United for Peace of Pierce County, WA - We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy.

NEWS: Pentagon says most of ISIS's oil refineries demolished

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A Pentagon official, speaking anonymously, claimed that sixteen of about twenty oil refineries controlled by the Islamic State in eastern and northern Syria were "demolished" on Sept. 24 and Sept. 28 by airstrikes, the Washington Times reported Tuesday.[1]  --  Oil trafficking has been the jihadist group's main source of revenue, as the Financial Times of London reported on Sept. 22.  --  Speaking "on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Istanbul," Luay al-Khatteeb, the director of the Iraq Energy Institute, said that ISIS's revenues have been dramatically reduced, International Business Times reported.[2]  --  But the cash flow that pays ISIS's soldiers' salaries is still "undetected," Erin Banco said.  --  "Khatteeb said ISIS is still refining oil in small-scale, mobile refineries that are difficult to detect," according to Banco.  --  "Some of that oil, he said, is continuing to get smuggled into Turkey.  --  The small, handmade refineries produce about 5,000 barrels at a time, he said, which is used mostly for heating and transportation."  --  Further progress in undermining ISIS's oil trading depends on cooperation from Turkish and Kurdish authorities, but this is hard to monitor.  --  So far oil fields (as opposed to refineries) are not on the U.S. target list, because "[t]he underground resources belong to the Syrian people, and they would likely suffer long-term damage and a decline in their productive capacity if they were attacked," and there is also concern about the environmental damage that this would cause, Foreign Policy reported last week.[3] ...

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BACKGROUND: Why the Senate torture report is so important

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In anticipation of the release of the 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA torture that has been at the center of an extraordinary and important power struggle over the past five years, Rob Crawford of UW Tacoma reviewed in an article posted this weekend on the CounterPunch website the reasons the report's publication will be so important.  --  "From 2002 to 2009, hundreds of people were tortured and hundreds more subjected to cruel, inhuman. and degrading treatment," Crawford said.[1]  --  "There have been over 100 deaths of people in detention, many likely to be a direct result of torture.  --  The torture and abuse went on for years."  --  With the release of the Senate report, "human rights and other civic organizations, dissenting journalists, religious organizations, the newly radicalized legal profession, and humane people everywhere have an opportunity to work against the semi-coerced silencing of critical debate not only about torture but also about the link between torture, militarism, and all inhumane acts of war." ...

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BACKGROUND: The strange story behind the 'Khorasan' group's name

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Some analysts believe that the Pentagon made up the term "Khorasan group," which is not recognized by those engaged in combat in Syria or by close observers of it, the Washington Post reported Thursday.[1]  --  Why would they?  --  "[I]t's easy to see why it could be a positive for U.S. officials to use it," Adam Taylor said.  --  "For one thing, by avoiding using the name al-Qaeda, the U.S. doesn't remind the world that after more than a decade of the 'War on Terror,' al-Qaeda is still an operational force.  --  It also allows the U.S. to avoid mention of strikes on Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda group that enjoys a large amount of support in Syria and opposes both the Islamic State and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  --  Finally, there's the simple fact that Khorasan is a new and evocative name.  --  Frankly, it's something for the U.S. public to latch onto." ...

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BACKGROUND: The Islamic State is 'a kind of untamed Wahhabism'

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Most of Western mainstream media describe ISIS (a.k.a. ISIL, a.k.a. the Islamic State) either as a version of al-Qaeda, barbarism, evil incarnate, or some combination of these, but on Thursday the New York Times carried a background piece offering a calm account of Islamic State thinking.  --  ISIS has "clear roots" in Wahhabism, an 18th-century Islamic revival movement that is the foundation of the Saudi state, David Kirkpatrick said.[1]  --  In fact, the Islamic State "circulates images of Wahhabi religious textbooks from Saudi Arabia in the schools it controls."  --  But Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (who on Jun. 29 declared himself the Caliph Ibrahim) has added two elements to Wahhabi ideology:  a liberation movement aimed at Western imperialism, and the restored caliphate as an actual political goal.  --  Barack Obama would like to assimilate ISIS to al-Qaeda in order to claim that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) applies to it, but in fact ISIS's approach is "is at odds with the more mainstream Islamist and jihadist thinking that forms the genealogy of Al Qaeda, and it has led to a fundamentally different view of violence."   --  Al Qaeda views Muslim states and societies as having fallen into sinful unbelief and embraces violence as a tool to redeem them, but "the Wahhabi tradition embrace[s] the killing of those deemed unbelievers as essential to purifying the community of the faithful."  --  Prof. Emad Shahin of Georgetown said that the Islamic State "is not al-Qaeda, but far to its right." ...

