuffed the offer. National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh arrogantly responded, “If the North Korean government wants to help, they can admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages this attack caused.” North Korea can hardly be expected to accept blame for an act it did not commit. But getting to the truth of the matter was the farthest thing from the Obama Administration’s mind. Similarly, U.S. officials are ignoring requests from cybersecurity experts to be allowed to analyze the Destover code. “They’re worried we’ll prove them wrong,” Robert Graham concludes.

The Obama Administration’s outrage over the Sony attack contains more than a small measure of hypocrisy. It was the United States that launched the Stuxnet attack that destroyed many of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges. According to a Washington Post article published in 2013, the United States conducted 231 cyber operations throughout the world two years before. The National Security Agency, as is now well known, regularly hacks into computer networks, scooping up vast amounts of data. The GENIE program, the Post reported, was projected to have broken into and installed implants in 85,000 computers by the end of 2013. It was reported that GENIE’s next phase would implement an automated system that could install “potentially millions of implants” for gathering data “and active attack.” According to former deputy of defense secretary William J. Lynn III, “The policy debate has moved so that offensive options are more prominent now.”

Contrast the mild treatment the media gave to the recent large-scale hacks into Target, Home Depot and JP Morgan, in which millions of credit cards and personal information were stolen, with the coverage of the cyberattack on Sony Pictures. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that political considerations are driving the media furor over the latter case.

After six years in office, the Obama Administration has yet to engage in dialogue or diplomacy with North Korea. It prefers to maintain a wall of hostility, blocking any prospect of progress or understanding between the two nations.

Already, North Korean websites have been targeted by persistent denial of service operations. Whether the attacks were launched by a U.S. government cyber team or independent hackers inspired by media reports is not known. In any case, President Obama has already promised to take unspecified action against the DPRK. Actual responsibility for the Sony attack is irrelevant. Backed by media cheerleading, U.S officials are using the cyberattack as a pretext to ratchet up pressure on North Korea. Any action the Obama Administration takes is likely to trigger a response, and we could enter a dangerous feedback loop of action/counteraction.

Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and the Advisory Board of the Korea Policy Institute. He is a member of the Committee to Defend Democracy in South Korea and a columnist for Voice of the People. He is also one of the co-authors of Killing Democracy: CIA and Pentagon Operations in the Post-Soviet Period, published in the Russian language.

Gregory Elich is a Korea Policy Institute associate and on the board of directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute. He is a contributor to the collection, Sanctions as War: Anti-Imperialist Perspectives on American Geo-Economic Strategy (Haymarket Books, 2023). His website is Follow him on Twitter at @GregoryElich.

DECEMBER 30, 2014
Cuba at the CrossroadsBY HORACE G. CAMPBELL

When the Cuban revolutionaries took power on January 1, 1959, the political leaders of the United States were initially ambivalent towards the Castro leadership but after the leadership nationalized foreign capital and set about major land reforms for the majority of the population there was total opposition to the Cuban Revolution. The US government launched political, psychological, economic and military warfare against Cuba and vowed to remove the leader – Fidel Castro. As documented in the book, The Brothers by Stephen Kinzer, on March 17, 1960 less than four months after the revolutionaries had come to power, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Allen Dulles presented “A Program of Covert Action Against The Castro Regime” to the US National Security Council. “It proposed a multi-stage operation to bring about the replacement of the Castro regime with one more devoted to the interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the US, in such a manner as to avoid any appearance of US intervention…. The CiA would build a covert network inside Cuba, saturate the island with anti-Castro propaganda, infiltrate small teams of guerilla fighters, use them to set off domestic uprising, and provide a ‘responsible, appealing, and unified‘ new regime.”

