Archive for March, 2013

Call for reform of English language assessments [People’s Daily]

Posted in China, Education on March 30, 2013 by Zuo Shou / 左手

March 22, 2013

Current English testing system puts too much pressure on students, advisers say

Chinese political advisers have called for reforms of the English language testing system to make it more effective in cultivating actual language ability.

“Currently, the English testing system in China puts too much pressure on students to get high marks and ignores the development of their comprehensive language capabilities,” said Yang Xueyi, a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee member and Party chief of Beijing Foreign Studies University.

“Some changes in the evaluation procedures of English examinations are necessary for the sound development of the national English education system,” he said.

Yang said the English component in the National College Entrance Examination for senior high school students, or gaokao, should diversify its evaluation criteria to get a more objective assessment of the students’ English abilities.

“For English, the students’ daily achievements in studying the language should be taken into account, instead of judging their ability with just one test,” said Yang, who is also a professor of English language and literature.

He pointed out that one of the biggest challenges in developing English education in China is a traditional lack of emphasis on spoken English.

“Although English education is highly emphasized in the national education system, with the share of English scores in gaokao being as high as 20 percent, spoken English has not been tested as part of the gaokao. Some students do not practice spoken English because it is superfluous in the exam,” Yang said, pointing out that spoken English is important for effective communication.

He also suggested the use of different criteria in assessing students from different areas and focused on different majors.

“Because of disparities in the ability of teachers and educational facilities, urban students usually score higher scores than rural students, averaging almost 20 points higher in the gaokao, a decisive margin that could have a decisive impact on their choice of university,” Yang said.

“It is unfair and unnecessary for the whole nation to adopt one single admission standard for all students from all the different regions. Students from poor and rural areas should receive favorable treatment, such as getting 20 points more in the final scores than their urban peers, to bridge the gap,” said Yang.

He said English requirements for different majors should be varied and colleges should consider passing the College English Test a requirement for graduation.

“For majors closely related to English, such as foreign languages and international affairs, it is understandable the requirement for the students’ English proficiency is quite high. Yet it is unnecessary for students majoring in arts or other subjects to spend too much time on English studies because no more than 20 percent of them will need to use it in their lives,” said Yang…

Full article link: http://english.people.com.cn/102774/8178416.html

Western media hypes China’s non-existent ‘live execution’ of pirates [Asia Times]

Posted in Anti-China media bias, Anti-China propaganda exposure, Capitalist media double standard, China, China-bashing, Chinese TV program, Corporate Media Critique, CPC, Guardian's anti-China campaign, Law enforcement, Media smear campaign, Myanmar, New York Times lie, U.K., USA, USA 21st Century Cold War, Western nations' human rights distortions on March 29, 2013 by Zuo Shou / 左手

I was seeing articles about a ‘live execution’ to be televised in China, but I’ve watched Chinese TV on the mainland for several years and the Western articles did not compute at all. Turns out it was all based on a rumor from South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong-based newspaper that is prone to print rumors and lies regarding mainland news. Of course the UK is just horrified, horrified about the death penalty in the first place, a summarily hypocritical stance given that government’s proclivity to slaughter countless civilians in wars and covert operations abroad without any judicial process whatsoever. – Zuo Shou

by Peter Lee

March 8, 2013

The Western media outrage on the execution in China of Naw Kham focused on the circus surrounding the televising – or non-televising – of the event, which followed the conviction of the Burmese pirate and several of his associates for the massacre of 13 Chinese crew members of two ships on the Mekong River in October 2011…

…By its own – and Western – standards, China’s capture, trial, and execution of Naw Kham appears a model of legality. According to China’s Global Times, the PRC was tempted to assassinate him via a drone strike in his foreign hideout, but declined.

Neither was he shot in the head by special forces and his corpse secretly dumped in the ocean, as was done with Osama bin Laden. Nor was he torched in his hideout with incendiary grenades, as the San Bernadino Sheriff’s Department did to alleged murderer and cop killer Christopher Dorner just a few weeks ago.

Instead, Naw Kham was captured, tried in a Chinese court, and executed by lethal injection, together with three accomplices. The PRC…understandably decided to celebrate this demonstration of Chinese political and legal efficacy with a 21st century wall-to-wall coverage live media festival on the occasion of the execution.

