By Colum Lynch, Published: January 8
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations, looking to modernize its peacekeeping operations, is planning for the first time to deploy a fleet of its own surveillance drones in missions in Central and West Africa.
The U.N. Department of Peacekeeping has notified Congo, Rwanda and Uganda that it intends to deploy a unit of at least three unarmed surveillance drones in the eastern region of Congo.
The action is the first step in a broader bid to integrate unmanned aerial surveillance systems, which have become a standard feature of Western military operations, into the United Nations’ far-flung peacekeeping empire.
But the effort is encountering resistance from governments, particularly those from the developing world, that fear the drones will open up a new intelligence-gathering front dominated by Western powers and potentially supplant the legions of African and Asian peacekeepers who now act as the United Nations’ eyes and ears on the ground.
“Africa must not become a laboratory for intelligence devices from overseas,” said Olivier Nduhungirehe, a Rwandan diplomat at the United Nations. “We don’t know whether these drones are going to be used to gather intelligence from Kigali, Kampala, Bujumbura or the entire region.”
Developing countries fear Western control over intelligence gathered by the drones. Some of those concerns are rooted in the 1990s, when the United States and other major powers infiltrated the U.N. weapons inspection agency to surreptitiously collect intelligence on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s military.
The growing American use of drones in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere to identify and kill suspected terrorists has only heightened anxieties about their deployment as part of multilateral peacekeeping missions.
U.N. officials have sought to allay the suspicions, saying there is no intention to arm the drones or to spy on countries that have not consented to their use.
The U.N. drones would have a range of about 150 miles and can hover for up to 12 hours at a time. They would be equipped with infrared technology that can detect troops hidden beneath forest canopy or operating at night, allowing them to track movements of armed militias, assist patrols heading into hostile territory and document atrocities.
“These are really just flying cameras,” said one U.N. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. “Our best method of protection is early warning. We recently had a patrol ambushed in Darfur. If you had a drone ahead of the patrol, it could have seen the ambush party.”
“If you know armed groups are moving in attack or battle formation early enough, you can warn civilians,” the official added.
The United Nations, which manages a force of more than 100,000 blue helmets in 15 peacekeeping missions, views drones as a low-cost alternative to expensive helicopters for surveillance operations.
Along with the pending deployments in the Congo, the organization has ordered a feasibility study into their use in Ivory Coast. U.N. military planners say they see a need for drones in many other missions, including Darfur, Sudan and South Sudan, where the United Nations monitors tensions along the border of the two countries. But they acknowledged that they have little hope that Sudan would permit them.
The United Nations has previously turned to the United States and other governments to provide with over-flight imagery. Rolf Ekeus, the former Swedish chief of the U.N. Special Commission in Iraq, persuaded the United States to loan the United Nations U-2 spy planes to monitor Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program in the 1990s.
More recently, Ireland, France and Belgium supplied unmanned aircraft to U.N.-backed, European-led missions in Chad, Lebanon and the Congo, and Belgium sent four drones to the Congo to help provide security for presidential and legislative elections. Two days before the 2006 election, one of the drones crashed, killing one woman and injuring two in Kinshasa, the capital.
Interest in drone technology has picked up among U.N. humanitarian and relief agencies. Last February, the U.N. Institute for Training and Research deployed the United Nations’ first drone in Port-au Prince, Haiti, to survey earthquake damage and help coordinate recovery efforts.
The use of drones in peacekeeping missions has proved more sensitive.
Pakistan’s U.N. ambassador, Masood Khan, recently told reporters that member states understand the importance of surveillance in ensuring the safety of peacekeepers. But he said there are differing views over the appropriateness of deploying drones.
Others say the dispute centers on questions about who would have access to the images and intelligence collected by the drones and whether the next step would be arming them.
To address such questions, the U.N. special committee on peacekeeping operations, which is made up of more than 140 countries, has asked the secretary general to assess the effect of drones and other modern technology on peace missions.