This plot to remove the Cuban leadership went through many different phases and there was confidence that the strong colossal power 90 miles north of Cuba could topple this revolution. This confidence came from their successes in removing other governments who they claimed were communists. In 1953, the United States government in alliance with oil companies had removed Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh as Prime Minister of Iran. He had been an incorruptible leader who wanted to use the oil resources to transform the country to uplift the standard of living of the people. The next year in 1954, the CIA staged a revolt against President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala. His crime was that he wanted to redistribute the large landowners to sell the uncultivated part of their holdings to the government for distribution to destitute peasant families. This same United States government had in 1960 allied with the Belgian colonialists to kill the Prime Minister of the Congo Patrice Lumumba, who wanted self-determination for his country.

It was this spirit of intervention that guided the US policies toward Cuba for 55 years.

This effort has failed.

On Wednesday December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced his intention to normalize diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. For the first time in more than half a century, the United States will have an embassy in Havana. This is a tremendous victory for the Cuban Revolution, for those who want world peace and for those who have been in the trenches struggling for a new social order. This victory of the Cuban Revolution can be added to the other great feats of the struggles against exploitation and racism such as the Cuban support for socialism in the Americas and its role in the victories against imperialism in Angola in 1975 and at Cuito Cuanavale in 1988. Not only did the Cubans make tremendous sacrifice in that important struggle in Southern Africa but for the past fifty years the Cuban leadership has been in the forefront of the fight for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) and has provided the necessary leadership in the G77. This victory now requires a new strategy to guard against new forms of subversion and ensure the kind of vision that will support the consolidation of the gains of the Cuban experiment. The consolidation of the opening can give courage to the fighters for independence in Puerto Rico, Martinique and the other 20 colonial territories in the Caribbean. More significantly, this victory will have a demonstration effect all over the world that it is possible to stand up to the Barons of Empire and win. Will the progressive forces internationally learn this lesson?

Consolidating the social composition of the alternative order

For the past 55 years, the existence of the Cuban Revolution was a symbol of the struggles against imperialism. Of the revolutionary breakthroughs in the western hemisphere – United States in 1776, Haiti in 1804 and Cuba in 1959 – it is the Cuban Revolution that has been the most tenacious in persitently advancing claims for human emancipation. The liberals of the 1776 revolution in US soon exposed their genocidal traits in the extermination of the indigenous peoples and the brutal enslavement of Africans. It was the revolutionary C.L. R. James who, in reflecting on the spurts, leaps, and catastrophes associated with revolutionary change in the Caribbean, saw a clear linkage in the search for freedom from Toussaint L’Ouverture to Fidel Castro. At the dawn of the Cuban process James had noted that “what took place in French San Domingo in 1792–1804 reappeared in Cuba in 1958.”

While the imperial forces had worked hard over 200 years to roll back the Haitian Revolution, the success of imperialism in supporting counter revolution had depended on the fact that the Haitian revolution did not have the space to consolidate the
r evolution

 Despite the fact that the Haitians had supported Simon Bolivar and the independence struggles in Central America and South America, the growth of racism and chauvinism divided the working poor of the Americas so that the Haitian repressive forces were always in collaboration with the racists and capitalists of the Americas.

The victory of the Cuban process in 1959 brought with it the lessons of Haiti with the added vigilance of social forces who grasped the need to build strong bases among the people. Younger readers of this piece will need to re-acquaint themselves with the tremendous breakthroughs made by the Cubans in their efforts to build a new system. These efforts took on greater significance after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. At the time of the Revolution in 1959, the Cuban leaders changed the property relations and nationalized the assets of the foreign capitalists and the big land owners.

