Category: Found on the Internet


The Wan Chai connection: The Washington-accused drug lords, gun runners and dictators’ financiers tied to one Hong Kong district

By Joshua BerlingerCNN Business, December 11, 2020

(CNN Business)The Hong Kong neighborhood of Wan Chai may be home to the most eclectic and densest concentration of US-sanctioned enterprises anywhere on the planet. In less space than a square mile, you’ve got offices tied to: an alleged financier for Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group; an individual accused of helping Iran acquire millions of dollars of military equipment in violation of US sanctions; a man accused of helping Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro plunder his country’s resources; and a company that allegedly opened a bank in North Korea in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also an office tied to a powerful Southeast Asian militia and a casino mogul accused of trafficking drugs, wildlife and even humans. Walk these streets on the northern part of Hong Kong Island by day, however, and you’ll likely see well-dressed professionals out to lunch. At night, it’s twenty-somethings getting drunk in rowdy bars — not drug lords slinging kilos of methamphetamine or gun runners trying to sell crates of AK-47s. That’s because all five offices appear to be front companies. Front companies are not inherently illegal. They are legitimate corporations without significant assets or active business operations that can be used to conceal illegal or unsavory transactions, evade taxes and generally avoid scrutiny. Essentially, they are near-empty offices in tall towers seldom, if ever, visited by their owners. But the five companies all appear to exist for one reason: to evade the watchful eye of American law enforcement. Four of the five alleged front companies in Wan Chai have, since 2015, been added to the US Treasury Department’s “Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons List” — a massive document that names all entities sanctioned by the US government. People or companies put on the list are generally barred from doing business with Americans, conducting transactions in US dollars and using the US financial system. Allegations against the fifth company, the one tied to the North Korean bank, were raised in 2017 by a UN panel that monitors the efficacy and enforcement of sanctions on Pyongyang. Why exactly the five are in Wan Chai — and so close together — isn’t clear. It might be as simple as the lure of a good location and cheap rent. But they’re not alone. The Center for Advanced Defense Studies’ sanctions explorer, a tool created by a Washington-based non-governmental organization that scans the Treasury Department’s sanctions list, turns up at least 13 entries in Wan Chai and more than 120 in all of Hong Kong.

They’ve all likely flocked to the city for the same reasons that many legitimate businesses do. Hong Kong is fully integrated into the global financial system. It’s incredibly easy — too easy, some critics argue — to form a company and staff it with well-educated local employees. And, for decades, Hong Kong has wholeheartedly embraced limited economic regulation and corporate oversight. Free market, non-interventionist policies have helped supercharge the city’s economy. But financial crime experts say they have historically allowed shady businesses to pour money into the city, regardless of how it was obtained. Hong Kong’s Companies Registry, which is part of the city’s Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, told CNN that US sanctions are “unilateral” and have no force in local law. The Companies Registry declined to make the head of the agency, Ada Chung, available for an interview. Hong Kong has passed laws in recent years aimed at curtailing malicious corporate activity, but plugging the systemic gaps that allow illicit front companies to thrive would risk choking Hong Kong’s legitimate economy, angering the city’s powerful tycoons and, in some cases, furthering American geopolitical aims at a time of intense rivalry between Washington and Beijing. It’s a balancing act the city has performed for years.

The foundation of a fortune

It was about 70 years ago when a 27-year-old Wan Chai native named Henry Fok figured out that Hong Kong’s leaders weren’t willing to stifle business to preserve the interests of governments on the other side of the planet. When Mao Zedong and the People’s Republic of China joined the Korean War on behalf of North Korea in 1950, the United States and its allies responded by instituting an economic embargo on Beijing. In May 1951, the United Nations recommended its members enact their own trade restrictions against China. Fok saw opportunity. China would be willing to pay a steeper price for everything from medicine to war materiel. All he had to do was ship the goods to them — a task for which he was well-placed. Though Fok was born poor, he had learned English in the British colony. That meant he could read local gazette auction listings and buy cheap military surplus goods left over from World War II. His first purchase was a tugboat, he told the Wall Street Journal in 1997. He had also helped his mother run a small shipping business, meaning he knew that industry. So, under the cover of night, Fok began shipping everything from asphalt to iron plates, plastic hoses, steel, gasoline and rubber tires to mainland China via Macao, which at the time was not strictly enforcing the embargo. “Whatever the mainland needed we could get it for them,” Fok wrote in his memoir, though he denied the longstanding rumors that he was a gun runner. “It was quite dangerous. But I didn’t care, if there was money to make then it deserved a try.” 

Interview with Henry Fok Ying-tung. 10 April 2003 (Photo by Ricky Chung/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)

The Americans were not pleased. Washington accused its ally, Britain, of not enforcing the embargo strictly enough in its colony. The territory’s British rulers maintained they were trying, but argued against pressing too hard because the colony’s economy was built on regional trade, especially with China. Cutting that link could have spelled ruin for Hong Kong, especially given the economic pressures brought by an influx of refugees from mainland China after the Chinese Communist Party took power in 1949. So Fok and a handful of others continued with little resistance from the British, and the war in Korea raged on. The United Nations was not even 10 years old by the time the fighting stopped in 1953. The Korean War had been one of its first opportunities to use economic leverage instead of violence to achieve its ends, and even then there were people like Fok who figured out how to game the system to make money. By the time Fok died in 2006, he was a billionaire tycoon and one of Hong Kong’s most powerful political brokers. He later maintained violating sanctions wasn’t what made him rich. In fact, he said the whole operation was so stressful that by the end of the war he only weighed 103 pounds.But Fok had earned enough capital to invest in other ventures. He would go on to become the first Hong Kong businessman to buy apartment blocks and resell the uncompleted flats individually, a novel idea that made him millions. Apartments in the city are often still sold this way todayFok also backed casino magnate Stanley Ho’s bid for Macao’s gaming monopoly in the early 1960s, which accounted for most of Fok’s fortune at the time of his death. When Fok tried to cash out of the gambling industry in the early 2000s, he was believed to be seeking between $769 million and $898 million for his shares in Ho’s company, according to Forbes. He was worth about $2 billion in 2001, according to the financial magazine, and died five years later.In the end, the measures meant to sap China’s ability to wage war had inadvertently paved the way for Fok’s fortune. His business empire was built on money made by ignoring and exploiting US and UN attempts to wield tools of economic warfare. Fok also showed that Hong Kong authorities were willing to look the other way when it came to businesses entangled in geopolitical conflicts, as long as it was good for the economy.

John Cowperthwaite’s experiment

The 1950s kicked off a half century of tremendous economic growth in Hong Kong, thanks in large part to those refugees from mainland China. Most arrived with nothing and needed jobs. Many turned out to be entrepreneurs, and the colonial government wanted to help them set up shop, according to Steve Tsang, the director of SOAS University of London’s China Institute. “So they basically introduced the most user-friendly system in the world for companies to [get] registered and just get on with business,” he said. That meant getting rid of red tape so people could easily start their own companies. This “user-friendly” system was just one cog in the colonial government’s unabashedly non-interventionist economic plan. British officials pursued a host of laissez-faire policies and let exchange rates be determined by market forces, at a time when much of the world was tying rates to the US dollar and gold. All that made Hong Kong something of an outlier globally and laid the foundation for the city’s “free market, wheeler-dealer kind of reputation,” said Catherine Schenk, a professor of economics and history at Oxford University. No one embodied this reputation more than John Cowperthwaite, Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary from 1961 to 1971. Cowperthwaite was so opposed to government involvement in the economy that he often refused to collect simple economic statistics, arguing that any data would end up being used as an excuse to intervene. 

Sir John Cowperthwaite, the Financial Secretary, speaking at the IPCCIOS III Conference (The Third Triennial International Management Conference of the Indo-Pacific Committee of the International Council for Scientific Management). The theme of the Conference is “Asia – the Challenge to Management”. 27SEP68 (Photo by C. Y. Yu/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)

Famous conservative economists like Milton Friedman, the Nobel laureate and adviser to President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, were fascinated by Cowperthwaite and his experiment in unbridled capitalism. Free marketeers credit Cowperthwaite for the colony’s impressive economic growth in the second half of the 20th century.His tenure coincided with a historic boom in the number of firms operating in the city.In 1960, there were 3,732 companies registered in Hong Kong, according to the Hong Kong Companies Registry. A decade later, there were 15,848. In that time frame, GDP more than tripled.

When mainland China became a hub for manufacturing the early 1980s, Hong Kong became a gateway to that industry, and a financial center. The colony did not require people to be forthright about where their money originated, nor did it tax overseas earnings. And it remained very easy to set up a company. Legitimate business owners, however, weren’t the only ones who took note. So too did the increasingly wealthy and powerful Southeast Asian heroin cartel bosses who needed a place to launder their growing fortunes.

Washing money in Hong Kong

Fok may have pioneered sanctions evasion in Hong Kong. But the modern blueprint for the operations of the five front companies in Wan Chai was written in the 1980s by those heroin dealers, who used the colony’s lax financial system to clean tens of millions of dollars worth of drug money. The sheer amount of greenbacks being moved out of Hong Kong from 1982 to 1984 was massive — hundreds of millions of dollars — and it paralleled the rise in Southeast Asian heroin’s market share in the United States, according to US intelligence. And the money kept pouring in. 

In 1991, Hong Kong officially sent nearly $4 billion in cash back to the United States, according Robert Koppe, an official from the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN).That number just didn’t make sense, and Koppe told a Senate subcommittee on Asian organized crime in 1992 he couldn’t explain it. Koppe said that FinCEN had a few theories on where the money was coming from; laundered drug money seemed the most likely. Concerns about a similar currency surplus had been raised about eight years earlier by former President Reagan’s Commission on Organized Crime, and it concluded drug trafficking was a logical explanation. There was no way to know for sure. At the time, Hong Kong did not have currency transaction reporting requirements, meaning businesses and individuals didn’t have to explain where large amounts of money were coming from. And nearly $50 billion in US dollars were being exchanged each businesses day in Hong Kong, according to Koppe. That was part of the problem itself, per Koppe. With so much cash unaccounted for in a major financial hub, Hong Kong was, as Koppe put it, “an excellent target area for the laundering of large amounts of US currency. “So law enforcement officials reasoned that if Hong Kong was sending back millions of dollars’ worth of drug money to the United States, it meant that Southeast Asia’s heroin empires were successfully laundering their fortunes through the global financial system via Hong Kong. They often used front companies to do it.

A 1994 report by the US Drug Enforcement Administration explained that traffickers would set up front companies in Hong Kong in order to conceal the movement of funds, or add layers of complexity and anonymity to their schemes. These heroin empires essentially provided a business model for shadowy operations, like the five front companies in Wan Chai. They showed them how to abuse Hong Kong’s lax system to hide money made illegally overseas.