Last Updated on Saturday, 27 September 2014 06:32 Read more...
 

NEWS: Airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Syria begin

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The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State has made its first strikes inside Syria on Monday, Sept. 23.  --  The Pentagon announced late Monday that using "a mix of fighter, bomber, and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles" the U.S. "and partner nation forces" had begun "military action against ISIS terrorists in Syria," in the words of Rear Admiral John Kirby, the press secretary for the Dept. of Defense, USA Today reported.[1]  --  An official speaking with authorization to speak publicly told Tom Vanden Brook that about twenty targets had been hit.  --  Another official, also unnamed, said that aircraft of Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates had been involved in the attack.  --  "The stealth F-22 Raptor took part in the mission, a U.S. defense official said, marking the first time the pricey, controversial aircraft has been used in a combat operation," ABC News reported.[2]  --  COMMENT:  Mainstream media continued to ignore Robert Parry's Sept. 17 report that the U.S. has, through Russian intermediaries, worked out an arrangement with Syria to permit the strikes without provoking a reaction from Syrian forces, but this attack seems to corroborate Parry's reporting....

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BACKGROUND: FT says ISIS revenues depend on oil-smuggling network operating in cash

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The Financial Times of London, in a long article published Monday under its "Big Read" rubric and excerpted below, analyzed how ISIS is handling its finances.  --  Estimates of ISIS's daily revenues vary from $1 million and $5 million a day, Borzou Daragahi and Erika Solomon said.[1]  --  The bulk of the income comes from "a decades-old oil smuggling network, which is now being tapped by the group to finance its proto-state."  --  This vast unofficial trade network, which operates "almost exclusively in cash" and involves hundreds of entrepreneurs, "encompasses northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, southern Turkey, [and] parts of Iran."  --  "Maplecroft, the risk management firm, says in a recent report that ISIS now controls six out of 10 of Syria’s oilfields, including the big Omar facility, and at least four small fields in Iraq, including those at Ajeel and Hamreen."  --  "ISIS may be laundering up to 80,000 barrels of oil a day worth several million dollars through this shadow market.  --  The oil is smuggled through rugged mountain and desert routes or even legitimate crossings at Reyhanli, Zakho or Penjwan for consumption in Turkey, Iran, or Jordan."  --  Kurds and the Kurdish economy play a key role in the network, and bribery greases its wheels.  --  One expert says that ISIS has already amassed enough cash to keep going "for years." ...

Last Updated on Monday, 22 September 2014 05:03 Read more...
 

BACKGROUND: Moscow brokers US-Syria deal to allow anti-ISIS airstrikes inside Syria, Parry reports

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A U.S. arrangement with Syria has been worked out with Russian mediation to enable U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets without the risk of anti-aircraft fire from the Syrian military, Robert Parry reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed "source briefed on the secret arrangements."[1]  --  Parry also suggested that one of the motivating factors in the West's provocation of the Ukraine crisis was a desire among certain parties to subvert the emerging cooperation of Washington and Moscow in the Middle East.  --  Perhaps, Parry said, "despite the U.S.-Russian estrangement over the Ukraine crisis, the cooperation between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been extinguished; it has instead just gone further underground." ...

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UFPPC statement: Absurd and dangerous

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UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY

"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."

ABSURD AND DANGEROUS

September 18, 2014

The strategy that President Barack Obama has announced to address the challenge of the Islamic State is absurd and dangerous.

