Category Archives: Managing Perceptions

Bailout Party for the Sharks

Hearings of the House Oversight Committee revealed  that  shortly after the $85 billion taxpayer bailout last month, AIG executives spent more than $ 400.000 on a “conference” in a luxury resort in California. The bill included $200.000 for hotel rooms, almost  $150.000 on catered food banquets and $ 25.000 for salon and spa-treatment…. Not to forget the 10.000 Dollars for booze…. According to recent reports AIG has already used up $61 billion of its $85 billion government loan.

Former CEO Martin Sullivan, who has already pocketed a $ 15 million severance package, was admonished by the committee for behaving as if he had no part in the home-made calamity. Expressions like “financial tsunami” were used to insinuate that we are dealing with a kind of natural disaster which is nobody´s fault.

Sullivan said that “the most respected financial institutions crumbled one after another” (respected by whom and for what, one wonders?) He received special scorn at the hearing because he “went before the board of directors and specifically asked them to ignore the huge losses for the purpose of the compensation plan” .

Do you know what a “Credit Default Swap” is?

No ?  And really don´t care?

Well, neither did I until the “global crisis” unravelled and the panic wave began to spread. We are talking about a global double digit (or more)  trillion dollar business with no oversight and no limiting principle. A simple explanation of the CDS-system can be found in this video:

All I can say is:  there is a method in madness. Whoever dreamed up this insane system where financial institutions can act as seller and buyer of “debt insurance”  at the same time, and bet against each other on the risk of default, these people need psychiatric help. With no transparency or accountability, no containment of any sort, the web got so big that thousands of banks and other financial institutions all over the world are apparently now entangled in it and nobody seems to have a clue about the exact figures or real values of these deals.  Even George Orwell would have been impressed to find that these strange transactions robbed the word “insurance” of its meaning and transformed into another version of “ignorance is strength”.

The idea of a collateral or an “asset backed” loan has been turned on its head because these guys played with debt as if it was some kind of party game: perhaps a mixture between poker and charade….

All these fancy names  and acronyms  like ABS, LBO, CDO, SIV, etc. Most of us did not have a clue what these things are and only now, when the shit has hit the fan, are we learning that these  “innovative instruments” are the “financial weapons of mass destruction” Warren Buffet was talking about years ago…

Le Monde Diplomatique (British Edition) published an article in 2006, warning about the consequences of a deregulated banking system:

” More importantly, deregulation and financial innovation have led to forms of crucial data that cannot be collected and quantified, leaving both bankers and governments in the dark about reality. We may or may not live in a new era of finance, but we certainly are flying blindfolded.”

“On 24 April Stephen Roach, Morgan Stanley’s chief economist, wrote that a major financial crisis seemed imminent and that the global institutions that could forestall it, including the IMF, the World Bank and other mechanisms of the international financial architecture, were utterly inadequate. Hong Kong’s chief secretary deplored the hedge funds’ risks and dangers in June, and at the same time the IMF’s iconoclastic chief economist, Raghuram Rajan, warned that compensation structures encouraged those in charge to take risks, endangering the whole financial system. Soon after Roach was even more pessimistic: “a certain sense of anarchy” dominated academic and political communities “unable to explain the way the new world is working”. In its place, mystery prevailed. By last month the IMF predicted that the risk of a severe slowdown in the global economy was greater than at any time since 2001, mainly because of the sharp decline in housing markets in the US and much of western Europe; it also included the decline in US labour’s real income and insufficient consumer purchasing power. Even if the current level of prosperity endures through next year, and all these people are proved wrong, the transformation of the global financial system will sooner or later lead to dire results.”

Gabriel Kolko rightly concludes that “Financial deregulation has produced a monster, and resolving the many problems that have emerged is scarcely possible for those who deplore controls on making money. The Bank for International Settlement’s (BIS) annual report, released in June, discusses these problems and the triumph of predatory economic behaviour and trends “difficult to rationalise”. The sharks have outflanked more conservative bankers. “

In my view, it is precisely those sharks that have now been “rescued” by the government… The final paragraph of the article (written in 2006) should remind us that the “rescued” are not the victims but the perpetrators here…

“There is now a growing consensus among financial analysts that defaults will increase substantially in the near future. Because there is money to be made in the field, there is now great demand on Wall Street for experts in distressed debt and in restructuring companies in or near bankruptcy.”

