Category Archives: NATO

Fifteen years of U.S. crimes in Afghanistan

http://www.salon.com/2016/11/05/the-15-year-u-s-war-in-afghanistan-barely-gets-mentioned-even-when-nato-airstrikes-massacre-30-civilians/
Salpon.com, Nov. 5, 2016
The 15-year U.S. war in Afghanistan barely gets mentioned, even when NATO airstrikes massacre 30 civilians
The U.S. war continues to take a heavy toll on Afghan civilians, yet Clinton and Trump never even discussed it
Ben Norton

At least 30 civilians, including women and children, were killed in NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan on Thursday. Dozens more civilians were wounded.

The site of the attack, in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province, was near the remnants of a hospital bombed by NATO forces almost exactly one year before.

These new casualties come just after the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan entered its 16th year. The ongoing conflict, which gets little coverage in the media and has hardly been mentioned in the presidential campaigns, is one of the longest conventional wars in U.S. history, and has taken an enormous toll on the South Asian country’s civilian population.

Airstrikes were called in on Thursday after heavy fighting erupted between Taliban militants and U.S. and allied Afghan forces in the northern village of Buz Kandahari.

Kunduz Governor Asadullah Amarkhil called the attack “a horrible incident,” Reuters reported. Afghan villagers brought the bodies of the slain civilians into the nearby city of Kunduz and held angry protests.

“These bodies you see here are either children or women, they are not Taliban. All innocent children and women killed here — look at the bodies there,” a resident told Reuters.

Two U.S. soldiers were also killed in the fighting.

This latest attack took place roughly three miles from the center of Kunduz, where NATO forces bombed a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders in October 2015.

Last year’s attack killed another 30 civilians, including 14 hospital workers. A hospital nurse said there “are no words for how terrible” the bombing was, noting that “patients were burning in their beds.”

The U.S. military’s version of the story changed multiple times, and was full of contradictions. Ultimately, no U.S. officials lost their jobs because of the attack.

Doctors Without Borders called the hospital bombing a war crime. The U.N. high commissioner for human rights similarly said it could have been a war crime.

The medical humanitarian group, known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF, emphasized that it had “communicated the precise locations of its facilities to all parties on multiple occasions over the past months.” Yet its facility was repeatedly bombed for more than 30 minutes, even after MSF “frantically phoned” Washington.

The Kunduz hospital was the only large medical facility in all of northeastern Afghanistan, yet MSF was forced to withdraw from the area after the attack.

Millions of Afghans have had their lives permanently changed by the U.S. war, which marked its 15th anniversary on Oct. 7 — an unpropitious date that came and went with little attention in the media, and virtually no acknowledgment by major American politicians.

More than a decade of nonstop war has pushed Afghanistan to the brink of catastrophe. And things are getting worse, not better.

At least 220,000 Afghans were killed in the first 12 years of the war, in a conservative estimate, according to a report by the Nobel Prize-winning organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Since 2012, Afghan civilian casualties have increased, with children making up a growing portion of victims. The violence in 2015 was the worst since the U.N. began tracking the casualties.

In the first nine months of 2016, 2,562 Afghan civilians were killed, including more than 600 children, and another 5,835 were injured, according to the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
A graph released by the U.N. mission shows how civilian casualties have gradually risen in the past several years.

http://media.salon.com/2016/11/casualties-afghanistan-un.jpg

A May report by Amnesty International noted that the number of Afghans “who have fled violence and remained trapped in their own country, where they live on the brink of survival,” has doubled in just over three years.

At least 1.2 million Afghans are displaced within their country — a rise by some 240 percent since 2013. Another roughly 2.6 million Afghans are refugees, stuck outside of their country’s borders.

Afghans make up one of the world’s largest refugee populations. Yet the European Union, which has backed the NATO war in Afghanistan that has displaced so many people, made a deal to send Afghan refugees to Turkey, in a plan experts said is illegal and immoral.

Even child refugees are not spared. From 2007 to 2015, the United Kingdom deported 2,018 unaccompanied children to Afghanistan — in another program human rights officials have warned is illegal.

None of this is to mention the enormous costs of the war for U.S. taxpayers. Numerous reports estimate that the war in Afghanistan has cost at least $1 trillion. That is money that could have been invested in social services, health care, infrastructure, education and so much more.

The war drags on. President Obama promised countless times that he would end it in 2014. Instead, he has extended it multiple times.

The Taliban was itself a product of U.S. war. In order to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the U.S. and its allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia trained, armed and funded extremist Islamist militants, giving birth to the extremism that haunts the region today.

While fighting between the Taliban and U.S.-led forces escalates, Obama nears his last days in office. Neither Hillary Clinton, the most likely candidate for U.S. president, nor her opponent Donald Trump has presented a strategy for ending the war. The Afghan people, meanwhile, cannot wait. They are dying, suffering, losing their homes and loved ones.

As Nicholas Haysom, the U.N.’s secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, put it in February, mere statistics do not “reflect the real horror of the phenomenon we are talking about.”

“The real cost we are talking about in these figures,” Haysom continued, “is measured in the maimed bodies of children, the communities who have to live with loss, the grief of colleagues and relatives, the families who make do without a breadwinner, the parents who grieve for lost children, the children who grieve for lost parents.”

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

Hillary Laughed ‘I Came He Died’

The Reckless Lies of War Mongers: Why the Rise of Fascism is Again the Issue

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/27/why-the-rise-of-fascism-is-again-the-issue/

Weekend Edition Feb 27-Mar 01, 2015

The Reckless Lies of War Mongers: Why the Rise of Fascism is Again the Issue

by JOHN PILGER

The recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism, whose Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism.

“To initiate a war of aggression…,” said the Nuremberg Tribunal judges in 1946, “is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Had the Nazis not invaded Europe, Auschwitz and the Holocaust would not have happened.  Had the United States and its satellites not initiated their war of aggression in Iraq in 2003, almost a million people would be alive today; and Islamic State, or ISIS, would not have us in thrall to its savagery.  They are the progeny of modern fascism, weaned by the bombs, bloodbaths and lies that are the surreal theatre known as news.

Like the fascism of the 1930s and 1940s, big lies are delivered with the precision of a metronome: thanks to an omnipresent, repetitive media and its virulent censorship by omission. Take the catastrophe in Libya.

In 2011, Nato launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. Uranium warheads were used; the cities of Misurata and Sirte were carpet-bombed. The Red Cross identified mass graves, and Unicef reported that “most [of the children killed] were under the age of ten”.

The public sodomising of the Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi with a “rebel” bayonet was greeted by the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, with the words: “We came, we saw, he died.”  His murder, like the destruction of his country, was justified with a familiar big lie; he was planning “genocide” against his own people. “We knew … that if we waited one more day,” said President Obama, “Benghazi, a city the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”

This was the fabrication of Islamist militias facing defeat by Libyan government forces. They told Reuters there would be “a real bloodbath, a massacre like we saw in Rwanda”. Reported on March 14, 2011, the lie provided the first spark for Nato’s inferno, described by David Cameron as a “humanitarian intervention”.

Secretly supplied and trained by Britain’s SAS, many of the “rebels” would become ISIS, whose latest video offering shows the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian workers seized in Sirte, the city destroyed on their behalf by Nato bombers.

For Obama, Cameron and Hollande, Gaddafi’s true crime was Libya’s economic independence and his declared intention to stop selling Africa’s greatest oil reserves in US dollars. The petrodollar is a pillar of American imperial power. Gaddafi audaciously planned to underwrite a common African currency backed by gold, establish an all-Africa bank and promote economic union among poor countries with prized resources. Whether or not this would happen, the very notion was intolerable to the US as it prepared to “enter” Africa and bribe African governments with military “partnerships”.

Following Nato’s attack under cover of a Security Council resolution, Obama, wrote Garikai Chengu, “confiscated $30 billion from Libya’s Central Bank, which Gaddafi had earmarked for the establishment of an African Central Bank and the African gold backed dinar currency”.

The “humanitarian war” against Libya drew on a model close to western liberal hearts, especially in the media. In 1999, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair sent Nato to bomb Serbia, because, they lied, the Serbs were committing “genocide” against ethnic Albanians in the secessionist province of Kosovo. David Scheffer, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes [sic], claimed that as many as “225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59″ might have been murdered. Both Clinton and Blair evoked the Holocaust and “the spirit of the Second World War”. The West’s heroic allies were the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), whose criminal record was set aside. The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, told them to call him any time on his mobile phone.

With the Nato bombing over, and much of Serbia’s infrastructure in ruins, along with schools, hospitals, monasteries and the national TV station, international forensic teams descended upon Kosovo to exhume evidence of the “holocaust”. The FBI failed to find a single mass grave and went home. The Spanish forensic team did the same, its leader angrily denouncing “a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines”. A year later, a United Nations tribunal on Yugoslavia announced the final count of the dead in Kosovo: 2,788. This included combatants on both sides and Serbs and Roma murdered by the KLA. There was no genocide. The “holocaust” was a lie. The Nato attack had been fraudulent.

