martes, 30 de abril de 2013


Bajo el título “Everything is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever”, Matt Taibi escribe un interesante, didáctico artículo en Rolling Stone ( Nada que no sepamos o sospechemos, pero vale la pena leerlo para entender lo que vendrá, cuando las masas enfurecidas salgan a incendiar sedes bancarias. Incidentalmente, muestra el rostro de la "justicia" en la gran democracia del norte:

"The Illuminati were amateurs. The second huge financial scandal of the year reveals the real international conspiracy: There's no price the big banks can't fix.

Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world's largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.

You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that's trillion, with a "t") worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it "dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets."

That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world's largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world's largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps.

Interest-rate swaps are a tool used by big cities, major corporations and sovereign governments to manage their debt, and the scale of their use is almost unimaginably massive. It's about a $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect a pile of assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget.

It should surprise no one that among the players implicated in this scheme to fix the prices of interest-rate swaps are the same megabanks – including Barclays, UBS, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and the Royal Bank of Scotland – that serve on the Libor panel that sets global interest rates. In fact, in recent years many of these banks have already paid multimillion-dollar settlements for anti-competitive manipulation of one form or another (in addition to Libor, some were caught up in an anti-competitive scheme, detailed in Rolling Stone last year, to rig municipal-debt service auctions). Though the jumble of financial acronyms sounds like gibberish to the layperson, the fact that there may now be price-fixing scandals involving both Libor and ISDAfix suggests a single, giant mushrooming conspiracy of collusion and price-fixing hovering under the ostensibly competitive veneer of Wall Street culture.

The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia

Why? Because Libor already affects the prices of interest-rate swaps, making this a manipulation-on-manipulation situation. If the allegations prove to be right, that will mean that swap customers have been paying for two different layers of price-fixing corruption. If you can imagine paying 20 bucks for a crappy PB&J because some evil cabal of agribusiness companies colluded to fix the prices of both peanuts and peanut butter, you come close to grasping the lunacy of financial markets where both interest rates and interest-rate swaps are being manipulated at the same time, often by the same banks.

"It's a double conspiracy," says an amazed Michael Greenberger, a former director of the trading and markets division at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and now a professor at the University of Maryland. "It's the height of criminality."

The bad news didn't stop with swaps and interest rates. In March, it also came out that two regulators – the CFTC here in the U.S. and the Madrid-based International Organization of Securities Commissions – were spurred by the Libor revelations to investigate the possibility of collusive manipulation of gold and silver prices. "Given the clubby manipulation efforts we saw in Libor benchmarks, I assume other benchmarks – many other benchmarks – are legit areas of inquiry," CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton said.

But the biggest shock came out of a federal courtroom at the end of March – though if you follow these matters closely, it may not have been so shocking at all – when a landmark class-action civil lawsuit against the banks for Libor-related offenses was dismissed. In that case, a federal judge accepted the banker-defendants' incredible argument: If cities and towns and other investors lost money because of Libor manipulation, that was their own fault for ever thinking the banks were competing in the first place.

"A farce," was one antitrust lawyer's response to the eyebrow-raising dismissal. "Incredible," says Sylvia Sokol, an attorney for Constantine Cannon, a firm that specializes in antitrust cases.

All of these stories collectively pointed to the same thing: These banks, which already possess enormous power just by virtue of their financial holdings – in the United States, the top six banks, many of them the same names you see on the Libor and ISDAfix panels, own assets equivalent to 60 percent of the nation's GDP – are beginning to realize the awesome possibilities for increased profit and political might that would come with colluding instead of competing. Moreover, it's increasingly clear that both the criminal justice system and the civil courts may be impotent to stop them, even when they do get caught working together to game the system.

If true, that would leave us living in an era of undisguised, real-world conspiracy, in which the prices of currencies, commodities like gold and silver, even interest rates and the value of money itself, can be and may already have been dictated from above. And those who are doing it can get away with it. Forget the Illuminati – this is the real thing, and it's no secret. You can stare right at it, anytime you want.