These forms of expropriation of the top oligarchy of the Cuban society were supported because by 1961, the leadership of the revolution had declared for socialism. In the following year the USA instituted an economic embargo against Cuba. It was this political climate that forced the alternative paths for the Cuban experiment and the leadership worked hard to deliver social services for the people. The impressive gains in the areas of the delivery of social services such as health care and education ensured that the social content of the alternative was acknowledged by international organizations such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). These transformations of education and health services have been associated with the kind of popular leadership that can mobilize a society for defensive purposes. It was in the society’s defense against natural disasters such as hurricanes where the full importance of the committees for the defense of the revolution emerged. These committees were associated with organizations of workers, students, women, cultural artists, writers, and small-scale agricultural workers. Pitted against these social elements were the expropriated Cuban elements who had retreated to Florida and parts of Latin America and who for fifty years worked with the CIA to undermine the Cuban experiment. In the Caribbean there were many instances of this counter revolutionary activity and the downing of the Cubana airliner over Barbados in 1976, killing 73 exposed the US support for terrorism in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

Attacking the Cuban Revolution

The successful mobilization of the poor in a society was a threat to international capitalism and imperialism. Less than ten years after the independence struggle by the Cubans in 1896, the Cuban space was turned into a playground for the rich and powerful in the United States.. After the independence struggles of the Cubans in 1896, the US had repeatedly occupied Cuba militarily under the guise of protecting United States interests, stabilizing Cuba and other justifications for imperial interventions. With the intervention of the USA after 1902, the Southern code of conduct of Jim Crow was introduced into Cuban society to super exploit the African descendants who formed the overwhelming majority of the population.

After the successful removal of the hated Batista dictatorship in 1959 under the leadership of Fidel Castro, Juan Almeida and Che Guevara (along with others), the US capitalists led by the Dulles brothers worked hand in glove with corporate elements, the mafia and assorted dictators in Central America to reverse the Cuban experiment. Under the Eisenhower administration when John Foster Dulles was the Secretary of State, his brother at the head of the CIA, Allen Dulles, launched numerous plans for invasions and assassinations. The debacle of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 had demonstrated the popular strength of the Cuban revolution and the US capitalists never gave up their commitment to remove the political leadership in Cuba. Under the direction of these conservative forces the plotting against the Cuban revolution reached the high point of the integration between capitalists, the intelligence services and the mafia. The book JFK and the Unspeakable has documented the deep integration of the plotting with the anti Cuban forces to eliminate John F. Kennedy.

Younger readers of the struggles for socialism will in future grasp the role of operatives such as James Jesus Angleton and the fixation of the US system to remove the political leadership of Cuba. The US intelligence services hunted down and killed Che Guevara in Bolivia in 1967 while it intensified its plots to kill Fidel Castro and the Revolution. In 2006 a British TV documentary revealed the more than 638 ways that the various agencies in the USA devised to kill Fidel Castro. Henry Kissinger, while Secretary of State in the 1970s carried forward the fixation with the elimination of the revolution after the Cuban intervention in Angola in 1975 to repel the three-pronged South African invasion. In the aftermath of the Cuban intervention, there was an unexpected outbreak of Dengue fever in Cuba. Bioterrorism had been added to the attack against the Cuban Revolution. The recent book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana by William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh outlined in depth the machinations of Henry Kissinger to invade Cuba and destroy the revolution.

Cuba and the black liberation movement

“I would like to say that we have always been in solidarity with the struggle of the Black people, the minorities, and all the poor people in the United States. We have always been in solidarity with them and they have always been in solidarity with us.”

— Fidel Castro, 1990

This statement by Fidel Castro in 1990 was an acknowledgment that one of the pillars for the defense of the Cuban Revolution was the black liberation movement in the USA. The ruling class in the USA understood this reality and the very conservative anti-Castro lobby in South Florida intensified their work to strengthen the networks of white racism across the USA. From the start of the revolution there were open and clear linkages between the black liberation movement in the USA and the Cuban leadership. Every respected revolutionary from the Black Liberation movement made their alliance with the revolution so that today it is not by accident that even while there is talk about the normalization of relationship, the Cubans will not entertain the arguments of the neo-conservatives of the USA to hand over Assata Shakur, the black revolutionary who has received political asylum in Cuba.

