Monday, March 14, 2011

EARLY EDITION. When it comes to major disasters, Obama's priority is the same: protect the corporate interests

President Obama, as he displayed so ignominiously in the aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, has, once again, demonstrated that his first priority in the face of major disasters is the protection of corporate interests. Obama's reaction to the post-quake nuclear power plant disasters in Japan complements what amounts to a cover-up of the danger posed by nuclear power plants in quake-prone areas. Obama has good reason to be protective of the nuclear power industry: he is in their pockets as much as he was in the pockets of BP and other oil companies after the Deepwater Horizon oil platform explosion and subsequent oil deluge in the Gulf.

The nearly 40 year-old nuclear reactor that experienced a core meltdown and explosion, Fukushima Daiichi’s Unit 1, was manufactured by General Electric and built in Japan at a time when memories of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still fresh in the minds of many Japanese. Of course, thanks to slick public relations and the support of both the U.S. and Japanese governments, the fear of the Japanese public about nuclear power plants was assuaged by guarantees that the safety of the plants was guaranteed, even during an earthquake in seismically-active Japan.

Nuclear power generation has been a good business for the United States and Japan. In 2007, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, headquartered in Wilmington, North Carolina, was formed as a U.S.-Japanese global joint company to advance nuclear power plant construction around the world. GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy had some 80 employees and contractors working at the Fukushima 1 plant at the time of the nuclear disaster.

Just as Obama permitted BP to call the shots for all government emergency response and regulatory agencies in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the president decided to send a White House team under the direction of the CIA-infused US Agency for International Development (USAID) Disaster Assistance Response Team
to Japan to provide consultation to the Japanese government. Additionally, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu was asked to keep in contact with Japanese nuclear energy officials to ascertain needs. Obama decided not to send personnel from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, National Nuclear Security Administration, or even the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Japan.

The reason for Obama's tepid response is his ties to the U.S. nuclear power industry. American experts who may have discovered the true nature of the nuclear disaster may have leaked the details to the media and for the most opaque administration in U.S. history, that would be the real "disaster."

Obama's close relationship with GE chief executive officer Jeffrey Immelt, who the president named as chairman of the White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness,
is a top Obama corporate cheerleader and a major campaign donor. And for the corporate- and Wall Street-owned and operated Obama, it is the needs of the corporations, not those affected by corporate greed, malfeasance, and cover-ups that matters in the end.

GE and its nuclear arm, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, are not Obama's only friends and donors in the nuclear power industry. Chicago-based Exelon Corporation, which operates nuclear power plants in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, was the fourth-largest donor to Obama's presidential campaign in 2008. Thanks to its $269,000 in campaign cash, Obama has responded favorably to the needs of Exelon. Exelon was created in 2000 with the merger of Commonwealth Edison's parent corporation, Unicom of Chicago, and PECO Energy of Philadelphia. Representing Unicom in the merger was Rahm Emanuel, later Obama's White House chief of staff and newly-elected mayor of Chicago. Unicom was also advised by Goldman Sachs, the firm that has supplied many of the Obama administration's top officials. Former White House political adviser David Axelrod also acted as a consultant for Exelon.

In addition to his connections to GE Hitachi, Obama's now-imprisoned fundraiser, Tony Rezko was involved in shady deals with GE Capital Corporation. Rezko has been accused of helping to flip a real estate deal in order to facilitate a mortgage for the president's home in south Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood.

And in a major tip of the hat to the nuclear industry, Obama asked for $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees for the construction of new nuclear power plants in the United States. In his 2012 budget, Obama has asked for $36 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants, and he has the support of the Republicans in Congress even though there are opponents and skeptic in his own Democratic Party.

Obama's attempt to put a smiley face on the nuclear disaster in Japan is coupled by charges that the government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who has admitted to accepting campaign donations from foreign sources, illegal in Japan, has dragged his feet on publicly admitting the true nature of the nuclear disaster in Japan. The mayor of Tsuruga City has questioned whether the Japanese government is telling all about the situation at Fukushima.

