Chiến Cảnh Toàn Cầu: Theo Cách Nhìn của Pepe Escobar và một số chuyên gia chính trị chính qui lý giải theo nền tảng truyền thống cổ điển: vấn đề chỉ còn là Nga đang ở ngoài vòng kềm tỏa với Putin là tên cứng đầu! Hay nói cách khác là toàn bộ chiến địa Trung Đông là “còn Putin hay không Putin!” mà thôi!
Nếu vấn đề của toàn bộ Trung Đông chỉ là Putin hay không Putin thì thế lực quyền chính đại bản chỉ cần “siết hầu bao” của Putin và Nga, hoặc như giải pháp cho gia đình J.F.Kennedy là xong việc. Chưa quốc gia nào, chính phủ lãnh đạo nào thoát được mạng lưới tài chính! Chưa nói cái gia sản kếch sù hàng trăm tỉ của Putin và nhóm “ái quốc Nga” nằm ở đâu?
Chỉ còn lại một chiến cảnh: bọn nhà nước đều tham gia trò chơi quyền lực vẽ lại bản đồ và tái cấu trúc quyền lực nhà nước của nhóm chúng nó. Các “dân tộc tưởng mình tinh túy giống nòi” tiếp tục phủ phục sau lưng lãnh đạo và chính phủ của họ để chờ phán quyết từ các dúm “hội nghị lãnh đạo” về chiến tranh hay hòa bình- lên đường đi chết làm anh hùng dân tộc yêu nước hay vẫn được ở nhà đú đởn Facebook v.v KHÔNG CÒN AI CHẤT VẤN DÂN QUYỀN, NHÂN QUYỀN của họ đã ĐI ĐÂU!!! Ai mới là KẺ THÙ THẬT SỰ VI PHẠM và XÂM PHẠM TỰ DO NHÂN PHẨM và DÂN QUYỀN của họ hàng ngày và từng giờ?
Nền báo chí thông tin chỉ tập trung phân tích “thế chiến”, NỖI SỢ CHIẾN TRANH, nỗi sợ di dân, và đòn phép thủ đoạn giữa các “chính phủ quốc gia”… không còn mấy ai quan tâm lý giải khát vọng tự do, tự chủ, nhân quyền, nhân phẩm của những người dân hiện đang ra sao, dù bất cứ đang sống trong xã hội nào. Hay ngay trong các xã hội “dân chủ”, nền nhân quyền, dân quyền và an sinh của họ đang bị sói mòn như thế nào? Những ý niệm về giá trị tự thân đang bị cố tình bỏ quên để thay thế vào với những lo sợ, căm thù, đố kỵ…những nhân tố của xã hội phân hóa co cụm cần thiết cho việc cai trị hữu hiệu và dễ dàng.
Cái gọi là “thế chiến thứ ba với nguyên tử”, còn xa vời lắm! Chúng thổi phồng và chỉ dùng như một nỗi sợ hãi đe dọa quần chúng để tạo phân hóa xã hội theo giai cấp, chia rẽ quần chúng theo biên giới “văn hóa chủng tộc quốc gia” mà thôi. Cái Thế chiến sắp đến và rõ ràng ĐANG đến, chỉ là những cuộc chiến tranh qui ước giữa năm ba nước nước tay sai nho nhỏ đánh nhau theo đơn đặt hàng. Quần chúng nhân dân cứ đưa cổ ra gánh chịu, bầu hay không bầu, “dân chủ hay không dân chủ”.
Khả năng chiến tranh nguyên tử nếu có cũng cần ít nhất 50 năm nữa, với điều kiện một thế hệ mới vượt thoát được nhóm quyền lực (hệ thống tài chính kinh tế guồng máy sản xuất tiêu thụ) và thật sự ý thức để đối đầu với Nhóm Quyền Lực bằng nhận thức một mất một còn theo cung cách “quốc gia tương tranh” cổ điển, thì giải pháp nguyên tử mới cần thiết. Vì nó là giải pháp tuyệt vọng cuối cùng của bọn quyền lực.
Cần nhớ bọn tập đoàn quyền lực, Chúng cũng là sinh vật hai chân và là loài hai chân hạ đẳng nhất, nghĩa là tham lam vô sỉ nhất, tham sinh úy tử nhất, chúng muốn sống an toàn thoải mái hơn ai hết và để cai trị thoải mái.
Vì thế, Giả thiết chiến tranh nguyên tử xảy ra. Ai có nguyên tử? Mỹ, Nga, Anh, Pháp, Trung Cộng, Hồi Quốc, Ấn Độ, Do Thái và Bắc Hàn với Nhật được hiểu ngầm…
Nghĩa là gần như các xã hội tiến bộ Âu Mỹ Nhật cùng Nga Hoa, những xã hội ĐANG LÀ CẦU TẦU và ĐẦU MÁY của NỀN KINH TẾ SẢN XUẤT của nhân loại này….đều bị NÁT BÉT và đầy PHÓNG XẠ nguyên tử…
Cũng đồng nghĩa là khi chiến tranh nguyên tử xảy ra tập đoàn quyền lực ẩn tàng, chẳng còn chỗ mà tàng ẩn, chẳng còn nơi mà dựa dẫm thao túng quyền lực. Kẻ hung hăng hiếp đáp người khác luôn luôn là kẻ lo sợ bị trả thù khi mất thế.