The unassuming offices of Wan Chai

The Panama Papers in 2016 blew the lid off the murky world of international offshore finance — and showed Hong Kong was the most active place on the planet for the creation of shell companies, alongside traditional tax havens such as Switzerland, Cyprus and the US state of Delaware. The 11 million-plus document dump, leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), revealed how wealthy and powerful people allegedly employed Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider, to set up shell or front companies on their behalf. Mossack Fonseca denied any wrongdoing after the story broke, but the leaks helped explain how the world’s 1% can use front or shell companies to move money internationally. Such firms could conceal the true identity of a company’s owner, mask a business’ assets or monopolistic practices, or even avoid sanctions. Tycoons also use them to obfuscate their business practices.

A 2001 study found that eight major conglomerates controlled a quarter of all corporations in East Asia’s nine most advanced economies at the time, including Hong Kong. The papers caused reputational damage to the city, exposing how open its financial system and corporate services sector are to abuse.

As of the end of June 2020, Hong Kong boasted more than 7,000 licensed trust and corporate service providers. Many bear little resemblance to global firms like Mossack Fonseca. They often operate out of poorly lit offices in unassuming mid-rise buildings. Some have strange names like Cheerful Best Company Services, the business at the office tied to the North Korean bank, or Sky Charm Secretarial Services Limited, one of the three corporate service providers at the address that was supposed to house a front company accused of violating US sanctions on Iran.

“The government’s promise to uphold the principle of ‘keeping intervention into the way in which the market operates to a minimum’ is a classic see-no-evil approach to financial regulation, designed to attract offshore business, dirty and clean, with few questions asked.”

In fact, four of the five front companies that were supposed to be in Wan Chai appeared, at some point, to house corporate service providers, CNN Business found after visiting them. None of those were surprising finds. Corporate service providers are prevalent throughout Hong Kong and most offshore financial centers because they make it easy to set up and maintain a company from abroad. The fifth company, the address tied to the alleged Southeast Asian drug trafficker, was actually home to another company, Shuen Wai holdings, which was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in 2008 amid allegations that the office was a key part of the financial network used by the a Burmese militia to launder profits from drug sales. The man who answered the door when CNN visited for a different investigation in 2018 said the company was previously involved in the jade trade but now works in funeral services.

Experts say the issue is that company registration and corporate secretarial services lack proper oversight. Fewer regulations has meant more business and a more attractive offshore center, but also more front companies like those in Wan Chai hiding in the shadows. That’s part of the reason why the Tax Justice Network, a non-governmental organization that monitors and studies tax havens around the world, ranks Hong Kong fourth on its Financial Secrecy Index. “The government’s promise to uphold the principle of ‘keeping intervention into the way in which the market operates to a minimum’ is a classic see-no-evil approach to financial regulation, designed to attract offshore business, dirty and clean, with few questions asked,” the index said. The Hong Kong government hasn’t sat idly by. It has tried to find a legislative fix that doesn’t involve onerous regulation, but to date, most of its efforts have focused on the banking sector. 

Stringent due diligence and know-your-customer requirements are now the norm at banks because “the cost of not observing the rules and regulations [on] money laundering is very high,” said Simon Lee, the co-director of the International Business and Chinese Enterprise Program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). In 2018, Hong Kong’s government passed laws aimed at clamping down on illicit company formation. The new legislation requires corporate service providers to be licensed and registered, and all companies and service providers must now keep on hand information regarding beneficial ownership, or the actual people behind any company.However, the efficacy of these new rules remains to be seen. The Financial Action Task Force, a global anti-money laundering watchdog, said in its 2019 evaluation of Hong Kong that the territory had “a strong legal and institutional framework” for combating financial crime, but noted that corporate service providers were not well supervised “until very recently” and more time was needed to gauge just how effective the new laws are.

The future 

Today, American sanctions in Hong Kong face a new major test.On August 7, the US Treasury Department sanctioned 11 people — including Carrie Lam, the leader of Hong Kong — for their role in enforcing a new national security law imposed by Beijing which effectively stamps out government dissent and freedom of speech. Supporters of the legislation said it was needed to protect the city after months of political unrest in 2019, which at times turned violent. Critics say the measure is a brazen attempt by China to take greater control of Hong Kong’s affairs. Hong Kong was for years seen as a stable, rules-based business mecca with a world-class judiciary to settle disputes. That veneer of respectability has been tarnished, in large part by the national security law, which gives Beijing far more influence over Hong Kong’s legal system. Washington believes the law was abhorrent enough to warrant putting Lam on an American blacklist alongside North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, whose country is accused of running gulags that house more than 100,000 political prisoners; Min Aung Hlaing, the Burmese general accused of orchestrating a genocide in Myanmar’s Rakhine State; and Syrian President Bashar al Assad, who has allegedly deployed chemical weapons against his own people.

Though Lam called the sanctions “nonsense” in an interview with Chinese state media and joked that the US government got her address wrong, they have left her hamstrung. Lam told the Hong Kong International Business Channel in late November that since they were put in place, she has not been able to use banking services in Hong Kong.”I’m using cash every day,” she said. “I have piles of cash at home. The government is paying me cash for my salary, because I don’t have a bank account.” She clarified in another interview that only part of her salary is being paid in cash — she is leaving the rest in the Hong Kong Treasury.

HONG KONG, CHINA – NOVEMBER 25: Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, speaks to the press during a news conference after she delivered the annual policy address at the Legislative Council building on November 25, 2020, in Hong Kong, China. Lam delivers her economic policy address Wednesday after weeks of delay, mass resignation from pro-democracy democrats lawmakers and new steps to boost economic links with China. (Photo by Miguel Candela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Lam was the target of an American tool of statecraft and an economic pressure campaign. Other governments, however, are not required to follow Washington’s lead on sanctions, even if the measures target apolitical crimes like drug dealing. A spokesperson for Hong Kong’s Companies Registry, which oversees the city’s companies, said as much when asked about the five front companies in Wan Chai. “While we do not comment on individual cases, you will appreciate that unilateral sanctions have no force in international law and do not create any legal obligations for other jurisdictions to follow,” the spokesperson said.The official reaction toward the sanctions against Lam have struck a similar but more combative tone. Hong Kong’s government denounced them as a“deplorable move [that] is no less than state-sanctioned doxxing.” With Hong Kong moving closer into Beijing’s orbit and China’s overall relations with Washington particularly fraught, there isn’t much chance the city will be inclined to help the United States enforce sanctions — especially when Carrie Lam can’t even open a bank account because of them. That is good news for the five Wan Chai front companies, and others like them. As long as Hong Kong’s leader remains sanctioned, it’s unlikely authorities here would be willing to cooperate with Washington to plug the gaps that make it so easy set up a front company in Wan Chai.

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Reference link: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/12/10/business/hong-kong-front-companies-intl-hnk-dst/index.html

Dustin Broadbery: The Controlled Demolition of Society

POSTED  HECTOR DRUMMOND

Dustin blogs at www.thecogent.org, and his Twitter is TheCogent1.

The controlled demolition of society, named COVID-19, places us at the gates to hell, somewhere between freedom and slavery, fighting a battle for humanity against a government who have become the occupational hazard of being human.

In little under eight months, those who go under the sobriquet of protector of individual freedom from tyranny, have taken on the mantle of oppressor. Turning on the people of this nation, taking legal control over our lives, removing our personal agency, dictating where we can go and who we can meet. Irrespective of these historic infractions on our freedom, we obediently roll over rather than disturb the hornet’s nest and industriously heed the call of showman politicians who have enlisted us, unaware the culpability has been passed from the overlords to the victims of their tyranny.

‘We are all in this together’ is another blandishment from this Prime Minister. Despite his inner circle ruling this country by ministerial decree since March. Rolling out the most injurious legislation in history, without recourse to scrutiny, debates or votes in Parliament, engagement with civil society, or indeed risk assessment of the impact of these laws, which even the lawmakers do not obey. In the time-honoured tradition of one rule for thosemaking the rulesanother rule for everyone else.

Following a handful of idle sessions at the House of Commons, liberties older than Parliament itself have been confiscated on the basis of a disease with an average mortality age of 82. What has been achieved on this basis by the architects of this apocalypse is not only reprehensible, it is ingenious. Uniting millions behind the cult of COVID. Transcending decades of the usual propaganda, behavioural engineering, the manufacturing of consent. Mitigating the expense of war, terrorism, or whatever chicanery has been at the disposal of those in power, grooming us towards a controlled destination. In this particular watershed, a permanent checkpoint of our democracy to issue the terms of our servitude, called the biosecurity state.

The Trojan Horse of COVID

Admittedly, this is not your standard issue-industrialised, globalised takeover of society. Why would it be? Fascism has come a long way since Hitler. Nowadays the general population is too smart, would recognise the face of tyranny and not this garden variety imposter. Or so we think. Besides, ‘without the Allies landing on the beaches of Normandy, how could we be under siege?’ We reassure ourselves before crawling back into captivity in a comforting lockstep with less fortunate nations. Adaptation is a wonderful thing, but maybe not for us. In keeping with the opaque nature of this political confidence trick, this is not your typical dictatorship either. Instead it’s Middle England’s answer to a veritable military junta, carrying the letters of marque from Her Majesty’s Government to legitimize its piracy, courted by the ivory towers of science and medicine, and extolled as a force for good by a population sleepwalking towards the edge of disaster. Meanwhile society burns ritualistically to the ground. But that’s ok, we can build back better from the ashes. Or so we are told.

This journey towards the wrong side of history is made possible by subtle nuances of control, confusion and fear that most fail to comprehend. Triggering the wholesale abandon of logic and reason to a seemingly benevolent cult who offer protections against our day of reckoning. The threat of death strikes an uncomfortable chord and our ability to adapt makes us low-hanging fruit. But who could have predicted fascism would look so ordinary from inside the Panopticon? Once we’re plugged into a shared digital common, a state of emergency can rapidly contaminate consensus, until collectivism flourishes like wildfire. Meanwhile, measured perspective becomes an act of war. Who wants to be on the wrong side of the cult, when those failing to bend a knee to COVID, are, by disassociation, guilty, with blood on their hands? This entire process works because the fertile ground for any dictatorship to prosper is fear. A state of emergency unites us with common purpose. And what could be more compelling than a pandemic? Death, like communism, levels the playing field of all distinctions. Regardless of class, age, gender, or race, death is indiscriminate. Reaffirming the normalcy of our departure from one place of relative safety to another is straightforward enough. Safety is, after all, relative to the setting of the emergency. The higher the alert level, the safer we feel in the herd, regardless of small matters such as the number of prison bars holding us captive. In a strong-enough current people are like driftwood trying to dock in the reeds. Remember the motto of this thing from the outset: ‘The New Normal?’

