Saturday, September 27, 2008
To The UN General Assembly
25/09/08 The following is a copy of Iranian President Ahmadinejad's speech to the United Nations General Assembly early Wednesday morning, as translated by the Presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran News Service:
Mr. President, Excellencies,
I am grateful to the Almighty for granting me another opportunity to be present in this world Assembly.
In the last three years, I have talked to you about great hopes in the bright future of human society, and some solutions for achieving sustainable peace and expanding love, compassion, and cooperation.
I have also talked about unjust systems governing the world; pressures exerted by some powers seeking to trample the rights of other nations, oppression imposed on the majority of the global community, especially on the people of Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Africa, Latin America, and Asia; about challenges we are faced with, such as efforts to shatter the sanctity of families, destroy cultures, humiliate lofty values, neglect commitments, expand the shadow of threats, as well as about the arms race and the unfairness and inability of the systems governing world affairs in reforming the status quo.
With the occurrence of various new developments, the debility of existing mechanisms has been revealed even more. However, at the same time, an encouraging trend, which has originated in the thoughts and beliefs of peoples, has blossomed and become stronger. Posed against the despairs caused by the new developments, this trend has ignited the ray of hope for a brilliant, desirable and beautiful future in the hearts of men.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today I would like to talk to you about the main reasons behind the conditions ruling the world and the means to tackle them. Of course, you are already aware of what I am talking about, but I think it is necessary to remind ourselves.
It seems that the roots of problems lie in the way one views and perceives the world and humankind, as well as in the important issues of freedom, obeisance to God, and justice. The world, humankind, freedom and obeisance to God, and justice, have been of utmost importance to humans throughout history.
1. The World:
God Almighty purposefully created the world. This world is the bedrock for the evolution and growth of a creature called man, and the laws governing the world and all other creatures are at the service of man's quest for loftiness. The world should provide the needed opportunities for the fulfillment of the purpose behind man's creation. No phenomenon, creature, or indeed anything has been created in vain. Together they all pave the ground for the flourishing of mankind in a complex and purposeful system, and they are, each, one of the signs of God Almighty. All are His creations and He is the sole creator and ruler of the world. All existence including power, knowledge and wealth come from Him.
God created the world for humans and humans for Himself. He created humans from mud and in the soil, but He did not want them to remain in the soil and with animal instincts. He kindled the light of guidance in their souls and asked them to rise from the soil to the heavens and to Him with the help of wisdom, prophets and perfect men.
The world will ultimately disappear, but God has created man for eternity and has made them a manifestation of Himself. Creativity, mercifulness, kindness, knowledge, wisdom, zeal, concealment of sins, splendor, justice, bounteousness, generosity, greatness, love, glory, dignity, forgiveness, insight, kingship and all other goodness and beauty are attributes of God.
God has not created humans for aggression, bloodshed, rancor, selfishness and destruction. He made humans His vicegerents on earth and has asked them to, on the one hand, make earth prosper by using their God-given potentials and to prepare the ground for the growth of divine attributes in all humans, and to provide all with a life full of beauty, amity, freedom, justice and goodness; and on the other hand in pursuance of this path, to prepare for a prosperous, everlasting life endowed by God's mercy.
God has obligated humans to live divinely and socially, for it is only through social life and interactions with others that divine attributes may emerge.
3. Obeisance to God:
God Almighty has tied their perfection and true freedom of humans to their devotion and obedience to Himself. True freedom and obedience to God are in balance and in fact are two sides of the same coin.
Obeisance to God means confessing to monotheism and obeying His commands, and to be free from ungodly worship.
Obeisance to God means the acceptance of the absolute truth, the absolute light, and the absolute beauty.
Obeisance to God means abandoning selfishness and animal instincts, power-seeking and aggression, surrendering to righteousness, justice, love, and perfection.
And in this way, humans can achieve their true freedom and flourish, they can grow and manifest divine attributes, have affection for others, stand up for justice, and fear no power or threat, and defend the oppressed. In such an environment, one's freedom will not impinge on any others.
Contention and conflict are characteristic of materialistic freedom and animal instinct. The essence of all divine religions and obeisance to God and true freedom is disassociating from oppressors and instead obeying and worshiping God, for:
- God is omniscient and knows all that is revealed or kept secret, and He is kind and merciful.
- All creatures are humble before Him and resign to His will.
- God is alive and is the Creator of the universe and all life.
- God loves His creatures and desires nothing but goodness, blessings, and perfection for them, and is against bullying, injustice, selfishness and domination.
Justice is the foundation of the creation of humankind and the whole universe. Justice is tantamount to placing every phenomenon in its own place, and providing humans with opportunities to actualize all their divine capabilities. Without it, the order of the universe will collapse and the opportunity for perfection will fade away. Without justice, it would be impossible for human society to taste real peace, beauty, joy and happiness. Justice is the main pillar of social life and without it, social life cannot continue or grow.
Humans need to know God in order to realize a prosperous society in this world as well as to strive for a beautiful eternal life, and to this end they first have to know themselves and strive for loftiness in themselves and their societies. However:
- as long as the world is construed as closed, limited and aimless,
- as long as eternal life is considered imaginary and illusory and afterlife and the Judgment Day as well as reward and punishment are thought of as fictional and unreal,
- as long as morals and commitment to them are called backwardness, and immorality, lies, deceit and selfishness are considered desirable, and humans are limited to a materialistic life in this world,
- as long as attempts are made to replace obedience to God and following His prophets and true freedom with servitude to materialistic tendencies and animal instincts and servitude to oppressing human beings, and contention reaches its pinnacle,
- as long as the aggressors, because of their financial, political and propaganda powers, not only escape punishment but even claim righteousness,
- and as long wars are started and nations are enslaved in order to win votes in elections,
not only will the problems of the global community remain unsolved, but they will be increasingly exacerbated.
Friends and Colleagues,
Let's look at the situation of the world today:
Iraq was attacked under the false pretext of uncovering weapons of mass destruction and overthrowing a dictator. The dictator is toppled and WMDs are not uncovered. A democratic government is established by the votes of the people but, after 6 years, the occupiers are still there. They insist on imposing colonial agreements on the people of Iraq by keeping them under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Millions of people have been killed or displaced, and the occupiers, without a sense of shame, are still seeking to solidify their position in the political geography of the region and to dominate oil resources.
They have no respect for the people of Iraq and disregard any dignity, rights or status for them. The UN is not capable enough to solve the problems and to remove aggression, occupation and imposition.
In Palestine, 60 years of carnage and invasion is still ongoing at the hands of some criminal and occupying Zionists. They have forged a regime through collecting people from various parts of the world and bringing them to other people's land by displacing, detaining, and killing the true owners of that land.
With advance notice, they invade, assassinate, and maintain food and medicine blockades, while some hegemonic and bullying powers support them. The Security Council cannot do anything and sometimes, under pressure from a few bullying powers, even paves the way for supporting these Zionist murderers. It is natural that some UN resolutions that have addressed the plight of the Palestinian people have been relegated to the archives unnoticed.
In Afghanistan, production of narcotics has multiplied since the presence of NATO forces. Domestic conflicts continue. Terrorism is spreading. And innocent people are bombarded on a daily basis in streets, markets, schools and wedding ceremonies. The people of Afghanistan are the victims of the willingness of NATO member states to dominate the regions surrounding India, China, and South Asia. The Security Council cannot do anything about it because some of these NATO members also happen to be the major decision makers in the Security Council.
In Africa, efforts are made to reestablish the relationships of the colonial era. By starting civil wars in large countries including Sudan, disintegration of those countries is planned in order to serve the interests of some corrupt powers. In case there is a national resistance, the leaders of the resistance are put under pressure by legal mechanisms created by the very same powers.
In Latin America, people find their security, national interests and cultures to be seriously endangered by the menacing shadow of alien domineering governments, and even by the embassies of some empires.
The lives, properties and rights of the people of Georgia and Ossetia and Abkhazia are victims of the tendencies and provocations of NATO and certain western powers, and the underhanded actions of the Zionists.
The never-ending arms race and the proliferation and stockpiling of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and the threats to use them, and the establishment of missile defense systems, have made the situation unstable.
With regard to Iran's peaceful nuclear program, despite the inalienable right of all nations including the Iranian nation, in producing nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes, and despite such facts as the transparency of all Iranian activities and our country's full cooperation with the inspectors of the IAEA and the Agency's repeated confirmation of the fact that Iran's activities are peaceful, a few bullying powers have sought to put hurdles in the way of the peaceful nuclear activities of the Iranian nation by exerting political and economic pressures against Iran, and also through threatening and pressuring the IAEA.
