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2010 March | Activist News

The Road to World War 3

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Edward Snowden

Open Letter To Obama

July 26, 2013 President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500 Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution Dear Mr. President: You are acutely aware More »


U.S. Companies Pay Just One-Third Of The Legal Tax Rate: GAO Study

Huffington Post July 1, 2013 By Mark Gongloff Big, profitable U.S. companies paid an average federal tax rate of less than 13 percent in 2010, according to a new study — or More »

jeff olsen

Man Tried for Chalk Drawings Found Not Guilty

NBC San Diego July 1, 2013 By Christina London The man accused of vandalism for drawing with chalk outside banks has been found not guilty on all charges. A jury returned its More »


The Bigger Story Behind the AP Spying Scandal

Washington’s Blog/Global Research May 20, 2012 By George Washington Attack on the Press You know that the Department of Justice tapped scores of phone lines at the Associated Press. You might have More »

Monthly Archives: March 2010

Is the European Union Exporting Torture Devices?

By Leo Cendrowicz / Brussels
Wednesday, Mar. 31, 2010

The European Union likes to cast itself as a champion of human rights, both at home and beyond its borders. So why is the E.U. allowing European firms to export thumbscrews, stun guns and other devices that could be used for torture to countries with spotty human rights records?
According to the human rights watchdog Amnesty International, businesses making these types of implements are flourishing in Europe and exporting their products in spite of an E.U. ban on the trade. In a report released earlier this month, Amnesty said firms in Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic and Italy were selling items like spiked batons, fixed wall restraints and electroshock “sleeves” and “cuffs” capable of delivering 50,000-volt shocks to at least nine countries, including Pakistan, China and the United Arab Emirates. Amnesty, which co-published the report with the London-based Omega Research Foundation, says the companies are using legal loopholes to evade restrictions put in place after the E.U. passed a law in 2006 banning the sale of torture equipment. (See “20 Reasons to Love the E.U.”)

Clinton to co-chair Haiti rebuilding authority

Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS – Former U.S. President Bill Clinton will co-chair a committee overseeing at least $3.8 billion in post-quake aid to Haiti, the ravaged country’s prime minister said.
The announcement was made ahead of a critical donors conference Wednesday at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Haitian officials will ask representatives from more than 130 countries for reconstruction help at the meeting chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president’s wife, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
At the core of the quake-ravaged country’s request for help is the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), an initial 23-member body tasked with coordinating and paying out the aid money expected to flow in. It is a key step to allaying donor concerns over Haiti’s history of official corruption and political unrest who want assurances that the money will go where it is intended.
The commission will be co-chaired by Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and will also include two Haitian legislators, local authorities, union and business representatives, and a delegate from the 14-nation Caribbean Community trade bloc.

link – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100331/ap_on_re_us/un_un_haiti_earthquake
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US-NATO Atrocities Committed in Afghanistan: How Did We Become this Pacified to War?

by Kathy Kelly
Global Research, March 30, 2010
After Downing Street

If the U.S. public looked long and hard into a mirror reflecting the civilian atrocities that have occurred in Afghanistan, over the past ten months, we would see ourselves as people who have collaborated with and paid for war crimes committed against innocent civilians who meant us no harm.

Two reporters, Jerome Starkey (the Times UK), and David Lindorff, (Counterpunch), have persistently drawn attention to U.S. war crimes committed in Afghanistan. Makers of the film “Rethinking Afghanistan” have steadily provided updates about the suffering endured by Afghan civilians. Here is a short list of atrocities that have occurred in the months since General McChrystal assumed his post in Afghanistan.

December 26th, 2009: US-led forces, (whether soldiers or “security contractors” (mercenaries) is still uncertain), raided a home in Kunar Province and pulled eight young men out of their beds, handcuffed them, and gunned them down execution-style. The Pentagon initially reported that the victims had been running a bomb factory, although distraught villagers were willing to swear that the victims, youngsters, aged 11 – 18, were just seven normal schoolboys and one shepherd boy. Following courageous reporting by Jerome Starkey, the U.S. military carried out its own investigation and on February 24th, 2010, issued an apology, attesting the boys’ innocence.