Western media outlets, whose prime directive appears to be to deny the People’s Republic of China any hint of a soft-power victory, were determined to shoehorn the execution of Naw Kham and his fellows into the Butchers of Beijing template.

The heavy lifting was done by the South China Morning Post’s John Kennedy, who…misconstrued CCTV’s promise of live, execution-related coverage from the scene to coverage of the lethal injection itself.

The relevant screen cap from CCTV read “Death sentence to be carried out” and “Live broadcast and more details to be revealed tomorrow”. Perhaps not the finest moment in chyron-writing. However, it’s not just CCTV. If one Googles “Timothy McVeigh TV execution”, (Timothy McVeigh was the Oklahoma City bomber who murdered 168 people and was executed in 2001) the first hit is: McVeigh Execution: C-Span Video Library. Spoiler: the video does not show the actual execution of Timothy McVeigh.

Another hit from the first page of results: TV coverage of McVeigh execution keeps focus on victims. Written by the AP TV writer, David Bauder, the article relates:

During the moments that lethal drugs were coursing through McVeigh’s veins – unseen to television viewers – ABC showed footage of survivors and relatives
And one more: Networks Plan McVeigh Execution Coverage.

John Kennedy, a Canadian and “a longtime resident of southern China” according to the South China Morning Post “Authors’ list” but obviously unaware of such ancient, tedious, and non-Chinese media history, then doubled down with the tweet:

CCTV said, unambiguously and in plain Chinese, it’s going to live broadcast the execution. I’m not going to put words in its mouth. If it turns out CCTV is deliberately misleading the public to boost viewership (and in a way or two I hope it is), that’s a story in itself.

With that, Western reporters were off to the races.

In a story titled “China TV Kills Live Execution Plans at Last Minute”, ABC News Beijing Bureau declared (I suspect on the strength of John Kennedy’s post that live coverage of the actual execution had been promised):

…but as the program neared its close, the station abruptly changed plans and did not show the execution.

The piece rather shamefacedly hedged its bets in the last paragraph:
For whatever reason, CCTV did not broadcast the actual execution.

Maybe the reason was that the Chinese government had never announced its intention to broadcast the actual execution anyway.

Not good enough for UPI’s Kristen Butler, who linked to the ABC News story in order to buttress her piece, “China’s CCTV Cuts Live Execution Broadcast at Last Minute”, staffers adding the apparently ludicrous sub-head: “State-run CCTV cut short the live execution after a poll on Chinese Twitter, Weibo, showed firm opposition”.

Butler provided no documentation for the assertion that the Weibo poll prompted CCTV to drop its plans to broadcast the actual execution; in keeping with the fug of ambiguity that pervades this story, perhaps she or her editors felt that alternate interpretations of “after” – for instance, referring merely to temporal sequence and not causality – shielded UPI from the need to come up with any sourcing for the claim.

Now, at least in the Western press, the TV event was a public relations rout [sic]:

New York Times: Chinese TV Special on Executions Stirs Debate/ Divided Chinese See a Live TV Program About Executions as Crass, or Cathartic

NPR: China’s Broadcast Of Drug Lord’s Final Hours Sparks Controversy

Reuters: “Execution parade” of four behind Mekong murders angers Chinese

The Guardian: China divided on TV ‘execution parade’: judicial resolve or crude voyeurism

Wall Street Journal: Debate Swirls Around China Execution Broadcast

Virtually alone on the opposite side of the ledger, Sinostand’s Eric Fish had questioned the “actual execution to be televised” meme before the fact and was excoriated by commenters for correctly predicting actual events…

With this generous evidentiary and analytic standard, it is surprising that the China’s Western critics confined themselves to the transitory pleasures of China bashing, media criticism, and fisking of CCTV chyrons…

Asia Online’s original article title: “Did China Execute the Wrong Pirate?” — Full article link: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/CHIN-01-080313.html

Also see related: ‘The Teapot Tempest of “Live Execution Broadcast” Showing Dyslexia And Moving Goal Post of Moral Schizophrenia’ [Hidden Harmonies Blog] — http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2013/03/the-teapot-tempest-of-live-execution-broadcast-showing-dyslexia-and-moving-goal-post-of-moral-schizophrenia/

Shanghai denies cover-up claims as tally of dead pigs tops 10,000 [People’s Daily]

Posted in China, Environmental protection, Shanghai on March 27, 2013 by Zuo Shou / 左手

(Shanghai Daily)

March 20, 2013

THE number of dead pigs pulled out of the Huangpu River in Shanghai crossed 10,000 since the city government started fishing out the carcasses about two weeks ago.