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BACKGROUND: The post-1989 international order has come apart (Michael Ignatieff)

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Michael Ignatieff has donned the Cold War-liberal mantle of George Kennan and Isaiah Berlin and revised a July speech as an essay on the emerging world order in the latest number of the New York Review of Books.  --  "Crimea and MH17 marked the moment for the West when the post-1989 international order came apart," Ignatieff said.[1]  --  Ignatieff is bullish on the USA in the long term, but recognizes that the winds of history have been blowing in favor of countries practicing what he calls "authoritarian capitalism."  --   "The central questions now are whether the new authoritarians are stable and whether they are expansionist," he proposed, but did not attempt to answer those questions.  --  (In case you're wondering whether it isn't the West that is expansionist, Ignatieff thinks that's a moot point:  "It no longer matters whether the West brought this new Russia upon itself by expanding NATO aggressively to its borders.")  --  Ignatieff holds Russia's Vladimir Putin to be thoroughly malefic and denies that Putin has been acting rationally, but nevertheless holds out hope that the Ukrainian crisis can be settled:  "Western constitutional experts should help Ukraine to devolve power to the regions and guarantee Russian speakers a full place in the Ukrainian political future.  --  In the long term, Europe should give Ukraine a timetable toward accession into the E.U.  --  International financial institutions should use conditional loans to force a corrupt Ukrainian political elite to clean house."  --  "Neutrality for Ukraine" might have been considered, but that "isn’t a workable option as long as Crimea remains annexed."  --  Ignatieff hasn't much to say about the Islamic State; this revised text is dated Aug. 27, before Barack Obama's Sept. 10 declaration that "We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL."  --  Ignatieff probably isn't holding his breath:  here, he judges it "likely" that the caliphate will "endure."  --  The best we can look forward in our lifetimes, according to Ignatieff, is a "pluralist" order that "accepts that there are open and closed societies, free and authoritarian ones."  --  Good-bye to "the illusion . . . that economics would prove stronger than politics and that global commerce would soften the rivalries of empire."  --  COMMENT:  The blind eye that Ignatieff turns to the many authoritarian elements of the societies he calls "free" and "open" makes clear that the Harvard professor is an apologist for Western élites who has set himself the task of rallying public opinion....

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NEWS: 'US at war with Islamic State' (Hagel); Dempsey to recommend use of US troops

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Despite President Obama's assurances that U.S. ground troops are not returning to Iraq, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress on Tuesday "that U.S. commanders have already sought permission, on at least one occasion, to deploy small teams of U.S. advisers into battle with Iraqi troops," the Washington Post reported, adding that "while Obama has held firm, he might be persuaded to change his mind" about using U.S. troops.[1]  --  Rather than calling him insubordinate, the Post said that "Dempsey was walking a fine line between questioning the judgment of Obama, the commander in chief, and sharing his own professional military opinion with lawmakers and the public."  --  "[A] legislative debate about war powers . . . is expected to begin after the Nov. 4 elections," Craig Whitney said.  --  "Earlier in the hearing, Hagel told lawmakers that 'we are at war' with the Islamic State and warned that 'this will not be an easy or brief effort.'" ...

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ANALYSIS: Obama lacks legal justification to bomb Syria

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The Obama White House appears to be indifferent to the fact that "airstrikes in Syria would . . . be a direct violation of the international law of armed conflict and the United Nations charter," the Daily Beast said Monday.[1]  --  "Experts are upset the White House doesn’t seem to be upholding the United States’ long held support for the adherence to international law when dealing with war," Josh Rogin said.  --  The view expressed at the State Department is, as usual, one of pure cynicism:  "The President has the authority as Commander-in-Chief under the United States Constitution to take actions to protect our people.  --  And any action we take overseas, of course, we will have an international legal basis for doing so.  --  I don’t have predictions about what that is, given we haven’t announced additional actions yet."  --  Translation:  We'll make something up when the time comes....