These are the same powers that produce new generations of lethal nuclear arms and possess stockpiles of nuclear weapons that no international organization is monitoring; and, the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were perpetrated by one of them.
Indeed, they are not against weapons, but they oppose other nations' progress, and tend to monopolize technologies and to use those monopolies in order to impose their will on other nations. But it is very natural that the great Iranian people, with their trust in God, and with determination and steadfastness and with the support of its friends, will resist the bullying and has defended and will continue to defend its rights.
The Iranian nation is for dialogue. But it has not accepted and will not accept illegal demands. The time has come for the IAEA to present a clear report to the international community on its monitoring of the disarmament of these nuclear powers and their nuclear activities, and for a disarmament committee to be established by independent states to monitor the disarmament of these nuclear powers.
The theories of development that are in line with the hegemonic system and not in accordance with the true needs of humankind and human societies, have turned into repetitive and bland tools for assimilation of economies, expanding hegemonic domination, destroying the environment and destroying the social solidarity of nations. There is no end in sight to this. Poverty, hunger and deprivation are hurting more than one billion of the world's population and have dashed their hopes for a decent life.
The dignity, integrity and rights of the American and European people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are a miniscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the US in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner. It is deeply disastrous to witness that some presidential or premiere nominees in some big countries have to visit these people, take part in their gatherings, swear their allegiance and commitment to their interests in order to attain financial or media support.
This means that the great people of America and various nations of Europe need to obey the demands and wishes of a small number of acquisitive and invasive people. These nations are spending their dignity and resources on the crimes and occupations and the threats of the Zionist network against their will.
Friends and Colleagues,
All these are due to the manner in which the immoral and the powerful view the world, humankind, freedom, obeisance to God, and justice.
The thoughts and deeds of those who think they are superior to others and consider others as second-class and inferior; who intend to remain out of the divine circle, to be the absolute slaves of their materialistic and selfish desires, who intend to expand their aggressive and domineering natures, constitute the roots of today's problems in human societies.
They are the great hindrances to the actualization of material and spiritual prosperity and to security, peace and brotherhood among nations. I explicitly state that the Iranian people and the overwhelming majority of peoples and governments are against those deeds and perspectives of the world- domineering powers. Establishment of justice requires people who have achieved moderation and justice inside themselves, and have restrained their domineering attitudes and actualized their attributes of self-sacrifice and are at the service of humanity. The complete and full-scale manifestation of such characteristics can happen only under the rule of the righteous and perfect human being who is obedient to God and who is promised by the divine Prophets.
Of course with the grace of God Almighty a hopeful trend is flourishing in the heart and soul of human societies. The universal eagerness for justice, purity, and love for others, monotheism and the quest for perfection is clearly and increasingly on the rise. A universal resistance against the acquisitiveness, aggression and selfishness of the bullying powers is being formed.
Today, the bullying powers' thoughts, practices and strategies are rejected by nations and governments, and all are seeking to establish new human relations based on justice with a view to attain prosperity, perfection, security, and sustainable welfare. This is the very auspicious phenomenon that all the traditions of creation and the ruling laws of the universe emphasize and support.
Today, the Zionist regime is on a definite slope to collapse, and there is no way for it to get out of the cesspool created by itself and its supporters. The Islamic Republic of Iran, while fully respecting the resistance of the oppressed people of Palestine and expressing its all-out support for it, submits its humane solution based on a free referendum in Palestine for determining and establishing the type of state in the entire Palestinian lands to the distinguished Secretary General of the UN.
American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road, and its next rulers must limit their interference to their own borders. Today, the thought of hegemony quickly becomes a demerit.
And now a few words with the expansionist governments ruling global relations:
Be aware that living with obedience to God and carrying out His orders, compassion for people and striving for the fulfillment of justice is to your advantage too. I invite you to return to the path of God, the Prophets and to the path of the people of the world and to the truth and justice.
The only route to salvation is a divine straight path. Otherwise, God's hand of power will emerge from the sleeve of oppressed nations and will make your life difficult, and will put an end to your hegemony.
Let's love the people of the world and respect their rights. Rectify past behavior. This will benefit you and the human community. The Iranian people are prepared, along with other nations, to help you be rescued from your current situation and to establish peace and prosperity.
Fortuitously, opportunities are accessible. With the grace of God Almighty, the existing pillars of the oppressive system are crumbling. Great developments in favor of humankind as well as its true and real rights are on the way. A golden and brilliant future is awaiting mankind.
A global community filled with justice, friendship, brotherhood and welfare is at hand, as I have elaborated.
A community which will tread the path of beauty and love under the rule of the righteous and perfect human being, the One promised by all divine prophets and the One who is the true lover of humanity. A community that will be devoid of any fear, despair and privation. Such a community will soon be ours. The community promised by the great divine Prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ and Mohammad (PBUH) is about to materialize.
Let us, hand in hand, expand the thought of resistance against evil and the minority of those who are ill-wishers. Let's support goodness and the majority of people who are good and the embodiment of absolute good that is the Imam of Time, The Promised One who will come accompanied by Jesus Christ, and accordingly design and implement the just and humanistic mechanisms for regulating the constructive relationships between nations and governments.
Oh great Almighty, deliver the savior of nations and put an end to the sufferings of mankind and bring forth justice, beauty, and love.
Let's have a proper share in the establishment of that illuminated and promised divine age
Friday, September 26, 2008
Stand with Bolivia
Santa Cruz, Bolivia, October 23-25, 2008
1. The dignified inhabitants of this Abya Yala (American) continent have been struggling for centuries to re-establish SUMAK KAWSAY (Living Fully) that was seized from us by the invaders and subsequent colonizers. Throughout the ages they have murdered worthy leaders, usurped the wealth of the people and at the height of their greed, violated all human rights and those of Pachamama [Mother Earth], aided and abetted by members of the religious hierarchies who forged accords with the political and economic power in each historical period.
2. After 516 years, the neo-invaders and conquistadores seek to abort the libertarian rebirth in Latin America, and so the descendants of the murderers and usurpers return with their neoliberal policies, provoking new genocides and larcenies.
3. North American imperialism and its allies within the Latin American oligarchy are trying to halt the liberation processes in countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Nicaragua, among others; and so the oppressors shed their sheep's clothing in order to fully display their predatory wolves' fangs, ready to save their outdated political, social, economic and cultural system by any means necessary. Bolivia is now the target of the largest offensive by these sectors who believe themselves to be owners and lords of the world, intending to permanently appropriate for themselves the water, gas, oil, and land that belong to the Bolivian people.
4. In Bolivia, the groups that make up the so-called "Half-Moon," which are fascist civic-prefectural groups, descendants of those who served Hitler in his deathly project and following their defeat in the Second World War, fled to various countries, Bolivia among them, are unable to comprehend that the time has come for stolen property to be returned to its legitimate owners.
They cannot bear that in Bolivia, for the first time in Latin American history, with more than 53% of the vote, the people chose the Aymara brother, Evo Morales Ayma as their president; an heir to the rebellion of Tupac Katari, Bartolina Sisa, Tupak Amaru and Che Guevara; a man born of Pachamama and forged in the social insurgency lit by the millennial fire of the sacred COCA leaf; who called a new Constituent Assembly and won all battles cleanly and with dignity; who struggles for a true Agrarian Reform in a country where more than 80% of the population is impoverished, and who was ratified as President of the Republic by 67% in a referendum held August 10th; who nationalized strategic resources such as oil and natural gas; who implemented social measures in solidarity, in order to favor the least protected; who with a dignified attitude expelled the United States Ambassador in La Paz, Philip Goldberg, for conspiring against Bolivia's sovereignty and refusing to respect the people's right to self-determination; among other measures that demonstrate his unwavering commitment to serve the people who now ratify him as President.
5. These anti-democratic sectors, finding themselves defeated and in the middle of complete desperation to maintain their privileges, began a divisive plan of autonomy for Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, Pando, and with the help of a terrorist group called the "juventud cruceñista" [Santa Cruz Youth Union] are implementing a new phase of their COUP PLAN, by the taking of public institutions, and in an effort to destabilize the legitimate government of Evo Morales, SLAUGHTERED AND KILLED scores of unarmed indigenous and peasants in Porvenir (Pando), the very same who through their struggle have been added to the thousands of heroes and martyrs who have offered their lives for the ultimate recovery of Sumak Kawsay on our continent.
