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The US Banking System as an Arm of US Foreign Policy

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The Russian government is readying a new issuance of foreign bonds and has invited non-Russian banks to participate in the bond auction. US banks would like to participate in the auction but have been warned by the State Department that this would violate the spirit, if not the letter, of US sanctions against Russia. Even though it wouldn’t be illegal for the banks to bid in the auction, the State Department is warning of “reputational risk” to those banks that do decide to participate. There must be stronger language that the State Department is using privately, in which they’re undoubtedly trying to make the banks an offer they can’t refuse.

This incident is one more example that demonstrates the contempt with which the US government holds private companies. Private companies are literally being conscripted to serve the state. Last week we found out about the FBI trying to force Apple to hack into phones it produces in order to allow the FBI access whenever it wants. Now we have the State Department trying to bully American banks into not doing business in Russia. In fact, the very concept of sanctions relies on private companies acting as arms of the state. No company would willingly turn down lucrative business opportunities in Russia. It is only through government threats that companies cooperate with sanctions. There is a name for an economic system in which ownership is nominally private but ultimate control is exercised by the government: fascism.
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The New Bipolar World Has Arrived

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The United States, the lone superpower, has presented two draft resolutions to the UN Security Council on the North Korea problem and Syrian conflict respectively (here and here) – based on the understanding it reached through two water-tight bilateral consultative processes with two ‘half-superpowers’ – China and Russia. Now, don’t two halves make a wholesome one? Welcome to the new ‘bipolar’ world order.

Just as Beijing would have been taken by surprise at the US-Russian deal on Syria, which came out of the blue last Sunday, Moscow would take note that Washington and Beijing simply set out the road map on North Korea sanctions without taking Russia into confidence. But neither China nor Russia can complain because the lone superpower managed to make each feel special its own way.

A Russian diplomat in New York has promptly promised to study the draft resolution on North Korea sanctions. Beijing took a little extra time — almost two days — to issue a statement welcoming the US-Russian deal on Syria. The foreign ministers of Russia and China are not known to have spoken to each other even once during this past eventful one-week period although both claim to "co-ordinate" their foreign policy moves, while both nonetheless clocked several hours with their American counterpart.

It will be a signal achievement of the US diplomacy if it has succeeded in inserting itself laterally into the much-vaunted Sino-Russian entente. At any rate, Washington has brilliantly capitalized on the intense craving felt in Moscow and Beijing for somehow engendering an uplift in their respective ties with the US.
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The Media are Misleading the Public on Syria

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Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press. Reporting about carnage in the ancient city of Aleppo is the latest reason why.


For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression. They posted notices warning residents: “Don’t send your children to school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.” Then they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold it.
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Guantanamo Travesty: A Consequence Of Unconstitutional War

President Obama has made his final effort to fulfill a campaign promise to close down the US detention facility at the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba, sending Congress a plan that would see a new facility constructed in the US to house those of the 91 remaining prisoners who were not cleared for release. The plan is dead in the water in Congress, however, as Republicans in charge of the House and Senate have signaled a refusal to even work with the president on the issue. But this political tussle over the facility is in reality just a sideshow. Neither side wants to bring up the flawed and anti-American nature of Guantanamo and the undeclared and vague "war on terror" that prompted its creation. On the Liberty Report, however, that is precisely what we are interested in...
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Killing by Sanctions

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While Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who is currently advising presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, famously said that the estimated 500,000 children who died as a result of US sanctions on Iraq was “worth it.” It was, perhaps, a rare moment of candor from a politician, an admission that Washington is willing to support ostensibly non-lethal measures in such an all-encompassing fashion as to produce mass deaths of people who have no ability to influence the actions undertaken by their government. Sanctions are collective punishment, a blunt edged weapon used all too frequently by Washington to compel foreign governments to submit without having to go to war. There is nothing benign about them and Americans should regard them as potentially just as deadly as direct military intervention.