It appears that Kan was taking a page from Obama's disaster response playbook in delaying the announcement that the evacuation zone around the Fukushima plant had been extended from a radius of 6 to 12 miles around the stricken complex. The Japanese government, after admitting a meltdown had occurred at Fukushima Unit 1, revealed a similar meltdown had occurred a Unit 3. A hydrogen explosion occurred at Unit 3 on March 14 at 11:08 am (Tokyo time), resulting in the collapse of a building wall. Fukushima Units 2 and 6 are also experiencing critical safety problems but TEPCO and GE Hitachi officials are revealing little in the way of details. Some Japanese officials have leaked information that the level of radiation near the Fukushima reactors are at a strength that results in uncontrolled vomiting, immediate hair loss, and the onset of fast-acting cancer. However, Obama and Kan, more interested in placating the needs of corporations, continue to downplay the seriousness of the nuclear catastrophe.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima reactors, appeared more interested in public relations than in informing the public about the true nature of the disaster. Kan followed TEPCO's lead in much the same way as Obama followed the lead of BP after the Gulf of Mexico disaster. And for good measure, TEPCO lined up its primary lobbyist, D L A Piper, in Washington, to ensure the U.S. media remained relatively sanguine in its reporting on the unfolding disaster at Fukushima.

The media spin on behalf of the powerful nuclear industry is underway at full force. Fukushima is being downplayed by corporate media shills who are stating that the disaster is not at the level of Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. Nuclear Regulatory Commission statements that radiation from Japan poses no threat to the United States are being hyped by such neocon publications as the Wall Street Journal and the newly neocon-leaning Christian Science Monitor, which is neither "Christian" nor "scientific" in its reporting on a major disaster-in-the-making.

WMR has learned that the mega-quake that struck Japan could not have come at a better time for Kan and his government for a reason that extends to the web of Washington's and the CIA's influence-peddling in Japan.

The foreign campaign donation scandal that saw Kan's Foreign Minister and potential heir apparent, Seiji Maehara, resign just days before the quake, also implicated Kan. Kan took over from his predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, after Hatoyama was forced to recant on his earlier campaign promise to have a U.S. Marine Corps base moved from Okinawa after pressure was applied by the Obama administration. After the humiliation of being forced to change his mind on the Okinawa base, Hatoyama resigned in September 2010.

The mega-quake just as Kan was answering questions in the Diet in Tokyo and admitting to accepting a 1.04 million yen C
ampaign donation from a South Korean businessman representing Chuo Syogin, a financial entity based in Yokohama that provides various services for South Korean residents of Japan. WMR is told by a well-informed source that the South Korean donations to Kan and Maehara represent a pass-through established by the CIA decades ago that saw the United States pass money to Japanese politicians using the auspices of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), now the National Intelligence Service of South Korea, the Japanese Yakuza organized crime syndicate, and elements in South Korea of the Unification Church of Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
Meanwhile, Obama's information czar, the Fagin-like plotter and schemer of disinformation campaigns, Cass Sunstein, head of the White House Office of Information Regulatory Affairs, is seeing his "cognitive infiltration" of the Internet playing out in full force. Automated "personae" and "sock puppets," funded by the US Air Force and endorsed by the Department of Justice, are ensuring that pro-nuclear energy comments are being posted on web site comment sections, discussion groups, and blogs worldwide.

When it comes to the suffering of the people of Japan and potential disastrous health effects for Americans living in Hawaii, Alaska, the West Coast, and the Rockies, Obama is content to defer to the interests of the nuclear power industry and ignore the interests of the people of the United States, Japan, Canada, and other nations that will be impacted by the nuclear disaster that is continuing to unfold in Japan. Obama continues to defend the interests of BP and the oil industry even as the health problems of the people of the Gulf of Mexico worsen by the day. For someone who grew up privileged, protected by family members in the employment of the CIA and its front organizations, Obama, owned lock, stock, and barrel by Big Oil and Big Nuclear, cannot do anything else. Over the weekend, as Japan's nuclear situation worsened, Obama chose to attend Washington's annual Gridiron dinner, a collection of Washington's pedantic journalistic elite where jokes, skits, and minstrel and Vaudeville shtick rule the evening. In May 2010, as oil gushed from the seabed of the Gulf of Mexico, Obama chose to laugh off an evening at the White House Correspondents' dinner. Chortling and back slapping with the oligarchs is what Obama was trained and groomed to do.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Is Egypt the Future IndoTurkeZil? So Many Ways to Strut Your Democratic Stuff in a New World

