Wednesday, October 22, 2014

U.S. weaponizing of Ebola, other viruses fears by Wayne Madsen




U.S. weaponizing of Ebola, other viruses fears

Evidence has surfaced in a U.S. embassy Berlin cable to the U.S. State and Defense Departments that German authorities hesitated to send hemorrhagic fever cultures to the suspected biological warfare laboratory at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland because the Germans feared the Army might "weaponize" the cultures.

The cable, classified as "Sensitive," is dated December 15, 2009 and states:
"German MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] Deputy Head of Division for Export Control Markus Klinger provided the following non-paper to Econoff [Embassy Economics Officer], seeking additional assurances related to a proposed export of extremely dangerous pathogens to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases. The Army's end use certificate provided to Germany is lacking an official seal. Klinger's deputy, Nancy Reck, noted that Germany had made two follow-up requests to the Army seeking assurances and clarifications related to this proposed export. The GOG [Government of Germany] seeks assurances from the USG [US Government] or US Army that the end use certificate and the information contained therein are legitimate and accurate."

The "non-paper" reference is to an "aide-memoire," what is known in the diplomatic world as a note without an author, source, or title that is used to prepare for negotiations. The following "non-paper," which was originally written in German, was translated by the embassy and sent to Washington:
"For Official Use Only

Against the background of our partnership in the area of non-proliferation and our excellent cooperation in the matters of export controls, we would like to bring the following issue to the attention of your government.

A German firm has applied for the approval of the export of 184 genetic elements with nucleic acid sequences of viruses for the production of recombinant viruses. The viruses will be used in optical imaging to identify host factors required for viral replication. The recipient in the USA is, according to the enclosed end use certificate, the Department of the Army 'US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID)' Fort Detrick, Maryland.

Specifications in English about the goods, the recipient and end use can be seen from the end use certificate. The goods are controlled by the Australia Group and are subject to compulsory export approval (List position C1C353A). This matter concerns the complete genome of viruses such as the Zaire Ebola virus, the Lake Victoria Marburg virus, the Machupo virus and the Lassa virus, which are absolutely among the most dangerous pathogens in the world. The delivery would place the recipient in the position of being able to create replicating recombinant infectious species of these viruses.

Because of the particular criticality of these goods, the German federal government practices an exceptionally restrictive approval policy for such exports. An approval here can only be issued if an improper end use in association with the development or production of biologic weapons approaches can be foreclosed with a probability approaching certainty. The enclosed end use certificate is on the letterhead of the U.S. Army. The required official seal is missing, however. A decision about the export has not yet been made. Given the foregoing, we would appreciate confirmation that the end use certificate really is from the Department of the Army and of the accuracy of the data contained therein. We look forward to the continuation of our excellent cooperation in matters of non-proliferation and export controls."

The German government specifically stated that the ability of Fort Detrick to "create replicating recombinant infectious species" of dangerous hemorrhagic viruses could violate international controls on the export of dangerous weapons of mass destruction that are enforced by the Australia Group of signatories to biological, chemical, and nuclear export treaties.

The Germans are in a position to be well aware of past U.S. involvement in biological warfare operations, especially in Zaire, where, in 1976, the first major outbreak of the Zaire Ebola virus, referenced by the Germans in their aide-memoire, occurred near the Ebola River in northern Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).

In 1976, while the CIA was experimenting with Ebola and HIV in Zaire as part of its illegal covert war against the Marxist government of Angola,
Orbital Transport und Raketen AG (OTRAG), or Orbital Transport and Rockets, Inc., a West German corporation closely linked to West Germany'sBundesnachrichtendienst (BND) intelligence service, established a huge base in Zaire.

NASA and former Nazi rocket scientists Werner von Braun, 
Kurt Heinrich Debus, and Richard Gompertz, all executives with OTRAG, helped set up a massive 100,000 square miles "rocket base" in Shaba (Katanga) in Zaire. OTRAG's chairman Lutz Thilo Kayer, was associated with the German Nazi rocket and uranium acquisition programs as a young man and later became a technical adviser on NASA's Apollo program. Katanga is also rich in uranium deposits and Kayser's role as an adviser to the West German Research and Technology Ministry may have been a clue to the existence of West Germany's rumored secret nuclear weapons acquisition program.
OTRAG's Zaire base was shut down in 1979 and it was relocated, courtesy of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, to the Libyan desert in 1981. Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was so concerned about the OTRAG base's offensive capabilities he pressured French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing to weigh in with Mobutu to force the base's ouster from Zaire.
Katanga was also a longtime base of operations for CIA, West German, Belgian, Rhodesian, South African, Portuguese, French, and British intelligence and mercenary operatives, dating back to the Belgian Congo's transition to independence in 1960.
      Every crazy CIA plot you've heard of originated with one man
The CIA's use of Zaire/Congo as a Petri dish for lethal hemorrhagic viruses originated with the above war criminals. German Jewish immigrant and later National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger [left] and Hungarian Jewish immigrant Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, the CIA's "Dr. Death" [right].

The authorization for the CIA to use the OTRAG zone as a base of operations for the war in Angola came from Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the operations were carried out by CIA director George Bush, whose father, Prescott Bush, helped finance the Nazi German rocket program during World War II through his work for Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH) and the Union Banking Corporation. The elder Bush's work helped German industrialist Fritz Thyssen obtain critical supplied for the secret German rocket program at Peenemunde on the Baltic Sea.

The agreement between OTRAG and Zaire granted the firm practical comp
lete jurisdiction over the 750,000 Zairian inhabitants of the region and authorized OTRAG to establish airports, telecommunications networks, and factories in the region.

There were suspicions in Zaire and elsewhere at the time that the huge West German rocket base was also being used by the CIA and its Fort Detrick partners to test weaponized Ebola, HIV, and the Reston Ebola-like Marburg
 virus on suspecting Zairians. After the outbreak of Ebola in the Bumba zone of Zaire, where a number of infected Zairains descended upon the Yambuku Mission Hospital, Zaire's CIA-financed dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, ordered the Bumba "hot zone" sealed off by his army, which had orders to "shoot to kill" anyone trying to leave the area. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control's Special Pathogens Branch, now the Viral Special Pathogens Branch (VSPB), along with USAMRIID and the British bio-war facility at Porton Down, England, were all involved in examining cultures from the Ebola outbreak in Zaire. There is little doubt that West German intelligence, which oversaw the operations at the OTRAG base, would have also known the details of the 1976 Ebola outbreak in Zaire, hence, the German government's present concern about Ebola samples sent by them to Fort Detrick being weaponized. The CIA's longtime Technical Services Director, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, who came up with various ways to infect CIA targets like Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, Cuba's Fidel Castro, and Iraqi leader General Abdel Karim Kassem with lethal toxins, admitted to a congressional hearing that as early as 1960 hedisposed in the Congo River a large quantity of viruses to contaminate anyone who used the river for drinking water.