As of 3pm yesterday, the number of dead pigs hauled from the waters was 10,164 after another 369 carcasses were plucked from the river.

All the carcasses were sent to an incineration center in the city’s Fengxian District.

Yesterday’s haul was slightly higher after four consecutive days of decline.

The city government’s spokesman Xu Wei said the greenery [sic] and public sanity [sic — sanitation?] bureau has set up a communication channel with related departments in Jiaxing to report daily updates in the two cities.

Xu said the bureau will remove the pig carcasses in the main stream of the Huangpu River first and then move to clear those floating in the tributaries of the river.

It will also carry out a dragnet search to remove dead pigs that might be stuck or hidden in the harbors, shallows and grooves.

Water safety remained the main worry for the locals.

The government has asked residents not to panic, saying that all the tests showed the tap water from the nine water plants in the affected areas met the national standards.

– No cover-up –

The Shanghai government has also denied claims of a cover-up as alleged in a newspaper report.

The People’s Daily reported the Shanghai government was slow in reacting to the crisis…

– Stopped fishing –

Zhejiang Province’s Jiaxing City, located in the upstream of the Huangpu River, is believed to be the source as some ear tags showed the dead pigs were raised there.

Local fishermen in Jiaxing had stopped fishing and were instead helping in digging out the pig bodies from the river, Xiaoxiang Morning Herald reported yesterday…

******************
Full article link: http://english.people.com.cn/90882/8174935.html

Edited by Zuo Shou

Also see: “Dead pigs in river reflect ‘world is my trashcan’ mentality” [People’s Daily] — http://english.people.com.cn/90882/8176504.html

US intensifies pressure on China over North Korea [World Socialist Website]

Posted in Anti-communism, China, DPR Korea, Encirclement of China, Iran, Japan, Korean Reunification, Korean War, Nukes, Obama, Pentagon, Pyongyang, Russia, Sanctions as weapon of war, south Korea, UNSC, US foreign occupation, US imperialism, USA, USA 21st Century Cold War on March 26, 2013 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Peter Symonds

21 March 2013

Amid continuing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, China has criticised the US for announcing a large increase in its anti-ballistic missile interceptors based in the Asia Pacific region. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei warned on Monday that “strengthening anti-missile [systems] will intensify antagonism”. He called on the “relevant country… to adopt a responsible attitude and act prudently.”

Last Friday, US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel announced that the number of interceptors in Alaska would expand by 14, on top of 30 already in place in Alaska and California. While Hagel claimed that the US was responding to North [sic] Korea’s “irresponsible and reckless provocations”, the plans to boost anti-missile systems in Asia had been in the pipeline for months. Hagel also announced the establishment of a second radar station in Japan to track ballistic missiles.

Both China and Russia have opposed the US build-up of anti-ballistic missile systems in Asia and Europe, which are not primarily aimed at so-called “rogue states” such as Iran and North Korea, but at undermining Chinese and Russian nuclear arsenals. Far from being “defensive”, the ability to track and destroy ballistic missiles enhances the US capacity to conduct a “first strike” without the danger of retaliation.

Hagel’s announcement focuses on China, while opening the door for renewed talks with Russia. The increase in interceptor numbers in Asia involves shifting resources from Europe, effectively putting the final phase of a European-based anti-missile system on hold. Moscow has strenuously opposed the deployment of such military technology in Europe.

The Obama administration is exploiting North Korea’s third nuclear test last month to put pressure on Beijing in other ways. US Deputy Defence Secretary Ashton Carter met with senior South Korean officials in Seoul on Monday. He noted that relations with the new administration of right wing South Korean President Park Geun-hye had got “off to a very productive start”.

