Thursday, December 18, 2014

Putin's Annual Marathon Press Conference Tour De Force

Putin's Annual Marathon Press Conference Tour De Force

by Stephen Lendman

On December, 18, Putin held his annual Q & A marathon. Discussing vital issues. 

Wide-ranging ones. Responding forthrightly to questions. Giving straight-talk honest answers.

Polar opposite Obama. Making him look buffoon-like by comparison. A serial liar. With no credibility whatever. 

His latest Cuba gambit more stunt than policy change. Expect Cubans soon enough to realize they were had. 

Likely smart enough to know already. The devil they've known for over half a century is more villainous now than ever.

Fidel is right saying he "harbor(s) (not) the slightest doubt that the United States is about to commit, and lead the world toward, the greatest error in its history."

"A nuclear war is inevitable," he believes. Perhaps any time. Earlier Castro thought against Iran. Perhaps still today. 

Likely extremely concerned about hostile US relations toward Russia. Hugely dangerous. Ukrainian flashpoint conditions. 

At age 88, his intellect remains acute. His knowledge of vital issues impressive. His honesty and integrity impeccable. 

His forthrightness noteworthy. His fear of potential disaster too important to ignore. It bears repeating. The devil he dealt with for over half a century is meaner and nastier than ever.

Putin, like Castro, knows what he's up against. Not about to roll over for Washington. Especially on issues mattering most. 

Including national sovereignty inviolability. Opposition to war. Peace, equity and justice. Multi-world polarity. 

Cooperative relations with all nations. On the right side of history. Polar opposite Obama on vital geopolitical issues.

Thursday was Putin's 10th annual Q & A press conference. Discussing important issues facing Russia.

Including sanctions. Plummeting oil prices. Declining ruble valuations. Economic problems. East/West Relations. Ukraine. Lots more.

H blamed sanctions for around a fourth of Russia's economic problems. Plummeting oil prices hit hard. Lower ruble valuations.

Russia's economy lacks diversification, he said. He intends remedying things going forward.

"The rate of growth may be slowing, but the economy will continue to grow and our economy will overcome the current situation," he stressed.

"I believe about two years is the worst case scenario after which growth will resume."

"But the situation may start improving even earlier…in the first, second quarter, in mid-2015 or at the end of the next year. No one can say for sure," said Putin.

"If the situation takes a negative turn, then we will have to introduce some amendments to our plans. Naturally, something will have to be trimmed." 

"However, I would like to stress that a 'positive rebound,' as experts call it, and subsequent growth are inevitable under present circumstances."

He intends various measures to increase ruble valuations. In 2008, they proved successful, he said.

He urged faster central bank action. Saying its policies "need to be coordinated, collective and prudent, but without interference into the central bank or the government's sphere of competence."

"Nevertheless, there must be coordination and it must be timely." Perhaps more interest rate hikes. To halt ruble devaluation. Begin returning it to higher valuations. Stabilize Russia's economy.

Putin criticized Western countries. Their imperial priorities. Seeing other regions as vassal areas. Subservient ones. To be exploited. 

"They will always try to chain the bear," he said. "And once it's chained, they'll rip out its teeth and claws." 

"The nuclear deterrence, speaking in present-day terms. As soon as this happens, nobody will need (the bear) anymore." 

"They'll stuff it. And start to put their hands on its Taiga (Siberian forest belt). We've heard statements from Western officials that Russia owning Siberia (isn't) fair.”

"The problem of modern international relations is that our partners refuse to stop. They think they have won."

"Do we want relations on an equal basis? Yes, we do, but on the condition that our national interests are respected, in the sphere of security and in the sphere of economy."

He called Russia Europe's only reliable gas supplier. Distinguished between legitimate political opposition and internal threats.

"Saying (a)n opposition figure, even if he's very harsh, in the end he fights for the interests of his motherland, but the 'fifth column represents people who fulfill what is dictated to them in the interests of another government, and they are used as an instrument to reach political goals that are foreign to us."

Russia doesn't repress opposition elements, he stressed. "I would like to assure you that there is no organization or any sort of repression against people who don't agree with our actions, for example in Ukraine, Crimea, or any other external issues, no one from  official government organs do this," he said.

He defended Russia's Ukraine policy. Going all-out for peace and stability. Debunking notions otherwise. Criticizing US hypocrisy.

Saying "(t)o take Texas from Mexico is fair, but when we make decisions about our territories, it is unfair."

"I believe we are right in the Ukrainian crisis and our Western partners are wrong."

America's empire of bases is everywhere, he said. "(A)ll over the world, and you're trying to say that we're being aggressive."

Russia has only two foreign bases. In Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, he said.

"We have a military budget of $50 billion while the Pentagon's budget is (over) ten times that amount."

"Do we place our troops at US borders? Who is placing NATO troops, military infrastructure closer to us?" 

"Does anyone listen to us, talk to us about it? No, nothing. There is always the same response. It's not your business."

Washington's menacing missile defense system threatens Russia. "They have been deploying strategic missile defense elements not only on Alaska, but also in Europe, in Poland and Romania, right at our borders," said Putin.

