Empire of Death and Lies: We’re Killing You for Your Own Good

Empire of Death and Lies:  We’re Killing You for Your Own Good

By Eric Margolis
Lew Rockwell
August 16, 2014

Armed humanitarianism 2.0. That’s our new western version of old-fashioned 19th century imperialism, now feminized by President Barack Obama’s lady advisors, painted pink and accompanied by the kind of soft piano music you hear in ads for women’s products.

Last week, the Obama administration latched onto the plight of Iraq’s Yazidis who were being persecuted by those awful ISIS folks –  just in jolly good time to divert attention from the massacre in Gaza.

How handy. All three US networks and the increasingly shackled BBC were ordered to drop Gaza reporting and refocus their camera teams on the suffering Yazidis and, all of a sudden, Iraq’s fleeing Christians.

This was a brilliant media ploy. The world, which was furious at the US for enabling Israel’s savaging of Gaza and killing of almost 2,000 Palestinians, switched its attention to the hitherto unknown Yazidis, and to Iraqi Christians. No one in the US had ever heard of Yazidis but that was ok.  Uncle Sam to the rescue.

No mention was made that Iraq’s Christians had been safe and sound under President Saddam Hussein – even privileged – until President George Bush invaded and destroyed Iraq. We can expect the same fate for Syria’s Christians if the protection of the Assad regime is torn away by the US-engineered uprising. We will then shed crocodile tears for Syria’s Christians.

The US and Europe suddenly cheered the ostensible US-French-British `rescue mission.’ Interestingly, those old colonialists, the French and British, were so quick to  get involved in oil-rich Iraq: the Brits sent in some of Her Majesty’s Killers, the renowned Special Air Service, or SAS. France and Britain are sending arms to the Kurdish militia known as `pesh merga.’ Australia, now under a hard right government, may follow suit.

Around 1900, Imperial Britain, France and Russia all claimed the right to intervene in the Levant to supposedly protect its Christians. Such a useful excuse.

America thrilled to see the US Air Force drop food and water to Yazidi refugees. Even this cynical writer was cheered to see US military power helping the oppressed.

But what of the 1.8 million oppressed Palestinians in Gaza, cut off by Israel and Egypt from food, water, medical supplies and power? What about the millions of refugees in Syria created by western attempts to overthrow its Assad dynasty for backing Iran? What of millions of internal refugees from the Afghan and Iraq Wars?

Well, Washington did just announced a temporary halt in resupplying deadly US-made Hellfire air to ground missiles to Israel, which has used up its once large supply blowing apart Palestinians in Gaza. Like the fake arms-delivery suspension by the US to Egypt’s brutish regime, it will soon be lifted when public attention has turned elsewhere.

There are 5.5 million Palestinian refugees. What are a handful of Yazidis compared to this sea of homeless? The number and plight of those Yazidi refugees were wildly exaggerated by the western powers to justify their re-intervention in Iraq.

Lurid reports of ISIS cruelty may well be true, but this old cynic suspects they are being used and exaggerated to justify intervention. After all, we saw the similar untruths about Saddam’s regime and al-Qaida’s “threat to the entire globe.”

This kind of stuff, much loved by the British, goes back to bogus stories from 1914 of German soldiers spiking Belgian babies on their bayonets. Or, remember the baloney about Kuwaiti babies thrown from their incubators by beastly Iraqis?

Now,  the biggest dolts in the US Republican Party like John McCain, Lindsey Graham and my hometown’s own Peter King, claim the US homeland is threatened by pipsqueak ISIS while they try to provoke a real war with Russia over Ukraine.

To show just how bizarre US Mideast policy has become: US warplanes are dropping aid to Iraq’s Yazidis (considered devil worshippers by many Iraqis), while they bomb Zaidi tribesmen in northern Yemen who are battling its US-installed military junta in Sa’ana.  Yazidis, Zaidis, it’s all very confusing, like those pesky Slovaks and Slovenes.

Meanwhile, the White House has ousted its Shia sock puppet in Baghdad, Nuri al-Maliki,  in favor of a newer, even more obedient satrap. Maliki was foolish enough to actually believe he was prime minister of Iraq and refused to allow US troops to stay there indefinitely.

Big mistake, Nuri. But shed no tears for him: his vicious death squads murdered and tortured large numbers of Sunni. One of their favorite interrogation tools was an electric drill applied to the kneecap. US generals in Iraq used Shia death squads (patterned on those of El Salvador, a war I covered) to crush Sunni resistance. Now, it’s payback for the Sunnis.

Iraq’s next leader is another CIA-blessed politician who will be expected to make his nation safe for western oil companies. We see the same process in Afghanistan where CIA central casting has produced two ‘candidates’ for president.

