Follow Every Bear Market Economics blog post on Facebook here

This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in an effort to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. we believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to:http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

FAIR USE NOTICE FAIR USE NOTICE: This page may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This website distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for scientific, research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107.

Read more at: http://www.etupdates.com/fair-use-notice/#.UpzWQRL3l5M | ET. Updates
FAIR USE NOTICE FAIR USE NOTICE: This page may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This website distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for scientific, research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107.

Read more at: http://www.etupdates.com/fair-use-notice/#.UpzWQRL3l5M | ET. Updates

All Blogs licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Monday, October 8, 2012

5 Ways Mitt Romney Would Double Down on U.S. Empire and Hegemony

News & Politics  

Romney's Virgina speech on foreign policy was boilerplate content, with nods to the belligerent neoconservative wing of the Republican Party.

Mitt Romney put foreign policy squarely back in the spotlight with his speech at the Virginia Military Institute today.

Romney launched a rhetorical attack on the Obama administration’s foreign policy, focusing on the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya that killed American ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

“The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts.  They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East,” said Romney, noting that it was likely an Al Qaeda affiliate who attacked the U.S. embassy.

The GOP candidate added that “the blame for the murder of our people in Libya, and the attacks on our embassies in so many other countries, lies solely with those who carried them out—no one else.  But it is the responsibility of our President to use America’s great power to shape history—not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events.”

He also laid out a broad foreign policy vision that called for the U.S. to “lead the course of human events” with “more American leadership.”

In other words, it was a boilerplate speech with nods to the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, a wing that leads his foreign policy team as well. But as Wired’s Spencer Ackerman notes, “the policies Romney outlines in his speech differ, at most, superficially from Obama’s.” Obama’s record on foreign policy is an aggressive one, with escalated drone strikes that have killed scores of civilians in Pakistan and Yemen and the continuation of the war in Afghanistan. Romney didn’t offer anything specific that was more aggressive than Obama, though his rhetoric was ratcheted up.

But if Romney’s speech didn’t contain new ideas, that doesn’t mean they were necessarily good ones. In fact, the prescriptions he offers for U.S. foreign policy will deepen the commitment to U.S. empire and hegemony. Here are 5 bad ideas Romney offered in his foreign policy speech.

1. More American Meddling Around the World

When Romney says “the 21st century can and must be an American century” and that is the U.S.’s responsibility to steer the world towards “the path of freedom, peace, and prosperity,” that’s code for the maintenance of U.S. hegemony. Romney still believes that the U.S. should be able to shape the world as we see fit--the rest of the world who refuses to go along with it be damned. These ideas are particularly galling given that Romney was partly addressing the Arab Spring--a series of revolts that were decidedly against U.S. support for repressive dictatorships.

Romney also believes that in the case of Iran, “American support”--read meddling-- for the opposition in that country would be helpful. But that ignores the fact that the Green movement in Iran did not want U.S. support and intervention.

The Republican candidate also lamented the fact that “America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence.”

Lastly, he hinted that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan could continue for years to come if he was president. “The route to more war – and to potential attacks here at home – is a politically timed retreat that abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11,” the candidate said. “I will evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders.”

2. Belligerence Towards Iran

The Obama administration, with the pushing of an eager U.S. Congress, has implemented extremely tough sanctions on Iran already--so much so that the Iranian rial’s value has been in freefall recently, with reports that the sanctions are causing food insecurity and medicine shortages. But Romney wants more belligerence towards Iran.

“I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region,” said Romney.
An approach like this will put the U.S. on a clearer path to a catostrophic military conflict with Iran.

3. Increased Military Spending

The world Romney wants to see is one where militarization increases and armament makers profit more. Referring to the U.S., Romney “complained that our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut...I will make the critical defense investments that we need to remain secure.”

As for the rest of the world, Romney wants the same: an increase in spending on militaries at a time of austerity and budget cutting that is wreaking havoc on the lives of Europeans. “I will call on our NATO allies to keep the greatest military alliance in history strong by honoring their commitment to each devote 2 percent of their GDP to security spending. Today, only 3 of the 28 NATO nations meet this benchmark,” Romney vowed.

4. Neoliberal Trade Agreements

Romney wants more so-called free trade agreements, which in reality are agreements that often hurt workers around the globe.

“I will champion free trade and restore it as a critical element of our strategy, both in the Middle East and across the world,” said the former Massachusetts governor.

He also made a misleading remark when he claimed that “the President has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years.” While it is true that negotiations over the trade agreements Obama has signed began before he took office, it is a distortion to imply that Obama didn’t sign free trade agreements. Agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea have been signed by Obama--and as Politico notes, they were implemented “in defiance of what labor groups, a major Democratic constitutency, wanted.”

5. More Military Assistance to Israel

President Obama has already increased the amount of military aid the U.S. gives to Israel to unprecedented levels. But Romney wants Israel, a state that is occupying Palestinian land and threatening Iran with war, to receive more.