Herve Ladsous, the U.N. undersecretary general for peacekeeping, asked the Security Council in a closed door meeting Tuesday to support his plan for drones in Congo.
The United States, Britain, France and other Western members of the council backed the proposal, saying the United Nations needs to modernize its peacekeeping role. But China, Russia, Rwanda, Pakistan and Guatemala voiced concern, setting the stage for a contentious debate over the U.N. plan. Rwanda’s U.N. ambassador, Eugène-Richard Gasana, told the council that the U.N.’s introduction of drones carries the risk of transforming the peacekeeping mission into a belligerent force, according to a council diplomat.
But Richard Gowan, an expert on U.N. peacekeeping at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, said much of the resistance is driven by fear that drones would replace the legions of U.N. peacekeepers.
“This really boils down to a concern from the troop contributors that they are going to be sidelined. A drone is a cheaper and more efficient alternative to an infantry patrol,” said Gowan. “I think, very frankly, that a number of the large African and Asian troops contributors are worried that if the United Nations gets involved in high-tech operations like this, that their personnel will be made redundant.”
WAR ON SYRIA; 2002 Article Has ‘HIT LIST’ Of Middle East Countries, Iraq War Was Just The Start, ‘SKITTLES THEORY’
The “skittles theory” of the Middle East - that one ball aimed at Iraq can knock down several regimes…
“We fear a state of disorder and chaos may prevail in the region.” – Hosni Mubarak
While searching for something else, I ran across this article from 2002 that I had filed away. After a quick look I realized how interesting this article is considering it was written before the Iraq War and contains a “Hit List” of Middle East countries. This is very reminiscent of General Wesley Clark’s ”7 countries in 5 years” hit list (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan & Iran) that generated so much attention in certain circles.
While the Guardian article below frames this as an “Israeli Plan” I’d have to strongly argue that the evidence clearly shows the powers behind planning and attacking these Middle East countries comes from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and is implemented via their mad dog known as NATO.
Here’s the most interesting quote:
The six-year-old plan for Israel’s “strategic environment” remains more or less intact, though two extra skittles – Saudi Arabia and Iran – have joined Iraq, Syria and Lebanon on the hit list.
Interesting, however I must confess, I do not understand the “Skittles” reference, it’s mentioned twice… perhaps some popular culture I missed out on… to me “Skeet” would be more logical. Here is my current evaluation of the countries discussed, how “The Plan” is going…
‘HIT LIST’ COUNTRIES:
Iraq (Destroyed, no Hashemite Monarchy or Kingdom yet)
Iran (Economic warfare, international sanctions, targeted)
Lebanon (Weakened by past Israeli invasions, now receiving spillover from Syria’s foreign insurgency)
Saudi Arabia (Not really on the hit list, not as yet, see below)
Syria (Economic warfare, under attack by foreign insurgency)
PROXY COUNTRIES (NATO PUPPETS):
Jordan (Supplying Syria’s foreign insurgency)
Saudi Arabia (Supplying Syria’s foreign insurgency)
Turkey (Supplying Syria’s foreign insurgency)
Here’s the article (emphasis mine):
Playing Skittles With Saddam
The gameplan among Washington’s hawks has long been to reshape the Middle East along US-Israeli lines, writes Brian Whitaker
In a televised speech last week, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt predicted devastating consequences for the Middle East if Iraq is attacked.
“We fear a state of disorder and chaos may prevail in the region,” he said. Mr Mubarak is an old-fashioned kind of Arab leader and, in the brave new post-September-11 world, he doesn’t quite get the point.
What on earth did he expect the Pentagon’s hawks to do when they heard his words of warning? Throw up their hands in dismay? – “Gee, thanks, Hosni. We never thought of that. Better call the whole thing off right away.”
They are probably still splitting their sides with laughter in the Pentagon. But Mr Mubarak and the hawks do agree on one thing: war with Iraq could spell disaster for several regimes in the Middle East. Mr Mubarak believes that would be bad. The hawks, though, believe it would be good.