Cho nên giả thuyết chiến cảnh quốc gia tương tranh cổ điển thật là trẻ con, ít nhất là trong thời điểm này, vì nó đang diễn hề chèo ngay trước mắt chúng ta đấy thôi! Âu Mỹ giúp Trung Quốc, hợp tác trao đổi và đầu tư buôn bán mọi mặt. Nga Putin “chống” Âu Mỹ nhưng vẫn sinh hoạt vận hành trong gọng kềm của IMF và các tài phiệt Nga gốc Do Thái Âu Mỹ tại ngay Mát Cơ Va…Nhất là đang cùng Âu Mỹ “chống ISIL” dù tất cả đều biết ISIL chẳng ai khác lạ chính là đội quân biệt vụ của CIA/Mossad!!!
Chúng thành công cai trị thế giới KHÔNG BẰNG GIẢI PHÁP QUÂN SỰ, mà chính là KIỂM SOÁT NGUỒN TÀI NGUYÊN SINH TỒN của NGƯỜI KHÁC. Cột chặt người khác vào nguồn sản xuất và tiêu thụ do bọn chúng nắm vững và chỉ huy. Nghĩa là kinh tế tài chính và tài nguyên, nguồn sản xuất. Quyền lực chính là nắm giữ kiểm soát nguồn tài nguyên nhu yếu!
“Thế chiến 3 nguyên tử” chỉ là một trò thổi phồng để kềm giữ quần chúng trong chia rẽ, đố kỵ và xã hội phập phồng trong lo sợ và phân hóa. Chia Rẻ và Phập Phồng Lo Sợ hủy diệt lý trí sáng suốt và tinh thần đối kháng của quần chúng. Nó biến nguời ta thành phân hóa, co cụm ích kỷ và trở nên vô tâm ác độc với nhau. Ý niệm nhân quyền dân quyền sẽ mờ phai và biến mất! Và như vậy nền cai trị càng dễ dàng và hữu hiệu.
Trong thời gian đang đến, ít nhất trong năm 2016, Chiến tranh sẽ gia tăng như đang gia tăng, giả địch khủng bố, một cách mỉa mai và hài ước, sẽ tiếp tục khủng bố đe dọa đời sống quần chúng các “xã hội ổn định tiến bộ”, dù quyền lực công an tình báo đã được mở rộng không giới hạn, nhân lực kỹ thuật tăng cường và ngân sách dồi dào!
Người dân “tiến bộ” tiếp tục vừa facebook, twiiter đủ trò vui, đủ thứ giải trí hàng ngày, vừa lo sợ “nguyên tử” và “sợ hãi di dân lấn chiếm”, sợ những người khác mầu da, tín ngưỡng, sợ bị người Hồi áp dụng luật Hồi giáo (đám Đậu phọng đỏ vừa lấn áp Miên Lào vừa sợ Trung Quốc chiếm cứ … vừa tìm cách di dân!) v.v Trong khi bọn cảnh sát công an mới là kẻ thường xuyên trấn áp đe dọa mạng sống của họ với những đạo luật phi nhân quyền tước dân quyền từ chính nhà nước quốc hội của họ!
Chẳng ai còn chú tâm để nhận ra các chính sách an sinh, tài chính đang được thay đổi để ăn cắp và ăn cưóp công sức lao động của họ và nô lệ hóa sinh hoạt của họ chứ không phải ISIL hay Nga.
Chia để Trị chính là như vậy. Viễn cảnh toàn cầu là như thế!
Tùy mỗi ngưòi!
Nhân Chủ 30-12-2015
Putin Fights the War Party on All Fronts
The Obama administration still sticks to the Cold War 2.0 script on Russia.
By Pepe Escobar
December 30, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – “teleSUR” – Let’s talk about “Russian aggression.” The fight to the death in Moscow’s inner circles is really between the Eurasianists and the so-called Atlantic integrationists, a.k.a. the Western fifth column. The crux of the battle is arguably the Russian Central Bank and the Finance Ministry – where some key liberalcon monetarist players are remote-controlled by the usual suspects, the Masters of the Universe.
The same mechanism applies, geopolitically, to any side, in any latitude, which has linked its own fiat money to Western central banks. The Masters of the Universe always seek to exercise hegemony by manipulating usury and fiat money control.
So why President Putin does not fire the head of the Russian Central Bank, Elvira Nabiulina, and a great deal of his financial team – as they keep buying U.S. bonds and propping up the U.S. dollar instead of the ruble? What’s really being aggressed here if not Russian interests?
That Stab in the Back
It’s clear by now which party profited from the downing of the Russian Su-24 by the Turkish Air Force – a graphic act of war. The immediate result was the suspension – which could lead to the cancelling – of a crucial Pipelineistan plank: Turkish Stream, which is a bête noire for the Masters of the Universe as Turkey was about to become the key alternative bypassing failed state Ukraine for supplying natural gas to southern Europe.