The Cuban leadership understood very early from the years of Eisenhower that the Black movement provided a base for the progressive and anti-imperialist forces to neutralize the draconian plans of the intelligence agencies. In his first major visit to the United Nations in 1960, Fidel Castro had repaired to Harlem – to the Hotel Theresa under the support of Malcolm X. Rosemary Mealy, herself one of the leading revolutionary figures from that period, had documented this diplomatic and political tie between Malcolm X and Fidel in the book, Fidel & Malcolm X: Memories of a Meeting.

In November 1964, Che Guevara, Malcolm X and Abdurrahman Babu met in New York City on the sidelines of the United Nations to plan for the liberation of the Congo. Four months later Malcolm X was assassinated and the US system intensified its plans to eliminate Che Guevara.

Fidel’s base in Harlem and the Black Community became even clearer after the collapse of the USSR when Fidel traveled to the USA for the UN Millennium Summit. At the meeting of Fidel Castro in Harlem, the lines of peoples who wanted to attend stretched for blocks. This was at a moment when the counter revolutionary forces such as those associated with Posada Carilles and elements such as Brothers to the Rescue were carrying out provocative acts to ensnare the USA and Cuba in overt and direct military confrontations.

Quifangondo and Cuito Cuanavale

Quifangondo and Cuito Cuanavale are two sites in Angola which now bear historical testaments that the Cuban revolution was internationalist and anti-racist. In 1975, Henry Kissinger and the US security services had urged the South African racist regime to invade Angola to prevent the MPLA from coming to power. South Africa had embarked on a three-pronged attack by air, sea and land to take Luanda. Troops of the FNLA supported by the Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and CIA were coming from the North to seize Luanda. Fidel Castro personally oversaw the dispatch and supervision of the Cuban forces that arrived just in time to repel the South Africans and to stop the imperial forces at Quifangondo, the main reservoir for Luanda just outside the capital. Angolan independence in November 1975 was celebrated under the cloud of military, political and diplomatic intrigue where the US launched an all-out effort to change the political balance of forces in Southern Africa. When the Nigerian President Murtala Mohammed made the decisive decision to support African liberation and the MPLA in 1976, he lost his life. Nigeria has not yet recovered from that assassination.

The most decisive action of Cuba in Africa was the intervention to defeat the racist South African armed forces at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola in 1987-1988. As in 1975, the South African military forces had taken the initiative to seek the military defeat of the ruling MPLA and roll back the gains of the African liberation process. When Ronald Reagan had come to power in 1981, the State Department and the intelligence services mobilized conservatives in all parts of the world to oppose the African National Congress and to stop the path of independence of Namibia. Chester Crocker, who had worked on the staff of Henry Kissinger, carried the diplomatic war while the CIA under Bill Casey carried forward the covert funding of anti-liberation forces. Fighting from occupied Namibia (which was in 1987 one of the most militarized spaces on earth), the South Africans launched an invasion of Southern Angola in 1987 to reverse the pace of African liberation.

One year earlier, in 1986, the conservative forces had conspired to bring down the plane and kill President Samora Machel of Mozambique. The neo cons had launched economic, psychological, political and military warfare across the region of Southern Africa. For good measure, the US Congress labelled Nelson Mandela as a terrorist and the ANC as terrorist organizations. Margaret Thatcher was given the task of mobilizing forces far afield as Saudi Arabia, Morocco and sections of Nigeria to support this anti -liberation front. The decisive intervention of the Cuban forces to support the Angolans, the Namibian and the South African freedom fighters ended with the withdrawal of Apartheid South African troops in 1988.

At one point, the siege of Cuito Cuanavale had become so tense that the President of South Africa, P.W. Botha flew to the front of the war when the military generals requested tactical nuclear weapons for attacking the Angolans and the Cubans. At that time the international climate of sanctions and divestment had been so strong against South Africa that the Apartheid South African generals were ordered to press on with conventional weapons. This battle, which raged between October 1987 and June 1988, brought about a decisive stage in the liberation of Africa. The South African military was routed and the South African forces ran on foot out on Angola. Although in the West, Chester Crocker has taken credit for the “diplomatic openings” that led to the independence of Namibia and the release of Nelson Mandela, the decisive victory of Cuba and Angola at Cuito Cuanavale changed the history of African liberation. Fidel Castro noted that Cuba had staked everything, including the existence of the revolution itself in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale.