The pandemic hunkers down on the Blitz Spirit of the British people. Boris plays Churchill, Vallance and Whitty flank the General, and the propagandists ensnare a nation under mass-hypnosis, who muzzle their senses and clap for their captors. Important matters of front-line battle are the prerogative of Johnson et al, who work round the clock to dampen, depress and demoralise the public spirit, criminalising just about every form of human expression conceivable. In this Kafkaesque rendition of reality, an arsenic cough, the assassin’s handshake are the crimes against humanity, while our personal hygiene and voluntary associations stand before the Nuremberg Trials.

COVID is the greatest operation to divide and rule in human history. Factionalising family members, separating each from their powers of reason, and weaponizing society as the Black Death, whose panacea is an unrelenting assault on the basic joys of life and other misguided freedoms, that we are told, are the agents of our suffering.

The cautionary tale from history should teach us that surrendering of our rights out of fear of some existential threat is never a good idea. Typically it’s a threat hatched by a government looking to cross the Rubicon from protector of individual liberty to regulator of the psycho-sociosexual. Dictating who we may and may not procreate with is yet another compulsion of cult ideology. Which should be enough to convince most we are living under tyranny. Or so it would seem.

On the contrary, those with front row tickets, prostrated in self-imposed exile, bribed with government kickbacks, and disguising their own fear of death as compassion for others, would disagree. Claiming (amongst other platitudes), ‘’It’s only for another six months… Even if it means saving just one life… 2020 is the year that was cancelled… You wear a seatbelt but not a face covering…”. This is despite the overwhelming body of evidence that we are not the victims of indiscriminate, extemporaneous encroachments on our liberties, but rather our rights are being permanently dismantled through a carefully planned sequence of events, where the previous imposition makes way for the next tightening of the screw. The volitional guidelines for the hospitality industry to track and trace our movements has predictably been ramped up to mandatory. Anticipating the next iteration in this sequence: gun-to-your-head contact tracing across all interfaces of the economy, our workspaces, public transport, international flights and supermarkets. Or, for those refusing to comply, then it’s ‘no ticket, no laundry.’ And the emergence of COVID-apartheid.

In the end, if you failed to push back against contact tracing, you stand no chance of resisting mandatory vaccinations. Until the megalomaniacs in power, with their ulterior motives and god-complexes, finally claim regulatory control over our bodies. And make no mistake, our minds will be next.

The Vanguards of Public Health

The controlled demolition of our economy was predicated under the banner of protecting our NHS. When paradoxically, our NHS was built to protect us (not the other way around). As a result, thousands of terminally ill patients continue to be denied critical care. Notice the word ‘continue.’ There have been soaring deaths for Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Doctors surgeries remain closed, while off-licenses have been on-call. Comparable to shutting down the military during wartime and plying the soldiers with booze. More recently hospitals are turning away sick children, to make space for potential COVID cases. Notice the word ‘potential.’ Are you beginning to get the picture?

While it may be “no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” the general population continues to pretend everything is unexceptional, instead of confronting the elephant in the room and raising a red flag to the proclivities of this government, as they strip even our senior citizens of their basic rights. Pensioners kept under house arrest, in understaffed and underfunded nursing homes, prohibited from seeing their loved ones for 12-months; as you would expect, many have lost the will to live.

Where is the public outrage?

Remember, we put up the collateral of our freedom to protect our vulnerable ranks. We carried the yoke of self-imposed exile, unemployment, separation from family members, masking up in public, to protect just one demographic: our senior citizens. This government, meanwhile, matched our stake by forcing the elderly out of hospitals and into care homes at the height of this pandemic. If we were indeed a healthy society, then before the ink had dried on the Do Not Resuscitate Orders, the following questions would have been promptly answered by Public Health England.

What social group was more at risk? Who did we spare hospital capacity for? Who do we continue to surrender our freedom for? Has the corpse of Harold Shipman been dug up and placed at the head up the Department of Health? Or has this been about something else all along? (All graphs can be clicked to enlarge.)

Lockdown 2.0

By this government’s own projections, lockdown will eventually kill more healthy people than COVID. The cure is unquestionably worse than the disease:

On 31st October the Prime Minister consulted the augers, adjusted the setting of his wrecking ball to ‘round two’ before unleashing another payload of devastating missiles against the posthumous germ. Using the very same blind sightedness that catastrophically failed the first time around. Indeed, those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.

We must therefore ask: what is driving these devastating policies towards the brink of societal collapse?

With the word ‘overwhelmed’ passed around like a bad penny in the political pulpits, are we seeing an increase in hospital admissions? Not in the slightest. A & E attendances for acute respiratory infection are running at 75% capacity, compared to the baseline, and there were significantly more respiratory-related hospital admissions in Dec 2019, pre-COVID. This fact alone would suggest the government is a prevaricating, deceiving, misleading, fraudulent, tellers of untruths.

Are we seeing a surge in deaths? Certainly not. The second wave is as fashionably late as the Prime Minister’s 4pm press conference on 31st October. And according to ONS data, in week 41 deaths were just 1.5% above the five-year average (in line with population growth). COVID accounted for only 4.4% of all deaths versus influenza and pneumonia at 16.3%. Even more alarming is this paper from the Oxford University Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM), which reveals COVID-19 was not the underlying cause of death for 30% of all recent deaths attributed to the disease. 30%. Nevertheless, Johnson has pandered to the opposition (for want of a better word) and delivered another lockdown. Despite forty thousand scientists and medical professionals imploring an end to this institutional madness. Yet, deaf to common reason and without compunction, our political leaders continue to ride roughshod over the democratic principle when there has always been another way. Look at Sweden:

What’s more, when we overlay deaths per million in Sweden with the UK, it is clear the virus follows its own trajectory, regardless of ineffective lockdowns.

Despite this data being readily available to the government and SAGE we continue on this crooked path towards the brink of collapse.

When we examine hospital admissions, COVID deaths, and excess deaths for this time of year, there is nothing exceptional in the data. Therefore, is COVID a moderately bad flu season? Well, according to ONS, up to 23rd October 2020, there were 56,073 excess deaths over 9 months in England and Wales (although only 45,224 of those were Covid deaths). Whereas in the winter of 2017/2018 – over a shorter period of 3 months – there were 50,100 excess deaths. [HD: it should be noted that what ONS means by ‘excess’ in ‘excess winter deaths’ is something quite different to what ‘excess’ means in relation to the general all-cause mortality figures, but it’s a reasonable proxy for it: more here.] 2017-2018 saw the highest excess deaths since winter 1975/1976:

Finally, Rick Hayward, writing for Hector Drummond has extrapolated all-cause winter-spring mortality going back to 1993, and adjusted for population growth, 2019-20 is in fact the eighth worst season of the last twenty-six:

Mandatory Vaccinations

The rules for clinicians on defining COVD cases clearly states the ‘presence of symptoms.’ But contrary to these rules, more than 80% of those tested on the day had no symptoms. So why then is this government counting non-symptomatic cases as cases? Why do they refuse to publish or even acknowledge the impact of false positives? And importantly, why is COVID is the most politicised cause of death in history?

To answer these questions it is important to understand that those driving this controlled demolition forward have skin in the game. Especially Her Majesty’s Government. The UK is the number one investor in immunology amongst all G7 countries. The British Society for Immunology is the largest in Europe. The life sciences industry, of which immunology is an important part was worth £70 billion to the UK economy in 2019. The UK is the biggest country donor to the World Health Organisation. And the UK is the number one funder of the vaccine alliance, GAVI. It is well understood that a global mandatory vaccination program would be one of the world’s most lucrative commodities. Do the math: the average cost of a vaccine x 7.8 billion people x every year of their lives.

Immunisation therefore presents a golden opportunity for Britain to restore its legacy of empire, through a quasi-imperialistic meddling in the affairs of developing nations, with a global mandatory vaccination program that would provide the old empire with significant influence over global health and education policy. Despite the government’s own admission that the UK’s influenza vaccine was just 15% effective for 2017-18. Would you pay the full price for a car that was 15% operational? Or a lunch that was 15% food? No. But if those products were mandatory you would have no choice.

The Great Reset 

No indictment of the pandemic response would be complete without a mention of the technocratic takeover of our cultural commons, predicated by unelected decision-makers, through programs like The Great Reset, which the UK has been onboard with since at least 2017, when Matt Hancock was Minister for Digital. In 2019 the British government laid out its roadmap towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution in this white paper. Notice this statement:

It is characterised by a fusion of technologies – such as artificial intelligence, gene editing and advanced robotics – that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological worlds.

Sound familiar?

With a background in digital rather than health it is no coincidence that our masquerading Minister of Health, Matt Hancock, is at the helm of the greatest public health response in history. A role that reprises many of the technologies Hancock was bringing to market during his tenure as Minister for Digital, which COVID provides the necessary bluster to implement, including contact tracing, immunity passports, and other apparatus of digital control and surveillance being rolled out under the Joint Biosecurity Centre, foreshadowing the merger of human, digital and smart grid.

Another stooge doing the unofficial bidding for a global elite towards a Great Reset is our own affable dictator, Johnson. A disciple of the cult of technocracy since his address to the UN in 2019. So committed in fact, he has ruled out, under any circumstances, a return to normal, ever. Regardless of how the pandemic pans out, beyond the vicissitudes of his crystal ball.

According to the vision of the Great Reset, by 2030 ‘we will own nothing; all products will become services.’ By which time we will witness the seismic displacement of billions of workers worldwide, with the overhaul of cheaper artificial intelligence to replace arbitraryand costly human labour. People and communities will be sacrificed at the corporate altar as a corporation’s entitlement to higher margins takes precedence over a person’s right to work and maintain financial independence. Humanity will become auxiliary to the rights of nature, with the alignment of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Climate Change and the SDGs of the UN’s Agenda 2030. A kind of world communism will pervade the social spectrum and turn world citizens into a kind of one size fits all, while those at the top of the pyramid will benefit exclusively from a capitalist system gone rogue. The social credits system, that scores citizens on their ‘behaviour’, is already a dystopian nightmare for millions of Chinese citizens, who are prohibited from travelling on trains and aeroplanes. This apparatus of social control is already being trumpeted in Australia’s political pulpits as the exit plan for COVID, should Australian citizens wish to re-enter the economy themselves in 2021. Ripples of this new world order are fast approaching the shores of mainland Britain, with the Universal Living Wage system under trial runs in British Cities.