As for de facto autonomous Kurds, they have been a western protectorate since 2003 and would be fully independent today were not for fear of a violent reaction by the irritable Turks. Israel has supplied the Kurds with arms since 1970.

Interestingly, the Kurds are now exporting oil directly to Israel though a Turkish pipeline and tanker while the regime in Baghdad, cut out of payments,  fumes. There’s long been talk of an Israeli air base in Kurdistan.

“Just when I though I was out, they pulled me back in.” Michael Corleone’s plaintive line from the “Godfather” is Obama’s tune today. He’s only returning to Iraq for purely humanitarian reasons, a story that markets well to female (mainly Democratic) voters. And because the ISIS Saracens will overrun the Bible Belt soon unless Obama acts.

Never mind that the US armed and trained ISIS in Jordan to overthrow Syria’s regime. Now they have gone rogue and must be stopped by a new humanitarian crusade.

So back go American troops into the hellhole of Iraq, an act that defies both military and political logic. But US elections are on the horizon and Hillary Clinton is out there blasting Obama for having left Iraq in the first place.  Hillary has just fully aligned herself with Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu and asserts US troops should have stayed in Iraq…..she who is married to a notorious wartime draft dodger. Republicans are beating the same drum.

Remember the ‘tar baby’ from Uncle Remus’s slave stories of the Deep South. All who touch him get stuck. Well, that’s Iraq for you – in spades. Instead of tar, it’s sticky oil. Obama should have stayed out of Iraq. But politics forced him back in.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/08/eric-margolis/empire-of-death-and-lies/

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The Beheading: Some Words of Caution

The Beheading:  Some Words of Caution

By Eric Margolis
Lew Rockwell
August 23, 2014

The alleged beheading of freelance journalist James Foley by the shadowy ISIS (or Islamic State) has sparked outrage and horror around the globe.

I say “alleged” because we are not sure if the decapitation was real or faked.

After three decades of covering wars in the Mideast, Africa, Latin America, and Afghanistan, my reaction as a journalist was also outrage – but cautious outrage.

We westerners have a charming and quaint belief that killing people from the air by using bombs, rockets, shells, napalm and cluster munitions – or even nuclear weapons – is somehow not really as bad as ramming a bayonet into an enemy, blowing him to pieces with heavy artillery, or slashing his throat the way sheep are killed.

Air warfare is clean. Air warfare is the American way of war.

Furthermore, on the same day Foley was allegedly being decapitated, 19 people in Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, were publicly beheaded for various crimes. One of the men was executed for witchcraft. There was no outcry at all over this medieval horror. Saudi Arabia is suspected of charging political opponents of the monarchy with drug offenses, which carry the penalty of beheading by a sword-wielding executioner. Not a peep about this in the US media trumpeting the Foley story.

I’ve long travelled the same road as this courageous young man and countless other field journalists, covering extremely dangerous places all on my own, with no backup or support system. It’s very lonely and often demoralizing work.

When I was in the southern Angola bush covering pro-western UNITA forces fighting the Soviet-backed Angolan Marxists, I accepted the risk of being killed. But what, I asked myself, would I do if wounded or become desperately ill? The answer: crawl out 200 kms to South African Army lines.

As I relate in my book “War at the Top of the World,” I had to run Afghanistan’s Khyber Pass at night in a Toyota Land Cruiser, headlights off, pistol in hand, dodging roadblocks raised by Afridi tribesmen hired by the Communist regime in Kabul to kidnap me.  Had I been taken, I would have been thrown into a 10-meter deep hole in the ground filled with snakes and ferocious biting insects until transferred to be tortured and likely killed in Kabul.

In this and a score of other hair-raising adventures in scary places like Syria, Albania, Kashmir, Iraq, Libya, or Burma,  no one would have been able to get me out if I was jailed. No one really cared because I was on my own, working for numerous newspapers. Even al-Jazeera can’t get its jailed journalists out of Egypt.

Newspapers used me, and other young, reckless beginner journalists like Foley, to cover the really dangerous places. No medical or pension coverage for us: we were expendable.

I was usually more scared of diseases like hepatitis or meningitis than of bullets.

Meanwhile, pampered correspondents from the TV networks reported from four-star hotels, surrounded by a support staff and gophers.

Was Foley’s head really cut off? Hard to tell. We have been fed so much fake government war propaganda in recent decades – from Kuwaiti babies thrown from incubators to Saddam’s hidden nukes – that we must be very cautious.

Look at the horrifying pictures of victims from Gaza: babies with heads blow open and bodies torn into pieces by heavy 155mm shells.  What’s the difference between this and a decapitation? Only distance between killer and victim.

Of course I’m outraged that any journalist would be kidnapped and held for ransom, a specialty of ISIS and other jihadist gangs in the Sahara region. Europe has paid ransom and got many of its hostages back.