Fort Detrick   
Suspicions abound that Fort Detrick [left] helped hatch Ebola in Zaire from the West German OTRAG rocket base [right] in Zaire

It is interesting to compare Mobutu's military operations against Ebola victims to that of Barack Obama, who had ordered the dispatch of U.S. troops to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to help the governments of those countries militarily seal off the Ebola hot zones. Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma appears to be taking a page from the playbook of Mobutu. Two Sierra Leoneans were shot dead by Sierra Leone army personnel after health workers in the diamond mining town of Koidu tried to take a blood sample from a 90-year old Sierra Leonean woman. Riots broke out in the town over the attempted drawing of blood. The armed forces of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea are now being advised on crowd control measures by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and National Guard civil affairs personnel.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#JSIL - "Friends of Israel" dominate UK politics across the spectrum by Wayne Madsen



#JSIL

"Friends of Israel" dominate UK politics across the spectrumThe recent non-binding vote by the British House of Commons recognizing Palestinian statehood in a 274 to 12 vote was only a Pyrrhic victory for those opposed to Israel's attempt to annex the West Bank and obliterate Gaza. Half the members of the Commons, most of them Conservatives, were absent for the vote. The 270 members who voted for the bill, which Prime Minister David Cameron has said he would not implement by officially recognizing Palestinian statehood and establishing an embassy in Ramallah, largely represented the Labor and Liberal Democratic parties.

However, as WMR recently learned at the New Horizon conference in Tehran, all four major British parties -- the Conservatives, Labor, Liberal Democrats, and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) -- all have "Friends of Israel" caucuses. Although the UKIP is currently only represented in the Commons by one member -- Douglas Carswell -- before he switched from the Tories to the UKIP, he was a leading member of the Conservative's "Friends of Israel" caucus. With more UKIP members seen being elected to the Commons, it is certain that Carswell will be the catalyst to bring as many UKIP members as possible under the UKIP Friends of Israel umbrella. Ironically, the UKIP's bloc of Euro-skeptics in the European Parliament was saved as an entity by 
Robert Iwaszkiewicz, from Poland’s far-right KNP party. Iwaszkiewicz has publicly defended Adolf Hitler and doubts much of what has been reported about the Holocaust.

Some 80 percent of all MPs are members of either the Conservative, Labor, or Liberal Democratic Friends of Israel caucuses with the Conservative Party's Friends of Israel being the largest political group in Western Europe advocating for Israel.
 UKIP Friends of Israel
UKIP's new ally, Polish MEP Iwaszkiewicz, causing heartburn for the UKIP's "Friends of Israel" caucus.

Labor Party and Opposition leader Ed Miliband, who is Jewish, has what is known as the "J Team" advising him on foreign policy. There is only one requirement to serve on the "J Team" and it is that members must be pro-Israeli Jews. But it is not because Miliband is Jewish that he has a "J Team." In fact, Prime Minister Cameron and then-Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Major all had their own "J Teams" and none of these prime ministers were Jewish.


As far as senior Cabinet positions, the "Friends of Israel" in each major political party insist that major government posts go to their members. For the current Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government, current and former Tory Friends of Israel Cabinet members include Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Leader of the House of Commons and former Foreign Secretary William Hague, Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, former Defense Secretary Liam Fox, former Foreign Secretary and current Chairman of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, and Home Secretary Theresa May.

As in the United States with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Anti-Defamation League, and the 
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the UK has its own Jewish-Zionist pressure organization that ensure fealty by Britain's elected leaders to the Israeli and Zionist causes. These groups are the Zionist Federation, which has been lobbying for increased British sanctions against Iran; the Jewish Leadership Council, which has been working to water down British human rights legislation that could subject Israeli leaders to arrest on British soil; the Community Security Trust, which works closely with British law enforcement and intelligence and liaises with Mossad to monitor "threats" against Britain's Jewish community; and the British-Israeli Communications and Research Center (BICOM), which lobbies and pressures journalists and editors to ensure that a constant flow of pro-Israeli propaganda is featured in and promoted by the British news media. Marc Morris photo of Ed Balls MP at LFI Annual Lunch 2012 hague
Left-to-right: Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Labor Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls [who doesn't seem to have any when it comes to standing up to Israel], and William Hague.

There are no "Friends of Israel" caucuses within the regional nationalist parties. One of the reasons Britain's Jewish community rallied against the Scottish independence referendum sponsored by Scotland's Scottish National Party (SNP) government and First Minister Alex Salmond is that there has not and will never likely be an SNP "Friends of Israel" caucus. The SNP, which understands the yearning of Scots to be free, also appreciates the same desire among Palestinians. The following is what SNP MP Stewart Hosie said about his yes vote in Parliament for the recognition of Palestine:
"Over twenty years ago the Oslo Accords were signed between Israel and Palestine paving the way for recognition of Palestine and laying out agreements between the two countries.

“20 years later however, we have: a Separation wall – which cuts deep into the West Bank; blockades of the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air and mass unemployment, extreme poverty and food price rises caused by shortages which have left four in five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid.

“And most recently, this year, we have seen Operation Protective Edge - seven weeks of Israeli bombardment, Palestinian rocket attacks, and ground fighting killing more than 2,200 people, the vast majority of them Gazans."
Hosie was joined in voting for Palestine recognition by all the SNP Members of Parliament: Angus MacNeil, Angus Robertson, Eilidh Whiteford, Michael Weir, and Peter Wishart. The unanimity was the result of the lack of a pro-Israel pressure group within the SNP's ranks. The SNP's unanimity on Palestine was shared by their colleagues from the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru in Parliament. All three Plaid Cymru MPs -- Jonathan Edwards, Elfyn Llwyd, and Hywel Williams -- voted to recognize Palestine.

All of the MPs from the Northern Ireland largely Protestant Democratic Union Party -- 
Nigel Dodds, William McCrea, Ian Paisley, Jim Shannon and David Simpson -- voted against recognizing Palestine. Earlier this year, a DUP "Friends of Israel" caucus was formed in the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly of Stormont in Belfast with the help of DUP First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy Israeli ambassador in London Eitan Na'eh. However, the sole Northern Ireland MP representing the more liberal Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, Naomi Long, who ousted Robinson from his seat in Westminster, voted for Palestine recognition. The Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, which has members in Westminster, Stormont, and the Irish Republic's Dail, has no "Friends of Israel" caucus. However, it does sponsor "Friends of Palestine" chapters in Northern Ireland and the republic.

Mebyon Kernow, which is campaigning for a Cornish Assembly, devolution from London, and autonomy for the English-imposed "Duchy of Cornwall" contrivance, has not adopted a foreign policy plank because its emphasis is currently on regional policies. However, some of its members have expressed solidarity with the Palestinian cause. If the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Alliance Party, and Sinn Fein are any indication, there will likely not be a Cornish "Friends of Israel" caucus.

The Celtic nationalist parties' opposition to Israel has earned them the wrath of Jewish pressure groups in Britain and Israel, which haul out the usual worn-out canard that they are "anti-Semitic."

Monday, October 20, 2014

SPECIAL REPORT. Ebola is just another product of 1972 treaty violations by Wayne Madsen




SPECIAL REPORT. Ebola is just another product of 1972 treaty violations

The first outbreak of the deadly Ebola hemorrhagic fever was recorded on July 27, 1976 in the southern Sudan. The first victim of the disease suffered from the Sudan strain of the virus. The man, who worked at the Nzara Cotton Manufacturing Factory in the Sudanese town of Nzara, was dead ten days later. The outbreak quickly spread to the town of Maridi, where hapless villagers struck by the virus went because it was the location of the nearest hospital. Infections were also reported in Juba and Tembura. In 1976, southern Sudan was the scene of a guerrilla-led civil war that pitted black southern Sudanese against the largely Arab central government in Khartoum. In 2011, after the long civil war, one in which the CIA and Mossad supported the South Sudanese against Khartoum, the Republic of South Sudan declared its independence.