February 12, 2010: U.S. and Afghan forces raided a home during a party and killed five people, including a local district attorney, a local police commander two pregnant mothers and a teenaged girl engaged to be married. Neither Commander Dawood, shot in the doorway of his home while pleading for calm waving his badge, nor the teenaged Gulalai, died immediately, but the gunmen refused to allow relatives to take them to the hospital. Instead, they forced them to wait for hours barefoot in the winter cold outside.

Despite crowds of witnesses on the scene, the NATO report insisted that the two pregnant women at the party had been found bound and gagged, murdered by the male victims in an honor killing. A March 16, 2010 U.N. report, following on further reporting by Starkey, exposed the deception, to meager American press attention.

Two weeks later: February 21st, 2010: A three-car convoy of Afghans was traveling to the market in Kandahar with plans to proceed from there to a hospital in Kabul where some of the party could be taken for much-needed medical treatment. U.S. forces saw Afghans travelling together and launched an air-to-ground attack on the first car. Women in the second car immediately jumped out waving their scarves, trying desperately to communicate that they were civilians. The U.S. helicopter gunships continued firing on the now unshielded women. 21 people were killed and 13 were wounded.

There was press attention for this atrocity, and U.S. General Stanley McChrystal would issue a videotaped apology for his soldiers’ tragic mistake. Broad consensus among the press accepted this as a gracious gesture, with no consequences for the helicopter crew ever demanded or announced.

Whether having that gunship in the country was a mistake – or a crime – was never raised as a question.

And who would want it raised? Set amidst the horrors of an ongoing eight-year war, how many Americans think twice about these atrocities, hearing them on the news.

So I’m baffled to learn that in Germany, a western, relatively comfortable country, citizens raised a sustained protest when their leaders misled them regarding an atrocity that cost many dozens of civilian lives in Afghanistan.

The air strike was conducted by US planes but called in by German forces. On September 4, 2009, Taleban fighters in Kunduz province had hijacked two trucks filled with petrol, but then gotten stuck in a quagmire where the trucks had sank. Locals, realizing that the trucks carried valuable fuel, had arrived in large numbers to siphon it off, but when a German officer at the nearest NATO station learned that over 100 people had assembled in an area under his supervision, he decided they must be insurgents and a threat to Germans under his command. At his call, a U.S. fighter jet bombed the tankers, incinerating 142 people, dozens of them confirmable as civilians.

On September 6, 2009, Germany’s Defense Minister at the time, Franz Josef Jung, held a press conference in which he defended the attack, playing down the presence of civilians. He wasn’t aware that video footage from a US F15 fighter jet showed that most of the people present were unarmed civilians gathering to fill containers with fuel.

On November 27, 2009, after a steady outcry on the part of the German public, the Defense Minister was withdrawn from his post, (he is now a Labor Minister), and two German military officials, one of them Germany’s top military commander Wolfgang Schneiderhan, were forced to resign.

I felt uneasy and sad when I realized that my first response to this story was a feeling of curiosity as to how the public of another country could manage to raise such a furor over deaths of people in faraway Afghanistan. How odd to have grown up wondering how anyone could ever have been an uninvolved bystander allowing Nazi atrocities to develop and to find myself, four decades later, puzzling over how German people or any country’s citizenship could exercise so much control over their governance.

Today, in the US, attacks on civilians are frequently discussed in terms of the “war for hearts and minds.”.

Close to ten months ago, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters at a June 12, 2009 press conference in Brussels that General Stanley McChrystal “would work to minimize Afghan civilian casualties, a source of growing public anger within Afghanistan.”

“Every civilian casualty — however caused — is a defeat for us,” Gates continued, “and a setback for the Afghan government.”