As part of Obama’s so-called “pivot to Asia”, Washington has been strengthening US military ties and alliances throughout the region to contain China. Carter assured South Korea that US spending reductions would not affect its military commitment to Asia, and that its “historic priority” of rebalancing to Asia would be accomplished “no matter what happens”.

Carter also pointedly noted that a nuclear-capable B-52 strategic bomber would make a flight over South Korea on Tuesday as part of the joint US-South Korean war games currently underway. Pentagon press secretary George Little commented: “We are drawing attention to the fact that we have extended deterrence capabilities that we believe are important to demonstrate in the wake of recent North Korean rhetoric.”

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew also raised the issue of North Korea during his visit to Beijing that ended yesterday. He pressed Chinese leaders to use their economic leverage, as Pyongyang’s main source of trade and aid, to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs. Lew called for closer scrutiny of North Korean banks under US sanction, hinting that Washington could consider penalties against Chinese banks if its demands were not met.

Earlier this month, China voted for a new round of sanctions on North Korea in the UN Security Council. According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on Tuesday, Chinese authorities have issued a warning to four North Korean financial institutions to conduct business in China strictly according to their permits or face penalties. But US Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence David Cohen, who was due to arrive in Beijing yesterday, is likely to push for tougher measures.

Chinese leaders are well aware that the US is using North Korea’s nuclear and rocket tests as the pretext not only for expanding anti-ballistic missile systems in the Asia Pacific, but for maintaining US military forces in Japan and South Korea and restructuring its strategic position throughout the region. But Beijing is equally concerned that pressure on the fragile [sic] regime in Pyongyang could lead to its collapse, resulting in the loss of a longstanding ally as well as likely triggering a flood of refugees into northern China.

Confronting relentless US pressure over North Korea, a debate has opened up in Chinese ruling circles as to whether to simply cut Pyongyang loose. A prominent comment published in the British-based Financial Times last month, “China should abandon North Korea”, by Deng Yuwen, a top official at the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) cadre school, signalled that a discussion was underway.

At this month’s National People’s Congress, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who has since been appointed as state councillor in charge of foreign affairs, insisted that Chinese support for UN sanctions did not indicate a change of approach to North Korea. He renewed China’s call for dialogue through the stalled six-party talks involving the two Korea, China, the US, Russia and Japan.

The New York Times, however, reported that an intense debate took place in a side session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee, a government advisory body. “Delegates to the conference, according to a senior Communist Party official, Qiu Yuanping, talked about whether to ‘keep or dump’ North Korea and debated whether China, as a major power, should ‘fight or talk’ with the North,” the Times wrote.

Like Deng’s article in the Financial Times, Qui’s public comments are unusually open. They constitute a warning to the North Korean regime that it cannot necessarily count on China’s continued support. Qui, who is deputy director of the CCP’s Central Foreign Affairs Office, made the remarks in the presence of journalists at session titled “Friendship with Foreign Countries”, attended by several Chinese ambassadors.

In his Financial Times article, Deng concluded: “China should consider abandoning North Korea. The best way of giving up on Pyongyang is to take the initiative to facilitate North Korea’s unification with South Korea.” Such a step, he wrote, would assist China in a number of ways, including to “undermine the strategic alliance between Washington, Tokyo and Seoul.”

Such a project confronts huge political and economic obstacles. But the fact that it is even being contemplated, let alone aired in the premier mouthpiece of British finance capital, points to growing desperation in Beijing and underscores the acute geopolitical tensions being generated in North East Asia by Obama’s aggressive “pivot”.

Article link: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/03/21/kore-m21.html

Report: huge increase in US troops in south Korea [The Hankyoreh / 한겨레]

Posted in Germany, Japan, Lee Myung-bak, south Korea, US foreign occupation, US imperialism, USA on March 25, 2013 by Zuo Shou / 左手

March 21, 2013

…[F]igures…show troop levels far above the agreed upon 28,500

By Kim Kyu-won and Gil Yun-hyung, staff reporters

USFK troop levels, which have remained consistently in the 26,000 to 29,000 range since 2006, are being raised by around 9,000, according to a 2012 report by the US Department of Defense.