How far we slaves have come

The book, How Far We Slaves Have Come, by Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro has now chronicled for posterity some of the sacrifices of the Cuban revolution for the liberation of all peoples. Nelson Mandela, Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and the Zapatistas are the well-known freedom fighters that are associated with the Cuban process. With the successful defense of the revolution, for fifty years Cuba became a base to expose what was possible for revolutionaries. This society became a beacon for revolutionaries and Fidel Castro had made a special point to link himself to the revolutionary traditions of humanity.

Castro while welcoming Nelson Mandela to Cuba stated clearly, “Where did injustice come from? Where did poverty come from? Where did underdevelopment come from? Where did all these calamities come from? If not from Capitalism?”

Imperialism grasped the role of Cuba as the forerunner for socialism in the Americas and doubled down on seeking to subvert the independence of Cuba. The more than 600 plots to kill Castro were shelved in favor of the more modern form of subversion which involved the mobilization of sections of so called “civil society” and NGOs through the Office of Transition Alternatives. Earlier this year, I wrote on the role of US State Department and the top “development” contractors for the USAID in planning for regime change in Cuba and Venezuela. Alan Gross who had been caught in this web of subversion had been arrested in Cuba in 2009 for smuggling broadband satellite communications equipment.

Gross was released in December as part of the exchange of prisoners between Cuba and the United States when Barack Obama declared that the USA would resume diplomatic relations with Cuba.

The Cuban opening and the victory for progressive forces

In July 2014, after the BRICS summit in Brazil, President Xi Jinping of China visited Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba. This visit, along with the meetings of numerous heads of state from Latin America in Brazil, exposed the deep isolation of the United States in Latin America. This isolation was further on display after the October 2014 UN General Assembly debate for the USA to lift the economic embargo against Cuba. “The General Assembly adopted a resolution which for the twenty-third year in a row called for an end to the United States economic, commercial and financial embargo on Cuba.

Exposing an intractable demarcation of the international community, 188 Member States voted in favour and, as in previous years, the United States and Israel voted against. Three small island States — Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau — abstained from the vote.

In Latin America and the Caribbean China had been making great strides in building new economic relations. The major infrastructural projects of China all over the region were crowned with the launch of the $50 billion canal across Nicaragua.

This isolation of the USA provides the context for understanding the announcement of President Barack Obama on December 17. Alan Gross was swapped for the US intelligence agent Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a Cuban who had worked as an agent for the CIA and had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years. Both had been incarcerated in Cuba.

In his announcement, President Obama stated that: “The United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking, while Cuba will allow more Internet access and release 53 Cubans identified as political prisoners by the United States.” Although the embargo will remain in place, the president called for an “honest and serious debate about lifting it, which would require an act of Congress.”

This statement that it will require an act of Congress to lift the embargo against Cuba is a reminder of the nature of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Helms Burton Act of 1996. Under this act foreign companies were penalized for trading with Cuba. Progressives internationally will have to work harder to pressure the Republican controlled Congress to repeal the Helms Burton Act of 1996. Here, the role of Pope Francis in the future struggles will be invaluable. After the cooperation between the neo conservatives of the USA and the anticommunists of Eastern Europe in places such as Poland, the intervention of Pape Francis in writing to both Raul Castro and Barack Obama and the proactive role of the Catholic Church in playing a mediating role has created a new moment in Latin American politics.

The future of socialism in Cuba

Three days after the announcement of President Obama and Raul Castro on the reopening of diplomatic relations, Raul Castro reaffirmed the goals of the struggle for a new social order when he declared that Cuba would not abandon its socialist ideas. Speaking at the National Assembly in Havana in December, Castro said he is open to discussing a wide range of issues with Washington, but added his country would not bow to pressure to change its core political principles.