Another thought-provoking piece in LMD can be found here: (talk about  foresight….)

“Don’t Turn The World Over To The Bankers” by Kenneth Galbraith

How all legislative mechanisms to prevent such a crisis were eliminated in the US is explained here:

This is anything but a “financial tsunami”: it´s another euphemism for neoliberal policies: Planned Misery


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Economic Guru: Wall Street Rescue Plan is Wrong

(The identity of the economic expert is revealed at the end of the interview….)

Q: In view of the current crisis, don`t you think that corporations, especially banks have a social responsibility?”

A: “So the question is, do corporate executives, provided they stay within the law, have responsibilities in their business activities other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible? And my answer to that is, no they do not”

Q: Under the circumstances it seems obvious that “leave the markets alone” is no longer tenable and that the government is after all the only reliable institution to turn to…

A: “The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.”

Q: Many people think that the main cause of this crisis is unbridled greed of bankers and investors. What is your response to these allegations?

A: “What kind of society isn’t structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system”

Q: The government aims to prevent a further spread of the crisis and to restore confidence in the banking system (the banks don´t trust each other anymore..) So is public critisicm about the rescue of “arrogant bankers” really justified?

A: “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

Q: “Do you think the accusations, that President Bush, Sec. Paulson and others have exaggerated the crisis to stampede congress into accepting the  hastily produced “rescue plan” at the expense of taxpayers are justified?

The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority.”

Only a crisis, real or perceived, produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.

Q: Is it morally acceptable to let the taxpayers pay for the recklessness of Wall Street? To force them to act as guarantors for an astronomical amount of debt,  toxic loans and practice a kind of banking welfare?

A: “If I’m going to do good with other peoples’ money, I first have to take it away from them. That means, that the welfare state philosophy of doing good with other peoples’ money (…) is a philosophy of violence and corrosion. It’s against freedom, because I have to use force to get the money.

In the second place, very few people spend other peoples’ money as carefully as they spend their own.”

This imaginary interview was conducted with Milton Friedman, the “most prominent economist of the 20th century” and greatest advocate of deregulation (this translates into government is the source of all evil.. – lets drown it in the bathtub…)

The quotations are attributed to Friedman, I just used them as “answers” to show that these principles can only survive by applying them very selectively and are rather like the absurd claim of US militarists: it´s not the weapons, it´s who has them…..

For a deeper analysis of Friedmanite / Friedmanesque or even Friedmaniac policies see also

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Money As Debt: The Economic Dictatorship nobody talks about

Money as Debt: Please watch this video

to understand how the debt system really works

This presentation seems very simple, even childish at the beginning (as it is a cartoon) but gets better all the time and ends up as a real eye-opener at the end…. Here are some quotations from the video:

“Until the control for the issue of currency and credit is restored to government

and recognized as its most conspicous and sacred responsibility, all talk of sovereignity of parliament and democracy is idle and futile.

Once a nation parts with control of its credit, it matters not who makes the nation`s laws,

Usury once in control will wreck any nation.”

William L. M. King, fmr. Prime Minister of Canada (who nationalized the Bank of Canada)

“All of the perplexities, confusions and distress in America arises not from the defects of the constitution, not from lack of honor or virtue, so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of credit and ciculation.”

John Adams, father of the US Constitution

“Whoever controls the volume of money in our country is absolute master of all industry and commerce and when you realize that the entire system is very easily controlled one way or the other by a few powerful men at the top, you will not have to be told, how periods of depressions originate.”

James Garfield, (assassinated US Pres.)

“I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by it´s concentrated system of credit… We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world, no longer a government by free opinion, a government by conviction and the role of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.”

Woodrow Wilson, US Pres.1913-1921

“The modern banking system manufactures money out of nothing. The process is perhaps the most astounding piece of sleight of hand that was ever invented.

Bankers own the earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create money and with the flick of a pen they will create enough money to buy it back…

Take this great power away from them and all great fortunes, like mine, will disappear, and they ought to disappear for than the world would be a better and happier world to live in.

But if you want to continue to be slaves of banks and pay the cost of your own slavey, then let the bankers continue to control credit (and create money).”