6. Faced with these situations, in the name of Pachamama's loving and rebellious cry for justice, of the dignified women and men who aspire to leave our sons and daughters a planet where we might live in universal brotherhood, through the exercise of the right to a dignified life, the right to self-determination for the people, and respect for inter-cultural and multinational coexistence; for a just and fraternal world, we call on all organizations of indigenous, Afro-Americans, peasants, workers, women, social movements, students, networks, intellectuals, personalities, friends of revolutionary causes, to the INTERNATIONAL MEETING OF SOLIDARITY WITH BOLIVIA, to be held on October 23 and 25 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in order to unite our forces and hearts, and testify together to the world that BOLIVIA DOES NOT STRUGGLE ALONE.
That is why we join with President Evo Morales and endorse his words:
"Many times I will be wrong, who isn't once in awhile? But in the struggle against neoliberal colonization, I will never be wrong, I will never betray them." (Evo Morales, Umala, May 3rd, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The Rich Thank You
Let's be honest: you'll never win the lottery.
As a result, you don't have the education, upbringing, connections, manners, appearance, and good taste to ever become one of us. In fact, you'd probably need a book the size of the yellow pages to list all the unfair advantages we have over you. That's why we're so relieved to know that you still continue to believe all those silly fairy tales about "justice" and "equal opportunity" in America.
Of course, in a hierarchical social system like ours, there's never been much room at the top to begin with. Besides, it's already occupied by us -- and we like it up here so much that we intend to keep it that way. But at least there's usually someone lower in the social hierarchy you can feel superior to and kick in the teeth once in a while. Even a lowly dishwasher can easily find some poor slob further down in the pecking order to sneer and spit at. So be thankful for migrant workers, prostitutes, and homeless street people.
Always remember that if everyone like you were economically secure and socially privileged like us, there would be no one left to fill all those boring, dangerous, low-paid jobs in our economy. And no one to fight our wars for us, or blindly follow orders in our totalitarian corporate institutions. And certainly no one to meekly go to their grave without having lived a full and creative life. So please, keep up the good work!
You also probably don't have the same greedy, compulsive drive to possess wealth, power, and prestige that we have. And even though you may sincerely want to change the way you live, you're also afraid of the very change you desire, thus keeping you and others like you in a nervous state of limbo. So you go through life mechanically playing your assigned social role, terrified what others would think should you ever dare to "break out of the mold."
Naturally, we try to play you off against each other whenever it suits our purposes: high-waged workers against low-waged, unionized against non-unionized, Black against White, male against female, American workers against Japanese against Mexican against.... We continually push your wages down by invoking "foreign competition," "the law of supply and demand," "national security," or "the bloated federal deficit." We throw you on the unemployed scrap heap if you step out of line or jeopardize our profits. And to give you an occasional break from the monotony of our daily economic blackmail, we allow you to participate in our stage-managed electoral shell games, better known to you ordinary folks as "elections." Happily, you haven't a clue as to what's really happening -- instead, you blame "Aliens," "Tree-hugging Environmentalists," "Niggers," "Jews," Welfare Queens," and countless others for your troubled situation.
We're also very pleased that many of you still embrace the "work ethic," even though most jobs in our economy degrade the environment, undermine your physical and emotional health, and basically suck your one and only life right out of you. We obviously don't know much about work, but we're sure glad you do!
Of course, life could be different. Society could be intelligently organized to meet the real needs of the general population. You and others like you could collectively fight to free yourselves from our domination. But you don't know that. In fact, you can't even imagine that another way of life is possible. And that's probably the greatest, most significant achievement of our system -- robbing you of your imagination, your creativity, your ability to think and act for yourself.
So we'd truly like to thank you from the bottom of our heartless hearts. Your loyal sacrifice makes possible our corrupt luxury; your work makes our system work. Thanks so much for "knowing your place" -- without even knowing it!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Iran Blames USA
TEHRAN, September 23 (RIA Novosti) - Iran's president said on Tuesday that the current U.S. administration was to blame for the main problems facing the world today.
"The roots of the main problems in the world today should be sought in the behavior of the U.S. administration," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York.
The Iranian leader also reiterated that the Islamic Republic's nuclear program was entirely peaceful and dismissed U.S. accusations that Tehran was striving to develop nuclear weapons.
He also said Iran was determined to resolve its nuclear problem by peaceful means, but would require "a just approach" from the West.
In an interview with National Public Radio, Ahmadinejad said that, "We do not have confrontations with anyone. The U.S. administration interferes, and we defend ourselves."
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, he said that the current global financial crisis had been caused by U.S. military interventions around the world.
"Problems do not arise suddenly," he said. "The U.S. government has made a series of mistakes in the past few decades. The imposition on the U.S. economy of years of heavy military engagement and involvement around the world . . . the war in Iraq, for example. These are heavy costs imposed on the U.S. economy."
Several hundred people rallied outside the UN headquarters in New York to protest Ahmadinejad's arrival for the General Assembly session.
The Iranian president is due to speak at a UN session on Tuesday - a day after the IAEA said it had not been able to make much progress in its inquiry into a possible military aspect to Iran's nuclear program. The UN nuclear watchdog added that the issue remained a serious concern.
Tehran says its nuclear activities are aimed at generating electricity, but the United States and other Western nations suspect the civilian program is a cover for plans to build a nuclear bomb. The United States and Israel have refused to rule out a military attack on the country's nuclear facilities.
Foreign ministers from the six powers engaged in the long-running nuclear talks with Iran - Russia, China, the U.S., France, Britain, and Germany - will meet on Thursday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the French Foreign Ministry said earlier.
Russia and China, veto-wielding UN Security Council members, have opposed extra, tougher sanctions against Tehran over its defiance of international demands to halt uranium enrichment, a process needed in power generation and weapons production.
Russia has urged Iran to comply with all UN Security Council resolutions and UN nuclear watchdog rulings on its nuclear program.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Billions for Bailouts! Who Pays?
By Senator Bernie Sanders
The current financial crisis facing our country has been caused by the extreme right-wing economic policies pursued by the Bush administration. These policies, which include huge tax breaks for the rich, unfettered free trade and the wholesale deregulation of commerce, have resulted in a massive redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the very wealthy.
The middle class has really been under assault. Since President Bush has been in office, nearly 6 million Americans have slipped into poverty, median family income for working Americans has declined by more than $2,000, more than 7 million Americans have lost their health insurance, over 4 million have lost their pensions, foreclosures are at an all time high, total consumer debt has more than doubled, and we have a national debt of over $9.7 trillion dollars.
While the middle class collapses, the richest people in this country have made out like bandits and have not had it so good since the 1920s. The top 0.1 percent now earn more money than the bottom 50 percent of Americans, and the top 1 percent own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. The wealthiest 400 people in our country saw their wealth increase by $670 billion while Bush has been president. In the midst of all of this, Bush lowered taxes on the very rich so that they are paying lower income tax rates than teachers, police officers or nurses.
Now, having mismanaged the economy for eight years as well as having lied about our situation by continually insisting, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong,” the Bush administration, six weeks before an election, wants the middle class of this country to spend many hundreds of billions on a bailout. The wealthiest people, who have benefited from Bush’s policies and are in the best position to pay, are being asked for no sacrifice at all. This is absurd. This is the most extreme example that I can recall of socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
USA Third World
It's Been a Quick Slide From Economic Superpower
September 18, 2008
Dear United States, Welcome to the Third World!
It's not every day that a superpower makes a bid to transform itself into a Third World nation, and we here at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund want to be among the first to welcome you to the community of states in desperate need of international economic assistance. As you spiral into a catastrophic financial meltdown, we are delighted to respond to your Treasury Department's request that we undertake a joint stability assessment of your financial sector. In these turbulent times, we can provide services ranging from subsidized loans to expert advisors willing to perform an emergency overhaul of your entire government.
As you know, some outside intervention in your economy is overdue. Last week -- even before Wall Street's latest collapse -- 13 former finance ministers convened at the University of Virginia and agreed that you must fix your "broken financial system." Australia's Peter Costello noted that lately you've been "exporting instability" in world markets, and Yashwant Sinha, former finance minister of India, concluded, "The time has come. The U.S. should accept some monitoring by the IMF."
We hope you won't feel embarrassed as we assess the stability of your economy and suggest needed changes. Remember, many other countries have been in your shoes. We've bailed out the economies of Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and South Korea. But whether our work is in Sudan, Bangladesh or now the United States, our experts are committed to intervening in national economies with care and sensitivity.
We thus want to acknowledge the progress you have made in your evolution from economic superpower to economic basket case. Normally, such a process might take 100 years or more. With your oscillation between free-market extremism and nationalization of private companies, however, you have successfully achieved, in a few short years, many of the key hallmarks of Third World economies.
