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31 January, 2016

A single move by Bernie that could make banksters lose their sleep

by system failure

On December 23, 1913, the then US President Woodrow Wilson puts the final signature for the so-called Federal Reserve Act. Big private banks take control of the US money supply. In 1971, Richard Nixon ended the direct convertibility of the US dollar to gold, and as dollar became the global reserve currency, the absolute dominance of the banksters became definite.

Since then, the progress of the technology permitted the banking elite to strengthen its power through virtual circulation of huge amounts of capital at zero time. The paper/digital money is used now as a tool for dirty wars, buying governments, directing more and more money and power to the top. Just remember the cash that had been transferred by US army helicopters to Iraq. Or, observe how Greece is destroyed through the evil mechanism: for five years now, the economy has been destroyed by the IMF mafia policies, but the debt has risen enormously. The loans are coming to the country - supposedly for the payment of previous debt - and return to the creditors at the same time, while loading Greece with more debt. The money is circulated virtually, but the impact on people's lives is real. Salaries and pensions being reduced continuously, unemployment remains enormously high, social state is systematically destroyed.

Now that the experiment in Greece is about to end, the desirable conditions nearly achieved, and the "investors" of this evil money mechanism, are coming to take what has real value: state businesses, properties, land, mineral deposits, whatever they can. All for pennies, of course. Because they know very well that paper and digital numbers on a computer screen have no real value.

Bernie Sanders was the one who exposed the illegal mechanism of the Fed when the last major crisis exploded: “The Fed has thus far reported, without even disclosing specifics of its lending from its discount window, which it continues to draw a dark curtain around, that it supplied, in total, more than $9 trillion to Wall Street firms, commercial banks, foreign banks, corporations and some highly questionable off balance sheet entities. (Much smaller amounts were outstanding at any one time.)

Let's face it: the state and state's institutions have become a decorating element of what we call "Democracy". Banksters and corporate lobbyists have the absolute power and they want even more. They promote further deregulation through TTIP-type agreements to destroy any chance for the states to regain real power to control them.

Bernie says he'll break up the big banks, but that's not enough. Because we should always have in mind that the free market is a fairy tale. This is a closed powerful system with a few leading currencies that shape the Western monetary monopoly, all connected with the most powerful of all at the top. And the banksters control the "machine" in order to print dollars, physically or digitally, as many as they want, whenever they want. And, direct them wherever they want.

In case he get elected, Bernie could make a checkmate move to beat the banksters. And that is, nationalize the Fed. Which means that the money control would pass to the state. Then, Bernie could easily do what he promised to the American people: free healthcare and education for all. Public investments all over America that could create millions of new jobs with decent salaries and could also drive up the salaries in the private sector. Money would be directed to the bottom 99% instead of the top 1%.

The international financial mafia who controls the entire planet through the Western monetary monopoly and the dollar "printing" machine located in the US, has already a serious reason to worry: the emergence of a rival independent monetary system by the BRICS and the Sino-Russian alliance.

Recent attempts by the mafia to put the Chinese currency under control and break the alliance, indicate that the mafia indeed is sensing a threat concerning its dominance. And that's because the rival currency system may be proved much more reliable than the bubble economy of the dominant model.

Banksters could suffer a double hit. One from inside through the nationalization of the Fed, and one from outside with the form of a rival monetary system that could offer an alternative to debt-enslaved colonies like Greece. So, through only one key move, Bernie could make banksters lose their sleep ...

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Western media ignores Putin’s progress in Syria

by Mike Whitney

The UN-sponsored Syrian peace talks, which began on Friday in Geneva, will be boycotted by the main Syrian opposition group which has insisted that Russia stop bombing its positions while negotiations are conducted. To appreciate how ridiculous these demands are, one would have to imagine a similar scenario taking place in the United States. Let’s say, for example, that Ammon Bundy, the crackpot leader of the armed militia that seized the federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon, demanded that the FBI and all other federal agents vamoose while the UN convened negotiations between his representatives and the Obama administration for the establishment of a transitional government that would remove Obama from power after 18 months while rewriting the constitution so it better reflected the far-right political and religious convictions of Bundy and his gaggle of ne’er-do-well followers.

Does that seem like a reasonable proposition to you?

This is the context in which the current “talks” are being held. Is it any wonder why Moscow doesn’t take this charade seriously? It’s a joke.

In what other country are armed militias allowed to occupy cities, kill civilians, destroy critical infrastructure, create total mayhem and threaten to overthrow the elected government?

None. And yet, the Obama team thinks this is a perfectly acceptable way for citizens and even non citizens (most of the ‘rebels’ are foreign nationals or jihadis) to act, provided their political objectives coincide with those of Washington. Which they do. From the very beginning, Washington’s sole aim has been to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad so the oil fields and pipeline corridors could be secured by the western oil giants and protected by new US military bases sprinkled across the country. This has been the basic gameplan since Day 1, and this is why Obama and Co are so eager to slow the Russian-led offensive by any means possible even if it means engaging in meaningless negotiations that have no other purpose than to implement a ceasefire so these same US-backed terrorists can regroup and fight at some future date when they are better prepared.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sees through this ruse but–all the same–he’s dispatched diplomats to Geneva to play along and go-through-the-motions. But will he cave in and agree to a ceasefire so Obama’s “rebels” can live to fight another day? Don’t bet on it.

What Americans are not reading in the western media is that, after months of slow but steady progress, the Russian-led coalition (Syrian Arab Army, Iranian Quds Forces, and Hezbollah) has broken through the sluicegate and is advancing on all fronts while enemy positions are crumbling. Key cities and towns in Latakia province along the Turkish border that used to be jihadi strongholds have buckled under Russia’s relentless bombing raids and been liberated by the Syrian Army. Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city to the north, has been surrounded by loyalist forces that have cut off supplylines to Turkey leaving fighters from Salafi groups like Ahrar al Sham, Jabhat al Nusra, Jaish al Islam, ISIS and the other al Qaida-linked groups to either surrender or hunker down while they await the final desperate confrontation. The momentum has shifted in favor of Assad’s forces which now clearly have the upper hand. What the western media characterizes as a “quagmire” has all the makings of a stunning victory for the Russian-led coalition that is gradually reestablishing security across Syria while sending the invaders running for cover. This is from Reuters:

Three months into his military intervention in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved his central goal of stabilizing the Assad government and, with the costs relatively low, could sustain military operations at this level for years, U.S. officials and military analysts say.

That assessment comes despite public assertions by President Barack Obama and top aides that Putin has embarked on an ill-conceived mission in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that it will struggle to afford and that will likely fail…

since its campaign began on Sept. 30, Russia has suffered minimal casualties and, despite domestic fiscal woes, is handily covering the operation’s cost, which analysts estimate at $1-2 billion a year. The war is being funded from Russia’s regular annual defense budget of about $54 billion, a U.S. intelligence official said…


An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work,” (President) Obama said on Oct. 2. On Dec. 1, he raised the prospect of Russia becoming “bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict.”

The senior administration official denied any contradiction between Obama’s statements and private assessments that Russia’s campaign has been relatively effective so far.

I think the president’s point has been…it’s not going to succeed in the long run,” the official said. The Russians “have become bound up in a civil war in a way that’s going to be extremely difficult to extricate themselves from.”….

Vasily Kashin, a Moscow-based analyst, said the war is not financially stressing Russia.