In 1976, Zaire was being used as a base for an illegal CIA war against the Marxist-led government of Angola. The 1976 Clark Amendment to the Arms Control Act, authored by Senator Dick Clark (D-IA) and passed by the Senate, forbid the U.S. government from aiding any sides in the Angolan civil war. CIA director George Bush merely ignored the act and provided covert assistance to right-wing Angolan guerrillas in a total violation of the law.

Just as the CIA did with the House of Representatives Boland Amendment forbidding any U.S. government involvement in the Nicaraguan civil war, the CIA merely ignored the law and began supporting the anti-Marxist guerrillas, including UNITA guerrillas led by Jonas Savimbi, in Angola. Assistance to the guerrillas was provided through Zaire, then run by CIA client-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. U.S. mercenaries fighting on behalf of the minority white government of Rhodesia reportedly helped the Salisbury regime of Prime Minister Ian Smith develop bio-warfare agents, including anthrax, to use against black nationalist guerrillas. Some of these bio-warfare weapons were also transferred to CIA-backed rebels in Angola from both Rhodesia and Zaire.

After the anthrax attacks in the United States in 2001, the FBI dispatched a team of agents to South Africa and Zimbabwe to investigate then-primary "person of interest" Dr. Steven Hatfill's role in the 1970s with South Africa's Project COAST and Rhodesia's Selous Scouts own bio-war program, much of it developed with the assistance of the South Africans. There is reason to believe that the FBI was called off its investigation when a link between Hatfill and a covert CIA operation to aid the Rhodesian Selous Scouts during the 1970s was discovered. This link included the provision of bio-warfare agents, including anthrax and West Nile virus,from Fort Detrick and Project COAST.

In 2000, the FBI discovered a network of veterans of the South African bio-warfare program, code named Project COAST, living in the Los Angeles area. A UCLA gynecologist and high-level Mormon named Dr. Larry Ford was linked to the chief of Project COAST, Dr. Wouter Basson. Ford's partner in his firm Biofem Pharmaceuticals was shot and wounded on February 28, 2000 and shortly thereafter, Ford allegedly committed suicide in his Irvine, California home. The FBI discovered canisters containing cultures of cholera, salmonella, botulism, and typhus buried in Ford's backyard. FBI agent Doug Baker revealed that Ford had connections to the CIA but later quickly recanted after he received pressure from FBI headquarters. However, Ford's friend Basson was linked to Don Mayes, a retired CIA officer and one of Basson's former employee, Dan Goosen, and the CIA and FBI. Mayes acted as the CIA's and FBI's go-between to Goosen and Basson. on behalf of Basson, Goosen was trying to sell the CIA a genetically-engineered pathogen that combined intestinal bacteria with gas gangrene, a very fatal concoction. The pathogen was shipped from South Africa to the FBI office in Key West in a toothpaste tube, a favorite container for Gottlieb, where former CIA-turned-FBI agent Robert Zlockie took possession of the tube. Negotiations for the CIA to buy the pathogen reportedly broke down, however, there were reports that Goosen met with officials of Bioport, the Michigan-based firm that sold anthrax vaccines to the Pentagon. There were reports at the time that investors in Bioport included The Carlyle Group, on whose board George H. W. Bush sat. The toothpaste tube was reportedly sent to Fort Detrick.

mad_scientist
A small arsenal, in addition to pathogen canisters, were discovered buried in Dr. Larry Ford's backyard. Some believe that Ford took over from Dr. Sidney Gottlieb as the CIA's "Dr. Death," but in a much more covert fashion with maximized "plausible deniability" of agency involvement.

During the CIA's illegal involvement in warfare in Zaire and Angola, two novel viruses appeared on the scene: Ebola and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The CIA's longtime "Dr. Strangelove" for creating exotic methods to kill people, the club-footed Hungarian-Jew Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, saw Africa as a virtual "Petri dish" for carrying out his macabre experiments. In 1960, Gottlieb developed a deadly poison that was to be put on Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba's toothbrush and cause instant death. Gottlieb also worked on various "exotic" medical means to dispatch Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Other Gottlieb exploits included blue mold against Cuba's tobacco crop; cane smut against its sugar crop; African swine fever, which is related to the coronavirus Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which is related to the deadly 1918 Spanish flu; and a hemorrhagic strain of Dengue fever against Cuba's human population. In the months after 9/11 and long after Gottlieb's retirement from the CIA, a cousin of hemorrhagic Dengue fever, the Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), made its debut among civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Russian scientists who examined SARS claimed that the virus was genetically created by fusing mumps and measles pathogens. They pointed their fingers at Fort Detrick.

Although Gottlieb retired from the CIA in 1972, after 20 years of service with Langley, there is no evidence that the CIA discontinued its involvement with biological warfare experimentation, even after the United States signed, along with the United Kingdom and the USSR, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction or "BWC." Evidence suggests that the CIA merely transferred its bio-war programs to the
U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland where bio-warfare research was being conducted under the cover of "non-proliferation" enforcement and research. Other banned research was conducted at Fort Detrick's British counterpart at the Defense Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) in Porton Down in Wiltshire, England.

Gottlieb_001 
Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, aka "Joseph Schneider."
HIV first infected Cuban troops in Angola who were assisting the central government in battling CIA- and South African-supported rebels throughout Angola. Those returning Cuban troops in turn infected Cuban civilians. It was from the Cuban vector that HIV was then transmitted to the United States via Cuban refugees who received political asylum in Florida. The Soviet news agency TASS was always ridiculed for producing propaganda, however, the CIA and State Department had full-time operations to counter everything reported by the news agency, indicating that the United States was concerned to counter TASS even when their reports were correct, which they were more times than not. On March 30, 1987, TASS reported that East German scientists concluded that HIV was a manufactured virus, developed by gene splicing a visna virus, a retrovirus that causes encephalitis and pneumonia in sheep, with HTLV-1, the first retrovirus that was known to infect humans. The East German scientists traced HIV back to Fort Detrick. The U.S. State Department labled the story "Soviet propaganda," but the U.S. government has never really owned up to its "Dr. Frankstein" medical operations in Africa or elsewhere.

In fact, the U.S. government, with suspicions of CIA involvement, was subjecting African-American to injections with syphilis as late as 1972. The U.S. Public Health Service forced syphilis infection operation was coordinated with Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The Atomic Energy Commission, again, with suspected CIA involvement, subjected American civilians and military personnel, including the population of Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, as well as Australian citizens, to radiation experiments as part of Projects SUNSHINE and GABRIEL.

An August 2, 1977 letter from CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner to Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) reveals the nature of the CIA's work with Fort Detrick's USAMRIID on bio-warfare projects. The letter states that as part of the CIA's MKULTRA project, various subprojects involved "funding for unspecified activities connected with the Army's Special Operations Division at Ft. Detrick, Md . . . Under CIA's Project MKNAOMI, the Army assisted CIA in developing, testing, and maintaining biological agents and delivery systems for use against humans as well as against animals and crops. The objectives of these subprojects cannot be identified from the recovered material beyond the fact that the money was to be used where normal funding channels would require more written or oral justification than appeared desirable for security reasons or where operational considerations dictated short lead time for purchases." [Emphasis added]

Turner claimed MKNAOMI bio-warfare operations ended in 1960, however, statements by CIA director William Colby released later indicated that the CIA destroyed much of the MKNAOMI records that existed up until 1972. The records were part of a trove of CIA documents that Colby referred to as the agency's "Family Jewels."