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NEWS: NATO countries arming Ukraine

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Mirroring Russia's denial of military aid to separatists in the East, NATO countries denied on Sunday the claim of Ukraine's defense minister that they are delivering arms to Ukraine, the BBC reported.[1]  --  "I have no right to disclose any specific country we reached that agreement with.  But the fact is that those weapons are already on the way to us -- that's absolutely true, I can officially tell you," said Ukrainian Defense Minister Valery Heletey.  --  Reuters specified that the remark came in a "press conference."[2]  --  RIA Novosti reported that in additional remarks to Ukrainian Fifth channel, Heteley said:  "I also spoke [at the NATO summit in September] in private with the defense ministers of the leading countries of the world, those that can help us, and they heard us, we have the supply of arms underway."[3]  --  The Russian agency explained the sleight of hand.  --  "Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that he was able to negotiate with a number of NATO countries on direct deliveries of modern weapons to Ukraine.   --  According to the presidential adviser Yuri Lutsenko, an agreement was reached at the NATO summit in Wales on the supply of weapons from the United States, France, Poland, Norway, and Italy.   --  All these countries later denied this statement, but the Ukrainian president insisted that a number of NATO countries had agreed on direct supplies of such weapons.  --  NATO has repeatedly said that the organization itself cannot supply weapons and other military equipment to Ukraine.   --  However, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that NATO would not interfere in the decisions of individual member states regarding this kind of decision." ...

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BACKGROUND: Qatar playing both sides of nascent anti-ISIS war

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According to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, on the eve of an Arab League ministerial meeting "several Arab officials" said that Qatar is "expanding its support, 'both financial and in intelligence,' to I.S. [the Islamic State, a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL], 'essentially with the purpose of challenging Saudi Arabia.'"[1]  --  But Qatar also has close political, economic, and military relations with the U.S. (which sold it Apache helicopters, Patriot defense systems, and other arms worth $11 billion in 2014) and with the European Union (where it has invested more than $65 billion).  --  Qatar also shelters a radical Sunni cleric from Egypt and gives him air time on Al Jazeera, which has caused tensions between Doha and other Arab states.  --  That cleric, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, on Saturday criticized Arab states who are cooperating with U.S. plans to wage war on the Islamic State, Reuters reported.[2]  --  "I totally disagree with Da’ish [i.e. the Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL] in ideology and means, but I don’t at all accept that the one to fight it is America, which does not act in the name of Islam but rather in its own interests, even if blood is shed," he said.  --  The statement by the cleric, who this summer declared its caliphate to be "null and void," "may increase the fears of a backlash against Arab governments that publicly join the campaign" led by the United States, the New York Times reported Sunday.[3]  --  Michael Gordon illustrated the extreme nervousness of these governments when he reported the assertion of a U.S. official that while "several" Arab countries have offered to conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State, none of them could be named specifically....

Last Updated on Monday, 15 September 2014 00:53 Read more...
 

ANALYSIS: 'Obama’s presidency has come full circle by reinventing the neocon dogmas'

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In a commentary on the U.S. plan for a new war in the Middle East posted Friday by the Strategic Culture Foundation, Melkulangara Bhadrakumar called it a "repackaged version" of George W. Bush's "coalition of the willing."[1]  --  The retired Indian diplomat emphasized that in describing his plan Barack Obama "avoided holding out any categorical affirmation of the unity of Iraq."  --  Bhadrakumar noted that the U.S. is embarking once again on nation-building, an enterprise that has again and again produced colossal failures.  --  As for American tactics, "The U.S. has learned nothing and still hopes to use extremist elements as instruments of regional policies."  --  But the prospects for success are dim, and Bhadrakumar suggested that the White House has already resigned itself to failure:  "Iraq and Syria in their present form may well cease to exist at the end of it all.  --  Of course, the really intriguing part is that such a dénouement may well be the U.S.’s geopolitical objective.  In a recent interview with the New York Times, Obama himself put his finger on the unraveling of the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 as the core issue of the Middle Eastern politics."  --  "Obama’s strategy completely bypasses the U.N. and, in reality, undermines the U.N. Charter. . . . Obama’s presidency has come full circle by reinventing the neocon dogmas it once professed to reject.  On the pretext of fighting the I.S., which the U.S. and its allies created in the first instance, what is unfolding is a massive neocon project to remold the Muslim Middle East to suit the U.S.’ geopolitical objectives." ...