“Just as we have never proposed to the United States to change its political system, we will demand respect for ours…. There are profound differences between the governments of the United States and Cuba that include, among others, differing concepts about exercising national sovereignty, democracy, political models and international relations.”

Despite this clear position, progressives everywhere will need to reflect on the opening up of China and Vietnam to global capital to see what possibilities lay ahead for the Cuban people. What the CIA and the varying intelligence services failed to achieve in their attempts to roll back the Cuban experiment will now be engaged with zeal by US corporations. US corporations in agriculture, automobiles, heavy machinery, hospitality industry and biotechnology are eagerly waiting to get into the Cuban market to flood the consciousness of the Cuban peoples with the consumerism and waste of the current form of capitalism. The role of Western corporate interests in the destabilization of Libya offers a critical lesson for Cuba.

Ralph Nader drew out the implications of the coming onslaught when he noted that, “Cuba needs to significantly improve its infrastructure and expand the manufacturing of household goods. … It is not likely that Cubans can hold true to their principles in the face of an unimpeded flood of U.S. junk food, credit gouging, deceptive TV advertising, one-sided fine-print contracts, over-promotion of drugs, commercialization of childhood with incessant and often violent programming and other forms of harmful corporate marketing. …Few societies can absorb the sensual seduction of Western corporate/commercial culture’s onslaught and not succumb to becoming a mimicking society. If it can happen to China – the Middle Kingdom – it can happen to any country.”

The Castro brothers may be looking at Vietnam as a model. There the Communist Party is still strictly in charge, but there is a burgeoning “capitalist” economy expanding quite rapidly. In addition, Vietnam has seen the expansion of public corruption, pollution, profiteering, inequality, a painful generation gap and upheaval of cultural traditions.”

The announcement by Barack Obama came in a moment when the mobilization of the anti-racist forces had reached new heights in the United State in the wake of demonstrations affirming that #BlackLivesMatter. The very same racist forces in the USA are linked to the anti-Cuba forces of South Florida and New Jersey. These forces are in turn tied up with the Barons of Wall Street who are fleecing humanity.

Cuba is confronting the crossroads of global capitalist invasion at a later period than China and Vietnam and can learn from the positive and negative lessons of the opening up of these economies. One of the negative consequences of the expanded relationships between China and Western capitalism has been the intensification of exploitation of Chinese workers, ecological destruction and the deep alienation of the youth. In Cuba it will be crucial for the organization of workers, small farmers, students and cultural workers to strengthen their organizations and institutions so that the working poor are not offered up as cheap labor to Global Capital as in China.

Cuba has for the past sixty years maintained relationships with the anti-racist and anti-imperialist forces in the USA and the Cuban position on Assata Shakur is a reminder that Cuban stands with Black Revolutionaries. However, this needs to be taken further so that Cuba continues to engage with the Durban Declaration and Program of Action for the intensified global fight against capitalism, sexism, racism and xenophobia. In his address, President Obama declared that he would like to see Cuban doctors working beside US doctors in the fights against Ebola. This is another example where progressives will have to demand that the US government come forward to renounce the use of biological and chemical weapons and for the US to sign the United Nations Convention on Biological weapons.

Horace G .Campbell, a veteran Pan Africanist is a Visiting Professor in the School of International Relations, Tsinghua University, Beijing. He is the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya, Monthly Review Press, 2013.

Horace Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science, Syracuse University. He is the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya, Monthly Review Press, 2013. Notes.

DECEMBER 30, 2014
Words Alone Won’t End TortureBY CESAR CHELALA

“We are going to smash your hands to pulp like the Chileans did to Victor Jara.” Those were the words of the torturers in a Uruguayan prison spoken to my friend Miguel Angel Estrella, a pianist from Argentina. They were referring to the fate of the imprisoned Chilean singer and guitarist Victor Jara, whose hands were destroyed so that he would never play the guitar again. Jara, a fervent opponent of the Pinochet regime, was brutally tortured and later machine-gunned to death following the coup that brought Pinochet to power in 1973.