Behind the lie, there was serious purpose. Yugoslavia was a uniquely independent, multi-ethnic federation that had stood as a political and economic bridge in the Cold War. Most of its utilities and major manufacturing was publicly owned. This was not acceptable to the expanding European Community, especially newly united Germany, which had begun a drive east to capture its “natural market” in the Yugoslav provinces of Croatia and Slovenia. By the time the Europeans met at Maastricht in 1991 to lay their plans for the disastrous eurozone, a secret deal had been struck; Germany would recognise Croatia. Yugoslavia was doomed.

In Washington, the US saw that the struggling Yugoslav economy was denied World Bank loans.  Nato, then an almost defunct Cold War relic, was reinvented as imperial enforcer. At a 1999 Kosovo “peace” conference in Rambouillet, in France, the Serbs were subjected to the enforcer’s duplicitous tactics. The Rambouillet accord included a secret Annex B, which the US delegation inserted on the last day. This demanded the military occupation of the whole of Yugoslavia — a country with bitter memories of the Nazi occupation — and the implementation of a “free-market economy” and the privatisation of all government assets. No sovereign state could sign this. Punishment followed swiftly; Nato bombs fell on a defenceless country. It was the precursor to the catastrophes in Afghanistan and Iraq, Syria and Libya, and Ukraine.

Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the United Nations – 69 countries – have suffered some or all of the following at the hands of America’s modern fascism. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted, their people bombed and their economies stripped of all protection, their societies subjected to a crippling siege known as “sanctions”. The British historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. In every case, a big lie was deployed.

“Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.” These were opening words of Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address. In fact, some 10,000 troops and 20,000 military contractors (mercenaries) remain in Afghanistan on indefinite assignment.  “The longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion,” said Obama. In fact, more civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2014 than in any year since the UN took records.  The majority have been killed — civilians and soldiers — during Obama’s time as president.

The tragedy of Afghanistan rivals the epic crime in Indochina.  In his lauded and much quoted book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the godfather of US policies from Afghanistan to the present day, writes that if America is to control Eurasia and dominate the world, it cannot sustain a popular democracy, because “the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion . . . Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilisation.”  He is right. As WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden have revealed, a surveillance and police state is usurping democracy. In 1976, Brzezinski, then President Carter’s National Security Advisor, demonstrated his point by dealing a death blow to Afghanistan’s first and only democracy. Who knows this vital history?

In the 1960s, a popular revolution swept Afghanistan, the poorest country on earth, eventually overthrowing the vestiges of the aristocratic regime in 1978. The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) formed a government and declared a reform programme that included the abolition of feudalism, freedom for all religions, equal rights for women and social justice for the ethnic minorities. More than 13,000 political prisoners were freed and police files publicly burned.

The new government introduced free medical care for the poorest; peonage was abolished, a mass literacy programme was launched. For women, the gains were unheard of. By the late 1980s, half the university students were women, and women made up almost half of Afghanistan’s doctors, a third of civil servants and the majority of teachers. “Every girl,” recalled Saira Noorani, a female surgeon, “could go to high school and university. We could go where we wanted and wear what we liked. We used to go to cafes and the cinema to see the latest Indian film on a Friday and listen to the latest music. It all started to go wrong when the mujaheddin started winning. They used to kill teachers and burn schools. We were terrified. It was funny and sad to think these were the people the West supported.”

The PDPA government was backed by the Soviet Union, even though, as former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance later admitted, “there was no evidence of any Soviet complicity [in the revolution]“. Alarmed by the growing confidence of liberation movements throughout the world, Brzezinski decided that if Afghanistan was to succeed under the PDPA, its independence and progress would offer the “threat of a promising example”.

On July 3, 1979, the White House secretly authorized support for tribal “fundamentalist” groups known as the mujaheddin, a program that grew to over $500 million a year in U.S. arms and other assistance. The aim was the overthrow of Afghanistan’s first secular, reformist government. In August 1979, the US embassy in Kabul reported that “the United States’ larger interests … would be served by the demise of [the PDPA government], despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan.” The italics are mine.

The mujaheddin were the forebears of al-Qaeda and Islamic State. They included Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who received tens of millions of dollars in cash from the CIA. Hekmatyar’s specialty was trafficking in opium and throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil. Invited to London, he was lauded by Prime Minister Thatcher as a “freedom fighter”.

Such fanatics might have remained in their tribal world had Brzezinski not launched an international movement to promote Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia and so undermine secular political liberation and “destabilise” the Soviet Union, creating, as he wrote in his autobiography, “a few stirred up Muslims”.  His grand plan coincided with the ambitions of  the Pakistani dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, to dominate the region. In 1986, the CIA and Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, began to recruit people from around the world to join the Afghan jihad. The Saudi multi-millionaire Osama bin Laden was one of them. Operatives who would eventually join the Taliban and al-Qaeda, were recruited at an Islamic college in Brooklyn, New York, and given paramilitary training at a CIA camp in Virginia. This was called “Operation Cyclone”. Its success was celebrated in 1996 when the last PDPA president of Afghanistan, Mohammed Najibullah — who had gone before the UN General Assembly to plead for help — was hanged from a streetlight by the Taliban.

The “blowback” of Operation Cyclone and its “few stirred up Muslims” was September 11, 2001. Operation Cyclone became the “war on terror”, in which countless men, women and children would lose their lives across the Muslim world, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Syria. The enforcer’s message was and remains: “You are with us or against us.”

The common thread in fascism, past and present, is mass murder. The American invasion of Vietnam had its “free fire zones”, “body counts” and “collatoral damage”. In the province of Quang Ngai, where I reported from, many thousands of civilians (“gooks”) were murdered by the US; yet only one massacre, at My Lai, is remembered. In Laos and Cambodia, the greatest aerial bombardment in history produced an epoch of terror marked today by the spectacle of joined-up bomb craters which, from the air, resemble monstrous necklaces. The bombing gave Cambodia its own ISIS, led by Pol Pot.

Today, the world’s greatest single campaign of terror entails the execution of entire families, guests at weddings, mourners at funerals. These are Obama’s victims. According to the New York Times, Obama makes his selection from a CIA “kill list” presented to him every Tuesday in the White House Situation Room. He then decides, without a shred of legal justification, who will live and who will die. His execution weapon is the Hellfire missile carried by a pilotless aircraft known as a drone; these roast their victims and festoon the area with their remains.  Each “hit” is registered on a faraway console screen as a “bugsplat”.

“For goose-steppers,” wrote the historian Norman Pollock, “substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manque, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while.”

Uniting fascism old and new is the cult of superiority. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being,” said Obama, evoking declarations of national fetishism from the 1930s. As the historian Alfred W. McCoy has pointed out, it was the Hitler devotee, Carl Schmitt, who said, “The sovereign is he who decides the exception.” This sums up Americanism, the world’s dominant ideology. That it remains unrecognised as a predatory ideology is the achievement of an equally unrecognised brainwashing.  Insidious, undeclared, presented wittily as enlightenment on the march, its conceit insinuates western culture. I grew up on a cinematic diet of American glory, almost all of it a distortion. I had no idea that it was the Red Army that had destroyed most of the Nazi war machine, at a cost of as many as 13 million soldiers. By contrast, US losses, including in the Pacific, were 400,000. Hollywood reversed this.

The difference now is that cinema audiences are invited to wring their hands at the “tragedy” of American psychopaths having to kill people in distant places — just as the President himself kills them. The embodiment of Hollywood’s violence, the actor and director Clint Eastwood, was nominated for an Oscar this year for his movie, American Sniper, which is about a licensed murderer and nutcase. The New York Times described it as a “patriotic, pro-family picture which broke all attendance records in its opening days”.

There are no heroic movies about America’s embrace of fascism. During the Second World War, America (and Britain) went to war against Greeks who had fought heroically against Nazism and were resisting the rise of Greek fascism. In 1967, the CIA helped bring to power a fascist military junta in Athens — as it did in Brazil and most of Latin America. Germans and east Europeans who had colluded with Nazi aggression and crimes against humanity were given safe haven in the US; many were pampered and their talents rewarded. Wernher von Braun was the “father” of both the Nazi V-2 terror bomb and the US space programme.

In the 1990s, as former Soviet republics, eastern Europe and the Balkans became military outposts of Nato, the heirs to a Nazi movement in Ukraine were given their opportunity. Responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews, Poles and Russians during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Ukrainian fascism was rehabilitated and its “new wave” hailed by the enforcer as “nationalists”.

This reached its apogee in 2014 when the Obama administration splashed out $5 billion on a coup against the elected government.  The shock troops were neo-Nazis known as the Right Sector and Svoboda. Their leaders include  Oleh Tyahnybok, who has called for a purge of the “Moscow-Jewish mafia” and “other scum”, including gays, feminists and those on the political left.

These fascists are now integrated into the Kiev coup government. The first deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Andriy Parubiy, a leader of the governing party, is co-founder of Svoboda. On February 14, Parubiy announced he was flying to Washington get “the USA to give us highly precise modern weaponry”. If he succeeds, it will be seen as an act of war by Russia.