The US apparently refuses to do so. “We’ll never deal with terrorists,” goes Washington’s mantra, though it deals with plenty of terrorist governments. Problem is, any group today that opposes the US  abroad is likely to be branded terrorists. No wonder terrorists are popping up everywhere.

Having myself come close to being taken hostage, I would have hoped to have been ransomed in the event I was captured. That seems a more civilized and effective way to deal with hostage takers and bandits, distasteful as it may be. And yes, paying ransom will encourage more kidnappings. Hobson’s choice. But I prefer bad choices that have happy endings.

Democracies should not allow themselves to be provoked by malefactors. But that’s just what ISIS members are now doing by mounting its video horror show. We must ask, why? Why are they trying to goad the US into broader and deeper military intervention into Iraq and Syria, where they live?

Could it be part of Osama bin Laden’s clearly expressed plan to drive the US out of the Mideast by luring it into a number of small wars, slowly bleeding the American colossus? So far, by invading Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and parts of Pakistan, the US may have stumbled right into Osama’s carefully laid trap.

Or is the orchestrated outrage over Foley the media prelude to direct US intervention in Syria where the jihadists backed by Washington are losing. It’s all very confusing. In Iraq, ISIS are demon terrorists. But across the border in Syria, they are on our side, fighting against the “terrorist” regime of Basher Assad.

We are tripping over our terrorists. Osama must be smiling.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/08/eric-margolis/about-that-alleged-beheading/

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National Lawyers Guild, Other Legal Organizations Urge ICC to Investigate War Crimes by Israel, Aided and Abetted by U.S.

National Lawyers Guild, Other Legal Organizations Urge ICC to Investigate War Crimes by Israel, Aided and Abetted by U.S.

By Marjorie Cohn
Marjorie Cohn
August 22, 2014

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), Center for Constitutional Rights, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Arab Lawyers Union, and American Association of Jurists (Asociacion Americana de Juristas) sent a letter on Friday, August 22 to Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), urging her to initiate an investigation of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity committed by Israeli leaders and aided and abetted by U.S. officials in Gaza. Under the Rome Statute, the ICC has the power to hold individuals criminally accountable for the most serious of crimes.

“In light of the extreme gravity of the situation in the occupied Gaza Strip, in particular the large number of civilian casualties and large scale destruction of civilian property, including schools, mosques and hospitals, and the ongoing incitement to genocide perpetrated by Israeli political figures and leaders, the [NLG] and endorsing organizations strongly urge the Office of the Prosecutor to use its power under Article 15 of the Rome Statute to initiate a preliminary investigation” of crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction.

“[Under the Rome Statute, an] individual can be convicted of a war crime, genocide or a crime against humanity . . . if he or she ‘aids, abets or otherwise assists’ in the commission or attempted commission of the crime, ‘including providing the means for its commission’,” the letter reads. “By transferring financial assistance, weapons and other military aid to Israel, members of the U.S. Congress, President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have aided and abetted the commission of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity by Israeli officials and commanders in Gaza.”

The letter states that on July 20, 2014, in the midst of criminal behavior, Israel requested, and the U.S. Defense Department then authorized, the transfer to Israel of ammunition from the War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition. And in August 2014, Congress overwhelmingly approved, and Obama signed, a $225 million payment for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

“Israel’s clearly disproportionate use of force against the 1.8 million residents of Gaza appears to have little to do with any claim of security,” the organizations wrote, “but seems to be calculated to exact revenge against Palestinian civilians.” The letter quotes statements of Israeli officials advocating vengeance against “the entire Palestinian people “and “calling for the internment of Palestinians in concentration camps in Sinai and the destruction of the civilian infrastructure in Gaza.”

Allegations of War Crimes

The letter lists the following war crimes, and cites supporting factual allegations for each crime:

-willful killing (over 2,000 Palestinians, 80% civilians)
-willfully causing great suffering or serious injury (wounding nearly 10,000 Palestinians, 2,200 children)
-unlawful, wanton and unjustified extensive destruction and appropriation of property (tens of thousands of Palestinians lost homes, severe damage to infrastructure)
-willful deprivation of fair trial rights (450 Palestinians held without charge or trial)
-intentional attacks against civilians or civilian objects or humanitarian vehicles, installations and personnel (bombing of numerous schools, UN places of refuge, hospitals, ambulances, mosques)
-intentionally launching unjustified attacks, knowing they will kill or injure civilians, damage civilian objects, or cause long-term and severe damage to the natural environment (use of ‘Dahiya Doctrine’ to apply “disproportionate force” and cause “great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations,” as defined in UN Human Rights Council [Goldstone] Report) (Israel virtually flattened town of Khuza’a).