All the available data shows us that the current level of military effort is completely insignificant for the Russian economy and Russian budget,” said Kashin, of the Center for Analyses of Strategies and Technologies. “It can be carried on at the same level year after year after year,” he said.”

(U.S. sees bearable costs, key goals met for Russia in Syria so far, Reuters)

Americans are so conditioned to believe that every military intervention ends in a quagmire that they are surprised when the outcome is different. That’s understandable given the fact that the so called “best military on earth” has been unable to defeat a ragtag collection of goat-herding fundamentalists for more than 15 years. (Afghanistan) No wonder Americans expect failure. The fact is, however, that Putin has no intention of getting “bogged down” in Syria for a decade or two.. What he plans to do is to defeat the enemy and move on. Recent reports from the frontlines suggest that that is precisely what he is doing. This is from a post at Sic Semper Tyrannis:

The Fall of Salma”

Things had started to move early last week, when the SAA (Syrian Arab Army), NDF (National Defense Force) and local militias moved into Salma, the rebel stronghold that was key to defensive positions South of the M4 highway linking Latakia to Idlib. After weeks of preparations and softening up defences, R+6 finally moved in and there was not much the various rebel groups could have done at that point to stop or reverse this trend…

Once the strategic breaking point is reached though, the side having gained the upper hand usually pushes through, which results in the opponent’s posture crumbling under the pressure. This is what happened with Salma, a former mountain resort North-East of Latakia… When R+6 went for their final assault, Salma had already become untenable. Its loss meant that the whole defensive line South of the M4 highway was compromised and both SAA advances and “tactical” retreat by the rebels made for a very quick correction of the frontline in the area…

The inroads made by the SAA… again proved decisive against a rebel frontline that had already been destabilized by the loss of Salma and the prospect of being cut off from their LOCs with Jisr al-Shughur.” (Rebel Defences Crumbling In Latakia Province, Sic Semper Tyrannis)

Get the picture? The jihadi misfits are getting the holy hell beat out of them by a superior army that is recapturing critical cities and strategic territory along the Turkish border and across the southern and eastern parts of the country. As a result, Assad will not be removed from office nor will the country become a “Salafi-jihadi principality” governed by Islamic freaks who rule through terror.

That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of potential pitfalls ahead. There are, in fact there’s a situation developing right now that could explode into a regional conflict involving Turkey, NATO, the US and Russia. You see, Russia plans to use its Kurdish allies in the YPG to seize a stretch of land along the Syrian side of the Turkish border to reestablish Syria’s territorial sovereignty and to stop the flow of terrorists from Turkey into Syria. Turkish President Erdogan has promised that if the YPG pursues that course, Turkey will invade, in which case, Putin will come to the defense of the Kurds. There’s no telling how this powderkeg situation will play out, but there’s no doubt that the next few weeks are going to be extremely tense as the main players rattle sabers and jockey for position while edging closer to a full-blown conflagration. Will cooler heads prevail?

I can’t answer that, but I can tell you that Washington has already backed off its “Assad must go” campaign and moved on to Plan B, which is seizing territory and establishing bases in Northeastern Syria that the US plans to occupy for as long as they can. Check it out from South Front website:

As SouthFront: Analysis and Intelligence predicted month ago the NATO allies are urgently trying to implement a new plan to hold control at least of the northern oil corridor from Iraq and try to take advantage of this opportunity to involve Russia in a long expensive war. This plan includes an occupation of the crucial infrastructure including oilfields by the NATO contingent and establishing of anti-government, meaning anti-Russian and anti-Iranian, forces in parts of divided Syria.

Implementing of this plan could easily lead to a global war launched by military escalation over the Syrian crisis. The stakes of the global geopolitical standoff have been raised again.” (Escalation in Syria, South Front)

So even though Washington has scrapped its plan to topple Assad (temporarily), it has deepened its commitment to creating Sunnistan, a new state comprised of eastern Syria and western Iraq controlled by US-clients who will allow western oil giants to connect the pipeline grid from Qatar to Turkey in order to replace Russia as the EU’s primary supplier of natural gas. It’s all part of the imperial strategy to “pivot” to Asia by controlling vital resources and making sure they remain denominated in US dollars. It’s an ambitious plan for global rule that is now being openly challenged by Russia, the emerging power that threatens to derail the lethal US juggernaut and put an end to the malign unipolar world order.


Swedish fascists claim responsibility for anti-refugee mob

Swedish police have made at least four arrests after a mob stormed the country's capital Stockholm in a spree of anti-refugee violence. As many as 100 masked people marched through the city handing out fliers threatening to target “North African street children” and give them the “punishment they deserve,” according to local tabloid Aftonbladet.

The fascist group Swedish Resistance Movement has claimed responsibility for the demonstration. According to RT, the group has issued a statement claiming it “cleaned up criminal immigrants from North Africa” in central Stockholm.

The mob has been accused of attacking anyone on the street that didn't appear white. According to The Local, witnesses said at least three people were assaulted by the mob.


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30 January, 2016

Draghi and ECB now even closer to lobbyists from megabanks

In 2015 the European Central Bank tightened its ethics rules in the wake of a major scandal over privileged information it gave to select financiers. In the future there will be more restrictions on the way the leadership associates with representatives of financial corporations. But the discoveries from the scandal seems to have no bearing on the way the ECB's top brass deals with the quasi-lobby Group of Thirty.

In May 2015, a member of the powerful Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) gave confidential information about quantitative easing to a meeting of bankers and academics, with the former seemingly responding swiftly, securing an advantage over competitors. Only a few months later, the ECB adopted new rules on how and when to associate with financial lobbyists and representatives of financial corporations.

It seems a new awareness was borne out of the scandal. Yet, at the same time the ECB involvement with the powerful financial interest group G30 (Group of Thirty) has intensified, and there is no sign this has caused controversy inside the bank. In a letter to Corporate Europe Observatory, the ECB explained that its internal bodies set up to overlook the ethical rules have not even considered the closeness of the central bank's relationship with the G30.

Full report:

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Endless: More than 30 dead in another shipwreck in the Mediterranean sea grave

At least 33 people drowned and 75 others were rescued after a boat carrying migrants to Greece sank off Turkey's western coast, a local mayor and Turkish news agency Dogan reported on Saturday.

The Turkish coast guard was continuing search and rescue efforts where the boat sank off the coast of Ayvacik, a town across from the Greek island of Lesvos. It was not immediately clear how many migrants had been on board.

At least five of those who died were children, the Dogan news agency said, and rescued migrants were hospitalized with hypothermia symptoms. It said the migrants were of Syrian, Afghan and Myanmar origin.


Η αρχή της αποβιομηχανοποίησης της Κίνας;

Νέα στοιχεία δείχνουν ότι η Κίνα αρχίζει να διολισθαίνει στο μονοπάτι του νεοφιλελεύθερου μοντέλου της οικονομίας της φούσκας και μάλιστα με συστηματικό, κεντρικό σχεδιασμό. Επίσημες ανακοινώσεις που περιέχουν φράσεις τύπου ΔΝΤ, όπως "δομικές μεταρρυθμίσεις" - που δυστυχώς η Ελλάδα και άλλες χώρες τις ένιωσαν καλά στο πετσί τους - όσον αφορά την οικονομία, αποτελούν ένδειξη ότι η πολιτική ελίτ τείνει προς την κατεύθυνση ισχυρότερης διασύνδεσης της Κινεζικής οικονομίας με το Δυτικό οικονομικό μπλοκ.

