US Ramps Up Global War Agenda

by Finian Cunningham
GlobalResearch
November 21, 2011

Like a schoolyard bully, President Barack Obama is flexing American military muscle as he currently sweeps through the Asia-Pacific region. The nominal impetus for the tour was the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit held in Hawaii last week. But rather than discussing “economics” (the E in APEC), the salient focus for Obama and his entourage appears to be “war” – and in particular laying down battle lines to China.

Testy relations with China is nothing new for Washington given recent months of US haranguing over trade and finance, but what Obama’s bombast signals is a sinister ramping up of the militarist agenda towards Beijing.

As if bouncing underlings and lackeys into his gang, the American president has moved on from Honolulu with stopovers in Australia, Indonesia and elsewhere. Given the primary economic power of China in the hemisphere, it might be thought appropriate for Obama to make a cordial visit to Beijing to discuss partnerships and policies to revive the global economy. But no. The omission of China on this major US tour seems to be a deliberate snub to Beijing and a message to the region: that China is to be isolated and ringfenced. This is the stuff of warmongering writ large.

The blatant aggression is naturally smoothed over and made palatable by the Western mainstream media. Reporting on Obama’s unilateral belligerence at the APEC, the Washington Post bemoans: “Try as he might to focus Asian and Pacific leaders on forging new economic partnerships during a regional summit here, President Obama has spent much of his time in private meetings with his counterparts discussing another pressing concern: national security [that is, US military power].”

The Financial Times reports breathlessly: “Barack Obama will not set foot in China during his swing through the Asia-Pacific region… yet the country’s rapid economic ascent and military advances will provide the backdrop for almost everything he does on the trip.”

Note the assertion that it is China’s “military advances” that are prompting US concerns, not the more reasonable and realistic observation that Washington is the one beating the war drums.

The FT goes on to say: “The Pentagon is quietly working on a new strategy dubbed the AirSea Battle concept, which is designed to find ways to counter Chinese military plans to deny access to US forces in the seas surrounding China.”

In “seas surrounding China” it may be thought by some as entirely acceptable for Beijing to “deny access to US forces”. But not, it seems, for the scribes at the FT and other Western mainstream media, who transform US offence/Chinese defence into Chinese offence/US defence. One can only imagine how that same media would report it if China announced that it was intending to patrol nuclear warships off California.

As previously noted by Michel Chossudovsky at Global Research, the South China Sea’s untapped reserves of oil and other minerals are a major driver in US maneouvring. China stands to have natural territorial rights to these deposits and has much more valid claim to the wealth than the US, whose counter-claims on the matter seem at best arrogant and at worst provocative. Again, one can imagine the US and mainstream media reaction if China was eyeing oil and gas fields off Alaska.

But there is a bigger geopolitical agenda here, as Global Research has consistently analysed. The increasing US militarism in Asia-Pacific is apiece with the globalization of war by the US/NATO and its allies. The shift in policy is, as the Washington Post lamely tells us, “the US reasserting itself as a leader in the Asia-Pacific after years of focusing on [illegal] wars in the Middle East.”

However, this is not a dynamic that should be viewed as somehow normal and acceptable. This is, as we have stated, an escalation of global aggression by powers that are “addicted to war” as a matter of policy.

Top of the US hit list is China. Washington’s criminal wars in Iraq and Libya have in particular been aimed at cutting China out of legitimate energy investments in the Middle and East and North Africa (and Africa generally). That in itself must be seen by Beijing as a flagrant assault on its overseas’ assets. Not content, it seems, with achieving that dispossession of vital Chinese energy interests, Washington is now pushing its insatiable appetite all the way into China’s domain. But such unprecedented aggression is made to appear by the US government and the dutiful mainstream media as a natural entitlement where refusal by the other party is perversely presented as “military plans to deny access”.

Obama’s visit to Australia this week is undoubtedly aimed at further twisting the threat to China. In Darwin, the US president is overseeing the opening of a base that will see for the first time US Marines being able to conduct war games on Australian soil. Thousands of kilometers from China, this development may at first seem inconsequential. But then we are told that the move is designed to station US military “out of the reach of Chinese ballistic missiles”. The insinuation is unmistakable and menacing: China is an imminent threat. Somehow, without issuing any such aggressive moves, Beijing is suddenly made to look as if it is prepared to launch ballistic missiles at US installations.