Questions are now being raised about the substantial jump, which puts the amount of troops well above the 28,500 level agreed upon by South Korea and the US.

The 2005-2012 edition of the department’s annual “Base Structure Report,” which was published on Mar. 21, showed a total of 37,354 US troops stationed in South Korea as of Sept. 30, 2011.

This was 8,854 more than the 28,500 agreed upon at a 2008 summit between the two countries’ heads of state. It was also 11,049 more than in 2009, when USFK troop levels were at their lowest.

Since 2004, when there were 37,997 USFK troops stationed in South Korea, the number had been dropping steadily as the US government implemented a plan to reposition its overseas forces. From 32,422 in 2005, the number fell to 29,477 in 2006, 28,356 in 2007, 27,968 in 2008, and 26,305 in 2009.

Originally, USFK had planned to reduce its South Korean presence from around 38,000 in 2004 to 25,000 by 2008. But in April 2008 – a few months after President Lee Myung-bak took office – an agreement was reached to keep the level at around 28,500. With[in] a few years, however, the number was rising sharply again, reaching 31,839 in 2010 and 37,354 in 2011.

Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, the main USFK base in South Korea, saw a particularly large rise, from 3,536 in 2009 to 10,997 – an increase of 7,441 troops. Yongsan Garrison also saw a rise by 2,399 troops, from 3,820 to 6,219. Together, they accounted for the bulk of the increase.

The 9,000-troop increase given in the report may represent a portion of the units that were pulled out of Iraq, where as of early 2009, the US had 145,000 troops stationed. But that number plummeted after President Barack Obama implemented a plan to pull out in March 2009. By August 2010, the number was down to 50,000, representing a decrease of 95,000 troops. By December 2011, it was just three thousand, with 142,000 troops out of the country. Analysts speculate that a portion of the forces pulled out of Iraq may have been stationed in South Korea for strategic or technical reasons.

Another possible analysis is that large rises in the US military presence in Japan and Germany over the same period may also be connected to the pullout from Iraq. Between 2009 and 2011, US troops in Japan more than doubled from 41,512 to 87,182, a rise of 45,670. The US presence in Germany also rose by 7,371 from 53,106 troops to 60,477. Together, the three countries saw an increase of some 61,895 troops – just under half the 142,000 that were pulled out of Iraq over the same years.

This also suggests that the increase indicated in the report may be temporary.

“We have no way of knowing whether the 9,000-troop increase in 2011 will be maintained,” said Kim Jong-dae, editor-in-chief of the defense journal Defense 21+. “I expect that the figure of 28,500 agreed upon by South Korea and the US may fluctuate in the years ahead as the US pushes its ‘strategic flexibility’ approach.”

Some observers have expressed concern about the long-term burden of having such a large US military presence in South Korea.

Yu Yeong-jae, who heads the US military issues team for the civic group Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea, said the increase has a negative impact on numerous military issues between the two countries, including the Pyeongtaek base relocation plans, the scheduled reversion of wartime operational command to South Korea, and talks over the two countries’ share of defense expenses.

“If there has been any addition to the USFK presence, it needs to be withdrawn, and safeguards need to be put in place to control the entry of USFK troops and equipment into South Korea,” Yu said.

USFK is saying the report is not an accurate representation of the facts…

Full article link: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/579051.html

UK study: Violence more likely among soldiers returning from Iraq, Afghanistan [AP / The Lancet]

Posted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pentagon, U.K., U.K. War Crimes, US imperialism, USA, War crimes on March 25, 2013 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Am I going out on a limb to suppose that the trebled rates of violent behaviour of the UK ‘heroes’ returning home is even higher in the US? And why are ‘violent offences’ an unequivocal crime domestically, but not termed as such when perpetrated abroad in other peoples’ homelands [i.e. Afghanistan & Iraq] where they are actually worse — they are war crimes. – Zuo Shou

LONDON (AP) — Young men who have served in the British military are about three times more likely than civilians to have committed a violent offense, researchers reported Friday in a study that explores the roots of such behavior.