As the Jackals Circle

It is therefore no surprise that the Coronavirus Act was renewed on 30th September by the shills at Westminster. Despite the drum-beating of apparently dissenting MPs, in the end all these mutineers (in name only) could muster was a kind of vague gentlemen’s agreement on votes ‘where possible’ on ‘significant measures.’ Whatever that means. Even more disturbing was the idle voter turnout on the day, when only a criminal 54% of MP’s could be bothered to raise their hand to vote – including a flimsy 3% of all Labour MP’s – on what is perhaps the most important piece of legislation in history.

As a result we now stand at a crossroads, in what is destined to become the most important moment in history. Looking out onto a bleak horizon, where human freedom will become a thing of the past, with two possible scenarios to consider going forward. Because we all know what’s coming.

The first scenario involves each dissenter carefully deciding where they want to get trapped. Because in a few months once ‘vaccine-apartheid’ is implemented, those who refuse the jab will have very limited access to the economy and escape through international travel will be impossible.

The second scenario involves humanity resurfacing from behind the sofa. Organizing into a powerful consortium of stakeholders, towards a national opposition movement, with a clear and focussed mandate: to reclaim our citizenry, implement an independent publicly-led inquiry to examine the science vs the risks, bring this government to account for their malfeasance, and change the course of history. Because with the vast majority of career MP’s complicit in this agenda or lacking the vertebrae to oppose it, the burden of responsibility now rests squarely on the shoulders of the people. At this critical juncture, it is our civic duty to push back, resist, dissent, disobey. Let civil disobedience rip through this country, until it is returned to some semblance of normality. While we still have the notion of democracy to defend, we need to stand firm under its basic tenets. We must take off the mask, break the rules, organise and assemble in large groups and importantly, we need to protest and let our voices shudder throughout Westminster. If there is a silver lining to this historic debacle, now that the cannon smoke has settled on the battlefield, we can clearly see the snakes laid bare in the grass.

Reference link: https://hectordrummond.com/2020/11/09/dustin-broadberythe-controlled-demolition-of-society/

Martin Geddes: The Digital Coup and the Great Exposure

Posted on 11/30/2020 by EraOfLight  — Leave a reply

In the next few weeks, the awful truth about the recent US election and the attempted theft of the Presidency from the People will become impossible to ignore. The Director of NationalIntelligence is tasked with delivering his assessment of the integrity of the election within 45 days — the deadline being December 18th. Other lawsuits and events are progressing in the interim.

We are already witnessing the run-up to the disclosure of fraud and foreign interference prior to the December 14th electoral college vote. Fraud vitiates everything and annuls the Biden candidacy; foreign interference makes this a matter of military law. You are going to see a mass treason event and huge numbers of people brought to justice. This wasn’t really an election; it was a military intelligence sting operation against a corrupt establishment.

There are very objective reasons to believe that this election was NOT won legitimately by Joe Biden:

  • The candidate: Joe Biden had previously stood for the Presidency, found to be a liar about his past, and self-declared himself unfit for the role on national TV. Uncharismatic, with few notable achievements, and liable to fondle children in public — not qualities that endear you to the masses. Furthermore, he had a miasma of corruption around him linked to both China and Ukraine.
  • The party: The Democratic party had alienated large swathes of its traditional base through support for violent uprisings in cities it controlled (via BLM and Antifa), conducted with the tacit approval of its leaders. Failed attempts to unseat Donald Trump (“Russian Collusion” damp squib and Impeachment failure) had damaged its reputation for political competence.
  • The campaign: Donald Trump had repeatedly filled arenas and generated wild enthusiasm from his supporters with his rallies, whereas Joe Biden was notoriously unable to summon crowds. He essentially abandoned campaigning during the last ten days, and demonstrated very low levels of energy, and poor mental focus in his speeches.
  • The process: The Dominion voting machines were not under the control of Americans, and their own manuals and processes demonstrate extremely poor security and features to manually manipulate votes. The synchronised halting of counting in key states, and sudden “discovery” of huge numbers of Biden votes, is automatically a cause for alarm. More votes were counted than the machines could process in the time available.
  • The outcome: There are many staggering anomalies in the outcome — from the tiny number of counties won, the weird geographical distribution of cities won, the unprecedented size of the Biden vote (especially compared to Obama), Trump “losing” despite raising his vote, the implausible total support for Biden from military votes, the contradiction of the Presidency (Democratic) with the House vote (Republican seats all held).
  • The investigation: We are already seeing large numbers of affidavits sworn that testify to fraud, video evidence of ballots being mishandled and destroyed, large irregularities in following the lawful processes of the election, and obvious failures to pass basic statistical tests for legitimacy (like Benford’s Law).
  • The justice: President Trump has issued a specific executive order in anticipation of this election and the need to expose all the corruption in the civilian justice system, as well as the illegitimacy of many past elections in the USA and worldwide. All the clues are there for those with the eyes to see of a highly managed and planned process. This includes the expanded means for delivering the death penalty for treason.

The unavoidable picture that is emerging is one of a Digital Coup. The rogue intelligence agencies in the US and elsewhere had perfected a toolkit for “colour revolutions”. This included sophisticated election hacking, designed to deliver the desired result in a highly plausible manner. The Dominion voting solution was not for vote counting, but for election fraud — by design.

These tools were deployed against the US population in an illegal act of war. There is evidence of involvement by both China and Iran; other powers may also be exposed, including supposed allies, if the Russiagate precedent tells us anything. The enormous Trump landslide was outside of the range the fraud systems were configured for, which caused a panic insertion of fake paper ballots and extreme and obvious levels of digital “vote switching”.

° ° °

I get to watch various tech industry email discussion lists and WhatsApp groups. These are overwhelmingly dominated by Biden voters. They are currently in a bubble disconnected from the reality of events past and present. This bubble is about to burst. Many of their political idols will be executed for treason, or spend life in prison for sedition. There is wisdom in advice not to worship idols.

For my tech industry associates, you need to understand that the controlled mass media is gaslighting you, and deliberately pushing a desperate false narrative to cover for their own criminality. They say “no evidence of fraud” and “unsubstantiated” allegations, even as that hard evidence mounts up in court filings and open source intelligence analysis. There are districts with more votes than voters, yet you believe self-evident lies from your TV.

You have been hoodwinked by a system of social engineering that was covertly established, mainly after the 1963 de facto coup following the assassination of President Kennedy, and installation of a permanent criminal shadow government.

Today, Biden voters are celebrating his being the media’s “President elect” (hint: the media has no constitutional role in elections); the funding of his transition (hint: another sting operation); and Trump’s imminent departure from the White House (hint: he has planned this operation for decades and isn’t going anywhere). My former tech industry associates are utterly delusional in their beliefs.

There is absolutely no way that the US military would have spent years tangibly preparing us for this watershed event, including bringing Trump into the Presidency, only to allow assets of the Chinese Communist Party to (re)take control over the United States of America. It just isn’t happening. These celebrations will be short lived as the “boomerang” motion of the vast sting operation becomes unmistakable and unavoidable.

° ° °

If you voted for Joe Biden and are trying to make sense of dislocating events unfolding fast, here is where you have gone wrong.

Firstly, you have excluded from your inputs all rival voices and competing sources of information. You have immersed yourself in a narcissistic culture of self-congratulatory presumed superiority based on egotistical intellectual achievement. By the time you read this, you will be witnessing that belief system crashing and burning; pride smashed by the fall. You drove out the diversity that mattered, which was a diversity of opinion and social understanding. You were intolerant of dissent, and tolerant of censorship. This will remain a stain upon your conscience and reputation until you respect those who saw the criminality and spoke out.

Secondly, you have failed to understand the nature of propaganda, and how clever intellectual people are the MOST susceptible, not the LEAST. You NEED propaganda in order to have a socially acceptable position on each issue; nobody has time to become a climate scientist, vaccine safety expert, and forensic accountant and research every controversy. You have treated different media outlets as independent sources when in reality they are all one (false) voice. You are a victim of pervasive propaganda and even mind control.

Thirdly, you have abandoned objective rational empirical inquiry. You have assumed that (local social) consensus is rationality, and deviation from that consensus is madness — a cult even. You have ridiculed and mocked those who chose to look at the data — ALL THE DATA — and then make up their mind ONLY based on where it directed them, and not their preconception of what was thinkable or acceptable. This is the basis of proper science, and requires humility to recognise that progress is made by admitting errors and reversing false beliefs.

° ° °

I looked at ALL the data in this case, and changed my beliefs. You DID NOT, and stayed the same. This is why you have FAILED this test of sanity. Such failure needs to be confronted — because your false beliefs are dangerous to us all, since they perpetuate evil. The “short cut” the media (and academia) offered you was to a labyrinth of lies by assets of a criminal ruling class. You swallowed their lies willingly.

It was previously always easy to find a justification for your beliefs, another propaganda “talking point” to counter any data offered. A sneering and condescending attitude let you easily dismiss legitimate concerns as “extremist” or “conspiracy theories”. By the time you read this, that’s all finished. Gone. Over.

That you have been attacked by a ruthless transnational “supermafia” armed with weaponised psychology and a whole media industry is not your fault. That others had life experiences or innate character that brought them to question the “official narrative” more quickly is also not their personal virtue. You are not my enemy, and I am not yours. Our job is to come together, respectfully and responsibly, so that we may realign and heal.

For those who were deceived by the grand illusions on offer, you will find that those you laughed at will most likely welcome you back with open arms. The precondition is that you respect equality under the rule of law, and cease to put yourself on a pedestal where you are part of a superior social class entitled to judge others and look down upon them. It is time for you to be held to your stated values of kindness, tolerance, and inclusion.

For we all have a real war to fight against a real enemy who can do us real harm. A war of infiltration, founded on treachery, that has corroded and corrupted our society. A war against great deceptions that fuel endless violent conflict.

The Great Exposure has begun. It cannot be stopped by anybody. Lasting peace is our goal and prize.

Please unify with those who are already fighting for truth and justice.

You can sign up for Martin’s newsletter here.

Reference: https://eraoflight.com/2020/11/30/martin-geddes-the-digital-coup-and-the-great-exposure/

Exactly two years ago to the day new headlines were screaming out words to the effect, for example:  China facing full-blown banking crisis, world’s top financial watchdog warns. China is sinking ever deeper into debt, and risks a major banking crisis. via /r/economy

China has failed to curb excesses in its credit system and faces mounting risks of a full-blown banking crisis, according to early warning indicators released by the world’s top financial watchdog.

A key gauge of credit vulnerability is now three times over the danger threshold and has continued to deteriorate, despite pledges by Chinese premier Li Keqiang to wean the economy off debt-driven growth before it is too late.