Turner's less-than-candid admission to Inouye about the CIA's bio-war program with Fort Detrick.

On August 26, 1976, after the Zaire strain of Ebola first appeared near the Ebola River in the Republic of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, the virus recorded a fatality rate of over 85 percent. A school headmaster, who had been visiting northern Zaire, arrived at the Yambuku Mission Hospital and was misdiagnosed as suffering from malaria. Many of those who had contact with the headmaster before and after he died contracted Ebola. During the following few months, there were 602 reported cases of Ebola in Zaire and in southern Sudan. Of these, 431 people died from the two strains of the novel virus. The international news media painted the Zaire "hot zone" as a virtual geographic death zone.

News reports at the time emphasized two major points: 1) the nearly-always fatal disease caused its victims to die a horrible death, turning their internal organs into jellified masses and 2) the virus was thankfully limited to a remote part of Zaire and did not pose a threat to any major urban centers. It was the remoteness of the virus outbreak that led the Western nations to brush off the virus as deadly but only affecting black Africans because of its remoteness.

That Western mindset largely resulted in governments in Washington, London, Paris, and other capitals brushing off the latest incarnation of the Zaire strain of Ebola which has killed well over 4000 people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and may infect as many as 1.5 million people by early 2015, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). After all, Western leaders reasoned, the virus was only killing black Africans. Even America's overly-hyped first "African-American president," Barack Obama, failed to take the recent Ebola outbreak seriously when he invited leaders of African states, along with their staffs and cabinet ministers, African business leaders, and journalists, to a Washington, DC summit with little regard for the contagiousness of Ebola. White House staffers appeared to have forgotten that the WHO determined that when Ebola first broke out in Zaire in 1976 that it could be transmitted by airborne means.

Three other strains of Ebola, known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF), a member of the Filoviridae family of viruses, are known to exist in addition to the very deadly Zaire and the less deadly Sudan strains. They are the Côte d’Ivoire or Taï Forest, Bundibugyo (Uganda), and Reston (Virginia) strains. There was an outbreak of Ebola-Zaire in Uganda between 2000 and 2001 in the Gulu District; a Taï strain outbreak spread from chimpanzees to a human in October 1994; an outbreak of Zaire strain in November, 1994 in the gold mining camps of
Meouka, Andock, and Minkebe in Gabon followed by other outbreaks in 1996 in Mayibout and the Booué region of Gabon and 2001 in Libreville, the capital city; an Ebola-Zaire outbreak in Yambio, South Sudan in 2004; and a re-emergence of Ebola-Zaire in an outbreak in Kasaï-Occidental province, DRC, in 2007, as well as in 2008 and 2009. Ebola-Zaire also hitKagadi in the Kibaale District of Uganda in 2012 with a 66 percent fatality rate.

In 2007, a new form of Ebola, the Bundibugyo strain, less deadly than Ebola-Zaire, struck Uganda. In 2008, the least deadly form of Ebola, the U.S. lab-produced Reston strain, infected humans from a group of infected pigs in the Philippines. It was the first case of non-humans or primates being infected by Ebola.

There was another Zaire strain outbreak in Kikwit, Zaire in 1995 and an outbreak of the virus in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) in the Mbomo or Kéllé districts in 2003 and 2007.

In addition to humans, Ebola is known to infect primates such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and monkeys, in addition to forest antelopes, fruit bats, porcupines, and, as seen in the Philippines, pigs.



The original 1976 Ebola outbreak "hot zones."
The first victim of the West African Ebola-Zaire outbreak was a 2-year old boy who died from the virus on December 6, 2013 in Meliandou, Guinea. From the town, the virus spread to nearby villages. The initial area of contagion is close to the lucrative Simandou iron mine, which has long been a target of exploitation of Israeli mining magnate and Israel's richest man Benny Steinmetz and his Benny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR) and the hedge fund tycoon George Soros. Steinmetz has been under FBI investigation for bribery. In addition, he attempted to launch a coup against Guinean President Alpha Condé after BSGR, based in Guernsey with offices in London and Geneva, was stripped of its mining rights in Guinea after attempting to bribe Guinean officials. Steinmetz's attempt to foment an anti-Condé coup among disaffected Guinean army officers and members of the minorty Fula tribe.



Pentagon map showing current Ebola "hot zones" in West Africa.

One of Steinmetz's associates, Frederic Cilins, was arrested by the FBI in Jacksonville, Florida before he could begin destroying several BSRG documents proving that Steinmetz had paid bribes to Guinean officials in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. There was a recent scare at Jacksonville's Baptist Hospital after someone who had contact with a recent visitor to West Africa complained of initial Ebola-like symptoms. The patient did not indicate whether his contact had been in Guinea or the nature of that person's business in Guinea, Sierra Leone, or Liberia. The Simandou mine is in close proximity to the Guinean borders with both Sierra Leone and Guinea.


Ebola outbreak in Guinea near Israeli tycoon's attempted iron mining bonanza.
By March 2014, as more Guineans were sickened with the virus, an isolation unit was established by Doctors Without Borders in Gueckedou, near Meliandou. By March 25, four southeastern districts in Guinea suffered Ebola outbreaks with the first cases also reported from across the tri-border area in Lofa and Nimba counties, Liberia and in Kailahun District, Sierra Leone. By June, the first Ebola cases were reported in Monrovia, the Liberian capital and in Kenema, Port Loko, and the Western Districts of Sierra Leone. By July, the virus had spread to Sierra Leone's Bo District and the capital city of Freetown.

With the exception of the contained outbreak of Ebola in 2001 in Libreville, Gabon, the virus's arrival in Monrovia and Freetown were the first time the disease had hit major metropolitan areas. At the end of July, a Liberian-American man died from Ebola after flying from Monrovia to the mega-metropolis of Lagos, Nigeria. Nigeria, as well as Senegal, managed to contain the virus with minimal fatalities. Meanwhile, mandatory quarantine zones were established throughout Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. President Obama dispatched U.S. troops and National Guardsmen to the West African nations to deal with the Ebola outbreak.

By October, there were reported Ebola cases in the United States from a Liberian man who later died of the virus in a Dallas hospital after traveling from Liberia. Other cases in Spain, the UK, Germany, Norway, and France were reported from medical workers who had been in West Africa and who contracted the virus from patients. Ebola-Zaire also saw an outbreak in the Boende District of the DRC, however, WHO said the outbreak was unconnected to that in West Africa.

Oddly, as the White House named Ron Klain as the "Ebola czar," it also announced late Friday afternoon, on October 16, that it was cutting off funding to risk government experimentation that studied certain infectious agents by making them more dangerous. The timing of the White House announcement was odd, considering that it was reported by WMR that the H1N1 swine influenza "novel" strain was the product of resurrecting the deadly 1918 Spanish flu from DNA extracted by scientists from the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rockville, Maryland from the corpse of a female Inuit teen who died from the disease in 1918. U.S. government-funded scientists succeeded in combining the resurrected Spanish flu DNA with other viruses, including swine and avian flu. The White House also asked scientists currently conducting research on influenza, SARS and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and other coronaviruses such as the Hong Kong and New Haven viruses, to "voluntarily" halt all current research. Did President Obama delve into the work of USAMRIID, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to discover that the BWC of 1972 was being routinely violated since it was signed? In addition to H1N1 flu, scientists, including Yoshihiro Kawaoka of University of Wisconsin-Madison, were researching ways to make H5N1 avian flu able to "species jump" from ferrets to humans.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services did not put a time limitation on the research moratorium but Kawaoke indicated future research projects on influenza and coronaviruses would not be started and that he would consult with NIH on applying the moratorium on current research efforts. The White House policy does not affect research Ebola but only applies to influenza and coronaviruses.