Concerned about US plans to install Aegis Ashore ballistic missiles in Romania. By 2015. Similar ones in Poland. By 2018. Urged international leaders to address this issue responsibly.

He stressed the importance of observing Minsk protocol ceasefire terms.

Donbas residents have the right to choose their own future. Under internationally accepted rule of law principles.

The economic blockade is futile. Counterproductive. Wrong, he stressed.

"We must follow the general principles of the international law, and the people of Novorossiya have the right to decide their own fate," he said.

He justifiably blamed Western countries for Ukrainian crisis conditions. "But for the West's position, there wouldn't be civil war in Ukraine," he said.

The road to peace requires building common humanitarian space. Not walls, he stressed. "Russia pays the cost of remaining a nation, a civilization and a state."

He may visit Tehran next year. Iranian leaders show considerable flexibility. On issues regarding their nuclear industry. He hopes for P5+1 resolution soon.

Despite hard times, the vast majority of Russians support Putin. An astonishing 81%. In a recent AP/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.

A Final Comment

Rodney Shakespeare is Professor of Binary Economics at Trisakti University, Britain. He teaches postgraduate Islamic economics and finance.

On December 18, he discussed Russian economic conditions on RT International. His comments are important and incisive.

He emailed this writer the following. Explaining the gist of what he said as follows:

"Russia will recover (probably relatively) in under two years. It will probably be relatively because the Western financial system is in  difficulty and a collapse is certain which will affect everybody."  

"The basic reasons for this are the huge and continuing levels of un-repayable debt; rich-poor division; and a failure to understand the technological shift which is destroying jobs."
"But Russia will survive. It has vast primary resources - diamonds, wood, gold, iron, wheat, oil, gas etc." 

"It has large financial reserves (around $400 billion dollars); AND its government takes in more money than it spends!! This is unheard of in the Western world!"
"Also NB in about six months the first part of the new money-exchange system will have been built and will enable Russia and China to bypass the Western system."
"If Russia has any immediate difficulty it should remember the 1998 crisis when the IMF, Americans and the City of London tried to smash Malaysia as an independent nation."  

"All of the advisers were traitors. So Prime Minister Mahathir turned to a man who was unemployed, down to his last one hundred dollars and was lying on his bed on a torrid Kuala Lumpur night."  

"This was Tan Sri Nor Mohammed Jakcop who was summoned to rush to Buenos Aires (where Mahathir was on a state visit), given a packet of visits and asked to write down the solution to the crisis in under two pages."  

"He did so and the rest is history. Within three years Mahathir had exacted a grovelling apology from the IMF." 

"The overall message was that you can use capital controls if your basics are OK (which is broadly the case with Russia)."
"The present crisis is an excellent opportunity for Russia to break free from its reliance on foreign, Western finance." 

"It should rely on its own finance and, at the same time, become independent in all aspects of the economy (which is largely possible for Russia - just as Iran has done)."

Money does NOT have to be borrowed from the international banking system which creates it out of nothing, adds interest and makes it repayable in dollars etc." 

"(T)hen does a run on your currency and subsequently picks up your assets for peanuts. This is what Mahathir was fighting and did successfully fight."
"It's all LIES about the need to borrow from abroad and the need to have international 'investors.' "  

"You can just as easily borrow interest-free from your own national bank but it is unwise to allow this too much UNLESS the borrowing is for building productive capacity AND spreading it in the population (only this creates a properly balanced market economy in which producers and consumers are the same)."
"Generally, NEVER borrow from abroad because it gives the lever by which you can be smashed." 

"The theoretical case for borrowing from abroad is that the 'investments' are for economic efficiency but, in practice, they are nothing of the sort being short-term hot money which is only there to get as big a profit as possible before rushing away."

Professor Rodney Shakespeare

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Torture in Israeli Prisonss

Torture in Israeli Prisons

by Stephen Lendman

Washington and Israel replicate each other's worst crimes. A previous article discussed a UN Committee Against Torture report.

Citing grave US civil and human rights abuses. Including systematic use of torture. Senate Intelligence Committee members confirmed it. In highly redacted form.

Constituting appalling breaches of fundamental rule of law principles. At home and abroad. In US prisons. Global black sites. Out of sight and mind.

Israel operates the same way. Brutalizing Palestinians horrifically. The Middle East Monitor discussed a UN report. Covering around 200 torture methods.

B'Tselem lists around half this number. Including against children. Torture and other forms of abuse reflect the worst of occupation harshness.

Palestinians want them ended. On Wednesday, PLO officials submitted draft Security Council text language. Jointly with Jordan Detailing terms for peace.

Setting a 12-month deadline. December 2017 for ending Israel's occupation. Saying they're open to negotiations on text language.

Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour thanking Arab and European nations for helping. Indicating he won't press for a quick SC vote.

To allow more time for discussion. An attempt to placate Washington. Enlist its support. Futile without Israeli acquiescence. Not forthcoming under any circumstances.

Netanyahu remains hardline. So do likeminded ministers and MKs. Opposing Palestinian statehood. Intending permanent occupation. 