Allegations of Genocide

Article 6 of the Rome Statute defines “genocide” as the commission of any of the following acts with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily harm to members of the group; or (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part.

The letter says, “In light of the fact that Palestinians in Gaza had no ability to flee for safety, it must be assumed the responsible Israeli officials knew that huge casualties and destruction of civilian property and infrastructure were certain during the massive bombardment by land, air and sea of the occupied Gaza Strip.” The letter also lists “the repeatedly inciting public statements made by Israeli officials before and during the course of Operation Protective Edge and the history of Israel’s repeated bombardment of Palestinian refugee camps and populations in Lebanon and in Gaza” as evidence that “Israeli officials may be implementing a plan to destroy the Palestinian population, at least in part.”

Allegations of Crimes against Humanity

Article 7 of the Rome Statute defines “crimes against humanity” as the commission of any of the following, when part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: (a) Murder; (b) Persecution against a group or collectivity based on its political, racial, national, ethnic or religious character; or (c) The crime of apartheid (inhumane acts committed in the context of an institutional regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over another racial group, with the intent to maintain that regime).

The letter states, “Israeli forces have killed, wounded, summarily executed and administratively detained Palestinians, Hamas forces and civilians alike. Israeli forces intentionally destroyed the infrastructure in Gaza.” It also says Israel keeps Palestinians caged in “the world’s largest open air prison,” and “controls all ingress and egress to Gaza, and limits … access to medicine and other essentials.” Finally, the letter cites arbitrary arrest and administrative detention; expropriation of property; destruction of homes, crops and trees; separate areas and roads; segregated housing, legal and educational systems for Palestinians and Jews; the illegal barrier wall encroaching on Palestinian territory; hundreds of illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian land; and denying the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland because they are not Jews.

The signatories to the letter conclude that “[t]he initiation of an investigation would send a clear message to all involved either in committing or in aiding and abetting of the aforementioned crimes that they stand to be held personally accountable for their actions.”

It remains to be seen whether the ICC will exercise jurisdiction in such a case since neither Israel nor the United States is a party to the Rome Statute. But if the ICC determines that Palestine can accede to the Rome Statute, the ICC could take jurisdiction over crimes committed by Israelis and Americans in Palestinian territory.

Marjorie Cohn is a former president of the National Lawyers Guild and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, where she teaches criminal law and procedure, evidence, and international human rights law. She lectures throughout the world on human rights and US foreign policy.

http://www.marjoriecohn.com/2014/08/national-lawyers-guild-other-legal.html

 

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Hamas signs Palestinian application for ICC membership

Hamas signs Palestinian application for ICC membership

AFP – Agence France-Presse
August 23, 2014

Hamas has signed a proposal for the Palestinians to apply to join the International Criminal Court at which legal action could be taken against Israel, a senior official of the movement said Saturday.

“Hamas signed the document which (Palestinian) president (Mahmoud Abbas) put forth as a condition that all factions approve, before he goes to sign the Rome Statute, which paves the way for Palestine’s membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC),” Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzouq wrote on his Facebook page.

The Palestinian declaration came after two days of talks in Qatar between Abbas and Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal, whose movement is the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP that the Islamic Jihad, the second most powerful force in Gaza, “is currently the only Palestinian faction that has not signed” the document.

“They are studying the possibility of signing,” he added.

According to Erakat, “the document calls on president Abbas to sign the Rome Statute to join the ICC, and indicates all the signatories assume responsibility for this membership.”

Israel has signed but not ratified the Rome Statute.

Based in The Hague, the ICC opened its doors in 2003 and is the world’s first independent court set up to try the worst crimes, including genocide and war crimes.

Since the July 8 outbreak of the latest war in and around Gaza, Israel and Hamas have accused each other of war crimes amid a massive Israeli assault that has killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and left more than 100,000 homeless.

68 Israelis have also died, all but four of whom were soldiers.

Joining the ICC would also expose Palestinian factions to possible prosecution.

The Palestinians had in 2009 asked the ICC’s prosecutor’s office to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Israeli military in Gaza.

There has so far been no probe as Palestine is not an ICC member state and its status as a state is uncertain in some international institutions.

However, the Palestinians in late November 2012 obtained the status of observer state at the United Nations, opening the door for an ICC investigation.

Israel has signed but not ratified the Rome Statute.

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http://www.afp.com/en/node/2755116

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Guest Column from Germany — America Frightens Us

Guest Column from Germany — America Frightens Us
Political Europe Suppressed Under Washington´s Thumb Is Waking Up

Roman Baudzus
Paul Craig Roberts Institute for Political Economy
August 25, 2014

In the aftermath of the downing of the Malaysian airliner in Ukraine, the Western media followed Washington’s lead and manipulated reports in order to make Europeans believe that Russia and Russian-supported separatists in eastern Ukraine were responsible for downing the airliner. In Germany, the press was an extension of Washington’s propaganda machine despite the lack of evidence from both Washington and Kiev to support their irresponsible claims.