On the heels of the White House order curtailing research on "risky" viruses, the Pentagon announced that the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) would work with USAMRIID, the suspected original source of the "Ames strain" anthrax pathogen used in the 2001 postal system attacks, to send Ebola medical teams to areas of the United States reporting outbreaks. USAMRIID not only has the anthrax release on its rap sheet but also the recombination of deadly flu viruses for which the White House ordered a cut-off in funding hours before the Pentagon's announcement on military teams being used to protect the "homeland" from Ebola.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Edward Snowden and the Golden Age of Spying - A TomDispatch Interview With Laura Poitras




Tomgram: Laura Poitras and Tom Engelhardt, The Snowden Reboot
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Call me moved. I recently went to the premiere ofCitizenfour, Laura Poitras's engrossing new film on Edward Snowden, at the New York Film Festival. The breaking news at film's end: as speculation had it this summer, there is indeed at least one new, post-Snowden whistleblower who has come forward from somewhere inside the U.S. intelligence world with information about a watchlist (that includes Poitras) with "more than 1.2 million names" on it and on the American drone assassination program.
Here's what moved me, however. My new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World, ends with a "Letter to an Unknown Whistleblower," whose first lines are: "I don't know who you are or what you do or how old you may be. I just know that you exist somewhere in our future as surely as does tomorrow or next year... And how exactly do I know this? Because despite our striking inability to predict the future, it’s a no-brainer that the national security state is already building you into its labyrinthine systems.” And now, of course, such a whistleblower is officially here and no matter how fiercely the government may set out after whistleblowers, there will be more. It’s unstoppable, in part thanks to figures like Poitras, who is the subject of today’s TomDispatch interview. Tom]
Edward Snowden and the Golden Age of Spying
A TomDispatch Interview With Laura Poitras
Here’s a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! stat from our new age of national security. How many Americans have security clearances? The answer: 5.1 million, a figure that reflects the explosive growth of the national security state in the post-9/11 era. Imagine the kind of system needed just to vet that many people for access to our secret world (to the tune of billions of dollars). We’re talking here about the total population of Norway and significantly more people than you can find in Costa Rica, Ireland, or New Zealand. And yet it’s only about 1.6% of the American population, while on ever more matters, the unvetted 98.4% of us are meant to be left in the dark.
For our own safety, of course. That goes without saying.
All of this offers a new definition of democracy in which we, the people, are to know only what the national security state cares to tell us.  Under this system, ignorance is the necessary, legally enforced prerequisite for feeling protected.  In this sense, it is telling that the only crime for which those inside the national security state can be held accountable in post-9/11 Washington is not potential perjury before Congress, or the destruction of evidence of a crime, or torture, or kidnapping, or assassination, or the deaths of prisoners in an extralegal prison system, but whistleblowing; that is, telling the American people something about what their government is actually doing.  And that crime, and only that crime, has been prosecuted to the full extent of the law (and beyond) with a vigor unmatched in American history.  To offer a single example, the only American to go to jail for the CIA’s Bush-era torture program was John Kiriakou, a CIA whistleblower who revealed the name of an agent involved in the program to a reporter.
In these years, as power drained from Congress, an increasingly imperial White House has launched various wars (redefined by its lawyers as anything but), as well as a global assassination campaign in which the White House has its own “kill list” and the president himself decides on global hits.  Then, without regard for national sovereignty or the fact that someone is an American citizen (and upon the secret invocation of legal mumbo-jumbo), the drones are sent off to do the necessary killing.
And yet that doesn’t mean that we, the people, know nothing.  Against increasing odds, there has been some fine reporting in the mainstream media by the likes of James Risen and Barton Gellman on the security state’s post-legal activities and above all, despite the Obama administration’s regular use of the World War I era Espionage Act, whistleblowers have stepped forward from within the government to offer us sometimes staggering amounts of information about the system that has been set up in our name but without our knowledge.
Among them, one young man, whose name is now known worldwide, stands out.  In June of last year, thanks to journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras, Edward Snowden, a contractor for the NSA and previously the CIA, stepped into our lives from a hotel room in Hong Kong.  With a treasure trove of documents that are still being released, he changed the way just about all of us view our world.  He has been charged under the Espionage Act.  If indeed he was a “spy,” then the spying he did was for us, for the American people and for the world.  What he revealed to a stunned planet was a global surveillance state whose reach and ambitions were unique, a system based on a single premise: that privacy was no more and that no one was, in theory (and to a remarkable extent in practice), unsurveillable.
Its builders imagined only one exemption: themselves.  This was undoubtedly at least part of the reason why, when Snowden let us peek in on them, they reacted with such over-the-top venom.  Whatever they felt at a policy level, it’s clear that they also felt violated, something that, as far as we can tell, left them with no empathy whatsoever for the rest of us.  One thing that Snowden proved, however, was that the system they built was ready-made for blowback.
Sixteen months after his NSA documents began to be released by the Guardian and theWashington Post, I think it may be possible to speak of the Snowden Era.  And now, a remarkable new film, Citizenfour, which had its premiere at the New York Film Festival on October 10th and will open in select theaters nationwide on October 24th, offers us a window into just how it all happened.  It is already being mentioned as a possible Oscar winner.
Director Laura Poitras, like reporter Glenn Greenwald, is now known almost as widely as Snowden himself, for helping facilitate his entry into the world.  Her new film, the last in a trilogy she’s completed (the previous two being My Country, My Country on the Iraq War and The Oath on Guantanamo), takes you back to June 2013 and locks you in that Hong Kong hotel room with Snowden, Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian, and Poitras herself for eight days that changed the world.  It’s a riveting, surprisingly unclaustrophic, and unforgettable experience.
Before that moment, we were quite literally in the dark.  After it, we have a better sense, at least, of the nature of the darkness that envelops us. Having seen her film in a packed house at the New York Film Festival, I sat down with Poitras in a tiny conference room at the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City to discuss just how our world has changed and her part in it.
Tom Engelhardt: Could you start by laying out briefly what you think we've learned from Edward Snowden about how our world really works?
Laura Poitras: The most striking thing Snowden has revealed is the depth of what the NSA and the Five Eyes countries [Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, and the U.S.] are doing, their hunger for all data, for total bulk dragnet surveillance where they try to collect all communications and do it all sorts of different ways. Their ethos is "collect it all." I worked on a story with Jim Risen of the New York Times about a document -- a four-year plan for signals intelligence -- in which they describe the era as being "the golden age of signals intelligence."  For them, that’s what the Internet is: the basis for a golden age to spy on everyone.
This focus on bulk, dragnet, suspicionless surveillance of the planet is certainly what’s most staggering.  There were many programs that did that.  In addition, you have both the NSA and the GCHQ [British intelligence] doing things like targeting engineers at telecoms.  There was an article published at The Intercept that cited an NSA document Snowden provided, part of which was titled "I Hunt Sysadmins" [systems administrators].  They try to find the custodians of information, the people who are the gateway to customer data, and target them.  So there's this passive collection of everything, and then things that they can't get that way, they go after in other ways.
I think one of the most shocking things is how little our elected officials knew about what the NSA was doing.  Congress is learning from the reporting and that's staggering.  Snowden and [former NSA employee] William Binney, who's also in the film as a whistleblower from a different generation, are technical people who understand the dangers.  We laypeople may have some understanding of these technologies, but they really grasp the dangers of how they can be used.  One of the most frightening things, I think, is the capacity for retroactive searching, so you can go back in time and trace who someone is in contact with and where they've been.  Certainly, when it comes to my profession as a journalist, that allows the government to trace what you're reporting, who you're talking to, and where you've been.  So no matter whether or not I have a commitment to protect my sources, the government may still have information that might allow them to identify whom I'm talking to.
TE: To ask the same question another way, what would the world be like without Edward Snowden?  After all, it seems to me that, in some sense, we are now in the Snowden era.
LP: I agree that Snowden has presented us with choices on how we want to move forward into the future.  We're at a crossroads and we still don't quite know which path we're going to take.  Without Snowden, just about everyone would still be in the dark about the amount of information the government is collecting. I think that Snowden has changed consciousness about the dangers of surveillance.  We see lawyers who take their phones out of meetings now.  People are starting to understand that the devices we carry with us reveal our location, who we're talking to, and all kinds of other information.  So you have a genuine shift of consciousness post the Snowden revelations.
TE: There's clearly been no evidence of a shift in governmental consciousness, though.