On top if it the EU paid Ankara 3 billion euros for its “indirect” services (the official excuse is to allow Turkey to control Syrian immigration to the EU.) And EU sanctions to Russia were extended for another six months.
A fitting Russian response would be Moscow defaulting on all debt to Western banks in retaliation for the sanctions. An extreme step would be blocking natural gas shipments to the EU. If Russia even floated one of these moves, not to mention both, sanctions would be lifted in a flash. So who’s really being “aggressed” here?
Putin – and Russian intel – didn’t see it coming: Sultan Erdogan’s “stab in the back.” So a case can be made that Russian intel seriously underestimated Erdogan’s massive investment on regime change in Syria.
Whatever happens on the ground – much more than in the Vienna-Geneva charade now passing for a “peace process” – the future of Syria bears two stark options; a neo-Ottoman colony, but essentially subordinated to the whims of the Masters of the Universe; or a unitary sovereign nation, not partitioned, with a strong relationship to both Russia and Iran.
The question, though, remains; how does Turkey get away with such a provocation, with Russia imposing just a few sanctions?
That Fuzzy Agenda
The missing link in the puzzle is Israel. Contradictions became glaringly obvious with the flattening of a building in Jaramana, in Damascus, by Israeli missiles, killing nine civilians as well as Hezbollah-linked Samir Kuntar.
This could not have happened, in any way, without Russian acquiescence – considering Russian missile defense now protects Syrian territory. So the message is clear; Russia won’t interfere with Israel’s priorities in Syria/Lebanon – and vice-versa.
“Vice-versa” couldn’t be trickier. Tel Aviv tacitly “supports” the Nusra Front, a.k.a. al-Qaida in Syria, which even the Obama administration finally has been forced to admit is a terrorist outfit.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry – as well as independent Turkish investigations – most of the stolen Syrian/Iraqi oil Islamic State group scam ends up with the oil being bought by Israel. Tel Aviv happens to be the top buyer of the stolen-from-Baghdad Iraqi Kurdistan oil with which stolen Daesh oil is mixed.
And to top it off, Tel Aviv is a mortal enemy of both Iran and Hezbollah – which are essential nodes of the “4+1” coalition (Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah) fighting the Islamic State group. Not to mention that Tel Aviv – which favors a partitioned Syria – wants to gobble up the energy-rich Golan Heights for perpetuity.
So how does Israel get away with it?
That War Party “Offer”
The bottom line of these three scenarios – the Russian economy, Turkey and Israel – is that a lethal, devastating response is an easily available option for Putin on all three. Yet he refuses to be trapped by a war logic. Putin is the ultimate adversary of “Russian aggression.”
A full confrontation with Turkey will unite a disunited NATO. Now Russian intel has connected the dots on how the Masters of the Universe are trying to use Ankara as bait to trap Moscow, as they extensively used a now discarded, irrelevant Kiev. Turkey’s top three import nations happen to be Russia (10.4 percent), China (10.3 percent) and Germany (9.2 percent); deep trouble in Turkey would be a major headache for the trio, much to the delight of the Empire of Chaos.
A confrontation with Israel will obviously bring about the full force of the Masters of the Universe. Not to mention that the last thing Moscow needs is to open a new front in the Levant. Here is a meticulous attempt by The Saker to clarify the dangerous liaisons between Israel and Russia.
The key front though is the Russian economy; sooner or later there’s got to be a purge of the Russian Central Bank and the Finance Ministry, but Putin will only act when he has surefire internal support, and that’s far from given.
The lame duck Obama administration – whatever rhetorical and/or legalistic contortions – still sticks to the Cold War 2.0 script on Russia, duly prescribed by Obama mentor Dr. Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski.
That follows a “tradition” Bill Blum, for instance, has extensively documented, as since the end of WWII Washington attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments – the absolute majority full democracies; dropped bombs on the civilian population of over 30 nations; attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders; attempted to suppress nationalist movements in 20 nations; interfered on countless democratic elections; taught torture through manuals and “advisers”; and the list goes on.
Putin and the best and the brightest of Russian intel very well know it.
And yet they do maintain a decent margin of maneuver; establishing Russia as an indispensable power all across Southwest Asia (after smashing the fake “Caliphate” from Raqqa to Mosul); preventing any Masters of the Universe encroachment on the Black Sea; and putting up a real fight in the near future in the Balkans.
The real advances will keep coming as spin-offs of the Russia-China diplomatic/strategic partnership – from energy to trade to the military sphere. And that projects us once again towards the New Silk Roads – and the convergence of the China-driven One Belt, One Road with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
The bottom line is that in 2016 the option will continue to be stark; it’s either the hegemony of the War Party – with the subtext of a Washington “willfully” condoned Salafi-jihadi “offer” to young, disaffected Muslims; or the vision of a full, prosperous trade/commerce/communication network for the whole of Eurasia. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the U.S. to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online, where he wrote the column The Roving Eye from 2000 to 2014. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of “Globalistan” (2007), “Red Zone Blues” (2007), “Obama does Globalistan” (2009) and “Empire of Chaos” (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is “2030”, also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015. He currently lives between Paris and Bangkok. Follow him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pepe.escobar.77377
Why Turkey Stabbed Russia in the Back
By: Pepe Escobar
Russia’s and Turkey’s objectives in fighting the Islamic State group are diametrically opposed.