It was not long, however, before the public mood in Europe began to turn. A pivotal factor was openly voiced through U.S. threats in a law that had been passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate of the U.S. Congress that could eventually result in an invasion of the Netherlands by United States army forces.

When this was learned outrage was expressed not only within the Dutch government, but also among the population of the country. According to the law, if it should ever happen that American citizens are brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and accused at The Hague, Washington would exercise the preemptive right to invade the country in order to prevent prosecution.

Remember that Malaysia’s government had permitted a tribunal in 2011, whose judges in the tradition of British court proceedings condemned both George W. Bush and Tony Blair as war criminals.  Some Europeans are asking if there could be a connection between the ruling of this tribunal and the loss of two Malaysian airliners.

In addition, alert and intelligent Europeans have caught on to Washington’s campaign to demonize Russia. A Dutch group of professors sent an open letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin on August 12 in which the signatories officially apologized for the propaganda lies sprewed by Western media.

The former “quality media” in Europe have lost the confidence of readers. A growing number of Europeans relying on Internet sites such as http://www.paulcraigroberts.org are quite well informed about the propagandistic nature of the Western mainstream media.

The chart recently published by a leading German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) indicates that for one reason or the other, Germans have turned away from German newspapers. The cumulative sales of German newspapers reached their climax back in the year 1983 – with a circulation of 30.1 million copies.

pastedGraphic

Ever since, things have been deteriorating. In 2013, the circulation shrank to only 17.3 million sold copies – a significant decline of 42.5%, which really hurts many publishers. Persistent cost-reduction programs, massive job cuts and the demise of daily newspapers such as the Financial Times Deutschland are the consequence of newspapers in vassalage to Washington. Many excuses are made for the decline, but the real reason is that German newspapers no longer take
their readers seriously

Germans wonder why their reunited country is still occupied by US troops 69 years after the end of World War II, why their country has no foreign policy independent of Washington, and why the German media provides no public discussion of these highly unusual characteristics of an allegedly sovereign state.

During the last several years the media’s propagandistic character has led to massive resistance among newspaper readers, especially in Germany. You only have to take a look at the comments published on Internet sites of the mainstream media to see angry and disappointed readers turn away from their once favorite newspapers that are accused of actively participating in Washington´s propaganda campaign. Readers see propaganda instead of investigative journalism. In place of evidence and honest reports, there are insinuations and ridiculous accusations. The German newspaper Die Welt even blamed the outbreak of the ebola virus on Russia!

Given the danger of Washington pushing Europe into war with Russia, one can be glad that so many Europeans see through the perfidious propaganda lies spread by the mainstream media. Internet sites now perform the role abandoned by newspapers. These mainly independent internet media refer to themselves as alternative media, which have the goal to provide objective and truthful information in place of propaganda.

Some of the large German newspapers destroyed what little credibility they had left when they used social media to spread their claim that the negative comments on their websites were written by people on the payroll of Vladimir Putin. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry over this grotesque assertion.

The unanswered question is why does German mainstream media serve Washington instead of Germany? Does Washington pay well for propaganda services?

If we now come to the recent events in Ferguson, these incidents made us realize that the U.S. police state is not just on the rise, but is already in place! Scenes on TV and Internet videos of brutal militarized police equipped for battlefield combat applying extreme violence to protesters and journalists alike has raised the question in Europe whether America is a democracy or a police state. The continuing American massacre of people in the Middle East, together with Washington’s support for Israel’s massacre of Palestinians and now the massacre of Russians in eastern and southern Ukraine by the government that Washington installed in Kiev have changed the image of America from white hat to black hat. America no longer reassures us; America frightens us.

In a recent story Die Welt journalist Ansgar Graw wrote: “The day when the U.S. police became my enemy.”

Even Washington’s German media vassals reporting for Die Welt have now experienced firsthand the full brunt of American police violence.  See:

The day on which the US police became my enemy

Tanks against protesters

German journalists who have been living in the United States for 15 years are telling their readers that they have come to the decision to leave the US. They report that things have changed for the worse in the “land of the free” since 9/11, and that they were threatened, handcuffed and arrested for covering the protests in Ferguson.

The policeman who killed the 18-year old black man set off protests, the response to which opened the world’s eyes to the transformation of America into a police state. A country whose military bases occupy much of the world in the name of human rights and freedom, a country that violently interferes in internal affairs of sovereign nations and fights wars at its leisure is now perceived as waging war against its own oppressed propulation. By arrogantly exempting itself from the standards it applies to everyone else, the US has destroyed its credibility.