For the hawks, disorder and chaos sweeping through the region would not be an unfortunate side-effect of war with Iraq, but a sign that everything is going according to plan.
In their eyes, Iraq is just the starting point – or, as a recent presentation at the Pentagon put it, “the tactical pivot” – for re-moulding the Middle East on Israeli-American lines.
This reverses the usual approach in international relations where stability is seen as the key to peace, and whether or not you like your neighbours, you have to find ways of living with them. No, say the hawks. If you don’t like the neighbours, get rid of them.
The hawks claim that President Bush has already accepted their plan and made destabilisation of “despotic regimes” a central goal of his foreign policy. They cite passages from his recent speeches as proof of this, though whether Mr Bush really knows what he has accepted is unclear. The “skittles theory” of the Middle East – that one ball aimed at Iraq can knock down several regimes – has been around for some time on the wilder fringes of politics but has come to the fore in the United States on the back of the “war against terrorism”.
Its roots can be traced, at least in part, to a paper published in 1996 by an Israeli thinktank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. Entitled “A clean break: a new strategy for securing the realm”, it was intended as a political blueprint for the incoming government of Binyamin Netanyahu. As the title indicates, it advised the right-wing Mr Netanyahu to make a complete break with the past by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism …”
Among other things, it suggested that the recently-signed Oslo accords might be dispensed with – “Israel has no obligations under the Oslo agreements if the PLO does not fulfil its obligations” – and that “alternatives to [Yasser] Arafat’s base of power” could be cultivated. “Jordan has ideas on this,” it added.
It also urged Israel to abandon any thought of trading land for peace with the Arabs, which it described as “cultural, economic, political, diplomatic, and military retreat”.
“Our claim to the land – to which we have clung for hope for 2,000 years – is legitimate and noble,” it continued. “Only the unconditional acceptance by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension, ‘peace for peace’, is a solid basis for the future.”
The paper set out a plan by which Israel would “shape its strategic environment”, beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad.
With Saddam out of the way and Iraq thus brought under Jordanian Hashemite influence, Jordan and Turkey would form an axis along with Israel to weaken and “roll back” Syria. Jordan, it suggested, could also sort out Lebanon by “weaning” the Shia Muslim population away from Syria and Iran, and re-establishing their former ties with the Shia in the new Hashemite kingdom of Iraq. “Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend them”, the paper concluded.
To succeed, the paper stressed, Israel would have to win broad American support for these new policies – and it advised Mr Netanyahu to formulate them “in language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the cold war which apply well to Israel”.
At first glance, there’s not much to distinguish the 1996 “Clean Break” paper from the outpourings of other right-wing and ultra-Zionist thinktanks … except for the names of its authors.
The leader of the “prominent opinion makers” who wrote it was Richard Perle – now chairman of the Defence Policy Board at the Pentagon.
Also among the eight-person team was Douglas Feith, a neo-conservative lawyer, who now holds one of the top four posts at the Pentagon as under-secretary of policy.
Mr Feith has objected to most of the peace deals made by Israel over the years, and views the Middle East in the same good-versus-evil terms that he previously viewed the cold war. He regarded the Oslo peace process as nothing more than a unilateral withdrawal which “raises life-and-death issues for the Jewish state”.
Two other opinion-makers in the team were David Wurmser and his wife, Meyrav (see US thinktanks give lessons in foreign policy, August 19). Mrs Wurmser was co-founder of Memri, a Washington-based charity that distributes articles translated from Arabic newspapers portraying Arabs in a bad light. After working with Mr Perle at the American Enterprise Institute, David Wurmser is now at the State Department, as a special assistant to John Bolton, the under-secretary for arms control and international security.
A fifth member of the team was James Colbert, of the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Jinsa) – a bastion of neo-conservative hawkery whose advisory board was previously graced by Dick Cheney (now US vice-president), John Bolton and Douglas Feith.