Sir Josiah Stamp, Director of the Bank of England 1928-1941 (reputedly the 2nd richest man in England at the time)

“The inability of the colonists to get power to issue their own money permanently, out of the hands of George III and the international bankers, was the prime reasong for the revolutionary war.”

Benjamin Franklin

“Money is the new form of slavery and distinguishable from the told simply by the fact that it is impersonal, there is no human relations between master and slave.”

Leo Tolstoy

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We never had it so good: “Financial Woes are not as bad as it gets”

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

Max Hastings writes in the Guardian Weekly about the psychological impact of the financial crisis and recommends ” a little knowledge of history” to remedy the situation because “today`s  woes” pale in comparison with the “threats to health, diet or physical safety” that confronted earlier generations “over the past millenium”.

He begins his analysis by reminding us that “mankind almost always gets threat assessment wrong” and following his thoughts further one has to congratulate him for proving the point.

He then recommends reading Pepy´s diary for “anyone silly enough to suppose our own times extravagantly dangerous“.  At first glance this assessment seems right because the risk of epidemics (at least those based on poverty, lack of hygiene and lack of scientific knowledge about germs) or devastating fires (because fast arriving fire-brigades and other life-saving infrastructure was unavailable) is very low today compared to earlier centuries.

But this only applies to  affluent societies where some sort of social justice (income distribution) and has been achieved. For the poor and “developing” (adopting the unsustainable capitalistic system that we have forced on them) countries times have not changed so much and if we look at the Human Development Reports of the UN there is no reason to celebrate. Millions of people still live in abject poverty, with no sanitation, no potable water, no access to decent healthcare or education, no social safety net. For many of them, times may not be so different from 17 th, 18 th or 19 th century Europe. Here children no longer have to work 12 hours in cotton mills,  their rights have been acknowledged,  but as we all know, in many parts of Asia child labour is a “normal” part of the economy as are adult sweatshops where people are practically working as slaves. We know all that but prefer to forget about it when buying our trainers, clothes and Christmas decorations….

Hastings goes on to say that “crises of peace, precipitated by disease, natural disaster or financial collapse are often harder to bear than those of war” because people feel they are impotent to influence the situation.

This sounds not unreasonable but I would object to putting disease, natural disaster and financial collapse into one category (or appearing to do so by listing them together). The alleged financial collapse is 100% man-made, a longer systemic process, no sudden calamity and not the result of adverse fate.

While it is true, that “the illusion of useful activity” can help to live through a crisis we are seeing now that this principle – when applied to the perpetrators and accessories of the “crime” – (politicians, finance “analysts”, economists, gullible journalists) does not reduce the anxiety. And how could it?

First “Frankensteinian” Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson tells the US Congress to give him feudal discretion over almost a trillion USD (of debt passed off as real money)  because otherwise the sky would fall on us. Then President Bush steps in to “convince” his own party dissidents that “ordinary Americans” and the rest of the world would suffer terribly if this “bailout” pardon “rescue”-package is not passed in the quickest of time.

The same journalists (at least here in the German speaking world) who only weeks ago had written that the financial crisis had little impact on the real economy or the ordinary consumer now, in a remarkable about-face joined in the fear-mongering choir from Washington, London and later Brussels and when the stocks started to tumble, didn´t it prove them right?

No, says US progressive economist Dean Baker who warned of the coming crisis years ago and points out that the stock market is NOT the economy and its fluctuations have more to do with mass psychology than real economic values.

But it gets better: first the media( following the politicians) tells us not to worry because “experts” have told them that ordinary people will not be affected by the crisis (former top executive of Deutsche Bank says: Subprime loans are only a small segment of the whole business…). Only a few weeks later they amplify the alarm bells from Washington and, having successfully alienated the public, they now start lecturing us about “staying calm and not succumbing to panic“….

Hastings concludes that “capitalism is suffering a richly deserved shock to its hubris” but … “possesses enough resilience, energy and imagination to come out the other side.”

Judging by its past performance (last 200 yrs)  I doubt that very much. Talks about resilience have very little credibility now after former Goldman-Sachs CEO Paulson professed his trust in the financial markets on Fox News in March 2008 and the record of capitalism is disastrous if we bother to look at the whole system, not just the usual parameters like growth of GDP, trade balance, etc.