Now the Dutch wait for the appearance of US troops to show up at the Hague should international law ever be applied to Washington’s war criminals. As one German magazine put it recently, “with friends like America, we don’t need enemies.”

Roman Baudzus is co-founder of German finance and economics blog “wirtschaftsfacts“.

After a marketing education Roman Baudzus studied the Business Informatics at the University of applied sciences Darmstadt and the University of Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. For more than twenty years, Baudzus dealt intensively with the issues of stock market, financial markets, globalization and monetary system; especially as an active investor. After various activities in the technology, software, marketing and advertising film industry and stations in the United States, South America and Africa, he founded his own company in 2004 and now lives at the Diani Beach in Kenya. In 2008, he contributed to the building of the German Wirtschaftsblogs “wirtschaftsfacts.de” and is a member of the Association of independent media (VduM). Since 2010, Baudzus also regularly writes reports on the Web page by James Turks precious metal trading platform GoldMoney, in which he deals with the developments in the financial, commodity and mining markets.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/08/25/guest-column-germany-america-frightens-us-roman-baudzus/

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Tar Sands Bitumen by Rail Set to Eclipse Pipelines Like Keystone XL

Tar Sands Bitumen by Rail Set to Eclipse Pipelines Like Keystone XL

Justin Mikulka
The DeSmogBlog Project
August 21, 2014

“Rail can get you just about anywhere. It’s like the Harry Potter stairway. You get on the stairs at one end and they move to wherever you need to go. That’s the beauty of the railway. You get on at one end here, with your bitumen or dilbit, and then you can end up in different places depending on what are the best markets.”

That quote is from Pete Sametz, president of Connacher Oil and Gas, speaking to the Daily Oil Bulletin about the appeal of moving tar sands oil by rail. And Sametz isn’t alone in his enthusiasm for rail transportation options for bitumen.

At the Canadian Institute’s North American Pipeline Symposium in June, Randy Meyer of Canadian National railway, told the conference how this situation appeared to him.

“It’s kind of amusing when I read in the paper that there’s this angst and gnashing of teeth about Keystone and I’m going, ‘My goodness, we’re already there.’ We can go there and we are. We are shipping product there.

The reality is that tar sands bitumen transport is so well-suited for rail over pipelines that it is now cheaper to move tar sands bitumen by rail than it is by pipeline. If you’re a tar sands industry executive, this is your light-bulb moment: Who needs the Keystone XL headache when you can bypass the controversy entirely using existing rail lines?

Aside from the magical Harry Potter flexibility of rail compared to pipelines, rail also offers the option of moving bitumen without having to dilute it, as is required for pipelines, which makes it cheaper as explained by Randy Meyer.

“We did a study where we took the American Association of Railway’s published rates, which averaged out all the traffic that moves and all its products. That average … is about 16 per cent less than pipeline costs.”

This reality and the recent revelations that the impact of the tar sands oil will be much greater than initially predicted, present a grim picture for the environment, although apparently an amusing and exciting one for oil and rail executives. Companies like Grizzly Oil Sands outline their plans on their website.

Grizzly is excited at the range of benefits to be generated from its oil-by-rail bitumen marketing strategy. The Company believes its approach can achieve economics superior to using the Keystone XL pipeline, if built.

On their site Grizzly mentions purchasing new rail cars to move bitumen as well as completing a rail-to-barge facility on the Mississippi in Louisiana.

And despite predictions in the new proposed oil-by-rail regulations that the DOT-111 cars that will eventually not be allowed to carry the much more volatile Bakken crude oil would instead be repurposed to carry tar sands oil, this is unlikely. The most profitable way to move bitumen by rail is in thermally-jacketed cars that allow for the oil to be heated.

The current DOT-111 cars don’t have this capacity and retrofitting them would be too costly.

Heating the bitumen versus diluting it is where the industry sees the cost advantages.

And while the new proposed regulations for moving volatile crude oil and ethanol mention that tar sands oil may be transported in DOT-111s in the future, the proposed changes do not apply to tar sands oil in any way.

When the DOT first announced new testing requirements for crude oil being shipped by rail in February of this year, there was immediate push back from the industry because of the impact it may have on moving tar sands by rail. The government quickly clarified that tar sands oil would be exempt from the requirements, a move that at the time was described by the president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers as a “judicious response.”

The cost advantages and flexibility of moving heated bitumen by rail and are spurring significant new investment in the oil-by-rail industry.  As reported by Oil Change International in their report Runaway Train, the planned expansion is massive and would increase the current oil-by-rail capacity of one million barrels of oil per day to five times that amount. While much of this is also for lighter crudes like Bakken, it also is being driven by the desire to move tar sands oil by rail.