Virtually certain of US support. Like dozens of previous times. Washington's veto power has final say.

Mansour remains hopeful. Saying "(W)e will continue negotiating with all of them and with the Americans if they are ready and willing so that we perhaps can succeed in having something adopted by the Security Council to open a serious door to peace."

The PLO resolution calls for a "just, lasting and comprehensive peace solution that brings an end to the Israeli occupation…"

"(F)ulfill(ing) the vision" of a Palestinian state. With Jerusalem its shared capital. A major climbdown from East Jerusalem exclusively.

Final settlement reached no later than 12 months after resolution passage. Including Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestine over a period "not to exceed the end of 2017."

Initially PLO officials wanted occupation ending in two years. Now  three. Categorically rejected by Israel and Washington.

Both countries wanting all issues settled through direct negotiations. Not UN resolutions. Except in language Israel accepts.

Kerry saying resolutions are OK if don't exacerbate regional tensions.

"We don't have any problem with them filing some resolution, providing it's done in the spirit of working with people to see how we could proceed forward in a thoughtful way that solves the problem, doesn't make it worse," he maintains.

Code language for whatever Israel wants it gets. Palestinian rights don't matter. Business as usual won't change.

On December 17, Mondoweiss said Washington drafted an "alternative offer to the Palestinian pursuit of a draft resolution to negotiate an end to Israel's occupation…" 

According to a French diplomat. PLO officials got no information. Unaware of what Washington has in mind.

One senior official saying he thinks "what the Americans are trying to do is delay any initiative until" after Israeli elections. 

In March. Perhaps under a new coalition government. Maybe more hardline than now. 

For sure not agreeable to ending occupation. Or accepting Palestinian self-determination. Like all previous Israeli governments. Since mid-1967.

Mondoweiss cited France calling Washington's proposal a railroading tactic.

Pressuring France to withdraw support. Acting as an Israeli/Palestinian mediator. Confused by Palestinian actions, said the French diplomat.

No idea what they're doing. As of yesterday, France hasn't seen final text language.

Palestinians are working jointly with Jordan. Not France on their behalf.

For its part, France wants all contentious issues resolved before tabling a resolution.

Initially two drafts circulated. A French one with 
European partners. An Arab League supported Jordanian/Palestinian one.

According to Mondoweiss:

"The principal differences between the drafts were that the Palestinians wanted to include language on ending Israel's occupation within a two-year period, while the French wanted to re-establish negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis." 

"Both entail previous international accords such as United Nations resolution 242 and 181, a removal of Israeli forces from territories occupied in June 1967, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees based on return and compensation, respectively."

Other provisions include freezing settlement construction immediately. Refraining from "any illegal activities."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he "reaffirmed France's commitment to an initiative in the UN Security Council encompassing parameters as well as a timetable for these negotiations."

"I also mentioned the need to renew the framework of these discussions in order to promote the involvement of all international partners willing to contribute to this settlement." 

"France is convinced that it is high time to act for peace in a concrete manner."

What more compelling argument for statehood. Free from Israeli torture. Other forms of occupation harshness. Israel no longer having say over Palestinian lives.

B'Tselem calls "(t)he right of every person not to be subjected to ill-treatment or torture (whether physical or mental) one of the few human rights… considered absolute."

Never "balanced against other rights and values. (N)or suspended or limited." No matter what situation is faced.

This right is binding under international law. With no allowed exceptions.

The Middle East Monitor reported "(h)undreds of torture methods used against Palestinian prisoners during interrogations…"

Conducted in Israeli prisons. "(O)bserved by human rights organisations and prisoners' rights associations."

According to Ahrar Center for Prisoners' Studies and Human Rights direcor Fouad Khuffash, torture includes physical and psychological methods. Each leaves permanent scars.

"Torture in Israeli prisons is systematic and starts from the moment a prisoner is arrested, not from the moment they begin interrogation," said Khuffash. 

"This is a premeditated and staged scenario that changes according to the case of the detainee and the nature of their file." 

"Investigators alternate and play various roles assigned in advance to each investigator."

University of Jerusalem's Abu Jihad Center for Prisoner Affairs director Fahd Abu Al-Hajj notes 73 "most popular Israeli interrogation torture techniques."

Demonstrating occupation barbarism. omplete disregard for core human rights laws and standards.

"Nothing evidences this more than the repeated death of prisoners under interrogation, the most recent of which was the death of the prisoner Raed Al-Jabari," said Al-Hajj.

No Palestinian prisoner is spared. Young children treated like adults. Brutalized viciously.

Including injury-producing severe beatings. Prisoners doused with very cold, then very hot water.

Cuffing or restraining detainees painfully. Arms behind their backs. Tying them painfully to a door or window. For long periods of time. Lasting hours.

Beaten with sticks until lose consciousness. Targeting sensitive body areas. Potentially causing longterm negative effects. At times, leading to chronic illnesses and diseases.

A UN human rights committee said Israel "cross(ed) the line." Its brutal methods include "breaking backs, pulling fingers apart and twisting testicles."