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NEWS: War? Not a war. Islamic State? Not a state. Not Islamic, either.

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The neo-Orwellian character of the 20th century deepened this week as President Barack Obama declared a war that is not a war against a state that is not a state.  --  However, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that we can "think about it as being a war" if we like.[1]  --  And if we can think about it as a war against al-Qaeda, he'll be especially pleased.  --  He told CNN on Thursday that "This group is and has been al Qaeda.  By trying to change its name, it doesn't change who it is."  --  Kerry claimed to know what ISIS "is," but his intelligence services don't seem so sure:  "The CIA estimates the Islamic States in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is made up of anywhere between 20,000 to 31,500 fighters, according to reports Thursday night," The Hill reported Thursday.[2]  --  As for the president's strategy for combating the Islamic State, many are criticizing the plan, the Wall Street Journal said.[3]  --  The principal problem, one unnamed U.S. official said, is that Obama's plan for a proxy war (or whatever it is) involves "relying on lots of different forces who are in some cases highly unreliable and highly divided."  --  Rand Paul called Obama's approach "unconstitutional," but also said, according to Politico:  "This is an intervention, and I don’t always support interventions but this is one I do support."[4] ...

Last Updated on Friday, 12 September 2014 06:36 Read more...
 

NEWS: WHO reports Ebola spreading 'exponentially' in Liberia

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All but one of Liberia's counties has reported confirmed cases of Ebola, and the World Health Organization reported Monday that "The number of new cases is moving far faster than the capacity to manage them in Ebola-specific treatment centers."[1]  --  "[T]he number of new cases is increasing exponentially," WHO said.  --  The organization said that Liberia's needs "have completely outstripped the government’s and partners’ capacity to respond," the Washington Post reported.[2]  --  "It remained unclear when and how more Ebola treatment facilities would be established and who might be willing to staff them," Brady Dennis said.  --  "The WHO said Monday that it would continue to push for more aid in Liberia and the other affected countries -- Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal -- and that it would 'hold the world accountable for responding to this dire emergency with its unprecedented dimensions of human suffering.'" ...

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NEWS: Obama to declare war to 'destroy' ISIS in speech on Wednesday

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On Wednesday, in a speech to the nation, President Barack Obama will announce a war against the ISIS that U.S. officials say "may take three years to complete," the New York Times reported Sunday.[1]  --  It is to have three phases:  first, "an air campaign," second, "an intensified effort to train, advise, or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters, and possibly members of Sunni tribes," and third, "destroying the terrorist army in its sanctuary inside Syria."  --  "The military campaign Mr. Obama is preparing has no obvious precedent," Eric Schmitt, Michael Gordon, and Helene Cooper said.  --  The Obama administration "plans to play the central role in building a coalition to counter ISIS," but does not intend to use U.S. ground troops.  --  Instead, Obama intends to organize an international coalition whose make-up and roles are still uncertain will make various contributions....

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COMMENTARY: Chomsky thinks 'end of the era of civilization' likely

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Noam Chomsky has rarely been so pessimistic.  --  On Friday he cast his eyes over all of recorded history, and announced "[t]he likely end of the era of civilization."[1]  --  COMMENT: Chomsky's growing pessimism puts one in mind of the later development of H.G. Wells, who came to think that, as he put it in The Croquet Player (1936), "Civilization, progress, all that, we are discovering, was a delusion."  --  Will Chomsky ultimately reach a similar conclusion? ...

