Thursday, May 31, 2012

Looming Economic Realities

Looming Economic Realities

by Stephen Lendman

Conditions show weakness, not improvement. Soft-land enthusiasts face rude awakening challenges. Later in 2012 and especially 2013, expect tougher times to reshape their outlook. They're always notoriously behind the curve.

Bad policy begets bad results. Force-fed austerity promises hard times getting nasty. In fall 2007, residential housing's reversal shaped events going forward.

Real estate kept overvalued markets safe. For most US households, it's their main discretionary income source. Its trajectory went straight up for years. Doing so formed a classic bubble. Eventually they all burst.

Real estate crashed and went straight down. Recovery is nowhere in sight. Hard times remain protracted. Main Street's been in Depression since 2008. Stability and economic growth are distant. Household and small business balance sheets contracted noticeably for over four years.

Belt-tightening reduced overall household debt to disposable income modestly from 135% in 2007 to 120% now. What happens going forward as economic weakness increases? Bipartisan support for $4 trillion in largely domestic cuts kicks in post-November when conditions can least tolerate them.

Obama administration policies have been spectacularly wrongheaded. Planned late year austerity when stimulus is needed will be disastrous. Inflation is much higher than reported. So is unemployment, growing poverty, and public pain.

At the same time, high food, energy, medical, transportation and other costs grow more unaffordable. Households with limited resources feel it most. 

Home prices haven't stabilized. Meaningful job creation is moribund. Solutions for issues this important aren't addressed. Rhetoric substitutes for sound policy.

Expect more wars instead of ending current ones. At the same time, homeland needs go begging. Europe's sovereign debt and banking crisis looms ominous. Standards of living in Western countries keep declining. No end of hardships continue.

China's property market began deflating. It's got a long way down to go. Its economy may prove much weaker than predicted. It has major unresolved problems.

Economic softness spread from Europe and America to Asia and Latin America. Chinese manufacturing is contracting. So is Brazil's.

Despite healthy corporate balance sheets, median OECD country public and private sector debt exceeds 400% of GDP. The OECD government debt to GDP ratio exceeds 100% for the first time post-WW II.

Unwinding excess will take years. Consumer spending will suffer. So will economic growth. Bad policies exacerbate hard times. Public pain generates instability. Strikes and angry protests continue. They'll grow and spread.

Boil over threatens. People take so much, then react disruptively. It's been ongoing for years but will intensify. Historically, political turmoil follows secular economic peaks. The harder and more protracted the fall, the more disorderly the reaction. 

Ahead expect the greatest in decades. Perhaps the most disruptive in modern times. 

Protracted reversals follow extreme excess. This one has a long way to go. Bad policy extends the timeframe. Imperial plans increase disruptiveness. Resources go for warmaking, not domestic needs. Greater suffering follows. The wild card is how much will people take before exploding. 

Day of reckoning time may be 2013. European governments toppled like tenpins. Obama or Romney in America hardly matters. Their agendas are similar on issues mattering most. 

Both support militarism, permanent wars, imperial dominance, corporate needs above public ones, painful austerity, and stiff crackdowns on resisters. Going forward, things look grim. Households least able to cope suffer most.

Key indicators point south. The Baltic Dry index historically indicates global economic activity. In May, it slumped about 10%. Future prospects look uncertain or troubled. Only about 20% of companies ventured outlooks. Of those, over half turned negative.

Headwinds overall are stiff. Durable goods orders show weakness. So does contracting production. New orders are down three consecutive months. Unfilled ones plunged. So did delivery time. Inventories hit a two month low. Prices paid collapsed to 5 from 22.5. It reflected the lowest read since July 2009.

Prices received also swung from 9.4 to -4.5, the lowest since last summer. Employment posted the largest monthly decline since May 2006. The workweek declined. Capex spending expectations hit their lowest level since September 2009.

Hiring shows no signs of recovering. Leading indicators sagged. The coincident to lagging ratio declined. It was down three of the past four months. The ratio is known for "leading the leader." It confirms likely downward GDP revisions. Going forward things look grim. 

In Europe they look worse. Greece is virtually bankrupt. Spain's economy is imploding. Retail sales plunged 9.8% year-over-year. They declined 22 consecutive months. The past year's result is the sharpest drop on record. 

What's implied going forward looks ominous. Spain's central bank governor Miguel Ordonez resigned. Word is he was forced out after serving six years. Eurozone economic confidence overall is down. 

So is US consumer confidence. During expansions, the historical average is 102. In recessions, it's 78. The latest read was 64.9, way below the norm. Employment was its grimmest part. It reflects people saying jobs are hard to get.

Financial advisor Martin Weiss believes "a new financial megashock" could happen any time. Potentially it looms greater than 2008 troubles. 

Market paralysis could follow. Trading could be frozen in "critical debt instruments such as bank CDs, commercial paper and even" sovereign debt.

Failures like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Lehman Bros., Bear Stearns, and others could repeat. Potentially they could be worse. Radical government measures could be imposed. If similar to earlier ones, they won't work.

"The next big megashock is both quite predictable and virtually unstoppable!"

Analysts paying attention understand. Others suspect the worst. Europe is cratering in crisis. Media reports understate the severity. Sovereign debt is dangerously high. The world is awash in debt. Major banks are insolvent. Bailouts follow earlier ones.

Instead of confronting problems responsibly, policy makers keep repeating past mistakes.

An "explosive combination of extreme danger (and) complacency" exists. Current risks exceed 2008. Then, finance capital was troubled. "Today, entire nations are on the brink." Weakness shows up in New York, London, across Europe, and spreads globally.

In 2007, America's federal deficit was $161 billion. Currently, it exceeds $1.3 trillion.

In 2008, most troubled banking giants were American ones. Some still are like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. 

Today, European megabanks face serious problems. They include Banco Santander, Barclays, Crédit Agricole, Lloyds Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Société Générale, UniCredit SpA, and others.