As Marx understood, capitalism suffers from a systemic fault: Overproduction – since there is no self-containing principle . To increase profits the system must expand, increase productivity  and consumption. But the inherent contradictions cannot be overcome:

  1. As part of  production labour costs (wages) must be driven down to increase profits.
  2. To ensure increasing consumption incomes must rise or prices keep falling to prevent a slump.
  3. Falling prices (per unit) can only be achieved by lowering wages and / or prices for raw-materials and /or automation (which replaces jobs) and increased productivity.
  4. Since the profits of all these measures are no longer re-distributed to the workers and the tax burden is more and more shifted from capital to labour, consumption is stagnating or declining and the real economy can no longer deliver increasing profits.

To overcome this dilemma, economists tried globalization (increased access to cheap labour, raw materials and new markets, formerly known (in another shape) as colonialization) and neoliberal “reforms” – both of which worsened the situation (but further enriched the business elite with “trickle up” policies). The last resort was “financialization”: In order to maintain rising profits more and more (actual and borrowed) money is being pumped into the financial markets (as mentioned at the beginning but the enormous artificial profits  are not backed by real value: they “created a hyperactive financial economy and a stagnant real economy“.

Greenspan flooded the market with cheap credit because he knew that creating another bubble  (as the only way to keep the system afloat (at least until he fled the scene of the crime, …). The extreme volatility of this system and risk for society this virtual casino created apparently did not bother him, the Fed or the bankers and politicians who worked hand in hand….

Social Welfare is obviously out, corporate and banking welfare is in.

Hearing economists and politicans now talking about “restoring stability to the financial markets” (by burdening the state (= the citizens) with more billions of debt is beyond irony. These guys took excessive risks with their derivatives and “securitizations(Orwell would have loved this expression) and did not give a damn about the consequences as long as they could find a sucker to pass on the toxic debt….

Capitalism is unsustainable because it ignores its inherent contradictions and – most of all – it is still not willing to acknowledge that “the economy” is a sub-system of the natural production cycle and must therefore respect ecological imperatives. Hastings assessment that we are facing “No threat to health, diet or physical safety” is blatantly false: (he meant it in the context of the financial crisis apparently , but  if we look at the crisis as a symptom of a bigger disease, in the context of capitalism as religion, where governments see themselves as servants of the economy the threat is enormous…)

The insane concept of exponential growth also causes huge environmental destruction (loss of habitat and functioning ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, “climate change”, etc.

Recent reports about the increasing threat to biodiversity (a quarter of mammals are now facing extinction) are really frightening, but they are just the tip of the iceberg (a metaphor with no future for the same reasons….) Many people used to laugh about environmentalists being concerned about the disappearance of butterflies, toads or certain types of bats, plants, etc.  because they thought that these species had no intrinsic value and no economic value. Now we know that this is completely wrong: They are all a part of functioning ecosystems and these are the pillars of the biosphere. Their services are indispensable and priceless (e.g. trees filtering the air, retaining water in the soil, etc.)

Hastings is insofar right  as we no longer have to fear the epidemics of earlier centuries and have achieved  remarkable increases in food production and in general great convenience in our lives but at what cost?

  • New invincible viruses (attacking and outsmarting the immune system itself and resistant bacteria are emerging and threatening our health (HIV, “bird flu”, MRSA, new forms of TB, etc.)
  • industrial farming requires tons of toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and antibiotics; “outpout” has increased (energy input even more, the ratio is about 1:10) but the quality of our grain, vegetables and meat may be worse than 100 years ago….to say nothing of soil fertility;
  • Scientific “innovation” has brought us  a series of toxic and cancer-inducing chemicals (no immediate health effects but long-term damage like PCBs, plastifyers, Asbestos, etc.) Allergies and other auto-immune diseases are constantly on the rise and “scientists” are messing with the immune system – with terrible results…. (how can you find a cure for something when you haven´t even understood what causes the problem? )
  • Every year we find ourselves exposed to  more “food scandals” like BSE, “bird flu” in poultry (allegedly from wild birds but much more likely the result of factory farming…), the latest milk powder scandal in China, several salmonella outbreaks in the US, etc. Our food travels thousands of miles…
  • Having “externalized” all these  problems to society for decades, the industry is still trying to belittle the problems (see “Climate Change” and energy debates) and politics has little more to offer than useless conferences, the scam of “emissions trading” and greenwash like “clean coal”… They cannot solve the problems, they are part of the problem.