In recent years, psychological torture increasingly used. Vicious tactics leaving permanent scars.

Mohammed Kilani was isolated in solitary confinement. Chained to a chair. For over two months. Harshest form of torture he endured, he said.

Israel uses virtually every form of physical and psychological torture ever conceived. Leaving a terrible toll on victims. Many traumatized longterm. Some permanently.

Since 1967, around six dozen Palestinians died from Israeli torture. Out of a total 200 perishing behind bars. Most for lack of proper healthcare. Combined with appalling treatment.

It bears repeating. What more compelling argument for statehood. Free from Israeli torture. Other forms of occupation harshness. 

Ending Israel's say over Palestinian lives. Free ftom decades of intolerable repression.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Thaw in US/Cuban Relations?

Thaw in US/Cuban Relations?

by Stephen Lendman

On December 17, the Havana Times headlined "Obama Announces New US Approach on Cuba," saying:

"In a surprise announcement today US President Obama has taken sweeping steps to re-launch US relations with Cuba." 

"Talks between Washington and Havana have actually been going on secretly in Canada for a year and a half with mediation assistance from Pope Francis."

More on this below.

On December 17, Obama said in part:

"Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba."

"In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries."  

"Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas."

"…I've instructed Secretary Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to reestablish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961."  

"Going forward, the United States will reestablish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will visit Cuba."

"…I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba's designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. This review will be guided by the facts and the law."  

"Terrorism has changed in the last several decades. At a time when we are focused on threats from al Qaeda to ISIL, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use of terrorism should not face this sanction."

"…(W)e are taking steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba."

"…I'm under no illusion about the continued barriers to freedom that remain for ordinary Cubans."

"(G)iven Cuba's history, I expect it will continue to pursue foreign policies that will at times be sharply at odds with American interests."

Why Cuba? Why now? Why not earlier? What will change? What won't? James Petras saying Washington "is totally alone in its boycott of Cuba."

Why when it uses sanctions as a key weapon of choice. Against independent states. Targeted for regime change. Wanting pro-US vassal regimes replacing them.

Why when US/Venezuelan relations remain hostile? When Congress just passed the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014.

Unanimously. By voice vote in both houses. Obama signing it into law. Imposing sanctions on targeted Venezuelan officials.

Irresponsibly. Hypocritically. The world's leading human rights abuser targeting one of its staunchest defenders.

Why when Cold War 2.0 rages against Russia? More virulently than ever. Congress authorized more sanctions. US-instigated oil wars batter its economy and currency. 

Hot war remains possible. Unthinkable between the world's two most formidable nuclear powers.

Why when US/Iranian relations remain frosty? Punishing sanctions remain in place. 

Tehran's peaceful nuclear program a pretext for Washington's real aim. Regime change. Ousting its independent government. Installing a pro-Western stooge one.

Why when Obama's Asia/Pacific pivot targets China? Wanting it marginalized. Weakened. Isolated. Contained. Controlled. Eliminating one of America's two main rivals.

Why when Obama's war on Syria shows no signs of ending? Or Iraq war 3.0. Or global US interventions. Covert mischief. 

Making the world safe for monied interests. Maintaining Washington's permanent war policy. On humanity. At home and abroad.

With America increasingly militarized. Governed under a police state apparatus. 

Federal, state and local authorities committing virtually every imaginable civil and human rights abuse. Unaccountably.

Why when US policy more than ever threatens world peace? Humanity's survival. When advancing its imperium matters most. No matter the consequences.

Obama's new Cuba policy comes after over half a century of blockade and isolation. Extreme hostility. Hundreds of failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Biowarfare. Including dengue fever. Killing hundreds. Sickening thousands. 

Contaminating crops and livestock. Terror-bombing hotels. Industrial facilities. Various other sabotage. Sinking fishing boats. Blowing up Cubana Flight 465. Killing 78 people on board. 

US military doctrine embraces anything goes. Including "massive casualty producing events." Mindless of innocent civilian deaths and injuries. 

State terrorism is official US policy. Cuba a prime target for decades. Since Eisenhower authorized CIA efforts to oust Castro. The failed April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion followed.

So did support for anti-Castro terrorist groups. Ongoing for decades. Including Alpha 66. Omega 7. Brothers to the Rescue. The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF). Openly admitting acts of murder. Intentions to keep killing.

CANF headed by fascist extremist Jorge Mas Canosa. Until his 1997 death. Embraced by various US presidents at the White House.

Historian Jorge Dominguez reviewed thousands of declassified anti-Castro documents. Involving US-sponsored terrorism. Showing no concern whatever for human life or welfare. According to Dominguez:

"Only once (in all documents he reviewed) did a US official raise something that resembled a faint moral objection to US-government sponsored terrorism."

"American aggression ran from the embargo, propaganda, isolation, and the Bay of Pigs military invasion." 

"As the rhetoric increased, terrorist acts were formulated and carried out…American officials estimated millions would be spent to develop internal security systems, and State Department officials expected the Cuban government to increase internal surveillance in an attempt to prevent further acts of terrorism."  