Assets of European banking giants exceed those of all US commercial banks combined.

In 2008, governments had considerable firepower to confront crisis conditions. Today, everything tried brings "diminishing returns."

In 2008, governments met little public resistance. Currently, angry protests continue across Europe and America.

Before 2008, central banks "largely restrict(ed) their role to traditional" practices. Radical departure followed to no avail. Massive money creation brought no relief. Printing more won't help unless directed for economic growth, not banker balance sheets. 

Political rhetoric signals growth. Policies suggest otherwise.

Greece is most troubled of all. Sovereign debt costs above 7% signal danger. Athens pays four times that much. The more it borrows, the worse off it gets. Its debt is virtually worthless. Default is almost certain. Mass withdrawals intensify current problems.

Spain is nearly as troubled. Its economy exceeds Greece's fivefold. Greece is a side-show by comparison. Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said "there will be no Spanish banking rescue." With over $1 trillion in deposits, enough resources don't exist to cover runs if they spread and grow.

At 510 basis points, Spanish/German 10-year yield spreads reached the highest level since the euro's inception.

At the same time, unemployment approaches 25%. For youths, it's 50% and worsening. Confidence in its banks cratered. Earlier in May, Bankia, Spain's fourth largest bank, was nationalized. Credit downgrades hit the entire sector. Expect other bank rescues to follow.

Austerity across Europe is still policy. Based on election results, support for it collapsed. Massive money printing won't help.

Progressive Radio News Hour regular Bob Chapman predicts it. G8 summit leaders discussed it. Fed QE III looks likely. Continued propping up of troubled banks is planned. At issue is for how long. It solved nothing earlier and won't now.

"ECB will take junk bonds and other vastly over-priced assets as collateral for loans to the Spanish, Greek and other European banks. This will offset an additional estimated $500 billion in new write-offs by bondholders of Greek debt."

If Greece leaves the euro, "contagion will spread overnight to Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and perhaps Italy."

Inflationary countermeasures are planned. Obama hopes to hold on through election. Fed and ECB assets "fall far short" of an estimated $4 trillion or more euro liability private banks face. 

Four and a half years into crisis conditions, they're worse off than ever. Recapitalizations solved nothing. They bought time for a greater day of reckoning.

At the same time, bank runs are hitting troubled EU economies. Greece noticeably is affected. Euro exit fears motivate people to transfer funds elsewhere. Spanish depositors are scared. They're doing the same thing.

Portugal, Ireland and Italy are vulnerable. Once outflows start, stopping them isn't easy. Potential runs in other countries could follow. It's similar to selling weak sovereign debt for safe havens.

Bank runs are especially pernicious. They can happen quickly and spread. The potential for financial crisis grows. Is it happening again? Only the fullness of time will tell.

In America, insider selling surged. Corporate stock buybacks fell to a three year low. None of this signals confidence.

In early May, JP Morgan's trading loss sent shock waves across Wall Street. The $2 billion announced reflects the tip of the iceberg. Expect much more to come. Other banks face similar risks.

JP Morgan was considered Wall Street's most stable bank. Now it's troubled. At issue is speculative excess. It's done because banking giants are considered too big to fail. The Bernanke put assures taxpayer bailouts if needed.

At the same time, lending across Europe contracted sharply. Doing so exacerbates recession conditions. Eurozone banks are deeply troubled. So are Britain's. 

America's economy has a 90% correlation with Europe. What affects the continent spreads contagion to US banks. Bank of America and Wells Fargo have serious problems. JP Morgan's losses show none of the giants are immune, and what hits them also harms smaller banks. They're more on their own. Many fail.

Troubled conditions now replicate 2008. Speculative excess continues unabated. Big bets gone bad trigger crises. JP Morgan sent a shock waves across Wall Street and Europe. Free money bailouts solved nothing. European banks are especially weak.

Responsible solutions aren't taken. Huge bad asset amounts infest bank balance sheets. Fiscal austerity combined with monetary madness makes economic conditions worse. 

Europe and America exacerbate each other's problems. Policy measures followed are similar. So are hard times getting harder.

Instead of nationalizing insolvent banks worth saving, letting others fail, and restructuring responsibly, past errors repeat with predictable results. At best they buy time. Eventually it runs out. 

The moment of truth may hit harder than anything felt so far. Ordinary people suffer most. What happened earlier may be prelude to grimmer than ever times ahead.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at 

His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"

Visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.  

Obama Plans War on Syria

Obama Plans War on Syria

by Stephen Lendman

Guilty of war crimes multiple times over, Obama plans more death, destruction, conquest, colonization, resource control, exploitation, and dominance.

Syria is target one, then Iran, then other nations. It follows Washington's longstanding pattern of waging war on humanity. 

Iran's peaceful nuclear program is pretext for post-November war. Syria's Houla massacre draws it closer against Assad.

Since early last year, thousands of Syrian civilians and security forces died. Daily body counts mount. Western-enlisted insurgents bear most responsibility. Assad is wrongfully blamed for their crimes.

Houla represents the largest incident so far. At least 109 deaths were reported. Most were killed at point blank range. 

According to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesman Rupert Colville, over 80% "were summarily executed in two separate incidents."

"What is very clear is that this was an absolutely abominable event that happened in Houla and at least a substantial part of it was summary executions of civilians, including women and children."

Entire families "were shot (in cold blood) in their houses," or murdered other ways.

Western-enlisted death squad assassins, not Assad, bear full responsibility. Spurious accusations blamed pro-Assad Alawites. 

Claims about tanks and artillery "pounding" Houla were exaggerated. Bodies found were intact. Bullet, stab, and other wounds reflect close-range killing. Insurgents went house to house. Victims had no place to hide.

Nonetheless, Washington, Britain, France, and rogue partners reacted as expected.