It’s absolutely impossible to understand why the Turkish government would engage in the suicidal strategy of downing a Russian Su-24 over Syrian territory – technically a NATO declaration of war on Russia – without putting in context the Turkish power play in northern Syria.
President Vladmir Putin said the downing of the Russian fighter jet was a “stab in the back.” So let’s see how facts on the ground allowed it to happen.
Ankara uses, finances, and weaponizes a basket case of extremist outfits across northern Syria, and needs by all means to keep supply line corridors from southern Turkey open for them; after all they need to conquer Aleppo, which would open the way for Ankara’s Holy Grail: regime change in Damascus.
At the same time Ankara is terrified of the YPG – the Syrian Kurd People’s Protection Units – a sister organization of the leftist PKK. These must be contained at all costs.
So the Islamic State group – against which the United Nations has declared war – is a mere detail in the overall Ankara strategy, which is essentially to fight, contain or even bomb Kurds; support all manner of Takfiris and Salafi-jihadis, including the Islamic State group; and get regime change in Damascus.
Unsurprisingly, the YPG Syrian Kurds are vastly demonized in Turkey, accused of at least trying to ethnic cleanse Arab and Turkmen villages in northern Syria.
OPINION: Criminalizing Our People: Social Impacts of the PKK Ban
Yet, what the Syrian Kurds are attempting – and to Ankara’s alarm, somewhat supported by the U.S. – is to link what are for the moment three patches of Kurdish land in northern Syria.
A look at an imperfect Turkish map at least reveals how two of these patches of land (in yellow) are already linked, to the northeast. To accomplish that, the Syrian Kurds, helped by the PKK, defeated The Islamic State group in Kobani and environs. To get to the third patch of land, they need to get to Afryn. Yet on the way (in blue) there is a collection of Turkmen villages north of Aleppo.
The strategic importance of these Turkmen lands cannot be emphasized enough. It’s exactly in this area, reaching as much as 35 km inland, that Ankara wants to install its so-called “safe zone,” which will be in fact a no-fly zone, in Syrian territory, ostensibly to house Syrian refugees, and with everything paid by the EU, which has already unblocked 3 billion euros, starting Jan. 1, via the European Commission (EC).
The now insurmountable obstacle for Turkey to get its no-fly zone is, predictably, Russia.
Using the Turkmen
Who are the Turkmen? Here we need to plunge back into ancient Silk Road history. There are roughly 200,000 Turkmen living in northern Syria. They are descendants of Turkmen tribals who moved into Anatolia in the 11th century.
Turkmen villages also sprout north of Idlib province, west of Aleppo, as well as north of Latakia province, west of Idlib. And it’s here where we find a rarely discussed bunch: a gaggle of Turkmen militias.
The myth of innocent Turkmen civilians being slaughtered by the “Assad regime” is, well, a myth. In Washington these militias are considered “moderate rebels” – as much as they have merged with all sorts of jihadi or jihadi-gobbled outfits, from the ever pliable construct Free Syrian Army to Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaida in Syria (which Vienna finally branded a terrorist group).
The bottom line is that Turkey and Russia simply cannot be part of the same coalition fighting the Islamic State group because their objectives are diametrically opposed.
Predictably, Turkish media hails all these Turkmen as “freedom fighters,” a la Ronald Reagan in the 1980s jihad Afghan. Turkish media spins the whole of their territory is controlled by an “innocent” Turkmen opposition, and not the Islamic State group. Not the Islamic State group, yes, but mostly al-Nusra, which is virtually the same thing.
For Russia, there’s no distinction, especially because a gaggle of Chechens, Uzbeks and Uyghurs (Chinese intel is on it) have sought harbor among these “moderates.” For Russia what matters is to smash any possibility of a future 900 km-long Jihad Highway between Aleppo and Grozny.
And that explains the Russian bombing of northern Latakia province. Ankara, predictably, went ballistic. The Foreign Ministry had even threatened Russia only a few days ago; the “Russian side’s actions were not a fight against terror, but they bombed civilian Turkmen villages and this could lead to serious consequences.”
Ankara directly supports Turkmen militias with humanitarian aid but what really counts are weapons; truck deliveries controlled by the MIT – Turkish intelligence.
This all fits into the ruling AKP party mythology of defending even pre-Ottoman populations; after all they always provided “good services” to Islam. Syrian Turkmen are as pious as the AKP leadership in Ankara.
The plot thickens
For Russia, the area known as Turkmen Mountain, or heights – which Turks call Bayirbucak – north of Latakia province, is a major target. Because that’s where we find the Weapon Highway – through which Ankara, side by side with the CIA, weaponizes these militias.
For Russia, any possibility of militias allied with Salafis and Salafi-jihadis trying to make a push to conquer overwhelmingly Alawite Latakia province is a red line because this would threaten Russia’s airbase at Khmeimim and eventually even the port of Tartus.
