ISRAELI WATER THEFT: Mohammed Abbas is sick, with chronic diarrhoea. Not for the first time.

He and his family live in a Palestinian village with no running water, no sewage system, and no prospect of getting either any time soon.

Watching her son, eyes closed, clutching his stomach on a mattress on the floor, his mother, Sunna, told me she is desperate.

Water tanker, Faqua village, West Bank
Faqua residents complain they have to spend a lot of money buying water

“I’m angry that my son is sick. The doctor says it’s because of the water. We buy it from outside. I don’t know where it comes from. I give it to my children even though I know it’s contaminated. What else can I do?”

Sunna’s story is becoming increasingly common in the West Bank. The name of her village, Faqua, means spring water bubbles in Arabic, but access to water here disappeared long ago.

The village council says most of the underground springs were appropriated by Israel in 1948 when the state was founded.

An Israeli-Palestinian Water Committee was set up in the mid-1990s as part of the Oslo peace accords.

But Palestinians say Israel makes it virtually impossible for them to dig new wells or to join Israel’s water grid.

Leftovers

The West Bank is home to an important regional water source.

According to a World Bank report published this year, Israel keeps 80% of water it drills from the mountain aquifer for Israeli citizens.

West Bank map showing Faqua village

Palestinian water crisis deepens

Palestinians get the leftovers. It is not enough.

While driving around Faqua village we came across a private water tanker, its hose rolled through the street into the Sallah family’s backyard.

Murky-looking water gushed into an underground tank there.

The World Bank warns the water quality is deteriorating. So Palestinians pay dearly.

Unclean water makes people sick. Lack of water means prices are high. Munir Sallah says it makes a difficult life even tougher.

“We need a lot of money to cover this expense. We could use the money for other things like food for example.

“Every bit of money we have we use to pay for water. You’re not going to eat well. You’re not going to use much electricity. You need to save this money for water.

“In Faqua money is in short supply. The village fields lie barren, dry and dusty. Traditionally, Palestinian villages depend on farming. For that you need water.”

Trading blame

But Israel says it is not to blame here – Palestinian planning is.

Israel claims Faqua village never applied to join the water grid – although the local mayor disputes this.

Israel says the Palestinian Water Authority should be more effective across the West Bank.

Human Rights groups tell a different story. Sarit Michaeli works for B’tselem:

“Israel provides water on demand to any Israeli, including settlers in the West Bank.

“Palestinians are entitled to water. It’s their basic right under international law, but very often they are discriminated against in the allocation of this resource.

“Water is scarce throughout the entire region but the little water we have has to be equally shared out between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Farmer Ahmad Abu Salamah, Faqua
Ahmad Abu Salamah can see green Israeli fields from his own parched land

Up in the brown hills of Faqua, a frustrated Palestinian farmer shows us the lush fields of an Israeli Kibbutz next door.

Faqua village is just on the boundary line between the West Bank and Israel.

An Israeli army jeeps keeps a close eye on us from the other side of the metal fence – part of the separation barrier Israel is building in an around the West Bank.

Ahmad Abu Salamah says Israel has given the kiss of death to agriculture here.

“We in Faqua village live in Area C – the part of the West Bank under total Israeli control. Israel should give us water. If it did, our land would be as green as theirs. But they use all the water for their land

“Water along with land and religion lies at the heart of the conflict here. Fair distribution will have to be part of any solution.”

Ref: BBC

Israeli Court Rebukes the Military

Not every day, and not even every decade, does the Supreme Court rebuke the Military Advocate General. The last time this happened was 20 years ago, when the Advocate General refused to issue a proper indictment against an officer who ordered his men to break the arms and legs of a bound Palestinian. The officer argued that he considered this to be his duty, after the Minister of Defense, Yitzhak Rabin, had called for “breaking their bones”.

Well, this week it happened again. The Supreme Court made a decision that was tantamount to a slap in the face of the army’s current chief legal officer, Brigadier Avichai Mendelblit.

The incident in question took place in Ni’alin, a village which has been robbed of a great part of its land by the Separation Fence. Like their neighbors in Bilin, the villagers demonstrate every week against the Fence. Generally, the army’s reactions in Ni’alin are even more violent than in Bilin. Four protesters have already been killed there.