It is tempting to call this US-led dynamic of global war “dysfunctional”. But, disturbingly, it is not merely dysfunctional. The global war dynamic is a function of the collapse of capitalism and democracy in the US and Europe (the brutal police crackdown on Occupy protesters across the US is evidence of the latter). War on the world is the logical outcome of this failed system, as history has already shown us with the horrors of World War One and Two.

Karl Marx once noted: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce”. To avert another “farce” in which the horrors of history are repeated, we need to once and for all challenge the root cause: capitalism.

Key lesson from Iceland crisis is ‘let banks fail’

AFP – Three years after Iceland’s banks collapsed and the country teetered on the brink, its economy is recovering, proof that governments should let failing lenders go bust and protect taxpayers, analysts say.

The North Atlantic island saw its three biggest banks go belly-up in the October 2008 as its overstretched financial sector collapsed under the weight of the global crisis sparked by the crash of US investment giant Lehman Brothers.

The banks became insolvent within a matter of weeks and Reykjavik was forced to let them fail and seek a $2.25 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

After three years of harsh austerity measures, the country’s economy is now showing signs of health despite the current global financial and economic crisis that has Greece verging on default and other eurozone states under pressure.

“The lesson that could be learned from Iceland’s way of handling its crisis is that it is important to shield taxpayers and government finances from bearing the cost of a financial crisis to the extent possible,” Islandsbanki analyst Jon Bjarki Bentsson told AFP.

“Even if our way of dealing with the crisis was not by choice but due to the inability of the government to support the banks back in 2008 due to their size relative to the economy, this has turned out relatively well for us,” Bentsson said.

Iceland’s banking sector had assets worth 11 times the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP) at their peak.

Nobel Prize-winning US economist Paul Krugman echoed Bentsson.

“Where everyone else bailed out the bankers and made the public pay the price, Iceland let the banks go bust and actually expanded its social safety net,” he wrote in a recent commentary in the New York Times.

“Where everyone else was fixated on trying to placate international investors, Iceland imposed temporary controls on the movement of capital to give itself room to maneuver,” he said.

During a visit to Reykjavik last week, Krugman also said Iceland has the krona to thank for its recovery, warning against the notion that adopting the euro can protect against economic imbalances.

“Iceland’s economic rebound shows the advantages of being outside the euro. This notion that by joining the euro you would be safe would come as news to the Spaniards,” he said, referring to one of the key eurozone states struggling to put its public finances in order.

Iceland’s example cannot be directly compared to the dramatic problems currently seen in Greece or Italy, however.

“The big difference between Greece, Italy, etc at the moment and Iceland back in 2008 is that the latter was a banking crisis caused by the collapse of an oversized banking sector while the former is the result of a sovereign debt crisis that has spilled over into the European banking sector,” Bentsson said.

“In Iceland, the government was actually in a sound position debt-wise before the crisis.”

Iceland’s former prime minister Geir Haarde, in power during the 2008 meltdown and currently facing trial over his handling of the crisis, has insisted his government did the right thing early on by letting the banks fail and making creditors carry the losses.

“We saved the country from going bankrupt,” Haarde, 68, told AFP in an interview in July.

“That is evident if you look at our situation now and you compare it to Ireland or not to mention Greece,” he said, adding that the two debt-wracked EU countries “made mistakes that we did not make … We did not guarantee the external debts of the banking system.”

Like Ireland and Latvia, also rescued by international bailout packages and now in recovery, Iceland implemented strict austerity measures and is now reaping the fruits of its efforts.

So much so that its central bank on Wednesday raised its key interest rate by a quarter point to 4.75 percent, in sharp contrast to most other developed countries which have slashed their borrowing costs amid the current crises.

It said economic growth in the first half of 2011 was 2.5 percent and was forecast to be just over 3.0 percent for the year as a whole.

David Stefansson, a research analyst at Arion Bank, told AFP Iceland hiked its rates because it “is in a different place in the economic (cycle) than other countries.

“The central bank thinks that other central banks in similar circumstances can afford to keep interest rates low, and even lower them, because expected inflation abroad is in general quite (a bit) lower,” he said.

‘Arab Spring is about controlling Eurasia’

RT
November 1, 2011

The ultimate goal of the US is to take the resources of Africa and Middle East under military control to block economic growth in China and Russia, thus taking the whole of Eurasia under control, author and historian William F. Engdahl reveals.