By Pepe Escobar
Three mummies were recently found in an underground temple in Luxor, Egypt. Translated hieroglyphs identified them as the Clash of Civilizations, the End of History, and Islamophobia. They ruled in Western domains into the second decade of the twenty-first century before dying and being embalmed.
That much is settled. Without them, the Middle East is already a new world that must be understood in a new way.  For one thing, Egypt, that previously moribund land of “stability” and bosom buddy of whoever was in power in Washington, has been hurled into the Middle East’s New Great Game.  The question is: What will be its fate -- and that of the millions of Egyptians who took to the streets in a staggering show of aggressive nonviolence in January and February?
It is, of course, impossible to say, especially since shadow play is the norm and the realities of rule are hard to discern. In a country where “politics” has for decades meant the army, it’s notable that the key actor supposedly coordinating the “transition to democracy” remains an appointee of Pharaoh Hosni Mubarak, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi from the Supreme Army Council.  At least, popular pressure has forced Tantawi’s military junta to appoint a new transitional Prime Minister, the Tahrir-Square-friendly former transport minister Essam Sharaf.
Keep in mind that the hated emergency laws from the Mubarak era, part of what provoked the Egyptian uprising to begin with, are still in place and that the country’s intellectuals, its political parties, labor unions, and the media all fear a silent counterrevolution. At the same time, they almost uniformly insist that the Tahrir Square revolution will neither be hijacked nor rebranded by opportunists. As the ideological divide between liberalism, secularism, and Islamism disintegrated when the country’s psychological Wall of Fear came down, lawyers, doctors, textile workers -- a range of the country’s civil society -- remain clear on one thing: they will never settle for a theocracy or a military dictatorship. They want full democracy.
No wonder what that implies makes Western diplomatic circles tremble. An Egyptian army even remotely accountable to an elected civilian government will not, for instance, collaborate in the Israeli siege of Gaza’s Palestinians, or in CIA renditions of terror suspects to the country’s prisons, or blindly in that monstrous farce, the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.”
Meanwhile, there are more pedestrian matters to deal with: How, for example, will the army-directed transition towards September elections make the economic numbers add up? In 2009, Egypt’s import bill was $56 billion, while the country’s exports only added up to $29 billion. Tourism, foreign aid, and borrowing helped fill the gap. The uprising sent tourism into a tailspin and who knows what kinds of aid and loans anyone will fork over in the months to come.
Meanwhile, the country will have to import no less than 10 million tons of wheat in 2011 at about $3.3 billion (if grain prices don’t continue to rise) to keep people at least half-fed. This is but a small part of Mubarak’s tawdry legacy, which includes 40 million Egyptians, almost half the population, living on less than $2 a day, and it’s not going to disappear overnight, if at all.
Hit by a rolling, largely peaceful revolution all across MENA (the newly popular acronym for the Middle East and Northern Africa), Washington and an aging Fortress Europe, filled with fear, wallow in a mire of perplexity. Even after the dust from those rebellious Northern African winds settles, it’s hardly a given that they will grasp just how all the cultural stereotypes used to explain the Middle East for decades also managed to vanish.
My favorite line of the Great Arab Revolt of 2011 is still Tunisian scholar Sarhan Dhouib’s: “These revolts are an answer to [George W.] Bush’s intent to democratize the Arab world with violence.”  If “shock and awe” is now also an artifact of an ancient world, what’s next? 
Models for Rent or Sale
On February 3rd, the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation published a poll conducted in seven Arab countries and Iran. No less than 66% of respondents considered Turkey, not Iran, the ideal model for the Middle East. A media scrum from Le Monde to the Financial Times now evidently concurs. After all, Turkey is a functional democracy in a Muslim-majority country where the separation of mosque and state prevails.
That stellar Islamic scholar at Oxford, Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, also recently labeled the “Turkish way” as “a source of inspiration.”  In late February, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu agreed, with a surfeit of modesty that barely covered the ambitions of the new Turkey, insisting that his country does not want to be a model for the region, “but we can be a source of inspiration.” 