One of Jinsa’s stated aims is “to inform the American defence and foreign affairs community about the important role Israel can and does play in bolstering democratic interests in the Mediterranean and the Middle East”. In practice, a lot of its effort goes into sending retired American military brass on jaunts to Israel – after which many of them write suitably hawkish newspaper articles or letters to the editor.
Jinsa’s activities are examined in detail by Jason Vest in the September 2 issue of The Nation. The article notes some interesting business relationships between retired US military officers on Jinsa’s board and American companies supplying weapons to Israel.
With several of the “Clean Break” paper’s authors now holding key positions in Washington, the plan for Israel to “transcend” its foes by reshaping the Middle East looks a good deal more achievable today than it did in 1996. Americans may even be persuaded to give up their lives to achieve it.
The six-year-old plan for Israel’s “strategic environment” remains more or less intact, though two extra skittles – Saudi Arabia and Iran – have joined Iraq, Syria and Lebanon on the hit list.
Whatever members of the Iraqi opposition may think, the plan to replace Saddam Hussein with a Hashemite monarch – descendants of the Prophet Muhammad who rule Jordan – is also very much alive. Evidence of this was strengthened by the surprise arrival of Prince Hassan, former heir to the Jordanian throne, at a meeting of exiled Iraqi officers in London last July.
The task of promoting Prince Hassan as Iraq’s future king has fallen to Michael Rubin, who currently works at the American Enterprise Institute but will shortly take up a new job at the Pentagon, dealing with post-Saddam Iraq.
One of the curious aspects of this neo-conservative intrigue is that so few people outside the United States and Israel take it seriously. Perhaps, like President Mubarak, they can’t imagine that anyone who holds a powerful position in the United States could be quite so reckless.
But nobody can accuse the neo-conservatives of concealing their intentions: they write about them constantly in American newspapers. Just two weeks ago, an article in the Washington Times by Tom Neumann, executive director of Jinsa, spelled out the plan in clear, cold terms:
“Jordan will likely survive the coming war with US assistance, so will some of the sheikhdoms. The current Saudi regime will likely not.
“The Iran dissident movement would be helped enormously by the demise of Saddam, and the Palestinians would have to know that the future lies with the West. Syria’s Ba’athist dictatorship will likely fall unmourned, liberating Lebanon as well.
“Israel and Turkey, the only current democracies in the region, will find themselves in a far better neighbourhood.” Would anyone like to bet on that?
2002.9.3 Playing Skittles With Saddam By Brian Whitaker (guardian.co.uk):
WAR ON AFRICA; Sudan, Israeli Air Strike, Four Planes Bomb Khartoum’s Main Arms Factory, SUDAN THREATENS RETALIATION
Sudan’s Information Minister is speaking strong words of a retaliation, which is totally justifiable, however, the destruction of their main arms factory could leave them further exposed to the insurgency they’ve been fighting… probably the reason for the bombing.
2012.10.24 Sudan Accuses Israel Of Air Strike On Arms Factory (Euronews, youtube.com):
The Sudanese government has blamed Israel for a strike on a Khartoum weapons plant, which killed two people and injured another.
Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said four Israeli planes carried out the attack adding:
“We will take all the regular diplomatic procedures to clarify that and to approach the UN Security Council, but at the same time we reserve the right to respond in the place and the time we choose“.
The Israeli government has not responded to the accusation or commented on the blast. Analysts say Israel believes weapons are being smuggled through Sudan to Gaza.
2012.10.24 Sudan Information Minister Accuses Israel Of Factory Bombing (Ahmed Bilal Osman) (AlJazeeraEnglish, youtube.com):
Sudan has accused Israel of bombing an arms factory, threatening retaliation after a fire killed two people.
Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told Al Jazeera that codes left on unexploded missiles discovered at the site proved Israeli involvement, and threatened retaliation.