Your policies of irresponsible government deregulation in critical sectors allowed you to rapidly develop an energy crisis, a housing crisis, a credit crisis and a financial market crisis, all at once, and accompanied (and partly caused) by impressive levels of corruption and speculation. Meanwhile, those of your political leaders charged with oversight were either napping or in bed with corporate lobbyists.
Take John McCain, your Republican presidential nominee, whose senior staff includes half a dozen prominent former lobbyists. As he recently put it, "I was chairman of the [Senate] Commerce Committee that oversights every part of the economy." No question about it: Your leaders' failure to notice the damage done by irresponsible deregulation was indeed an oversight of epic proportions.
Now you are facing the consequences. Income inequality has increased, as the rich have gotten windfalls while the middle class has seen incomes stagnate. Fewer and fewer of your citizens have access to affordable housing, healthcare or security in retirement. Even life expectancy has dropped. And when your economic woes went from chronic to acute, you responded -- like so many Third World states have -- with an extensive program of nationalizing private companies and assets. Your mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now state owned and controlled, and this week your reinsurance giant AIG was effectively nationalized, with the Federal Reserve Board seizing an 80% equity stake in the flailing company.
Some might deride this as socialism. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
Admittedly, your transition to Third World status is far from over, and it won't be painless. At first, for instance, you may find it hard to get used to the shantytowns that will replace the exurban sprawl of McMansions that helped fuel the real estate speculation bubble. But in time, such shantytowns will simply become part of the landscape. Similarly, as unemployment rates continue to rise, you will initially struggle to find a use for the expanding pool of angry, jobless young men. But you will gradually realize that you can recruit them to fight in a ceaseless round of armed conflicts, a solution that has been utilized by many other Third World states before you. Indeed, with your wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you are off to an excellent start.
Perhaps this letter comes as a surprise to you, and you feel you're not fully ready to join the Third World. Don't let this feeling concern you. Though you may never have realized it, you've been preparing for this moment for years.
When Refusing to Kill
Has A Higher Sentence Than Murder
Saturday 20 September 2008
by: Ann Wright
From the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States military has come under intense criticism and scrutiny for the deaths of civilians. This week, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan to "acknowledge" the deaths of innocent civilians in attacks in those countries.
In the five and one-half years of the US occupation of Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed by US military personnel at checkpoints, during convoy movements and during operations to find the "enemy." In the half-decade of US military presence in Iraq, a very small number of US military personnel and an even smaller number of CIA and contractors have been charged with manslaughter or murder in these deaths. The deaths of most civilians are counted in the "costs of war." A few dozen military have been court-martialed on allegations of mistreatment, manslaughter and murder of Iraqi civilians. With a very few exceptions, most who were court-martialed have been acquitted. Those who were convicted have generally served light sentences.
This week we see again that punishment is less for murdering four Iraqis than for refusing to participate in a war that many citizens, and many in the military, see as a crime against the peace - a war crime.
On September 18, 2008, the US Army sentenced Specialist Belmor Ramos to seven months in prison, demotion to private and a dishonorable discharge for standing guard from a turret in a Humvee while three others in his unit, the First Infantry Division, bound, blindfolded, shot in the heads and dumped the bodies of four unidentified Iraqi men into a Baghdad canal in 2007 in retaliation for deaths in Ramos's unit. According to Associated Press reports, during the court-martial, Ramos admitted his guilt: "I wanted them dead. I had no legal justification or excuse to do this."
Ramos had been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, for which he could have received a life sentence. The military judge in Ramos's court-martial in Vilsek, Germany, would have sentenced him to 40 years in prison had the military prosecutor not agreed to a plea bargain for seven months to testify in the upcoming court-martials of the three non-commissioned officers - Sgt. John E. Hatley, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph P. Mayo and Sgt. Michael P. Leahy Jr. - who were charged on September 16, 2008, with premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder and obstruction of justice.
Longer Sentences for Resisting War Than for Murdering Civilians
Just one month ago, US Army Private Robin Long was sentenced to fifteen months in prison, reduced to private and given a dishonorable discharge for having been absent without leave from the Army rather than serving in a war he believed was unlawful. He had been deported from Canada where he had been speaking on his concerns about the legality of the war for three years and was handed over by Canadian immigration officials to the US military for prosecution. One month earlier, US Army Private First Class James Burmeister voluntarily returned from Canada and was sentenced in July 2008 to six months in prison for refusing to return to Iraq after two previous tours in which he was hit by three IEDs. In May 2008, Private First Class Robert Weiss was court-martialed in Vilseck, Germany, and sentenced to 7 months in jail for refusing to go to Iraq. Also in May 2008, Private First Class Ryan Jackson was also court-martialed and sentenced to 100 days in jail for refusing to go to Iraq.
In 2007, the court-martial of US Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer who refused to deploy to Iraq, ended in a mistrial. He is still on active duty with the Army. Also in 2007, US Army Sergeant Mark Wilkerson refused to return to Iraq and was sentenced to seven months in jail. The Army denied the conscientious objection application of US Army medic Specialist Agustin Aguayo; he refused to return to Iraq and was sentenced to eight months in jail. Also in 2007, Specialist Melanie McPherson, a US Army Minnesota Reservist, refused to go to Iraq in a job she was not trained for; she was court-martialed and sentenced to three months in jail.
In 2006, US Army Specialist Dale Bertell refused to return to Iraq and was sentenced to four months in jail. US Army Texas National Guard Specialist Katherine Jashniski refused to deploy to Afghanistan; she was sentenced to four months in jail. US Army Sergeant Ricky Clousing of the 82nd Airborne Division refused to return to Iraq and was sentenced to three months in jail. US Marine Corporal Ivan Brobeck voluntarily returned from 18 months in Canada and was court-martialed for refusing to return to Iraq; he was sentenced to eight months in jail.
In 2005, US Army Sergeant Kevin Benderman refused to return to Iraq and was sentenced to 15 months in jail; he served 13 months. US Army Specialist Blake LeMoine refused to return to Iraq and served seven months in jail. When the conscientious objection application of US Army Private Neil Quentin Lucas was denied, he refused to go to Iraq and served 13 months in jail.
In 2004, US Army Sergeant Camilo Mejia refused to return to Iraq and was sentenced to 12 months in jail. The highest-ranking non-commissioned officer to refuse orders to Iraq, US Army Sergeant First Class Abdullah Webster, was sentenced to 14 months in jail. He was within two years of retirement when he refused to deploy to Iraq. US Navy Petty Officer Third Class Pablo Paredes refused to deploy on a ship carrying Marines to a war he considered illegal. He was sentenced to three months confinement. The US Marines denied the conscientious objection application of Corporal Joel Klimkewixz and he was sentenced to seven months in jail.
In 2003, the US Marines denied the conscientious objection application of Marine Reservist Stephen Funk and sentenced him to six months in jail. All of the war resisters who have been court-martialed for refusing to go to Iraq or Afghanistan have been given either dishonorable or bad conduct discharges.
Thousands of other military service members who privately and silently oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been given administrative discharges upon their voluntary return to the military after having been absent without leave.
Light Sentences for the Murders of Iraqis
Some of the more prominent cases where US military personnel have been court-martialed, but not necessarily convicted, for the murders of Iraqi civilians include:
On August 29, 2008, a civilian jury in Riverside, California, acquitted former US Marine Sergeant Jose Nazario Jr. on charges of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of four unarmed Iraqi detainees during the siege of Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.
In June, 2008, a U.S. military judge dismissed charges against Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani, who had been accused of failing to investigate the November 2005 massacre of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha. Of the eight Marines originally charged in the Haditha massacre, only one still faces prosecution. Criminal charges have been dismissed against six of the Marines and a seventh Marine was acquitted.
In 2007, seven Camp Pendleton Marines and a Navy corpsman were charged with murder and related offenses in the April 2006 kidnapping and killing of a 57-year-old retired Iraqi policeman in the village of Hamdania northwest of Baghdad. Only one of the men, squad leader Sergeant Lawrence Hutchins III, remains in jail, convicted of murder and sentenced by a Camp Pendleton military jury to 15 years. The other six either served out the terms they agreed to in plea deals or had their sentences commuted by Lieutenant General James Mattis, the Commanding General of Camp Pendleton. Mattis ordered the men below Hutchins's rank released after a military jury in July 2007 found Corporal Trent Thomas guilty for his role in the murders but limited his sentence to time already served. In releasing the others, General Mattis determined that Thomas's sentence created an unfair disparity for his fellow Marines who had been convicted with higher sentences.
