It was reported a couple of weeks ago that Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, who is under indictment for violating US sanctions on Iran along with three others, had been released from the Metropolitan Correctional Facility in Brooklyn and has completely disappeared. The FBI has stated that Mr. Zarrab is still in their custody but …
Nov 18 2017
May 12 2015
Every now and then one of our “representative” leaders lets the mask slip and Americans get a peek at the monster behind the mask. The monsters that represent us are well-known elsewhere in the world by the people who are variously invaded, bombed, incinerated by flying death robots, disappeared, held in gulags, tortured, sanctioned, starved, treated to heaping helpings of depleted uranium, attacked with banned weapons like white phosphorus, brutalized by authoritarian dictators and puppets that our monsters support with weapons Made in America(tm). I could go on, but you get the picture.
One of the most memorable mask-slips of recent times was when the ghastly gasbag Madelaine Albright revealed the sociopathic policy of the Clinton administration – claiming that it was “worth it” to cause the deaths, estimated in a 1995 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report as 567,000 Iraqi children under the age of five, to bring Saddam Hussein to heel.
Jul 21 2014
Money is violence
Our system of money visits violence on people.
Economic sanctions are an obvious example:
In case you’re not video enabled, here’s a transcript of a portion of the conversation between 60 Minutes’ Leslie Stahl and Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright on May 12, 1996:
Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”
What Stahl and the ghastly gasbag Albright are discussing are the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq allegedly in order to compel Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait and pay reparations, but more likely the unstated plan was to induce the people of Iraq to rise up and overthrow Saddam.
Economic sanctions are the weaponization of money. Government talking heads call this “soft power,” because apparently arranging for the slow, wasting death by starvation and disease of hundreds of thousands of children is a lot nicer than bombing them or sending soldiers to terrify and shoot them.
Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz had a particular gift for expressing the barely repressed beliefs of the most reprehensible people in the country. According to Wikiquote, Butz said two memorable things while Secretary, one was the tasteless, racist joke that got him fired, the other was the following:
“Food is a tool. It is a weapon in the U.S. negotiating kit.”
In one of the most brutal examples of the use of this technique, the Israeli government, with the complicity of the US government have for years kept the Palestinians’ economy in Gaza “on the brink of collapse.” As the Israelis kept the economy from performing, they made a “calorie count” to “put Gaza on a diet.” Israel’s sanctions and periodic bombings of Gaza have largely destroyed Gaza’s water infrastructure and “hundreds of thousands of people are now without water.”
There can be no doubt that the diet devised for Gaza – much like Israel’s blockade in general – was intended as a form of collective punishment, one directed at every man, woman and child. The goal, according to the Israeli defense ministry, was to wage “economic warfare” that would generate a political crisis, leading to a popular uprising against Hamas.
While these are shocking, overt uses of the power of economic systems, there are more subtle and refined means of using economic power to coerce and subjugate peoples that are often brought to bear. Economic sanctions, by depriving people of their means of survival through the manipulation of money and goods is a means of an elite asserting control over a population. While these techniques are used as a tool of foreign policy or in tandem with wartime goals, this is far from the only situation under which these techniques are used by elites.
Mar 07 2014
On Tuesday Reuters reported that a Kremlin aid Sergei Glazyev had announced that if the U.S. were to impose sanctions on Russia Moscow may drop the dollar as a reserve currency and refuse to pay off any loans to U.S. banks saying that Moscow could recommend that all holders of U.S. treasuries sell them if Washington freezes the U.S. accounts of Russian businesses and individuals.
“We would find a way not just to reduce our dependency on the United States to zero but to emerge from those sanctions with great benefits for ourselves,” said Glazyev.
“An attempt to announce sanctions would end in a crash for the financial system of the United States, which would cause the end of the domination of the United States in the global financial system”
That statement is startling by itself, but the true gravity of this situation is only evident when you consider it in context. China has taken Russia’s side in the Ukraine conflict (they are after all allies) and China holds the lion’s share of U.S. treasuries. If Russia puts out the call to drop the dollar China would have a choice: either hold on to those treasuries while the dollar slides (losing their shirt in the process) or join Russia and dump their holdings as well. It should be pretty obvious which way China would go.
The effects of a coordinated bond sell off by China and Russia would be earth shattering. This would be the financial equivalent of a nuclear bomb being dropped. It is no exaggeration to say that such a move would mark the end of an era.
You would think that this would prompt some serious reflection and that diplomats would be scrambling to resolve this peacefully, but instead today Obama signed a sanction order anyway and revoked the visas of a number of Russian officials.
Nov 26 2013
The agreement reached early Sunday morning in Switzerland with Iran over its nuclear program is nothing short of historic. It will expand inspections of nuclear sites and loosen some of the sanctions, worth some $7 billion to Iran. It also signals a shift in American foreign relations from military might to diplomacy, something that candidate Barack Obama had said he was going to do.
(T)he flurry of diplomatic activity reflects the definitive end of the post-Sept. 11 world, dominated by two major wars and a battle against Islamic terrorism that drew the United States into Afghanistan and still keeps its Predator drones flying over Pakistan and Yemen.