LP: Those who are experts in the fields of surveillance, privacy, and technology say that there need to be two tracks: a policy track and a technology track.  The technology track is encryption.  It works and if you want privacy, then you should use it.  We’ve already seen shifts happening in some of the big companies -- Google, Apple -- that now understand how vulnerable their customer data is, and that if it’s vulnerable, then their business is, too, and so you see a beefing up of encryption technologies.  At the same time, no programs have been dismantled at the governmental level, despite international pressure.
TE: In Citizenfour, we spend what must be an hour essentially locked in a room in a Hong Kong hotel with Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Ewan MacAskill, and you, and it’s riveting.  Snowden is almost preternaturally prepossessing and self-possessed.  I think of a novelist whose dream character just walks into his or her head.  It must have been like that with you and Snowden.  But what if he’d been a graying guy with the same documents and far less intelligent things to say about them?  In other words, how exactly did who he was make your movie and remake our world?
LP: Those are two questions.  One is: What was my initial experience?  The other: How do I think it impacted the movie?  We've been editing it and showing it to small groups, and I had no doubt that he's articulate and genuine on screen.  But to see him in a full room [at the New York Film Festival premiere on the night of October 10th], I'm like, wow!  He really commands the screen! And I experienced the film in a new way with a packed house.
TE: But how did you experience him the first time yourself?  I mean you didn't know who you were going to meet, right?
LP: So I was in correspondence with an anonymous source for about five months and in the process of developing a dialogue you build ideas, of course, about who that person might be.  My idea was that he was in his late forties, early fifties.  I figured he must be Internet generation because he was super tech-savvy, but I thought that, given the level of access and information he was able to discuss, he had to be older.  And so my first experience was that I had to do a reboot of my expectations.  Like fantastic, great, he's young and charismatic and I was like wow, this is so disorienting, I have to reboot.  In retrospect, I can see that it's really powerful that somebody so smart, so young, and with so much to lose risked so much.
He was so at peace with the choice he had made and knowing that the consequences could mean the end of his life and that this was still the right decision.  He believed in it, and whatever the consequences, he was willing to accept them.  To meet somebody who has made those kinds of decisions is extraordinary.  And to be able to document that and also how Glenn [Greenwald] stepped in and pushed for this reporting to happen in an aggressive way changed the narrative. Because Glenn and I come at it from an outsider’s perspective, the narrative unfolded in a way that nobody quite knew how to respond to.  That’s why I think the government was initially on its heels.  You know, it's not everyday that a whistleblower is actually willing to be identified.
TE: My guess is that Snowden has given us the feeling that we now grasp the nature of the global surveillance state that is watching us, but I always think to myself, well, he was just one guy coming out of one of 17 interlocked intelligence outfits. Given the remarkable way your film ends -- the punch line, you might say -- with another source or sources coming forward from somewhere inside that world to reveal, among other things, information about the enormous watchlist that you yourself are on, I’m curious: What do you think is still to be known?  I suspect that if whistleblowers were to emerge from the top five or six agencies, the CIA, the DIA, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and so on, with similar documentation to Snowden’s, we would simply be staggered by the system that's been created in our name.
LP: I can't speculate on what we don't know, but I think you're right in terms of the scale and scope of things and the need for that information to be made public. I mean, just consider the CIA and its effort to suppress the Senate’s review of its torture program. Take in the fact that we live in a country that a) legalized torture and b) where no one was ever held to account for it, and now the government's internal look at what happened is being suppressed by the CIA.  That's a frightening landscape to be in.
In terms of sources coming forward, I really reject this idea of talking about one, two, three sources.  There are many sources that have informed the reporting we've done and I think that Americans owe them a debt of gratitude for taking the risk they do.  From a personal perspective, because I’m on a watchlist and went through years of trying to find out why, of having the government refuse to confirm or deny the very existence of such a list, it’s so meaningful to have its existence brought into the open so that the public knows there is a watchlist, and so that the courts can now address the legality of it.  I mean, the person who revealed this has done a huge public service and I’m personally thankful.
TE: You’re referring to the unknown leaker who's mentioned visually and elliptically at the end of your movie and who revealed that the major watchlist your on has more than 1.2 million names on it.  In that context, what's it like to travel as Laura Poitras today?  How do you embody the new national security state?
LP: In 2012, I was ready to edit and I chose to leave the U.S. because I didn't feel I could protect my source footage when I crossed the U.S. border.  The decision was based on six years of being stopped and questioned every time I returned to the United States.  And I just did the math and realized that the risks were too high to edit in the U.S., so I started working in Berlin in 2012.  And then, in January 2013, I got the first email from Snowden.
TE: So you were protecting...
LP: ...other footage.  I had been filming with NSA whistleblower William Binney, with Julian Assange, with Jacob Appelbaum of the Tor Project, people who have also been targeted by the U.S., and I felt that this material I had was not safe.  I was put on a watchlist in 2006.  I was detained and questioned at the border returning to the U.S. probably around 40 times.  If I counted domestic stops and every time I was stopped at European transit points, you're probably getting closer to 80 to 100 times. It became a regular thing, being asked where I’d been and who I’d met with. I found myself caught up in a system you can't ever seem to get out of, this Kafkaesque watchlist that the U.S. doesn't even acknowledge.
TE: Were you stopped this time coming in?
LP: I was not. The detentions stopped in 2012 after a pretty extraordinary incident.
I was coming back in through Newark Airport and I was stopped.  I took out my notebook because I always take notes on what time I'm stopped and who the agents are and stuff like that.  This time, they threatened to handcuff me for taking notes.  They said, "Put the pen down!" They claimed my pen could be a weapon and hurt someone. 
"Put the pen down! The pen is dangerous!" And I'm like, you're not... you've got to be crazy. Several people yelled at me every time I moved my pen down to take notes as if it were a knife. After that, I decided this has gotten crazy, I'd better do something and I called Glenn. He wrote a piece about my experiences. In response to his article, they actually backed off.
TE:  Snowden has told us a lot about the global surveillance structure that's been built.  We know a lot less about what they are doing with all this information.  I'm struck at how poorly they've been able to use such information in, for example, their war on terror.  I mean, they always seem to be a step behind in the Middle East -- not just behind events but behind what I think someone using purely open source information could tell them.  This I find startling.  What sense do you have of what they're doing with the reams, the yottabytes, of data they're pulling in?
LP: Snowden and many other people, including Bill Binney, have said that this mentality -- of trying to suck up everything they can -- has left them drowning in information and so they miss what would be considered more obvious leads.  In the end, the system they’ve created doesn't lead to what they describe as their goal, which is security, because they have too much information to process.
I don't quite know how to fully understand it.  I think about this a lot because I made a film about the Iraq War and one about Guantanamo.  From my perspective, in response to the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. took a small, very radical group of terrorists and engaged in activities that have created two generations of anti-American sentiment motivated by things like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.  Instead of figuring out a way to respond to a small group of people, we've created generations of people who are really angry and hate us.  And then I think, if the goal is security, how do these two things align, because there are more people who hate the United States right now, more people intent on doing us harm?  So either the goal that they proclaim is not the goal or they're just unable to come to terms with the fact that we've made huge mistakes in how we've responded.
TE: I'm struck by the fact that failure has, in its own way, been a launching pad for success.  I mean, the building of an unparallelled intelligence apparatus and the greatest explosion of intelligence gathering in history came out of the 9/11 failure.  Nobody was held accountable, nobody was punished, nobody was demoted or anything, and every similar failure, including the one on the White House lawn recently, simply leads to the bolstering of the system.
LP: So how do you understand that?
TE: I don't think that these are people who are thinking: we need to fail to succeed. I'm not conspiratorial in that way, but I do think that, strangely, failure has built the system and I find that odd. More than that I don't know.
LP: I don't disagree. The fact that the CIA knew that two of the 9/11 hijackers were entering the United States and didn't notify the FBI and that nobody lost their job is shocking.  Instead, we occupied Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.  I mean, how did those choices get made?
Laura Poitras is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, and artist.  She has just finishedCitizenfour, the third in a trilogy of films about post-9/11 America that includes My Country, My Country, nominated for an Academy Award, and The Oath, which received two Emmy nominations. In June 2013, she traveled to Hong Kong with Glenn Greenwald to interview Edward Snowden and made history. She has reported on Snowden’s disclosures about the NSA for a variety of news outlets, including the GuardianDer Spiegel, and the New York Times. Her NSA reporting received a George Polk award for National Security Reporting and the Henri Nannen Prize for Services to Press Freedom 
Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of TheUnited States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World(Haymarket Books), has just been published.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me.
Copyright 2014 Laura Poitras and Tom Engelhardt