…Combat duty also raised the risk, as did witnessing traumatic events during deployment or misusing alcohol afterward…

…Nearly 21 percent of the military group under age 30 had a conviction for a violent offense in their lifetime compared to fewer than 7 percent of similarly aged men in the general population, according to British crime statistics.

“The problem is that some of the qualities you want in a soldier are the same ones that get people arrested for violent behavior,” said Walter Busuttil, director of medical services for Combat Stress, a British veterans’ charity that was not part of the study….

The research was published online Friday in the medical journal Lancet. Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London looked at data from more than 13,800 U.K. military personnel and veterans and compared that to records of violent crimes ranging from verbal threats to assaults and homicides. Some people were followed for up to seven years. Nearly 1,500 women were included, though they were mostly in noncombat roles.

Deirdre MacManus, the study’s lead author, said combat experience seemed to matter when they compared violent crime rates among military personnel. “Being deployed in itself wasn’t a risk factor for violent offenses but being exposed to multiple traumas, like seeing someone get shot, increased the risk by 70 to 80 percent,” she said, compared to someone who hadn’t witnessed such a harrowing ordeal.

Researchers said other studies have made similar findings. Britain currently has some 5,000 soldiers in the NATO-led mission fighting in Afghanistan and it is the second-largest foreign contingent after the U.S. It withdrew its soldiers from Iraq in 2009 after six years. The U.K. Ministry of Defense has been under pressure to develop more mental health programs for veterans after reports of returning servicemen committing crimes, like the 2012 case of an ex-soldier in Leeds jailed for shooting his landlady after fighting in Afghanistan. He had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder but had not been monitored or treated.

In the U.S., there have been numerous cases of veterans committing violent crimes, including a Marine charged with killing six people in California last year. Soldiers from a single Army unit in Colorado killed 11 people over a few years after their return home. An Army report in 2009 placed part of the blame on the psychological trauma of fierce combat in Iraq. And this week, a U.S. Senate panel heard women in the military describe sexual assaults by fellow soldiers…

…given the differences between Britain and the U.S., [a US psychological expert] said it was impossible to predict what effects would be seen in the United States. “Maybe the economy is better here [ha ha], maybe the (department of defense [sic]) does a better job with transition, maybe (the) culture is different especially with respect to alcohol,” Litz said.

“There will be a lot of returning soldiers who have to be reintegrated and unfortunately there is no quick fix,” he said.

Article link [original article title – “UK study: Violence more likely among vets, troops”]: http://www.mail.com/int/news/world/1955974-uk-study-violence-vets-troops.html#.1258-stage-hero1-6

Lancet study link: “Violent offending by UK military personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan: a data linkage cohort study” – http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2813%2960354-2/fulltext

Behind the selection of a new Pope [Workers World]

Posted in Anti-communism, Argentina, Corporate Media Critique, Fascism, Hugo Chavez, Torture, US imperialism, USSR, Venezuela on March 23, 2013 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Deirdre Griswold on March 19, 2013

There are many different religions in the United States and also a large number of people who adhere to no religion.

The Catholic Church’s efforts to deny its members the right to birth control, divorce and abortion have caused many to leave its fold. The hierarchy’s insistence that women cannot be priests and their opposition to same-sex marriage have divided the church’s own ranks.

The persistent call for justice and reparations for the sufferings of those who were sexually abused by priests has further added to the church’s decline in numbers and revenue.

– WASPs and Catholicism –

In this country, Catholicism on the national level has been a minority religion. The ruling establishment earned the nickname “WASPs” — white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant — because those who first settled here, on land seized from the Native peoples, came mostly from northern European countries where the rising capitalist class was in revolt against the Catholic Church.

It was only after industrialization that more Catholics, largely working class and from southern and eastern Europe, migrated to the U.S. They often faced discrimination and outright hostility.

Yet this long history of a ruling class dominated by WASPs — it was considered a big breakthrough when John F. Kennedy became the first (and last) Catholic U.S. president — has not stopped the corporate media from treating the selection of the new Pope with admiration that borders on fawning.