Τα νέα είναι ενδεικτικά για μια πιθανή πρόθεση της Κινεζικής κεντρικής εξουσίας να οδηγήσει τη χώρα σε μια σταδιακή αποβιομηχανοποίηση, προκειμένου να ακολουθήσει το Δυτικό μοντέλο της επενδυτικής, νεοφιλελεύθερης οικονομίας της φούσκας.

Όπως αναφέρει η ιστοσελίδα , ο Κινέζος πρωθυπουργός Li Keqiang, επεσήμανε την επιτακτική ανάγκη και την αποφασιστικότητα της κυβέρνησης να περικόψει την πλεονάζουσα παραγωγική ικανότητα των βιομηχανιών χάλυβα και λιγνίτη, καθώς η χώρα επιχειρεί να αναδιαρθρώσει την οικονομία της.

Όπως επίσης αναφέρεται, το Συμβούλιο της Επικρατείας δεν προσδιορίζει την προθεσμία για την εν λόγω περικοπή, αλλά τόνισε ότι η Κίνα έχει μειώσει την ικανότητά της παραγωγής ακατέργαστου χάλυβα περισσότερο από 90 εκατομμύρια τόνους κατά τα τελευταία χρόνια. Η Κίνα θα μειώσει την παραγωγική ικανότητα του λιγνίτη κατά ένα σχετικά μεγάλο ποσοστό, σύμφωνα με την ανακοίνωση.

Η αφομοίωση της πλεονάζουσας δυνατότητας παραγωγής στους τομείς χάλυβα και λιγνίτη, είναι ένα σημαντικό μέτρο για την προώθηση δομικών μεταρρυθμίσεων, εναρμονισμένων με την ζήτηση, πράγμα που θα βοηθήσει την αναβάθμιση των αντίστοιχων βιομηχανιών. Η Κινεζική παραγωγή ακατέργαστου χάλυβα μειώθηκε κατά 2,3% στους 804 εκ. τόνους το 2015, όταν για πρώτη φορά η βιομηχανία ανακοίνωσε αρνητική ανάπτυξη μετά από 34 χρόνια. Κάθε νέα παραγωγική δυνατότητα σε ακατέργαστο χάλυβα και λιγνίτη, θα είναι αυστηρά ελεγχόμενη.

Σύμφωνα επίσης με την ανακοίνωση, η κυβέρνηση θα πρέπει να έχει πλήρη επίγνωση της σημασίας και των προκλήσεων όσον αφορά την αφομοίωση της πλεονάζουσας παραγωγικής ικανότητας, προσθέτοντας ότι η κυβέρνηση θα θεσπίσει τα αναγκαία μέτρα για να βοηθήσει τους απολυμένους εργαζόμενους να αντιμετωπίσουν τις δυσκολίες και να βρουν νέα απασχόληση.

Αξίζει να σημειωθεί ότι, εδώ και πάνω από ένα χρόνο, σύμφωνα με τη συγκεκριμένη ιστοσελίδα, Κινέζοι αξιωματούχοι δήλωσαν ότι η Κίνα μεταμορφώνεται από μεγάλο εμπορικό εξαγωγέα, σε εξαγωγέα κεφαλαίων. Δήλωσαν επίσης ότι αναμένεται άνοδος της τάξης των μεσαίων εισοδημάτων κατά 600 εκατομμύρια ανθρώπους έως το 2020, με έναν αναμενόμενο τριπλασιασμό της κατανάλωσης σε σχέση με το 2010.

Καθώς η υπερ-αυτοματοποίηση φαίνεται να διεισδύει σχεδόν σε κάθε τομέα της Κινεζικής οικονομίας, όλα δείχνουν ότι η Κίνα επιχειρεί να προσαρμόσει την οικονομία στα νέα δεδομένα που σχεδιάζονται από τις πανίσχυρες οικονομικές ελίτ. Τα μηνύματα από το φετινό οικονομικό φόρουμ στο Νταβός προϊδεάζουν για ένα αβέβαιο, αν όχι δυσοίωνο μέλλον, που δεν είναι πολύ μακριά.

Τα βασικά συμπεράσματα από το φετινό οικονομικό φόρουμ, προβλέπουν περαιτέρω απώλεια θέσεων εργασίας ως το 2020 λόγω υπερ-αυτοματοποίησης της παραγωγής, περαιτέρω συρρίκνωση της μεσαίας τάξης γενικότερα, δημιουργία μιας ελίτ εργαζομένων με βάση τις νέες κατευθύνσεις που επιβάλει κυρίως η τεχνολογία και αντικατάσταση των κορεσμένης καταναλωτικά Δύσης με άλλες αναδυόμενες δεξαμενές καταναλωτών.

Αξίζει επίσης να θυμηθούμε, ότι το ΔΝΤ προσφάτως περιέλαβε το Κινεζικό νόμισμα στο κλαμπ των κυρίαρχων νομισμάτων παγκοσμίως, τα οποία αποτελούν το πλαίσιο του Δυτικού νομισματικού μονοπωλίου. Όπως έχει ήδη αναφερθεί “Η Κίνα πρέπει να καταλάβει ότι αυτή η πρόσκληση στο κλαμπ των σκληρών νομισμάτων είναι μια προσπάθεια της Δύσης να ανακόψει την προοπτική ενός ανταγωνιστικού νομισματικού συστήματος, στο οποίο η χώρα θα έχει πρωταγωνιστικό ρόλο. Είναι αυτό που φοβούνται περισσότερο οι ελίτ της οικονομίας της φούσκας: την πιθανότητα μιας πολύ πιο αξιόπιστης εναλλακτικής απέναντι στο νεοφιλελεύθερο νομισματικό μονοπώλιο, κάτι που θα έθετε σε κίνδυνο την παγκόσμια κυριαρχία τους. [fa.ev/2015/12/46]

Ήδη, η Κίνα φαίνεται ότι ταλαιπωρείται από την "αρρώστια" των Δυτικών οικονομιών τύπου φούσκας και επιστρέφει όλο και πιο συχνά (και λόγω του μεγέθους της), ισχυρά κύματα αστάθειας στο παγκόσμιο χρηματοπιστωτικό σύστημα.


The populist revolution: Bernie and beyond

by Ellen Brown

The world is undergoing a populist revival. From the revolt against austerity led by the Syriza Party in Greece and the Podemos Party in Spain, to Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise victory as Labour leader in the UK, to Donald Trump’s ascendancy in the Republican polls, to Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong challenge to Hillary Clinton – contenders with their fingers on the popular pulse are surging ahead of their establishment rivals.

Today’s populist revolt mimics an earlier one that reached its peak in the US in the 1890s. Then it was all about challenging Wall Street, reclaiming the government’s power to create money, curing rampant deflation with US Notes (Greenbacks) or silver coins (then considered the money of the people), nationalizing the banks, and establishing a central bank that actually responded to the will of the people.

Over a century later, Occupy Wall Street revived the populist challenge, armed this time with the Internet and mass media to spread the word. The Occupy movement shined a spotlight on the corrupt culture of greed unleashed by deregulating Wall Street, widening the yawning gap between the 1% and the 99% and destroying jobs, households and the economy.

Donald Trump’s populist campaign has not focused much on Wall Street; but Bernie Sanders’ has, in spades. Sanders has picked up the baton where Occupy left off, and the disenfranchised Millennials who composed that movement have flocked behind him.