THE ROVING EYE - Do the Trans-Siberian shuffle By Pepe Escobar




THE ROVING EYE
Do the Trans-Siberian shuffle
By Pepe Escobar

A specter haunts the elites of the Empire of Chaos; the new Russia-China strategic partnership. It's manifesting itself in myriad ways - energy deals, investment deals, a closer political alliance inside the G-20, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a concerted effort to progressively bypass the petrodollar. I have described this long process as essential to the birth of the Eurasian century.

From a Washington/Wall Street point of view, it was so much easier in those long gone, unipolar, "end of history" days. China was still tiptoeing on the banks of the river of capital accumulation, and Russia was down if not out.

So allow me a flashback to the early 1990s. I had been on the road in Asia for months, from all points Southeast Asia to India, Nepal, the Himalayas and the eastern Chinese seaboard. Then I finally hit Beijing - waiting in the bitter winter of early 1992 to take the Trans-Siberian to Moscow. I was barely aware of the collapse of the Soviet Union - not exactly a news item in the Himalayas. I was also fortunate enough to be in southern China just a few days after Deng Xiaoping made his famous tour - whose key consequence was to catapult the dragon to dizzying development heights. A look back to those heady times may have the merit of illuminating our present.

All aboard the night train 
It's 8:32 pm in Beijing Railway Station, and the Trans-Manchurian Train 19 to Moscow is about to depart. It's minus 9 degrees Celsius. A bunch of Romanian crazies are trying to load more than 20 huge, vaguely green bundles stuffed with Made-in-China gear into one of the carriages. The Russian comptroller spouts out a "Nyet". Romanian chicks immerse in Transylvanic hysteria. Then a stash of George Washingtons changes hands at the final whistle, just in time for PLA soldiers and lady sweepers sporting the ubiquitous red armband with the words "Serve The People" to impassibly observe the happy ending.

A cacophony of Russians, Poles, Romanians, Czechs and Mongols has deployed dozens of bags, bundles and sacks to totally overload the train corridors. 300 kg of shoes. 500 kg of jackets. 200 kg of T-shirts. Thousands of beauty cream pots that will be all the rage from Bucharest to Cracow. A "bed" on the train is a concavity over one of the bundles. That will be story for six days, across over 9,000 snowy kilometers in the former USSR, now Russia, from East to West.

At the comptroller's compartment, more bags - whose content will be sold in the streets of Moscow. With so many George Washingtons in sight, the success of her bazaar is guaranteed - what with multiple stops on the way and an unregulated "free" market in every platform. The whole of Eastern Europe is loaded with stuff and dying to make a quick buck.

In the Chinese stretch of the journey, nothing happens, unlike the 1930s, when Japan occupied Manchuria, installed puppet Pu Yi on the throne and was ready to take over Asia. The Terminator action starts in Zabaikalsk, at the Russian-China border - after we cross a huge Arc of Triumph in cement, complete with Leninist motto and not-yet-destroyed hammer and sickle. Customs - on both sides - is absolutely deserted.

The train changes configuration to adapt to the new tracks. Yet all sights are set on the new dining car; exit Chinese, which only offered a miserable pork with soya sauce; enter Russian, crammed with goulash, soup, salami, frozen fish, black caviar, champagne from Crimea, coffee, eggs, even cheese - everything on the black market paid with US dollars.

With the border behind us, it's go-go bazaar time. Everyone freaks out, because we instantly move from Beijing time to Moscow time. Sunrise is at 1 in the morning. The black market is running at $1 = 110 roubles, the rouble in free fall as we cut through the sublime snowy infinite desert of the Siberian tundra, where each spectacular sunrise under a slight Arctic fog is an epiphany celebrated with more Crimea champagne.

Occasionally we spot reindeers or even huskies. The taiga - coveted by Japan, Korea and the US - is enveloped in snow. Beyond lay the ghosts of the 20 million corpses in Stalin's gulags, the hunters of the rare Amu tiger (fewer than 200 left) and the sinister Norilsk complex; 2 million tons a year of sulphuric acid and other heavy metals dumped in the atmosphere - the reason for that Arctic fog.

The train stops stretch for 15 and even 20 minutes, reaching a nadir in Novosibirsk and Perm, which previously housed a notorious gulag. At every stop, hordes of Russians in Genghis Khan mode attack the train with little plastic bags. The best deal in the Trans-Siberian is anoraks and leather jackets. Jao, from Beijing, sells 50 in three days, at up to US$50 each; she paid $20 each in the Beijing hutongs. The Russians buy everything in sight and sell roubles - now plunging to 160 to the US dollar - as well as vodka, beer, salami, champagne and local $1 Pepsi bottles.