On March 23rd, 2010, McChrystal was interviewed by the Daily Telegraph. “Your security comes from the people,” he said. “You don’t need to be secured away from the people. You need to be secured by the people. So as you win their support, it’s in their interests to secure you, …. This can mean patrolling without armored vehicles or even flak jackets. It means accepting greater short-term risk – and higher casualties – in the hope of winning a “battle of perceptions and perspectives” that will result in longer-term security.”

And on March 2nd, 2010, he told Gail McCabe “What we’re trying to do now is to increase their confidence in us and their confidence in their government. But you can’t do that through smoke and mirrors, you have to do that through real things you do – because they’ve been through thirty-one years of war now, they’ve seen so much, they’re not going to be beguiled by a message.”

We’re obliged as Americans to ask ourselves whether we will be guided by a message such as McChrystal’s or by evidence. Americans have not been through thirty-one years of war, and we have managed to see very little of the consequences of decades of warmaking in Afghanistan.

According to a March 3, 2010 Save the Children report, “The world is ignoring the daily deaths of more than 850 Afghan children from treatable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia, focusing on fighting the insurgency rather than providing humanitarian aid.” The report notes that a quarter of all children born in the country die before the age of five, while nearly 60 percent of children are malnourished and suffer physical or mental problems. The UN Human Development Index in 2009 says that Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, second only to Niger in sub-Saharan Africa.

The proposed US defense budget will cost the U.S. public two billion dollars per day. President Obama’s administration is seeking a 33 billion dollar supplemental to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most U.S. people are aware of Taleban atrocities, and many may believe the U.S. troops are in Afghanistan to protect Afghan villagers from Taleban human rights abuses. At least the mainstream news media in Germany and the UK will air stories of atrocities. The U.S. people are disadvantaged inasmuch as the media and the Pentagon attempt to pacify us, winning our hearts and minds to bankroll ongoing warfare and troop escalation in Afghanistan. Yet it isn’t very difficult to pacify U.S. people. We’re easily distracted from the war, and when we do note that an atrocity has happened, we seem more likely to respond with a shrug of dismay than with a sustained protest.

At the Winter Soldier hearings, future presidential hopeful John Kerry movingly asked Congress how it could ask a soldier “To be the last man to die for a mistake,” while contemporary polls showed less prominent Americans far more willing to call the Vietnam war an evil – a crime – a sin – than “a mistake.” The purpose of that war, as of Obama’s favored war in Afghanistan, was to pacify dangerous populations – to make them peaceful, to win the battle of hearts and minds.

Afghan civilian deaths no longer occur at the rate seen in the war’s first few months, in which the civilian toll of our September 11 attacks, pretext for the war then as it is now, was so rapidly exceeded.

But every week we hear – if we are listening very carefully to the news, if we are still reading that final paragraph on page A16 – or if we are following the work of brave souls like Jerome Starkey – of tragic mistakes. We are used to tragic mistakes. Attacking a country militarily means planning for countless tragic mistakes.

Some of us still let ourselves believe that the war can do some good in Afghanistan, that our leaders’ motives for escalating the war, however dominated by strategic economic concerns and geopolitical rivalries, still in some small part include the interests of the Afghan people.

There are others who know where this war will lead and know that our leaders know, and have simply become too fatigued, too drained of frightened tears by this long decade of nightmare, to hold those leaders accountable anymore for moral choices.

It’s worthwhile to wonder, how did we become this pacified?

But far more important is our collective effort to approach the mirror, to stay in front of it, unflinching, and see the consequences of our mistaken acquiescence to the tragic mistakes of war, and then work, work hard, to correct our mistakes and nonviolently resist collaboration with war crimes.