Ambassadors were expelled. Syria hasn't had one in Washington since last year. Its charge d'affaires got 72 hours to leave. A White House statement condemned Assad for killer gang crimes he tried to stop, saying:

"These acts serve as a vile testament to an illegitimate regime that responds to peaceful political protest with unspeakable and inhuman brutality."

Since violence erupted last year, Washington orchestrated events on the ground. Obama officials bear full responsibility for mass murder, destruction, mayhem and instability. 

America is directly or indirectly involved in virtually all regional conflicts. It's the world's leading human rights abuser. Longstanding war plans target Assad. Houla may be used as trigger to launch it.

Inflammatory scoundrel media reports make war more likely. It wouldn't be the first time. 

Former New York Times writer Judith Miller fell from grace. She was directly complicit in promoting war against Iraq. Her daily front page features read like Pentagon handouts. She sacrificed journalism for warmongering. Times editors let her. She's gone, but they're still at it.

Last year they targeted Gaddafi. This year they promote war on Iran and Syria. Shameless propaganda encourages what they should oppose. 

Times' correspondents, op-ed contributors, and editorial writers comprise a virtual Noah's Ark of scam artists. Journalistic ethics aren't tolerated. Subservience to wealth and power is mandated. So is lying for a living.

On May 30, several featured articles and one inflammatory editorial targeted Assad.

On Tuesday, Washington "joined with 10 nations...." They expelled Syrian diplomats. Fingers pointed the wrong way. Heated rhetoric substituted for truth. War drums were clearly audible. 

Journalism is support to accurately inform, agenda-free. Advocacy shouldn't be tolerated. Taking sides veers far from good reporting. Too often it's featured on Times pages.

Calling Houla "a tipping point" comes dangerously close to advocating war. Blaming Assad for insurgent killings draws it closer. 

No publication has more global influence than The Times. Government officials follow its articles, commentaries and editorials. Agendas they advocate affect policies. Promoting war makes it more likely.

The Times strayed far from June 13, 1971. It became the first broadsheet to begin publishing the top secret Pentagon Papers. At the time, publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger said, "What was revealed, had to be revealed....people had the right to know." 

In a 1996 article, The Times said: 

The Pentagon Papers "demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public, but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance."

Did misreporting about nonexistent Iraq WMDs matter less? Were lies about Gaddafi acceptable? Was getting the Afghanistan wrong good journalism? 

Are rule of law principles unimportant? Is sanitized news without truth and full disclosure proper on Times' pages? Obvious questions go answered.

He and other congressional hawks want war on Syria. John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham are especially belligerent. They bluntly support air strikes. Romney stops short of their rhetoric but not their agenda to topple Assad. Most others in Congress support it. So does Obama. Romney wants faster action.

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey said:

"Of course, there is always a military option....It may come to a point with Syria because of the atrocities."

He added that Friday's massacre made intervention more likely.

War plans were prepared months ago. They're also ready against Iran. Key NATO partners and regional allies support it. So do the Turkish-based Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Syrian National Council (SNC).

Houla "compel(s) the world to take action - not just talk, but action," he said. He stopped just short of urging war, but imagine what's said privately.

Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz said:

"The West must intervene, either directly, or indirectly." He added that Israel must get involved. These type comments suggest war draws closer. When rhetoric gets this heated, bombs away usually follows. At this point, it looks almost certain. Whether Russia and China can prevent it remains to be seen.

On May 30, a Times editorial headlined "The Massacre at Houla," saying:

Expelling Syrian diplomats stops short of tougher measures needed. Russia remains a "roadblock." Fingers pointed solely at Assad. Houla "was just the latest evidence that he never intended to" pursue peace.

The editorial suggested "shabiha, or government thugs" did "at least some of the killings by shooting people - including entire families - at close range."

The most obvious question went unanswered: Cui bono? Clearly not Assad.

Like previous hostile editorials, this one stopped short of urging war. Given its tough rhetoric, it's just a matter of time. Calls overall grow louder.

On May 29, a Washington Post editorial headlined "Time for US leadership on Syria," saying:

Body counts mount. An "illusory cease fire" exists. Houla wasn't unique. It's "just better documented than (other Assad) towns and cities across Syria."

"The Obama administration persists, too, in declining to exercise the U.S. leadership that would be required to stop the massacres. For the past two months it hid behind Mr. Annan. Now....his plan has become an embarrassment...."

"The reality is that the killing in Syria will continue, and the threat to vital U.S. interests across the Middle East will grow...."

The Washington Post also barely stopped short of urging war. At issue is how much longer? Harsh commentaries and political rhetoric suggest what peace advocates fear most.

A hawkish Haaretz article intensifies it. Headlined "On Syria, the world prattles on," saying:

"The Syrian threat doesn't just hover over Syrian cities and towns; it is also warming up the engines of Israel's fighter jets" to attack Iran.

Full of misinformation, it feigned concern for regional security and stability. When irresponsible commentators and political officials promote wars, spurious reasons are given. 

Deception substitutes for truth and reason. Bad policies usually follow. Only imperial interests gain. People on both sides lose. One conflict begets others. 

Endless turmoil and violence persist. Advocating them is unconscionable. Calls for war grow louder. 

A large-scale false flag attack blamed on Syria could cinch it. It wouldn't be the first time America manipulated events to wage war and won't be the last. Odds look like it's coming.

A Final Comment

For months, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been under house arrest in London. Sweden wants him extradited on spurious charges. They include unlawful coercion, sexual molestation and rape.

Allegedly it's for having sex without a condom. Since when is condomless or consensual sex illegal? A honey trap snared him.

At issue isn't sex. Washington wants him extradited to stand trial for whistleblowing. Obama officials want him put away and silenced. Sweden is a way station.

On May 31, Britain's Supreme Court ordered Assange extradited to Stockholm. Its 5 - 2 decision rejected his argument about an invalid European arrest warrant.