So essentially we have CIA weaponizing – those famous TOW anti-tank missiles – using a smuggling route through Turkmen territory which happens to be an al-Qaeda in Syria-run Ankara power base. This is prime territory for U.S., Turkey and Saudi Arabia to undermine Damascus, and most of all prime proxy war territory: NATO (U.S.-Turkey) against Russia.
The CIA spins the TOWs go to 45 “vetted” – thus “moderate rebel” – outfits. Nonsense; the weapons have been seized by the more experienced jihadis of al-Qaida in Syria, as well as the nebulae known as the Army of Conquest, supported by Saudi Arabia.
So to smash Jabhat al-Nusra and the Army of Conquest for good, Russia started to bomb the Turkmen smugglers, which are hardly “moderates;” they are infiltrated all over by Turkish Islamo-fascists – such as the ones who machine-gunned Russian pilot Lt. Col Oleg Pershin as he was parachuting, a war crime according to the Geneva Conventions.
The stakes for Russia couldn’t be heavier because by using Turkmen tribals, Turkey is already planted deep inside northern Syria.
So expect Russia to substantially increase bombing of Turkmen areas – way beyond just a reprisal for the killing of the Russian pilot.
Putin Tells The World What Kurds Have Been Shouting For A Year: Turkey Supports ISIS https://t.co/jc6XuITcQA #Russia pic.twitter.com/UtNOvvHOpK — KurdishQuestion.com (@KurdishQuestion) noviembre 24, 2015
Elsewhere, Russia has plenty of other options – as in further weaponizing the YPG; that would allow them to finally take over the stretch of the border between Afryn and Jarablus that is still controlled by the Islamic State group. Ankara will be apoplectic if Syrian Kurds unite their so far unconnected territory in what they call Rojava.
The bottom line is that Turkey and Russia simply cannot be part of the same coalition fighting the Islamic State group because their objectives are diametrically opposed.
Istanbul-based historian Cam Erimtan outlines the big picture:
“Turkey’s new government took the reins on the same day the Russian jet was downed. And now the wily Prime Minister Davutoglu and the unwieldy President Erdogan are engaging in damage control and domestic mobilization, for the moment even dropping their favored rhetoric of Islamic solidarity and playing the nationalist card to the full. Even though the military action will no doubt lead to huge gains in domestic popularity, the economic consequences have already started to be felt, with Russia curbing the import of Turkish goods. This may indicate that the AKP-led government solely acted as NATO’s lackey, ignoring the realities on the ground and reveling in boisterous grandstanding.”
The grandstanding won’t last long because Russia will react in a cold, calculated, swift, multi-pronged and unexpected way to the downing of the Su-24.
The Russian missile cruiser Moskva – crammed with air defense systems – is now covering the whole region. Two S-400 systems will cover all of northwest Syria and the southern Turkish border. Russia is able to electronically jam the whole of southern Turkey. There’s no way Erdogan will have his EU-paid “safe zone” inside Syria unless he goes to war against Russia.
What’s certain is that Russia’s number one priority from now on is to smash Turkey’s extremist strategy in northern Syria for good.
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online, where he wrote the column The Roving Eye from 2000 to 2014. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of “Globalistan” (2007), “Red Zone Blues” (2007), “Obama does Globalistan” (2009) and “Empire of Chaos” (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is “2030”, also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015. He currently lives between Paris and Bangkok. Follow him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pepe.escobar.77377
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A Crisis Worse than ISIS? Bail-Ins Begin
By Ellen Brown
December 30, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – While the mainstream media focus on ISIS extremists, a threat that has gone virtually unreported is that your life savings could be wiped out in a massive derivatives collapse. Bank bail-ins have begun in Europe, and the infrastructure is in place in the US. Poverty also kills.
At the end of November, an Italian pensioner hanged himself after his entire €100,000 savings were confiscated in a bank “rescue” scheme. He left a suicide note blaming the bank, where he had been a customer for 50 years and had invested in bank-issued bonds. But he might better have blamed the EU and the G20’s Financial Stability Board, which have imposed an “Orderly Resolution” regime that keeps insolvent banks afloat by confiscating the savings of investors and depositors. Some 130,000 shareholders and junior bond holders suffered losses in the “rescue.”
The pensioner’s bank was one of four small regional banks that had been put under special administration over the past two years. The €3.6 billion ($3.83 billion) rescue plan launched by the Italian government uses a newly-formed National Resolution Fund, which is fed by the country’s healthy banks. But before the fund can be tapped, losses must be imposed on investors; and in January, EU rules will require that they also be imposed on depositors. According to a December 10th article on BBC.com:
The rescue was a “bail-in” – meaning bondholders suffered losses – unlike the hugely unpopular bank bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis, which cost ordinary EU taxpayers tens of billions of euros.
Correspondents say [Italian Prime Minister] Renzi acted quickly because in January, the EU is tightening the rules on bank rescues – they will force losses on depositors holding more than €100,000, as well as bank shareholders and bondholders.
. . . [L]etting the four banks fail under those new EU rules next year would have meant “sacrificing the money of one million savers and the jobs of nearly 6,000 people”.
That is what is predicted for 2016: massive sacrifice of savings and jobs to prop up a “systemically risky” global banking scheme.