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org) and helps promote the Peaceable Assembly Campaign, a Voices project to end U.S. funding for war and occupation.

link – http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=18402

Oddities in the Nancy Schaefer “Suicide” Case

Garland Favorito
March 30, 2010

On Friday, former Senator Nancy Schaefer and her husband were found dead in their home in Habersham County. Even before a GBI investigation could be initiated, media outlets began pronouncing that their death was a “murder-suicide” and shut off most public comment posting on their web sites. The “murder suicide” theory implies that Sen. Schaefer’s husband shot her and then killed himself (or vice versa). Both Habersham County and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation began investigating the case as a “murder suicide” rather than the more obvious “murder made to look like suicide”. Like so many people, I have known former Sen. Nancy Schaefer for 15 years and spoken to several people who know her better than I do. They believe that the “murder suicide” theory is highly unlikely for any one of the following reasons:

1. It is totally against Nancy Schaefer’s consistently strong commitment to the sanctity of life principles that she has fought so valiantly to uphold;

2. Nancy and her husband, Bruce, have five children and more than a dozen grandchildren who they would not choose to leave behind so abruptly;

3. Bruce’s problem with cancer was corrected and under control so there was no reason to end his life as one senator tried to imply;

4. Nancy or Bruce would not likely agree to commit such an act that violates the fundamental principles of their Christian faith;

5. Bruce was retired and the couple did not appear to be in any type of dire financial crisis that would lead them to commit such acts;

6. Bruce and Nancy knew that her sister who had Alzheimer’s disease needed her to help take care of her;

7. Friends who knew the couple best state that Bruce would simply not have the capability to kill his wife;

8. Nancy was dedicated, as a national leader, to help needy people overcome abuse within Child Protective Services organizations;

9. Nancy was actively exposing corruption within the Department of Family & Child Services (DFCS) including actions by the DFCS director in the county where she lived.

10. Nancy knew that she was needed in the fight against child sex slave trafficking in Atlanta which has one of the highest activity rates in the country;

11. Bruce was highly supportive of Nancy’s work for decades and would have little or no reason to suddenly try to kill her at such a critical juncture in her career.

pecifically in Georgia, former Senator Nancy Schaefer had found during the last few years that:

- in Georgia housed children in a foster home with a known pedophile who molested the children.

- in Habersham County failed to remove six children from a home where they are being abused and tortured.

- in Georgia turned two girls over to a California father who had a pornographic video business.

A report that Nancy Schaefer produced on these remarkable cases can be found here:


Nancy Schaefer was also interviewed extensively by talk show host Alex Jones about corruption in Child Protection Services nationally. A multi-part series of her interview and an Eagle Forum presentation can be found on You Tube here:


In addition, Senator Schaefer led opposition to HB582 and SB304, two bills introduced by fellow Republicans that would have likely resulted in increasing child sex slave trafficking. These bills would have made it legal for teenagers to participate in certain illicit acts. The bills effectively removed the legal authority that police now have to pick teenagers up and get them into protective custody so that they can no longer be pimped for those acts.

As President of Georgia Eagle Forum, Nancy Schaefer planned to be in Alabama this weekend for an Eagle Forum convention. Instead she chose to stay in Georgia to develop new information that would have further exposed corruption in DFCS and beyond. Many Eagle forum members who were close to Sen. Schaefer were aware of her courageous efforts. None of them believe that either she or her husband was involved in any type of suicide.

It is particularly ironic that the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) chose to quote State Sen. Don Thomas in their March 26 article about Sen. Schaefer’s death. The AJC portrayed him as a friend of the couple even though he lives on the other side of the state from the Schaefer family and was diametrically opposed to many of their core beliefs. Sen. Thomas, the Chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, immediately propagated and expanded the “murder-suicide” theory without any first-hand knowledge or evidence. That is very disturbing considering it is his committee that should have been helping to clean up the corruption at DFCS. Activists supporting Sen. Schaefer explained that he constantly advocated increased power and authority for DFCS in spite of the evidence showing the organization was misusing that authority.