In this particular incident, Lieutenant Colonel Omri Borberg took a Palestinian demonstrator, who was sitting on the ground, handcuffed and blindfolded, and suggested to one of his soldiers “let’s go aside and give him a rubber”. He ordered the soldier to shoot a rubber bullet, point blank.

For those who do not know: “rubber bullets” are steel bullets coated with rubber. From a distance, they cause painful injuries. At short range, they can be fatal. Officially, soldiers are allowed to use them at a minimum range of 40 meters.

Without hesitating, the soldier shot the prisoner in the foot, although this was a “manifestly illegal order”, which a soldier is obliged by army law to disobey. According to the classic definition of Judge Binyamin Halevy in the 1957 Kafr Kassem massacre case, the “black flag of illegality” is waving over such orders. The prisoner, Ashraf Abu-Rakhma, was hit and fell on the ground.

Veterans of the Ni’alin and Bilin demonstrations know that such and similar incidents happen all the time. But the Abu-Rakhma case was special for one reason: it was documented by a young local woman from a balcony near the crime scene with one of the cameras provided to villagers by B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.

Thus the Lt. Col. committed an unforgivable sin: he was photographed in the act. Generally, when peace activists disclose such misdeeds, the army spokesman reaches into his bag of lies and comes up with some mendacious statement or other (“Attacked the soldier”, “Tried to grab his weapon”, “Resisted arrest”). But even a talented spokesman has difficulties denying something that is clearly seen on film.

When the Military Advocate General decided to prosecute the officer and the soldier for “conduct unbecoming”, Abu-Rakhma and some Israeli human rights organizations applied to the Supreme Court. The judges advised the Advocate to change the indictment. He refused, and so the matter reached the court again.

This week, in a decision unusual for its severe language, the three justices (including a female judge and a religious one) found the “conduct unbecoming” charge itself unbecoming. They ordered the indictment of both officer and soldier on a far more serious criminal charge, in order to make it clear to all military personnel that mistreating a prisoner “is contrary to the spirit of the state and the army”.

After such a slap in the face, any decent person would have resigned in shame. But not Mendelblit. The bearded and kippa-wearing brigadier is a personal friend of the Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, and is expecting promotion to Major General at any moment.

Recently, the Advocate General refused to indict a senior officer who asserted in court, while testifying on behalf of a subordinate, that it is right to abuse Palestinians physically.

Ashkenazi owes a lot to his Advocate General, and for other reasons. Mendelblit has made a huge effort to cover up war crimes committed during the recent Gaza War, from Ashkenazi’s war plan itself to the crimes of individual soldiers. Nobody has been put on trial, nobody even seriously investigated.

* * *

ON THE day the Supreme Court decision concerning Mendelblit was published, another brigadier also made the headlines. Curiously enough, his first name is also Avichai (not a very common name), he is also bearded and wears a kippa.

In a speech before religious female soldiers, the Chief Rabbi of the army, Brigadier Avichai Rontzky, expressed the opinion that the army service of women is forbidden by the Jewish religion.

Since every Jewish young woman in Israel is bound by law to serve for two years, and women perform many essential jobs in the army, this was a seditious statement. But nobody was really surprised by this Rabbi.

Rontzky was chosen for this post by the former Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz. He knew what he was doing.

The Rabbi was not born into a religious family. Indeed, he was quite “secular”, a member of an elite army unit, when he saw the light and was “reborn”. Like many of this kind, he did not stop halfway but went to the furthest extreme, becoming a settler and setting up a Yeshiva (religious seminary) in one of the most fanatical settlements.

Rontzky is a man in the spirit of the person who appointed him. It will be remembered that, when asked what he felt when dropping a one-ton bomb on a residential area, Air Force General Halutz answered: “a slight bump on the wing”. In a discussion about whether to treat a wounded Palestinian on the Shabbat, Rontzky wrote that “the life of a goy is certainly valuable…but the Shabbat is more important.” Meaning: a dying goy should not be treated on Shabbat. Later he retracted. (In modern colloquial Hebrew, a goy is a non-Jew. The term has distinctly derogatory connotations.)

The Israeli army has something that is called the “Ethical Code”. True, the spiritual father of the Code, Professor Asa Kasher, did defend the atrocities of the “Molten Lead” operation, but Rontzky went much further: he stated unequivocally that “When there is a clash between…the Ethical Code and the Halakha (religious law), certainly the Halakha must be followed.”