The banks found a loophole, a basic flaw in the machine. Across the financial system, there are places where prices or official indices are set based upon unverified data sent in by private banks and financial companies. In other words, we gave the players with incentives to game the system institutional roles in the economic infrastructure.

Libor, which measures the prices banks charge one another to borrow money, is a perfect example, not only of this basic flaw in the price-setting system but of the weakness in the regulatory framework supposedly policing it. Couple a voluntary reporting scheme with too-big-to-fail status and a revolving-door legal system, and what you get is unstoppable corruption.

Every morning, 18 of the world's biggest banks submit data to an office in London about how much they believe they would have to pay to borrow from other banks. The 18 banks together are called the "Libor panel," and when all of these data from all 18 panelist banks are collected, the numbers are averaged out. What emerges, every morning at 11:30 London time, are the daily Libor figures.

Banks submit numbers about borrowing in 10 different currencies across 15 different time periods, e.g., loans as short as one day and as long as one year. This mountain of bank-submitted data is used every day to create benchmark rates that affect the prices of everything from credit cards to mortgages to currencies to commercial loans (both short- and long-term) to swaps.

Gangster Bankers Broke Every Law in the Book

Dating back perhaps as far as the early Nineties, traders and others inside these banks were sometimes calling up the company geeks responsible for submitting the daily Libor numbers (the "Libor submitters") and asking them to fudge the numbers. Usually, the gimmick was the trader had made a bet on something – a swap, currencies, something – and he wanted the Libor submitter to make the numbers look lower (or, occasionally, higher) to help his bet pay off.

Famously, one Barclays trader monkeyed with Libor submissions in exchange for a bottle of Bollinger champagne, but in some cases, it was even lamer than that. This is from an exchange between a trader and a Libor submitter at the Royal Bank of Scotland:

SWISS FRANC TRADER: can u put 6m swiss libor in low pls?...
SWSISS FRANC TRADER: ive got some sushi rolls from yesterday?...
PRIMARY SUBMITTER: ok low 6m, just for u
SWISS FRANC TRADER: wooooooohooooooo.?.?. thatd be awesome

Screwing around with world interest rates that affect billions of people in exchange for day-old sushi – it's hard to imagine an image that better captures the moral insanity of the modern financial-services sector.

Hundreds of similar exchanges were uncovered when regulators like Britain's Financial Services Authority and the U.S. Justice Department started burrowing into the befouled entrails of Libor. The documentary evidence of anti-competitive manipulation they found was so overwhelming that, to read it, one almost becomes embarrassed for the banks. "It's just amazing how Libor fixing can make you that much money," chirped one yen trader. "Pure manipulation going on," wrote another.

Yet despite so many instances of at least attempted manipulation, the banks mostly skated. Barclays got off with a relatively minor fine in the $450 million range, UBS was stuck with $1.5 billion in penalties, and RBS was forced to give up $615 million. Apart from a few low-level flunkies overseas, no individual involved in this scam that impacted nearly everyone in the industrialized world was even threatened with criminal prosecution.

Two of America's top law-enforcement officials, Attorney General Eric Holder and former Justice Department Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer, confessed that it's dangerous to prosecute offending banks because they are simply too big. Making arrests, they say, might lead to "collateral consequences" in the economy.

The relatively small sums of money extracted in these settlements did not go toward reparations for the cities, towns and other victims who lost money due to Libor manipulation. Instead, it flowed mindlessly into government coffers. So it was left to towns and cities like Baltimore (which lost money due to fluctuations in their municipal investments caused by Libor movements), pensions like the New Britain, Connecticut, Firefighters' and Police Benefit Fund, and other foundations – and even individuals (billionaire real-estate developer Sheldon Solow, who filed his own suit in February, claims that his company lost $450 million because of Libor manipulation) – to sue the banks for damages.

One of the biggest Libor suits was proceeding on schedule when, early in March, an army of superstar lawyers working on behalf of the banks descended upon federal judge Naomi Buchwald in the Southern District of New York to argue an extraordinary motion to dismiss. The banks' legal dream team drew from heavyweight Beltway-connected firms like Boies Schiller (you remember David Boies represented Al Gore), Davis Polk (home of top ex-regulators like former SEC enforcement chief Linda Thomsen) and Covington & Burling, the onetime private-practice home of both Holder and Breuer.