In December 2007, US Marine Reservist Lance Corporal Delano Holmes was convicted of negligent homicide for the stabbing death of Iraqi Army Private Munther Jasem Muhammed Hassin, a man he shared guard duty with at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, on December 31, 2006. Holmes killed Hassin, stabbing him 17 times, slashing him another 26 times and nearly slicing his nose from his face. A military jury sentenced Holmes to time served, the second time in five months that a Camp Pendleton Marine military court jury allowed a defendant convicted in a homicide case to be sentenced to only time served. Holmes was reduced in rank from lance corporal to private and given a bad conduct discharge.
In August 2008, Article 32 hearings were held in Vilsek, Germany, to determine whether to proceed with criminal charges against Staff Sergeant Jess Cunningham and Sergeant Charles Quigley for the death of an Iraqi. The hearing officer has not yet decided whether the two will be court-martialed.
In only one murder case in Iraq have convicted US military personnel received substantial sentences. In August 2007, a military jury convicted US Army Private First Class Jesse Speilman of rape and four counts of felony murder for the rape and murder of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, and the murders of her parents and younger sister on March 12, 2006, in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad. Speilman was sentenced to 110 years in prison, but will be eligible for parole in ten years. During their court-martial, Specialist James P. Barker and Sergeant Paul Cortez testified they took turns raping Abeer while Private Steven Green shot and killed her mother, father and younger sister. They also testified that Green shot Abeer Qassin in the head after raping her. They then set her body on fire to destroy evidence. Cruz was sentenced to 100 years in prison under a plea agreement and will be eligible for parole in 10 years. Barker pleaded guilty at his court-martial and was sentenced to 90 years in a military prison, with the possibility of parole. Private Bryan Howard was sentenced to 27 months in prison under a plea agreement. Private Steven D. Green was discharged from the Army for anti-social behavior before the murders had been discovered. However, he was arrested and charged with rape and murder in the Western District Court of Kentucky. He will be tried in that court on April 29, 2009. His attorney has filed documents for an insanity defense.
Higher Punishment for Killing Fellow Servicemen Than Iraqis
Punishment for murder of other U.S. service members is dramatically higher than for murder of Iraqi and Afghan civilians.
In April 2003, US Army Sergeant Hasan Akbar, a member of the 101st Airborne Division, allegedly threw grenades into a tent at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait that killed two officers and wounded 14. Akbar was sentenced to death in April 2005.
In June 2005, US Army 42nd Infantry Division Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez allegedly killed two superior officers with an anti-personnel mine and grenades inside one of Saddam Hussein's palaces, near Tikrit, Iraq. Martinez's court-martial is underway at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Earlier this week, on September 14, 2008, two US Army soldiers, assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, were shot and killed, reportedly by another soldier at their base, near the town of Iskandariyah, about 30 miles south of Baghdad. The soldier who reportedly killed the two others is confined and will be brought before a military magistrate this week for pretrial procedural determinations.
Chapter 3:How successful has the Federal Reserve System been? It depends on your point of view. Since Woodrow Wilson took his oath of office, the national debt has risen from $1 billion to $455 billion. The total amount of interest paid since then to the international bankers holding that debt is staggering, with interest having become the third largest item in the federal budget. Interest on the national debt is now $22 billion every year, and climbing steeply as inflation pushes up the interest rate on government bonds. Meanwhile, our gold is mortgaged to European central banks, and our silver has all been sold. With economic catastrophe imminent, only a blind disciple of the “” could believe that all of this has occurred by coincidence.
When the Federal Reserve System was foisted on an unsuspecting American public, there were absolute guarantees that there would be no more boom and bust economic cycles. The men who, behind the scenes, were pushing the central bank concept for the international bankers faithfully promised that from then on there would be only steady growth and perpetual prosperity. However, Congressman Charles A. Lindberg Sr. accurately proclaimed: “From now on depressions will be scientifically created.”
Using a central bank to create alternate periods of inflation and deflation, and thus whipsawing the public for vast profits, had been worked out by the international bankers to an exact science.
Having built the Federal Reserve as a tool to consolidate and control wealth, the international bankers were now ready to make a major killing. Between 1923 and 1929, the Federal Reserve expanded (inflated) the money supply by sixty-two percent. Much of this new money was used to bid the stock market up to dizzying heights.
At the same time that enormous amounts of credit money were being made available, the mass media began to ballyhoo tales of the instant riches to be made in the stock market. According to Ferdinand Lundberg: “For profits to be made on these funds the public had to be induced to speculate, and it was so induced by misleading newspaper accounts, many of them bought and paid for by the brokers that operated the pools…”
The House Hearings on Stabilization of the Purchasing Power of the Dollar disclosed evidence in 1928 that the Federal Reserve Board was working closely with the heads of European central banks. The Committee warned that a major crash had been planned in 1927. At a secret luncheon of the Federal Reserve Board and heads of the European central banks, the committee warned, the international bankers were tightening the noose.
Montagu Norman, Governor of the Bank of England, came to Washington on February 6, 1929, to confer with Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury. On November 11, 1927, the Wall Street Journal described Mr. Norman as “the currency dictator of Europe.” Professor Carroll Quigley notes that Norman, a close confidant of J. P. Morgan, admitted: “I hold the hegemony of the world.” Immediately after this mysterious visit, the Federal Reserve Board reversed its easy-money policy and began raising the discount rate. The balloon which had been inflated constantly for nearly seven years was about to be exploded.
On October 24 , the feathers hit the fan. Writing in “The United States’ Unresolved Monetary and Political Problems”, William Bryan describes what happened: “When everything was ready, the New York financiers started calling 24 hour broker call loans. This meant that the stockbrokers and the customers had to dump their stock on the market in order to pay the loans. This naturally collapsed the stock market and brought a banking collapse all over the country because the banks not owned by the oligarchy were heavily involved in broker call claims at this time, and bank runs soon exhausted their coin and currency and they had to close. The Federal Reserve System would not come to their aid, although they were instructed under the law to maintain an elastic currency.”
The investing public, including most stock brokers and bankers, took a horrendous blow in the crash, but not the insiders. They were either out of the market or had sold “short” so that they made enormous profits as the Dow Jones plummeted. For those who knew the score, a comment by Paul Warburg had provided the warning to sell. That signal came on March 9, 1929, when the Financial Chronical quoted Warburg as giving this sound advice: “If orgies of unrestricted speculation are permitted to spread too far the ultimate collapse is certain … to bring about a general depression involving the whole country.”
Sharpies were later able to buy back these stocks at a ninety percent discount from their former highs.
To think that the scientifically engineered Crash of 1929 was an accident or the result of stupidity defies all logic. The international bankers who promoted the inflationary policies and pushed the propaganda which pumped up the stock market represented too many generations of accumulated expertise to have blundered into “the great depression.”
Congressman Louis McFadden, Chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee, commented: “It [the depression] was not accidental. It was a carefully contrived occurrence… The international bankers sought to bring about a condition of despair here so that they might emerge as the rulers of us all.”
Although we have not had another depression of the magnitude of that which followed 1929, we have since suffered regular recessions. Each of these has followed a period in which the Federal Reserve tromped down hard on the money accelerator and then slammed on the brakes. Since 1929 the following recessions have been created by such manipulation:
1936-37 : Stock Prices fell fifty percent (50%)
1948 : Stock prices dropped sixteen percent (16%)
1953 : Stock declined thirteen percent (13%)
1956-57 : The market dipped thirteen percent (13%)
1957 : Late in the year the market plunged nineteen percent (19%)
1960 : The market was off seventeen percent (17%)
1966 : Stock prices plummeted twenty-five percent (25%)
1970 : The market plunged over twenty-five percent (25%)
Chart 5, based on one appearing in the highly respected financial publication, Indicator Digest of June 24, 1969, shows the effects on the Dow-Jones Industrial Average of Federal Reserve policies of expanding or restricting the monetary supply. This is how the stock market is manipulated and how depressions or recessions are scientifically created. If you have inside knowledge as to which way the Federal Reserve policy is going to go, you can make a ton of money.
The members of the Federal Reserve Board are appointed by the President for fourteen year terms. Since these positions control the entire economy of the country they are far more important than cabinet positions, but who has ever heard of any of them except possibly Chairman Arthur Burns? These appointments which should be extensively debated by the Senate are routinely approved. But, here, as in Europe, these men are mere figureheads, put in their positions at the behest of the international bankers who finance the Presidential campaigns of both political parties.
And, Professor Quigley reveals that these international bankers who owned and controlled the Banks of England and France maintained their power even after those banks were theoretically socialized. The American system is slightly different, but the net effect is the same: ever increasing debt requiring ever-increasing interest payments, inflation and periodic scientifically created depressions and recessions.