The Failure of Regulation

Sanders’ focus on Wall Street has forced his opponent Hillary Clinton to respond to the challenge. Clinton maintains that Sanders’ proposals sound good but “will never make it in real life.” Her solution is largely to preserve the status quo while imposing more bank regulation.

That approach, however, was already tried with the Dodd-Frank Act, which has not solved the problem although it is currently the longest and most complicated bill ever passed by the US legislature. Dodd-Frank purported to eliminate bailouts, but it did this by replacing them with “bail-ins” – confiscating the funds of bank creditors, including depositors, to keep too-big-to-fail banks afloat. The costs were merely shifted from the people-as-taxpayers to the people-as-creditors.

Worse, the massive tangle of new regulations has hamstrung the smaller community banks that make the majority of loans to small and medium sized businesses, which in turn create most of the jobs. More regulation would simply force more community banks to sell out to their larger competitors, making the too-bigs even bigger.

In any case, regulatory tweaking has proved to be an inadequate response. Banks backed by an army of lobbyists simply get the laws changed, so that what was formerly criminal behavior becomes legal. (See, e.g., CitiGroup’s redrafting of the “push out” rule in December 2015 that completely vitiated the legislative intent.)

What Sanders is proposing, by contrast, is a real financial revolution, a fundamental change in the system itself. His proposals include eliminating Too Big to Fail by breaking up the biggest banks; protecting consumer deposits by reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act (separating investment from depository banking); reviving postal banks as safe depository alternatives; and reforming the Federal Reserve, enlisting it in the service of the people.

Time to Revive the Original Populist Agenda?

Sanders’ proposals are a good start. But critics counter that breaking up the biggest banks would be costly, disruptive and destabilizing; and it would not eliminate Wall Street corruption and mismanagement.

Banks today have usurped the power to create the national money supply. As the Bank of England recently acknowledged, banks create money whenever they make loans. Banks determine who gets the money and on what terms. Reducing the biggest banks to less than $50 billion in assets (the Dodd-Frank limit for “too big to fail”) would not make them more trustworthy stewards of that power and privilege.

How can banking be made to serve the needs of the people and the economy, while preserving the more functional aspects of today’s highly sophisticated global banking system? Perhaps it is time to reconsider the proposals of the early populists. The direct approach to “occupying” the banks is to simply step into their shoes and make them public utilities. Insolvent megabanks can be nationalized – as they were before 2008. (More on that shortly.)

Making banks public utilities can happen on a local level as well. States and cities can establish publicly-owned depository banks on the highly profitable and efficient model of the Bank of North Dakota. Public banks can partner with community banks to direct credit where it is needed locally; and they can reduce the costs of government by recycling bank profits for public use, eliminating outsized Wall Street fees and obviating the need for derivatives to mitigate risk.

At the federal level, not only can postal banks serve as safe depositories and affordable credit alternatives, but the central bank can provide a source of interest-free credit for the nation – as was done, for example, with Canada’s central bank from 1939 to 1974. The U.S. Treasury could also reclaim the power to issue, not just pocket change, but a major portion of the money supply – as was done by the American colonists in the 18th century and by President Abraham Lincoln in the 19th century.

Nationalization: Not As Radical As It Sounds

Radical as it sounds today, nationalizing failed megabanks was actually standard operating procedure before 2008. Nationalization was one of three options open to the FDIC when a bank failed. The other two were closure and liquidation, and merger with a healthy bank. Most failures were resolved using the merger option, but for very large banks, nationalization was sometimes considered the best choice for taxpayers. The leading U.S. example was Continental Illinois, the seventh-largest bank in the country when it failed in 1984. The FDIC wiped out existing shareholders, infused capital, took over bad assets, replaced senior management, and owned the bank for about a decade, running it as a commercial enterprise.

What was a truly radical departure from accepted practice was the unprecedented wave of government bailouts after the 2008 banking crisis. The taxpayers bore the losses, while culpable bank management not only escaped civil and criminal penalties but made off with record bonuses.

In a July 2012 article in The New York Times titled “Wall Street Is Too Big to Regulate,” Gar Alperovitz noted that the five biggest banks—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs—then had combined assets amounting to more than half the nation’s economy. He wrote:

With high-paid lobbyists contesting every proposed regulation, it is increasingly clear that big banks can never be effectively controlled as private businesses. If an enterprise (or five of them) is so large and so concentrated that competition and regulation are impossible, the most market-friendly step is to nationalize its functions. . . .

Nationalization isn’t as difficult as it sounds. We tend to forget that we did, in fact, nationalize General Motors in 2009; the government still owns a controlling share of its stock. We also essentially nationalized the American International Group, one of the largest insurance companies in the world, and the government still owns roughly 60 percent of its stock.

A more market-friendly term than nationalization is “receivership” – taking over insolvent banks and cleaning them up. But as Dr. Michael Hudson observed in a 2009 article, real nationalization does not mean simply imposing losses on the government and then selling the asset back to the private sector. He wrote:

Real nationalization occurs when governments act in the public interest to take over private property. . . . Nationalizing the banks along these lines would mean that the government would supply the nation’s credit needs. The Treasury would become the source of new money, replacing commercial bank credit. Presumably this credit would be lent out for economically and socially productive purposes, not merely to inflate asset prices while loading down households and business with debt as has occurred under today’s commercial bank lending policies.

A Network of Locally-Controlled Public Banks

Nationalizing” the banks implies top-down federal control, but this need not be the result. We could have a system of publicly-owned banks that were locally controlled, operating independently to serve the needs of their own communities.

As noted earlier, banks create the money they lend simply by writing it into accounts. Money comes into existence as a debit in the borrower’s account, and it is extinguished when the debt is repaid. This happens at a grassroots level through local banks, creating and destroying money organically according to the demands of the community. Making these banks public institutions would differ from the current system only in that the banks would have a mandate to serve the public interest, and the profits would be returned to the local government for public use.

Although most of the money supply would continue to be created and destroyed locally as loans, there would still be a need for the government-issued currency envisioned by the early populists, to fill gaps in demand as needed to keep supply and demand in balance. This could be achieved with a national dividend issued by the federal Treasury to all citizens, or by “quantitative easing for the people” as envisioned by Jeremy Corbyn, or by quantitative easing targeted at infrastructure.

For decades, private sector banking has been left to its own devices. The private-only banking model has been thoroughly tested, and it has proven to be a disastrous failure. We need a banking system that truly serves the needs of the people, and that objective can best be achieved with banks that are owned and operated by and for the people.


Hillary’s corporate Democrats taking down Bernie Sanders

by Ralph Nader

Before announcing for President in the Democratic Primaries, Bernie Sanders told the people he would not run as an Independent and be like Nader—invoking the politically-bigoted words “being a spoiler.” Well, the spoiled corporate Democrats in Congress and their consultants are mounting a “stop Bernie campaign.” They believe he’ll “spoil” their election prospects.

Sorry Bernie, because anybody who challenges the positions of the corporatist, militaristic, Wall Street-funded Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton, in the House and Senate—is by their twisted definition, a “spoiler.” It doesn’t matter how many of Bernie’s positions are representative of what a majority of the American people want for their country.

What comes around goes around. Despite running a clean campaign, funded by small donors averaging $27, with no scandals in his past and with consistency throughout his decades of standing up for the working and unemployed people of this country, Sanders is about to be Hillaried. Her Capitol Hill cronies have dispatched Congressional teams to Iowa.