Estrella was being held in Uruguay’s Libertad prison, accused of being a guerrilla from Argentina fighting the Argentine military regime. Unable to prove the charges against him, and given the unprecedented international pressure, the Uruguayan government released him in 1978 after having kidnapped him at the end of 1977.

Estrella was luckier than most of those imprisoned by the South American military. Although tortured and held for a long time in isolation, Estrella eventually recovered, leads a brilliant career as a musician, and is now Argentina’s ambassador to UNESCO.

One of those who trained the Uruguayan torturers was an American operative, Daniel (Dan) Mitrione, who was later captured and killed by Uruguayan guerrillas. According to A.J. Langguth, a former New York Times bureau chief in Saigon, Mitrione was among the U.S. advisers who taught torture to the Brazilian police.

Mitrione’s method for the application of torture was carefully orchestrated. Langguth reports that the method was described in detail in a book by Manuel Hevia “Cosculluela,” a Cuban double agent who worked for the CIA, “Passport 11333, Eight Years with the CIA.”

This is Mitrione’s voice: “When you receive a subject, the first thing to do is to determine his physical state, his degree of resistance, through a medical examination. A premature death means a failure by the technician. Another important thing to know is exactly how far you can go given the political situation and the personality of the prisoner. It is very important to know beforehand whether we have the luxury of letting the subject die . . . before all else, you must be efficient. You must cause only the damage that is strictly necessary, not a bit more. We must control our tempers in any case. You have to act with the efficiency and cleanliness of a surgeon and with the perfection of an artist..”

In Uruguay, Mitrione was the head of the Office of Public Safety, a U.S. government agency established in 1957 by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower to train foreign police forces. At Mitrione’s funeral, Ron Ziegler, the Nixon administration’s spokesman, stated that Mitrione’s “devoted service to the cause of peaceful progress in an orderly world will remain as an example for free men everywhere.” Thanks to former U.S. Sen. James Abourezk’s efforts, the policy advisory program was abolished in 1974.

Mitrione’s case was far from unique. Through the School of the Americas, thousands of military and police officers from Latin America were trained in repressive methods, including torture. On Nov. 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, a coworker and her teenage daughter were massacred in El Salvador. I knew one of those killed, Ignacio Martin-Baro, vice rector of the Central American University. He was the closest I have ever been to a saint.

A U.S. Congressional Task Force concluded that those responsible for their deaths were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Human beings make culture. And we also make torture, that bastard child of culture. It is up to us to change this situation. When running for president, Barack Obama stated, referring to the Iraq war, “It is not enough to get out of Iraq; we have to get out of the mind-set that led us into Iraq.”

A similar assertion could be made about torture. It is not enough to say that torture will not be practiced any longer by the U.S. We need to get out of the mind-set that made torture possible in the first place.

Dr. Cesar Chelala, a writer on human rights issues, is a winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and a national journalism award from Argentina.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

DECEMBER 30, 2014
Why Capitalism Will be the Death of Us

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria – the “superbugs” – if left unchecked, could result in 10 million deaths a year by 2050. New drugs to fight the superbugs are desperately needed. But a panel advising President Obama warned in September that “there isn’t a sufficiently robust pipeline of new drugs to replace the ones rendered ineffective by antibiotic resistance.”

The problem, it appears, is that “Antibiotics generally provide low returns on investment, so they are not a highly attractive area for research and development.”

Aha! “Low returns on investment”! What could be simpler to understand? Is it not a concept worth killing and dying for? Just as millions of Americans died in the 20th century so corporations could optimize profits by not protecting the public from tobacco, lead, and asbestos.

Corporations are programmed to optimize profits without regard for the society in which they operate, in much the same way that cancer cells are programmed to proliferate without regard for the health of their host.

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power . His latest book is: America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He can be reached at:

Nenhum comentário:

Postar um comentário