No western leader has spoken up about the revival of fascism in the heart of Europe — with the exception of Vladimir Putin, whose people lost 22 million to a Nazi invasion that came through the borderland of Ukraine. At the recent Munich Security Conference, Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, ranted abuse about European leaders for opposing the US arming of the Kiev regime. She referred to the German Defence Minister as “the minister for defeatism”. It was Nuland who masterminded the coup in Kiev. The wife of Robert D. Kagan, a leading “neo-con” luminary and co-founder of the extreme right wing Project for a New American Century, she was foreign policy advisor to Dick Cheney.

Nuland’s coup did not go to plan. Nato was prevented from seizing Russia’s historic, legitimate, warm-water naval base in Crimea. The mostly Russian population of Crimea — illegally annexed to Ukraine by Nikita Krushchev in 1954 — voted overwhelmingly to return to Russia, as they had done in the 1990s.  The referendum was voluntary, popular and internationally observed. There was no invasion.

At the same time, the Kiev regime turned on the ethnic Russian population in the east with the ferocity of ethnic cleaning. Deploying neo-Nazi militias in the manner of the Waffen-SS, they bombed and laid to siege cities and towns. They used mass starvation as a weapon, cutting off electricity, freezing bank accounts, stopping social security and pensions. More than a million refugees fled across the border into Russia. In the western media, they became unpeople escaping “the violence” caused by the “Russian invasion”. The Nato commander, General Breedlove — whose name and actions might have been inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove — announced that 40,000 Russian troops were “massing”. In the age of forensic satellite evidence, he offered none.

These Russian-speaking and bilingual people of Ukraine – a third of the population – have long sought a federation that reflects the country’s ethnic diversity and is both autonomous and independent of Moscow. Most are not “separatists” but citizens who want to live securely in their homeland and oppose the power grab in Kiev. Their revolt and establishment of autonomous “states” are a reaction to Kiev’s attacks on them. Little of this has been explained to western audiences.

On May 2, 2014, in Odessa, 41 ethnic Russians were burned alive in the trade union headquarters with police standing by.  The Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh hailed the massacre as “another bright day in our national history”. In the American and British media, this was reported as a “murky tragedy” resulting from “clashes” between “nationalists” (neo-Nazis) and “separatists” (people collecting signatures for a referendum on a federal Ukraine).

The New York Times buried the story, having dismissed as Russian propaganda warnings about the fascist and anti-Semitic policies of Washington’s new clients. The Wall Street Journal damned the victims – “Deadly Ukraine Fire Likely Sparked by Rebels, Government Says”. Obama congratulated the junta for its “restraint”.

If Putin can be provoked into coming to their aid, his pre-ordained “pariah” role in the West will justify the lie that Russia is invading Ukraine. On January 29, Ukraine’s top military commander, General Viktor Muzhemko, almost inadvertently dismissed the very basis for US and EU sanctions on Russia when he told a news conference emphatically: “The Ukrainian army is not fighting with the regular units of the Russian Army”.  There were “individual citizens” who were members of “illegal armed groups”, but there was no Russian invasion.  This was not news. Vadym Prystaiko, Kiev’s Deputy Foreign Minister, has called for “full scale war” with nuclear-armed Russia.

On February 21, US Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, introduced a bill that would authorise American arms for the Kiev regime.  In his Senate presentation, Inhofe used photographs he claimed were of Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, which have long been exposed as fakes. It was reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s fake pictures of a Soviet installation in Nicaragua, and Colin Powell’s fake evidence to the UN of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The intensity of the smear campaign against Russia and the portrayal of its president as a pantomime villain is unlike anything I have known as a reporter. Robert Parry, one of America’s most distinguished investigative journalists, who revealed the Iran-Contra scandal, wrote recently, “No European government, since Adolf Hitler’s Germany, has seen fit to dispatch Nazi storm troopers to wage war on a domestic population, but the Kiev regime has and has done so knowingly. Yet across the West’s media/political spectrum, there has been a studious effort to cover up this reality even to the point of ignoring facts that have been well established ….If you wonder how the world could stumble into world war three – much as it did into world war one a century ago – all you need to do is look at the madness over Ukraine that has proved impervious to facts or reason.”

In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal prosecutor said of the German media: “The use made by Nazi conspirators of psychological warfare is well known. Before each major aggression, with some few exceptions based on expediency, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically for the attack …. In the propaganda system of the Hitler State it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons.”

In the Guardian on February 2, Timothy Garton-Ash called, in effect, for a world war. “Putin must be stopped,” said the headline. “And sometimes only guns can stop guns.” He conceded that the threat of war might “nourish a Russian paranoia of encirclement”; but that was fine. He name-checked the military equipment needed for the job and advised his readers that “America has the best kit”.

In 2003, Garton-Ash, an Oxford professor, repeated the propaganda that led to the slaughter in Iraq. Saddam Hussein, he wrote, “has, as [Colin] Powell documented, stockpiled large quantities of horrifying chemical and biological weapons, and is hiding what remains of them. He is still trying to get nuclear ones.” He lauded Blair as a “Gladstonian, Christian liberal interventionist”.  In 2006, he wrote, “Now we face the next big test of the West after Iraq: Iran.”

The outbursts — or as Garton-Ash prefers, his “tortured liberal ambivalence” — are not untypical of those in the transatlantic liberal elite who have struck a Faustian deal. The war criminal Blair is their lost leader. The Guardian, in which Garton-Ash’s piece appeared, published a full-page advertisement for an American Stealth bomber. On a menacing image of the Lockheed Martin monster were the words: “The F-35. GREAT For Britain”. This American “kit” will cost British taxpayers £1.3 billion, its F-model predecessors having slaughtered across the world.  In tune with its advertiser, a Guardian editorial has demanded an increase in military spending.

Once again, there is serious purpose. The rulers of the world want Ukraine not only as a missile base; they want its economy. Kiev’s new Finance Minister, Nataliwe Jaresko, is a former senior US State Department official in charge of US overseas “investment”. She was hurriedly given Ukrainian citizenship.

They want Ukraine for its abundant gas; Vice President Joe Biden’s son is on the board of Ukraine’s biggest oil, gas and fracking company. The manufacturers of GM seeds, companies such as the infamous Monsanto, want Ukraine’s rich farming soil.

Above all, they want Ukraine’s mighty neighbour, Russia. They want to Balkanise or dismember Russia and exploit the greatest source of natural gas on earth. As the Arctic ice melts, they want control of the Arctic Ocean and its energy riches, and Russia’s long Arctic land border. Their man in Moscow used to be Boris Yeltsin, a drunk, who handed his country’s economy to the West. His successor, Putin, has re-established Russia as a sovereign nation; that is his crime.

The responsibility of the rest of us is clear. It is to identify and expose the reckless lies of warmongers and never to collude with them. It is to re-awaken the great popular movements that brought a fragile civilisation to modern imperial states. Most important, it is to prevent the conquest of ourselves: our minds, our humanity, our self respect. If we remain silent, victory over us is assured, and a holocaust beckons.

John Pilger can be reached through his website: www.johnpilger.com

War by media and the triumph of propaganda

 
http://johnpilger.com/articles/war-by-media-and-the-triumph-of-propaganda

War by media and the triumph of propaganda
John Pilger, 5 December 2014

Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and the Washington Post deceive their readers?
 
Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity? And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what’s called the mainstream media is not information, but power?
 
These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.
 
The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.
 
The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.
 
This power to create a new “reality” has been building for a long time. Forty-five years ago, a book entitled The Greening of America caused a sensation. On the cover were these words: “There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual.”
 
I was a correspondent in the United States at the time and recall the overnight elevation to guru status of the author, a young Yale academic, Charles Reich. His message was that truth-telling and political action had failed and only “culture” and introspection could change the world.
 
Within a few years, driven by the forces of profit, the cult of “me-ism” had all but overwhelmed our sense of acting together, our sense of social justice and internationalism. Class, gender and race were separated. The personal was the political, and the media was the message.
 
In the wake of the cold war, the fabrication of new “threats” completed the political disorientation of those who, 20 years earlier, would have formed a vehement opposition.
 
In 2003, I filmed an interview in Washington with Charles Lewis, the distinguished American investigative journalist. We discussed the invasion of Iraq a few months earlier. I asked him, “What if the freest media in the world had seriously challenged George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and investigated their claims, instead of channeling what turned out to be crude propaganda?”
 
He replied that if we journalists had done our job “there is a very, very good chance we would have not gone to war in Iraq.”
 
That’s a shocking statement, and one supported by other famous journalists to whom I put the same question. Dan Rather, formerly of CBS, gave me the same answer.  David Rose of the Observer and senior journalists and producers in the BBC, who wished to remain anonymous, gave me the same answer.
 
In other words, had journalists done their job, had they questioned and investigated the propaganda instead of amplifying it, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children might be alive today; and millions might not have fled their homes; the sectarian war between Sunni and Shia might not have ignited, and the infamous Islamic State might not now exist.
 
Even now, despite the millions who took to the streets in protest, most of the public in western countries have little idea of the sheer scale of the crime committed by our governments in Iraq. Even fewer are aware that, in the 12 years before the invasion, the US and British governments set in motion a holocaust by denying the civilian population of Iraq a means to live.
 