The presence of Covington & Burling in the suit – representing, of all companies, Citigroup, the former employer of current Treasury Secretary Jack Lew – was particularly galling. Right as the Libor case was being dismissed, the firm had hired none other than Lanny Breuer, the same Lanny Breuer who, just a few months before, was the assistant attorney general who had balked at criminally prosecuting UBS over Libor because, he said, "Our goal here is not to destroy a major financial institution."

In any case, this all-star squad of white-shoe lawyers came before Buchwald and made the mother of all audacious arguments. Robert Wise of Davis Polk, representing Bank of America, told Buchwald that the banks could not possibly be guilty of anti- competitive collusion because nobody ever said that the creation of Libor was competitive. "It is essential to our argument that this is not a competitive process," he said. "The banks do not compete with one another in the submission of Libor."

If you squint incredibly hard and look at the issue through a mirror, maybe while standing on your head, you can sort of see what Wise is saying. In a very theoretical, technical sense, the actual process by which banks submit Libor data – 18 geeks sending numbers to the British Bankers' Association offices in London once every morning – is not competitive per se.

But these numbers are supposed to reflect interbank-loan prices derived in a real, competitive market. Saying the Libor submission process is not competitive is sort of like pointing out that bank robbers obeyed the speed limit on the way to the heist. It's the silliest kind of legal sophistry.

But Wise eventually outdid even that argument, essentially saying that while the banks may have lied to or cheated their customers, they weren't guilty of the particular crime of antitrust collusion. This is like the old joke about the lawyer who gets up in court and claims his client had to be innocent, because his client was committing a crime in a different state at the time of the offense.

"The plaintiffs, I believe, are confusing a claim of being perhaps deceived," he said, "with a claim for harm to competition."

Judge Buchwald swallowed this lunatic argument whole and dismissed most of the case. Libor, she said, was a "cooperative endeavor" that was "never intended to be competitive." Her decision "does not reflect the reality of this business, where all of these banks were acting as competitors throughout the process," said the antitrust lawyer Sokol. Buchwald made this ruling despite the fact that both the U.S. and British governments had already settled with three banks for billions of dollars for improper manipulation, manipulation that these companies admitted to in their settlements.

Michael Hausfeld of Hausfeld LLP, one of the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs in this Libor suit, declined to comment specifically on the dismissal. But he did talk about the significance of the Libor case and other manipulation cases now in the pipeline.

"It's now evident that there is a ubiquitous culture among the banks to collude and cheat their customers as many times as they can in as many forms as they can conceive," he said. "And that's not just surmising. This is just based upon what they've been caught at."

Greenberger says the lack of serious consequences for the Libor scandal has only made other kinds of manipulation more inevitable. "There's no therapy like sending those who are used to wearing Gucci shoes to jail," he says. "But when the attorney general says, 'I don't want to indict people,' it's the Wild West. There's no law."

The problem is, a number of markets feature the same infrastructural weakness that failed in the Libor mess. In the case of interest-rate swaps and the ISDAfix benchmark, the system is very similar to Libor, although the investigation into these markets reportedly focuses on some different types of improprieties.

Though interest-rate swaps are not widely understood outside the finance world, the root concept actually isn't that hard. If you can imagine taking out a variable-rate mortgage and then paying a bank to make your loan payments fixed, you've got the basic idea of an interest-rate swap.

In practice, it might be a country like Greece or a regional government like Jefferson County, Alabama, that borrows money at a variable rate of interest, then later goes to a bank to "swap" that loan to a more predictable fixed rate. In its simplest form, the customer in a swap deal is usually paying a premium for the safety and security of fixed interest rates, while the firm selling the swap is usually betting that it knows more about future movements in interest rates than its customers.