"These systems, which restricted civil rights, became easy targets for critics."

Obama's Wednesday announcement followed 18 months of secret negotiations. Exploratory talks. Beginning in June 2013. 

Brokered by Canadian and Vatican officials. In Ottawa. Toronto. Vatican City. 

Pope Francis the first Latin American pontiff. Raising possible Cuban rapprochement. In March last year. When Obama visited the Vatican.

Followed by sending Obama and Castro letters. Urging an end to decades of hostile relations.

John Kerry engaged his Cuban counterpart. Foreign Secretary Bruno Rodriguez. Focusing on Alan Gross' release.

A USAID subcontractor operative. Acting against Cuban independence and territorial integrity. Convicted of activities involving spying. Destabilization. Subversion.

At the time, Cuban Parliamentary President said, Gross "violated Cuban laws and national sovereignty and has committed crimes which in the United States can carry heavy sentences." 

In June 2013, Obama's deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes, and Latin American advisor. Ricardo Zuniga, initiated the first of nine meetings.

With their Cuban counterparts. In Canada. Culminating with a 45-minute Obama/Raul Castro conversation.

The first presidential dialogue between both countries since 1959. Embargo following in 1961.

On Wednesday, Gross was released. Along with three remaining Cuban Five prisoners.

Unjustly convicted of Espionage. Conspiracy to commit murder. Acting as foreign government agents.

In October 2011, Rene Gonzalez was released. Following 13 years in prison. Fernando Gonzales released in February 2014.

Gerardo Hernandez. Antonio Guerrero. Ramon Labanino now freed. All five regarded as Cuban national heroes.

In America monitoring Miami-based, US funded, anti-Castro right-wing terrorist groups. Helping to prevent future attacks.

Convicted in kangaroo court proceedings. At least 14 journalists covertly got US funding to vilify them.

In August 2005, a three-judge Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals panel overturned their convictions.

Ordered a new trial. To no avail. In October 2005, the entire court halted the ruling. 

Ordered an en banc (full court) hearing. In August 2006, overturning the 2005 decision (10 - 2). Affirming the district court ruling.

In December 2007, UK attorney Steve Cottingham called the Cuban Five's trial "profoundly flawed."

"(T)heir (prison) conditions…inhumane…" Calling them "fall guys in an attempt to cover up the US's support for illegal activity to overthrow the (legitimate) government of the Republic of Cuba."

A Miami trial venue assured conviction. Defense lawyers knew fair proceedings were impossible. Guilt by accusation followed.

On December 17, the UK-based Cuba Solidarity Campaign headlined "Volvieron (returned)!

CSC director Rob Miller calling the release of the three remaining Cuban Five members "the right thing to do."

"It is truly wonderful news for the Five, their families, all those who have campaigned to see this day and above all for the Cuban people," he said.

"We now hope that this will see the end of 50 years of the failed policy of aggression and blockade and the beginning of a new era of friendly relations between two countries and two peoples."

On Wednesday, Obama promised "a new chapter" in US/Cuban relations. Reestablishing diplomatic ties. Severed since January 1961.

A promised review of Cuba's designation as "a State Sponsor of Terrorism." Guided by "facts and the law."  

Obama's rhetoric remained hostile. Lying about "continued barriers to freedom that remain for ordinary Cubans."

Expecting continued Havana policies at times "sharply at odds with American interests."

Measures Obama announced include eventually easing travel and trade restrictions. Making it easier for Cubans to receive remittances from America.

Confirming Obama's participation in the April 2015 Summit of the Americas. Cuba invited for the first time. Since meetings began in 1994.

Last June, Bolivia and Ecuador threatened to boycott the summit if Cuba wasn't invited. Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman called his participation "difficult" without Cuba.

Brazil. Chile. Paraguay. Mexico. Uruguay called for Cuba's involvement. It remains to see how so-called new US/Cuban relations unfold.

Decades-old blockade conditions aren't lifted. Repressive Helms-Burton legislation remains in place. Passed in March 1996. 

Hardening embargo conditions. It takes a giant leap of faith to expect Congress to lift them any time soon. Especially with Republicans in charge. Obama a lame duck. 

Presidential aspirant Jeb Bush calling his shift a "dramatic overreach" of executive authority. Saying his action "rewards those dictators."

Cuban President Raul Castro spoke on national television. Simultaneously with Obama's announcement.

Saying "(w)e have been able to make headway in the solution of some topics of mutual interest for both nations."

"President Obama’s decision deserves the respect and acknowledgment of our people. This in no way means that the heart of the matter has been resolved."

"The economic, commercial and financial blockade, which causes enormous human and economic damages to our country, must cease." 

"(T)he progress made in our exchanges proves that it is possible to find solutions to many problems."

Largely rhetorical ones so far. Ending over half a century of US hostility won't come easily or quickly. 

Not as long as Washington's criminal class remains bipartisan. Targeting all independent states for regime change. Longstanding policy not about to change.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

EU Parliament Recognizes Palestinian Statehood

EU Parliament Recognizes Palestinian Statehood

by Stephen Lendman  

On Wednesday, European parliamentarians endorsed Palestinian statehood. Symbolically. In principle. A compromise motion. 