2012.10.24 Sudan Blames Israeli Air Strike Hit For Munitions Plant Blasts (UPDATE 4) (FOUR PLANES FROM THE EAST Bomb Yarmouk Ammunition Factory In Khartoum, MAJOR DAMAGE TO PLANT WOULD BE BLOW TO SUDAN’S BATTLE AGAINST INSURGENCIES) (reuters.com):
2012.10.24 Sudan Accuses Israel Of Air Raid, Threatens To Hit Back (FOUR RADAR EVADING AIRCRAFT CARRIED OUT ATTACK) (AFP, google.com):
2012.10.24 Sudan Threatens Retaliation Over Alleged Israeli Air Strike (Minister Warns Khartoum ‘RESERVES THE RIGHT TO STRIKE BACK’) (guardian.co.uk):
Remember the Dead, protect the living:Gen. Wesley Clark Shocker on 9/11 “Policy Coup” (Then does Reality Show)
In this stunning but little-known speech from 2007, Gen. Wesley Clark claims America underwent a “policy coup” at the time of the 9/11 attacks. In this video, he reveals that, right after 9/11, he was privy to information contained in a classified memo: US plans to attack and remove governments in seven countries over five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.
He was told: “We learned that we can use our military without being challenged …. We’ve got about five years to clean up the Soviet client regimes before another superpower comes along and challenges us.”
“This was a policy coup…these people took control of policy in the United States….”
Also hear (Song lyrics – “Make your towers fall”)
Three years ago, I wrote an article in which I made some very specific predictions about the incoming Obama administration. I wrote the piece in the form of a letter to my pro-Obama friends and said that by the end of his term, Obama’s administration would not look very different from that of George W. Bush. I told them that if I was wrong about my predictions, I would re-think all of my beliefs about our political system and about politics generally, and if I turned out to be right, I asked them to do the same.
I don’t know if any of my friends took me up on my challenge – I’m guessing they didn’t, since I never heard from any of them about it. But I do know that many of them are disappointed in what Obama has done so far, and that many are feeling hopeless about the upcoming election, resigned to their belief that there is “no better alternative.” Incredibly, some of them plan to vote for Obama again.
It is for this reason that I would like to revisit those predictions I made three years ago. I still have nearly a year to go, but I think it is clear to anyone paying attention that Obama is not the pro-peace, pro-civil liberties candidate many of his supporters believed him to be. Nor is he going to “fix” the economy anytime soon. What may not be so clear though is that there is a better alternative. It also may not be clear that there is a way to support that alternative without sacrificing the option to vote for Obama in the general election.
So let’s look at those predictions. If we’re already on the same page about Obama’s presidency, then just skip this part and go to the last section of this article to read about the better alternative.
I confined my predictions to the areas where I believed my pro-Obama friends and I shared common ground: A desire to end our country’s wars of aggression around the world; A desire to see our basic civil liberties protected; and a desire to have a healthy economy. Here is what I wrote, and here’s what has happened:
At the end of Obama’s first four-year term:
- The US will still have an active military presence in Iraq.
Obama ended the war in Iraq, right? Not exactly. While the administration may have officially declared the war to be over (an interesting feat in itself as it was never declared to have begun in the first place), the US does indeed maintain an active military presence there. Several hundred military personnel will remain under the Office of Security Cooperation, the US has built an embassy the size of the Vatican, with 17,000 employees, and there are an estimated 3,500-5,000 private contractors who will be working with Iraqi security forces.
- The US will have attacked at least one more country that poses no direct threat to us. (I’m not even going to count his early air strikes on Pakistan.)
Libya. Yemen. Somalia.
- Military spending will have increased.
At the end of Bush’s term – a year that featured the “surge”, which made military expenditures unusually high, the US defense budget was $667 billion. At the end of 2011, the (estimated) defense budget was $708 billion. Even adjusted for inflation, this is an easy one.