Those are the words of the senior British official responsible for sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s – a medieval siege that caused the deaths of half a million children under the age of five, reported Unicef. The official’s name is Carne Ross. In the Foreign Office in London, he was known as “Mr. Iraq”. Today, he is a truth-teller of how governments deceive and how journalists willingly spread the deception. “We would feed journalists factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he told me, “or we’d freeze them out.”
 
The main whistleblower during this terrible, silent period was Denis Halliday. Then Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and the senior UN official in Iraq, Halliday resigned rather than implement policies he described as genocidal.  He estimates that sanctions killed more than a million Iraqis.
 
What then happened to Halliday was instructive. He was airbrushed. Or he was vilified. On the BBC’s Newsnight programme, the presenter Jeremy Paxman shouted at him: “Aren’t you just an apologist for Saddam Hussein?” The Guardian recently described this as one of Paxman’s “memorable moments”. Last week, Paxman signed a £1 million book deal.
 
The handmaidens of suppression have done their job well. Consider the effects. In 2013, a ComRes poll found that a majority of the British public believed the casualty toll in Iraq was less than 10,000 – a tiny fraction of the truth. A trail of blood that goes from Iraq to London has been scrubbed almost clean.
 
Rupert Murdoch is said to be the godfather of the media mob, and no one should doubt the augmented power of his newspapers – all 127 of them, with a combined circulation of 40 million, and his Fox network. But the influence of Murdoch’s empire is no greater than its reflection of the wider media.
 
The most effective propaganda is found not in the Sun or on Fox News – but beneath a liberal halo. When the New York Times published claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, its fake evidence was believed, because it wasn’t Fox News; it was the New York Times.
 
The same is true of the Washington Post and the Guardian, both of which have played a critical role in conditioning their readers to accept a new and dangerous cold war. All three liberal newspapers have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia – when, in fact, the fascist led coup in Ukraine was the work of the United States, aided by Germany and Nato.
 
This inversion of reality is so pervasive that Washington’s military encirclement and intimidation of Russia is not contentious. It’s not even news, but suppressed behind a smear and scare campaign of the kind I grew up with during the first cold war.
 
Once again, the evil empire is coming to get us, led by another Stalin or, perversely, a new Hitler. Name your demon and let rip.
 
The suppression of the truth about Ukraine is one of the most complete news blackouts I can remember. The biggest Western military build-up in the Caucasus and eastern Europe since world war two is blacked out. Washington’s secret aid to Kiev and its neo-Nazi brigades responsible for war crimes against the population of eastern Ukraine is blacked out. Evidence that contradicts propaganda that Russia was responsible for the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner is blacked out.
 
And again, supposedly liberal media are the censors. Citing no facts, no evidence, one journalist identified a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine as the man who shot down the airliner. This man, he wrote, was known as The Demon. He was a scary man who frightened the journalist. That was the evidence.
 
Many in the western media haves worked hard to present the ethnic Russian population of Ukraine as outsiders in their own country, almost never as Ukrainians seeking a federation within Ukraine and as Ukrainian citizens resisting a foreign-orchestrated coup against their elected government.
 
What the Russian president has to say is of no consequence; he is a pantomime villain who can be abused with impunity. An American general who heads Nato and is straight out of Dr. Strangelove – one General Breedlove – routinely claims Russian invasions without a shred of visual evidence. His impersonation of Stanley Kubrick’s General Jack D. Ripper is pitch perfect.
 
Forty thousand Ruskies were massing on the border, according to Breedlove. That was good enough for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Observer – the latter having previously distinguished itself with lies and fabrications that backed Blair’s invasion of Iraq, as its former reporter, David Rose, revealed.
 
There is almost the joi d’esprit of a class reunion. The drum-beaters of the Washington Post are the very same editorial writers who declared the existence of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction to be “hard facts”.
 
“If you wonder,” wrote Robert Parry, “how the world could stumble into world war three – much as it did into world war one a century ago – all you need to do is look at the madness that has enveloped virtually the entire US political/media structure over Ukraine where a false narrative of white hats versus black hats took hold early and has proved impervious to facts or reason.”
 
Parry, the journalist who revealed Iran-Contra, is one of the few who investigate the central role of the media in this “game of chicken”, as the Russian foreign minister called it. But is it a game? As I write this, the US Congress votes on Resolution 758 which, in a nutshell, says: “Let’s get ready for war with Russia.”
In the 19th century, the writer Alexander Herzen described secular liberalism as “the final religion, though its church is not of the other world but of this”. Today, this divine right is far more violent and dangerous than anything the Muslim world throws up, though perhaps its greatest triumph is the illusion of free and open information.
 
In the news, whole countries are made to disappear. Saudi Arabia, the source of extremism  and western-backed terror, is not a story, except when it drives down the price of oil. Yemen has endured twelve years of American drone attacks. Who knows? Who cares?
 
In 2009, the University of the West of England published the results of a ten-year study of the BBC’s coverage of Venezuela. Of 304 broadcast reports, only three mentioned any of the positive policies introduced by the government of Hugo Chavez. The greatest literacy programme in human history received barely a passing reference.
 
In Europe and the United States, millions of readers and viewers know next to nothing about the remarkable, life-giving changes implemented in Latin America, many of them inspired by Chavez. Like the BBC, the reports of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian and the rest of the respectable western media were notoriously in bad faith. Chavez was mocked even on his deathbed. How is this explained, I wonder, in schools of journalism?
 
Why are millions of people in Britain are persuaded that a collective punishment called “austerity” is necessary?
 
Following the economic crash in 2008, a rotten system was exposed. For a split second the banks were lined up as crooks with obligations to the public they had betrayed.
 
But within a few months – apart from a few stones lobbed over excessive corporate “bonuses” – the message changed. The mugshots of guilty bankers vanished from the tabloids and something called “austerity” became the burden of millions of ordinary people. Was there ever a sleight of hand as brazen?
 
Today, many of the premises of civilised life in Britain are being dismantled in order to pay back a fraudulent debt – the debt of crooks. The “austerity” cuts are said to be £83 billion. That’s almost exactly the amount of tax avoided by the same banks and by corporations like Amazon and Murdoch’s News UK. Moreover, the crooked banks are given an annual subsidy of £100bn in free insurance and guarantees – a figure that would fund the entire National Health Service.
 
The economic crisis is pure propaganda. Extreme policies now rule Britain, the United States, much of Europe, Canada and Australia. Who is standing up for the majority? Who is telling their story? Who’s keeping record straight? Isn’t that what journalists are meant to do?
 
In 1977, Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, revealed that more than 400 journalists and news executives worked for the CIA. They included journalists from the New York Times, Time and the TV networks. In 1991, Richard Norton Taylor of the Guardian revealed something similar in this country.
 
None of this is necessary today. I doubt that anyone paid the Washington Post and many other media outlets to accuse Edward Snowden of aiding terrorism. I doubt that anyone pays those who  routinely smear Julian Assange – though other rewards can be plentiful.
 
It’s clear to me that the main reason Assange has attracted such venom, spite and jealously is that WikiLeaks tore down the facade of a corrupt political elite held aloft by journalists. In heralding an extraordinary era of disclosure, Assange made enemies by illuminating and shaming the media’s gatekeepers, not least on the newspaper that published and appropriated his great scoop. He became not only a target, but a golden goose.
 
Lucrative book and Hollywood movie deals were struck and media careers launched or kick-started on the back of WikiLeaks and its founder. People have made big money, while WikiLeaks has struggled to survive.
 
None of this was mentioned in Stockholm on 1 December when the editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, shared with Edward Snowden the Right Livelihood Award, known as the alternative Nobel Peace Prize. What was shocking about this event was that Assange and WikiLeaks were airbrushed. They didn’t exist. They were unpeople. No one spoke up for the man who pioneered digital whistleblowing and handed the Guardian one of the greatest scoops in history. Moreover, it was Assange and his WikiLeaks team who effectively – and brilliantly – rescued Edward Snowden in Hong Kong and sped him to safety. Not a word.
 
What made this censorship by omission so ironic and poignant and disgraceful was that the ceremony was held in the Swedish parliament – whose craven silence on the Assange case has colluded with a grotesque miscarriage of justice in Stockholm.
 
“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”
 
It’s this kind of silence we journalists need to break. We need to look in the mirror. We need to call to account an unaccountable media that services power and a psychosis that threatens world war.
 
In the 18th century, Edmund Burke described the role of the press as a Fourth Estate checking the powerful. Was that ever true? It certainly doesn’t wash any more. What we need is a Fifth Estate: a journalism that monitors, deconstructs and counters propaganda and teaches the young to be agents of people, not power. We need what the Russians called perestroika – an insurrection of subjugated knowledge. I would call it real journalism.
 
It’s 100 years since the First World War. Reporters then were rewarded and knighted for their silence and collusion. At the height of the slaughter, British prime minister David Lloyd George confided in C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian: “If people really knew [the truth] the war would be stopped tomorrow, but of course they don’t know and can’t know.”
 
It’s time they knew.
 
Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger
 

Germany’s DW Reports ISIS Supply Lines Originate in NATO’s Turkey

Germany’s DW Reports ISIS Supply Lines Originate in NATO’s Turkey

November 28, 2014 (Tony Cartalucci -LD) Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) published a video report of immense implications – possibly the first national broadcaster in the West to admit that the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) is supplied not by “black market oil” or “hostage ransoms” but billions of dollars worth of supplies carried into Syria across NATO member Turkey’s borders via hundreds of trucks a day.

The report titled, “‘IS’ supply channels through Turkey,” confirms what has been reported by geopolitical analysts since at least as early as 2011 – that NATO member Turkey has allowed a torrent in supplies, fighters, and weapons to cross its borders unopposed to resupply ISIS positions inside of Syria

In one surreal scene from the DW report, anti-Syria terrorists are seen walking across the border and literally shot dead just on the other side by Kurdish fighters.

Local residents and merchants interviewed by Germany’s DW admitted that commerce with Syria benefiting them had ended since the conflict began and that the supplies trucks carry as they stream across the border originates from “western Turkey.” The DW report does not elaborate on what “western Turkey” means, but it most likely refers to Ankara, various ports used by NATO, and of course NATO’s Incirlik Air Base.

While DW’s report claims no one knows who is arranging the shipments, it does reveal that the very torrent of trucks its film crew documented was officially denied by the Turkish government in Ankara. It is a certainty that Turkey is not only aware of this, but directly complicit, as is NATO who has feigned a desire to defeat ISIS but has failed to expose and uproot ISIS’ multinational sponsorship and more importantly, has refused to cut its supply lines – an elementary prerequisite of any military strategy.

ISIS Menace Was NATO All Along

Image: Even by looking at the Western media’s maps of ISIS’ territorial
holdings it is obvious it is not a militant force springing up in Syria or Iraq but
rather an invasion force originating from NATO territory.
ISIS supply lines leading from NATO territory should be of no surprise.

As reported since as early as 2007, the US and its regional accomplices conspired to use Al Qaeda and other armed extremists in a bid to reorder North Africa and the Middle East. It would be Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his article, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” that explicitly stated (emphasis added):
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Of course, these “extremist groups” who “espouse a militant vision of Islam” and are “sympathetic to Al Qaeda,” describe the “Islamic State” verbatim. ISIS constitutes NATO’s mercenary expeditionary force, ravaging its enemies by proxy from Libya in North Africa to Lebanon and Syria in the Levant, to Iraq and even to the borders of Iran. Its seemingly inexhaustible supply of weapons, cash, and fighters can only be explained by multinational state sponsorship and safe havens provided by NATO ISIS’ enemies – primarily Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, and Iraq – cannot strike. DW’s report specifically notes how ISIS terrorists regularly flee certain demise in Syria by seeking safe haven in Turkey.

One of NATO’s primary goals since as early as 2012, was to use various pretexts to expand such safe havens, or “buffer zones,” into Syrian territory itself, protected by NATO military forces from which “rebels” could operate. Had they succeeded, DW camera crews would probably be filming convoys staging in cities like Idlib and Allepo instead of along Turkey’s border with Syria.

With the documented conspiracy of the US and its allies to create a sectarian mercenary force aligned to Al Qaeda, the so-called “moderate rebels” the US has openly backed in Syria now fully revealed as sectarian extremists, and now with DW documenting a torrent of supplies originating in Turkey, it is clear that the ISIS menace NATO poses as the solution to, was in fact NATO all along. What is  revealed is a foreign policy so staggeringly insidious, few are able to believe it, even with international broadcasters like DW showing ISIS’ supply lines leading from NATO territory itself.

NATO Bombs RTS – TV Station in Belgrad

NATO Bombs TV Station in Serbia

Emergency rescue workers carry victims out of the Belgrade TV station bombed by NATO

‘Once you kill people because you don’t like what they say, you change the rules of war’

by Robert Fisk, The Independent, April 23, 1999

Hanging upside-down from the wreckage was a dead man, in his fifties perhaps, although a benevolent grey dust had covered his face. Not far away, also upside-down – his legs trapped between tons of concrete and steel – was a younger man in a pullover, face grey, blood dribbling from his head on to the rubble beneath.

Deep inside the tangle of cement and plastic and iron, in what had once been the make-up room next to the broadcasting studio of Serb Television, was all that was left of a young woman, burnt alive when Nato’s missile exploded in the radio control room. Within six hours, the Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, declared the place a “legitimate target.”

It wasn’t an argument worth debating with the wounded – one of them a young technician who could only be extracted from the hundreds of tons of concrete in which he was encased by amputating both his legs. Nor with the silent hundreds who gathered in front of the still-smoking ruin at dawn yesterday, lost for words as they stood in the little glade of trees beside St Marko’s Cathedral, where Belgrade’s red and cream trams turn round.

A Belgrade fireman pulled at one of the bodies for all of 30 seconds before he realised that the man, swinging back and forth amid the wreckage, was dead. By dusk last night, 10 crushed bodies – two of them women – had been tugged from beneath the concrete, another man had died in hospital and 15 other technicians and secretaries still lay buried. A fireman reported hearing a voice from the depths as the heavens opened, turning into mud the muck and dust of a building that Ms. Short had declared to be a “propaganda machine.”

We had all wondered how long it would be before Nato decided that Radio Televizija Srbija should join the list of “military” targets. Spokesmen had long objected to its crude propaganda – itincluded a Nato symbol turning into a swastika and a montage of Madeleine Albright growing Dracula teeth in front of a burning building. It never reported on the tens of thousands of Albanian refugees who spoke of executions and “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo. It endlessly repeated films that depicted Yugoslav soldiers as idealised heroes defending their country. It carried soporific tapes of President Slobodan Milosevic meeting patriarchs, Cossacks, Russian envoys and the Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova.

The channel was showing an American interview with Mr Milosevic when the first cruise missile smashed into the station’s control room just after two o’clock yesterday morning. But did this justify killing the night staff in their studios and taping rooms? Two weeks ago, Nato’s spokesmen had been suggesting that RTS would have to carry six hours of Western television a day if it was to survive – CNN’s bland, safe coverage of events presumably offering some balance to the rubbish churned out on the RTS news.

But once Nato decided this was as preposterous as it was impracticable, its spokesman announced that the station was not on the list of Nato targets. Then, on Monday, CNN’s bosses called up from Atlanta to inform the satellite boys in Belgrade that they should pull out of the RTS offices.

Against the wishes of other Nato nations, so the word went, General Wesley Clark had decided to bomb Serb television. CNN withdrew from the building in Takovska Street. And that night, we were all invited to have coffee and orange juice in the studios. The building was likely to be a target of the “Nato aggressor”, according to Goran Matic, a Yugoslav federal minister, as he walked us through the ground floor of the doomed building. Yet, oddly, we did not take him seriously. Even when the air-raid siren sounded, I stayed for another coffee.

Surely Nato wouldn’t waste its bombs on this tiresome station with its third-rate propaganda and old movies, let alone kill its staff. Yesterday morning, the moment I heard the cruise missile scream over my hotel roof, I knew I was wrong. There was a thunderous explosion and a mile-high cloud of dust as four storeys collapsed to the ground, sandwiching offices, machines, transmitters and people into a pile of rubble only 15 feet high.

Yet, within six hours, Serb television was back on the air, beaming its programmes from secret transmitters, the female anchorwoman reading the news from pieces of pink paper between pre-recorded films of Serbian folk-songs and ancient Orthodox churches. All along, the Serbs had been ready for just such an attack. We had not believed Nato capable of such ferocity.

The Serbs had. The crowds still stood in the park as darkness fell, watching the men with drills punching their way through the concrete for more survivors. By that time, explanations were flowing from Nato’s birthday celebrations in Washington. Serbia’s “propaganda machine” had been prolonging the war.

I wonder. I seem to recall Croatian television spreading hatred a-plenty when it was ethnically cleansing 170,000 Serbs from Croatia in 1995. But we didn’t bomb Zagreb. And when President Franjo Tudjman’s lads were massacring Serbs and Muslims alike in Bosnia, we didn’t bomb his residence.

Was Serbian television’s real sin its broadcast of film of the Nato massacre of Kosovo Albanian refugees last week, killings that Nato was forced to admit had been a mistake? Yes, Serbian television could be hateful, biased, bad. It was owned by the government. But once you kill people because you don’t like what they say, you have changed the rules of war. And that’s what Nato did in Belgrade in the early hours of yesterday morning.

NATO wants to sacrifice Muslims to secure Western hegemony

NATO wants to sacrifice Muslims to secure Western hegemony

ANKARA — Turkey should expand the mandate of its troops in Afghanistan and play a bigger part in the fight against terrorism, NATO’s secretary general said in remarks published Wednesday in the Turkish press.

“Of course it is up to the (NATO) allies to decide how they contribute” to operations in Afghanistan, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an interview with the Milliyet newspaper. But sending combat troops to the country would be welcome.

“It would be met with great satisfaction,” he said.

Turkey has deployed some 730 infantry soldiers to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) but their mission is restricted to the capital Kabul and its surrounds.