The shunning of Bernie Sanders is underway. Did you see him standing alone during the crowded State of the Union gathering?

Many of the large unions, that Bernie has championed for decades, have endorsed Hillary, known for her job-destroying support for NAFTA and the World Trade Association and her very late involvement in working toward a minimum wage increase.

National Nurses United, one of the few unions endorsing Bernie, is not fooled by Hillary’s sudden anti-Wall Street rhetoric in Iowa. They view Hillary Clinton, the Wall Street servant (and speechifier at $5000 a minute) with disgust.

Candidate Clinton’s latest preposterous pledge is to “crack down” on the “greed” of corporations and declare that Wall Street bosses are opposing her because they realize she will “come right after them.”

Because Sanders is not prone to self-congratulation, few people know that he receives the highest Senatorial approval rating and the lowest disapproval rating from his Vermonters than any Senator receives from his or her constituents. This peak support for an avowed “democratic socialist,” comes from a state once known for its rock-ribbed conservative Republican traditions.

Minority House Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi has unleashed her supine followers to start wounding and depreciating Sanders. Pelosi acolyte Adam Schiff (D. California) tells the media he doubts Sanders’s electability and he could have “very significant downstream consequences in House and Senate races.

Mr. Schiff somehow ignores that the House and Senate Democratic leadership repeatedly could not defend the country from the worst Republican Party in history, whose dozens of anti-human, pro-big business votes should have toppled many GOP candidates. Instead, Nancy Pelosi has led the House Democrats to three straight calamitous losses (2010, 2012, 2014) to the Republicans, for whom public cruelties toward the powerless is a matter of principle.

Pelosi threw her own poisoned darts at Sanders, debunking his far more life-saving, efficient, and comprehensive, full Medicare-for-all plan with free choice of doctor and hospital with the knowingly misleading comment “We’re not running on any platform of raising taxes.” Presumably that includes continuing the Democratic Party’s practice of letting Wall Street, the global companies and the super-wealthy continue to get away with their profitable tax escapes.

Pelosi doesn’t expect the Democrats to make gains in the House of Representatives in 2016. But she has managed to hold on to her post long enough to help elect Hillary Clinton—no matter what Clinton’s record as a committed corporatist toady and a disastrous militarist (e.g., Iraq and the War on Libya) has been over the years.

For Pelosi it’s bring on the ‘old girls club,’ it’s our turn. The plutocracy and the oligarchy running this country into the ground have no worries. The genders of the actors are different, but the monied interests maintain their corporate state and hand out their campaign cash—business as usual.

Bernie Sanders, however, does present a moral risk for the corrupt Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee, which are already turning on one of their own leading candidates. His years in politics so cleanly contrasts with the sordid, scandalized, cashing-in behavior of the Clintons.

Pick up a copy of Peter Schweizer’s Clinton Cash, previewed early in 2015 by the New York Times. Again and again Schweizer documents the conflicted interest maneuvering of donors to the Clinton Foundation, shady deals involving global corporations and dictators, and huge speaking fees, with the Clinton Foundation and the State department as inventories to benefit the Clintons. The Clintons embody what is sleazy and harmful about their political intrigues.

If and when Bernie Sanders is brought down by the very party he is championing, the millions of Bernie supporters, especially young voters, will have to consider breaking off into a new political party that will make American history. That means dissolving the dictatorial two-party duopoly and its ruinous, unpatriotic, democracy-destroying corporate paymasters.


Η ορφανή ήττα

του Κώστα Λαπαβίτσα

Είναι γνωστό ότι η νίκη έχει πολλούς πατεράδες, αλλά η ήττα κανέναν. Μια από τις πιο χαρακτηριστικές πλευρές της πανωλεθρίας του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ είναι ότι η ομάδα που χάραξε την πολιτική του γραμμή μετά το 2010, οδηγώντας τον αρχικά στον εκλογικό θρίαμβο και κατόπι στη διαπραγματευτική συντριβή, αγωνίζεται τώρα να βρει επιχειρήματα για να αποποιηθεί τις ευθύνες της. Το τι λέει ο καθένας εξαρτάται από τη θέση που είχε, ή έχει, στο κόμμα και την κυβέρνηση.

Ο τωρινός στενός ηγετικός κύκλος, για παράδειγμα, μας λέει ότι δόθηκε μια ομηρική μάχη, αλλά ο εχθρός ήταν κατά πολύ υπέρτερος και ουκ ολίγον μπαμπέσης. Η δικιά μας πλευρά δεν είχε εκτιμήσει πόσο πολύ έχουν διαφθείρει την Ευρώπη οι δυνάμεις του σκότους. Δεχτήκαμε έναν κακό συμβιβασμό, αλλά θα βγάλουμε τη χώρα από την κρίση, με την κοινωνία όρθια. Η Αριστερά –και τα παλληκάρια– δεν εγκαταλείπουν τη μάχη.

Από την άλλη, πρώην στελέχη του ηγετικού κύκλου που τώρα ψάχνουν καινούργιο ρόλο μας λένε ότι όντως δόθηκε μια σκληρή μάχη και η στρατηγική μας ήταν σωστή. Ο εχθρός ήταν ένα βήμα πριν την κατάρρευση. Δε μπορεί, θα ενέδιδε και ο Ντράγκι και η Μέρκελ, αν εμείς συνεχίζαμε απτόητοι τις επιθετικές κινήσεις, με τις τράπεζες κλειστές και χωρίς ρευστότητα. Αλλά η κακιά μοίρα –ή μπορεί και η έλλειψη θάρρους– δεν επέτρεψε την ολοκλήρωση του σχεδίου.

Γνωστά όλα αυτά. Η τελευταία όμως προσφορά στο πεδίο των «ερμηνειών» από τους πρώην ηγετικούς κύκλους του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ είναι σίγουρα η πιο χαριτωμένη. Ούτε λίγο, ούτε πολύ, έχουμε τον ισχυρισμό ότι διαπραγμάτευση δεν έγινε. Διότι διαπραγμάτευση θα υπήρχε μόνο εάν είχε τεθεί ο διεθνής ταξικός εχθρός υπό διωγμό, αλλάζοντας τους όρους του κοινωνικού γίγνεσθαι με αποφασιστικές κινήσεις στο εσωτερικό της χώρας. Αν γινόταν η αναδιανομή του εισοδήματος και του πλούτου, θα είχαμε νικήσει τους δανειστές. Μόνο τότε θα είχε υπάρξει διαπραγμάτευση.

Σε μια περιβόητη αποστροφή του, ο Μποντριγιάρ αρνήθηκε ότι ο Πόλεμος του Κόλπου πραγματικά συνέβη. Ήταν προϊόν των ΜΜΕ, ένα φαντασιακό ομοίωμα της πραγματικότητας. Με τη νέα «ερμηνεία» της ήττας του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ έχουμε μια πολύ πιο εξελιγμένη προσέγγιση. Εφόσον δεν εφαρμόστηκε η συγκεκριμένη τακτική που προκρίνουν οι επικριτές, είναι προφανές ότι δεν υπήρξε καμία διαπραγμάτευση. Το πλήθος των συναντήσεων της ελληνικής πλευράς με τους δανειστές ήταν απλώς μια εικονική πραγματικότητα, ένα παιχνίδι επισκέψεων για κουβέντες με τον κ. Τόμσεν. Άγνωστο παραμένει τι ακριβώς έπαιζαν οι δανειστές το διάστημα αυτό.