The end result, if the Insiders have their way, will be the dream of Montagu Norman of the Bank of England “that the Hegemony of World Finance should reign supreme over everyone, everywhere, as one whole super-national control mechanism.” (”Montagu Norman” by John Hargrave, Greystone Press, N.Y., 1942.)
Editor’s notes:E1. As of early 2006, the U.S. debt to the bankers exceeded $8,200,000,000,000 ($8.2 trillion), and was increasing at the rate of $50,000,000,000 ($50 billion) per month. See the current Treasury report of the national debt.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Less is More
Alexander Pope was wise in this saying; yet Einstein was equally wise: "Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction."
It does not take a great mind to create complexity from simple circumstance: but it does take a great insight to reduce complexity to its simplest truth. This is essentially what Einstein did, as well as Stephen Hawkes. They were able to find the common demoninator in a plethora of complex explanations and express them as simple truths.
No method of thinking could be more apropo to today's complex geopolitical/economic situtation than this. Those with vested interests in this or that seek to befuddle issues with rhetorical spin which excite the irrational fears and impulses of the masses. When an issue is made more complex, it creates the need for further analysis, and confusion, such that if issues be infinitely complicated, an analysis to find the essential factors of the issue, may be postponed into the future indefinitely.
I am by no means suggesting that our simplest conclusions based on lack of information are the most valid. However after studying of an issue, when the thinker is bound to a commitment to 'intellectual integrity', gleaning the fundamental currents creating the maelstrom is an act of great courage. This is especially so in a world filled with professional experts bloated by their non-secular vernacular and egos, which exclude any conclusions of common sense. Let all experts examine their egos before analysing their topics.
It is in this spirit that I make the following observation. If you wish to know the nature of a employee's character, do not ask his colleagues or his boss. Instead, ask the janitor. For the true character of an individual is known, not by how he treats those from whom he has something to gain; but, by how he treats those from whom he has nothing to gain. How a self important member of an organisation treats those who have NO power is infinitely more revealing than all the awards, salaries and credentials which his society may award for performance.
This is also true in societies and governments. How political power deals with the most helpless and disagreeable among its' populace is the true measure of its intentions and integrity. The measure of the integrity of power is not in its greatness, but in its humility and compassion to those who have nothing to offer. It is with this yardstick, I choose to analyse the rhetoric of the USA, Russia, the EU, China, Africa and South America.
The essential tell tale clue of core character and true intention, is not how friends are dealt with; but how the insignificant and offensive are treated.
I will close with what I am sure must be one of Einstein's favorite quotes (as well as mine):
A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?
Russia & Cuba
17/ 09/ 2008
CARACAS, September 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russia intends to share its space technology with Cuba, and has begun discussions on building a space center in the country, the Russian space agency said on Wednesday.
Roscosmos chief Anatoly Perminov, on a tour of Latin America as part of a delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, said the two countries were working on a space cooperation agreement and had considered ways of jointly using earth remote sensing satellites and space-based telecommunication systems.
Discussions are also underway on Cuba's use of the Glonass satellite navigation system, and on the space center.
"We have tentatively discussed the possibility of assisting Cuba to build its own space center," the official said.
He said Cuban specialists would soon visit Russia to be shown state-of-the-art space technology and equipment.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Asia Times 9/18/08
The collapse of US insurance giant AIG and its US$85 billion takeover by the US government on Tuesday takes the US financial crisis right to the heart of China's development as a capitalist country.
AIG, the world's sixth-largest company by assets and biggest insurer, according to the Forbes Global 2000 list for 2007, is one of the few US institutions to be founded in China, its roots dating from 1919 when Cornelius Vander Starr, a veteran of World War I, founded a small insurance company in Shanghai called American Asiatic Underwriters, later to become AIG.
More famously, Starr's successor, Maurice R Greenberg, built relations with China's leadership from 1975, his first visit to the country predating by several years the revolutionary moves by Deng Xiaoping to open up China to Western influences.
In this, Greenberg proved himself a master of developing guanxi, a term summarized as "connections" and now recognized as holding the key to successful development of business in China.
According to Benjamin A Shobert, reviewing Robert Buderi and Gregory T Huang's book of that name, "guanxi is commonly perceived as partnering and understood to focus the attention of Westerners on the great importance that the Chinese put on relationships. To most Westerners guanxi emphasizes personal relationships in contrast to the contractual, non-relational business practices common in America.
"While a portion of the word's meaning can simply be seen as stressing relationships, the authors emphasize that a better understanding of the word is to emphasize four things: trust, favor, dependence and adaptation - the last what the authors call 'patience and cultivation' ."
Greenberg's patience and cultivation of relations with China's leaders saw him play a key role in building links between the US and China, while his company had a front-runner' s view as it and China metamorphosed into leading players in the global business world.
Starr was the initial pathbreaker. When he set up shop in Shanghai, there were many other Westerners selling insurance in the city, then as now the country's financial hub. But these potential rivals almost exclusively concentrated their efforts on selling to other Westerners. Starr realized that the Chinese people themselves represented a vast and underserved market for insurance, with relatively low risks. This insight would enable him to become one of the wealthiest men in the world.
Within 10 years, Starr had established offices across China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indochina, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. In 1926, he opened his first office in the United States. The growth of his company was temporarily disrupted by the Chinese civil war and the general turmoil in East Asia. In 1939, Starr moved the headquarters of his corporate empire to the Empire State - New York. From there, his company and fortune grew many fold.
In 1962, Starr appointed Greenberg to head AIG's then failing North American operations. In a remarkable display of business prowess, Greenberg turned the unit around, a feat that encouraged Starr to name him his successor before passing away in 1968.
Starr bequeathed all his wealth to the C V Starr Foundation, one of the largest foundations in the United States, with over $3 billion in assets. Greenberg became the chairman of this foundation while also assuming the reins at AIG. Under his leadership, the company prospered while he himself became one of the kingpins of American foreign policy.
In 1977, he became a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, arguably America's most influential think-tank, and over the next three decades he would hold numerous leadership positions in the council, culminating in 1997 with the founding of the Greenberg Chair.
Today, the Greenberg Chair "is the senior person directly responsible for the substantive content and management" of the think-tank. Greenberg has also been a member of the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange; a former chairman, deputy chairman and director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; a member of the US-China Business Council; the chairman of the Asia Society; and a member of the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations to the President of the United States.
With all of these roles, plus his control over the resources of the Starr Foundation and the American International Group, Greenberg's power to shape America's foreign policy was rivaled only by Citizen Kane.
Greenberg's foreign policy views were heavily influenced by two factors. One was his experience in World War II of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. The other was the legacy of Starr's love for China. This latter factor would ultimately play an enormous role in shaping America's policy toward China for more than a quarter of a century.
In all of his actions and with all of his influence, Greenberg exercised a sanguine desire to foster reconciliation and cooperation between the United States and the People's Republic of China. The impact of this desire can be seen in the fingerprint that Greenberg has left on academic and policy institutions around the United States.
At his discretion, the Starr Foundation has funded numerous fellowships with the Asian Cultural Council, donated $300,000 to Columbia University's East Asian Library and considerably more to Berkeley's C V Starr East Asian Library. Most recently, Greenberg and the Starr Foundation each donated $25 million to Yale University to create the Maurice R Greenberg Yale-China Initiative.
Greenberg's lobbying efforts were a driving factor behind America's decision to support China's admission to the World Trade Organization, which it officially joined in November 2001. Undoubtedly, a fair amount of the credit for the creation of an American policy environment that is favorable to China is due to Greenberg and the resources that were generated by AIG.
AIG's own development in China took various, often ground-breaking, forms. China America Insurance Company was formed in 1980 as a 50-50 joint venture between AIG companies and the People's Insurance Company of China (PICC), the first joint venture between a foreign insurance organization and PICC. Personal ties with future leaders were also forged. In 1990, AIG financed and chaired a financial services conference in Shanghai to assist then city mayor and later country premier Zhu Rongji in introducing the international financial community to investment opportunities in Shanghai.
Two years later, AIG unit American International Insurance (AIA) established a branch office in Shanghai, to become the first foreign-owned life and non-life insurance business to receive a license from the People's Bank of China. In 1995, AIG companies won licenses to extend operations to Guangzhou, the key city in the country's efforts to open up to the outside world of commerce, and a year later it secured a lease allowing it to return in 1998 to the Shanghai Bund, home of C V Starr's original Shanghai insurance companies.
