by Glenn Greenwald
31 March 2015
by Glenn Greenwald
31 March 2015
By Deirdre Griswold March 24, 2015
Britain, France, Italy and Germany have agreed to join China in establishing an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. China has already announced it will put up $50 billion in initial capital.
It is too early to say what role this bank will play in helping underdeveloped countries modernize their infrastructure. Negotiations among the principals on the bank’s structure and policies are expected to take place for at least a year. What will emerge cannot be predicted at this time.
But one thing is very clear: Wall Street and Washington are fuming over the fact that the European imperialist countries are joining in, despite strong U.S. pressure to stay out.
Criticism of the new development bank by the U.S. has begun, with government officials telling the media they fear it will undermine the “good work” done by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which, they say, have aided developing countries while imposing regulations to protect the environment and help the poor.
You’re choking on this outrageous lie right now? So are we.
Tons of both popular and scholarly analyses of these institutions, and especially of the “structural adjustment programs” they have forced down the throats of poor countries, show that the kind of “development” they foster has usually done just the opposite: stripped countries of needed government services, increased their indebtedness and hurt the environment, all to benefit the financial institutions of the imperialists.
Take the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, for example, which have been going through the most horrific public health emergency caused by the spread of the Ebola virus. These countries are so poor that, even after Liberia declared an end to new cases, a televised news report on the return of a score of students to classes pointed out that their grammar school, which when full serves 1,000 students, has no electricity and no running water.
On Dec. 22, The Lancet, a preeminent British medical journal, published a commentary called “The International Monetary Fund and the Ebola outbreak.” It reads: “A major reason why the outbreak spread so rapidly was the weakness of health systems in the region. … Since 1990, the IMF has provided support to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, for 21, 7 and 19 years, respectively, and at the time that Ebola emerged, all three countries were under IMF programs. However, IMF lending comes with strings attached — so-called ‘conditionalities’ — that require recipient governments to adopt policies that have been criticized for prioritizing short-term economic objectives over investment in health and education.”
The authors add that “economic reform programs by the IMF have required reductions in government spending, prioritization of debt service, and bolstering of foreign exchange reserves.” In other words, recipient countries — which should be receiving reparations for all the wealth extracted from them by colonial rule — have instead been forced to cut back on health care, education and other services in order to pay interest on loans.
* Bretton Woods, the IMF and World Bank *
Why does the U.S. ruling class feel particularly threatened by this new China-headed development bank? Because U.S. banks have dominated the financial architecture of the capitalist world for decades. The U.S. emerged from World War II as the undisputed global industrial and financial powerhouse, while Europe and Japan were in ruins and all regions involved in the world war were suffering.
The intention of the U.S. imperialist ruling class to translate its military and industrial muscle into financial domination over the rest of the world was made clear even before the war ended, with the founding of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944. This conclave in New Hampshire of the soon-to-be-victorious Allied powers was dominated by Washington and London. It established the “tradition” that the president of the World Bank would always come from the U.S.
One can read many critiques of these institutions. One was an interview by Greg Palast with Joseph Stieglitz, a former chief economist of the World Bank, member of Bill Clinton’s cabinet and chair of his Council of Economic Advisers who turned against his former bosses.
Stieglitz told Palast that when nations are “down and out, [the IMF] squeezes the last drop of blood out of them. They turn up the heat until, finally, the whole cauldron blows up.” He referred to these social explosions as “IMF riots,” pointing to what happened when the IMF eliminated food and fuel subsidies in Indonesia in 1998, when it made Bolivia increase water prices in 2000, and when the World Bank imposed a rise in cooking gas prices on Ecuador in February 2001. (“IMF’s Four Steps to Damnation,” The Observer, April 29, 2001)
In Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the people have tried to get rid of governments that served as tools of these imperialist-dominated financial institutions and have looked for other ways to climb out of poverty. In Latin America, the result has been ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) — an alliance of countries, led by Venezuela, that is trying to break free of the stranglehold over their economies imposed by U.S. imperialism for nearly two centuries.