Carrying overwhelmingly - 498 to 88 with 111 abstentions. More on this below.

A previous article said the following:

An estimated 134 nations recognize Palestinian statehood. Sweden the latest to join ranks with others. The first EU country to do so.

Britain, France, Spain and Portugal extended unofficial/symbolic parliamentary recognition. So did Ireland.

Denmark surprised. It was expected to followed suit. Not now. Maybe later. Along with perhaps other European countries.

Has the train left the station? Is Israel’s tide going out? Is Palestine headed for official statehood recognition? Despite strong Israeli/US objections?

Washington opposes Palestine's statehood. Within June 1067 borders. Wanting occupation ended in two years. 

Expect it to use its Security Council veto if needed. One-sidedly supporting Israel. Like dozens of times before.

PLO officials submitted a joint Palestinian/French text. Removing recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

On Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki stopped short of saying Washington would veto Palestine's bid.

PLO Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said (French) draft text language "will be presented to the Security Council (Wednesday)."

"(A)s a blueprint. (T)o be put to a vote 24 hours after that." Israel insists Palestine recognize it as a Jewish State. PLO officials refuse.

They began circulating text language end of September. Testing the waters. Diplomats said the original Arab League-backed text setting November 2017 as an end of occupation deadline had no chance of approval.

France got involved. With Britain and Germany. Discussing options. Including a timeframe for negotiations.

According to PLO official Mohammed Shtayyeh, France "accommodated" some Palestinian wishes. In draft text language. Not as many as wanted. Perhaps not enough to matter.

Psaki said Washington opposes resolutions "prejudg(ing) the outcome of negotiations." 

On Tuesday, Kerry met with chief Palestinian negotiator/longtime Israeli collaborator Saeb Erekat in London. Following discussions, he said:

"(N)o determinations (were made) about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that."

"What we're trying to do is have a constructive conversation with everybody to find the best way to go forward."

"We want to find the most constructive way of doing something. (What won't) have unintended consequences, but also can stem the violence."

An unnamed Palestinian official called talks "difficult." Kerry insisted on no two-year timetable. Calling for Israel's withdrawal.

Washington consistently supports Israeli wishes. Kerry wants peace negotiations continued. 

Palestinian statehood if and when Israel agrees. Code language for unconditional PLO surrender.

According to Fatah central committee member Mohammad Shtayyeh:

"The United States does not want a Palestinian state, and does not want to use the veto either. It is avoiding it by preventing us from collecting nine votes." 

Netanyahu met Kerry in Rome. Applied enormous pressure.
Israel's Strategic Affairs Minister, Yuval Steinitz, said he "assume(s) an anti-Israeli proposal will draw a US veto." 

"That's how it's always been. That's what we hope will happen" this time.

On Sunday, Netanyahu called the PLO resolution "dangerous. 
(B)ring(ing) the radical Islamic elements to the suburbs of Tel Aviv and to the heart of Jerusalem." 

"We will not allow this. We will rebuff this forcefully and responsibly. Let there be no doubt, this will be rejected."

"In recent years we have rebuffed recurrent attempts to dictate conditions to us that would have harmed Israel's security and which are incompatible with genuine peace." 

"This time we will not accept attempts to dictate to us unilateral moves on a limited timetable." 

"In the reality in which Islamic terrorism is reaching out to all corners of the globe, we will rebuff any attempt that would put this terrorism inside our home, inside the State of Israel." 

"(I've made this) this unequivocally clear. We will stand firm in the face of any diktat."

The European Parliament's resolution said the following:

The body "supports in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced."

Resolution language urged Fatah and Hamas "end internal divisions." Highlighting "the importance of consolidating the authority of the Palestinian consensus government."

Left of center parliamentarians urged recognition without pre-conditions. Israeli/Palestinian negotiations accomplish nothing.

One-way every time. Israel doesn't negotiate. It demands.  Symbolic Palestinian statehood support matters only if it advances things closer to eventual official recognition.

According to European parliamentarian Richard Howitt:

"European recognition of Palestinian statehood is not an alternative to either a two-state solution or to peace talks to achieve it but gives a vital impetus to both."

Voting came after the European Court of Justice ordered Hamas remove from the EU terrorist blacklist. On technical grounds.

Its ruling said:

"The General Court finds that the contested measures (maintaining Hamas on the European list of terrorist organizations) are based not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the internet."

The ruling came over four years after Hamas appealed its unjust EU designation. Citing a lack of due process. Its status as a "legitimately elected government."

Labeling it a terrorist organization flies in the face of "the principle of non-intervention in the internal members of a State."

An EU funding freeze remains in place. f\For another three months. Before lifting it entirely. 

What never should have been imposed in the first place. Or Hamas designated a terrorist organization. Yielding to Israeli pressure.

Israel has two months to appeal. Hamas is Palestine's legitimate government. Democratically elected overwhelmingly. In January 2006.