In a publication distributed by him, it was said that “the Bible prohibits us from giving up even one millimeter of Eretz Israel”. In other words, the Chief Rabbi of the army, a Brigadier of the IDF, asserts that the official policy of the Israeli government – from Ariel Sharon’s “Separation” to the recent speech by Binyamin Netanyahu on a “demilitarized Palestinian State” – is a mortal sin.

But the peak was reached in a brochure that the army rabbinate distributed to soldiers during the Gaza War: “Exercising mercy towards a cruel enemy means being cruel towards innocent and honest soldiers. In war as in war.”

That was a clear incitement to brutality. It can be seen as a call for acts that constitute war crimes – the very same acts that his colleague, the Military Advocate General, has done everything possible to cover up.

* * *

NEITHER OF the two bearded brigadiers would have remained in office for a single day had they not enjoyed the full support of the Chief of Staff. The army is a hierarchical institution, and full responsibility for everything that happens falls squarely and entirely on the Chief.

Unlike his predecessors, Gaby Ashkenazi does not show off and does not speak in public frequently. If he has political ambitions, he is hiding them well. But during his term in office, the army has assumed a certain character, which is perfectly represented by these two officers.

This did not start, of course, with Ashkenazi. He is continuing – and perhaps intensifying – a tendency that started long ago, and that has been changing the Israeli army beyond recognition.

The founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, famously wrote in his book “Der Judenstaat”, the founding document of the movement: “We shall know how to keep our clerics in the temples, as we shall know how to keep our regular army in the barracks…they will not be allowed to interfere in the affairs of the state.”

Now the very opposite is happening: the rabbis have penetrated the army, the army officers come from the synagogues.

The hard core of the fanatical settlers, which is almost entirely composed of religious people (many of whom are “reborn Jews”) decided long ago to gain control of the army from within. In a systematic campaign, which is in full swing, they penetrate the officers’ corps from below – from the junior ranks to the middle to the senior ones. One can see their success in statistics: from year to year the number of kippa-wearing officers is growing.

When the Israeli army came into being, the officers’ corps was full of kibbutz members. Not only were kibbutzniks considered the elite of the new Hebrew society, which was based on values of morality and culture, and not only were they the first to volunteer for every national task, but there were also inbuilt “technical” reasons.

The nucleus of the army came from the pre-state Palmach. The Palmach companies constituted a fully-mobilized regular army, part of the underground military organization, the Haganah. They could exist and operate freely only in the kibbutzim, where their identity could be camouflaged. As a result, almost all the outstanding commanders in the 1948 war were from the Palmach, kibbutz members or close to them.

These did everything to imbue the new Defense Forces with the spirit of a pioneering, moral and humanist citizens army, the very opposite of an occupation army. True, the reality was always different, but the ideal was important as an aim to strive for. As I showed in my 1950 book, “The Other Side of the Coin”, our “purity of arms” has always been a myth. But the aspiration to be an army with humanist values was important. Atrocities were hidden or denied, because they were considered shameful and dishonoring our camp.

Nothing has remained of all this, except phrases. Since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, the character of the army has changed completely. The army that was founded in order to protect the state from external dangers has become an army of occupation, whose task is to oppress another people, crush their resistance, expropriate land, protect land robbers called settlers, man roadblocks, humiliate human beings every day. Of course, it is not the army alone that has changed, but also the state that gives the army its orders as well as its ongoing brainwashing.

In such an army, a process of natural selection takes place. People of discrimination, with a high moral standard, who detest such actions, leave sooner or later. Their place is taken by other types, people of different values or no values at all, “professional soldiers” who “just follow orders”.

Of course, one must beware of generalizing. In today’s army there are not a few people who believe that they are fulfilling a mission, for whom the Ethical Code is more than just a compilation of sanctimonious phrases. These people are disgusted by what they see. From time to time we hear their protests and see their disclosures. However, it is not they who set the tone, but types like Rontzky and Mendelblit.

* * *

THAT SHOULD worry us very much. We cannot treat the army as if it was a foreign realm that does not concern us. We cannot tell ourselves: “we don’t want to have anything to do with the army of a Moshe Ya’alon, a Shaul Mofaz, a Dan Halutz or a Gabi Ashkenazi.” We cannot turn our back on the problem. We must face it, because it is our problem.