With Nancy Schaefer no longer on the scene the question may be raised as to how best to continue her legacy. I believe that she would want conservatives, progressives, libertarians, constitutionalists as well as grass roots Democrats and Republicans throughout Georgia to unite and work to rectify the corruption in DFCS and eliminate child sex slave trafficking in Georgia.

link – http://www.infowars.com/oddities-in-the-nancy-schaefer-suicide-case/

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Is a US attack on Iran imminent?

Alex Lantier

wsws.org/March 30, 2010

In recent weeks there has been a series of press reports as well as statements by military experts that strongly indicate that either the Obama administration or the Israeli government, or both, may be moving toward an attack on Iran.

Some of the press reports have been so detailed and provocative that it is difficult to determine whether they are describing actual plans for military action or whether they are “merely” intended to ratchet up pressure on the clerical regime in Tehran. Even if the United States and Israel are primarily engaged at this point in a war of nerves, the political and military logic of their actions leads inexorably to war.

Yesterday the World Socialist Web Site reported on the Brookings Institution’s simulated war games in which Iran was the target (see: “Washington ratchets up war threats against Iran”). Teams of US officials—“playing” the US, Israel, Iran, and other regional powers—tried to determine the outcome of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear plants. The war game tried to present the conflict as initially remaining limited to exchanges of targeted strikes between Israel and Iran.

US policymakers let it be known, however, that they envisaged ultimately mounting a massive assault on Iran. The war game was halted a week into the war—which, by then, had spread to Iranian or pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon, Israel, the Occupied Territories, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Persian Gulf—with the US preparing strikes to annihilate large sections of the Iranian military.

This was the most prominent of a series of provocative announcements against Iran in the US press. Last week saw reports that the US was stocking bunker-busting bombs at airfields on Diego Garcia, to destroy Iran’s suspected nuclear facilities, and reports of Israeli plans to drop nuclear bombs on these same facilities.

There is an obvious connection between the intensification of preparations for military action and the apparent failure of the US-backed “Green Revolution” to gain the political momentum and social support necessary to topple the Tehran government.

The Green Revolution movement, which never developed support outside a limited middle-class base, became ever weaker in the final months of 2009. At the same time, Washington increased its pressure on Iran in negotiations over its nuclear program, calling for sanctions to be agreed upon by the UN Security Council. In December 2009 the New York Times carried an article, describing the rising power of broadly pro-Ahmadinejad factions of the Iranian military, titled “Hard-Line Rise Alters View of Iranian Nuclear Program.”

It is significant that the current press accounts of preparations for war emerged after the acknowledgment by top US personnel that the Green Revolution was a failure. Contradicting months of US-media propaganda, Richard Haass, president of the US Council on Foreign Relations, told CNN on February 14 that the US had no facts to back up claims by Green Revolution spokesmen that its candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, had won last June’s election. Asked about a US poll showing a 57 percent Ahmadinejad vote versus 27 percent for Mousavi immediately before the elections, Haass replied, “I don’t know if the opposition is 25 percent, 50 percent, or more.”

For the time being, Washington’s Green Revolution proxies have been marginalized. The United States has reacted to this setback by leaking information to the press that suggests that a military operation is in the works.

One of the purposes of these threatening reports may well be to goad Tehran into some sort of defensive action that might be portrayed by the US government and the media as a hostile military act. This would provide the US with a casus belli that would be invoked to justify an attack on Iran. Another possibility is that the US (and Israel) expects that the escalation of pressure on Iran will produce new fractures within Tehran’s political elite. In one way or another, Washington is determined to restore the political and economic control over Iran that it enjoyed before the 1979 Revolution, back in the heady days when the Shah functioned as the CIA’s principal agent in Tehran.