The Egyptian Marxist economist Samir Amin -- widely respected across the developing world -- suspects that, whatever the hopes of the Turks and others, including so many Egyptians, Washington has quite different ideas about Egypt’s destiny.   It wants, he believes, not a Turkish model but a Pakistani one for that country: that is, the mix of an “Islamic power” with a military dictatorship. It won’t fly, Amin is convinced, because “the Egyptian people are now highly politicized.”
The process of true democratization that began back in the distant 1950s in Turkey proved to be a long road. Nonetheless, despite periodic military coups and the continuing political power of the Turkish army, elections were, and remain, free. The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, now at the Turkish helm, was founded in August 2001 by former members of the Refah Party, a much more conservative Islamic group with an ideology similar to that of today’s Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
As the AKP mellowed out, however, the pro-business, pro-European Union wing of the country’s Islamists mixed with various center-right politicians and, in 2002, the AKP finally took power in Ankara. Only then could they begin to slowly undermine the stranglehold of the traditional Istanbul-based secular Turkish elite and the military that had held power since the 1920s.
Yet the AKP did not dream of dismantling the secular system first installed by Turkey’s founding father Mustapha Kemal Ataturk in 1924. The Turkish civil code he instituted was inspired by Switzerland with citizenship based on secular law. While the country is predominantly Muslim, of course, its people simply would not welcome a system, as in Khomeinist Iran, that is guided by religion.
The AKP should be viewed as the equivalent of the Christian Democrats in Europe after the 1950s -- dynamic, business-oriented conservatives with religious roots. In Egypt, the moderate wing of the Muslim Brotherhood has many similarities to the AKP and looks to it for inspiration. In the new Egypt, it will finally be a legitimate political party and most experts believe that it could garner 25% to 30% of the vote in the first election of the new era. 
All Roads Lead to Tahrir
Turkish critics -- usually from the Western-oriented technical and managerial caste -- regularly accuse the democracy-meets-Islam Turkish model of being little more than a successful marketing ploy, or worse, a Middle Eastern version of Russia. After all, the army still wields disproportionate behind-the-scenes power as guarantor of the state’s secular framework. And the country’s Kurdish minority is not really integrated into the system (although in September 2010 Turkish voters approved constitutional changes that give greater rights to Christians and Kurds).
With its glorious Ottoman past, notes Orhan Pamuk, the 2006 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Turkey was never colonized by a world power, and thus “‘veneration of Europe’ or ‘imitation of the West’ never had the humiliating connotations” described by Frantz Fanon or Edward Said for much of the rest of the Middle East and North Africa.
There are stark differences between Turkey’s road to a military-free democracy in 2002 and the littered path ahead for Egypt’s young demonstrators and nascent political parties. In Turkey the key actors were pro-business Islamists, conservatives, neo-liberals, and right-wing nationalists. In Egypt they are pro-labor Islamists, leftists, liberals, and left-wing nationalists.
The Tahrir Square revolution was essentially unleashed by two youth groups: the April 6 Youth Movement (which was geared towards solidarity with workers on strike), and We Are All Khaled Said (which mobilized against police brutality). Later, they would be joined by Muslim Brotherhood activists and -- crucially -- organized labor, the masses of workers (and the unemployed) who had suffered from years of the International Monetary Fund’s “structural adjustment” poison. (As late as April 2010, an IMF delegation visited Cairo and praised Mubarak’s “progress.”)
The revolution in Tahrir Square made the necessary connections in a deeply comprehensible way.  It managed to go to the heart of the matter, linking miserable wages, mass unemployment, and increasing poverty to the ways in which Mubarak’s cronies (and also the military establishment) enriched themselves.  Sooner or later, in any showdown to come, the way the military controls so much of the economy will be an unavoidable topic -- the way, for instance, army-owned companies continue to make a killing in the water, olive oil, cement, construction, hotel, and oil industries, or the way the military has come to own significant tracts of land in the Nile Delta and on the Red Sea, “gifts” for guaranteeing regime stability.