But it also reflects a broader scaling-back of the use of American muscle, not least in the Middle East, as well as a willingness to deal with foreign governments as they are rather than to push for new leaders that better embody American values. “Regime change,” in Iran or even Syria, is out; cutting deals with former adversaries is in.
For Mr. Obama, the shift to diplomacy fulfills a campaign pledge from 2008 that he would stretch out a hand to America’s enemies and speak to any foreign leader without preconditions. But it will also subject him to considerable political risks, as the protests about the Iran deal from Capitol Hill and allies in the Middle East attest.
“We’re testing diplomacy; we’re not resorting immediately to military conflict,” Mr. Obama said, defending the Iran deal on Monday in San Francisco. “Tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically,” he said earlier that day, “but it’s not the right thing for our security.”
The deal has been the reactions have been hailed by many as good move for the region and the world but it has it’s critics on both sides of the political aisle.
University of Michigan Mideast scholar Juan Cole argues on his blog, Informed Comment, that “the decade-long Neoconservative plot to take the United States to war against Iran appears to have been foiled” by the deal. Unsurprisingly, congressional Iran hawks on both sides of the aisle aren’t pleased, according to Bernie Becker at The Hill. Critics accuse the administration of “capitulation,” which The Daily Beast‘s Peter Beinhart says is a gross misreading of history. Siobhan Gorman reports for The Wall Street Journal that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has indicated that Congress may try to impose even more sanctions, which the White House calls a path to war. [..]
Saeed Kamali Dehghan reports for The Guardian that the Iranian public appears to be very happy about the deal. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is outraged by the deal, but Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg writes in The American Prospect that his reaction says more about him than the deal itself. And at 972 Magazine, Larry Derfner notes that the Israeli security community is a lot more optimistic about the deal than the country’s elected officials. The BBC taps its extensive network of reporters to bring mixed reactions from around the region. And Mark Landler reports for The New York Times that the deal could “open the door” to diplomatic solutions of other regional issues.
As Juan Cole points in his article at Informed Consent, the agreement is actually an agreement to negotiate and build confidence between all the parties for the hard bargaining to come. It also is a good history of how we got from post 9/11 to now.
In 2003, the Neocon chickenhawks, most of whom had never worn a uniform or had a parent who did, joked that “everyone wants to go to Baghdad; real men want to go to Tehran.” When people have to talk about being “real men,” it is a pretty good sign that they are 98-pound weaklings.
The “everyone” who wanted to go to Baghdad was actually just the Neocons and their fellow travelers. Most of the latter were hoodwinked by the Neocon/Cheney misinformation campaign blaming Saddam Hussein of Iraq for 9/11. A majority of Democratic representatives in the lower house of Congress voted against the idea of going to war. The Iraq War, trumped up on false pretenses and mainly to protect the militant right wing in Israel from having a credible military rival in the region and to put Iraqi petroleum on the market to weaken Saudi Arabia, cost the United States nearly 5000 troops, hundreds more Veterans working as contractors, and probably $3 or $4 trillion- money we do not have since our economy has collapsed and hasn’t recovered except for wealthy stockholders. Perhaps George W. Bush could paint for us some dollars so that we can remember what they used to look like when we had them in our pockets instead of his billionaire friends (many of them war profiteers) having them in theirs. [..]
The irony is that in early 2003, the reformist Iranian government of then-President Mohammad Khatami had sent over to the US a wide-ranging proposal for peace. After all, Baathist Iraq was Iran’s deadliest enemy. It had invaded Iran in 1980 and fought an 8-year aggressive war in hopes of taking Iranian territory and stealing its oil resources. Now the US was about to overthrow Iran’s nemesis. Wouldn’t it make sense for Washington and Tehran to ally? Khatami put everything on the table, even an end to hostilities with Israel.
The Neoconservatives threw the Iranian proposal in the trash heap and mobilized to make sure there was no rapprochement with Iran. David Frum, Bush’s speech-writer, consulted with eminence grise Richard Perle (then on a Pentagon oversight board) and Irv Lewis “Scooter” Libby (vice presidential felon Richard Bruce Cheney’s chief of staff), and they had already inserted into Bush’s 2002 State of the Union speech the phrase the “axis of evil,” grouping Iran with Iraq and North Korea. Iran had had sympathy demonstrations for the US after 9/11, and, being a Shiite power, feared and hated al-Qaeda (Sunni extremists) as much as Washington did. But the Neoconservatives did not want a US-Iran alliance against al-Qaeda or against Saddam Hussein. Being diplomatic serial killers, they saw Iran rather as their next victim.
In many ways, Washington politics is still stuck in that neoconservative world.
MSNBC’s All In host Chris Hayes discusses the agreement with several guests Iranian-American journalist and author, Hooman Majd, Ambassador Christopher Hill and Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY).
In another segment, Chris and his guest Matt Duss, Middle East policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, discuss how diplomacy with Iran is just the latest blow to the neoconservatives.
When George W. Bush was appointed as president in 2001, there was a moderate government in Iran. If it had not been for the Supreme Court, this would have been resolved 10 years ago and so many would not have needlessly died.