The Bank for International Settlements warned in its quarterly report that China’s “credit to GDP gap” has reached 30.1, the highest to date and in a different league altogether from any other major country tracked by the institution.

It is also significantly higher than the…” etc. That was September 2016!

Fast-forward to September 2019 and … https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/economics/article/2181593/look-us-not-china-2019-financial-crisis-heres-why

After a panicked end to 2018 in the financial markets, and a jittery start to the new year, an increasing number of investors, analysts and economists are beginning to warn about “the crisis of 2019”, as often as not to be followed by “the recession of 2020”.

Part of the reason is simply the feeling that the world is overdue for another downturn.

A look at the economic history of recent decades shows that major financial crashes tend to come along every five to seven years. So, for example, there were the oil crises of the 1970s, the Latin American debt crisis of 1982, the Black Monday stock market crash of 1987, the Tequila Crisis of 1994, the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, the dotcom bust of 2000 and the worldwide recession that followed, the credit crunch and global financial crisis of 2007-08, and the European debt crisis that peaked in 2012…” And don’t forget about Deutsche Bank

#Bond #Markets: Dealers’ need for #financing to hold their #Treasuries inventory has contributed to the intermittent #spikes in #repo #rates. Guessing #Deutsche #Bank‘s €43.5 trillion notional #derivatives #bonds exposure is becoming a #default #contagion across multiple banks. 

Reference link: https://911planeshoax.com/2014/01/11/proof-that-no-real-planes-were-used-on-911/

Source: THE PROOF THAT NO REAL PLANES WERE USED ON 9/11

 

The original articles of this compilation are sourced from The Saker

“Americans should know by now that their country’s wars are fertile ground for biased, one-sided, xenophobic, fake news and the United States has been in a permanent state of war since 1941.”

Part 1 – American Imperialism Leads the World into Dante’s Vision of Hell

Posted on Apr 24, 2017 by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould

 

Dante's Divine Comedy

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate. (Abandon all hope ye who enter here.)” — Dante, “The Divine Comedy,” Inferno (Part 1), Canto 3, Line 9

Part 2 – How Neocons Push for War by Cooking the Books

Posted on Apr 24, 2017 by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould

An 1898 cartoon opinion for war by Leon Barritt

An 1898 cartoon features newspaper publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst dressed as a cartoon character of the day, a satire of their papers’ role in drumming up U.S. public opinion for war by Leon Barritt (Wikimedia))

Part 3 – How the CIA Created a Fake Western Reality for ‘Unconventional Warfare’

Posted on Apr 26, 2017 by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould

The Evil Spirits of the Modern Day Press

“The Evil Spirits of the Modern Day Press”. Puck US magazine 1888 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Puck112188c.jpg ) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Part 4 – The Final Stage of the Machiavellian Elites’ Takeover of America

Posted on Apr 27, 2017 by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould

1550 edition of Machiavelli’s Il Principe and La Vita di Castruccio Castracani da Lucca

Cover of the 1550 edition of Machiavelli’s Il Principe and La Vita di Castruccio Castracani da Lucca. public domain wiki commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Machiavelli_Principe_Cover_Page.jpg

Collectively republished on 10th May 2017: http://thesaker.is/the-history-of-the-neocon-takeover-of-the-usa-a-4-part-analysis/

War is a frivolous waste of resources spurred on by frivolous greedy mongers…

Photo by Stefan Krasowski | CC BY 2.0

We are fighting in Korea so we won’t have to fight in Wichita, or in Chicago, or in New Orleans, or in San Francisco Bay.

— President Harry S Truman, 1952

Why has this tiny nation of 24 million people invested so much of its limited resources in acquiring nuclear weapons? North Korea is universally condemned as a bizarre and failed state, its nuclear posture denounced as irrational.

Yet North Korea’s stance cannot be separated out from its turbulent history during the 20th Century, especially its four decade long occupation by Japan, the forced division of the Korean peninsula after World War II, and, of course, the subsequent utterly devastating war with the United States from 1950-1953 that ended in an armistice in which a technical state of war still exists.

Korea is an ancient nation and culture, achieving national unity in 608 CE, and despite its near envelopment by gigantic China it has retained its own unique language and traditions throughout its recorded history. National independence came to an end in 1910 after five years of war when Japan, taking advantage of Chinese weakness, invaded and occupied Korea using impressed labor for the industries Japan created for the benefit of its own economy. As always the case for colonization the Japanese easily found collaborators among the Korean elite Koreans to manage their first colony.

Naturally a nationalist resistance movement emerged rapidly and, given the history of the early 20th Century, it was not long before communists began to play a significant role in Korea’s effort to regain its independence. The primary form of resistance came in the form of “peoples’ committees” which became deeply rooted throughout the entire peninsula, pointedly in the south as well. It was from these deeply political and nationalistic village and city committees that guerrilla groups engaged the Japanese throughout WWII. The parallels with similar organizations in Vietnam against the Japanese, and later against the French and Americans, are obvious. Another analogous similarity is that Franklin Roosevelt also wanted a Great Power trusteeship for Korea, as for Vietnam. Needless to say both Britain and France objected to this plan.

When Russia entered the war against Japanese in August of 1945 the end of Japanese rule was at hand regardless of the atomic bomb. As events turned out Japan surrendered on 15 August when Soviet troops had occupied much of the northern peninsula. It should be noted that American forces played no role in the liberation of Korea from Japanese rule. However, because the Soviets, as allies of the U.S., wished to remain on friendly terms they agreed to the division of Korea between Soviet and American forces. The young Dean Rusk, later to become Secretary of State under Kennedy and Johnson, arbitrarily drew a line of division across the 38th Parallel because, as he said, that would leave the capital city, Seoul, in the American zone.

Written reports at the time criticized Washington for “allowing” the Red Army into Korea but the fact was it was the other way around. The Soviets could easily have occupied the entirety of Korea but chose not to do so, instead opting for a negotiated settlement with the U.S. over the future of Korea. Theoretically the peninsula would be reunited after some agreement between the two victors at some future date.

However, the U.S. immediately began to favor those Koreans who had collaborated with the Japanese in the exploitation of their own country and its people, largely the landed elites, and Washington began to arm the provisional government it set up to root out the peoples’ committees. For their part the Soviets supported the communist nationalist leader, Kim Il-Sung who had led the guerrilla army against Japan at great cost in lives.

In 1947 the United Nations authorized elections in Korea, but the election monitors were all American allies so the Soviets and communist Koreans refused to participate. By then the Cold War was in full swing, the critical alliance between Washington and Moscow that had defeated Nazi Germany had already been sundered. As would later also occur in Vietnam in 1956, the U.S. oversaw elections only in the south of Korea and only those candidates approved by Washington. Syngman Rhee became South Korea’s first president protected by the new American armed and trained Army of the Republic of Korea. This ROK was commanded by officers who had served the Japanese occupation including one who had been decorated by Emperor Hirohito himself and who had tried to track down and kill Kim Il Sung for the Japanese.

With Korea thus seemingly divided permanently both Russian and American troops withdrew in 1948 though they left “advisers” behind. On both sides of the new artificial border pressures mounted for a forcible reunification. The fact remained that much of rural southern Korea was still loyal to the peoples committees. This did not necessarily mean that they were committed communists but they were virulent nationalists who recognized the role that Kim’s forces had played against the Japanese. Rhee’s forces then began to systematically root out Kim’s supporters. Meanwhile the American advisers had constantly to keep Rhee’s forces from crossing the border to invade the north.

In 1948 guerrilla war broke out against the Rhee regime on the southern island of Cheju, the population of which ultimately rose in wholesale revolt. The suppression of the rebellion was guided by many American agents soon to become part of the Central Intelligence Agency and by military advisers. Eventually the entire population was removed to the coast and kept in guarded compounds and between 20,000 and 30,000 villagers died. Simultaneously elements of the ROK army refused to participate in this war against their own people and this mutiny was brutally suppressed by those ROK soldiers who would obey such orders. Over one thousand of the mutineers escaped to join Kim’s guerrillas in the mountains.

Though Washington claimed that these rebellions were fomented by the communists no evidence surfaced that the Soviets provided anything other than moral support. Most of the rebels captured or killed had Japanese or American weapons.

In North Korea the political system had evolved in response to decades of foreign occupation and war. Though it was always assumed to be a Soviet satellite, North Korea more nearly bears comparison to Tito’s Yugoslavia. The North Koreans were always able to balance the tensions between the Soviets and the Chinese to their own advantage. During the period when the Comintern exercised most influence over national communist parties not a single Korean communist served in any capacity and the number of Soviet advisers in the north was never high.

Nineteen forty-nine marked a watershed year. The Chinese Communist Revolution, the Soviet Atomic Bomb, the massive reorganization of the National Security State in the U.S. all occurred that year. In 1950 Washington issued its famous National Security Paper-68 (NSC-68) which outlined the agenda for a global anti-communist campaign, requiring the tripling of the American defense budget. Congress balked at this all-encompassing blueprint when in the deathless words of Secretary of State Dean Acheson “Thank God! Korea came along.” Only months before Acheson had made a speech in which he pointedly omitted Korea from America’s “Defense perimeter.”

The Korean War seemed to vindicate everything written and said about the” international communist conspiracy. In popular myth on June 25, 1950 the North Korean Army suddenly attacked without warning, overwhelming surprised ROK defenders. In fact the entire 38th Parallel had been progressively militarized and there had been numerous cross border incursions by both sides going back to 1949. On numerous occasions Syngman Rhee had to be restrained by American advisers from invading the north. The Korean civil war was all but inevitable. Given postwar American plans for access globally to resources, markets and cheaper labor power any form of national liberation, communist or liberal democratic, was to be opposed. Acheson and his second, Dean Rusk, told President Truman that “we must draw the line here!” Truman decided to request authorization for American intervention from the United Nations and bypassed Congress thereby leading to widespread opposition and, later, a return to Republican rule under Dwight Eisenhower..

Among the remaining mysteries of the UN decision to undertake the American led military effort to reject North Korea from the south was the USSR’s failure to make use of its veto in the Security Council. The Soviet ambassador was ostensibly boycotting the meetings in protest of the UN’s refusal to seat the Chinese communists as China’s official delegation. According to Bruce Cumings though, evidence exists that Stalin ordered the Soviet ambassador to abstain. Why? The UN resolution authorizing war could have been prevented. At that moment the Sino-Soviet split was already in evidence and Stalin may have wished to weaken China, something which actually happened as a result of that nation’s subsequent entry into the war. Or he may have wished that cloaking the UN mission under the U.S. flag would have revealed the UN to be largely under the control of the United States, which indeed it was. What is known is that Stalin refused to allow Soviet combat troops and reduced shipments of arms to Kim’s forces. Later, however Soviet pilots would engage Americans in the air. The Chinese were quick to condemn the UN action as “American imperialism” and warned of dire consequences if China itself were threatened.