It’s not surprising that key sectors in the West are pushing for a “safe” Turkish model for Egypt. Yet, given the country’s immiseration, it’s unlikely that young protesters and their working class supporters will be appeased even by the possibility of a Turkish-style, neoliberal, Islamo-democratic system. What this leftist/liberal/Islamist coalition is fighting for is a labor-friendly, independent, truly sovereign democracy. It doesn’t take a PhD. from the London School of Economics, like the one bought by Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, to see how cataclysmic this newly independent outlook could be for the current status quo.  
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Don’t misunderstand: Whether the Tahrir Square activists want to reproduce the Turkish system in Egypt or not, Turkey itself is immensely popular there, as it increasingly is in the wider Arab world. That offers Ankara’s politicians the perfect scenario for consolidating the country’s regional leadership role, distinctly on the rise since, in 2003, its leaders established their independence by rebuffing George W. Bush’s desire to use Turkish territory in his invasion of Iraq. 
That popularity was only heightened after eight of the nine victims shot by Israeli commandos in the Gaza freedom flotilla fiasco turned out to be Turks.  When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vociferously condemned Israel for its “bloody massacre,” he instantly became the “King of Gaza.” When Mubarak finally responded to the Tahrir Square demonstrations by announcing that he would not run again for president in 2011, President Obama didn’t say much, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair urged Egypt not to “rush towards elections.” As for Erdogan, he virtually ordered Mubarak to step down, live on al-Jazeera for the whole Muslim world to see.
While Washington fiddled with embracing the wrong side of history, however reluctantly and chaotically, in the company of those staunch Mubarak defenders Israel and Saudi Arabia, Erdogan -- with a canny assessment of regional politics -- preferred to back Egyptians attempting to chart their own destiny. And it paid off. 
The point is not that America is now “losing” Turkey, nor that, as some critics have charged, Erdogan is dreaming of becoming a neo-Ottoman Caliph (whatever that might mean).  What must be understood here is a new Turkish concept: strategic depth. For that we need to turn to a book, Stratejik Derinlik: Turkiye’nin Uluslararasi Konumu (Strategic Depth: Turkey’s International Position), published in Istanbul in 2001 by Ahmet Davutoglu, then a professor of international relations at the University of Marmara, now Turkey’s Foreign Minister.
In that book, Davutoglu looked into a future that seems ever closer to now and placed Turkey at the center of three concentric circles: 1) the Balkans, the Black Sea basin, and the Caucasus; 2) the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean; 3) the Persian Gulf, Africa, and Central Asia. When it came to future areas of influence, even in 2001 he believed that Turkey could potentially claim no less than eight: the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus, the Caspian, Turkic Central Asia, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Today, he is a key player, and in many of those same areas of potential influence, people are indeed looking to Turkey.  It’s a remarkable moment for Davutoglu, who remains convinced that Ankara will be a force to reckon with in the Middle East. As he puts it, simply enough, “This is our home.”
Take the idea of Turkey’s “strategic depth” and combine it with the Great Arab Revolt of 2011 and you understand why Erdogan has launched a bid not just to make the Turkish model the Egyptian one or even the Middle Eastern one, but to upstage Egypt as the future mediator between the region and the West. That Erdogan and Davutoglu were heading in this direction has been clear enough from the way, in the past few years, they have tried to insert themselves as mediators between Syria and Israel and have launched a complex political, diplomatic, and economic opening towards Iran.
And speaking of historical ironies, just as Iran’s fundamentalist leaders were watching an Egyptian regime deeply hostile to them go down, protests by the Iranian Green Movement suddenly began to rock Tehran again -- during a visit by none other than Turkish President Abdullah Gul. The protests were handled with what amounted to a velvet glove (by Tehran’s standards) because the military dictatorship of the mullahtariat found itself in a potentially losing competition with its Turkish ally to become the number one inspirational source for Arab mass movements. 