So, my final conclusion is: NO, the threats we are facing now are not less fearsome than those of earlier centuries, on the contrary. Massive environmental pollution and degradation – most of all with persistent toxic chemicals and mutagenic substances like radioactive fission-products that are going to threaten all forms of life for generations to come (see also use of uranium munition in Iraq, Afghanistan and former Yugoslavia) are a deadly legacy of our sick economic ideology which traded off survival for short term profits.

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European Viewpoint: Russia Is Not Our Enemy

PROLOGUE: I was raised in fear of “the Russians” because my mother (as a small child) was one of the thousands of German refugees  who fled in the winter of 1944/ 1945 from Eastern Prussia and Pommerania when the Red Army advanced. She told me (during the Cold War) about Russian atrocities and how they had dressed up my then young grandmother as an old woman so she would not be raped…. (My grandfather died in Stalingrad). Although I was only 7 years at the time, I still remember how shocked my mother was when Soviet Tanks rolled into Prague in 1968.

I grew up adoring fake American war movie “heroes” like John Wayne and William Holden….But by growing up and understanding the historical context, perceptions change dramatically…..

There are still many Americans I admire: courageous journalists and intellectuals and thousands of ordinary Americans form high school protesters to the “Raging Grannies” who defend their open society and democratic achievements against Wall Street, the Pentagon, increasing corporate power and a bunch of insane imperalists….

The former US ambassador to Russia , Jack Matlock said in “Conversations with History” in 1997 and later in an interview with the Carnegie Council for an Ethic Foreign Policy in July 2008 that one of the most important foreign policy objectives after the cold war should be “a major effort to bring Russia into the European security system and not treat it as a defeated country, … as if they did not count any more.…”. He also warned that mishandling NATO expansion would further national chauvinism and create greater insecurity around Russia´s borders and that the West should signal that “Russia´s security is also important to us”. Matlock also stressed that without Russia´s cooperation the big problems cannot be solved (nuclear disarmament, energy policy, Middle East, relations to China, etc.) and indicated that insulting and patronizing Russia was a rather stupid thing to do…..

I share his assessment and find the media coverage of the conflict in the “Eurasian Balkans” (Brzezinski  parlance), the lack of background analysis and geopolitical context rather disturbing. I also confess that I am sick and  tired of the commentaries by Timothy Garton Ash, who keeps lecturing us about the noble principles of the EU, and his apologetic and incredibly naive interpretations of US actions: Encouraging Saakashvili was very likely not “characteristic incompetence” of the Bush administration but a deliberate ploy, because even if the operation failed, Russia could be portrayed as the new “threat” (Evil Empire re-loaded…) and aggressive US policy in the region as the classic “defending democracy and freedom” scam…

Joining in the ongoing demonization of Russia, he first informs us about “the ethnic cleansing” in Georgia and puts the blame on the Russian troops. On The Independent´s website a reader comments on this: “Now, knowing how Ossetians are, the looting and vendetta attacks were to be expected. Saakashvili knew it. He calculated well: either he would capture the territory, or if Russia retaliated, he could scream for help and refer to vendetta attacks as ethnic cleansing.” But of course, the author of these lines may well be one of those ignorant Europeans who “know nothing about this faraway country…”

TGA then pontificates about Russia´s “deliberate challenge to the whole late 20-century way of doing international relations that the EU represents” and admonishes us for “finding fault with the US” which he describes as “a sport at which we (Europeans) excel”.

To call the US led militarization of Eastern Europe, (provocation and isolation of Russia)  “fault in Washington” or “rearranging the furniture” –  in a recent editorial comment – shows how biased these comments are since this language serves to downplay reckless US actions and broken promises.

If TGA (along with Chris Patten) is shaking his head in disbelief about Europe´s failure to punish Russia for behaving “like 19 th century tsars, want(ing) a sphere of influence around their borders” then why on earth isn`t the EU doing something about their “transatlantic partner”, who in true hegemonic fashion is demanding and enforcing not only a global sphere of influence but “full spectrum dominance”?!