The war went badly at first for the U.S. despite numerical advantages in forces. Rout after rout followed with the ROK in full retreat. Meanwhile tens of thousands of southern guerrillas who had originated in peoples’ committees fought the Americans and the ROK. At one point the North Koreans were in control of Seoul and seemed about to drive American forces into the sea. At that point the commander- in-chief of all UN forces, General Douglas MacArthur,  announced that he saw unique opportunities for the deployment of atomic weapons. This call was taken up by many in Congress.

Truman was loathe to introduce nukes and instead authorized MacArthur to conduct the famous landings at Inchon in September 1950 with few losses by the Marine Corps vaunted 1st Division. This threw North Korean troops into disarray and MacArthur began pushing them back across the 38th Parallel, the mandate imposed by the UN resolution. But the State Department claimed that the border was not recognized under international law and therefore the UN mandate had no real legal bearing. It was this that MacArthur claimed gave him the right to take the war into the north. Though the North Koreans had suffered a resounding defeat in the south, they withdrew into northern mountain redoubts forcing the American forces that followed them into bloody and costly combat, led Americans into a trap.

The Chinese had said from the beginning that any approach of foreign troops toward their border would result in “dire consequences.” Fearing an invasion of Manchuria to crush the nascent communist revolution the Chinese foreign minister, Zhou En-Lai declared that China “will not supinely tolerate seeing their neighbors invaded by the imperialists.” MacArthur sneered at this warning. “… They have no airforce…if the Chinese tried to get down to Pyongyang there would be a great slaughter…we are the best.” He then ordered airstrikes to lay waste thousands of square miles of northern Korea bordering China and ordered infantry divisions ever closer to its border.

It was the terrible devastation of this bombing campaign, worse than anything seen during World War II short of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that to this day dominates North Korea’s relations with the United States and drives its determination never to submit to any American diktat.

General Curtis Lemay directed this onslaught. It was he who had firebombed Tokyo in March 1945 saying it was “about time we stopped swatting at flies and gone after the manure pile.” It was he who later said that the US “ought to bomb North Vietnam back into the stone age.” Remarking about his desire to lay waste to North Korea he said “We burned down every town in North Korea and South Korea too.” Lemay was by no means exaggerating.

On November 27, 1950 hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops suddenly crossed the border into North Korea completely overwhelming US forces. Acheson said this was the “worst defeat of American forces since Bull Run.” One famous incident was the battle at the Chosin Reservoir, where 50,000 US marines were surrounded. As they escaped their enclosure they  said they were “advancing to the rear” but in fact all American forces were being routed.

Panic took hold in Washington. Truman now said use of A-bombs was under “active consideration.” MacArthur demanded the bombs… As he put it in his memoirs:

I would have dropped between thirty and fifty atomic bombs…strung across the neck of Manchuria…and spread behind us – from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea- a belt of radioactive cobalt. It has an active life of between 60 and 120 years.

Cobalt it should be noted is at least 100 times more radioactive than uranium.

He also expressed a desire for chemicals and gas.

It is well known that MacArthur was fired for insubordination for publically announcing his desire to use nukes. Actually, Truman himself put the nukes at ready and threatened to use them if China launched air raids against American forces. But he did not want to put them under MacArthur’s command because he feared MacArthur would conduct a preemptive strike against China anyway.

By June 1951, one year after the beginning of the war, the communists had pushed UN forces back across the 38th parallel. Chinese ground forces might have been able to push the entire UN force off the peninsula entirely but that would not have negated US naval and air forces, and would have probably resulted in nuclear strikes against the Chinese mainland and that brought the real risk of Soviet entry and all out nuclear exchanges. So from this point on the war became one of attrition, much like the trench warfare of World War I. casualties continued to be high on both sides for the duration of the war which lasted until 1953 when an armistice without reunification was signed.

Of course the victims suffering worst were the civilians. In 1951 the U.S. initiated “Operation Strangle” which officialls estimated killed at least 3 million people on both sides of the 38th parallel, but the figure is probably closer to 4 million. We do not know how many Chinese died – either solders or civilians killed in cross border bombings.

The question of whether the U.S. carried out germ warfare has been raised but has never been fully proved or disproved. The North accused the U.S. of dropping bombs laden with cholera, anthrax, plague, and encephalitis and hemorrhagic fever, all of which turned up among soldiers and civilians in the north. Some American prisoners of war confessed to such war crimes but these were dismissed as evidence of torture by North Korea on Americans. However, none of the U.S. POWs who did confess and were later repatriated were allowed to meet the press. A number of investigations were carried out by scientists from friendly western countries. One of the most prominent concluded the charges were true. At this time the US was engaged in top secret germ-warfare research with captured Nazi and Japanese germ warfare experts, and also experimenting with Sarin, despite its ban by the Geneva Convention. Washington accused the communists of introducing germ warfare.

Napalm was used extensively, completely and utterly destroying the northern capital of Pyongyang. By 1953 American pilots were returning to carriers and bases claiming there were no longer any significant targets in all of North Korea to bomb. In fact a very large percentage of the northern population was by then living in tunnels dug by hand underground. A British journalist wrote that the northern population was living “a troglodyte existence.”In the Spring of 1953 US warplanes hit five of the largest dams along the Yalu river completely inundating and killing Pyongyang’s harvest of rice. Air Force documents reveal calculated premeditation saying that “Attacks in May will be most effective psychologically because it was the end of the rice-transplanting season before the roots could become completely embedded.” Flash floods scooped out hundreds of square miles of vital food producing valleys and killed untold numbers of farmers.

At Nuremberg after WWII, Nazi officers who carried out similar attacks on the dikes of Holland, creating a mass famine in 1944, were tried as criminals and some were executed for their crimes.

So after a horrific war Korea returned to the status quo ante bellum in terms of political boundaries but it was completely devastated, especially the north.

I submit that it is the collective memory of all of what I’ve described that animates North Korea’s policies toward the US today which has nuclear weapons on constant alert and stations almost 30,000 forces at the ready. Remember, a state of war still exists and has since 1953.

While South Korea received heavy American investment in the industries fleeing the United States in search of cheaper labor and new markets it was nevertheless ruled until quite recently by military dictatorships scarcely different than those of the north. For its part the north constructed its economy along five-year plans and collectivized its agriculture. While it never enjoyed the sort of consumer society that now characterizes some of South Korea, its GDP grew substantially until the collapse of communism globally brought about the withdrawal of all foreign aid to north Korea.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, as some American policymakers took note of the north’s growing weakness  Secretary  of Defense Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz talked openly of using force finally to settle the question of Korean reunification and the claimed threat to international peace posed by North Korea.

In 1993 the Clinton Administration discovered that North Korea was constructing a nuclear processing plant and also developing medium range missiles. The Pentagon desired to destroy these facilities but that would mean wholesale war so the administration fostered an agreement whereby North Korea would stand down in return for the provision of oil and other economic aid. When in 2001, after the events of 9-11, the Bush II neo-conservatives militarized policy and declared North Korea to be an element of the “axis of evil.” All bets were now off. In that context North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, reasoning that nuclear weapons were the only way possible to prevent a full scale attack by the US in the future. Given a stark choice between another war with the US and all that would entail this decision seems hardly surprising. Under no circumstances could any westerner reasonably expect, after all the history I’ve described, that the North Korean regime would simply submit to any ultimatums by the US, by far the worst enemy Korea ever had measured by the damage inflicted on the entirety of the Korean peninsula.

(Acknowledgement to Bruce Cumings and I.F. Stone)

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What's Left

April 30, 2017

By Stephen Gowans

A day before my book Washington’s Long War on Syria was sent to the press, I read a short essay by a notable Canadian, Norman Bethune. The essay was titled Wounds. Bethune was a skilled and innovative surgeon who was at the forefront of the fight for public health care in Canada. But he’s mainly known for participating in two wars in the late 1930s: The Spanish Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War. In the Second Sino-Japanese War Bethune joined Mao’s forces as a frontline surgeon in the resistance against Japanese efforts to colonize China.

In an April 27, 2017 Telesur interview, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad argued that US presidents “merely implement” policies formulated by US “financial institutions,” “big arms and oil companies,” as well as “the intelligence agencies” and “the Pentagon.” It was in China that Bethune wrote his essay, a…

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Trump's Fog of WarA blank expression, try, pod, raise a canvas, ink blot, coin, phrase, draw some lines… then cross them, cover them up, add a few more chemicals and what emerges? Is it History, Art or the Art of War History?

World News - US Missile Attack on Syria - Reuters handout

Russia, Iran Warn U.S. They Will “Respond With Force” If Syria “Red Lines” Crossed Again

Competing Gas Pipelines Are Fueling The Syrian War & Migrant Crisis

Don’t let anyone fool you: As we have detailed since 2013, sectarian strife in Syria has been engineered to provide cover for a war for access to oil and gas, and the power and money that come along with it.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect recent Wikileaks revelations of US State Department leaks that show plans to destabilize Syria and overthrow the Syrian government as early as 2006.  The leaks reveal that these plans were given to the US directly from the Israeli government and would be formalized through instigating civil strife and sectarianism through partnership with nations like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and even Egypt to break down the power structue in Syria to essentially to weaken Iran and Hezbolla. The leaks also reveal Israeli plans to use this crisis to expand it’s occupation of the Golan Heights for additional oil exploration and military expansion.

Images of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy who washed up dead on Mediterranean shores in his family’s attempt to flee war-torn Syria, have grabbed the attention of people around the world, sparking outrage about the true costs of war.

The heart-wrenching refugee crisis unfolding across the Middle East and at European borders has ignited a much needed conversation on the ongoing strife and instability that’s driving people from their homes in countries like Syria, Libya and Iraq. It’s brought international attention to the inhumane treatment these refugees are receiving if — and it is a major “if” — they arrive at Europe’s door.

In Syria, for example, foreign powers have sunk the nation into a nightmare combination of civil war, foreign invasion and terrorism. Syrians are in the impossible position of having to choose between living in a warzone, being targeted by groups like ISIS and the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown, or faring dangerous waters with minimal safety equipment only to be denied food, water and safety by European governments if they reach shore.

Other Syrians fleeing the chaos at home have turned to neighboring Arab Muslim countries. Jordan alone has absorbed over half a million Syrian refugees; Lebanon has accepted nearly 1.5 million; and Iraq and Egypt have taken in several hundred thousand.