The state needs an army. Even after achieving peace, we shall need a strong and effective army in order to protect the state until peace strikes deep roots and we can set up a regional body along the lines of the European Union, perhaps.

The army is us. Its character has an impact on all our lives, on the life of our state itself. It has already been said: “Israel is not a banana republic. It is a republic that slips on bananas.” And what bananas!

Ref: Counterpunch

McNamara: From the Tokyo Firestorm to the World Bank

Robert McNamara, who died yesterday, July 6, served as Kennedy’s , then as Johnson’s defense secretary. He contributed more than most to the slaughter of 3.4 million Vietnamese (his own estimate). He went on to run the World Bank, where he presided over the impoverishment, eviction from their lands and death of many millions more round the world.

Just as George Kennan, one of the architects of the Cold War, helped bolt together the ramshackle scaffolding of bogus claims that provided the rationalization for Harry Truman’s great “arms scare” in 1948, launching the postwar arms race, McNamara tugged his forelock and said “Aye, aye, Sir” when Kennedy, campaigning against Nxon in the late 1950s attacked the Eisenhower/Nixon administration for having allowed a “missile gap” to develop that had now delivered America naked and helpless into the grip of the Soviet Union.

This was the biggest lie in the history of threat inflation and remains so to this day. At the moment when Kennedy, McNamara at his elbow, was flaying the Eisenhower administration for the infamous “gap”, the U.S. government from its spy planes that the Soviet Union had precisely one missile silo with an untested missile in it. The Russians knew that the US knew this, because they were fully primed about about the U-2 spy-plane overflights, most dramatically when U-2 pilot Gary Powers crashed near Sverdlovsk and told all to his captors

So when President Kennedy and Defense Secretary McNamara, took power in 1961, became privy to all intelligence from the spy flights, and announced that the U.S. was going to build 1000 ICBMs the Russians concluded that the US planned to wipe out the Soviet Union and immediately began a missile-building program of their own. So McNamara played a crucial, enabling role in the arms race in nuclear missiles. Before the “missile gap” it has been a “bomber race”.

It was entirely appropriate and logical that he began his services to the military working in Japan as a civilian analyst for Curt LeMay, the psychopathic Air Force general who ordered the raid that produced the Tokyo firestorm and who went on to become head of the Strategic Air Command and who boasted to Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis that his missiles and B-52s were ready, willing and able to reduce the Soviet Union to a “smoldering, irradiated ruin in three hours”, a deed he was eager to accomplish.

LeMay was expert in guiding bright young systems analysts like McNamara into giving him the ex post facto intellectual rationales for enterprises on which he had long since set his mind. McNamara was an early member of the “defense intellectuals”, including Roberta and Albert Wohlstetter and Herman Kahn, who developed the whole argot of “controlled escalation”, “nuclear exchanges” and “mutual assured destruction” that kept the nuclear weapons plants, aerospace factories and nuclear labs at Los Alamos and Livermore and Oak Ridge humming along, decade after decade. McNamara liked to claim later, as he did to Errol Morris, that it was he who advised LeMay to send in his planes at lower altitude, the better to incinerate Japanese cities, but the historical record does not give him this dignity. He was a small player in LeMay’s murderous game.

He faded comfortably away. The last time we saw him vividly was in 2004 as the star of Morris’s wildly over-praised, documentary The Fog of War, talking comfortably about the millions of people he’s helped to kill.

Time and again, McNamara got away with it in that film, cowering in the shadow of baroque monsters like LeMay or LBJ, choking up about his choice of Kennedy’s gravesite in Arlington, sniffling at the memory of Johnson giving him the Medal of Freedom, spouting nonsense about how Kennedy would have pulled out of Vietnam, muffling himself in the ever- useful camouflage of the “fog of war.”

Now, the “fog of war” is a tag usually attributed to von Clausewitz, though the great German philosopher and theorist of war never actually used the phrase. Eugenia Kiesling argued a couple of years ago in Military Review that the idea of fog–unreliable information–wasn’t a central preoccupation of Clausewitz. “Eliminating fog”, Kiesling wrote, “gives us a clearer and more useful understanding of Clausewitz’s friction. It restores uncertainty and the intangible stresses of military command to their rightful centrality in ‘On War’. It allows us to replace the simplistic message that war intelligence is important with the reminder that Clausewitz constantly emphasizes moral forces in war.”