Why is there no outrage about “reserving the right to act unilaterally to protect vital American interests” by “convincing potential competitors that they need not …. pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests? ..about the neocon fantasy  of “… a world in which there is one dominant military power whose leaders must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role…” [1] Seen in this context, only an idiot would not respond to the Eastern expansion of NATO and the latest US provocation in Georgia…(whose troops were trained by US and Israeli forces…)

Russia did not build more than 800 military bases around the world and claims no devine right to global dominance  yet we are subjected to this ridiculous propaganda that Putin is trying to rebuild the Soviet Empire….

Then we are informed about “the New European Way of doing things” with regard to “territoral integrity”. So who is going to determine if a case is “exceptional”, if a region is allowed to secede or not? “Globocop” in Washington, I presume since the UN has now become a farce? The US supports secessionist movements in countries it cannot control to discourage anyone “from challenging our leadership” or not accepting the economic and political order of the “Washington Consensus” .

So the “How” is more important, eh? ..always by peaceful means .. like NATO (with EU support) did in Yugoslavia and Kosovo.…?!  The naive  notion of  the EU´´s “fundamental claim” of “negotiation and consent”, with the “sanction of national and international law”  – did it disappear when the US invaded Iraq? Why is the EU pretending that the war crimes of the US never happened? (see Pinter´s Nobel Prize speech)  Why is Germany fighting in Afghanistan? (in violation of the German constitution) Why are there no EU sanctions against Israel? Why was there no big outrage when Russia committed atrocities in Chechnya?

Because in those days Russia was considered a “friend” of the US and too weak to compete with “US interests” in the region? Or because that was part of the US sanctioned “War on Terror” in which anything goes? Why doesn´t the EU demand that all member states must refrain from allowing permanent foreign (US) military installations or troops on their territory? We don´t need US “protection” against “rogue states”,  we need protection from their arrogant foreign policy and their war of terror…..

But the most outrageous display of double standards and selective indignation is Mr. Garton Ash´s complaint about “Russia´s (alleged) message (to the EU) that the unilateral use of force in the advancement of national interests is part of what great powers do“. He does mention briefly the ridicule the US earned when lecturing Putin about adherence to international law but perpetuates the myth that it was the Iraq war that ruined US credibility when the rest of the world understands that America (its ruling class, not the thousands of honest and intelligent Americans who fight for what is left of their democracy….) had no moral authority long before 9/11 as US historian Howard Zinn recently confirmed in an interview with Al Jazeera: “The US has never been a benign power”….

If the EU is so concerned about its mulilateral, law-based order – and TGA, too – why do they not demand sanctions against the greatest violator of these principles the world has ever seen, the USA? Why call the insane and destabilizing US policies “faults”? Why don´t they see that not Russia is their enemy but US hegemony?

Garton Ash´s rant about “the ruthless great power” which wants to “establish it own 19th century style sphere of influence in the post Soviet space”, “prepared to use violence, intimidation and extortion to realise its national interests” (the hallmarks of US foreign policy!) is laughable when put in the historical and political context of US world dominance, and its successful plans to destabilize Europe`s relations with Russia and gain increasing control of Eurasian energy.

Divide et impera is still working well, and so are US plans “to prevent the emergence of European only security arrangements which would undermine NATO” 1

In my view, NATO is the Trojan Horse of the US but the EU seems to be blind to it….

The BBC rightly observed that Russia has to improve its ability to manage perceptions – here it can really learn a lot from the US, who is master of  the media game:   Evil Russia does  “20th century style war” with tanks and the like, but the noble US does “military intervention” and in collaboration with the fawning EU, even “humanitarian intervention”, meaning heavy bombing for a “just” cause like in Kosovo or Afghanistan…. or “special operations”,  – they must have “all options” available….(whereas Putin´s option is “you are free to do what we want”….)

The US (responsible for the death and mutilation of hundreds of thousands people and a new arms race) makes “mistakes” “miscalculations”, has “faults” but Russia, the “ruthless power” which is slowly being encircled by US military bases and US client states like Georgia and Ukraine,  commits “crimes” and (does not stop) “ethnic cleansing” (US allies like Israel or Turkey “transfer” and kill only in self-defense of course…) and  even the concept of territorial integrity is now applied very selectively…..Russia has no right to support secessionist movements in countries in which the US has “a deep and profound interest” (Cheney) although they are thousands of miles away, yet Putin is not even allowed to show the same “interest” in his neighbours…. Perhaps to make the point, he should install a “missile shield” in Cuba? “Directed at no-one”, of course… just in case same rogue state gets out of control…..