Even more significant though, is that under Obama, war funding has also increased. While this figure did peak at $189.94 billion in Bush’s last year, dropping to $159.21 billion for 2009, total war expenditures under Bush were $625.41 billion, while in his first three years Obama has already spent $497.6 billion. He would have to bring war expenditures down below $127.81 billion for 2012 (from $169.7 billion in 2011) in order to come in a penny under the George Bush years.
4. US citizens will be no safer from terrorist attacks. I say this because I believe the (sadly all-too-accurate) perception of the US as an imperialist warmongering nation will persist. I realize this one is open to interpretation. I would just ask you to honestly ask yourselves at the end of these four years whether this is the case.
I say I got this one right too. But as I said, it’s open to interpretation.
It is perhaps in this area that it is easiest to see how perfectly seamless Obama’s administration has been with that of his predecessor. There are differences to be sure, but differences that are of importance only to policy wonks, not to the people who are suffering from and paying for the US’s interventionist foreign policies.
As a dramatic illustration of this cohesion, listen to this video of US General Wesley Clark (ret). Clark tells of a memo from the Secretary of Defense’s office in October of 2001, outlining a plan to attack and remove the governments of seven different countries in five years. The countries listed were Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Lybia, Somalia, Sudan and finally Iran. Listen to General Clark and then try to tell yourself that President Obama is not simply continuing where the Bush administration left off.
- More than 1% of US adults will still be in prison. This number will very likely be even higher than it is today, and the black and Hispanic portion of that population will not have decreased by any significant amount.
As of August, 2011, the US prison population was an astonishing 2.4 million, or roughly 1.16% of the adult population, and the number of black and Hispanic prisoners remains wildly disproportionate to population ratios.
- We will still suffer from the kind of police abuse that is becoming more and more common: military-style raids on unarmed civilians in their homes; the shooting and tasering of unarmed citizens; and police and judicial corruption leading to the jailing of many more innocent people than can be acceptable under any system…
I think it’s hard to argue that these trends have in any way abated. If anything, law-enforcement has become more militarized, more turned against the people it is supposed to protect. If this is news to you, you might want to spend some time here or here catching up.
- “No-Fly” lists will still be in place, and there may even be more restrictions on travel.
What do I even need to say here? Full-body scanners? Officially sanctioned sexual molestation forced upon those who do not wish to submit themselves to the potential health risks and privacy violations of said scanners? Forcing a terminally ill cancer patient to remove her adult diaper in order to board her plane? Spilling a bladder cancer survivor’s urine all over him? Forcing a disabled six-year-old to take off his braces in order to walk through the metal detector? I would ask “how much worse can it get?” but I’m afraid I might find out.
- There will be more restrictions on gun ownership and the right to self-defense.
This one hasn’t yet come to pass. Second-Amendment activists insist that it will, but we’ll have to see.
- The police tactics and suppression of dissent at the 2012 RNC and DNC conventions will be just as brutal as they were in 2008.
We’ll see. But given the treatment of “Occupy” protesters around the country, and that Congress has just passed a law that would outlaw any protests near certain government officials – whether or not the protesters are even aware that the officials are there – I’m fairly confident this prediction will turn out to be accurate.
- Government surveillance of US citizens will continue…
Not only is the Obama administration intent on spying on US citizens, it has asked for legislation requiring all communications devices to allow “back-door” government access to private communications. It has also “…asked Congress that new and expanded power be given the FBI in accessing Internet customers’ records without first obtaining a court order if the agency views the information involves terrorism or intelligence issues.”
Writes Glenn Greenwald:
“What makes this trend all the more pernicious is that at exactly the same time that the Government is demanding greater and greater access to what you do and say, it is hiding its own conduct behind an always-higher and more impenetrable wall of secrecy. Everything you do and say must be accessible to them; you can have no secrets from them. But everything they do – including even criminal acts such as torture, assassinations and warrantless surveillance – is completely off-limits to you, deemed “state secrets” that not even courts can review in order to determine their legality.”