As presented by McNamara, through Morris, “the fog of war” usefully deflects attention from clear and unpleasant facts entirely unobscured by fog. Roberta Wohlstetter was a pioneer in this fogging technique back in the 1950s with her heavily subsidized Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, which deployed the idea of distracting “noise” as the phenomenon that prevented US commanders, ultimately Roosevelt, from comprehending the information that the Japanese were about to launch a surprise attack. Wohlstetterian “noise” thus obscured the fact that FDR wanted a Japanese provocation, knew the attack was coming, though not probably not its scale and destructiveness.

When McNamara looked back down memory lane there were no real shadows, just the sunlight of moral self-satisfaction: “I don’t fault Truman for dropping the bomb”; “I never saw Kennedy more shocked” (after the murder of Ngo Dinh Diem); “never would I have authorized an illegal action” (after the Tonkin Gulf fakery); “I’m very proud of my accomplishments and I’m very sorry I made errors” (his life). Slabs of instructive history, like “the missile gap”, were entirely missing from Morris’s film. In his later years he offered homilies about the menace of nuclear Armageddon, just like Kennan. It was cost-free for both men to say to say such things, grazing peacefully on the tranquil mountain pastures of their senior years. Why did they not encourage weapons designers in Los Alamos to mutiny, to resign? Or say that the atom spies in Los Alamos in the 1940s were right to try to level nuclear terror to some sort of balance? Why did they not extol the Berrigans and their comrades who served or are serving decades in prison for physically attacking nuclear missiles, beating the decks of the Sea Wolf nuclear submarine with their hammers.

It’s true that when he was head of the Ford Division of the Ford Motor Company in the mid- 1950s, McNamara did push for safety options–seat belts and padded instrument panels. Ford dealer brochures for the ’56 models featured photos of how Ford and GM models fared in actual crashes, to GM’s disadvantage. But as Ralph Nader describes it, in December, 1955, a top GM executive called Ford’s vice president for sales and said Ford’s safety campaign had to stop. These Ford executives, many of them formerly from GM, had a saying, Chevy could drop its price $25 to bankrupt Chrysler, $50 to bankrupt Ford. Ford ran up the white flag. The safety sales campaign stopped. McNamara took a long vacation in Florida, his career in Detroit in the balance, and came back a team player. Safety went through the windscreen and lay in a coma for years.

McNamara had very dirty hands, however hard he and admirers like Morris scrubbed them. Why did Defense Secretary McNamara overrule all expert review and procurement recommendations and insist that General Dynamics rather than Boeing make the disastrous F-111, at that time one of the largest procurement contracts in the Pentagon’s history? Could it be that Henry Crown of Chicago was calling in some chits for his role in fixing the 1960 JFK vote in Cook County, Illinois? Crown, of Chicago Sand and Gravel, had $300 million of the mob’s money in GD debentures, and after the disaster of the Convair, GD needed the F-111 to avoid going belly- up, taking the mob’s $300 million with it. McNamara misled Congressional investigators about this for years afterward.

To interviewers McNamara paid great stress on JFK’s “shock”, just a few weeks before he himself was killed, at the assassination of South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother. He also promoted the view that Kennedy was planning to withdraw from Vietnam. He oversaw the fakery of the Gulf of Tonkin “attack” that prompted the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964, whereby Congress gave LBJ legal authority to prosecute and escalate the war in Vietnam. He was a career “front man” for the Kennedys, called even to Chappaquiddick to help Ted Kennedy figure out what to say about it.

The Six Day War? Just before this ’67 war the Israelis were ready to attack and knew they were going to win but couldn’t get a clear go- ahead from the Johnson Administration. As the BBC documentary The 50 Years War narrates, Meir Amit, head of Israel’s Mossad, flew to Washington. The crucial OK came from McNamara, thus launching Israel’s long-planned, aggressive war on Egypt, Jordan and Syria, which led to present disasters. It was McNamara, after Israel’s deliberate attack on the US ship Liberty during that war (with thirty-four US sailors dead and 174 wounded), who supervised the cover- up.