Turkey, a Muslim member of NATO, has indicated that it might increase its military contingent in Afghanistan, but only if they remain in Kabul.

It says its effort should be aimed at other aspects, such as training Afghan security forces and providing assistance in the fields of health and education.

Rasmussen believes that having Muslim soldiers in the front line against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan would help convince other Muslim nations that the operations “are not a religious war but a struggle against terrorism.”

Rasmussen, who assumed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s top job this month, is scheduled to arrive in Ankara on Thursday as part of a tour of NATO capitals.

“I want to build closer ties with our allies within the framework of our alliance,” Rasmussen said.

Ankara had opposed the former Danish prime minister’s candidacy over his vehement defence of a Danish newspaper’s decision to publish satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005 that sparked anger among Muslims across the world.

On Thursday night he is scheduled to take part in an Iftar feast — the evening meal breaking the Ramadan fast — with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Meanwhile Greece on Wednesday reaffirmed its willingness to cooperate with Turkey within the NATO alliance and acknowledged that “obstacles” existed in the cooperation between the European Union and NATO in Afghanistan.

“At this moment there are paradoxes in cooperation between the two organisations,” foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said ahead of Rasmussen’s visit to Athens.

“The NATO mission and the EU mission are side by side in Afghanistan but their cooperation meets obstacles,” he said.

“Greece wishes that these problems be solved… but the heart of the problem is the paradox of Turkey’s refusal to recognise a European Union country,” he said, referring to Cyprus.

On Tuesday, Rasmussen had said bilateral problems between Greece and Turkey were affecting alliance efforts in Afghanistan and Africa.

Ankara refuses to recognise the government of the Greek Cypriot-run Republic of Cyprus as having sovereignty over the whole island as the Turkish Cypriots have a breakaway statelet in the north.

With Soviet enemy gone, NATO polishes its brand

New York Times,15 July 2008

With Soviet enemy gone, NATO polishes its brand

BRUSSELS — A top executive at Coca-Cola, Michael Stopford, spends much of his working life guarding its image. But in August, he starts working on an even more powerful global name: NATO.

A British-born American, Stopford is a specialist in managing reputations. His career combines time at Coca-Cola and Exxon Mobil with two decades in the public sector, including the United Nations and the British Foreign Office.

By hiring Stopford, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has shown how determined it is to revamp its image as it approaches its 60th anniversary in 2009.

Eighteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and confronted by evidence of ignorance or indifference among many in its 26 member nations, NATO is rethinking how it communicates with the taxpayers who pay for it.

For example, at its headquarters here, the alliance has created an Internet-based service called NATO TV and established a media operations center just for Afghanistan, with 14 media officers.

More radical changes are planned, said Jean-François Bureau, a former chief spokesman for the French Defense Ministry who became NATO’s assistant secretary general for public diplomacy last year.

“We have the green light to think about branding policy for NATO,” said Bureau, who aims to present the strategy in time for the 60th anniversary summit meeting next year.

During the Cold War years, when Western and Warsaw Pact tanks massed on either side of the Iron Curtain, the idea of a brand for NATO would have been ludicrous because everyone knew why it was important.

Not any more.

Unlike the European Union, which is also headquartered in Brussels, NATO does not conduct regular opinion surveys, but an internal document on the alliance’s image cites data from German Marshall Fund surveys. While the number of those who believe NATO remains essential for security increased in the United States by 4 percent from 2002 to 2007, it declined by 19 percent in Germany, 12 percent in Britain, 13 percent in Italy and 8 percent in Poland.

One internal document notes that large parts of the population of NATO countries have only vague ideas about the alliance, its purpose and policies. Often their perceptions are based on Cold War stereotypes. The document underlines the need to convey messages about the organization to a larger audience, reaching out to young people and women as well as opinion leaders.

Stopford declined to comment because he has not yet taken up his new NATO position. But his priority is likely to be helping the organization explain how its activities impact on daily life and how trans-Atlantic security should not be taken for granted, according to one official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

At NATO headquarters, this work is seen as vital to the alliance’s future.

“We are acting on the basis of public support,” Bureau said. “It was true for the Balkans, and it’s more important for fighting terrorism. If people don’t feel that there is a link between what the soldiers are doing and their own security, then legitimacy is at stake.”

The collapse of the Soviet Union appeared to take away NATO’s reason to exist, and then it went into battle for the first time – in Europe.

The 1999 Kosovo conflict was a serious test for NATO and divided people across Europe. The bombing campaign itself was controversial, with Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent in London, describing the huge, four-pronged metal logo outside the alliance headquarters as the Death Star, a reference to the Empire’s evil forces in “Star Wars.”

To its alarm, NATO seemed to be losing the public relations war to Serbia. It called on the services of Alastair Campbell, then spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, to supervise a team of specialist media officers in Brussels.

Increasing support for NATO will not be an easy task, according to Nick Witney, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and former chief executive of the European Defense Agency.

“Its major engagement is in Afghanistan and we have all heard that it is make or break,” he said.

Bulgaria’s Arms-Makers Take Aim at Privatization

Bulgaria's Arms-Makers Take Aim at Privatization
By Peter S. Green International Herald Tribune