When I wrote my predictions for the Obama administration, I bent over backwards to give him every benefit of the doubt in the arena of civil liberties. I wrote:
“I have to admit that this is the one area where Obama’s presidency is already looking different from that of his predecessor. In his first few days in office, President Obama signed executive orders to 1) close Guantanamo within a year; 2) officially ban the use of torture in the military; 3) close the CIA-run secret prisons around the world; and 4) review detention policies and procedures and review individual detention cases. He has also suspended the military trials at Guantanamo for 120 days, and has acted to combat government secrecy. These are all good things and Obama is receiving well-deserved praise for them.”
I now feel like a fool for having written those words. Not only is Guantanamo still open, not only does torture and indefinite detention continue, not only is Government secrecy as bad or worse as under Bush but Obama has signed into law one of the most heinous pieces of legislation imaginable, the National Defense Authorization Act, granting the government the right to detain, indefinitely and without trial or charges, any American citizen. He has also claimed for himself the right to assassinate an American citizen, and has in fact carried out at least one such assassination – again without a trial or any charges being made.
I should really just stop here. The NDAA by itself makes the case that the Obama administration is at least as bad as the Bush administration. There’s nothing more I need to say. However since I did include a couple of predictions about the economy, let’s go there:
- The US will have massive inflation. The dollar will lose at least 50% of its value against most goods and services, and certainly against the goods and services most people use every day. This is a very conservative estimate. It will probably be much worse.
OK, this clearly hasn’t happened yet. And if it hasn’t happened before the end of Obama’s first term, I will admit I was wrong about this. However I still maintain that it will happen – and fairly soon.
This isn’t just some random prediction. Since the housing and stock market collapses of 2008, the government and the Federal Reserve have been pursuing even more inflationary policies than those that caused the problem in the first place. The graph below helps to illustrate the magnitude of just how much new money has been put into the economy through government stimulus and bailouts. This shows the level of excess reserves – reserves held above the required ratio to deposits. This excess is currently just sitting there – it has not yet been lent out. But when the banks start lending it out (and it looks like they are starting to), it will create massive inflation. (For a more scholarly understanding of how creating more money is inflationary, see this Scrooge McDuck cartoon.)
- Unemployment in the US will be worse than it is now. It will be at least in the double digits.
I should have been more specific with this one. The official unemployment rate in January of 2009 was 7.8%. It is now 8.3%. So I got the first part of this right. I’ll concede the second part, but not because unemployment isn’t in the double digits – it actually is. Official unemployment measurements do not include either short-term or long-term “discouraged workers”, nor do they include those who work part-time because they cannot find full-time work. Once you include these groups, the current rate of unemployment is around 22%, putting it in the double digits. But real unemployment was already in the double digits back when I made this prediction, at around 16.5%. So I say that I got the first part of this right but not the second.
As a relevant aside: In promoting its 2009 stimulus plan, the Obama administration made the claim that without the stimulus, unemployment would rise. It presented a graph to illustrate its projections for just how bad unemployment would get unless government spent hundreds of billions of dollars stimulating the economy. Well, government DID spend hundreds of billions of dollars stimulating the economy and guess what? The unemployment rate rose even higher than the government’s worst-case scenario projections (see graph).
So what? There’s no better alternative to Obama.
When Obama passed the NDAA bill, it gave me chills. Not because of the terrifying implications of the bill itself, but because I really believed he might veto it – not on the grounds he had stated when he threatened to, but in order to placate those of his supporters who are rightly concerned about the erosion of civil liberties. When he did not, I realized – more clearly than I ever had before – that he feels no need to placate anyone.
This fact was driven home to me when I spoke with some of my friends who had supported Obama in ’08 and were disappointed with what they’ve seen so far. One said to me that despite her disappointment, she was probably going to vote for him again because she feared it would be “worse” with whoever the Republican nominee was. I have come to realize that, for those who are immersed in the two-party system and who truly believe there is a difference between Republican and Democrat, there is literally nothing their candidate can do that will cause them to withdraw their support. Like a battered spouse who simply can’t imagine anything better than what they’ve got, they cling to their man because they believe that the other side can always produce something worse.