That is all happening in the EU. Is there reason for concern in the US?
According to former hedge fund manager Shah Gilani, writing for Money Morning, there is. In a November 30th article titled “Why I’m Closing My Bank Accounts While I Still Can,” he writes:
[It is] entirely possible in the next banking crisis that depositors in giant too-big-to-fail failing banks could have their money confiscated and turned into equity shares. . . .
If your too-big-to-fail (TBTF) bank is failing because they can’t pay off derivative bets they made, and the government refuses to bail them out, under a mandate titled “Adequacy of Loss-Absorbing Capacity of Global Systemically Important Banks in Resolution,” approved on Nov. 16, 2014, by the G20’s Financial Stability Board, they can take your deposited money and turn it into shares of equity capital to try and keep your TBTF bank from failing.
Once your money is deposited in the bank, it legally becomes the property of the bank. Gilani explains:
Your deposited cash is an unsecured debt obligation of your bank. It owes you that money back.
If you bank with one of the country’s biggest banks, who collectively have trillions of dollars of derivatives they hold “off balance sheet” (meaning those debts aren’t recorded on banks’ GAAP balance sheets), those debt bets have a superior legal standing to your deposits and get paid back before you get any of your cash.
. . . Big banks got that language inserted into the 2010 Dodd-Frank law meant to rein in dangerous bank behavior.
The banks inserted the language and the legislators signed it, without necessarily understanding it or even reading it. At over 2,300 pages and still growing, the Dodd Frank Act is currently the longest and most complicated bill ever passed by the US legislature.
Dodd-Frank states in its preamble that it will “protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts.” But it does this under Title II by imposing the losses of insolvent financial companies on their common and preferred stockholders, debtholders, and other unsecured creditors. That includes depositors, the largest class of unsecured creditor of any bank.
Title II is aimed at “ensuring that payout to claimants is at least as much as the claimants would have received under bankruptcy liquidation.” But here’s the catch: under both the Dodd Frank Act and the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, derivative claims have super-priority over all other claims, secured and unsecured, insured and uninsured.
The over-the-counter (OTC) derivative market (the largest market for derivatives) is made up of banks and other highly sophisticated players such as hedge funds. OTC derivatives are the bets of these financial players against each other. Derivative claims are considered “secured” because collateral is posted by the parties.
For some inexplicable reason, the hard-earned money you deposit in the bank is not considered “security” or “collateral.” It is just a loan to the bank, and you must stand in line along with the other creditors in hopes of getting it back. State and local governments must also stand in line, although their deposits are considered “secured,” since they remain junior to the derivative claims with “super-priority.”
Under the old liquidation rules, an insolvent bank was actually “liquidated” – its assets were sold off to repay depositors and creditors. Under an “orderly resolution,” the accounts of depositors and creditors are emptied to keep the insolvent bank in business. The point of an “orderly resolution” is not to make depositors and creditors whole but to prevent another system-wide “disorderly resolution” of the sort that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. The concern is that pulling a few of the dominoes from the fragile edifice that is our derivatives-laden global banking system will collapse the entire scheme. The sufferings of depositors and investors are just the sacrifices to be borne to maintain this highly lucrative edifice.
In a May 2013 article in Forbes titled “The Cyprus Bank ‘Bail-In’ Is Another Crony Bankster Scam,” Nathan Lewis explained the scheme like this:
At first glance, the “bail-in” resembles the normal capitalist process of liabilities restructuring that should occur when a bank becomes insolvent. . . .
The difference with the “bail-in” is that the order of creditor seniority is changed. In the end, it amounts to the cronies (other banks and government) and non-cronies. The cronies get 100% or more; the non-cronies, including non-interest-bearing depositors who should be super-senior, get a kick in the guts instead. . . .
In principle, depositors are the most senior creditors in a bank. However, that was changed in the 2005 bankruptcy law, which made derivatives liabilities most senior. Considering the extreme levels of derivatives liabilities that many large banks have, and the opportunity to stuff any bank with derivatives liabilities in the last moment, other creditors could easily find there is nothing left for them at all.
As of September 2014, US derivatives had a notional value of nearly $280 trillion. A study involving the cost to taxpayers of the Dodd-Frank rollback slipped by Citibank into the “cromnibus” spending bill last December found that the rule reversal allowed banks to keep $10 trillion in swaps trades on their books. This is money that taxpayers could be on the hook for in another bailout; and since Dodd-Frank replaces bailouts with bail-ins, it is money that creditors and depositors could now be on the hook for. Citibank is particularly vulnerable to swaps on the price of oil. Brent crude dropped from a high of $114 per barrel in June 2014 to a low of $36 in December 2015.
What about FDIC insurance? It covers deposits up to $250,000, but the FDIC fund had only $67.6 billion in it as of June 30, 2015, insuring about $6.35 trillion in deposits. The FDIC has a credit line with the Treasury, but even that only goes to $500 billion; and who would pay that massive loan back? The FDIC fund, too, must stand in line behind the bottomless black hole of derivatives liabilities. As Yves Smith observed in a March 2013 post:
In the US, depositors have actually been put in a worse position than Cyprus deposit-holders, at least if they are at the big banks that play in the derivatives casino. The regulators have turned a blind eye as banks use their depositors to fund derivatives exposures. . . . The deposits are now subject to being wiped out by a major derivatives loss.