Java: Democracy with Your Coffee?
If Egyptians want lessons in the establishment of democracy, Turkey is hardly the only place to turn to for inspiration.  They could, for example, look to Latin America. For the first time in over 500 years, South America is fully democratic. As in Egypt, so in many Latin American countries in the Cold War era, dictatorships were the order of the day and militaries ruled.  In Brazil, for instance, the “slow, gradual, and secure” political opening that left a military dictatorship behind took practically a decade.
That implies a lot of patience. The same applies to another model: Indonesia. There, in 1998, Suharto, an aging U.S.-backed dictator 32 years in power, finally resigned only a few days after returning from a visit to, of all places, Cairo. Indonesia then looked a lot like Egypt in February 2011: a Western-friendly, predominantly Muslim nation, impoverished and fed up with a mega-corrupt military dictator who crushed leftist intellectuals as well as political Islam.
Thirteen years later, Indonesia is the world’s third largest democracy and the freest in Southeast Asia, with a secular government, a booming economy, and the military out of politics.
I still have vivid memories of riding a bike one day in May 1998 across the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, while it was literally on fire, rage exploding in endless columns of smoke. Washington did not intervene then, nor did China, nor the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Indonesians did it for themselves. The transition followed an existing, if previously largely ignored, constitution. (In Egypt, the constitution now must be amended via a referendum.)
True, Indonesians had to live for a while with Suharto’s handpicked vice president, the affable B.J. Habibie (so unlike Mubarak’s handpicked successor the sinister Omar “Sheikh al-Torture” Suleiman). It took a year to organize new elections, amend electoral laws, and get rid of appointed seats in Parliament. It took six years for the first direct presidential election.  And yes, corruption is still a huge problem, and wealth and the right connections go a long way (as is true, some would say, in the U.S.). But today, the rule of law prevails.
An “Islamic state” never had a chance. Today, only 25% of Indonesians vote for Islamic parties, while the well-organized Prosperous Justice Party, an ideological descendant of the Muslim Brotherhood, but now officially open to non-Muslims, holds only four out of 37 seats in the cabinet of President Yudhoyono, and expects to win no more than 10% of the vote in the 2014 elections.
While Indonesia remains close to the U.S. and is heavily courted by Washington as a counterweight to China, Brazil under the presidency of immensely popular Luis Ignacio “Lula” da Silva charted a far more independent path for itself and, by example, much of Latin America. This process took almost a decade and future historians may see it as at least as significant as the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In Eastern Europe, 1989 could be seen, in part, as a chain of rebellions by people yearning to get access to the global market. The Great Arab Revolt, on the other hand, has been an uprising in significant part against the dictatorship of that same market.  Protestors from Tunisia to Bahrain are striking out in favor of social inclusion and new, better social and economic contracts. No wonder this staggering, ongoing upheaval is regarded across Latin America with tremendous empathy and with the feeling that "We did it, and now they’re doing it."
The future is, of course, unknown, but perhaps a decade or two from now, we’ll be able to say that the Egyptians and other Arab peoples struck out not on the Turkish model, nor even the Brazilian or Indonesian ones, but onto a set of new paths. Perhaps the future from Cairo to Tunis, Benghazi to Manama, Algiers to (Allah willing) a post-House of Saud Saudi Arabia will involve inventing a new political culture and the new economic contracts that would go with it, ones that will be indigenous and, hopefully, democratic in new and surprising ways. 
Which brings us back to Turkey. It’s perfectly feasible that Islam will be one of the building blocks of something entirely new, something no one today has a clue about, something that will resemble what was, in Europe, the separation between politics and religion. In the spirit of May 1968, perhaps we can even picture an Arab Banksy plastering a stencil across all Arab capitals: Imagination in Power! 