The anti-colonial revolutions that began in Asia in the 1930s and spread throughout the so-called Third World in the 1950s and 1960s drove out the structures of direct colonial rule. Bretton Woods was the answer of the imperialists: Keep the masses of people enslaved to the banks.
Washington’s objections to the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank have nothing to do with anything except the fear of U.S. capitalists that they could be losing their grip on what has been their main tool for world domination. As a backup, of course, they have the Pentagon, making the struggle against imperialist war ever more urgent.
…international news outlets the Guardian and Le Monde, working with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), published articles based on their analysis of leaked files showing that the Swiss private banking arm of HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, functioned for years as a tax evasion and money laundering firm.
The company ran a branch that gave out “bricks” of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in foreign denominations and provided its wealthy clientele with advice on how to commit tax fraud, according to the reports.
These facts have for years been been in the possession of international financial regulators and governments throughout the world—including those of Britain, France and the United States—which systematically covered them up. Neither the bank, nor its executives, nor any of the clients that utilized its tax dodging services have been criminally prosecuted.
No one should believe that HSBC is an aberration; there is no doubt that similar practices are carried out by all major international financial institutions. The HSBC files have unearthed a cesspool of corruption, criminality, bribery and collusion that pervades the entire capitalist system and the governments that defend it.
The HSBC revelations are only the latest in a series of scandals involving virtually every major financial institution. These have included the selling of fraudulent subprime mortgage-backed securities, illegal foreclosures, commodities fraud and the manipulation of LIBOR and international foreign exchange benchmarks.
HSBC was one of the institutions whose greed and lawlessness plunged the world into a crisis in 2008 from which it has never recovered, cost millions of people their jobs and launched a wave of austerity all over the world involving the slashing of workers wages’ and social benefits.
The list of people who used HSBC’s services include corporate executives, fundraisers and major donors to American, British and Australian political parties, and politicians from at least 17 countries, including Britain.
The trail of dirty money reaches as high as former US President Bill Clinton. British business tycoon Richard Caring, who once picked up more than five million Swiss francs in cash from the bank, donated $1 million to Clinton’s foundation from his Swiss bank account.
The report by the ICIJ notes that the month before Caring made his donation, he “funded a champagne and caviar extravaganza at Catherine the Great’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, flying in 450 guests to be entertained by Sir Elton John and Tina Turner and addressed by Bill Clinton.”
It also notes that Charles Barrington Goode, a major fundraiser for the Liberal Party and chairman of ANZ bank, one of Australia’s largest financial institutions, held an account with the bank under a false name for three decades.
In addition to “legitimate” businessmen and high-ranking politicians, HSBC’s services were used by drug kingpins, weapons smugglers and traffickers in illegal “blood diamonds.” Reviewing the reports, it is impossible to determine where the criminal underworld ends and the ruling class of bankers and corporate CEOs and their millionaire political front-men begins.
While no bank executives or wealthy clients have been prosecuted, the one person out of this morass of criminality who faces serious legal consequences is the whistleblower who exposed them.
In 2009, an HSBC technical employee named Hervé Falciani came to realize that HSBC’s private bank was operating a huge tax evasion operation, and began collecting information to provide to Swiss authorities, which showed no interest.
He subsequently turned files pointing to tax fraud by some 130,000 people over to the French police, who shared them with other governments, including that of Britain and America. Falciani has since been charged with violating Switzerland’s bank secrecy laws and carrying out industrial espionage.
In 2010, then-French Minister of Finance Christine Lagarde provided a list of 2,000 suspected tax evaders to the Greek government, and the list subsequently came into the possession of Greek magazine publishers, who printed it. They were subsequently charged, then found not guilty, of breaching privacy laws.
A portion of the files accumulated by Falciani were recently obtained by Le Monde and shared with the ICIJ and other newspapers. The files cover some 30,000 accounts holding nearly $120 billion in assets.
In the UK, more than 3,000 people have been investigated based on Falciani’s files, but the government has brought no charges against any of them.