McNamara had a 13-year stint running the World Bank, whither he was dispatched by LBJ, Medal of Freedom in hand. McNamara liked to brandish his Bank years as his moral redemption and all too often his claim is accepted by those who have no knowledge of the actual, ghastly record. In fact the McNamara of the World Bank evolved naturally, organically, from the McNamara of Vietnam. The one was prolegomenon to the other, the McNamara-sponsored horrors in Vietnam perhaps on a narrower and more vivid scale, but ultimately lesser in dimension and consequence. No worthwhile portrayal of McNamara could possibly avoid McNamara’s performance at the World Bank because there, within the overall constraints of the capitalist system he served, he was his own man. There was no LeMay, no LBJ issuing orders. And as his own man, McNamara amplified the ghastly blunders, corruptions and lethal cruelties of American power as inflicted upon Vietnam to a planetary scale. The best terse account of the McNamara years is in Bruce Rich’s excellent history of the Bank, Mortgaging the Earth, published in 1994.

When McNamara took over the Bank, “development” loans (which were already outstripped by repayments) stood at $953 million and when he left, at $12.4 billion, which, discounting inflation, amounted to slightly more than a 6- fold increase. Just as he multiplied the troops in Vietnam, he ballooned the Bank’s staff from 1,574 to 5,201. The Bank’s shadow lengthened steadily over the Third World. Forests, in the Amazon, in Cameroon, in Malaysia, in Thailand, fell under the axe of “modernization”. Peasants were forced from their lands. Dictators like Pinochet and Ceausescu were nourished with loans.

From Vietnam to the planet: The language of American idealism and high purpose was just the same. McNamara blared his mission of high purpose in 1973 in Nairobi, initiating the World Bank’s crusade on poverty. “The powerful have a moral obligation to assist the poor and the weak.” The result was disaster, draped, as in Vietnam with obsessive secrecy, empty claims of success and mostly successful efforts to extinguish internal dissent. And as with Vietnam, McNamara’s obsession with statistics, produced a situation, (according to S. Shaheed Husain, then the Bank’s vice president in charge of Operations) where, “without knowing it, McNamara manufactured data. If there was a gap in the numbers, he would ask staff to fill it, and others made it up for him.”

At McNamara’s direction the Bank would prepare five year “master country lending plans”, set forth in “country programming papers. “In some cases, Rich writes, “even ministers of a nation’s cabinet could not obtain access to these documents, which in smaller, poor countries, were viewed as international decrees on their economic fate.”

These same “decrees” were drawn up by technocrats (in Vietnam they were the “advisers”) often on the basis of a few short weeks in the target country. Corruption seethed. Most aid vanished into the hands of local elites who very often used the money to steal the resources–pasture, forest, water, of the very poor whom the Bank was professedly seeking to help. In Vietnam, Agent Orange and napalm.

Across the third world, the Bank underwrote “Green Revolution” technologies that the poorest peasants couldn’t afford and that drenched land in pesticides and fertilizer. Vast infrastructural projects such as dams and kindred irrigation projects once again drove the poor from their lands, from in Brazil to India. It was the malign parable of “modernization” written across the face of the third world, with one catatrophe after another catastrophes prompted by the destruction of traditional subsistence rural economies.

The appropriation of smaller farms and common areas, Rich aptly comments, “resembled in some respects the enclosure of open lands in Britain prior to the Industrial Revolution–only this time on a global scale, intensified by Green Revolution agricultural technology.” As an agent of methodical planetary destruction, McNamara should be ranked in the top tier of earth-wreckers of all time.

“Management”, McNamara declared in 1967 “is the gate through which social and economic and political change, indeed change in every direction, is diffused through society.” The managerial ideal for McNamara was managerial dictatorship. World Bank loans surged to Pinochet’s Chile after Allende’s overthrow, to Uruguay, to Argentina, to Brazil after the military coup, to the Philippines, to Suharto after the ’65 coup in Indonesia.

And to the Romania of Ceausescu. McNamara poured money–$2.36 billion between 1974 and 1982–into the tyrant’s hands. In 1980 Romania was the Bank’s eighth biggest borrower. As McNamara crowed delightedly about his “faith in the financial morality of socialist countries” Ceausescu razed whole villages, turned hundreds of square miles of prime farm land into open- pit mines, polluted the air with coal and lignite, turned Rumania into one vast prison, applauded by the Bank in an amazing 1979 economic study as being a fine advertisement for the “Importance of Centralized Economic Control”. Another section of that same 1979 report, titled “Development of Human Resources”, featured these chilling words: “To improve the standards of living of the population as a beneficiary of the development process, the government has pursued policies to make better use of the population as a factor of production… An essential feature of the overall manpower policy has been … to stimulate an increase in birth rates.” Ceausescu forbade abortions, and cut off disrtribution of contraceptives. Result: ten of thousand of abandoned children, dumped in orphanages, another sacrificial hecatomb in McNamara’s lethal hubris.