Even in the worst of the Great Depression bank bankruptcies, noted Nathan Lewis, creditors eventually recovered nearly all of their money. He concluded:
When super-senior depositors have huge losses of 50% or more, after a “bail-in” restructuring, you know that a crime was committed.
How can you avoid this criminal theft and keep your money safe? It may be too late to pull your savings out of the bank and stuff them under a mattress, as Shah Gilani found when he tried to withdraw a few thousand dollars from his bank. Large withdrawals are now criminally suspect.
You can move your money into one of the credit unions with their own deposit insurance protection; but credit unions and their insurance plans are also under attack. So writes Frances Coppola in a December 18th article titled “Co-operative Banking Under Attack in Europe,” discussing an insolvent Spanish credit union that was the subject of a bail-in in July 2015. When the member-investors were subsequently made whole by the credit union’s private insurance group, there were complaints that the rescue “undermined the principle of creditor bail-in” – this although the insurance fund was privately financed. Critics argued that “this still looks like a circuitous way to do what was initially planned, i.e. to avoid placing losses on private creditors.”
In short, the goal of the bail-in scheme is to place losses on private creditors. Alternatives that allow them to escape could soon be blocked.
We need to lean on our legislators to change the rules before it is too late. The Dodd Frank Act and the Bankruptcy Reform Act both need a radical overhaul, and the Glass-Steagall Act (which put a fire wall between risky investments and bank deposits) needs to be reinstated.
Meanwhile, local legislators would do well to set up some publicly-owned banks on the model of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota – banks that do not gamble in derivatives and are safe places to store our public and private funds.
Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com. Listen to “It’s Our Money with Ellen Brown” on PRN.FM.
Either before we lose a city, or, if we are truly stupid, after we lose a city, we will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up (terrorists’) capacity to use the internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech [protections] and to go after people who want to kill us — to stop them from recruiting people before they get to reach out and convince young people to destroy their lives while destroying us.
In a follow-up article titled “The First Amendment is Not a Suicide Pact,” Gingrich went even further, arguing that terrorists should be “subject to a totally different set of rules,” and called for an international convention to decide “on what activities will not be protected by free speech claims.”
To make his case, Gingrich cited a 2005 Commentary article by the extremist former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, titled “Free Speech for Terrorists?,” the central premise of which was that “the free-speech clause was never intended to frustrate government’s ability to suppress true threats to national security.” In general, McCarthy argued, we must say that “some things are truly evil,” and “that advocating them not only fails to serve any socially desirable purpose but guarantees more evil.” Thus, the U.S. government must “convey in the strongest terms that the advocacy of terrorism in this day and age is entitled to no First Amendment protection.”
Back then — just nine years ago — Gingrich’s anti-free-speech remarks were, for the most part, quickly dismissed as unworthy of serious debate. Even National Review, which employs McCarthy, included Gingrich’s anti-free speech proposal on its 2011 list of the bad ideas the former speaker has espoused in his career. In 2006, I argued that the Gingrich/McCarthy desire to alter the First Amendment to fight The Terrorists was extremist even when judged by the increasingly radical standards of the Bush/Cheney war on terror, which by that point had already imprisoned Americans arrested on U.S. soil with no due process and no access to lawyers. With rare exception, Gingrich’s desire to abridge free speech rights in the name of fighting terrorism was dismissed as a fringe idea.
Fast forward to 2015, where the aging al Qaeda brand has become decisively less scary and ISIS has been unveiled as the new never-before-seen menace. There are now once again calls for restrictions on the First Amendment’s free speech protections, but they come not from far-right radicals in universally discredited neocon journals, but rather from the most mainstream voices, as highlighted this week by the New York Times.
The NYT article notes that “in response to the Islamic State’s success in grooming jihadists over the internet, some legal scholars are asking whether it is time to reconsider” the long-standing “constitutional line” that “freedom of speech may not be curbed unless it poses a ‘clear and present danger’ — an actual, imminent threat, not the mere advocacy of harmful acts or ideas.”
The NYT cites two recent articles, one in Bloomberg by long-time Obama adviser Cass Sunstein and the other in Slate by law professor Eric Posner, that suggested limitations on the First Amendment in order to fight ISIS. It describes growing calls to ban the YouTube lectures and sermons of Anwar al Awlaki, the American cleric whom the U.S. assassinated by drone in 2011 (and then, two weeks later, killed his 16-year-old American son). It also notes that the desire to restrict the internet as a means of fighting ISIS has seeped into the leadership of both parties: Donald Trump said the “internet should be closed up” to ISIS, while “Hillary Clinton said the government should work with host companies to shut jihadist websites and chat rooms,” a plan that would be unconstitutional “if the government exerted pressure on private firms to cooperate in censorship.”