Perhaps the biggest cover-up has been carried out in the United States, where in 2012 the Justice Department agreed to a $1.2 billion “deferred prosecution” settlement with HSBC on charges of money laundering for Mexican drug cartels, never mentioning the fact that the US government had evidence the bank helped its clients evade taxes.
One of the leading architects of the settlement with HSBC, Loretta Lynch, at that time the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, is now the Obama administration’s nominee to replace Eric Holder as attorney general. The Reverend Lord Stephen Green, HSBC’s chief executive during the period covered by the files, was subsequently appointed the UK’s minister of state for trade and investment…
Excerpted; full article link: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/02/11/hsbc-f11.html
Related article about HSBC’s bogus ‘prosecution’ by the US gov’t for laundering Mexican drug money:
“Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke” [Rolling Stone] by Matt Taibbi — http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/outrageous-hsbc-settlement-proves-the-drug-war-is-a-joke-20121213
by Glenn Greenwald
Jeb Bush yesterday strongly suggested he was running for President in 2016…
Excerpted; full article link: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/12/17/jeb-bush-v-hillary-clinton-perfectly-illustrative-election/
by Al Olsen
28 December 2005
This Review was published nine years ago on GR.
Bruce Cumings, a history professor at the University of Chicago and a former Peace Corps volunteer in South Korea, has given us a badly needed antidote to the lies and disinformation about the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea) being spread by the media and the Bush administration. The author has observed “the deafening absence of any contrary argument” and cuts through this smokescreen of ignorance in his well-researched historical study of North Korea.
Cumings directs his book to “the reader who wishes to learn about our eternal Korean enemy.” He believes that North Korea is a nation that cannot be understood apart from its historical past, including the “terrible fratricidal war (Korean War) that has never ended”; the 1930s guerrilla struggle against the Japanese and North [sic] Korea’s eventual emergence as a state in 1945; its relations with the South; its reaction to the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union; and “its interminable daily struggle” with the United States.
The author…admits to empathy for the underdog, “which is something I can’t help.” Cumings charges the U.S. with a significant responsibility “for the garrison [sic] state that emerged on the ashes of our truly terrible destruction of the North a half a century ago.”
Yes, the “history” spoon fed to Americans completely omits the holocaust from the air carried out by U.S. bombers and fighter planes against North Korean cities during the Korean War.
American planes dropped tens of thousands of bombs and many hundreds of tons of napalm on cities in North Korea. Even Winston Churchill criticized the savagery of the American attack when he commented, “When napalm was invented in the latter stages of World War II, no one contemplated that it would be ‘splashed’ over a civilian population.” Three million North Koreans died during this conflict, and 18 out of its 22 largest cities were 50 percent to 100 percent obliterated.
Cumings notes that by 1952, most of the survivors living in central and North Korea lived in caves. North Korea continued to burrow underground, and today it has over 15,000 underground facilities, many made of hardened concrete to survive nuclear attacks and American bombs. These include factories, plane hangars, and many other kinds of installations. The author again emphasizes that North Korea is a garrison state “because of the holocaust the North experienced during the Korean War.”
The 50th anniversary of the armistice ending the Korean War came and went on July 27, 2003, and 40,000 American troops remain in South Korea, where they have been since occupying the country in September 1945.
Cumings bitterly criticizes U.S. policy towards North Korea. On human rights issues, he points out how the U.S. has been fast to criticize the Communists “while ignoring the reprehensible behavior of our allies, that is, U. S. support for dictators who make Kim Jung Il look enlightened (the Saudis, for example).”
In addition, Cumings blames American confusion on an “irresponsible media” which lacks good investigative reporters, and is often “egged on by government officials.” He also blames South Korean security forces who “have succeeded for decades in getting Americans to stare blankly at one side of the Korean civil conflict, like a pigeon with nystagmus such that its head turns only to the left.”
The author stridently criticizes and blames the Bush administration for the ongoing crisis with North Korea. He accuses Bush of walking away from groundwork laid by Clinton [sic] for the resolution of the crisis. Cumings compares the foreign policy of the Bush administration to “amateur night at a halfway house,” and fears a real danger from “a mix of situations in which Bush’s preemptive strike doctrine could trigger war.”