Αν τα πράγματα στη χώρα δεν ήταν τόσο τραγικά, θα μπορούσε κανείς να διασκεδάσει με τον αγώνα για την αποφυγή της πατρότητας της ήττας από τους κατά τεκμήριο υπεύθυνους. Δυστυχώς όμως δεν υπάρχει περιθώριο ούτε για γέλια, ούτε για γελοίες δικαιολογίες. Όχι μόνο υπήρξαν διαπραγματεύσεις, όχι απλώς έγινε προσπάθεια να εφαρμοστεί η στρατηγική που για χρόνια είχε εξυφάνει η ηγετική ομάδα του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ, αλλά η χώρα κόντεψε να λυγίσει στην πορεία.

Το πρόβλημα δεν ήταν ούτε η σκληρότητα των δανειστών, ούτε η έλλειψη προθυμίας για μια τελευταία ζαριά από την πλευρά μας, και φυσικά όχι η έλλειψη διαπραγμάτευσης. Ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ συνετρίβη γιατί αυτό που προσπάθησε να κάνει, αυτό που η ηγετική του ομάδα –συλλογικά και πεισματικά– επέμενε ότι μπορούσε να γίνει, ήταν απλώς ανέφικτο. Απέτυχε γιατί: ΔΕ ΜΠΟΡΕΙ ΝΑ ΥΠΑΡΞΕΙ ΡΙΖΟΣΠΑΣΤΙΚΗ ΠΟΛΙΤΙΚΗ ΕΝΤΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΟΝΕ.

Μια μειοψηφική μερίδα στο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ υποστήριξε σθεναρά αυτή την άποψη. Έδωσε όλες τις μάχες μέχρι την καταστροφική υπογραφή του Τρίτου Μνημονίου, αλλά τελικά έχασε, εν μέρει και λόγω της δικής της ιδεολογικής και οργανωτικής αδυναμίας. Παρ’ όλα αυτά τα γεγονότα του 2015 και η συντριβή του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ επιβεβαιώνουν περίτρανα την ορθότητα της βασικής της θέσης.

Θα περίμενε κανείς λοιπόν ότι, μετά την πανωλεθρία, θα υπήρχε μια σοβαρή αποτίμηση των πεπραγμένων από πλευράς αυτών που χάραξαν την καταστροφική στρατηγική του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ τα προηγούμενα χρόνια. Τουλάχιστον η αποδοχή των λαθών και η έντιμη αναζήτηση μιας άλλης πορείας στις σημερινές, εξαιρετικά δύσκολες συνθήκες. Αμ δε. Ο ωμός συμβιβασμός με την εξουσία, το αναλυτικό κομφούζιο και ο πολιτικός ξερολισμός έχουν το πάνω χέρι. Το τίμημα το πληρώνει η κοινωνία και η χώρα.


Διαβάστε ακόμα:

The five lamest excuses for Hillary Clinton’s vote to invade Iraq

by Stephen Zunes

Former senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton is the only candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination who supported the invasion of Iraq.

That war not only resulted in 4,500 American soldiers being killed and thousands more permanently disabled, but also hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, the destabilization of the region with the rise of the Islamic State and other extremists, and a dramatic increase in the federal deficit, resulting in major cutbacks to important social programs. Moreover, the primary reasons Clinton gave for supporting President George W. Bush’s request for authorizing that illegal and unnecessary war have long been proven false.

As a result, many Democratic voters are questioning — despite her years of foreign policy experience — whether Clinton has the judgment and integrity to lead the United States on the world stage. It was just such concerns that resulted in her losing the 2008 nomination to then-Senator Barack Obama, an outspoken Iraq War opponent.

This time around, Clinton supporters have been hoping that enough Democratic voters — the overwhelming majority of whom opposed the war — will forget about her strong endorsement of the Bush administration’s most disastrous foreign policy. Failing that, they’ve come up with a number of excuses to justify her October 2002 vote for the authorization of military force.

Here they are, in no particular order.

Hillary Clinton’s vote wasn’t for war, but simply to pressure Saddam Hussein to allow UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq.

At the time of vote, Saddam Hussein had already agreed in principle to a return of the weapons inspectors. His government was negotiating with the United Nations Monitoring and Verification Commission on the details, which were formally institutionalized a few weeks later. (Indeed, it would have been resolved earlier had the United States not repeatedly postponed a UN Security Council resolution in the hopes of inserting language that would have allowed Washington to unilaterally interpret the level of compliance.)

Furthermore, if then-Senator Clinton’s desire was simply to push Saddam into complying with the inspection process, she wouldn’t have voted against the substitute Levin amendment, which would have also granted President Bush authority to use force, but only if Iraq defied subsequent UN demands regarding the inspections process. Instead, Clinton voted for a Republican-sponsored resolution to give Bush the authority to invade Iraq at the time and circumstances of his own choosing.

In fact, unfettered large-scale weapons inspections had been going on in Iraq for nearly four months at the time the Bush administration launched the March 2003 invasion. Despite the UN weapons inspectors having not found any evidence of WMDs or active WMD programs after months of searching, Clinton made clear that the United States should invade Iraq anyway. Indeed, she asserted that even though Saddam was in full compliance with the UN Security Council, he nevertheless needed to resign as president, leave the country, and allow U.S. troops to occupy the country. “The president gave Saddam Hussein one last chance to avoid war,” Clinton said in a statement, “and the world hopes that Saddam Hussein will finally hear this ultimatum, understand the severity of those words, and act accordingly.

When Saddam refused to resign and the Bush administration launched the invasion, Clintonwent on record calling for “unequivocal support” for Bush’s “firm leadership and decisive action” as “part of the ongoing Global War on Terrorism.” She insisted that Iraq was somehow still “in material breach of the relevant United Nations resolutions” and, despite the fact that weapons inspectors had produced evidence to the contrary, claimed the invasion was necessary to “neutralize Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Nearly everyone in Congress supported the invasion of Iraq, including most Democrats.

While all but one congressional Democrat — Representative Barbara Lee of California — supported the authorization of force to fight al-Qaeda in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, a sizable majority of Democrats in Congress voted against the authorization to invade Iraq the following year.

There were 21 Senate Democrats — along with one Republican, Lincoln Chafee, and one independent, Jim Jeffords — who voted against the war resolution, while 126 of 209 House Democrats also voted against it. Bernie Sanders, then an independent House member who caucused with the Democrats, voted with the opposition. At the time, Sanders gave a floor speech disputing the administration’s claims about Saddam’s arsenal. He not only cautioned that both American and Iraqi casualties could rise unacceptably high, but also warned “about the precedent that a unilateral invasion of Iraq could establish in terms of international law and the role of the United Nations.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, stood among the right-wing minority of Democrats in Washington.

The Democrats controlled the Senate at the time of the war authorization. Had they closed ranks and voted in opposition, the Bush administration would have been unable to launch the tragic invasion — at least not legally. Instead, Clinton and other pro-war Democrats chose to cross the aisle to side with the Republicans.

Her vote was simply a mistake.

While few Clinton supporters are still willing to argue her support for the war was a good thing, many try to minimize its significance by referring to it as simply a “mistake.” But while it may have been a terrible decision, it was neither an accident nor an aberration from Clinton’s generally hawkish worldview.