The Iranian crisis illustrates the fundamental continuity of US imperialist policy, against claims that Obama would pursue policies fundamentally different from those of Bush. In fact, in a sinister throwback to Bush’s campaign of lies on Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction,” US officials are escalating threats even though they admit they have no “solid clues” suggesting the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

A US and/or Israeli attack on Iran would be a monstrous act of imperialist criminality. Countless thousands of Iranians would be killed in the first hours of a war. Moreover, a war against Iran would have incalculable international repercussions, and would bring the entire world closer to the day of a global nuclear conflagration.

link – http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/mar2010/pers-m30.shtml

Chomsky: Obama is ‘delivering, but for financial institutions’

Raw Story
By Sahil Kapur

Monday, March 29th, 2010

GOP’s goal is to ‘prevent governability,’ renowned scholar tells Raw Story

noamchomsky Chomsky: Obama is delivering, but for financial  institutionsThe nature of the current recession has made it clear to most Americans that a new wave of financial reforms is necessary to prevent another crash. MIT professor Noam Chomsky alleged that the Democratic establishment’s reluctance to reestablish post-Depression type regulations is reflective of the systemic constraints on policy in America’s “dysfunctional democracy.�

Chomsky, who has written many books detailing the perils of corporate influence in politics, said in an interview that the president and his party are hamstrung by fears that banks will punish them if they implement policies that do not satisfy the industry’s desires.

President Obama “is delivering, but for the financial institutions,� he told Raw Story, “Which isn’t a big surprise – that was the core of his funding. They preferred him to McCain, in fact by a considerable margin. They expected a payoff, and they got a payoff.�

The Obama administration last month walked into a public relations debacle after the president told Bloomberg News in an interview that he doesn’t “begrudge� banking executives making large bonuses for their “savvy� skills.

“That was very revealing,” Chomsky said, alleging that Obama was merely heeding the threats from the banking community.

“Obama months ago shifted his rhetoric and started talking about greedy bankers and even made some policy proposals the financial institutions didn’t like,” he continued. “And they didn’t waste a minute. They told him right off, you continue talking like that and we’re going to shift our funding to Republicans. Well they did so.”

One day before the interview, the New York Times reported that J.P. Morgan, which has traditionally preferred contributing to Democrats, directed most of its cash to the GOP this year. Campaign finance trends on OpenSecrets.org reveal that financial institutions have gradually shifted their funding away from the Democratic Party and toward Republicans in recent months.

“And Obama got the message,” Chomsky said. “Within days, he said to Bloomberg that the bankers are great guys, I’m in favor of their profits and bonuses and so on; that that’s the way the free market works, and I join the American people in applauding their successes.”

“These are the same American people who are screaming bloody murder about all this, so that tells you something about how the country works,” he added.

GOP’s ‘goal’ is to win back power by ‘making the country ungovernable’

Chomsky’s verdict on Obama and the Democrats may have been damning, but his take on Republicans was scathing.

“The Republican Party has transformed itself, since Reagan but much more extensively now, into a new kind of political operation,” he told Raw Story. “It’s abandoned really any political programs. Its only goal has been to prevent governability.”

The MIT professor said the GOP’s posturing as a small-government populist organization has been a disingenuous strategy to capitalize on nationwide anger and defeat Democrats.

“When critics call it the ‘party of no’ they’re pretty much correct,” he continued. “They basically want to make the country ungovernable so that they can regain power and dedicate themselves to their actual constituency – which is not tea party activists but corporate power.”

Chomsky predicted the November elections won’t be easy on the majority party, as “enthusiasm among Republicans is far higher than among Democrats, who are largely apathetic now.”