He also castigates the radical right for their predictions of North Korea’s imminent collapse; they are “wrong-wrong-wrong,” he says, and cites a 1999 speech by CNN International President Joe Eason, a frequent visitor to the North, who stated “these guys (North Koreans) will tough it out for centuries, just the way they are.”
Part of the book is devoted to North Korean society and its development under socialism. Modern Korea had emerged from a class-divided, highly stratified society in which a long-standing system of chattel slavery had only been abolished in 1894.
North Korea experienced what Cumings terms a “smooth” transition to socialism following World War II. He partially attributes the transitional change to a long-time Korean tradition of “sharing and mutual aid of all kinds.”
Agricultural land was collectivized while farmers were able to keep their own homes and small garden plots. He credits the gardens as greatly helping farmers during the famine of the 1990s. North Korean farmland was worked communally, and farmers received a share of the harvest based on the number of hours of work they had done.
Formally low- and middle-class families now occupied favored social positions, and formally wealthy families who remained in the North could work and earn their way back up the social ladder. Only the very bottom rung was permanently reserved for Japanese collaborators.
Cumings pays careful attention to the weather and crop disasters of the 1990s. North Korea experienced record-breaking floods (1995 and 1996) followed by an equally severe drought and famine (1997). The author believes that the food shortage problem “has provided little evidence of a collapse of state power, except for breakdowns at the local level.” And Cumings adds, even at its worst, “the famine only began to approach India’s year-in, year-out toll (in proportionate terms) of infant mortality and deaths from malnutrition or starvation which I only mention because the media’s recent habit of depicting Kim Jung Il’s frolicking among a heap of starved cadavers.”
Finally, Cumings describes a declassified CIA report on North Korea, and a part of that report which describes the achievements of that society. The report says “North Korea provides compassionate care for war orphans in particular and children in general; ‘radical change’ in the position of women (there are more college-educated women than college-educated men); genuinely free-housing; preventive medicine on a national scale accomplished to a comparatively high standard; infant mortality and life expectancy rates comparable to the most advanced countries until the recent famine; ‘no organized prostitution’ and ‘the police are difficult if not impossible to bribe.’”
Cumings book provides a valuable service with its informative and truthful portrayal of North Korea. This book is valuable for combating the inevitable lies of the Bush administration in its imperial quest for global domination. North Korea faces the very real danger of war and more suffering at the hands of a bellicose Bush administration — a very good reason for this work to be widely read and passed on to other interested persons.
Edited by Zuo Shou
by Glenn Greenwald
2 October 2014
It is, of course, very difficult to choose the single most extreme episode of misleading American media propaganda, but if forced to do so, coverage of the February, 2011 Tahrir Square demonstrations in Egypt would be an excellent candidate…
Excerpted; full article link: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/02/feigned-american-support-egyptian-democracy-lasted-roughly-six-weeks/
– What really happened 25 years ago in Tiananmen Square? –
by Brian Becker
June 4, 2014
Twenty-five years ago today, every U.S. media outlet, along with then President Bush and the U.S. Congress were whipping up a full scale frenzied hysteria and attack against the Chinese government for what was described as the cold-blooded massacre of many thousands of non-violent “pro-democracy” students who had occupied Tiananmen Square for seven weeks.
The hysteria generated about the Tiananmen Square “massacre” was based on a fictitious narrative about what actually happened when the Chinese government finally cleared the square of protestors on June 4, 1989.
The demonization of China was highly effective. Nearly all sectors of U.S. society, including most of the “left,” accepted the imperialist presentation of what happened.
At the time the Chinese government’s official account of the events was immediately dismissed out of hand as false propaganda. China reported that about 300 people had died in clashes on June 4 and that many of the dead were soldiers of the Peoples Liberation Army. China insisted that there was no massacre of students in Tiananmen Square and in fact the soldiers cleared Tiananmen Square of demonstrators without any shooting.i
The Chinese government also asserted that unarmed soldiers who had entered Tiananmen Square in the two days prior to June 4 were set on fire and lynched with their corpses hung from buses. Other soldiers were incinerated when army vehicles were torched with soldiers unable to evacuate and many others were badly beaten by violent mob attacks.