Romney said that he would “work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination.” Israel already receives 3.1 billion in military aid from the U.S.--aid that directly bolsters the occupation and the building of illegal settlements in the occupied territories, since the Israeli military solely protects settlers in the West Bank.

This military aid would be sent with a blank check. Romney vowed that under his presidency, “the world must never see any daylight between our two nations.” In practice, this would mean that no matter what Israel did with U.S. weaponry, a Romney administration would never criticize the state publically. This has largely been the stance the U.S. has taken in recent history, and it has been catastrophic for the people of Palestine and Lebanon.

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and a staff reporter for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Houla Massacre Update - The UN Report

JA slide show

July 05, 2012

Houla Massacre Update - The UN Report

By: David Edwards

In two alerts on May 31 and June 13, we noted how the UK corporate media system instantly found, not just the Syrian government, but its leader Bashar Assad, responsible for the May 25 massacre of 108 people, including 49 children, in Houla, Syria.

Numerous cartoons depicted Assad smeared with blood or bathing in blood. Just two days after the massacre, the Independent on Sunday’s front cover wanted to know what its readers were going to do about it:

‘There is, of course, supposed to be a ceasefire, which the brutal Assad regime simply ignores. And the international community? It just averts its gaze. Will you do the same? Or will the sickening fate of these innocent children make you very, very angry?’ (Independent on Sunday, May 27, 2012)

Quite what readers were supposed to do, other than gaze, was unclear. After all, one of the great triumphs of modern politics is the near-complete insulation of US-UK foreign policy against democratic pressures.

Inside the paper, David Randall wrote these bitter words:

‘He is the President; she is the First Lady; they are dead children. He governs but doesn't protect; she shops and doesn't care… And one hopes that those on the United Nations Security Council, when it reconvenes, will look into the staring eyes of these dead children and remember the hollow words of Assad's wife when she simpered that she “comforts the families” of her country's victims.’

This was standard for political commentary and media coverage right across politics and media. Houla was not reported as just one more ugly event in world news. It was sold to the British public as an historic ‘something must be done’ tipping point on a par with the contested Racak and hypothetical Benghazi massacres used to justify the West’s attacks on Serbia in 1999 and Libya in 2011, respectively.

US and UK politicians were clearly desperate to use Houla to stoke their regime-change agenda. Rehearsing the crude tactics of the Bush-Blair era, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague endlessly repeated their damning judgements: facts were irrelevant, propaganda stunts everything. No holds were barred. The media, as ever, were happy to go along for the ride.

If the US-UK alliance was to succeed in justifying externally-imposed regime change, then the Assad government had to be declared responsible – certainly, solely, unforgivably. And that indeed was the message supplied by the media.
However, as we explained in our June 13 alert, cracks in the story quickly began to emerge. It turned out that women and children had not had their throats cut, as had been universally asserted. Moreover, the BBC’s World News editor Jon Williams commented:

‘In Houla, and now in Qubair, the finger has been pointed at the shabiha, pro-government militia. But tragic death toll aside, the facts are few: it's not clear who ordered the killings - or why.’
But these and a handful of other comments – and the sources informing them – were kept low-profile and did not become part of the media discussion. Inexplicably, the implications for earlier media claims went unexamined, undiscussed.

The UN - 'Unable To Determine The Identity Of The Perpetrators At This Time'

Last week, on June 27, a UN Commission of Inquiry delivered its report on the massacre. In considering those responsible, the UN described the three most likely possibilities:

‘First, that the perpetrators were Shabbiha or other local militia from neighbouring villages, possibly operating together with, or with the acquiescence of, the Government security forces; second, that the perpetrators were anti-Government forces seeking to escalate the conflict while punishing those that failed to support – or who actively opposed - the rebellion; or third, foreign groups with unknown affiliation.’

The report’s assessment:

‘With the available evidence, the CoI [Commission of Inquiry] could not rule out any of these possibilities.’

The UN summarised:

‘The CoI is unable to determine the identity of the perpetrators at this time; nevertheless the CoI considers that forces loyal to the Government may have been responsible for many of the deaths. The investigation will continue until the end of the CoI mandate.’

A remarkably cautious conclusion, given that it was produced in the face of intense Western political and media pressure (no doubt also behind the scenes) to blame the Syrian government.

So how did the media react to this high-profile report starkly contradicting its consensus on Houla? An honest media would have headlined the UN’s doubt, alerting readers to the earlier baseless assertions and misreporting.

Instead, the LexisNexis media database search engine finds (July 5) just six articles mentioning the report in UK national newspapers and their websites, with only five of these mentioning Houla. An astonishingly low level of coverage given the massive media attention that preceded it. LexisNexis records 1,017 print and online articles mentioning Houla in all UK newspapers since the massacre on May 25.