(Read Parts I and II of Chomsky’s interview with Raw Story’s Sahil Kapur, on health care reform and US-Israel relations, respectively.)

link – http://rawstory.com/rs/2010/0329/chomsky-banks/

Washington ratchets up war threats against Iran

By Patrick Martin
wsws.org/29 March 2010

The Obama administration is ratcheting up its war threats against Iran in a calculated effort to provoke a crisis with Tehran that could produce a general war in the Middle East. In multiple venues—planted articles in the press, the release of a think tank study on military options, speeches at the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, and congressional declarations—Washington is building a case for a new eruption of US military aggression.
The appearance of two articles in the Sunday edition of the New York Times underscored this campaign. The paper published a front-page lead reporting CIA and State Department allegations that Iran is accelerating its nuclear development; as well as the summary of a war game based on an Israeli air strike against Iran, published in the Week in Review section.

link – http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/mar2010/iran-m29.shtml

Israeli security forces seal off West Bank

By the CNN Wire Staff

Jerusalem (CNN)
— Israeli security forces said they will close the West Bank region from midnight Sunday to Tuesday, April 6.
Only people who need medical attention and journalists with appropriate credentials will be allowed to cross, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
Humanitarians, doctors, lawyers and other professionals will also have access based on approval by the civil administration.
About 1,250 religious workers, along with 550 students and teachers, have permission to leave Judea and Samaria, the IDF said.

Russia: U.S. Aiding Afghan Drug Trade

Afghan policemen guards an arrested drug smuggler in Herat.
Russia: U.S. Aiding Afghan Drug Trade
March 28, 2010
Russia has accused the United States of “conniving” with Afghan drug producers by not destroying opium crops as U.S. troops advance in Helmand Province, one of the major opium growing regions.

The allegation, which came in a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry, was the second time this week that Moscow has criticized the West over the opium issue. NATO rejected the charge and said Russia could help by providing more troops to combat the insurgency.

U.S. Marines in Helmand Province have told villagers that they will not destroy this year’s crops. In the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, which was captured by U.S. troops last month, the U.S. offered to pay poppy farmers to destroy their own crops and provide seed for them to plant other crops next year.

Afghanistan produces over 90 percent of the world’s opium.

compiled from agency reports

Druglords and Politicians: Washington’s Drug War Strengthens Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel

by Mike Whitney

Global Research, March 28, 2010
Information Clearing House – 2010-03-27

Al Jazeera has put together a 3-minute video which asks whether the Mexican government is “favoring” the country’s most powerful drug gang, the Sinoloa Cartel. After watching the video, you’ll wonder who’s really running the country?

Can one gang really have this much power? And what does it say about US policy towards Mexico; is the financial aid really improving security or just making matters worse?

Despite the abysmal media coverage, there’s a full-blown war going on just South of the border in Cuidad Juarez. Investigators believe that most of the killings are the result of a turf war between the Sinoloa cartel and a rival gang, “La Linea”. According to Al Jazeera, “The Sinoloa Federation is responsible for 45 percent of the drug trade in Mexico”, but the government is only going after the small fish. Why? And, why hasn’t Obama asked his “drug fighting” partner, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, what the heck is going on?

First, a little background: The Sinaloa cartel, is headed by the country’s most famous druglord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Here’s a clip from AOL News:

“El Chapo — “Shorty” in Mexican slang — controls the Sinaloa cartel, named for the northern Mexican state from which many of the country’s drug lords hail. Guzman, who is 5 feet 6 inches tall, has sought refuge in Sinaloa’s mountainous terrain along the Gulf of California, paying off Mexican law enforcement authorities and terrorizing Mexican citizens, according to experts and congressional testimony from the U.S. Department of Justice. His success at staying at large has led some experts to suggest that Guzman’s influence extends high into the Mexican police and government.

His past is part of his legend. Arrested in Guatemala in 1993 for drug smuggling and homicide, Guzman, 52, escaped from a maximum-security prison in Mexico in 2001 by sneaking out in a laundry cart. Since then, he has amassed a fortune of more than $1 billion by trafficking cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines to the U.S.

Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel has been engaged for several years in a bloody battle with other traffickers over lucrative smuggling routes into the U.S. from Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. The drug war there has claimed the lives of 380 people so far this year, according to Spanish news agency Efe, including 15 teenagers who were gunned down last month.” (AOL News)

So “El Chapo” is not a guy you want to mess with. But what sort influence does he have on the government? That’s what the Obama team needs to know. Is the Calderon administration really in bed with the biggest drug kingpin in Mexico? And, if not, then why does Calderon keep ducking the questions? He needs to come clean so people have confidence in the policy.