Prices for interest-rate swaps are often based on ISDAfix, which, like Libor, is yet another of these privately calculated benchmarks. ISDAfix's U.S. dollar rates are published every day, at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., after a gang of the same usual-suspect megabanks (Bank of America, RBS, Deutsche, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, etc.) submits information about bids and offers for swaps.

And here's what we know so far: The CFTC has sent subpoenas to ICAP and to as many as 15 of those member banks, and plans to interview about a dozen ICAP employees from the company's office in Jersey City, New Jersey. Moreover, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, or ISDA, which works together with ICAP (for U.S. dollar transactions) and Thomson Reuters to compute the ISDAfix benchmark, has hired the consulting firm Oliver Wyman to review the process by which ISDAfix is calculated. Oliver Wyman is the same company that the British Bankers' Association hired to review the Libor submission process after that scandal broke last year. The upshot of all of this is that it looks very much like ISDAfix could be Libor all over again.

"It's obviously reminiscent of the Libor manipulation issue," Darrell Duffie, a finance professor at Stanford University, told reporters. "People may have been naive that simply reporting these rates was enough to avoid manipulation."

And just like in Libor, the potential losers in an interest-rate-swap manipulation scandal would be the same sad-sack collection of cities, towns, companies and other nonbank entities that have no way of knowing if they're paying the real price for swaps or a price being manipulated by bank insiders for profit. Moreover, ISDAfix is not only used to calculate prices for interest-rate swaps, it's also used to set values for about $550 billion worth of bonds tied to commercial real estate, and also affects the payouts on some state-pension annuities.

So although it's not quite as widespread as Libor, ISDAfix is sufficiently power-jammed into the world financial infrastructure that any manipulation of the rate would be catastrophic – and a huge class of victims that could include everyone from state pensioners to big cities to wealthy investors in structured notes would have no idea they were being robbed.

"How is some municipality in Cleveland or wherever going to know if it's getting ripped off?" asks Michael Masters of Masters Capital Management, a fund manager who has long been an advocate of greater transparency in the derivatives world. "The answer is, they won't know."

Worse still, the CFTC investigation apparently isn't limited to possible manipulation of swap prices by monkeying around with ISDAfix. According to reports, the commission is also looking at whether or not employees at ICAP may have intentionally delayed publication of swap prices, which in theory could give someone (bankers, cough, cough) a chance to trade ahead of the information.

Swap prices are published when ICAP employees manually enter the data on a computer screen called "19901." Some 6,000 customers subscribe to a service that allows them to access the data appearing on the 19901 screen.

The key here is that unlike a more transparent, regulated market like the New York Stock Exchange, where the results of stock trades are computed more or less instantly and everyone in theory can immediately see the impact of trading on the prices of stocks, in the swap market the whole world is dependent upon a handful of brokers quickly and honestly entering data about trades by hand into a computer terminal.

Any delay in entering price data would provide the banks involved in the transactions with a rare opportunity to trade ahead of the information. One way to imagine it would be to picture a racetrack where a giant curtain is pulled over the track as the horses come down the stretch – and the gallery is only told two minutes later which horse actually won. Anyone on the right side of the curtain could make a lot of smart bets before the audience saw the results of the race.

At ICAP, the interest-rate swap desk, and the 19901 screen, were reportedly controlled by a small group of 20 or so brokers, some of whom were making millions of dollars. These brokers made so much money for themselves the unit was nicknamed "Treasure Island."

Already, there are some reports that brokers of Treasure Island did create such intentional delays. Bloomberg interviewed a former broker who claims that he watched ICAP brokers delay the reporting of swap prices. "That allows dealers to tell the brokers to delay putting trades into the system instead of in real time," Bloomberg wrote, noting the former broker had "witnessed such activity firsthand." An ICAP spokesman has no comment on the story, though the company has released a statement saying that it is "cooperating" with the CFTC's inquiry and that it "maintains policies that prohibit" the improper behavior alleged in news reports.

The idea that prices in a $379 trillion market could be dependent on a desk of about 20 guys in New Jersey should tell you a lot about the absurdity of our financial infrastructure. The whole thing, in fact, has a darkly comic element to it. "It's almost hilarious in the irony," says David Frenk, director of research for Better Markets, a financial-reform advocacy group, "that they called it ISDAfix."