­The crisis with the US economy and the dollar system, the conduct of the US foreign policy is all a part of breakdown of the entire superpower structure that was built up after the end of WWII, claims Engdahl.

“Nobody in Washington wants to admit, just as nobody in Britain a hundred years ago wanted to admit that the British Empire was in terminal decline,” claims the author, noting that “All of this is related to the attempt to keep this sole superpower not only intact, but to spread its influence over the rest of the planet.”

William F. Engdahl believes the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa is a plan first announced by George W. Bush at a G8 meeting in 2003 and it was called “The Greater Middle East Project”.

It was masterminded to take under control for the “democratization” of the entire Islamic world from Afghanistan down through Iran, Pakistan and the oil producing Persian Gulf area, across North Africa all the way to Morocco.

“The so-called Arab Spring had been planned, pre-organized and used by the instigators of the ‘spontaneous’ protests and Twitter revolts in Cairo and Tunisia and so forth,” insists the historian.

Engdahl exposes that the some of the leaders of the protests had been trained in Belgrade, Serbia, by activists of Canvas (the Center for Applied Non-Violent Actions and Strategies) and Otpor (a youth movement that played a significant role ousting the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic), organizations financed by the US State Department.

Engdahl names two reasons for the US State Department’s designs on the Islamic world.

The first reason is a vast wealth in the hands of the Arab world’s leaders, sovereign wealth funds and resources. The agenda – exactly as it was done with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 – is “the IMF privatization, ‘free market’ economy and so forth so that Western banks and financial agencies and corporations could come in and take the plunder.”

“The second agenda is militarize the oil sources in such places as Libya and the so-called Republic of South Sudan, that are directly strategic to China’s future economic growth,” points Engdahl.

“This is all about controlling Eurasia, something Zbignew Brzezinski talked about back in 1997 in his famous book The Great Chessgame, especially about controlling Russia and China and any potential cohesion of the Eurasian countries economically and politically,” he says.

And the results are already there – in Egypt and Tunisia the democracy has already brought weak economy, while Libya, the country with the highest living standards in all of Africa before the NATO bombings, today is in ruins.

The concern of the Western powers, especially the Pentagon, is the military control of the troubled region, not restoring normality, the historian evaluates. The NTC puppet government’s main concern is giving NATO prominent basing rights – something unheard of during the 42 years of Gaddafi rule.

“The AFRICOM [the Pentagon’s Africa command] is co-ordinating the scene,” William F. Engdahl says, mentioning that “interestingly enough [AFRICOM] was created just after 2006 China’s Africa diplomacy, when 40 heads of African nations were invited to Beijing and enormous deals were signed on oil exploration, building hospitals and infrastructure – anything the IMF did not do in Africa over the last 30 years.”

It is true that the US is acting against Chinese interests and national security but Beijing, that gets around $300 billion every year of trade income, simply has to invest this money somewhere and as there are no markets big enough to absorb such money – Beijing has to buy American treasuries – thus sponsoring the American wars that ironically are directed against Chinese interests.

“For the ‘Gods of Money’ of Wall Street, the only chance of survival and keeping dollar now is finding new areas of loot. The Arab Spring is directed at grabbing and privatizing the vast wealth of the Arab world,” Engdahl concludes.

But the future of the eurozone also looks grim because the Greek financial crisis was planted under the EU back in 2002 by none other than Goldman Sachs.The money trail shows, states Engdahl, that “the Greek crisis was programmed to be detonated at command by Wall Street and the US Treasury, as well as the Federal Reserve in order to defend the reserve currency – the US dollar.”

Engdahl warns that the US is building more and more bases around the world, like 17 new, mostly Air Force, bases in Afghanistan to be ready for the new war with China or probably Russia.

“Given the history more than the Cold War era, Russia can play a very stabilizing and constructive role as a counterforce to this highly dangerous strategy of The Greater Middle East project of NATO and the US,” Engdahl claims. “I would hope they do.”

AIG sues Bank Of America for Fraud

Reuters
August 8, 2011

Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) shares fell as much as 9.5 percent to their lowest level since April 2009 on Monday morning over fears of a slowing U.S. economy and challenges to a multi-billion dollar mortgage settlement.

Bank stocks broadly fell after Standard & Poor’s stripped the United States of its top credit rating and the European Central Bank intervened in bond markets, triggering fears that the global economy is destabilizing.