His lawyers got two weeks to contest. Earlier, two lower courts ruled for extradition. Washington exerted pressure and got what it wanted. Summary judgment awaits Assange in America. Maybe Guantanamo or Bradley Manning-style.

Kid gloves treatment won't await him. Claims about putting lives at risk are spurious. At issue is silencing whistleblowers. Assange and Manning are best known.

Assange may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Doing so could delay extradition for months.

Per Samuelson, one of his lawyers, said whether he'll appeal isn't decided. At the same time, he believes he'll be cleared in Sweden. Whether true or not won't matter if authorities there order him extradited to America.

At this point, it looks likely, but resolution may be months away.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at 

His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"

Visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

BBC Wages Propaganda War on Syria

BBC Wages Propaganda War on Syria

by Stephen Lendman

Millions globally follow BBC reports regularly. Most perhaps don't know they get propaganda, not real news, commentary and opinion.

Since established in October 1922, it's operated as a UK imperial tool. Its first general manager, John Reith, set the tone, saying:

"They (meaning the UK government) know they can trust us not to be really impartial."

Straightaway he betrayed the public trust. Operating as a reliable business and government partner got BBC labeled the "British Falsehood Corporation." Some today call it the "British Bombing (or Bombast) Club."

Reith used BBC as a strikebreaker. He secretly wrote anti-union speeches. He refused air time for worker representatives. He and current officials represent elitist interests, not public ones media outlets are supposed to serve.

Job applicants are vetted to assure pro-government, pro-business credentials. Aberrant ones aren't wanted. Whether on domestic or foreign issues, fair and balanced reporting isn't tolerated.

How can it be when government officials appoint senior managers. Any stepping out of line get fired. Nothing changed from inception to now. 

Its claim about "honesty, integrity (being) what the BBC stands for, free from political influence and commercial pressure" is willful, deceptive hype.

UK-based Media Lens offers independent, "authoritative criticism." Its reports reflect "reality." It's free from corporate or government influence.

It covers BBC reporting. It once called it fundamentally one-sided, imbalanced, "biased, blinkered and culpable." 

"Anyone can spot the propaganda with a modicum of vigilance while watching the news."

Western interests alone are represented. Viewers and listeners get one side only. They're "clearly expected to identify with NATO." They're "asked to assume there is a moral basis to (its) killing."

Attacking nations Washington and Britain declare "officially-decreed enemies" is supposed to be just and righteous no matter how lawless and indefensible.

BBC does what it's told. It's government funded, operated and controlled. It's Britain's official voice. It pretends to be independent and impartial. 

"Propaganda merchants R Us," says Media Lens. 

"In each decade, from its inception to the present day, the BBC bears the scars of its entanglements with those in power." 

Media Lens quoted BBC news director, Helen Boaden. On June 10, 2011, she spoke the above words. She discussed the "value of journalism speech." 

She quoted Groucho Marx once saying:

"The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing....And if you can fake that, you've got it made!"

Journalists are supposed to speak truth to power. Few, in fact, do it. None working for scoundrel media. BBC falls woefully short. It represents interests it's supposed to confront and hold to account.

Instead it serves wealth and power. It's a "propaganda system for elite interests," says Media Lens. Viewers and listeners are betrayed, especially on issues mattering most. 

What's more important than war or peace? When Britain and America rage to fight, BBC marches in lockstep. 

On February 1, 2012, the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) headlined "BBC Peddles War Propaganda," saying:

BBC willfully misrepresents Iran's nuclear program. For example, on January 26, it "explicitly stated that Iran has nuclear bombs!"

A "tirade of demonization and misinformation" followed. Spurious accusations claimed Iran threatens world peace. Question Time host David Dimbleby breached journalistic fairness and accuracy codes. He featured guests stating spurious misinformation, not truth and full disclosure.

Journalist Melanie Phillips claimed "Iran is threatening genocide against Israel virtually every week, and it means it." She referred to the canard about wiping Israel off the map.

She continued saying:

"You are dealing in Iran with people who are not rational. You are dealing with people who believe that if they provoke the apocalypse, the end of days, they will bring to earth the Shiia Messiah, the Mahdi, and so they are in the business of provoking an apocalypse." 

"It does not matter to them that in a nuclear exchange they may lose half of their own country. It doesn’t matter. This is the mentality that you are dealing with. And the threat is to all of us."

Broadcasting these type comments is unconscionable. Other guests say similar things. BBC features them. Viewers and listeners are misinformed. It repeats daily, especially when Britain and America plan war. CASMII had every right to complain. Doing so fell on deaf ears.

Last March, Alastair Crooke headlined his Asia Times article "Syria: Straining credulity?" 

He quoted an unnamed US officer defining the future of warfare. In a 1997 US Army War College Quarterly article, he said:

"....we are already masters of information warfare. Hollywood is 'preparing the battlefield.' (We) will be writing the scripts, producing them, and collecting the royalties. Our creativity is devastating."

"Hatred, jealousy, and greed - emotions, rather than strategy - will set the terms of (information warfare) struggles."

Media scoundrels play the same role. The Syrian conflict "is scripted in emotional images and moralistic statements that always....trump rational analysis."

Baseless suspicions bring charges of crimes against humanity. Opposition and Western sources are cited. Warmongering officials write the scripts. Media scoundrels regurgitate their misinformation.

"Those who try to argue that Western intervention can only exacerbate the crisis are confronted (with images) of dead babies."

Those who write the scripts set the tone. Who'll contradict them without major media support? Expect none from BBC.

"Are we now to (believe) that armed opposition (insurgents are) motivated by" humanitarian concerns? "Will a Kosovo-type solution (improve things) in Syria?"

Does "anyone really believe American and European objectives in Syria (are) purely humanitarian?" Info-wars have other things in mind. At issue is regime change, not reform. It's about isolating Iran. It's about setting the stage for toppling its government after disposing of Syria.