In 2003, by which time AIG's presence in the country extended to several provinces, the insurer acquired a 9.9% stake in PICC Property and Casualty (PICC P&C) when the Chinese company listed in Hong Kong. In 2005, as the Chinese government continued to ease its grip on the financial sector, AIG Private Bank became the first foreign private bank to receive approval to open a representative office in Shanghai.
One immediate effect of AIG's collapse could be on PICC P&C's stock price, which would be at risk if AIG liquidated its stake, Citigroup analyst Bob Leung said in a research note on Tuesday.
Chinese insurers also face a greater counter-party risk from the collapse of AIG than from Lehman Brothers, the other US financial giant that crumpled in the past few days. Lehman, which has filed for bankruptcy has significant exposure in Asia. "Given the very low life insurance accession rate in Asia, "if AIG loses its A- rating or its situation worsens significantly, we expect the financial impact to affect mainly P&C insurers," Leung wrote.
S&P lowered AIG's long-term counterparty rating to 'A-' on Monday.
China's insurance regulator declared that AIG businesses in the country were sound, echoing statements from the rest of the region. This is however a big concern going forward, given the large market share that AIG commands in many Asian markets, and the sheer volume of domestic securities that it holds across the region.
Other insurers in China meanwhile may gain from AIG's loss. "China Life, with a strong balance sheet and limited non-yuan asset exposure (less than US$3 billion and mainly in H-stock [Hong Kong listed shares] and cash) has the strongest balance sheet of all regional insurers and is likely to benefit from a 'flight to quality' perspective, " Leung wrote.
The sudden decline of AIG may lead to a reduced influence of the company in international affairs, and a cut in the amount of resources that are lavished on America's foreign policy establishment for the purpose of encouraging China-friendly policy.
As it is, Greenberg's pathfinding and influential role in China has already been superceded to a large extent by the huge influx of other Western business leaders, notable among them Henry Paulson, who as chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs spent much time and and effort building his own relations with the present Chinese leadership.
Paulson's appointment as US Treasury Secretary in 2006 came at a time of simmering tensions between Washington and Beijing over China's reluctance to strengthen its currency and rein in the growing trade surplus it enjoyed with the US. Demands for faster appreciation of the yen continue, but their tenor has become less strident since Paulson took up his government post, with the focus on relations changing through the Strategic Economic Dialogue to broader long-term bilateral economic interests.
Ironically, while the US Federal Reserve played the dominant role in bailing out AIG this week, it was Paulson holding key strings of power in Washington while Maurice Greenberg sat on the sidelines.
In 2005, Greenberg was accused of financial malfeasance. In the ensuing scandal, he was ousted from his leadership role at AIG. Nonetheless, he retained direct ownership of 39 million shares of AIG stock, and an additional 243 million shares through the investment company that he still controls, C V Starr and Co. At the beginning of this year, his shares were worth $15.8 billion. By the close of the market on Tuesday afternoon, they were worth a little more than $1 billion.
The links that Greenberg had cultivated over the decades with the Chinese community certainly are also looking frayed when it comes to trust in AIG products in the wake of this week's collapse.
As Chan Akya reports in Asia Times Online on Wednesday ( Waiter, there's a banker in my soup), panic-stricken policyholders lined up all day on Wednesday in Singapore to surrender their policies to secure redemption value.
In Hong Kong, where AIA is the largest life insurer with more than 26% of the market and more than 1.9 million policies sold, more than 1,700 people canceled their insurance policies with AIA on Tuesday. On Wednesday, some 170 policy holders rushed to AIA headquarters to cut their insurance or investments. The Hong Kong government has demanded AIA seek approval before it removes any asset out of the territory.
One 50-year-old woman at the hectic commercial and retailing center of Causeway Bay said she decided to surrender her insurance policy today as she was worried AIA's business might be affected.
"I was supposed to pay premiums this month but I don't want to take any risk now. I am so afraid that I will lose all my money here. To keep as much money as I have in my pocket, I surrender the policy now," she said.
Richard Komaiko researches Sino-American relations, economic policy, terrorism and national security. He holds a degree in economics from the University of Illinois and has studied Chinese language and culture at the University of Illinois, University of Chicago and the Beijing Institute of Education. Chris Stewart is the Asia Times Online Business Editor.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Yankee Go Home
By Charley Allan - Morning Star
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
As George Bush's presidency draws to a close, progressive governments in Latin America are facing ever-greater danger.
EXACTLY 35 years after a CIA-orchestrated coup brought down Salvador Allende's socialist government in Chile, the political climate in Latin America is boiling over and now threatens to explode.
On last Thursday's anniversary of Allende's murder, between 30 and 70 peasants in the Bolivian jungle province of Pando were machine-gunned to death on their way to a protest against regional governor Leopoldo Fernandez, a fierce critic of President Evo Morales.
Right-wing rioters have burned down countless government and media buildings across the country, temporarily taken over an airport, blockaded highways and sabotaged gas pipelines, just weeks after Morales won a recall referendum on his presidency with over two-thirds of the vote. It seems that the so-called "democratic opposition" isn't taking no for an answer.
Morales has denounced the brewing "civic-business coup" and expelled United States ambassador Philip Goldberg, who was previously head of mission in Serbia's breakaway Kosovo region from 2004 to 2006, after he was caught secretly meeting opposition separatist leaders. Washington responded by kicking out Bolivia's top diplomat, tit-for-tat.
In solidarity, live on television, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave US ambassador Patrick Duddy 72 hours notice to leave Caracas with the timeless phrase: "Yankee, go home!"
He also withdrew his own ambassador, insisting that, "until there is a government in the United States that respects the people of Latin America, there will be no Venezuelan ambassador in that country."
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, an ally of Morales and Chavez, has joined in by refusing to accredit the new US ambassador there, while Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, himself no stranger to US-backed terror, has refused to attend a forthcoming central American summit because of Bush's presence.
South American presidents pledged support for Morales on Monday at a emergency summit in Santiago, Chile. The meeting was convened by Argentinean President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, who warned that, "if we don't act now, in 30 years we may be watching documentaries (about Morales) like those that we see today about Allende."
Back in Venezuela, journalist Mario Silva broadcasted a recording a week ago on his programme The Razorblade of active and retired military personnel plotting the assassination of Chavez by blowing up either his plane or presidential palace. Since then, five suspected coup plotters, including a vice-admiral, have been arrested.
On the tape, former national guard general Wilfredo Barroso Herrera spells out the plan: "We're going to take Miraflores Palace, we're going to take the TV installations. All effort is towards where the man (Chavez) is. If he's in Miraflores, the effort goes towards there."
Washington responded to Duddy's expulsion by freezing the assets of three of Chavez's aides, citing Venezuela's alleged support for Colombian "narco-guerillas." Because the US is heavily reliant on Venezuelan oil, economic relations have been relatively stable, but this development raises the stakes significantly. Although Chavez has warned that oil prices would double immediately if he cut off supplies to the US, he's also insisted that he currently has no plans to do this.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media are screaming about a new cold war, as Russian bombers and warships perform joint military operations with Venezuela. The same news outlets are less vocal about the background to this show of strength, which was Bush's decision to revive the US navy's Fourth Fleet in June, almost 60 years since it was disbanded.
With the US military now all over the Caribbean, you can't blame Chavez for wanting a bit of protection. And the US can hardly complain, what with its own troops on Russia's border causing trouble. Venezuela was one of the few countries to publicly back Russia over the South Ossetia crisis and has bought military hardware from the former super-power since the US imposed an arms embargo two years ago.
Chavez has also repeated his vow to defend Bolivia militarily if Morales is overthrown, the kind of support that he could've done with himself on April 11 2002 when a US-backed coup toppled him for two days before he was restored to power by angry masses and the loyal military.
The parallels between then and now are chilling and the opposition media in Venezuela are again playing a key role, not least by their deafening silence on the new coup attempt.
"They are doing the same as they did on April 11th, covering up a bloody coup," insists Jorge Rodriguez, who is the national co-ordinator of Venezuela's governing party and a former vice-president. "The silence of the private media is the expression of its participation in the coup d'etat attempt."
The opposition mocks the latest coup threat as a fraudulent illusion constructed to shore up support for Chavez before local and regional elections on November 23, but this is a standard tactic that it employs when its plans are exposed, most memorably around the time of the coup and the bosses' lock-out later that year.
Silva, who is a candidate for state governor, argued on his programme that the coup plot proves that the opposition is afraid that it will do badly at the polls and is preparing a Plan B. But, while the lead-up to the elections will bring more danger for Venezuela, it's Bolivia that is bearing the brunt of US aggression right now.