Bank of America’s shares fell more than most of its peers after insurer American International Group (AIG.N) said it would sue the bank to recoup more than $10 billion in mortgage bond losses.

Bank of America shares were down 8.4 percent at $7.48 in morning trading. The KBW Bank Index .BKX fell 2.97 percent.

Analysts said investors were reacting to the latest challenge to Bank of America’s $8.5 billion proposed settlement with mortgage investors over repurchasing toxic home loans.

“It makes investors question whether the bank will need to raise capital,” said Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc analyst Jefferson Harralson.

Citigroup Inc (C.N) shares fell 5.4 percent to $31.60, JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) fell 2.1 percent to $36.80 and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) shares dipped 1.3 percent to $24.87.

Emerging World buys $10 billion in gold as West wobbles

By Amanda Cooper
Reuters
August 3, 2011

Central banks of emerging market countries such as Korea and Thailand have added more than $10 billion (6 billion pounds) of gold to their reserves this year in a sign of waning faith in the West’s benchmark bonds and currencies like the dollar and the euro.

International Monetary Fund data for June Wednesday showed Thailand bought gold for the second time this year, raising its reserves by nearly 19 tonnes to over 127 tonnes, while Russia bought another 5.85 tonnes, bringing its reserves to 836.7 tonnes, the world’s eighth largest official stash of the metal.

So far in 2011, emerging market central banks have bought nearly 180 tonnes of gold, more than double the roughly 73 tonnes purchased by central banks globally in the whole of 2010.

The spot price of gold has risen by more than 17 percent this year to a record $1,672.65 an ounce, driven chiefly by investor concerns over the impact on the developed world’s economy of its debt burdens and sluggish growth.

Mexico has been the largest buyer of gold in the year to date, with $5.3 billion worth of purchases, or 98 tonnes of gold, followed by Russia, which has bought 48 tonnes, worth $2.6 billion at current prices.

Earlier this week, Korea confirmed it had bought 25 tonnes of gold in June and July.

“Central banks evidently do not regard the price level as too high and are diversifying their currency reserves. This was the first purchase of gold for the Korean central bank in over ten years,” said Commerzbank metals analyst Daniel Briesemann.

“Gold’s high-altitude flight still appears to be supported by many factors and an end to the boom soon is not in sight.”

In the euro zone, smaller economies such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland have already sought emergency funding, while concern is mounting over the finances of some of the region’s larger members such as Spain and Italy, driving the euro to record lows against the safe-haven Swiss franc.

The United States averted an unprecedented debt default on Tuesday after lawmakers reached an eleventh-hour deal to raise the country’s borrowing limit, although severe doubts remain about the economic outlook, stripping 6 percent off the value of the dollar this year.

DEBT MISERY

The U.S. economy is also likely to lose its top-notch credit rating as ratings agencies are increasingly discomfited by the weight of the twin trade and budget deficits and the country’s patchy growth.

A downgrade will almost certainly push up yields on U.S. Treasury notes as their value falls, which could prove unwelcome to the major investors in U.S. debt such as the Chinese government, which holds nearly $900 billion in Treasuries.

The trend among central banks, particularly those with large foreign exchange holdings, to diversify some of their portfolios into gold from currencies has been well established over the last couple of years.

“The market generally expects central banks with growing reserves and small gold holdings to buy gold,” said Jesper Dannesboe, senior commodity strategist at Societe Generale.”

“So I don’t think that is particular surprising, but it does support the bullish story (for gold),” he said.

Central banks are expected to remain net buyers of gold this year and the most likely buyers will be those with the biggest reserves and relatively small bullion holdings, such as China.

The Chinese central bank is the sixth largest official owner of gold, yet its holdings account for just 1.6 percent of its $2.5 trillion total reserves.

The IMF data showed Russia, Kazakhstan, Greece, Ukraine and Tajikistan also added to their reserves two months ago and feature among some of the bigger bullion buyers this year.

Kazakhstan’s reserves rose for the third time this year, by 3.11 tonnes in June to 70.434 tonnes, Taijikistan’s reserves rose 0.04 tonnes to 3.036 tonnes and Greece and Ukraine added 0.03 tonnes each, bringing their official holdings of gold to 111.506 tonnes and 27.744 tonnes, respectively.

Russia has added to its gold reserves every month for the past five years, according to the IMF’s data.