"Do these reporters really believe" the agitprop they air? "Perhaps some do, but others (say things) to prepare the battlefield."

It bears repeating. When America, Britain, and rogue partners go to war or plan one, media scoundrels march in lockstep. BBC's done it for decades. Now it's at it again.

Spurious accusations claim Iran is developing nuclear weapons. In fact, none exist, and Iran threatens no one. 

On May 27, Houla's massacre was featured. Reporting from Beirut, Jim Muir said:

"Some opposition groups are saying this could be a turning point."

"Western nations are pressing for a response...."

America wants "an end to (Assad's) 'rule by murder.' "

"The killings have sparked a chorus of international condemnation."

US, UK, French, and UN officials were quoted. They all pointed fingers one way. So did BBC by featuring them. The blame game accuses victims. Perpetrators get scant mention. Heated interventionist calls increase. "(I)ndiscriminate and disproportionate use of force" was charged.

On May 29, BBC reported on "how a massacre unfolded," saying:

"Anti-government activists, eyewitnesses and human rights groups - including the UN's high commissioner for human rights - point the finger at the Syrian army and the shabiha, a sectarian civilian militia that supports the regime of Bashar al-Assad."

BBC claimed army shelling began the attack. Syria categorically denies it. No tanks or artillery targeted Houla. None were positioned nearby. Hundreds of heavily armed Western-sponsored gunmen bear full responsibility.

Like other scoundrel media, BBC reported a tsunami of misinformation and lies. 

On May 27, the London Telegraph headlined "BBC News uses 'Iraq photo to illustrate Syrian massacre," saying:

Willful deception was caught red-handed. The image used "was actually taken on March 27, 2003...." It "shows a young Iraqi child jumping over dozens of white body bags containing skeletons found in a desert south of Baghdad."

BBC posted it on its web site under the heading "Syria massacre in Houla condemned as outrage grows." The caption suggests Houla bodies awaited burial.

Photographer Marco di Lauro spotted the deception. He took the photo. When he saw it he said he nearly "fell off his chair," adding:

"One of my pictures from Iraq was used by the BBC web site as a front page illustration claiming (Houla body images were) sent by an activist."

BBC pulls stunts like this often. So do US and other Western media. Notoriously they misreport on imperial wars and events preceding them. Propaganda substitutes for real news and information. Apologies after the fact when caught don't matter. Damage done can't be reversed.

What could Assad gain by killing babies, young children, women and the elderly? How would cutting their throats or shooting them at point blank range help? Obvious questions go unanswered. Regurgitated lies substitute. 

The pattern repeats when Washington, Britain, and rogue partners want independent governments toppled. Media propaganda promotes wars. 

It rages against Syrian civilians. Insurgent death squad assassins target them. They've been doing it since early last year. Like other scoundrel media, BBC ignores truths and features willful misinformation and lies. Fake images are prominently featured. 

Viewers and listeners are misinformed and betrayed. Many wonder what's next. Domestic needs suffer to serve ravenous imperial appetites. No end of conflicts appear near. 

Iran parliamentarians condemned the Houla massacre. They compared it to Israel's Sabra and Shatila slaughter. They called it "blatant....terrorist acts (of) mass murder...." Insurgents bear full responsibility. Assad is wrongfully blamed.

America should be held accountable, they said. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said it was done "to create chaos and instability." It's also about preventing peace and paving the way for war.

On May 29, Press TV reported that the Habilian Association human rights group said:

"We have conclusive proof and documents showing that the MKO (Mujahedlin-e Organization) has a strong and significant presence in Syria." 

"The terrorist group has begun, in an all-out fashion, acts of sabotage and terrorism against the Syrian government and nation, and has found major influence among the Syrian rebels."

Washington is directly involved. So are Western and regional partners. MKO plans a "large-scale attack." Preparations are underway. 

Everything ongoing facilitates Washington's war plans. The worst could erupt any time. First Syria, then Iran, then new targets in an endless cycle of violence, killing, and destruction. Expect it. It's coming.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at 

His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"

Visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.  

Violence-Wracked Honduras

Violence-Wracked Honduras

by Stephen Lendman

On June 28, 2009, a coordinated State Department-Pentagon project allied with Honduran military commanders and top opposition figures ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

Industrialists, financial interests, large landowners, and transnational corporations supported the coup.

A Porfirio Lobo fascist dictatorship replaced him. Washington backs, arms and funds it. 

All Honduran officers from captains on up train at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). 

Formerly it was called the School of the Americas (SOA). It's popularly known as the "School of Assassins."

It teaches how to torture, repress, exterminate poor and indigenous people, overthrow democratically elected governments, assassinate targeted leaders, and suppress popular resistance when it erupts. 

Its graduates specialize in state terror. They brutalize, disappear, and massacre elements perceived as threats to their authority. No one lives safe under these conditions.

Honduras' reputation as the world's murder capital is well deserved. Political and human rights activists, unionists and independent journalists are especially at risk. Conditions are exacerbated by Washington's complicity.

On May 11, a US helicopter attack killed four Hondurans, including two pregnant women. Another four were wounded during an anti-drug raid. 

American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) militants were involved. They then stormed homes while occupants slept. 

Witnesses said masked men spoke English. Hilaria Zavala said six men kicked in her door at 3AM, threw her husband to the floor, and threatened him at gunpoint.

Earlier, the DEA acknowledged its involvement in Honduras. Nonetheless, spokeswoman Dawn Dearden said agency personnel weren't in the village on May 11.

Honduran security ministry spokesman Hector Ivan Mejia said he knew nothing about the raid. Police claimed cocaine was aboard the targeted vessel. They said those onboard fired first. They shot back in "self-defense."

Conflicting Honduran military reports said agents fired on civilians by mistake. Another claimed those killed were drugs traffickers.