All of these proposals take direct aim at a core constitutional principle that for decades has defined the First Amendment’s free speech protections. That speech cannot be banned even if it constitutes advocacy of violence has a long history in the U.S., but was firmly entrenched in the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, about which I’ve written many times. The Brandenburg ruling “overturned the criminal conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who had threatened violence against political officials in a speech.” Even more important was the law that the Brandenburg court invalided as unconstitutional:
The KKK leader in Brandenburg was convicted under an Ohio statute that made it a crime to “advocate … the duty, necessity, or propriety of crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform” and/or to “voluntarily assemble with any society, group, or assemblage of persons formed to teach or advocate the doctrines of criminal syndicalism.” The Court struck down the statute on the ground that it “purports to punish mere advocacy” and thus “sweeps within its condemnation speech which our Constitution has immunized from governmental control.” The Court ruled that “except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action” — meaning conduct such as standing outside someone’s house with an angry mob and urging them to burn the house down that moment — “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force” (emphasis added).
The First Amendment bars the U.S. government from banning or punishing speech even if that speech advocates “the duty, necessity, or propriety of unlawful methods of terrorism.” And that’s exactly how it should be.
There are millions of people in the world who believe and argue that the U.S. has been supporting tyranny and bringing violence to predominantly Muslim countries for decades as a means of dominating that region, and that return violence is not only justifiable but necessary to stop it (just as there are millions of Westerners who believe and argue that they must bring more violence to the countries of that region). In particular, it’s astonishing to watch Americans — whose favorite political debate is deciding which country should be bombed next or which individuals should be next assassinated — propose changes to the First Amendment to make it a crime for others to justify (not engage in, but merely justify) the use of violence in what they argue is valid self-defense.
Abusing the force of law to silence legitimately expressed views — by criminalizing the advocates of one side of that debate — is as direct an attack on core free speech rights as anything that can be imagined (to understand how extremist the proposal is, see Ken White’s response to Posner’s article). Trying to dictate which views can and cannot be expressed on the internet, aside from being futile, is the modern-day hallmark of an authoritarian. Throughout its history, the U.S. has suffered far greater harm from overwrought authoritarians acting in the name of security than it has external threats; the tyrannical impulses that drove the Alien and Sedition Acts, World War I prosecutions of anti-war dissidents, the internment of Japanese-Americans, and McCarthyism did at least as much damage to the U.S. as any foreign adversary. Above all, this has been the core lesson of the “War on Terror”: The greatest threats to Western countries have come from those seeking to limit rights in the name of fighting terrorism, not the terrorists themselves. There is no more compelling example than those who now explicitly advocate Newt Gingrich’s 2006 idea of formally restricting the First Amendment.
For the reasons I set forth here, no human beings or human institutions should ever be trusted to promulgate lists of Prohibited Ideas and Viewpoints. But even if you are someone who yearns for such lists, it should be immediately obvious that your dream of prohibiting ideas is utterly futile, particularly in the digital age (so predictably, the killing of Awlaki did not silence his ideas but rather, as the NYT reports, “enhanced the appeal of his message to many admirers, who view him as a martyr”). And, just by the way, there is still not a single example of a terrorist attack carried out on U.S. soil by anyone radicalized by ISIS’ social media campaign (contrary to initial reports, the San Bernardino attackers were inspired by the message of Awlaki and al Qaeda, not ISIS); this is the threat that some individuals are now invoking to dismantle a core protection of the First Amendment?
What makes all of this especially ironic is that not even a year has elapsed since the Western world congratulated itself for its flamboyant street celebration of free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders. Remember all that? Yet now, explicitly advocating new restrictions on free speech and internet freedom is the norm.
It is essential to note that, for many years, the U.S. and other Western governments have been abridging free speech rights in the name of terrorism. They’ve already repeatedly prosecuted people — almost always Muslims, of course — for the ideas they have expressed on the internet and elsewhere. Those abridgments have already been severe when the villain was al Qaeda; now that it’s ISIS, these attacks on free speech are intensifying throughout the West.
But there is a difference between violating constitutional rights, as those cases have done, and formally restricting them, as people like Sunstein and Posner are now agitating to do. Guaranteeing free speech rights is one of the things that the U.S., relative to the rest of the world, still does well (not perfectly, but well). It is not an exaggeration to say that the people now plotting how to exploit terrorism fears in order to formally restrict rights of free expression themselves pose a clear and present danger to the U.S. (Sunstein previously proposed that the U.S. government “cognitively infiltrate” the internet by sending teams of covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” to discredit what he regards as false conspiracy theories, as well as pay so-called “independent” credible voices to bolster the government’s messaging). And as far as “hate speech” goes: there are few things more “hateful” than wanting to imprison one’s fellow citizens for expressing prohibited political ideas.
I certainly don’t think their right to espouse these dangerous ideas ought to be suppressed or punished. The solution to their dangerous ideas is to confront and refute them, not outlaw them. But it is vital to recognize the danger they and their ideas entail. We’ve been told for years that The Terrorists “hate our freedoms,” yet we cannot seem to rid ourselves of those who think the solution is to voluntarily abolish those freedoms ourselves.
Top photo: Members of a joint military honor guard stand watch over the Bill of Rights at the National Archives Rotunda in Washington, Dec. 15, 1991.