The Independent, which, as discussed, initially led the field in Houla hype, described the UN findings thus:

‘Gunmen raided the headquarters of a pro-government Syrian TV station yesterday, killing seven employees, kidnapping others and demolishing buildings. The government described the killings as a “massacre,” just as the UN was blaming state forces for the Houla massacre.’

If this was a gross misrepresentation of the UN's findings, it was rendered absurd by clicking an online link to ‘More’, which took readers to these words from Patrick Cockburn:

‘The UN report on last month's massacre at Houla, near the northern city of Homs, does not name those responsible, saying only that forces loyal to the government “may have been responsible” for many of the deaths.

‘It does not name the Alawite militia – the Shabiha – as being responsible, as has been widely reported, but said they had easiest access to Houla.’

That indeed was the news – the UN report had starkly contradicted the ‘widely reported’ but false certainty.

In similar vein, a Guardian piece was titled: ‘Syrian government loyalists “may be responsible” for massacre – UN report.’

A separate Guardian headline bullet point read: ‘Assad forces may be to blame for many Houla deaths – UN.’

By contrast, more accurately, Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News tweeted:

'UN Syria report: says al-Houla massacre of 108 could have been done by either pro or anti Assad militias'

We wrote to Thomson: 'Interesting, the Guardian is reporting it thus: 'Syrian government loyalists "may be responsible"' UN report.'

Thomson replied: 'true but UN equally saying anti-govt militia could have done it. And I speak as someone interviewed by UN on this.'

The former Guardian and Observer journalist, Jonathan Cook, emailed us:

'Yes, in fact, the Guardian's headline stating that Syrian government loyalists "may have been responsible" for the Houla massacre is simply preposterous. The narrative already promoted by the Guardian (and everyone else) is that they *were* responsible. So it should be blindingly obvious to the editors that the only *news* in this UN report is that the government loyalists may *not* have been responsible. Jonathan' (Email to Media Lens, June 27, 2012)

Just three days after the UN report was published, Martin Chulov wrote in the Guardian:

‘In the Syrian village of Qatma, not far from the Turkish border, a family from the town of Houla, where a massacre widely blamed on regime backers took place in late May, has taken refuge.’

In the article, which focused solely on the perspective of Syria’s armed opposition, Chulov made no mention of the UN report or the fact that it had challenged the ‘widely’ circulated claims. Instead, he concluded:

‘Where the UN and the international community may have been seen as ponderous in the Balkans, they are viewed in a worse light through a Syrian opposition lens – impotent.

‘"What they are talking about [in Geneva] is meaningless," said Idris [a Syrian exile]. "It won't change things."’

Seen as ‘ponderous’ by whom? Presumably not the current Syrian opposition. And presumably not by those of us appalled by the mendacious propaganda used to justify Nato’s war on Serbia in 1999. Chulov meant, of course, right-thinking people. The comment recalled Chulov’s earlier response on Twitter:

‘Took a v long time to muster support for a response in Bosnia and Kosovo. Syria will be even more difficult.’

Even The Times did better than the Guardian:

‘The [UN] authors said that they were unable to determine who carried out a massacre of more than 100 people in Houla last month but added that forces loyal to Mr Assad may have been responsible for many of the killings.’ (Janine di Giovanni, ‘Assad and rebels think they have more to gain from violence, UN general says,’ The Times, June 28, 2012)
The BBC website initially commented:
‘UN investigator and author of the report Karen Abuzayd told the BBC that “there is the possibility of three different groups who may have done this”.
‘She said that government forces were responsible for the initial shelling in which some people died. But what she called the “massacre” afterwards in people's homes was done either by militiamen from Alawite villages - known as shabiha - or possibly by armed opposition groups.’

As the News Sniffer website recorded, these words were quickly edited out. Similar comments were later restored.

Media response to the UN report on Houla is a striking example of how the corporate system has evolved to channel and boost government propaganda claims on demand. As ever, counter-evidence, even from highly-respected sources, struggles to make any headway against this ‘babbling brook of bullshit’.
One might think that the primary concern of editors and journalists would be to provide media consumers with accurate, comprehensible information, not least by correcting earlier high-profile errors. But not a single editorial or comment piece examining the implications of the UN report on Houla has sought to do this. Most readers and viewers will continue to believe that women and children had their throat cuts, certainly on the orders of the Syrian government. Others will be simply bewildered by an overwhelming consensus punctuated by odd, apparently credible, but unexplored contradictions.


The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone. Please write to:

John Mullin, editor of the Independent on Sunday
Email: j.mullin@independent.co.uk

David Randall at the Independent
Email: d.randall@independent.co.uk

Martin Chulov at the Guardian
Via Twitter: @martinchulov
Alan Rusbridger, Guardian editor
Email: alan.rusbridger@guardian.co.uk

Via twitter: @arusbridger
Steve Herrmann, BBC News online editor
Email: steve.herrmann@bbc.co.uk