It would have been a “mistake” if Hillary Clinton had pushed the “aye” button when she meant to push the “nay” button. In fact, her decision — by her own admission — was quite conscious.

The October 2002 war resolution on Iraq wasn’t like the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorizing military force in Vietnam, which was quickly passed as an emergency request by President Lyndon Johnson when there was no time for reflection and debate. By contrast, at the time of the Iraq War authorization, there had been months of public debate on the matter. Clinton had plenty of time to investigate the administration’s claims that Iraq was a threat, as well as to consider the likely consequences of a U.S. invasion.

Also unlike the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which was disingenuously presented as an authorization to retaliate for an alleged attack on U.S. ships, members of Congress recognized that the Iraq resolution authorized a full-scale invasion of a sovereign nation and a subsequent military occupation. Clinton had met with scores of constituents, arms control analysts, and Middle East scholars who informed her that the war was unnecessary, illegal, and would likely end in disaster.

But she decided to support going to war anyway. She even rejected the advice of fellow Democratic senator Bob Graham that she read the full National Intelligence Estimate, which would have further challenged some of the Bush administration’s claims justifying the war.

It was not, therefore, simply a “mistake,” or a momentary lapse of judgment. Indeed, in her own words, she cast her vote “with conviction.”

As late as February 2007, Clinton herself refused to admit that her vote for the war resolution was a mistake. “If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake,” she said while campaigning for president, “then there are others to choose from.” She only began to acknowledge her regrets when she saw the polling numbers showing that a sizable majority of Democrats opposed the decision to go to war.

She voted for the war because she felt it was politically necessary.

First of all, voting for a devastating war in order to advance one’s political career isn’t a particularly strong rationale for why one shouldn’t share responsibility for the consequences — especially when that calculation proved disastrously wrong. Clinton’s vote to authorize the invasion was the single most important factor in convincing former supporters to back Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary, thereby costing her the nomination.

Nevertheless, it still raises questions regarding Hillary Clinton’s competence to become president.

To have believed that supporting the invasion would somehow be seen as a good thing would have meant that Clinton believed that the broad consensus of Middle East scholars who warned of a costly counterinsurgency war were wrong — and that the Bush administration’s insistence that U.S. occupation forces would be “treated as liberators” was credible.

After all, for the war to have been popular, there would have had to be few American casualties, and the administration’s claims about WMDs and Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda would have had to be vindicated. Moreover, some sort of stable pro-Western democracy would have emerged in Iraq, and the invasion would have contributed to greater stability and democracy in the region.

If Clinton believed any of those things were possible, she wasn’t paying attention. Among the scores of reputable Middle East scholars with whom I discussed the prospects of a U.S. invasion in the months leading up to the vote, none of them believed that any of these things would come to pass. They were right.

Nor was pressure likely coming from Clinton’s own constituents. Only a minority of Democrats nationwide supported the invasion, and given that New York Democrats are more liberal than the national average, opposition was possibly even stronger in the state she purported to represent. Additionally, a majority of Americans polled said they would oppose going to war if Saddam allowed for “full and complete” weapons inspectors, which he in fact did.

Finally, the idea that Clinton felt obliged to support the war as a woman in order not to appear “weak” also appears groundless. Indeed, every female senator who voted against the war authorization was easily re-elected.

She thought Iraq had ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and was supporting Al-Qaeda.

This is excuse is problematic on a number levels.

Before the vote, UN inspectors, independent strategic analysts, and reputable arms control journals all challenged the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq had somehow rebuilt its chemical and biological weapons programs, had a nuclear weapons program, or was supporting al-Qaeda terrorists.

Virtually all of Iraq’s known stockpiles of chemical and biological agents had been accounted for, and the shelf life of the small amount of materiel that hadn’t been accounted for had long since expired. (Some discarded canisters from the 1980s were eventually found, but these weren’t operational.) There was no evidence that Iraq had any delivery systems for such weapons either, or could build them without being detected. In addition, a strict embargo against imports of any additional materials needed for the manufacture of WMDs — which had been in effect since 1990 — made any claims that Iraq had offensive capability transparently false to anyone who cared to investigate the matter at that time.

Most of the alleged intelligence data made available to Congress prior to the war authorization vote has since been declassified. Most strategic analysts have found it transparently weak, based primarily on hearsay by Iraqi exiles of dubious credibility and conjecture by ideologically driven Bush administration officials.

Similarly, a detailed 1998 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency indicated that Iraq’s nuclear program appeared to have been completely dismantled by the mid-1990s, and a 2002 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate made no mention of any reconstituted nuclear development effort. So it’s doubtful Clinton actually had reason to believe her own claims that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program.

Additionally, there was no credible evidence whatsoever that the secular Baathist Iraqi regime had any ties to the hardline Islamist group al-Qaeda, yet Clinton distinguished herself as the only Senate Democrat to make such a claim. Indeed, a definitive report by the Department of Defense noted that not only did no such link exist, but that none could have even been reasonably suggested based on the evidence available at that time.

Moreover, even if Iraq really did have “weapons of mass destruction,” the war would have still been illegal, unnecessary, and catastrophic.

Roughly 30 countries (including the United States) have chemical, biological, or nuclear programs with weapons potential. The mere possession of these programs is not legitimate grounds for invasion, unless one is authorized by the United Nations Security Council — which the invasion of Iraq, pointedly, was not. If Clinton really thought Iraq’s alleged possession of those weapons justified her support for invading the country, then she was effectively saying the United States somehow has the right to invade dozens of other countries as well.

Similarly, even if Iraq had been one of those 30 countries — and remember, it was not — the threat of massive retaliation by Iraq’s neighbors and U.S. forces permanently stationed in the region provided a more than sufficient deterrent to Iraq using the weapons beyond its borders. A costly invasion and extended occupation were completely unnecessary.

Finally, the subsequent war and the rise of sectarianism, terrorism, Islamist extremism, and the other negative consequences of the invasion would have been just as bad even if the rationale weren’t bogus. American casualties could have actually been much higher, since WMDs would have likely been used against invading U.S. forces.

But here’s the kicker: Clinton stood by the war even after these claims were definitively debunked.

Even many months after the Bush administration itself acknowledged that Iraq had neither WMDs nor ties to Al-Qaeda, Clinton declared in a speech at George Washington University that her support for the authorization was still “the right vote” and one that “I stand by.” Similarly, in an interview on Larry King Live in April 2004, when asked about her vote despite the absence of WMDs or al-Qaeda ties, she acknowledged, “I don’t regret giving the president authority.

No Excuses

The 2016 Democratic presidential campaign is coming down to a race between Hillary Clinton, who supported the Bush Doctrine and its call for invading countries that are no threat to us regardless of the consequences, and Bernie Sanders, who supported the broad consensus of Middle East scholars and others familiar with the region who recognized that such an invasion would be disastrous.

There’s no question that the United States is long overdue to elect a woman head of state. But electing Hillary Clinton — or anyone else who supported the invasion of Iraq — would be sending a dangerous message that reckless global militarism needn’t prevent someone from becoming president, even as the nominee of the more liberal of the two major parties.

It also raises this ominous scenario: If Clinton were elected president despite having voted to give President Bush the authority, based on false pretenses, to launch a war of aggression — in violation of the UN Charter, the Nuremberg Principles, and common sense — what would stop her from demanding that Congress give her the same authority?