Villagers are enraged. Nearby Ahuas Mayor Lucio Vaquedano said they have nothing to do with drugs. Victims were fishing. Helicopter fire machine-gunned them to death. It was cold-blooded murder.

Indigenous Miskito group leaders said:

"For centuries we have been a peaceful people who live in harmony with nature, but today we declared these Americans to be persona non grata in our territory."

Candelaria Trapp, one of the slain victims, left behind six motherless children. 

In response, residents burned government buildings. They demand US agents leave. On May 5, The New York Times headlined "Lessons of Iraq Help US Fight a Drug War in Honduras," saying:

Washington established "three new (Honduran) forward bases." The country "is the latest focal point in America's drug war." Allegedly US forces only fire in "self-defense." May 11 proved otherwise.

Moreover, an alleged "drug war" is a red herring. America's CIA trafficked them for decades. Wall Street and other major banks launder billions in illicit profits.

Written or acknowledged rules of engagement authorize free fire zone directives. In Iraq and Afghanistan they ordered killing every military-aged man in sight. Honduras perhaps is no different. 

US wars on terror, drugs, or for other reasons get carte blanche authority to operate freely. Limitations don't apply. Honduran and US Special Forces work with DEA agents. It's more about repression than stopping trafficking.

Rights Action reports often on conditions in the country. On May 17, it headlined "Honduras: A Violence, Repression and Impunity Capital of the world,” saying:

"There is no end in sight to violence and repression in Honduras. There is also no end in sight to American and Canadian governments and business maintaining political, economic and military relations with the military-backed regime."

Besides being Latin America's murder capital, it's also the region's "journalist killing LGBT killing capital, a prisoner killing capital, a lawyer killing capital, etc."

Unrestrained violence continues. America's support and involvement facilitates it. Human rights abuses rage out of control. State terror is policy. Ordinary Hondurans haven't a chance.

Resistance is their only option. Another coup may follow electoral change if achieved. Odds against it are long. 

Zelaya's wife Xiomara heads a LIBRE political party. It represents the Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP) popular resistance.

Its Declaration of Principles calls revolution "inevitable." An "unsustainable economic, political and social system" rules Honduras.

Crisis conditions followed the June 2009 coup. It unleashed reign of terror violence. Repressive, anti-democratic, neoliberal forces rule. Predatory capitalism exploits and kills. Hondurans demand change. Perhaps one day they'll get it. For now, it's nowhere in sight.

On January 26, a New York Times Dana Frank op-ed headlined "In Honduras, a Mess Made in the US," saying:

"IT’S time to acknowledge the foreign policy disaster that American support for the Porfirio Lobo administration in Honduras has become." 

"Ever since the June 28, 2009 coup that deposed Honduras’s democratically elected president, José Manuel Zelaya, the country has been descending deeper into a human rights and security abyss." 

"That abyss is in good part the State Department’s making."

Headlines reflect daily horror stories. A UN report calls Honduras the world murder capital. State-sponsored terror is mostly to blame. 

Lobo replicates the worst of other world despots. Elections lack credibility. Democracy isn't tolerated. 

Last October, Obama praised Lobo for "restor(ing) democratic practices."

Last May, 87 congressional members pushed back a little, not enough. In a letter to Hillary Clinton, they urged suspending military and related aid. House Foreign Affairs ranking Democrat, Howard Berman (D. CA) asked whether Washington was arming a dangerous regime.

In December, Senator Patrick Leahy (D. VT) and others won small concessions on what's supplied, but not enough to matter. 

"Why has the State Department (backed) the Lobo administration," Frank asked? In part, it caved to right-wing ideologue Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R. FL), House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman.

Extremists like her infest Congress like crabgrass besets lawns. As a result, repression proliferates. Deaths follow. Hondurans face "a tragic abyss." It's time to stop "feeding the beast." Alternative approaches are long overdue.

Hondurans, not America's State Department "have the right to lead their country forward."

Frank is a University of California, Santa Cruz, Professor of History. The Times provided rare op-ed space for honest opinion.

On January 24, a Miami Herald editorial headlined "Central America's free-fire zone," saying:

US Peace Corps volunteers left. It's "one more sign (Honduras) deteriorated to crisis levels not seen since the" 1980s Contra wars. "The country is quickly turning into a disaster zone."

US-backed Honduran officials "are complicit in the violence and criminality." The country is a virtual "free-fire zone." Its murder rate exceeds 82 per 100,000. In Miami, it's 5.5 per 100,000.

In a nation of eight million, nearly 7,000 2011 homicides were reported. It increased 250% in the last six years. It reflects the world's highest per capita rate.

Security forces are directly involved. State-sponsored violence is policy. Police and military elements are "enforcers and bodyguards for drug traffickers."

Journalists, whistleblowers, and prosecutors courageous enough to point fingers are murdered. Top law enforcement officials are involved. National Police director Jose Ricardo Ramirez del Cid is complicit.

Internal police reports named him and others. Violations go unaddressed. Lobo looks the other way. He's directly complicit. So are lawmakers, government bureaucrats, and top Washington officials.

The stench of corruption and other crimes in Honduran high places is too clear to ignore. By providing arms, funding and training, Washington's directly involved.

"(W)here's the accountability," asked the editorial? "Congress should withdraw assistance if the Honduran government blocks reforms. This crisis requires more than tough talk."

So far, meaningful change remains elusive. Washington's to blame for the region's worst state terror. It backs other notorious despots globally. 

It's official state policy. Bipartisan support backs it. Change depends on Americans no longer putting up with what no one should tolerate. Perhaps one day they will. They better. Human survival's at stake.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at 

His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"

Visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Anti-Syrian Propaganda Promotes War

Anti-Syrian Propaganda Promotes War

by Stephen Lendman

A previous article discussed scoundrel media anti-Iranian propaganda. They also target Syria. They march in lockstep with imperial lawlessness. 

Readers and viewers deserve better than misinformation and betrayal. They need alternative sources to avoid it.