Keep in mind, that the US is providing $1.6 billion in aid to Mexico under the terms of the Merida Initiative, which was signed in 2007 by President George W. Bush and his counterpart, Calderon. But no one really knows how the money is being spent, because there’s no accountability. Corruption in Mexico is so widespread, that the money is probably ending up in the hands of the very people the Obama administration wants to put behind bars. Does that sound far-fetched? Then take a look at this story in the Los Angeles Times:

“When Mexico and the United States were entering a landmark free trade agreement 16 years ago, one thing was clear: Mexican farmers would initially find it difficult to compete with heavily subsidized U.S. agricultural products. The solution: Mexico created a special fund to dole out cash to the poorest and smallest farmers.

Somewhere along the way, something went wrong. Today, the fund — far from helping the neediest — is providing large financial subsidies to the families of notorious drug traffickers and several senior government officials, including the agriculture minister.

Revelations of how and to whom the money is being distributed have led to a spasm of demands from legislators to change the system. But, as with most examples of colossal corruption in Mexico, it is unlikely that the program will be overhauled.

Its failure has driven tens of thousands of subsistence farmers to ruin and encouraged the planting of illegal crops, such as marijuana and opium poppy, on vast tracts of farmland, experts and officials say.

Under the program, known as Procampo, an estimated $1.3 billion was given last year to 2.7 million farmers. The allotment is about $74 to $100 per 2.5 acres. But, according to several academic studies, as much as 80% of the money went to just 20% of the registered farmers.

Among the most eyebrow-raising recipients were three siblings of billionaire drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, head of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, and the brother of Guzman’s onetime partner, Arturo Beltran Leyva”. (“Mexico farm subsidies are going astray”, Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times)

The bottom line, is that no one really knows whether US drug war funding is helping to achieve the stated security goals or not. Most likely, it’s just money down a rathole. But that doesn’t seem to bother the Obama administration. They’re determined to stick with the same failed Bush policy to the bitter end. Case in point: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traipsed off to Mexico just this week to reaffirm the administration’s commitment to the Merida Initiative.

Clinton was flanked on her trip by a high-powered delegation which included Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence. In other words, THE HEADS OF THE ENTIRE US NATIONAL SECURITY ESTABLISHMENT were gathered in Mexico to address the escalating violence in Juarez. Clearly, the administration takes the issue seriously.

As Napolitano noted, “You rarely see this kind of meeting with this kind of array of Cabinet officials on both sides.”

Indeed. The truth is, Washington elites now believe that Mexico is on its way to becoming a “failed state”. They think that–when the oil fields run dry–the violence and anarchy will spill across the border and spread like wildfire. That’s why the administration’s response has been so extreme–they hoped that armored vehicles and checkpoints would send the dealers running for the hills. But they were wrong; the fighting only intensified. So, now, the White House is changing its approach and adding social programs and “institution building” to its military strategy.

“We are expanding the Merida Initiative beyond what it was traditionally considered to be, because it is not just about security, but about institution-building,” Secretary Clinton said. “It is about reaching out to and including communities and civil society, and working together to spur social and economic development.”

It’s a step in the right direction, but not nearly enough. Clinton’s program is just a rehash of the same stale security-oriented bunkum. She might as well call it “Bush 2″ for all the difference it will make. Yes, the new Plan Mexico will provide $300 million for “social cohesion” and various poverty-fighting programs, but the fundamental plan is the same which means its prospects for success are “slim to none.” What Clinton and Co. fail to understand, is that their efforts are actually strengthening the biggest cartels by wiping out the smaller gangs. That just puts the drug trade in the hands of people who are more competent and politically-connected. It’s a losing strategy. Expect Ms. Clinton to be shocked when she finally figures it all out.

link – http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=18371