Tuesday, August 11, 1998

For 34 years, the Soviet-designed AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle was the basis of the fortune of the state-owned Arsenal arms and machinery works sprawled around this dreary city in Bulgaria's Valley of the Roses.
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The Kalashnikov is easy to use, easy to clean and highly reliable. It is also cheap to produce. Arsenal's Kalashnikov was regarded as one of the East bloc's finest, and over 1 million of the submachine guns found their way from here to the armies and armed gangs of the world.
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On Monday, Bulgaria's ambitious program to spur lagging economic reforms placed Arsenal in a group of five leading arms companies that are to be privatized by the Bulgarian Russian Investment Bank. Some 22 arms companies will be privatized in the next 18 months, as Bulgaria accelerates its transition toward a full market economy and tightens its links to the European Union and NATO.
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But there are problems facing the sale of the guns and the factory, and they are the same ones bedeviling the rest of Bulgaria's economic reform and privatization programs: Someone else got there first, and they do it better.
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In Arsenal's case, its 10,400 workers in 200 separate production halls make everything from complex computer-guided machine tools to bullets, hunting rifles, anti-aircraft guns and tank cannon. Managing Director Nikolay Ibushev is placing his hopes, however, on the old Kalashnikov. An associate proudly shows a visitor three newly minted Kalashnikovs, re-engineered to fire NATO's higher-powered, smaller-bore 5.56mm ammunition, instead of the old Russian-designed 7.65mm bullets.
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NATO wants its potential new partners ? Bulgaria is a NATO associate in the Partnership for Peace program ? to move their tactics and eventually their weapons to NATO standards, and former Warsaw Pact members are straining their budgets to meet NATO's expectations.
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"I believe we have a great potential to conquer Western markets because we use the high quality, reliability and low price we make for the Russian market for the Western market," Mr. Ibushev said.
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Customer names and orders are, he says, "a commercial secret." Whether Bulgaria's army might be buying the 5.56mm Kalashnikovs is "a state secret." Profit, revenue and even the cost of a new NATO-standard Kalashnikov fall somewhere between.
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Mr. Ibushev faces a tough sell.
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"They are following a marketing trend," said Terry Gander, editor of Jane's Infantry Weapons. "The Poles have Kalashnikovs in 5.56, and the Czechs have brought out their own rifle in 5.56. Even the Romanians are planning one."
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Even without the competition, there is unlikely to be much of a market for NATO-caliber Kalashnikovs, some say. Over 50 million AK-47s have been made in the past 50 years, and the greatly reduced armies of Eastern Europe are swimming in leftover hardware. Even worse, in February, Russia's Izhevsk Machine Works, the original Kalashnikov maker, won an international patent for the weapon, so Arsenal may now have to pay license fees.
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Despite such obstacles for companies like Arsenal, Bulgaria has come far in reforming its overall economy. A year and a half ago, street protests forced out the former Communists, sweeping President Petar Stoyanov's Union of Democratic Forces to power with a majority government.
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Facing 479 percent inflation and an economy shrinking at 6.9 percent, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov chose stone-hearted austerity. He pegged the Bulgarian lev to the Deutsche mark, and stopped printing money. That cut inflation to 18.9 percent by June and boosted hopes of 4.5 percent economic growth this year.
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Already, several industrial behemoths have been sold, some insolvent banks have been shut or sold, the stock market has been given new regulations and tax collection is up.
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Privatization is moving on a three-track process: Some companies will be sold in a voucher plan linked to pension funds, some will be sold directly by the government, and a third group will be sold by outside advisers.
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The moves have won grudging support from the International Monetary Fund, which last month released a vital $500 million to help pay Bulgaria's external debt while economic growth catches up.
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The government wants to privatize 1,500 small and medium-sized enterprises by the end of 1999, and giants like the telecommunications companies and oil refineries by the end of 2001.
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Last week the government said it would sell its 78.23 percent stake in the postal savings bank to American International Group Inc. and Consolidated Eurofinance Holdings, a Greek firm, for $38 million, and the Rousse shipyards were sold to a Slovak boatbuilder for $23 million
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But many other companies have lost their luster.
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Krassen Stanchev, director of the Institute for Market Economics, says the government must avoid highly leveraged management buyouts funded by local banks and speed up the sales and loosen its grip on the process.
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Others say there is no need to panic. "It's been fashionable to say that Bulgaria is falling back to its old ways," said a financier who did not want to be named. "People simply have to face the fact that Bulgaria is five years behind most of Central and Eastern Europe."
For 34 years, the Soviet-designed AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle was the basis of the fortune of the state-owned Arsenal arms and machinery works sprawled around this dreary city in Bulgaria's Valley of the Roses.
.
The Kalashnikov is easy to use, easy to clean and highly reliable. It is also cheap to produce. Arsenal's Kalashnikov was regarded as one of the East bloc's finest, and over 1 million of the submachine guns found their way from here to the armies and armed gangs of the world.
.
On Monday, Bulgaria's ambitious program to spur lagging economic reforms placed Arsenal in a group of five leading arms companies that are to be privatized by the Bulgarian Russian Investment Bank. Some 22 arms companies will be privatized in the next 18 months, as Bulgaria accelerates its transition toward a full market economy and tightens its links to the European Union and NATO.
.
But there are problems facing the sale of the guns and the factory, and they are the same ones bedeviling the rest of Bulgaria's economic reform and privatization programs: Someone else got there first, and they do it better.
.
In Arsenal's case, its 10,400 workers in 200 separate production halls make everything from complex computer-guided machine tools to bullets, hunting rifles, anti-aircraft guns and tank cannon. Managing Director Nikolay Ibushev is placing his hopes, however, on the old Kalashnikov. An associate proudly shows a visitor three newly minted Kalashnikovs, re-engineered to fire NATO's higher-powered, smaller-bore 5.56mm ammunition, instead of the old Russian-designed 7.65mm bullets.
.
NATO wants its potential new partners ? Bulgaria is a NATO associate in the Partnership for Peace program ? to move their tactics and eventually their weapons to NATO standards, and former Warsaw Pact members are straining their budgets to meet NATO's expectations.
.
"I believe we have a great potential to conquer Western markets because we use the high quality, reliability and low price we make for the Russian market for the Western market," Mr. Ibushev said.
.
Customer names and orders are, he says, "a commercial secret." Whether Bulgaria's army might be buying the 5.56mm Kalashnikovs is "a state secret." Profit, revenue and even the cost of a new NATO-standard Kalashnikov fall somewhere between.
.
Mr. Ibushev faces a tough sell.
.
"They are following a marketing trend," said Terry Gander, editor of Jane's Infantry Weapons. "The Poles have Kalashnikovs in 5.56, and the Czechs have brought out their own rifle in 5.56. Even the Romanians are planning one."
.
Even without the competition, there is unlikely to be much of a market for NATO-caliber Kalashnikovs, some say. Over 50 million AK-47s have been made in the past 50 years, and the greatly reduced armies of Eastern Europe are swimming in leftover hardware. Even worse, in February, Russia's Izhevsk Machine Works, the original Kalashnikov maker, won an international patent for the weapon, so Arsenal may now have to pay license fees.
.
Despite such obstacles for companies like Arsenal, Bulgaria has come far in reforming its overall economy. A year and a half ago, street protests forced out the former Communists, sweeping President Petar Stoyanov's Union of Democratic Forces to power with a majority government.
.
Facing 479 percent inflation and an economy shrinking at 6.9 percent, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov chose stone-hearted austerity. He pegged the Bulgarian lev to the Deutsche mark, and stopped printing money. That cut inflation to 18.9 percent by June and boosted hopes of 4.5 percent economic growth this year.
.
Already, several industrial behemoths have been sold, some insolvent banks have been shut or sold, the stock market has been given new regulations and tax collection is up.
.
Privatization is moving on a three-track process: Some companies will be sold in a voucher plan linked to pension funds, some will be sold directly by the government, and a third group will be sold by outside advisers.
.
The moves have won grudging support from the International Monetary Fund, which last month released a vital $500 million to help pay Bulgaria's external debt while economic growth catches up.
.
The government wants to privatize 1,500 small and medium-sized enterprises by the end of 1999, and giants like the telecommunications companies and oil refineries by the end of 2001.
.
Last week the government said it would sell its 78.23 percent stake in the postal savings bank to American International Group Inc. and Consolidated Eurofinance Holdings, a Greek firm, for $38 million, and the Rousse shipyards were sold to a Slovak boatbuilder for $23 million
.
But many other companies have lost their luster.
.
Krassen Stanchev, director of the Institute for Market Economics, says the government must avoid highly leveraged management buyouts funded by local banks and speed up the sales and loosen its grip on the process.
.
Others say there is no need to panic. "It's been fashionable to say that Bulgaria is falling back to its old ways," said a financier who did not want to be named. "People simply have to face the fact that Bulgaria is five years behind most of Central and Eastern Europe."
For 34 years, the Soviet-designed AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle was the basis of the fortune of the state-owned Arsenal arms and machinery works sprawled around this dreary city in Bulgaria's Valley of the Roses.
.
The Kalashnikov is easy to use, easy to clean and highly reliable. It is also cheap to produce. Arsenal's Kalashnikov was regarded as one of the East bloc's finest, and over 1 million of the submachine guns found their way from here to the armies and armed gangs of the world.
.
On Monday, Bulgaria's ambitious program to spur lagging economic reforms placed Arsenal in a group of five leading arms companies that are to be privatized by the Bulgarian Russian Investment Bank. Some 22 arms companies will be privatized in the next 18 months, as Bulgaria accelerates its transition toward a full market economy and tightens its links to the European Union and NATO.
.
But there are problems facing the sale of the guns and the factory, and they are the same ones bedeviling the rest of Bulgaria's economic reform and privatization programs: Someone else got there first, and they do it better.
.
In Arsenal's case, its 10,400 workers in 200 separate production halls make everything from complex computer-guided machine tools to bullets, hunting rifles, anti-aircraft guns and tank cannon. Managing Director Nikolay Ibushev is placing his hopes, however, on the old Kalashnikov. An associate proudly shows a visitor three newly minted Kalashnikovs, re-engineered to fire NATO's higher-powered, smaller-bore 5.56mm ammunition, instead of the old Russian-designed 7.65mm bullets.
.
NATO wants its potential new partners ? Bulgaria is a NATO associate in the Partnership for Peace program ? to move their tactics and eventually their weapons to NATO standards, and former Warsaw Pact members are straining their budgets to meet NATO's expectations.
.
"I believe we have a great potential to conquer Western markets because we use the high quality, reliability and low price we make for the Russian market for the Western market," Mr. Ibushev said.
.
Customer names and orders are, he says, "a commercial secret." Whether Bulgaria's army might be buying the 5.56mm Kalashnikovs is "a state secret." Profit, revenue and even the cost of a new NATO-standard Kalashnikov fall somewhere between.
.
Mr. Ibushev faces a tough sell.
.
"They are following a marketing trend," said Terry Gander, editor of Jane's Infantry Weapons. "The Poles have Kalashnikovs in 5.56, and the Czechs have brought out their own rifle in 5.56. Even the Romanians are planning one."
.
Even without the competition, there is unlikely to be much of a market for NATO-caliber Kalashnikovs, some say. Over 50 million AK-47s have been made in the past 50 years, and the greatly reduced armies of Eastern Europe are swimming in leftover hardware. Even worse, in February, Russia's Izhevsk Machine Works, the original Kalashnikov maker, won an international patent for the weapon, so Arsenal may now have to pay license fees.
.
Despite such obstacles for companies like Arsenal, Bulgaria has come far in reforming its overall economy. A year and a half ago, street protests forced out the former Communists, sweeping President Petar Stoyanov's Union of Democratic Forces to power with a majority government.
.
Facing 479 percent inflation and an economy shrinking at 6.9 percent, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov chose stone-hearted austerity. He pegged the Bulgarian lev to the Deutsche mark, and stopped printing money. That cut inflation to 18.9 percent by June and boosted hopes of 4.5 percent economic growth this year.
.
Already, several industrial behemoths have been sold, some insolvent banks have been shut or sold, the stock market has been given new regulations and tax collection is up.
.
Privatization is moving on a three-track process: Some companies will be sold in a voucher plan linked to pension funds, some will be sold directly by the government, and a third group will be sold by outside advisers.
.
The moves have won grudging support from the International Monetary Fund, which last month released a vital $500 million to help pay Bulgaria's external debt while economic growth catches up.
.
The government wants to privatize 1,500 small and medium-sized enterprises by the end of 1999, and giants like the telecommunications companies and oil refineries by the end of 2001.
.
Last week the government said it would sell its 78.23 percent stake in the postal savings bank to American International Group Inc. and Consolidated Eurofinance Holdings, a Greek firm, for $38 million, and the Rousse shipyards were sold to a Slovak boatbuilder for $23 million
.
But many other companies have lost their luster.
.
Krassen Stanchev, director of the Institute for Market Economics, says the government must avoid highly leveraged management buyouts funded by local banks and speed up the sales and loosen its grip on the process.
.
Others say there is no need to panic. "It's been fashionable to say that Bulgaria is falling back to its old ways," said a financier who did not want to be named. "People simply have to face the fact that Bulgaria is five years behind most of Central and Eastern Europe."
For 34 years, the Soviet-designed AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle was the basis of the fortune of the state-owned Arsenal arms and machinery works sprawled around this dreary city in Bulgaria's Valley of the Roses.
.
The Kalashnikov is easy to use, easy to clean and highly reliable. It is also cheap to produce. Arsenal's Kalashnikov was regarded as one of the East bloc's finest, and over 1 million of the submachine guns found their way from here to the armies and armed gangs of the world.
.
On Monday, Bulgaria's ambitious program to spur lagging economic reforms placed Arsenal in a group of five leading arms companies that are to be privatized by the Bulgarian Russian Investment Bank. Some 22 arms companies will be privatized in the next 18 months, as Bulgaria accelerates its transition toward a full market economy and tightens its links to the European Union and NATO.
.
But there are problems facing the sale of the guns and the factory, and they are the same ones bedeviling the rest of Bulgaria's economic reform and privatization programs: Someone else got there first, and they do it better.
.
In Arsenal's case, its 10,400 workers in 200 separate production halls make everything from complex computer-guided machine tools to bullets, hunting rifles, anti-aircraft guns and tank cannon. Managing Director Nikolay Ibushev is placing his hopes, however, on the old Kalashnikov. An associate proudly shows a visitor three newly minted Kalashnikovs, re-engineered to fire NATO's higher-powered, smaller-bore 5.56mm ammunition, instead of the old Russian-designed 7.65mm bullets.
.
NATO wants its potential new partners ? Bulgaria is a NATO associate in the Partnership for Peace program ? to move their tactics and eventually their weapons to NATO standards, and former Warsaw Pact members are straining their budgets to meet NATO's expectations.
.
"I believe we have a great potential to conquer Western markets because we use the high quality, reliability and low price we make for the Russian market for the Western market," Mr. Ibushev said.
.
Customer names and orders are, he says, "a commercial secret." Whether Bulgaria's army might be buying the 5.56mm Kalashnikovs is "a state secret." Profit, revenue and even the cost of a new NATO-standard Kalashnikov fall somewhere between.
.
Mr. Ibushev faces a tough sell.
.
"They are following a marketing trend," said Terry Gander, editor of Jane's Infantry Weapons. "The Poles have Kalashnikovs in 5.56, and the Czechs have brought out their own rifle in 5.56. Even the Romanians are planning one."
.
Even without the competition, there is unlikely to be much of a market for NATO-caliber Kalashnikovs, some say. Over 50 million AK-47s have been made in the past 50 years, and the greatly reduced armies of Eastern Europe are swimming in leftover hardware. Even worse, in February, Russia's Izhevsk Machine Works, the original Kalashnikov maker, won an international patent for the weapon, so Arsenal may now have to pay license fees.
.
Despite such obstacles for companies like Arsenal, Bulgaria has come far in reforming its overall economy. A year and a half ago, street protests forced out the former Communists, sweeping President Petar Stoyanov's Union of Democratic Forces to power with a majority government.
.
Facing 479 percent inflation and an economy shrinking at 6.9 percent, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov chose stone-hearted austerity. He pegged the Bulgarian lev to the Deutsche mark, and stopped printing money. That cut inflation to 18.9 percent by June and boosted hopes of 4.5 percent economic growth this year.
.
Already, several industrial behemoths have been sold, some insolvent banks have been shut or sold, the stock market has been given new regulations and tax collection is up.
.
Privatization is moving on a three-track process: Some companies will be sold in a voucher plan linked to pension funds, some will be sold directly by the government, and a third group will be sold by outside advisers.
.
The moves have won grudging support from the International Monetary Fund, which last month released a vital $500 million to help pay Bulgaria's external debt while economic growth catches up.
.
The government wants to privatize 1,500 small and medium-sized enterprises by the end of 1999, and giants like the telecommunications companies and oil refineries by the end of 2001.
.
Last week the government said it would sell its 78.23 percent stake in the postal savings bank to American International Group Inc. and Consolidated Eurofinance Holdings, a Greek firm, for $38 million, and the Rousse shipyards were sold to a Slovak boatbuilder for $23 million
.
But many other companies have lost their luster.
.
Krassen Stanchev, director of the Institute for Market Economics, says the government must avoid highly leveraged management buyouts funded by local banks and speed up the sales and loosen its grip on the process.
.
Others say there is no need to panic. "It's been fashionable to say that Bulgaria is falling back to its old ways," said a financier who did not want to be named. "People simply have to face the fact that Bulgaria is five years behind most of Central and Eastern Europe."
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NATO pushes privatisation in Kosovo