These accounts were true and well documented. It would not be difficult to imagine how violently the Pentagon and U.S. law enforcement agencies would have reacted if the Occupy movement, for instance, had similarly set soldiers and police on fire, taken their weapons and lynched them when the government was attempting to clear them from public spaces.
In an article on June 5, 1989, the Washington Post described how anti-government fighters had been organized into formations of 100-150 people. They were armed with Molotov cocktails and iron clubs, to meet the PLA who were still unarmed in the days prior to June 4.
What happened in China, what took the lives of government opponents and of soldiers on June 4, was not a massacre of peaceful students but a battle between PLA soldiers and armed detachments from the so-called pro-democracy movement.
On one avenue in western Beijing, demonstrators torched an entire military convoy of more than 100 trucks and armored vehicles. Aerial pictures of conflagration and columns of smoke have powerfully bolstered the [Chinese] government’s arguments that the troops were victims, not executioners. Other scenes show soldiers’ corpses and demonstrators stripping automatic rifles off unresisting soldiers,” admitted the Washington Post in a story that was favorable to anti-government opposition on June 12, 1989.ii
The Wall Street Journal, the leading voice of anti-communism, served as a vociferous cheerleader for the “pro-democracy” movement. Yet, their coverage right after June 4 acknowledged that many “radicalized protesters, some now armed with guns and vehicles commandeered in clashes with the military” were preparing for larger armed struggles. The Wall Street Journal report on the events of June 4 portrays a vivid picture:
As columns of tanks and tens of thousands soldiers approached Tiananmen many troops were set on by angry mobs … [D]ozens of soldiers were pulled from trucks, severely beaten and left for dead. At an intersection west of the square, the body of a young soldier, who had beaten to death, was stripped naked and hung from the side of a bus. Another soldier’s corpse was strung at an intersection east of the square.”iii
– The massacre that wasn’t –
In the days immediately after June 4, 1989, the New York Times headlines, articles and editorials used the figure that “thousands” of peaceful activists had been massacred when the army sent tanks and soldiers into the Square. The number that the Times was using as an estimate of dead was 2,600. That figure was used as the go-to number of student activists who were mowed down in Tiananmen. Almost every U.S. media outlet reported “many thousands” killed. Many media outlets said as many 8,000 had been slaughtered.
Tim Russert, NBC’s Washington Bureau Chief, appearing later on Meet the Press said “tens of thousands” died in Tiananmen Square.iv
The fictionalized version of the “massacre” was later corrected in some very small measure by Western reporters who had participated in the fabrications and who were keen to touch up the record so that they could say they made “corrections.” But by then it was too late and they knew that too. Public consciousness had been shaped. The false narrative became the dominant narrative. They had successfully massacred the facts to fit the political needs of the U.S. government.
“Most of the hundreds of foreign journalists that night, including me, were in other parts of the city or were removed from the square so that they could not witness the final chapter of the student story. Those who tried to remain close filed dramatic accounts that, in some cases, buttressed the myth of a student massacre,” wrote Jay Mathews, the Washington Post’s first Bureau Chief in Beijing, in a 1998 article in the Columbia Journalism Review.
Mathews’ article, which includes his own admissions to using the terminology of the Tiananmen Square massacre, came nine years after the fact and he acknowledged that corrections later had little impact. “The facts of Tiananmen have been known for a long time. When Clinton visited the square this June, both The Washington Post and The New York Times explained that no one died there [in Tiananmen Square] during the 1989 crackdown. But these were short explanations at the end of long articles. I doubt that they did much to kill the myth.”v
At the time all of the reports about the massacre of the students said basically the same thing and thus it seemed that they must be true. But these reports were not based on eyewitness testimony…
Excerpted; full article with footnote links: http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/what-really-happened-in.html
Content may be reprinted with credit to LiberationNews.org.