Public reverence for the Catholic Church hierarchy, regardless of the private views of much of the ruling class, has especially saturated the U.S. media since John Paul II was elected in 1978. This “Polish Pope” was idolized, especially for his role in helping to tear down the East European socialist regimes allied to the Soviet Union.

The newly elected pope, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, has adopted the name Pope Francis. He is being eulogized as “humble,” “simple,” “a man of the people.” Such labels are hard to reconcile with the silken, gilded and bejeweled trappings accorded to Catholic cardinals, officially known as “princes of the church.”

Like John Paul, Francis has a political role that fits into the strategy of U.S. transnational banks and corporations. He is termed a “conservative” in church matters, meaning he refuses to entertain even the slightest deviation from traditional church stands on marriage (none for priests, nuns or same-sex couples), reproduction and other social/personal issues. This is at loggerheads with the views of many in the church and, of course, even more outside the church.

But his even deeper conservatism concerns the role he played in Argentina, which is still coming to grips with the horrors committed in the 1970s under a fascist military dictatorship.

– Bergoglio and the generals –

Some 30,000 people, mostly young progressives trying to move their country to the left, were murdered during this undeclared “dirty war” of the generals. Argentina is a Catholic country, and the role of the church during that time has come under heavy criticism. Bergoglio was then an important figure in the hierarchy — the Jesuit Provincial superior for all Argentina.

Horacio Verbitsky is a leading Argentine journalist, human rights activist and head of the Center for Legal and Social Studies. He was interviewed on “Democracy Now” on March 14 about Bergoglio’s connection during that period to the abduction of two priests, who were held by the military for six months and tortured. According to Verbitsky, Bergoglio “was accused by two Jesuit priests of having surrendered them to the military.”

The generals had asked the Jesuits to stop their social work, and when they refused, Verbitsky related, Bergoglio “stopped protecting them, and he let the military know that they were no more inside the protection of the Jesuits’ company, and they were kidnapped.”

During that period, the Latin American Church was close to a split between reactionaries like Bergoglio and those who advocated “liberation theology,” which supported the struggles of the masses against the landowners and capitalists in repressive countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile and Colombia.

Washington, Operation Condor and role of U.S. bishops

The U.S. government was solidly behind the ruling classes. In 1973, as part of Operation Condor, it colluded with Gen. Augusto Pinochet in Chile to destroy the progressive Popular Unity coalition government of President Salvador Allende and massacre the left.

Operation Condor was not confined to Chile. Right now, in Argentina, 25 former officials of the military dictatorship of Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla, who is now serving a life sentence, are on trial for the crimes they committed while applying Operation Condor to that country. The courtrooms are packed every day by elderly survivors of that terrible period.

There has been no reporting yet in the corporate media about the role played by the U.S. bishops in the secret conclave that elected Bergoglio. Tainted by the sex abuse scandal, they have kept a low profile. But as leaders of the wealthiest part of the church after the Vatican and its bank, they had a great deal of clout in determining the outcome.

It should be remembered that on Aug. 28, 1978, at a time when financial scandal plagued the Vatican bank, Cardinal Albano Lucio, an Italian, was chosen as Pope John Paul I. He died very unexpectedly just 33 days later. A second conclave was held in which Cardinal Karol Wojtyla — Washington’s choice, no doubt about it — was elected Pope John Paul II. All the counterrevolutionaries in Eastern Europe were elated.

Thus, the election of an Argentine cardinal like Bergoglio sends shivers down the spines of many in Latin America who have been struggling for social justice. They have looked to courageous progressives like Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez — a lay Catholic — to foil the counterrevolution planned by Washington and its accomplices among the elites. Some had hoped to have the church on their side — or at least neutral — but that looks ever more impossible.

In domestic U.S. politics as well, Bergoglio can be expected to exert pressure from the right, especially on the growing Latino/a population, which has been organized and strong in demanding the rights denied to millions of undocumented immigrants.

For women of all backgrounds, the appointment of this social conservative only deepens the need to fight the hold of the patriarchy as an inborn feature of capitalist society, whether those who exploit women do their dirty work in the plush boardrooms of corporations like Walmart or prowl the vestibules of echoing cathedrals.

Article link: http://www.workers.org/2013/03/19/behind-the-selection-of-a-new-pope/

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