Labeling it a terrorist organization is false. Malicious. Uncalled for. Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq praised the ruling.

Righting an injustice, he said. Calling Hamas a "national freedom movement." Not a terrorist organization.

Israel responded as expected. Likud MK/World Likud chairman Danny Danon lied, saying:

"The Europeans must believe that their blood is more sacred than the blood of the Jews which they see as unimportant." 

"That is the only way to explain the EU court's decision to remove Hamas from the terror blacklist."

"In Europe they must have forgotten that Hamas kidnapped three boys and fired thousands of rockets last summer at Israeli citizen."

Hamas had nothing to do with the June kidnappings and murders. Or preemptively firing rockets at Israel. Acting only after numerous IDF provocations. In self-defense.

Netanyahu issued a statement saying:

"We expect (European parliamentarians) to immediately put Hamas back on the list."

Outrageously calling Hamas "a murderous terrorist organization." Repeating his usual Big Lie about it wanting to destroy Israel.

Claiming it long ago wore thin. Palestinian liberation remains distant. US support for Israel is firm.

Petitioning Security Council members for long denied justice is futile. As long as US veto power prevails.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Jeb Bush Exploring White House Bid

Jeb Bush Exploring White House Bid

by Stephen Lendman

Another possible Bush presidency should rile freedom-lovers  everywhere. He's forming a leadership political action committee.

On Facebook, he said he's doing so to "discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation."

With "support leaders…" Exploring "ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans." More on his bid below.

The Bush family dynasty reflects a legacy of crime. Deceit. Serial lying. Public betrayal. Neocon extremism. Serving wealth, power and privilege exclusively. At the expense of social justice.

Disdain for human and civil rights. Mindless of rule of law principles. Imperial wars called liberating ones. Mass murder and destruction.

Anti-democratic color revolutions. Torture as official US policy. Operating the world's largest gulag. At home and abroad. Waging war on humanity. For unchallenged world dominance.

Behind every Bush, there's a crime!

Ninety-year-old George Herbert Walker Bush was a former congressman. Ambassador. CIA chief. Vice president and president. Connected some believe to JFK's assassination.

His September 11, 1990 joint session of Congress address became known as his "Toward a New World Order" speech. 

Signifying a turning point in world affairs. After the Berlin Wall's demolition. A year before Soviet Russia's dissolution. 

America embarking on a quest for unchallenged global dominance. Using overwhelming military might. 

Especially in resource rich areas. Unconstrained by rule of law principles. 

Bush I claimed since America won the Cold War, it was empowered to establish international order governing principles. Based on might makes right.

The 1991 National Security Strategy of the United States followed. So did the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance.

Claiming America entitled to bring "security and stability" to various world regions.

Its unilateral right to intervene in internal affairs of other nations. Despite internationald law prohibiting it. Except in self-defense if attacked.

In November 1991, a NATO summit convened in Rome. Washington proposed a so-called "New Strategic Concept."

Involving US-led NATO taking a "more expansive and less defensive strategic military role."

A self-declared right to conduct so-called "humanitarian interventions." Supported by Britain. Code language for naked aggression.

Bush I's 1989 war on Panama reflected this notion. Deposing Manuel Noreiga. Not convenient stooge enough. Replaced to maintain US control.

Gulf War aggression followed. In January 1991. Then 1990s Balkan wars. NATO's rape of Yugoslavia. Bush II's post-9/11 "war on terror." 

His preventive war doctrine. Ludicrously called just war. Justifying the unjustifiable. Advancing America's imperium. 

On the pretext of preventing regimes Washington opposes from acquiring WMDs. Combatting "terrorists." Advancing nation-building notions.

In 1992, Defense Department officials Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby proposed new US strategy. Saying containment and deterrence were obsolete.

America must remain the world's only superpower, they maintained. Unchallenged.

Advocating preemptive force. Unilaterally if necessary to confront alleged US security threats. Eliminate them.

Policies Bush II adopted. Implemented by neocons Dick Cheney, Lewis Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and others.

Waging so-called "war on terror." On "militant Islam." On invented enemies. Advancing America's imperium. 

Taking full advantage of 9/11. US state-sponsored terrorism. The mother of all Big Lies. Multiple wars of aggression continue. Direct and indirect.

Bush II's National Security Strategy of the United States endorsed preventive wars. America's so-called right to intervene anywhere. 

Using military force. Against any nation. Alleged terrorist or national security threats. Regardless of international, constitutional or US statute law prohibitions.

American interests come first. Obama a Bush clone and then some. Claiming moral justification for preemptive force. "Just war(s)." "Preventive" ones.

Saying "instruments of war have a role to play in preserving the peace." Benjamin Franklin said "(t)here was never a good war or a bad peace."

John Ellis (Jeb) Bush's presidency assures more of the same. Wars without end. Preemptive aggression. The supreme crime against peace. 

Continuing against invented enemies. New ones. Permanent war. Official US policy.

Media reports followed his announcement. Omitting what readers most need to know.

The New York Times headlined "Jeb Bush Takes a Step Toward a Presidential Run."