The truth is that we live in a one-party state. And until more people come to realize this and to reject the Party’s rule over their lives, its grip will just continue to tighten. So it probably seems odd that I’m going to recommend that you vote, and even odder that I ask you to vote for a Republican candidate. But I am.
Ron Paul has a thirty-plus year history of opposing aggressive wars, violations of personal freedom and the government spending and monetary policy that are now bankrupting our country. He also has a thirty-plus year record of keeping his word and voting his conscience, which is more than I can say for any other politician.
Maybe you don’t want to vote for Ron Paul because you object to some of his policy views. I think writer Anna O. Morgenstern addressed this concern quite well when she said:
“…if you’re going to slag off on Ron Paul for his (admittedly flawed) domestic policy views, then you’re sort of missing the point. His main appeal is that he’s the only anti-war candidate, and the war(s) are one of the few things that are directly under a president’s control. So if you vote for someone else, you’re basically saying “I’m willing to sacrifice innocent foreigners to have a better domestic policy”.
And keep in mind that under Obama, or for any of the establishment candidates, “a better domestic policy” includes a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary Americans to big financial corporations, arresting and jailing people indefinitely without charging them, and maintaining the highest prison population in the world.
The best part about what I’m suggesting though is that you don’t have to give up your option to vote for Obama in the presidential election in order to support Ron Paul. You can vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primaries (which are going on right now) help him to win the Republican nomination, and in no way be bound to vote for him in the general election. Should he not win the nomination, or should you just decide in November that you still prefer Obama, you can still vote for Obama. But think about it: A presidential race between Barack Obama and Ron Paul. Would you really choose Obama? If yes, I’d really like to know why.
Tomorrow is Super Tuesday. There are ten primaries and caucuses, eight of which are open or “semi-open”, meaning that you don’t have to register Republican in order to vote. (To find out whether your state has open or closed primaries, go here.) If you live in one of the Super Tuesday states, please think about going out and voting for Ron Paul. And please ask everyone you know to do the same.
When I made my predictions three years ago, I wrote:
“For years, I have said that real progress towards peace, freedom and respect for individual rights cannot come from working within the very system that sustains itself through war and the expansion of state power over people’s lives. If in fact the Obama administration does herald great and significant change in these areas that we agree upon, then I promise to rethink these beliefs… If I am wrong about this, then I promise to re-think everything. But if I am not, then I hope you will do the same. Let’s talk again in four years.”
If anything, my beliefs about political systems have only been reinforced by what I’ve seen these past three years: That political systems and politicians serve only their own interests, that they cause the problems they purport to cure, and that there is no significant difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties, both of which serve to expand the state at our expense.
We should of course be wary of placing our hopes for “change” in a politician who will rule over us. Any politician. Even Ron Paul. If we want to live in peace, then we must reject the coercive violence upon which a political system is built. We cannot continue to grant individuals the right to rule over others, the monopoly to both make and enforce laws, the monopoly on “justice” and on defense – and then act surprised when those individuals use their powers to their own benefit and to our detriment.
Ron Paul is the “anti-politician”. He is the anomaly, the exception that proves the rule that politicians cannot be trusted. I don’t support him because I believe he is the answer to all of our problems – we’re going to have to dig a lot deeper for that. I support him because I believe that if elected, he stands a good chance of putting a halt to the bloodshed that is US foreign policy and to putting a big dent into the massive injustice that is our justice system. I believe that he would do everything in his power to restore habeas corpus, and to put the brakes on the government spending, corporate bailouts and inflationary policies that are running the economy into the ground.
If any of these are things that you care about, then go and vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primaries. Register Republican if you have to, just do it! If you don’t, fine. That’s your choice and I guess you’ve got your reasons. But don’t come running to me when your man disappoints you once again.
March 5, 2012