The whole of Eastern Europe has taken over Train 19. Post-Ceausescu Romanians are the most exuberant - from former boxers to hookers to a seedy gangster in a tracksuit boasting about his two hours with a Russian doll for $10 (the going rate is $20). There's an Albanian contingent, young Polish students, shirtless Mongol nomads feverishly counting their profits, babushkas bored to death and even a loquacious Chinese dandy.

The Russian carriages, once elegant, are a mess: foul air, dense cigarette smoke, drenched in sweat, toilets crammed with sacks, and "Kapitan", the only waiter, trying to make a quick buck selling Soviet paraphernalia. I find it the ideal setting to devour almost 1,000 pages of Norman Mailer's Harlot's Ghost, a history of the CIA.

Blame it on glasnost
Train 19 is not only a bazaar but also a multinational Agora. Young Russians elaborate how the almost genius perversity of the Soviet system led it to boost to the limit all the problems of modern industrial societies - offering nearly none of its benefits. Eastern Europeans volunteer that it was not the Cold War that finished off "real socialism"; it was the invasion of the capitalist economy combined with the inefficiency and "stupidity" (copyright by a Polish undergraduate) of the socialist economy.

Russians say that glasnost finished off authority and perestroikafinished off the economy - and there was nothing to replace either. End result: physics graduates selling caviar tins in a moving train for survival. Everyone praises Gorbachev but essentially condemn him to a short historical footnote. In the train, I heard arguments that would be reproduced years later in countless US academic studies.

All the Trans-Siberian navigators exhibit a solidarity not to be found at the United Nations; they exchange currencies, swap addresses, lend money and the indispensable calculators, help to load and unload the loot, accept bundles in their compartment, offer their places for half an hour for those who only have the corridor to sleep, and crack jokes about the small Bank of China yuan bills. They are all ardent defenders of this unheard of form of direct democracy that is synonym with the end of the Cold War.

Amid the casino lurks the most improbable character: Lulu, a diminutive Bangladeshi, always attached to a Samsonite, dabbling in Allah-only-knows mysterious activities, passport filled with dodgy visas, Saudi Arabian included. Chinese and Russians treat him like an allergic Pekingese. Train chow is predictably unbearable for this strict Muslim, who wakes us all up everyday at 5 am with his prayers - Rashid Muhammad spends six days literally on bread and water.

Skolka? That's the Trans-Manchurian bazaar motto, a preview of Moscow. Pink Floyd launched the legendary Dark Side of the Moon at the height of the Brejnev era; Moscow suburbs look like the ghostly, dark side of the moon. Stalin's lunatic legacy is alleviated only by a solitary kiosk selling flowers, fruit or sweet Georgia brandy.

We arrive as zombies - and only a few hours late - at Yaroslavlsky Vakzal, one of nine Moscow train stations, where a deluge of Volga taxis fight for the precious Chinese cargo. Those moving on to Eastern Europe without a reservation are doomed: seats for Warsaw and Berlin are only available in 40 days.

In Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing, I had witnessed the spectacular success of post-Tiananmen Chinese "market socialism", where the economy was the locomotive and politics was dispatched to the bottom end of the train. Nothing more astonishing than the contrast with Moscow, where politics was the locomotive.

I'm housed by Dmitri, an odontology student, three metro stops from the Kremlin, paying $6 a day, a small fortune; he and his girlfriend precariously subdivide the two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with a whole family, dog included, besides the occasional Western visitors, who sleep in the master bedroom. This is considered an upper middle-class lifestyle.

At the beautiful metro stations, it's the return of the Trans-Siberian bazaar; on sale are political or porno samizdats, second-hand clothes, bottles of every possible liquid. Only when I reach Red Square doI see the light; at the Himalayas and China, my time-zone was still on Gorbachev. What's now at the top of the Kremlin is a Russian flag - as well as in the center of Dzerzhinsky square, in front of the KGB. As a perfect idiot, I aim for the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the former head of the Soviet secret police, only to be warned by a student that it had been torn down weeks ago. Gorbachev is now a vodka brand. And I can't get inside the KGB building.

The whole city is converted into a giant Turkish bazaar. After Boris Yeltsin liberated the sidewalks, everyone wants to exercise thisprivatizatsiya thing. Until 1990, nobody knew what a checkbook or a credit card was, and $1 was equivalent to 1 rouble. There are absolutely astonishing street markets on Prospekt Marka and Gorki street, everyone silently in line exhibiting their wares; a broken doll, a solitary shoe, dusty champagne bottles, perfume, instant coffee, sardine tins, an empty beer bottle.

The streets are filled with all the stuff brought by the Trans-Siberian navigators, but the supermarkets are empty. There's very little milk or meat, but lots of canned fish and interminable lines to buy nothing - with potential consumers resigned to play chess.

The biggest hit in town is the new McDonald's on Pushkin square - one of the busiest in the world, selling full meals for 50 cents by cashiers sporting an Eva Herzigova smile. In front of the MacD, a paper Gorbie poses for tourists, and a crowd sells caviar tins for $5 and champagne for $3. At the GUM department store, there is not much except a few Sony and Honda showrooms and a new Dior window.

The recent past does not let go; it's impossible to call Europe. It's impossible to send a fax from the Post Office. It's impossible to make a train reservation. It's impossible to make a plane reservation - at least on the Aeroflot shop in Lubyanka; only at the cavernous Intourist Hotel.

At the lugubrious ground floor of the Mockba Hotel, deaf and dumb characters straight out of an Ionesco play crowd the corridors while a beer black-market does brisk business in front of the hotel bar. A glass of champagne goes for 50 cents. At the hall of the legendary Metropol - the 1899 Grand Dame favored by Trotsky - a dry martini is a steep $7,70. The Metropol is the new Wall Street; Danes, Italians, Americans and Chinese discuss all deals this side of a Brave New World downing Heinekens at $5 a pop.

On Armed Forces Day, a Sunday, there's a communist demonstration, repressed with tact, boasting large numbers of old ladies carrying flowers and flags. For their part, Moscow punks with anarchist flags protest against the Armed Forces. A pre-historic Volga takes me to Sheremetyevo as if I was running from a 1950s Cold War B-movie set. The Volga gurgles, stops, cools off, runs, gurgles, stops again, cools off; a metaphor of the new Russia, and I almost miss Aeroflot SU 576 back to Paris.

Nothing will ever be the (unipolar) same 
Those were the days. That McDonald's - symbol of unipolar, "end of history", Pax Americana - has been recently shut down. It's harder and harder for the Empire of Chaos to rule the world alone while McDonald's serves burgers. Across Pushkin square, the fashionable Cafe Pouchkine now serves the best of Russian haute cuisine.

And still, both Russia and China are seen as pariahs by the unipolar, imperial elite. It's as if we were still frozen in those early1990s days. Russia and China may have changed almost beyond recognition - but for the Empire of Chaos the priorities are to tear Russia apart, starting with Ukraine, and "pivot to Asia" via an anti-China military/economic axis in the Western Pacific.

Meanwhile, the Trans-Siberian will soon be linked with the Chinese-driven New Silk Roads. And then one day in the early 2020s this will all be a high-speed rail network, linking Eurasia in a flash. And nothing will ever be the (unipolar) same. Except for the back-to-Russia Crimean champagne.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.