Although it’s not an Arab nation or even part of the Middle East, Iran sent 150 tons of humanitarian goods, including 3,000 tents and 10,000 blankets, to the Red Crescents of Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon via land routes to be distributed among the Syrian refugees residing in the three countries last year.

Turkey has taken in nearly 2 million refugees to date. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan made international headlines for opening his nation’s arms to migrants, positioning himself as a kind of savior in the process.

A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi after he drowned when the boat he and his family members were in capsized near the Turkish resort of Bodrum early Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. (Photo: Nilüfer Demir/DHA)

Meanwhile, Gulf Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have provided refuge to zero Syrian refugees.

While there’s certainly a conversation taking place about refugees — who they are, where they’re going, who’s helping them, and who isn’t — what’s absent is a discussion on how to prevent these wars from starting in the first place. Media outlets and political talking heads have found many opportunities to point fingers in the blame game, but not one media organization has accurately broken down what’s driving the chaos: control over gas, oil and resources.

Indeed, it’s worth asking: How did demonstrations held by “hundreds” of protesters demanding economic change in Syria four years ago devolve into a deadly sectarian civil war, fanning the flames of extremism haunting the world today and creating the world’s second largest refugee crisis?

While the media points its finger to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s barrel bombs and political analysts call for more airstrikes against ISIS and harsher sanctions against Syria, we’re four years into the crisis and most people have no idea how this war even got started.

This “civil war” is not about religion

Citing a lack of access on the ground, the United Nations stopped regularly updating its numbers of casualties in the Syrian civil war in January 2014. Estimates put the death toll between 140,200 and 330,380, with as many as 6 million Syrians displaced, according to the U.N.

While there is no question that the Syrian government is responsible for many of the casualties resulting from its brutal crackdown, this is not just a Syrian problem.

Foreign meddling in Syria began several years before the Syrian revolt erupted.  Wikieaks released leaked US State Department cables from 2006 revealing US plans to overthrow the Syrian government through instigating civil strife, and receiving these very orders straight from Tel Aviv.  The leaks reveal the United State’s partnership with nations like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and even Egypt to use sectarianism to divide Syria through the Sunni and Shiite divide to destabilize the nation to weaken Iran and Hezbolla.  Israel is also revealed to attempt to use this crisis to expand it’s occupation of the Golan Heights for additional oil exploration.

According to major media outlets like the BBC and the Associated Press, the demonstrations that supposedly swept Syria were comprised of only hundreds of people, but additional Wikileaks cables reveal CIA involvement on the ground in Syria to instigate these very demonstrations as early as March 2011.

FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 file photo, Syrians hold a large poster depicting Syria's President Bashar Assad during a rally in Damascus, Syria. Some activists expressed regret that one year later their

Just a few months into the demonstrations which now consisted of hundreds of armed protesters with CIA ties, demonstrations grew larger, armed non-Syrian rebel groups swarmed into Syria, and a severe government crackdown swept through the country to deter this foreign meddling. It became evident that the United States, United Kingdom, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey would be jumping on the opportunity to organize, arm and finance rebels to form the Free Syrian Army as outlined in the State Department plans to destabilize Syria. (Just a few months ago, WikiLeaks confirmed this when it released Saudi intelligence that revealed Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia had been working hand in hand to arm and finance rebels to overthrow the Syrian government since 2012.)

These foreign nations created a pact in 2012 called “The Group of Friends of the Syrian People,” a name that couldn’t be further from the truth. Their agenda was to divide and conquer in order to wreak havoc across Syria in view of overthrowing Syrian President Bashar Assad.

A Free Syrian Army soldier carries his weapon at the northern town of Sarmada, in Idlib province, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012. (AP Photo)

The true agenda to hijack Syria’s revolt quickly became evident, with talking heads inserting Syria’s alliance with Iran as a threat to the security and interests of the United States and its allies in the region. It’s no secret that Syria’s government is a major arms, oil and gas, and weapons ally of Iran and Lebanon’s resistance political group Hezbollah.

But it’s important to note the timing: This coalition and meddling in Syria came about immediately on the heels of discussions of an Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline that was to be built between 2014 and 2016 from Iran’s giant South Pars field through Iraq and Syria. With a possible extension to Lebanon, it would eventually reach Europe, the target export market.

Perhaps the most accurate description of the current crisis over gas, oil and pipelines that is raging in Syria has been described by Dmitry Minin, writing for the Strategic Cultural Foundation in May 2013:

“A battle is raging over whether pipelines will go toward Europe from east to west, from Iran and Iraq to the Mediterranean coast of Syria, or take a more northbound route from Qatar and Saudi Arabia via Syria and Turkey. Having realized that the stalled Nabucco pipeline, and indeed the entire Southern Corridor, are backed up only by Azerbaijan’s reserves and can never equal Russian supplies to Europe or thwart the construction of the South Stream, the West is in a hurry to replace them with resources from the Persian Gulf. Syria ends up being a key link in this chain, and it leans in favor of Iran and Russia; thus it was decided in the Western capitals that its regime needs to change.

It’s the oil, gas and pipelines, stupid!

Indeed, tensions were building between Russia, the U.S. and the European Union amid concerns that the European gas market would be held hostage to Russian gas giant Gazprom. The proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline would be essential to diversifying Europe’s energy supplies away from Russia.

Turkey is Gazprom’s second-largest customer. The entire Turkish energy security structure relies on gas from Russia and Iran. Plus, Turkey was harboring Ottoman-like ambitions of becoming a strategic crossroads for the export of Russian, Caspian-Central Asian, Iraqi and Iranian oil and even gas to Europe.

The Guardian reported in August 2013:

“Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar and Turkey that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale was ‘to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.’”

Note the purple line which traces the proposed Qatar-Turkey natural gas pipeline and note that all of the countries highlighted in red are part of a new coalition hastily put together after Turkey finally (in exchange for NATO’s acquiescence on Erdogan’s politically-motivated war with the PKK) agreed to allow the US to fly combat missions against ISIS targets from Incirlik. Now note which country along the purple line is not highlighted in red. That’s because Bashar al-Assad didn’t support the pipeline and now we’re seeing what happens when you’re a Mid-East strongman and you decide not to support something the US and Saudi Arabia want to get done.

Knowing Syria was a critical piece in its energy strategy, Turkey attempted to persuade Syrian President Bashar Assad to reform this Iranian pipeline and to work with the proposed Qatar-Turkey pipeline, which would ultimately satisfy Turkey and the Gulf Arab nations’ quest for dominance over gas supplies. But after Assad refused Turkey’s proposal, Turkey and its allies became the major architects of Syria’s “civil war.”

Much of the strategy currently at play was described back in a 2008 U.S. Army-funded RAND report, “Unfolding the Future of the Long War”:

“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized. … For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources. … The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”

In this context, the report identifies the divide and conquer strategy while exploiting the Sunni-Shiite divide to protect Gulf oil and gas supplies while maintaining a Gulf Arab state dominance over oil markets.

“Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces. … the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace. … U.S. leaders could also choose to capitalize on the ‘Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict’ trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world…. possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”

The report notes that another option would be “to take sides in the conflict, possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”

This framework crafted an interesting axis: Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S., Britain and France vs. Syria, Iran and Russia.

Divide and conquer: A path to regime change

With the U.S., France, Britain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — aka, the new “Friends of Syria” coalition — publicly calling for the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar Assad between  2011 and 2012 after Assad’s refusal to sign onto the gas pipeline, the funds and arms flowing into Syria to feed the so-called “moderate” rebels were pushing Syria into a humanitarian crisis. Rebel groups were being organized left and right, many of which featured foreign fighters and many of which had allied with al-Qaida.

Saudi Arabia's permanent representative to the League of Arab States Ahmad al-Qattan, center, attends the Arab League summit in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, March, 29, 2012. The annual Arab summit meeting opened in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Thursday with only 10 of the leaders of the 22-member Arab League in attendance and amid a growing rift between Arab countries over how far they should go to end the one-year conflict in Syria. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

The Syrian government responded with a heavy hand, targeting rebel held areas and killing civilians in the process.

Since Syria is religiously diverse, the so-called “Friends of Syria” pushed sectarianism as their official “divide and conquer” strategy to oust Assad. Claiming that Alawites ruled over a majority Sunni nation, the call by the “moderate” U.S.-backed rebels became one about Sunni liberation.

Although the war is being sold to the public as a Sunni-Shiite conflict, so-called Sunni groups like ISIS,  the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (the Nusra Front) and even the “moderate” Free Syrian Army have indiscriminately targeted Syria’s Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Jews. At the same time, these same foreign nations supported and even armed the Bahraini government, which claims to be Sunni, in its violent crackdown on the majority Shiite pro-democracy demonstrations that swept the nation.

The Syrian government army itself is over 80 percent Sunni, which indicates that the true agenda has been politically — not religiously — motivated.

In addition to this, the Assad family is Alawite, an Islamic sect that the media has clumped in with Shiites, though most Shiites would agree that the two are unrelated. Further, the Assad family is described as secular and running a secular nation. Counting Alawites as Shiites was simply another way to push a sectarian framework for the conflict: It allowed for the premise that the Syria-Iran alliance was based on religion, when, in fact, it was an economic relationship.

This framework carefully crafted the Syrian conflict as a Sunni revolution to liberate itself from Shiite influence that Iran was supposedly spreading to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

But the truth is, Syria’s Sunni community is divided, and many defected to join groups like the Free Syrian Army, ISIS and al-Qaida. And as mentioned earlier, over 80 percent of Assad’s military is Sunni.

As early as 2012, additional rebels armed and financed by Arab Gulf nations and Turkey like al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood, declared all-out war against Shiites. They even threatened to attack Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iraq’s government after they had overthrown the Assad government.

Soon after, the majority of the Muslim Brotherhood rebels became part of al-Qaida-affiliated groups. Together, they announced that they would destroy all shrines — not just those ones which hold particular importance to Shiites.

Hezbollah entered the scene in 2012 and allied itself with the Syrian government to fight al-Nusra and ISIS, which were officially being armed and financed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. And all the arms were actively being sold to these nations by the United States. Thus, US arms were falling into the hands of the same terror group the US claims to be fighting in its broader War on Terror.

Hezbollah fighters carry the coffin of Hezbollah member Mohammad Issa who was killed in an airstrike that killed six members of the Lebanese militant group and an Iranian general in Syria, during his funeral procession, in the southern village of Arab Salim, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Hezbollah has accused Israel of carrying out Sunday's airstrike, which occurred on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Issa was the highest-ranking among the group, and was among the senior cadres who headed the group's operations in Syria against the Sunni-led rebellion. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

According to reports, Hezbollah was and has been been active in preventing rebel penetration from Syria to Lebanon, being one of the most active forces in the Syrian civil war spillover in Lebanon. Despite this, the U.S. sanctioned both the Syrian government and Hezbollah in 2012.