As previously noted on DeSmogBlog, the additional reason that rail is appealing to tar sands producers is that they ultimately want to sell their product overseas. And while there is an export ban on oil produced in the U.S., this does not apply to the tar sands oil from Canada. And the trains currently give access to the East, West and Gulf coasts where the oil can be loaded onto ocean going vessels and sent to the highest bidder on the world market.

Global Partners is currently one of the top capacity oil-by-rail companies with a terminal on the East coast in Albany, NY, on the West coast in Oregon and with plans to build a new facility in Texas and another in New Windsor, NY. And despite their current business of moving Bakken crude, they are actively promoting tar sands by rail to the industry.

Global Partners CEO Eric Slifka recently made the sales pitch for tars sands by rail at an industry conference saying, “we can take pure heavy crude oil, put it in a heated rail car … and move it directly.”

Global’s recent expansion plans in Texas resulted in the following headline in the Houston Business JournalKeystone? Who needs it? Railroad plans fuel terminal for Port Arthur.

If the current economics of moving tar sands oil by rail can be proven to be scalable, and it would appear they can, rail appears to be faster, cheaper and more flexible as an option to get Canadian tar sands oil onto the international market. Which means the producers can get higher prices, which in turn makes the expanded extraction and consumption of the tar sands that much more likely.

http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/08/21/all-aboard-tar-sands-oil-rail-set-eclipse-pipelines

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The Oilsands Cancer Story Part 3: The Spotlight Turns on Fort Chip Doctor

The Oilsands Cancer Story Part 3:  The Spotlight Turns on Fort Chip Doctor

This is the third installment in a three-part series on Dr. John O’Connor, the family physician to first identify higher-than-average cancer rates and rare forms of cancer in communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands.

Carol Linnitt
DeSmog Canada
August 17, 2014

After the story of Fort Chip’s health problems broke, Health Canada sent physicians out to the small, northern community.

Dr. John O’Connor said one of the Health Canada doctors went into the local nursing station and, in front of a reporter, filled a mug with Fort Chip water and drank from it, saying, ‘See, there’s nothing wrong with it.’

That was such a kick in the face for everyone,” O’Connor said. “Just a complete dismissal of their concerns.”

Health Canada eventually requested the charts of the patients who had died. Six weeks later they announced the findings of a report that concluded cancer rates were no higher in Fort Chip than expected.

For O’Connor, however, the numbers “just didn’t match up.”

Fort%20Chipewyan%20Airport,%20Oilsands%20Cancer%20Story
The small town of Fort Chipewyan can reached by plane all year round. In the summer the community can be reached by boat or by ice road during the colder winter months. Photo by Kris Krug.

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A sign in the Fort Chip airport terminal welcomes visitors to the “oldest settlement in Alberta.” Photo by Kris Krug.

In March of 2007 O’Connor received a letter of complaint from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta that accused him of raising “undue alarm.” Three physicians from Health Canada lodged four complaints with the college against O’Connor, claiming he had failed to provide files in a timely fashion and withheld information. They accused him of engendering mistrust.

O’Connor admits that a minor scandal involving a male nurse in Fort Chip who had been stealing morphine and threatening female nurses didn’t help with submitting paperwork. But, he said, the charges were overblown, also including accusations of billing irregularities and ‘double-dipping’ on contracts.

What followed was a nationwide two-year public trial. O’Connor’s name was publicly dragged through the mud while the town of Fort Chip and members of his profession fought to defend him. The attacks on his credibility were widely seen as politicized, leading the Canadian Medical Association to pass resolution #103, to provide protection for whistleblowers like O’Connor.

In 2009, the College of Physicians officially cleared him of any wrong doing, handing along a massive summary file with the word “confidential” stamped across the front. Since then, he’s been heralded as a heroic Canadian whistleblower.

During the ordeal, O’Connor moved back to Nova Scotia for a break while another physician took over his work in Fort Chip.

I’ve got a very strong wife. My rock. Charlene is just amazing. I don’t think I would have survived if it wasn’t for her,” O’Connor said. “I’m a much tougher person now than what I was. It was hell but I went through it.”

In the interim, a scientist had overseen testing in November of 2007 that warned of high concentrations of arsenic and mercury in the water and traditional foods. A doctor later publicly recommended pregnant women and children not eat any fish from the lake or play in the water.

Health Canada followed up on the recommendation, saying they had already recommended something similar, but the community said it hadn’t been informed.

Then in 2009 an Alberta Cancer Board study was finally released that stated the community had 30 per cent higher rare cancer rates than should be expected. The report amended the Health Canada findings from 2006 that suggested cancer rates were no higher than expected.