Morales has declared a state of emergency in Pando and has accused Fernandez of being behind the massacre, calling for his arrest. He's sent in the army to restore order, but Chavez publicly accused the commander in chief of Bolivia's armed forces General Luis Trigo on Sunday of dragging his heels by ordering soldiers to remain in their barracks instead of protecting the people.
"General Trigo is like those who hid themselves when I called on the radio (in 2002) to tell them to put Plan Avila into action, which is a defence plan. The coup plotters of April, it's a very similar attitude, facilitate fascism and the destruction of the fatherland."
He went on to urge Bolivian soldiers under Trigo's command: "Don't betray the fatherland. History will hold you accountable if it happens again, as has happened on other occasions with soldiers who put themselves at imperialism's disposition."
On the subject of defending Morales, he added: "I'm not suggesting invading Bolivia, but we will not accept a coup. Bolivian oligarchy, just so you know. Gringo empire, just so you know. Bolivian soldiers who may be facilitating a coup, just so you know - we're not going to tolerate it, we're not going to accept it."
Bush may well have made it his top priority to overthrow Chavez, Morales and the other Latin American "pinkos" before he leaves office in a few months, but it looks like the "axis of hope" and its supporters around the world are better prepared than ever before. As Chavez says, "if there's a coup, the countercoup would be overwhelming."
• The Bolivia Solidarity Campaign and Hands Off Venezuela have called a picket of the US embassy in Grosvenor Square, London, today from 4pm to 6pm. At 7pm, Bolivian ambassador Maria Beatriz Souviron, Venezuelan deputy ambassador Felix Plasencia, John McDonnell MP and NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear will be speaking at a public meeting in the NUJ headquarters, 308 Gray's Inn Road, King's Cross. All welcome.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
SOUTH American presidents holding a crisis summit here over unrest in Bolivia issued a strong statement giving Bolivian President Evo Morales their support.
The statement agreed by Morales and the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela also rejected any break-up of Bolivia's territory.
The nine presidents in the Chilean capital Santiago expressed "their full and firm support for the constitutional government of President Evo Morales, whose mandate was ratified by a big majority."
Argentine President Cristina Kirchner said after the six hours of talks that "the agreement was unanimous."
She had called the summit under the auspices of the newly formed Union of South American Nations, which is currently presided over by Chile.
The leaders also said they were looking at creating a committee to attend talks between Morales's Government and rebel governors in Bolivia's east opposing his socialist reforms.
Bolivia last week was gripped by violent unrest that left at least 18 people dead and a hundred wounded in the northern state of Pando.
The disturbances occurred in five eastern states whose conservative governors are seeking autonomy.
Mr Morales has called their push an illegal attempt at secession.
On arrival in Santiago, he accused his foes at home of mounting a "civic coup d'etat" against him.
The summit statement said the presidents "warn that our respective government energetically reject and will not recognize any situation that attempts a civil coup and the rupture of institutional order and which could compromise the territorial integrity of the Republic of Bolivia."
They also condemned the deaths in Pando and called for a commission to investigate allegations many of the victims were pro-Morales peasants gunned down in an ambush.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
The Baby Killers
September 13, 2008
I keep promising myself not to mention the wars for these reasons: the invaders couldn't care less about their crimes or their critics, my friends think I've become a ranting bore and many of today's citizens have more pressing worries than the serial massacres of toddlers in badlands. Bad stuff keeps happening. It keeps being denied. And is soon forgotten.
From the very first days of the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. air force has specialised in dropping bombs on family compounds supposedly containing "militants". Often they are not at home, unlike the women and children and elderly, whose bodies are eventually spread on the ground in preparation for a mass burial, while the Pentagon issues a curt "regret". Then it bombs the funeral. It's happened more than once. Another target is wedding parties. Back in July 2002, snug in their AC-130 bombers, American pilots wiped out a celebration in Uruzgan province, killing 48 civilians - mostly women and children - and injuring 117 locals. It's happened more than once.
It happened again this July, when a U.S .missile strike slaughtered 27 guests in Nangarhar province, 19 of them women and children. When locals arrived at the scene to care for the injured and collect the dead, four more bombs were unleashed, killing the bride and two of her relatives.
It's been much the same in Iraq and Pakistan, though barely reported. We kill on the hint of a whisper, kill because we can, kill because we rule the skies. Even as the Pentagon continued to deny its August massacre of 60 children and 15 women in Nawabad, in the district of Azizabad, Afghanistan, the bombs were raining down on a religious school in Waziristan, a tribal area of north west Pakistan. (The fourth U.S. assault this week on its "ally").
Unleashed by two drones, the strikes killed 23 people, though not the intended target, Jalaluddin Haqqani, a religious scholar and former commander of the U.S.-backed mujahideen which trounced the Russians ("Charlie's War"). Twenty others were wounded, mainly women and children. The guys who push the buttons at the Creech Air Force base in Nevada, managed to murder one of Haqqani wives, his sister-in-law, a sister, two nieces, eight grandchildren and a male relative.
"Sitting in a virtual cockpit is not as exciting as flying a fighter jet", noted CNN's breathless Laurie Ure, "but unmanned attack-plane pilots can enjoy a normal workday schedule". Captain Matt Dean agrees, "seeing bad guys on the screen and watching them possibly get dispatched, and then going down to the Taco Bell for lunch, it's kind of surreal". This is the Pentagon's version of Second Life, soon to be known as Exit Life. One day it will come to a war near you.
The latest unmanned bomber is called the Reaper and caries the same payload as an F-16 fighter plane, but happily, Laurie assures us - 'its pilots are not put in harm's way.' Of course not, they're eating tacos. Col. Chris Chambliss is commander of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, which was established last year as the first unit dedicated to unmanned aerial systems and remote controlled assassinations. "We're the victims of our own success", he tells a Defence correspondent, while he plays tapes of the victims of the Reaper. Chambliss says there is an "insatiable appetite" for his systems and their "capabilities" and his air-wing is currently flying 28 combat air patrols around the clock, and rising.
On Sept 8, while the boys from Creech were wolfing down their tacos, the London Times published an eight-minute of video of the massacre in Azizabad, the "most compelling evidence to emerge" of 75 civilian deaths. The hero here is an unnamed Afghan doctor who arrived at the scene with a cell phone and shot footage of weeping parents, injured children and charred babies - line upon line of shrouded corpses. Along with attack helicopters and a C130 Spectre gunship, armed drones were used in the attack.
And so it goes, this depressing spiral of wars without end, arms trading, Government lies, the obliteration of the innocent and an insane certainty that our Kilpingesque military missions are wise and noble. Oh yes, Australia's on board, fists flying. We're building a bigger navy to defend our sea lanes from, er, what? Oh yes, Asia's ascent. George Bush, Barack Obama and John McCain are pushing for a "surge" in Afghanistan, a country which never attacked anyone. True, it did harbour Osama bin Laden, just as America once harboured the Shah of Iran and still harbours anti-Castro terrorists and fully backed General Pinochet and nourished Pervez Musharraf and still trains torturers, etc, but as yet no army has invaded Washington.
Why are we in Afghanistan? "To spread democracy". Surely it's death we're spreading. If we cared about democracy we'd be listening to the locals, who want us out. In the most recent survey of public opinion, (this June, prior to the latest bout of killings), "more than six out of ten of those interviewed... said that foreign troops should leave." And let's not mention the encroaching famine - no-one else does.
The only war worth fighting anymore, is the war against carbon emissions. Instead of which, we're being sucked into an arms build-up, which will further scorch the planet. The chance of changing this priority is slim, given the West's long devotion to bloody combat. According to Johan Galtung, a longtime peace researcher and futurist, the "number of people killed in overt Pentagon-driven military action after the Second World War is now between 13 and 17 million". That's not a misprint. The number of people killed in covert action is "at least 6 million". Such figures are not to be found on Fox News, or even in the New York Times.
So while war may be hell, it's as American as apple pie, and unlikely to disappear before we do. It also explains why John McCain is edging ever closer the White House. In an era when Geneva is mocked, dissent ineffective and baby killing tolerated, it is strangely perfect that a presidential aspirant and his running mate should have blood on their hands, whether of Vietnamese civilians or an Alaskan Moose. If America signs up to this dark adventure, forget about calming the weather, restoring the eco system and embarking on an age of sustainability and transformation. All you'll get is a blood bath.
Footnote: Within hours of publishing this piece, it is reported that U.S. drones fired several missiles at a house of a "militant" in North Waziristan, leaving 12 people dead, including women and children. Eight others have been taken to hospital. They'll be dancing on the tables at Taco Bell's.