There are currently a number of countries that are subject to US enforced sanctions but only three fall under the category of “state sponsors of terrorism.” They are Iran, Syria and Sudan. That status entails a number of US Government sanctions including a ban on arms-related exports and sales; controls over exports of dual-use items; prohibitions on economic assistance; and imposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions. The financial measures require the United States to oppose loans by the World Bank or other international financial institutions and prohibit any US person from engaging in a financial transaction with a terrorism-list government without a Treasury Department license issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The license and other approvals are reported to be complicated and the process is extremely difficult to navigate, discouraging anyone from having business dealings with the targeted countries.

Other sanctions are not always directly related to terrorism. They sometimes target select individuals and organizations that are considered by the US government to be focal points of some aberrant behavior. A number of Russian officials have been sanctioned over Ukraine and even over the functioning of the country’s judiciary while the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been sanctioned both for its involvement with radical groups and its support of Tehran’s missile program.
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Syria Ceasefire: More War Or Chance For Peace?

Washington's hawks are already trashing the Syria ceasefire deal that the US and Russia presented yesterday. The Russians will never honor their agreement, they argue. Nevertheless the agreement offers some slight hope that the five year war might be coming to a close -- but only if some of the dangerous ambiguities in the agreement are spelled out properly. What else will have to change if this deal has any chance? Tune in to the Liberty Report to find out...
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Will Syria Ceasefire Deal End War, or Lead to Nuclear Exchange?

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As co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group, the US and Russia announced yesterday an agreement on the "cessation of hostilities" in Syria that is scheduled to go into effect at midnight on February 27th. According to the agreement, the militaries of the US-led coalition, Russia, and Syria would at that point cease hostile acts against opposition groups not named in UN Security Council Resolution 2254 (ISIS and al-Qaeda's Nusra Front) who "indicate to the Russian Federation or the United States...their commitment to and acceptance of the terms for the cessation of hostilities."

In other words, opposition groups who agree to this deal and have not been named "terrorist" by the UN will not be targeted militarily and will in turn agree to stop trying to take territory by means of force. The US, Russia, Syria, and their allies have agreed to the same. 

The Syrian government was not a party to the negotiations, but presumably the Russians have impressed upon Damascus the need to accept the agreement. 

As to the changes on the ground one might logically foresee once the agreement is in place, it is difficult to see how much will change from the Russian perspective. Russia has claimed that it has concentrated its bombing campaign on ISIS and elements of al-Qaeda in Syria, and it has already reached out to cooperate with several moderate opposition groups. Russia contends that it will continue to bomb ISIS and Nusra unabated -- permitted by the agreement -- and both the ISIS "capital" Raqqa and the Nusra stronghold Aleppo are on the verge of liberation by the Syrian army with Russian backing.
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The Age of Authoritarianism: Government of the Politicians, by the Military, for the Corporations

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America is at a crossroads.

History may show that from this point forward, we will have left behind any semblance of constitutional government and entered into a militaristic state where all citizens are suspects and security trumps freedom.

Certainly, this is a time when government officials operate off their own inscrutable, self-serving playbook with little in the way of checks and balances, while American citizens are subjected to all manner of indignities and violations with little hope of defending themselves.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age—the age of authoritarianism. Even with its constantly shifting terrain, this topsy-turvy travesty of law and government has become America’s new normal.

Don’t believe me?

Let me take you on a brief guided tour, but prepare yourself. The landscape is particularly disheartening to anyone who remembers what America used to be.
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CIA Sends Torture Report Down Memory Hole

Why is the Justice Department trying to keep the Senate report on CIA torture under wraps? The same reason the CIA officer in charge of the torture program gave when he ordered the torture tapes destroyed: "the heat from destroying [the torture videos] is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into the public domain." As it stands, not even government officials with the required security clearances are allowed to read the report. So much for oversight! More on this travesty on today's Liberty Report...
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