How long will this game go on? John Pilger said in one of his speeches that “professional journalism” now mostly means “amplifying and echoing the official truth instead of challenging and exposing the propaganda and lies….(see Iraq and Kosovo coverage and now Georgia?)

According to The Independent, Putin said in his latest press conference:  “Please do not instigate an arms race in Europe” and that “there is no Soviet threat but they are trying to resurrect it”.

Is this the language of a would-be-21st century czar? Putin deserves criticism in several ways but this time he is not the “bad” guy…. Given US interest in the region and the insane “full spectrum dominance” strategy  behind it, his assessment is a lot more credible than the constant propaganda we have been exposed to in recent weeks. In my view, Timothy Garton Ash has it completely wrong: we don´t need deterrence against Russian “aggression” and there is no “rollback of Western influence“, we are talking about a sort of self-defense against dangerous US meddling in Russia´s backyard. This is a massive threat to the national interests of Russia (the US trying to marginalize and isolate Russia in the region) – let´s imagine the roles were reverse here: “all hell would break loose”, as the Americans say…..

Russia is more our natural ally, than the (current state of the) US (as Gerhard Schröder understood). The end of the Cold War was a great chance for a new world order (not based on force) but the US, under neocon ideology, did not give it a chance and Europe, indoctrinated with US “market” ideology, did not see what was going on…..

The publication of this one-sided comment of Mr. Garton Ash reminds me of a statement by Mark Curtis: They (the media) do not yet tell us what to think, but what to think about……

[1] Defense Planning Guidance, 1992 (excerpts printed in the NYT on March 8, 1992)

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The Evil Empire Reloaded: Russia, Georgia and the USA

Note: This is a reply to a comment in The Guardian Weekly dealing with the recent “crisis in Georgia” (Russian troops attacking Georgian forces in the break-away province of  South Ossetia)

Clark suggests that Russia has provoked the violence while creating the impression that Georgia´s assault was unprovoked. He goes on to say that “the impact of Russian policy has been uniquely destructive in generating instability and political division in the Caucasus; …it talks about defending the people of South Ossetia .. but the real aims are geopolitical rather than humanitarian…”

Mr.Clark seems to suffer from selective amnesia because he forgets to mention that  the US-led militarization of Georgia (annual training exercises since 2002  – “Operation Immediate Response 08” was just completed on July 30[1] – , millions of US military aid, support from Israeli “advisers” and military equipment like UAVs)  fuelled “the rising tension” and was yet another provocation for Russia:

With the demise of the “evil empire” in the 1990ies, NATO was facing an identity crisis. Staying in business meant reinventing itself as an instrument of noble aggression. The illegal “humanitarian intervention” against Serbia in 1999 was sold to the public as the great moral war  when in fact it really prompted the brutal ethnic cleansing campaign it had initially used as a pretence for the bombing[2].

That the US supported a separatist movement (“liberation” of Kosovo) to increase its influence and military presence in the region (e.g. huge military base Camp Bond Steel in Kosovo) raised no eyebrows, – thanks to a docile media – but when Russia acts in the same way, almost in self-defense, because NATO (read: the US)  is more and more encroaching upon her own backyard,  there is a huge media campaign of moral outrage, especially in the US.  How convenient for Bush , that the media portrayal of the Russian Bear as a kind of Godzilla persuaded Poland to finally accept US missile- interceptors on its territory. The ludicrous claim that the US is installing this faulty system to protect Europe from missile attacks by rogue states (a.k.a. Iran – which is even more absurd)  is not worth commenting on….

NATO`s aggressive program of eastward enlargement was a flagrant breach of  the assurances the US and the West had given to Gorbatchev and Yeltsin in the 1990ies. So in return for Russia`s peaceful withdrawal from Eastern Europe and the acceptance of a unified Germany she got the disdainful middle finger…. (Clark is right about Russia demanding  to be treated with respect….)

Given the aggressive and criminal US “foreign policy” record,  the sight of Mc Cain (who wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years….) , saying with a straight face that “in the 21st century nations do not attack other nations” and Bush, of all people,  lecturing Putin about international law is more than one can bear. But of course, the US does not openly attack democratically elected governments with bombs, it destroys them by subtler means, as we all know…. (e.g. Allende was removed on Sept. 11…. and wasn`t Hamas democratically elected, too?)