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at
Copyright 2011 Pepe Escobar

From our top Asia source: Tohoku Quake and Tsunami Monitor 2: "The Good News Guys" .

Sunday 13 March 2011 (0800 hrs Tokyo Time)
Following a high-level meeting called by the lame-duck prime minister, Japanese agencies are no longer releasing independent reports without prior approval from the top. The censorship is being carried out following the imposition of the Article 15 Emergency Law. Official silencing of bad news is a polite way of reassuring the public. According to the chief Cabinet Secretary, reactor heat is being lowered and radiation levels are coming down. The Unit 1 reactor container is not cracked despite the explosion that destroyed its building. The explosion did not erupt out of the reactor.

So what caused the explosion that blasted away the reinforced concrete roof and walls? Silence.

Yes, there's nothing to worry about if residents just stay indoors, turn off their air-cons and don't breathe deeply. Everyone, go back to sleep.

The radiation leak at Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant is now officially designated as a "4" on the international nuclear-events scale of 7. This is the same criticality rating at an earlier minor accident at Tokaimura plant in Ibaraki. Technically, there is no comparison. Tokaimura did not experience a partial meltdown.

Enough of the Good New

The mayor of Tsuruga City, home of the trouble-plagued Monju plutonium-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture, isn't buying Tokyo's weak explanation about the Fukushima 1 blast and demanded the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency to conduct an all-points investigation immediately.

A specialist medical team from the National Radiology Health Institute, flown by helicopter from Chiba to a field center 5 km from the No.1 Nuclear Plant, found radiation illness in 3 residents out of a sample group of 90. Overnight that number of civilian-nuclear "hibakusha" shot up to 19, but in other counts to 160. The evacuation zone has been further widened from 10 km to 20 km.

A third reactor, Unit 6, has lost its cooling system and is overheating along with Reactors 1 and 2.

Fukushima No.2 plant, further south, is ringed by a wall of silence as a quiet evacuation is being conducted.

Firefighters are pumping seawater into the three overheated Fukushima 1 reactors. The mandatory freshwater supply is missing, presumably due to tsunami contamination from surging ocean waves. An American nuclear expert has called this desperation measure the equivalent of a "Hail Mary pass"...

So, the Prime Minister should be hoping that Japan's tiny Christian community is feverishly praying. Because right now, Japan and much of the world are living on a prayer.

Players not prayers.

USA: The White House sent in a team to consult withe US-friendly Naoto Kan government. Instead of dispatching in experts from the Department of Energy, Nuclear Safety Agency and Health Department, President Obamas sent representatives of USAID, which is cover for the CIA.

The presence of these paranoiac bumblers only confirms suspicions of a top-level cover up. Why would the Agency be worried about the disaster? There are security considerations, such as regional "enemies" Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow taking advantage of the crisis. To the contrary, China and Russia have both offered carte blanche civilian aid.

Second, to coordinate a pro-American public campaign synchronized with the US relief effort from the nuclear carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Many Japanese might actually be alarmed by Navy ships offshore, reminding them of the firebombing campaign in the big war, and US helicopters rumbling overhead as if Sendai was Danang Vietnam 1968. The whole "aid" exercise smacks of a con job aimed at keeping US military bases in Okinawa and surreptitiously at a Japanese Self-Defense Force firing range at the foot of Mount Fuji.

Third, to ensure the safekeeping of Misawa Air Force Base in quake-hit Iwate Prefecture. Misawa, the hub of US electronic warfare and high-tech espionage in East Asia with its fleet of P-3 Orions and an ECHELON eavesdropping antennae.

PRC: In contrast to Washington's ulterior motives, China in an unprecedented move has sent in an emergency team into Japan. Unbeknownst to the world, China has world-leading expertise in extinguishing nuclear meltdowns and blocking radiation leaks at their uranium mines and military nuclear plants. This was discovered on a 2003 visit to a geological research center in the uranium-rich Altai mountain region of Xinjiang, where a scientist disclosed "off the record" China's development of mineral blends that block radiation "much more than 90 percent, nearly totally". When asked why the institute doesn't commercialize their formulas, he responded: "We've never thought about that." That's too bad because if one of China's exports was ever needed, it's their radiation blanket.

Russia: Moscow too, is offering unconditional aid, despite ongoing territorial conflict with Japan over four northern islands. The Russian Air Force, from bases in Kamchatka and the Kuriles, could play a key role in cloud-seeding to prevent radioactive particles from drifting over to the United States. Americans should learn how to act as team players in an international community, especially now their own children's lives will be at stake in the event of a total meltdown in Fukushima.

Canada: Meteorology is becoming evermore interesting, despite the "what me worry" attitudes of the global-warming skeptics. A freak of nature called El Nino Variable, if it occurs later this spring, could push the Pacific jet stream northward, meaning western Canada and more U.S. states could find themselves along a winding stream of radiation fallout from Japan.

Japanese nuclear power plants.