Also that year, Russia and Iran sent military advisers to assist the Syrian government in quelling the terror groups, but Iranian troops were not on the ground fighting during this time.

What was once a secular, diverse and peaceful nation, was looking more like it was on its way to becoming the next Afghanistan; its people living under Taliban-style rule as jihadists took over more land and conquered more cities.

Effects of foreign meddling outweigh self-determination

If you think that was hard to follow, you’re certainly not alone.

Most sectarian civil wars are purposely crafted to pit sides against one another to allow for a “divide and conquer” approach that breaks larger concentrations of power into smaller factions that have more difficulty linking up. It’s a colonial doctrine that the British Empire famously used, and what we see taking place in Syria is no different.

So, let’s get one thing straight: This is not about religion. It might be convenient to say that Arabs or Muslims kill each other, and it’s easy to frame these conflicts as sectarian to paint the region and its people as barbaric. But this Orientalist, overly simplistic view of conflict in the Middle East dehumanizes the victims of these wars to justify direct and indirect military action.

If the truth was presented to the public from the perspective that these wars are about economic interests, most people would not support any covert funding and arming of rebels or direct intervention. In fact, the majority of the public would protest against war. But when something is presented to the public as a matter of good versus evil, we are naturally inclined to side with the “good” and justify war to fight off the supposed “evil.”

The political rhetoric has been carefully crafted to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable. Ultimately, no matter the agendas, the alliances or instability brought on by foreign meddling, the calls for freedom, democracy and equality that erupted in 2011 were real then and they’re real today. And let’s not forget that the lack of freedom, democracy and equality have been brought on more by foreign meddling to prop up brutal dictators and arm terror groups than by self-determination.

Migrant men help a fellow migrant man holding a boy as they are stuck between Macedonian riot police officers and migrants during a clash near the border train station of Idomeni, northern Greece, as they wait to be allowed by the Macedonian police to cross the border from Greece to Macedonia, Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. Macedonian special police forces have fired stun grenades to disperse thousands of migrants stuck on a no-man's land with Greece, a day after Macedonia declared a state of emergency on its borders to deal with a massive influx of migrants heading north to Europe. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

The people in the Middle East once stood united and strong together against foreign meddling, exploitation and colonialism no matter their religious or cultural background. But today, the Middle East is being torn to shreds by manipulative plans to gain oil and gas access by pitting people against one another based on religion. The ensuing chaos provides ample cover to install a new regime that’s more amenable to opening up oil pipelines and ensuring favorable routes for the highest bidders.

And in this push for energy, it’s the people who suffer most. In Syria, they are fleeing en masse. They’re waking up, putting sneakers on their little boys and girls, and hopping on boats without life jackets, hoping just to make it to another shore. They’re risking their lives, knowing full well that they may never reach that other shore, because the hope of somewhere else is better than the reality at home.

Producers work on projects that vary in size and scope. Great Films are made with great crews, equipment and tools to make great films, and one of my all time favourites is Goodfellas, a classic Hollywood film directed by and using a screenplay written by Martin Scorsese.

For many years I’ve been using Final Draft and Entertainment Partners software, which I rely on constantly and emphatically. Only recently, when discussing a project with an Indian producer was my attention drawn to Celtx, which comes with a whole lot of interesting stuff these days, including their celtxblog. It’s an interesting read with valuable insights, such as the article INTRODUCING INSIGHTS: 7 FAMOUS SCREENPLAYS BY THE NUMBERS written by Stephen Stanford.

Presently, I’m working on a number of feature film projects of varying size and scope, and the team members are spread across the globe. Assessment and due diligence takes time; there’s an old saying that goes something like “what you don’t do properly in development, you have to pay for during pre-production, and what you don’t do properly in pre-production, you have to pay for in production, and what you don’t do properly in production, you have to pay for in post-production.” and everything costs time + money.
Project Assessment Process
Planning is vitally important, and it is with respect that this wonderfully written blog article by Stephen Stanford is reproduced in this blog.
celtxblog logo 2

PRODUCTION PRIMER: THE TRACKING SHOT

written by Stephen Stanford May 19, 2016
The tracking shot with Steadicam
No matter what kind of content you’re producing, there are cinematic hallmarks that everybody wants to see. Our new Production Primer series will cover the fundamentals of these techniques and show you what your team needs to consider when writing, planning, and shooting them.

The tracking shot or “oner” is perhaps the most iconic and captivating of all cinematic techniques. Generally speaking, it refers graceful, uninterrupted single-take shots where the camera follows the subject throughout either an extended portion or the entirety of a scene. Tracking shots are a showcase opportunity for the entire production team to demonstrate their technical expertise, but come with a price: they require extensive planning and rehearsal to execute properly. If all goes according to plan, however, the effect is mesmerizing (and you’ve successfully added a cinematic flourish to your project that captures the imagination and sticks to the memory). If you’re thinking about attempting a tracking shot in your next project, here are a few things to consider for each phase of production.

WRITING

One of the most celebrated tracking shots of all time is the famous Copacabana Sequence from Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. The dazzling, impeccably staged journey of Henry Hill and his date from across the street, down the stairs, winding through the service corridors and kitchen, and finally out onto the floor of the iconic nightclub became an instant classic of American cinema. Every cue is fits together so flawlessly that it’s easy for one to assume that the some serious technical rigor was applied during the writing process. Surprisingly, this doesn’t appear to be the case. Here’s how the Copacabana Sequence appeared on the page in a revised draft of Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese’s 1989 script. Compare it to the end result.

Click to Enlarge

As you can see, on paper this sequence is written like an unformatted montage. Virtually all of the asides and interactions that Henry has during his entrance are conspicuously absent, as are any specific shots or camera directions. According to Director of Photography Michael Ballhaus, Scorsese had fleshed out the entire sequence in his head, and the entire thing was blocked, rehearsed, and shot in less than a day. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t Martin Scorsese.

The more preparation and thought you put into the writing of the big scene, the greater footing your director and camera department will have when your team arrives at the planning phase. The Copacabana excerpt is a great example of how you should start: the telegraphic action suggests uninterrupted movement and the physical geography of the scene is explicated without being too specific. Moreover, the truncated and condensed formatting prevents the sequence from disrupting the flow of the script. If it were written exactly as it was shot, the sequence would have taken up multiple pages as opposed to roughly one half. In Celtx, however, there’s a novel solution that allows you to have it both ways.

If there’s a scene in your script that you think would make for the perfect tracking shot, Celtx allows you to develop it in detail outside of the script but within the same project. By adding an additional A/V Script to your project specifically for your tracking shot, you can create an in-depth, tailored shooting script describing every action point in your sequence. It also has multiple output formats, one for your actors to work on their cues, and another for your camera department to start mapping out the shot plan. Here’s what the Copacabana sequence looks like when written in A/V format:

2016-05-18

PLANNING

A stabilization system is essential to executing a tracking shot. There are two standard options: a dolly, or a steadicam. A dolly is a heavy, wheeled multi-operator camera platform designed to move along the horizontal axis, either on tracks  or on an appropriately smooth surface. A steadicam utilizes a mechanical system of gimbals and counterweights to allow a single operator to smoothly move and manipulate a camera with considerable deftness and speed. Where a dolly offers extremely stable and precise shots, steadicams allow for much greater mobility and a dreamy ‘floating’ effect. Both systems are fairly expensive and require skilled operators, although various ‘lighter’ or DIY solutions do exist. When choosing your stabilization system, two factors are key: the location in which you’ll be shooting, and the kind of action you need the camera to capture.  For example, in the Copacabana sequence, the camera was required to closely follow the subjects up and down stairs, down narrow hallways, around sharp corners, and through crowds of background actors with several sidesteps and sudden stops. In this case, the steadicam was the ideal solution.

When you have a suitable location secured, take a walkthrough with your team and make note of obstacles, staging areas, and wiggle room for maneuvering crew and setting up equipment. Determine which stabilization system would best fit your needs, and then perform the initial blocking of your sequence and determine the best positions for each action point to take place. Celtx provides a useful tool for this stage in the form of the Shot Blocker.  You can use the Shot Blocker to sketch out your location and specify where you want your action points to happen while plotting the path of the camera. You can also use it to set positions for equipment, props, set dressing, and extras using a built-in clipart library. Here’s what a shot plan for the Copacabana sequence might look like:

celtx shot blocker

SHOOTING

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Have your director move through your existing shot plan with your actors and let them get a feel for the space. Talk to them, and be open to improvisation. Long tracking sequences are akin to live theater, and its very easy for them to be overcome by a sense of staginess. Giving your actors a chance to explore, ad lib, and make mistakes can provide additional material that will imbue your sequence with a greater sense of reality.

You might also consider doing this initial blocking pass in reverse, starting at your last action point and working backwards. Ensuring that your actors know exactly where they need to end up is crucial to getting the perfect take, and starting your rehearsal from the final blocking position makes it easier for your actors to judge both distance and timings throughout the rest of the sequence: the finishing point is far more important than the starting point.

Your next rehearsal run should include any background actors, as well as dry runs for any background action that may be scripted to occur. It’d be best to include your camera team on this run as well – safety is paramount, and any background action with the potential to affect the camera needs to be heavily drilled.

Depending on the length of your shot (and if your schedule can accommodate it), you might want to consider blocking an entire day for setup and rehearsals. Either way, something is bound to deviate from your plan. Multiple takes are a given (it almost never goes right on the first try), but remember to be conscientious of the physical limitations of your cast and crew. If you push them too hard, you might start to undo the progress you’ve made in rehearsal.

In conclusion, be deliberate in your writing, thoughtful and thorough in your planning, and ready to drill when the shoot day arrives. To take advantage of the tools described in this primer, head over to Celtx and set up your team with a free trial. You’ll find that it makes keeping everyone informed and engaged during both the pre-production process and on set that much easier.

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To Inform is to Influence

AT THE BLACK HAT cybersecurity conference in 2014, industry luminary Dan Geer, fed up with the prevalence of vulnerabilities in digital code, made a modest proposal: Software companies should either make their products open source so buyers can see what they’re getting and tweak what they don’t like, or suffer the consequences if their software failed. He likened it to the ancient Code of Hammurabi, which says that if a builder poorly constructs a house and the house collapses and kills its owner, the builder should be put to death.

No one is suggesting putting sloppy programmers to death, but holding software companies liable for defective programs, and nullifying licensing clauses that have effectively disclaimed such liability, may make sense, given the increasing prevalence of online breaches.

The only problem with Geer’s scheme is that no formal metrics existed in 2014 for assessing the security of software or distinguishing between code…

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