In light of this new report, a scientific team was assembled to put together a new study. O’Connor was asked to be a part of the team.

The fact that we were going to have a health study at Fort Chip [was] very encouraging,” he said.

Frozen%20Lake%20Athabasca,%20Oilsands%20Cancer%20Story_0
The frozen expanse of Lake Athabasca. Photo by Kris Krug.

But things soon fell apart after a clause in the template of the health study mandated the oil industry be part of the management oversight committee of the research.

The community was outraged, O’Connor said, and the fissure that formed then has, even five years later, still not been mended.

Good intentions

To this day, independent, comprehensive baseline studies of the community of Fort Chip have still not been conducted.

However, last month the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree First Nation, both local to Fort Chip, released a study conducted in collaboration with scientists from the University of Manitoba. The research showed health impacts downstream of the oilsands are “positively associated” with the development and the consumption of traditional foods.

In 2011, O’Connor was asked to participate in an Alberta government study, one of which will take place in Fort MacKay. The announcement was made publicly, among much publicity, he said. Some of the work being done in Fort MacKay was supposed to act as a template for future Fort Chip research, he said.

Fort%20Chipewyan%20Sign,%20Oilsands%20Cancer%20Story
A signpost in Fort Chip shows distances and direction to cities across Canada. Photo by Kris Krug.

But since then the study has lagged, and, according to O’Connor, his letters and phone calls to the Alberta Health Minister go unanswered. Comprehensive studies of both Fort MacKay and Fort Chip are still pending.

The community members of Fort Chip and O’Connor himself are “demanding the government keep its promise of a health study, but we’re getting nowhere with that,” he said.

Going it alone

O’Connor said for now he’s relying on the independent scientific studies that are being done in the environment downstream of the oilsands. A February 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a cancer-causing pollutant released during the extraction of bitumen in the oilsands, were likely two to three times higher than government and industry estimates.

In November of 2012 federal scientists from Environment Canada presented research that found PAHs from oilsands extraction and processing were accumulating in bodies of water up to 100 kilometres away. Yet another federal study found tailings ponds, which cover an area larger than 176 square kilometres, are seeping waste water and mining-related toxins into local groundwater.

Tailings%20Pond,%20Oilsands%20Cancer%20Story
Steam rises from a tailings pond in the Fort McMurray region. Industry estimates there are 176 square kilometres of tailings ponds. Photo by Kris Krug.

O’Connor said, put together, these studies paint a disturbing picture. “And you know, all they are telling me completely contradicted what government and industry have been saying for years: that there’s no impact, no evidence of contributions, degradation to the environment from industry.”

Even the release of new research, he says, hasn’t been enough to trigger new health studies.

So we’re trying to go it alone,” he said.

O’Connor has assembled a team of science and health experts to examine the industrial impacts in Fort MacKay and hopes he can eventually include Fort Chip.

At this point, O’Connor said, neither Fort MacKay nor Fort Chip are in any position to accept a government study on the health impacts of industry. The necessary trust relationships at this point are nonexistent.

An advocate become activist

For O’Connor, his experience working with the community of Fort Chip, and his efforts to find some accountability for their plight, has been something of a transformative experience.

All I’m doing is my job,” he said. “I’m just… As a physician, I’m an advocate for my patients. I never realized how….” He paused, “exactly what the job meant until Fort Chip.”

O’Connor said he’ll continue fighting for the community of Fort Chip. But beyond that, O’Connor now sees himself as more than just as an advocate for his patients: he’s an activist.

I’m now – thanks to the Alberta government and the federal government – I’m now a dyed-in-the-wool advocate. I’m an activist for my patients. Never imagined I would be doing this and I’ll do it ‘til the day I die.”

In February 2014, O’Connor traveled to Washington to testify on the affects of the oilsands industry, in light of the U.S.’s pending decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which will connect Alberta to refineries and export facilities in the Gulf of Mexico. He was invited by Senator Barbara Boxer.

Dr_%20John%20O'Connor%20testifies%20in%20Washington
Dr. John O’Connor speaking on the negative impacts of oilsands development at a press conference in Washington. Image credit: EWPChairBoxer via Flickr.

It was gratifying to get the invitation from Senator Boxer’s office,” O’Connor said. “The reception there was incredible. The information that was already known. I was very happy that I was walking into a setting where I wasn’t having to start from scratch.”

O’Connor added, “I made it very firm that I’m not saying to shut things down…But there has to be a sort of a middle ground.”

He added, “I certainly hold the governments to account…But government has failed, completely failed people, betrayed people.”

http://desmog.ca/2014/08/17/oilsands-cancer-story-part-3-spotlight-turns-fort-chip-doctor

 

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