Saying he'll "actively explore" it. "(T)ying up donors whom other candidates are courting and forcing contenders to accelerate their own considerations for 2016."

According to lobbyist Brian Ballard:

"If he runs, Jeb assumes the mantle of the center-right, establishment candidate, which, along with his family network, means he will have an incredible finance operation."

Lobbyist/bundler Dirk Van Dongen added:

"Now that he has entered the ring, you will see others doing so fairly rapidly because there will be a race for funders." 

His campaign lawyer, Charles Spies, said his political action committee lets him employ staff.

Raise legally permitted amounts of money. More if he establishes a full-blown campaign committee.

The Washington Post headlined "Jeb Bush's decision to explore presidential bid scrambles the 2016 GOP field," saying:

A Bush candidacy would "severely undercut the financial backing for other possible 2016 contenders - especially New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.)."

Plus Mitt Romney if he decides to run again. Rand Paul a possible candidate.

"The most immediate impact of (Bush's) decision is on the money race," said WaPo. It's "remained largely static as party donors waited to see what Bush would do."

"(Large) numbers of center-right financiers (are) rushing to Bush. (D)raining the pool of financial backers available for other candidates."

An unnamed GOP fundraiser said "Bush is certainly going to have a formidable fundraising machine…"

He grew up in Houston. Attended the University of Texas. Earned a Latin American affairs degree.

After his father's election as vice president, moved to Florida. Served as Dade County Republican Party chairman. 

In 1986, Florida's Secretary of Commerce. Resigning in 1988. To help his father's successful 1988 presidential campaign.

In 1989, served as hardcore neocon Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's campaign manager. Congress' first Cuban-American member. 

Disgracing the office she holds. Along with lots more ideologues infesting Congress. Mocking legitimate governance.

In 1994, Jeb lost his first gubernatorial run. At the time, he was asked what he'd do for African-Americans if elected. He responded saying:

"It’s time to strive for a society where there's equality of opportunity, not equality of results. So I'm going to answer your question by saying: probably nothing."

The same year brother George became Texas governor. In 1998, Jeb easily defeated Democrat Buddy MacKay. Served two terms as Florida governor.

He's hardcore Republican. Like Bush I an II. Involved in various finance, real estate and private equity dealings.

In 1990, he interceded with his father for Orlando Bosch. A Cuban exile. CIA operative. Lawless Castro opponent.

Convicted at the time of firing a rocket at a Polish ship. On route to Cuba.

Released from prison. Granted US residency. Along with Posada Carriles, responsible for downing Cubana Airlines flight 455. Killing 73 people on board.

Earlier, Bush advised Lehman Brothers and Barclays. Served on various corporate boards. Including Tenet Healthcare. InnoVida. Swisher Hygiene. Rayonier. 

Tenet reportedly paid him over $2 million. In April 2013, he wrote a Newsmax magazine article. Lying about Social Security and Medicare. Nonsensically claiming they risked collapse without major changes.

His "One Florida" initiative ended affirmative action admissions at state universities.

As governor, he prioritized business interests. Cut taxes by $19 billion. Reduced state government size. Vetoed $2 billion in new spending.

As part of a near $450 million line-item veto of state funding, cut $5.8 million in public library grants.

Pilot projects for library homework help. Web-based high-school texts. Funding for a joint-use Tampa library.

He set aside over a million acres for private purchase. Presided over 21 state-sponsored executions. Commuted no one sentenced to death.

Signed into law caps on medical liability non-economic damages.
Massively transformed Florida's Medicaid program. 

Cut spending. Let private companies decide how Florida's most disadvantaged get healthcare.

Was involved in the controversial Terri Schiavo case. Massively brain damaged. On life support for over 15 years.

Her husband, Michael Schiavo, was legal guardian. Had power of attorney for her healthcare. 

Wanted her suffering ended. By removing life support. Opposed by Terri's parents. In court.

Bush signed "Terri's law." Authorizing him as governor to maintain life support. Florida's Supreme Court later ruled the law unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court declined to hear Florida's appeal. Bush serves as Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy co-chair. Along with his sister. Doris Bush Koch.

Is affiliated with the James Madison Institute. A Tallahassee-based right-wing free market public policy think tank. 

He supports commodifying public education. Making it another business profit center. 

He's like virtually all Republican and Democrat aspirants. More suitable for a police lineup. Than legitimate political candidacy.

Especially for the nation's highest office. "Corporatist (and) soulless," according to Ralph Nader.

Pro-war. Pro-imperial dominance. Pro-bloated military budgets. Pro-police state ruthlessness. Pro-business. Pro-neoliberal harshness.

Anti-populist. Anti-organized labor. Anti-social justice. Anti-peace. Anti-government serving everyone equally.

Monied interests run America. Both parties replicate each other. In lockstep on issues mattering most.

No mystery about who'll win in November 2016. Business as usual like always!

Making America what its claims to be requires dismantling a corrupted system. Starting over. Top to bottom. 

No scattered reforms. A clean sweep. Total makeover. Organized people beating organized money. Nothing in between works!

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.