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NEWS: Ukraine cease-fire holding so far

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A cease-fire agreement reached in Minsk on Friday between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels (with Russia and the OSCE as parties) "appears to be holding," with "[n]o fighting reported overnight," the BBC reported Saturday morning.[1]  --  The Washington Post called the agreement, which came as a result of a Russian initiative, "a first step toward the type of dormant conflict that Russia has exploited to exert control over former satellites in the decades since the Soviet Union’s collapse."[2]  --  Fear that Mariupol was about to fall to pro-Russian forces appears to have pushed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to accept a cease-fire.  --  "The terms of the deal underscored Russia’s apparent willingness to commit far more resources than the West to achieve its aims in Ukraine," said Michael Birnbaum and Annie Gowen.  --  "Kiev has asked for Western military aid, but relatively little has been forthcoming, in part because of Western caution about getting pulled into a proxy military conflict with Russia inside a non-NATO-member nation."  --  Russia Today reported that Lugansk’s leader Igor Plotnitsky said:  "The cease-fire does not mean a shift from our course of breaking away from Ukraine."[3]  --  Because there is no agreement on the political questions that underlie the fighting, many doubt the cease-fire will last long....

Last Updated on Saturday, 06 September 2014 07:26 Read more...
 

NEWS & COMMENTARY: NATO v. Russia is all about energy & pipeline geopolitics

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Readers of USA Today are supposed to sympathize with frustrated Western leaders who have supposedly been trying to find a peaceful way of helping democratic Ukraine by using economic sanctions to discourage  "Russia's aggressive moves to bolster separatists' hold on eastern Ukraine."[1]  --  This narrative sees "sovereign" Ukraine as standing up to separatists who have been spurning "democracy," expressed in February's Maidan Revolution.  --  Now, just when Ukraine's staunch new president, Petro Poroshenko, was about to wrap up a military offensive against those traitorous rebels,  an infusion of Russian support has turned the tide, one that is about to give Russia (if a cease-fire is imminent) "a victory," and leaving NATO no choice but to "counter Russian aggression in Ukraine."  --  "One idea [NATO leaders] are considering is a quick-reaction force of a few thousand troops that would defend NATO countries from Russian aggression," Oren Dorell said.  --  COMMENTARY:  What this narrative misses is that the supposed democratic triumph of the Maidan Revolution was in large part a Western-backed coup d'état motivated by economic interests.  --  Russian "aggression" has really been a series of hastily improvised actions that from a geopolitical point of view are chiefly a defensive response to aggressive Western moves.  --  This has rarely been recognized in Western media, but back in March Nafeez Ahmed, writing in the London Guardian, did note the neglect in media reports of "the role of the United States in interfering in Ukrainian politics and civil society."[2]  --  It is simply not the case the U.S. and NATO are on the side of the angels and the Russians are evil aggressors.  --  "Both powers are motivated by the desire to ensure that a geostrategically pivotal country with respect to control of critical energy pipeline routes remains in their own sphere of influence."  --  That major media in the West are unwilling to discuss these obvious facts corroborates the Chomskyan view that their reporting is for the most part more interested in serving state interests by manufacturing consent than in accurately analyzing events....

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 September 2014 05:34 Read more...
 

COMMENTARY: European officials fear deflation is imminent

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As though Europe did not have enough problems, the economies of the Eurozone are on the brink of a deflationary spiral.  --  On Sunday, Bloomberg Businessweek editorialized on the subject, saying that "the recovery has stopped" and that "Outright deflation, with all the perils that brings, is an imminent threat."[1]  --  Economic and sociopolitical stars are moving in a disastrous way, and "[c]onditions are increasingly aligned for deflation."  --  On Monday, French President Francois Hollande and European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi met and agreed "that deflation and weak growth were threatening the European Union's economy, an official in the president's office said," Reuters reported Tuesday.[2]  --  BACKGROUND:  Also on Tuesday, a somewhat technical Investor's Chonicle reviewed the reasons for the particularly parlous nature of deflation.[3]  --  As this graph demonstrates, World War II was preceded by an extended period of deflation....

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Meeting schedule

United for Peace of Pierce County meets 7:00-8:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of every month at First United Methodist Church in Tacoma (621 Tacoma Avenue South).

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