In his later years, McNamara never offered any reflection on the social system that produced and promoted him, a perfectly nice, well- spoken war criminal. As his inflation of his role in the foe- bombing of Japan showed, he could go so far as to falsely though complacently indict himself, while still shirking bigger, more terrifying and certainly more useful reflections on the system that blessed him and mercilessly killed millions upon millions under FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon.

Like Speer, he got away with it, never having to hang his head or drop through a trap door with a rope around his neck, as he richly deserved.

Ref: counterpunch

PERSPECTIVE: Nationalise the banks + green means zero growth

The ills besetting the financial system are currently devouring the global economy on which it relies. When one bank collapses another buys it, ensuring that the state will have to rescue it because it is now too big to fail. All of a sudden, with a knife to their throats, taxpayers everywhere are paying thousands of billions of dollars to bail out the biggest financial institutions. No one knows how many toxic assets are still concealed in their innards or how much more will have to be paid to buy up the rising mountain of tainted loans – a clear consequence of financial deregulation.

Once upon a time, it seems bankers had a 
nice easy life. They subscribed to the US “3-6-3” principle: borrow at 3%, lend at 6% and off 
for a round of golf at 3 o’clock. It did not take a regiment of mathematicians armed with econometric models to master this simple exercise. Then in the 1980s, everything changed. Diversification, risk-taking, opening up and removing barriers: these were the new watchwords. In 1933 the Glass-Steagall Act was passed prohibiting US banks from dealing on the stock exchange. Such old-fashioned New Deal nonsense was abolished in the euphoria of the new economics. Modernity beckoned and banks no longer depended on the confidence of their savers.

Most of them rushed to invest in new products: “derivatives” consisting of packages of loans they themselves once “securitised”. The bankers themselves hardly know what is going on (a 150-page handbook would sometimes be needed for this sort of exercise) though they appreciated the cash all this innovation generated for them. Lending more and more, in the dark and with less and less equity, was certainly taking a chance. But these were the days of bubbles, endless expansion, financial pyramids and astronomical salaries, all encouraging a policy of more of the same (1).

At the end of 2007, some banks lent up to 30 times the amount they held in their vaults. Insurance companies like American International Group (AIG) stood by, covering this daring exhibition 
of tightrope walking.

But one day, the rope gave way. Some debtors, ruined and unable to borrow any more, stopped repaying their loans. The banks were in a weak position: if a tiny fraction of the loans they had agreed could not be repaid, they too would be bankrupt – and their insurers with them. With house prices in free fall, economic activity grinding to a halt, unemployment soaring, how are the financial institutions to recover? The answer is: the state will take care of them, the same state which has too often let some genius shuttling between banks take the helm.

It is time for the state to address the problem. In any case, the financial sector can no longer look to private shareholders for its salvation: they only spring to life when the government announces a fresh injection of funds. Nationalising the banks – anathema only yesterday when everyone (even the French socialists) was in favour of financial deregulation – is now such an obvious move and the disaster it would prevent so imminent that Republican members of Congress are recommending it in the US, and neo-liberal magazines like The Economist are, regretfully, advocating the same line (2).

It seems, however, that as soon as the banks have been redeemed with taxpayers’ money, they will be returned to their shareholders. In short, put the house in order and then give it back to the people who looted it. Why? Nationalised banking systems have funded decades of expansion. What have private banks done of similar value?

Ref: Le Monde

Peter Custers: green means zero growth
June 2009

With the world economy in disarray and military expenditure spiralling, what hopes are there of a genuinely Green New Deal? In this month’s podcast, George Miller talks to Peter Custers, an expert on the international arms trade, about his article “Towards zero growth ”, which argues that “an economy that refuses to grow” is exactly what the world economy must aim for.

He sees positive signs in Germany’s policy on renewable energy and offers his verdict on how green Barack Obama will turn out to be.

Listen to the podcast here