Washington has longstanding designs on Iran and Syria. Regime change is planned by any means. War threatens both countries. Obama, the peace candidate, can't wait to start another one. He's already guilty of war crimes multiples times over.

Media scoundrels back him. Peace, equity, justice, human and civil rights, other democratic values, and obeying rule of law principles don't matter. Political Washington abhors them. So do media scoundrels.

America unmasked is loathsome, dangerous and rapacious. Scoundrel media reality reveals rejection of fundamental journalistic principles.

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) "is dedicated to the perpetuation of a free press as the cornerstone of our nation and our liberty."

Democratic freedom depends on keeping "the American people well informed....It is the role of journalists to provide this information in an accurate, comprehensive, timely and understandable manner." 

SPJ's Code of Ethics affirms this responsibility. Scoundrel media members fall way short. Fiction substitutes for fact. News is carefully filtered. Dissent is marginalized, and support for wealth and power is policy. 

Aggressive wars are called liberating ones. Civil liberties are suppressed for our own good, and patriotism means going along with government policy no matter how repugnant, lawless or destructive.

On May 26, headlines featured dozens killed in Houla. Fingers pointed the wrong way. The New York Times headlined "Dozens of Children Die in Brutal Attack on Syrian Town," saying:

Over 100 died, "including at least 32 children under the age of 10," according to UN (unnamed) officials. Assad was blamed for "indiscriminate" shelling civilian neighborhoods.

"....Syrian tanks and artillery pounded Houla....during the day, (unidentified) opposition groups said...."

"(S)oldiers and pro-government fighters stormed the village and killed families in their homes late at night."

Sources weren't named or checked. Scoundrel media regurgitate spurious accounts. Headlines scream them. Reports distort, lie, and omit what's most important.

Since early last year, US, UK and perhaps other NATO and regional special forces operated in Syria. So have CIA and MI6 agents. Israel is also involved. So are other regional states. 

Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Libya's puppet regime, and Lebanon's March 14 alliance actively aid rogue killers. Washington orchestrates everything. Britain's a willing partner. So are France and other NATO states.

Arms, ammunition, equipment, and funding are supplied. So is training and direction on the ground. It replicates the Libya model. So far it's short of NATO bombing. For how long matters most. Western-generated violence advances the ball closer to war.

Claims about a popular uprising are spurious. At issue is Washington's long-planned insurrection to replace Assad with a pro-US puppet.

In February 2011, US, UK and French special forces together with intelligence operatives actively aided anti- Gaddafi insurgents. Bombing began weeks later. Despite denials, NATO stands ready to intervene in Syria and perhaps Iran.

Washington orchestrated war on Libya. It's directing anti-Assad efforts now. All options are open. Expect war. It's coming, then another post-November against Iran. 

Ravaging the world one country at a time is policy. The business of America is war. Permanent ones are planned. 

How much more humanity can takes worries independent analysts reflecting on issues this vital. World peace is up for grabs. So is humanity's survival. The threat remains grave and real. Yet it's unaddressed publicly.

On May 27, Syrian Sana State media headlined "Makdissi: Syria Categorically Denies Responsibility of the Syrian Forces for al-Houla Massacre," saying:

Spokesman for Syrian Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister, Jihad Makdissi, denied spurious reports blaming Assad for mass slaughter in Houla.

Western-backed insurgents bear full responsibility. It wasn't the first time and won't be the last. 

Pointing fingers the wrong way blames victims. Makdissi held a Sunday press conference. He strongly condemned insurgent killings.

No government tanks or artillery entered Houla. Hundreds of insurgents attacked civilians with Western weapons.

"The law enforcement members never left their positions and were in a state of self-defense."

Makdissi also condemned the "tsumami" of lies naming Assad for what Western-backed insurgents committed.

"We've talked to the Defense Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the authorities concerned in the picture of what happened in Houla."

"It has been confirmed that hundreds of gunmen gathered at 2:00 o'clock on Friday afternoon , using Pick-up cars loaded with up-to-date and heavy weapons, like mortars, machineguns and anti-tank missiles, which are newly used in the confrontation with the state forces.''

"The gunmen headed to al-Houla area which is guarded by the government forces at five points where law-enforcement members and security are positioned, which lie outside the places where the massacres happened."

"The attack lasted from 2:00 pm o'clock until 11:00 pm. 3 law-enforcement members were martyred and 16 injured, some critically, and there were charred bodies.''

Makkissi also mentioned a recent Al-Shoumarieh village massacre. Insurgents burnt homes, crops and a hospital. Both incidents are part of a broader campaign to terrorize Syrian civilians. It's done to turn them against Assad. Instead, his support grows. If war comes, he get much more.

America and other Security Council scoundrels support regime change and lawless killing. Heavy arms reach Syrian insurgents regularly. Women, children and the elderly are targeted. Kofi Annan's sham peace plan was cover to permit it.

Syrian forces provide security as best they can. Assad confronts insurgents responsibly. Doing so draws blame. Fingers point the wrong way. Washington bears most responsibility. So do key NATO partners, Turkey, Israel, and other neighboring states. They're providing arms and safe havens. They're guilty of crimes of war and against humanity.

The Syrian Human Rights Network condemned terrorist killings. One massacre follows another. It called on other human rights group to unite against Western imperialism.

As expected, UN Secretary-General and Kofi Annan blamed the victims. Their disingenuous condemnation said:

"This appalling and brutal crime involving indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force is a flagrant violation of international law and of the commitments of the Syrian government to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and violence in all its forms."  

A brief White House statement called the attack "a vile testament to an illegitimate regime that responds to peaceful political protest with unspeakable and inhuman brutality."

Hillary Clinton, an unindicted war criminal, said:

"The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms yesterday's massacre in the Syrian village of Haoula. United Nations observers have confirmed that dozens of men, women, and children were killed and hundreds more wounded in a vicious assault that involved a regime artillery and tank barrage on a residential neighborhood."