 The spoils of another war Five years after Nato's attack on Yugoslavia, its administration in Kosovo is pushing through mass privatisation Neil Clark Tuesday September 21, 2004 The Guardian 'Wars, conflict - it's all business," sighs Monsieur Verdoux in Charlie Chaplin's 1947 film of the same name. Many will not need to be convinced of the link between US corporations now busily helping themselves to Iraqi state assets and the military machine that prised Iraq open for global business. But what is less widely known is that a similar process is already well under way in a part of the world where B52s were not so long ago dropping bombs in another "liberation" mission. The trigger for the US-led bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 was, according to the standard western version of history, the failure of the Serbian delegation to sign up to the Rambouillet peace agreement. But that holds little more water than the tale that has Iraq responsible for last year's invasion by not cooperating with weapons inspectors. The secret annexe B of the Rambouillet accord - which provided for the military occupation of the whole of Yugoslavia - was, as the Foreign Office minister Lord Gilbert later conceded to the defence select committee, deliberately inserted to provoke rejection by Belgrade. But equally revealing about the west's wider motives is chapter four, which dealt exclusively with the Kosovan economy. Article I (1) called for a "free-market economy", and article II (1) for privatisation of all government-owned assets. At the time, the rump Yugoslavia - then not a member of the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO or European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - was the last economy in central-southern Europe to be uncolonised by western capital. "Socially owned enterprises", the form of worker self-management pioneered under Tito, still predominated. Yugoslavia had publicly owned petroleum, mining, car and tobacco industries, and 75% of industry was state or socially owned. In 1997, a privatisation law had stipulated that in sell-offs, at least 60% of shares had to be allocated to a company's workers. The high priests of neo-liberalism were not happy. At the Davos summit early in 1999, Tony Blair berated Belgrade, not for its handling of Kosovo, but for its failure to embark on a programme of "economic reform" - new-world-order speak for selling state assets and running the economy in the interests of multinationals. In the 1999 Nato bombing campaign, it was state-owned companies - rather than military sites - that were specifically targeted by the world's richest nations. Nato only destroyed 14 tanks, but 372 industrial facilities were hit - including the Zastava car plant at Kragujevac, leaving hundreds of thousands jobless. Not one foreign or privately owned factory was bombed. After the removal of Slobodan Milosevic, the west got the "fast-track" reforming government in Belgrade it had long desired. One of the first steps of the new administration was to repeal the 1997 privatisation law and allow 70% of a company to be sold to foreign investors - with just 15% reserved for workers. The government then signed up to the World Bank's programmes - effectively ending the country's financial independence. Meanwhile, as the New York Times had crowed, "a war's glittering prize" awaited the conquerors. Kosovo has the second largest coal reserves in Europe, and enormous deposits of lignite, lead, zinc, gold, silver and petroleum. The jewel is the enormous Trepca mine complex, whose 1997 value was estimated at $5bn. In an extraordinary smash and grab raid soon after the war, the complex was seized from its workers and managers by more than 2,900 Nato troops, who used teargas and rubber bullets. Five years on from the Nato attack, the Kosovo Trust Agency (KTA), the body that operates under the jurisdiction of the UN Mission in Kosovo (Unmik) - is "pleased to announce" the programme to privatise the first 500 or so socially owned enterprises (SOEs) under its control. The closing date for bids passed last week: 10 businesses went under the hammer, including printing houses, a shopping mall, an agrobusiness and a soft-drinks factory. The Ferronikeli mining and metal-processing complex, with an annual capacity of 12,000 tonnes of nickel production, is being sold separately, with bids due by November 17. To make the SOEs more attractive to foreign investors, Unmik has altered the way land is owned in Kosovo, allowing the KTA to sell 99-year leases with the businesses, which can be transferred or used as loans or security. Even Belgrade's pro-western gov ernment has called this a "robbery of state-owned land". For western companies waiting to swoop, there will be rich pickings indeed in what the KTA assures us is a "very investor-friendly" environment. But there is little talk of the rights of the moral owners of the enterprises - the workers, managers and citizens of the former Yugoslavia, whose property was effectively seized in the name of the "international community" and "economic reform". As the corporate takeover of the ruins of Baghdad and Pristina proceeds apace, neither the "liberation" of Iraq nor the "humanitarian" bombing of Yugoslavia has proved Chaplin's cynical anti-hero to be wrong.