Clark calls Saakashvili something less than a model democrat” but certainly “no Milosevics…” and laments that …”..there is no place for an independent Georgia in this mental picture…;  “when Russian leaders talk about the benefits of “sovereign democracy” they are talking exclusively about their own sovereignity and not about democracy;” (Washington`s definition of democracy?)

I don´t see any model democrats anywhere but Saakashvili has clearly adopted the US-style formal democracy where people can go to the ballots but have little say in the actual politics. His severe repression of widespread protests in November 2007, including the shut-down of the independent media and his apparent involvement in corruption have shown that his commitment to democratic values is not very strong but as we have seen many times before, the US has no problem with that. On the contrary, leaders like this can enjoy long and successful relationships with Washington – Shevardnaze was a perfect example.

….countries (on their borders) have no right to foreign policies of their own if they conflict with Russia´s interests……

The US (often with the approval and support of Britain) has toppled numerous governments, installed and supported the worst thugs in history who brought terror and misery to their impoverished population, for the same reasons.  Though in most cases it is the economic policy that must comply with Washington´s interests, not primarily the foreign policy. Again, why is Russia being blamed for actions the US has practised for decades without being held accountable for the terrible consequences? Russia is defending her “own backyard” but the US has “interfered” thousands of miles from its own territory i.e. in Indonesia, South America, the Middle East, and now in the Caucasus / Kaspian region.

Installing a sophisticated antimissile radar system in the Czech Republic, interceptors in Poland and providing military training and equipment to former Soviet republics does not serve to strenghten democracy and security in these countries.  It serves US interests to turn these countries into client states and it increases the profits for military contractors. Officially the US (with Israel) runs the military training programmes in Georgia following a “request for assistance to enhance its counter-terrorism capabilities”. Which terrorists can they mean? The South Ossetians?

But of course, these “counter-insurgency” tactics are only used for the Islamic extremists in Iraq, a “true democrat” like Saakashvili would never direct them against separatist movements at home, wouldn´t he?

Russian´s allegations of “ethnic cleansing” in these provinces  should be investigated not just dismissed as propaganda. The Israeli special forces can surely provide some assistance how to deal with insubordinate ethnic groups fighting for self-determination…..

Of course Putin is not supporting the South Ossetians because he is the good samaritian.

Of course he is asserting Russia´s authority in the region and teaching Saakashvili and similar US stooges  a lesson (but this serves US interests too, see below).

Of course he wants to show the world that while Russia may not be as powerful as the USSR was, it is not longer lying prostrate and still a force to be reckoned with (I´m not going into the BTC pipeline and control of energy-matter here…). What the US really annoys is the fact, that Russia and powerful Asian states like China are beginning to co-operate.

The US apparently achieved three objectives though:

  • Portray Russia as a big security threat and re-create to some extent  a cold-war atmosphere (good for Republican election campaign, good for  “defense”-business., good for NATO…)
  • Scare hesitant ex-Soviet member or satelite states into obedience regarding plans for further US militarization of Eastern Europe
  • Divide and conquer – with regard to the EU (division between Germany and Russia …a major goal?)

Finally, I found some interesting and heartfelt comments on the Rumanian Pravda Online Forum: forum. “The place where truth hurts

“President Bush, Why don’t you shut up? How do you account for the fact that among the Georgian soldiers fleeing the fighting yesterday you could clearly hear officers using American English giving orders to “Get back inside” and how do you account for the fact that there are reports of American soldiers among the Georgian casualties? Kinda odd, eh?”

“President Bush, Why don’t you shut up? Do you really think anyone gives any importance whatsoever to your words after 8 years of your criminal and murderous regime and policies? Do you really believe you have any moral ground whatsoever and do you really imagine there is a single human being anywhere on this planet who does not stick up his middle finger every time you appear on a TV screen? Kinda makes ya’ll think, eh?

Do you really believe you have the right to give any opinion or advice after Abu Ghraib? After Guantanamo? After the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens? After the torture by CIA operatives? Kinda difficult, eh?”

One is tempted to say: Mr. Clark, why don´t you just shut up, too?


[2] Mark Curtis: Web Of Deceit, Chapter 6; Noam Chomsky: Hegemony or Survival, p. 53-59)

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