"Those who perpetrated this atrocity must be identified and held to account. And the United States will work with the international community to intensify our pressure on Asad and his cronies, whose rule by murder and fear must come to an end."

"We stand in solidarity with the Syrian people and the peaceful marchers in cities across Syria who have taken to the streets to denounce the massacre in Haoula."

EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton also blamed Assad. She accused him of "heinous act(s) perpetrated by (his) regime against (his) civilian population." The European parliament head called Houla killings a war crime. Indeed so but responsible parties weren't named.

France called for a Friends of Syria meeting. Britain summoned Syria's envoy to explain. It also called for and got a Security Council meeting.

On Sunday, a closed door session was held. A statement followed. In part it said:

"The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of El-Houleh, near Homs, in attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighbourhood."

"The members of the Security Council also condemned the killing of civilians by shooting at close range and by severe physical abuse."

"The members of the Security Council reiterated that all violence in all its forms by all parties must cease. Those responsible for acts of violence must be held accountable."

"The members of the Security Council demanded that the Government of Syria immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centres and immediately pullback its troops and its heavy weapons from in and around population centres and return them to their barracks."

What should have been highlighted wasn't stressed. Insurgent killers weren't condemned. Russia and China went along. They'll have to explain why. Condemnation focused largely on Assad. Defending civilians against Western recruited mercenaries wasn't explained.

At the same time, Moscow's Deputy UN ambassador, Alexander Pankin, refused to rule out insurgent responsibility. He also suggested foreign special forces involvement.

Russia knows full well who's responsible. It's time to say so in blunt terms.

UN observer mission head General Robert Mood said "killing innocent children and civilians (must) stop." 

He disingenuously claimed responsible parties remain "unclear." He knows full well what's going on. He and other observers have been attacked several times. 

In closed Sunday session, he briefed Security Council members. Details are sketchy. He said at least 116 were killed. Many were children. Unofficial reports suggest he blamed Assad. 

He knows who's responsible but blamed the victim. Many civilians were killed with knives or shot at close range. Insurgent assassins were responsible. Possibly US and UK special forces directed them. America deploys death squads in dozens of countries. For sure Syria and Iran are targeted.

Nonetheless, victims are blamed for killer gang crimes.

The hypocrisy requires no comment. Expect no end of conflict. War advances closer.

Russia and China are Syria's last line of defense. They've provided firewall protection so far. For how much longer remains unclear. Daily things spin more out of control. Full-blown conflict looms. 

The so-call Free Syrian Army said it's no longer committed to Annan's peace plan. It refused its terms all along. Its disingenuous statement said: "We won't allow truce after truce, which prolongs the crisis for years."

It's terrorism bears full responsibility. It committed daily violence since last year. It won't tolerate peace and security. It's mission is death, destruction, turmoil, and toppling Assad in league with Washington, NATO partners, and rogue regional allies.

Kuwait currently heads the 22-member Arab League. It called for a ministerial meeting to "take steps to put an end to the oppressive practices against the Syrian people." 

Kuwait and most other League members support Western imperialism. They're part of the problem, not the solution.

On May 27, The New York Times headlined "US Hopes Assad Can Be Eased Out With Russia's Aid," saying:

Obama "will push for the departure of President Bashar al-Assad under a proposal modeled on the transition in another strife-torn Arab country, Yemen."

Yemen's election was illegitimate. Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh's vice president, Mansour Al-Hadi, ran unopposed. New faces representing old policies kept power. 

Washington orchestrated everything behind the scenes. Obama wants a similar process replacing Assad with a pro-Western puppet.

"The success of the plan hinges on Russia," said The Times. Obama will press Vladimir Putin to go along. On June 18 and 19, they'll meet at the Mexico G20 summit. Los Cabos, Baja California Sur plays host city. 

On May 9, Putin spoke in Moscow's Red Square. His speech commemorated Russia's victory over Nazi Germany. He addressed troops and war veterans.

He promised strength and assertiveness as president, saying:

"Russia has been consistently pursuing a policy of strengthening the world's security and we have a great moral right to take a principled and insistent stand."

He pointed fingers at Washington and NATO. According to Plekhanov Moscow University of Economics vice president Sergei Markov:

Putin "made it clear that such threats that arise from the United States exist today and can eventually lead to a global confrontation."

In early May, Russian Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov said Moscow may preemptively strike America's missile shield in neighboring countries. 

In November, then President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to withdraw from New START. Washington's installations target Russia. They pose a strategic threat. So do surrounding bases and America's Syria and Iran regime change plans. 

America wants unchallenged regional dominance. Putin understands the threat. He appears determined to act. He accused Washington of orchestrating Moscow street protests. He cancelled plans to attend the May G8 summit. He wasn't with NATO states in Chicago.

On May 28, Press TV said "Russia's military intelligence organization (GRU) believes that Washington was behind the crash of a Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 plane in Indonesia earlier in May."

Forty-five on board were killed. The demonstration flight showed potential buyers the plane's advanced technological capability. A GRU general said:

"We know that (Washington) ha(s) special equipment that can cut communications between an aircraft and the ground or interfere with the parameters on board."

He said electronic jamming the plane's onboard equipment likely caused the crash. The black box cockpit voice recorder indicated "no systemic problem or functional failure" during flight. Alexander Yablontsev was one of Russia's most experienced test pilots.

An unnamed Sukhoi official suggested "industrial sabotage to drive our aircraft from the market." Whether for strategic and/or commercial reasons, America often commits these type acts. Doing it on Putin's watch perhaps heightens his determination to confront Western aggression.

He's unlikely to yield on Syria or Iran. He seems determined to avoid war at all costs. 

Given Washington's rage to topple Assad, succeeding may prove out of reach. Events going forward bear watching.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at 

His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"

Visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.