Half-a-Million refugees who don’t exist: Ben Rawlence’s “City of Thorns”

by Charles R. Larson

Unmarked on any official map, Dadaab—in eastern Kenya—is still today home to roughly 500,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia. You can follow it on Dadaab was formed in 1992 to hold what was anticipated to be 90,000 refugees from Somalia’s civil war. When the war did not end and famine in the Horn of Africa exacerbated conditions, it grew to half a million refugees, though some estimates add a couple hundred thousand more. Its residents are forbidden from leaving, from building permanent homes, and from working. Entire families have grown up in the camp, initially fleeing al-Shabaab fundamentalism in Somalia. The United States and other Western governments have supported the camp, the UN managed it, and the Kenyan forces policed it—all this until the Kenyan government officially closed it, in 2014.

The existence of Dadaab (composed, actually, of several camps) has always been complicated. Kenya didn’t want the Somalis, who considered the area, historically, their own land. The camp’s explosive growth, especially during the drought of 2011, was not anticipated. UN resources for refugees are always stretched thin. As BenRawlence says in City of Thorns, his scathing indictment of the authorities, “Early warning [of the famine] was a waste of time—there would have to be people dying on television before the money from rich governments would flow. And when it finally did, it would come in a flood. And the markets for the local farmers would collapse entirely. The same thing happened every time.” Ten thousand children had been dying each month, trying to walk to Kenya. “The mortality rate was seven times over the emergency threshold.” Eventually, 260,000 people would die, half of them children. The site became a circus, with TV journalists everywhere and the profiteers of misery, who are always waiting for tragedy in order to pounce.

The rains eventually came and things were somewhat better, though too much rain can make matters worse. Then, because of infiltration by al-Shabaab, two Spanish women, aid workers, were kidnapped. The international agencies suspended their work and Kenya declared war on al-Shabaab, with the intent of forming a buffer zone known as Jubaland between the two countries (but within Somalia borders). That war was largely ineffective. The residents of the Dadaab camps experienced increased violence. The Kenyan government (“less a state than a corrupt collection of rival cartels, some of whom probably had an interest in prolonging the fighting”) and the Kenyan police, an “assortment of drunk and overweight…officers staring at the television,” were largely motivated by corruption and profit.

And the refugees themselves? Rawlence describes them as mostly trapped in Dadaab. Some waited for years for papers for immigration to the few countries that would accept them. Some fled to Nairobi in spite of the restrictions on them. Some returned to Mogadishu, believing that it might be safer than continuing to live in the camps. There was social breakdown, a blurring of traditional gender roles, especially for men, who had a difficult time being providers. People gave up as their lives dried up. Then, to make things even worse, external events changed all of the parameters. The UNHCR had to cut food rations for the refugees in Dadaab, because the money was needed elsewhere, especially for Syria and Iraq. September 21, 2013, masked gunmen attacked shoppers at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, amidst shouts of “Allahu Akbar” and “We are al-Shabaab,” killing at least 67 people over several days. The ineptitude of the Kenyan forces was on full display and video caught their looting of the mall. But that hardly mattered. The outcry was, once again, for closing down Dadaab, described as an al-Shabaab breeding ground. Rawlence does not agree with that assessment.

Following the rulebook of other countries in recent decades, the Kenyan government simply declared “Dadaab Camp Officially Closed.” No matter that there were still 400,000 people living there and conditions in Somalia had not significantly improved. The refugees (including Somalis in Nairobi) were expected to return to Somalia, and some did, sent on Kenyan busses. Rawlence describes the situation as “the pogrom against Somalis.” Nor does he mince words when he states that Dadaab had “the structure of punishment” like a prison, though the residents had committed no crimes. The crime was somewhere else: “There was a crime here on an industrial scale: confining people to a camp, forbidding them to work, and then starving them; people who had come to Dadaab fleeing famine in the first place.” With nowhere else for people to go, Dadaab actually grew larger, instead of smaller.

City of Thorns is a perfect metaphor for our time, a perfect storm of human misery because of mismanagement. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that other similar refugee camps are springing up all over the Middle East. The wonder of Rawlence’s book is its emphasis on the human dimension, in spite of the writer’s massing of historical evidence. (Rawlence worked for Human Rights Watch in the area for several years.) The book’s sub-title is Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp, although, sadly, since the book was completed, there are several camps in the Middle East competing in their size.

The lives of nine refugees fleshes out the horror of the story by providing it with a human context. Thus, one of the first people we encounter is Guled, who was born in Mogadishu in 1993, and, years later, fled the country, arriving in Dadaab late in 2010. Before that, he’d been conscripted by the fundamentalists, forced to join the moral police (boy soldiers), checking the market. He describes some of their tactics. “Beating was routine. If you had music or inappropriate pictures on your phone you might be forced to swallow the SIM card. Smokers often had their faces burned with their own cigarettes. One man who had been beaten for smoking…later broke down crying when he recounted the story—not for the physical pain he had suffered but the heartbreak of being assaulted by children.

After some weeks of policing the market, Guled managed to escape and flee to Kenya, soon after marrying a girl named Maryam. In Dabaab, he had to register with the UNHCR and claim asylum “in order to be given a ration card, personal items like a blanket and a bucket….” Guled remained frightened that al-Shabaab’s infiltrators would recognize him. He had to struggle to find a job but eventually found day work as a porter. Since he was single, he’d not been given a plot of land and a tent but had to share space with a family. After some months, Maryam arrived, pregnant, and the two were united. Their lives and that of their two children were tenuous. Guled’s jobs are never adequate for supporting his family; he’s also addicted to “playing and watching football.” Eventually, Maryam gives up on their marriage and returns to Mogadishu with their children. Guled remains in Dabaab for fear that al-Shabaab will recognize him.

Another marriage—between Monday, who was born in the camp, and Muna, who was brought to the camp by her parents—falters because Muna became addicted to khat. Her addiction occurred after the birth of two children and after the family was put on “fast track” for resettlement in Australia. Fast track is an oxymoron; the time often stretches into years. Muna became so compromised by the khat that she tried to kill herself. Monday was left for a time raising their children. Rawlence’s inclusion of their story is obvious. As he notes, “Muna was perhaps the ultimate child of her generation. Raised in the limbo of the camp, the true daughter of Dabaab, Muna had relinquished responsibility for herself entirely to the testing mercy of events,” simply giving up. Yet, months and months later, after the two were reunited and Muna was pregnant again, their paperwork (which had been lost) finally resulted in their resettlement in Australia. Whether they would remain intact as a family—after so many years of disappointment—was doubtful.

In City of Thorns, Rawlence is anything but hopeful about the lives of the refugees he followed over several years. The book suffers from poor editing in a number of places, possibly because of an attempt to get it into print just as the refugee situation in other trouble spots of the world has gotten out of control. Still, Rawlence’s rage at the lackadaisical approach of donor nations (often the cause of the problems) about refugee crises is totally understandable and justified. As he concludes, “Ranged against the Kenyan desire to see Dadaab leveled was not just the law, but all the forces of human ingenuity and determination that had raised a city in this most hostile desert. Dadaab worked. It served a need, for the miracle of schools and hospitals and a safety net of food, and for respite from the exhaustion of the war. It had become a fact. Through the accumulated energy of the generations that had lived there it had acquired the weight and drama of place. It was a landmark around which hundreds of thousands oriented their lives. In the imagination of Somalis, even if not on the official cartography, Dadaab was now on the map.