After scandals involving libor and, perhaps, ISDAfix, the question that should have everyone freaked out is this: What other markets out there carry the same potential for manipulation? The answer to that question is far from reassuring, because the potential is almost everywhere. From gold to gas to swaps to interest rates, prices all over the world are dependent upon little private cabals of cigar-chomping insiders we're forced to trust.

"In all the over-the-counter markets, you don't really have pricing except by a bunch of guys getting together," Masters notes glumly.

That includes the markets for gold (where prices are set by five banks in a Libor-ish teleconferencing process that, ironically, was created in part by N M Rothschild & Sons) and silver (whose price is set by just three banks), as well as benchmark rates in numerous other commodities – jet fuel, diesel, electric power, coal, you name it. The problem in each of these markets is the same: We all have to rely upon the honesty of companies like Barclays (already caught and fined $453 million for rigging Libor) or JPMorgan Chase (paid a $228 million settlement for rigging municipal-bond auctions) or UBS (fined a collective $1.66 billion for both muni-bond rigging and Libor manipulation) to faithfully report the real prices of things like interest rates, swaps, currencies and commodities.

All of these benchmarks based on voluntary reporting are now being looked at by regulators around the world, and God knows what they'll find. The European Federation of Financial Services Users wrote in an official EU survey last summer that all of these systems are ripe targets for manipulation. "In general," it wrote, "those markets which are based on non-attested, voluntary submission of data from agents whose benefits depend on such benchmarks are especially vulnerable of market abuse and distortion." Translation: When prices are set by companies that can profit by manipulating them, we're fucked.

"You name it," says Frenk. "Any of these benchmarks is a possibility for corruption."

The only reason this problem has not received the attention it deserves is because the scale of it is so enormous that ordinary people simply cannot see it. It's not just stealing by reaching a hand into your pocket and taking out money, but stealing in which banks can hit a few keystrokes and magically make whatever's in your pocket worth less. This is corruption at the molecular level of the economy, Space Age stealing – and it's only just coming into view."

Hasta  la próxima.

jueves, 25 de abril de 2013

Huele a gas

El horno no está para bollos y el mundo avanza a los bifes. Así de fácil. Mientras sigue estancada la producción mundial de petróleo convencional (no así la demanda global de energía), muchos países ya piensan en ir reemplazando las matrices energéticas clásicas, o bien rapiñar lo que puedan de lo que va quedando. Es así que se desempolvan estudios previos sobre yacimientos potenciales o reales, de lo que sea, de lo que venga. Una cosita así parece estar ocurriendo en el Mediterráneo oriental. Un par de notas de Andrei Akulov en el sitio Strategic Culture, bajo el título: "Mediterranean: Winds of Change" nos ilustra al respecto. Hemos posteado ambas notas. Fíjense que por pura casualidad se habla de los mismos países donde hay "Primaveras Árabes", líos con los jihadistas, preocupaciones morales y democráticas por parte de la NATO y cosas así. Pasen y vean.

"While the South China Sea disputes rival with the Middle East events to hit the world media radar screen, the Mediterranean is emerging as home to some of the world’s richest deposits of energy. The sea-shore resources found are fabulous and the competition for drilling rights is launching a new impulse for tensions or the need for new policies.

On March 30, 2013 Israel began pumping its first offshore natural gas to boost economic growth and transform the country’s energy security in coming years. The Tamar Gas Field is the largest privately funded infrastructure project in Israeli history. Situated about 90 km off the coast of Haifa in northern Israel, it began to flow via pipeline to an onshore terminal at Ashdod in southern Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, «We are taking an important step toward energy independence.» Discovered in 2009 (around 90 kilometers west of Haifa), it holds an estimated 8.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. There is also a larger, but still undeveloped, Leviathan, which boasts an estimated 16 to 18 trillion cubic feet of gas. The field is expected to go online in 2016, the time export sales are to start. Leviathan would hold enough reserves to supply Israel's gas needs for 100 years. The companies are studying options, including exporting liquefied natural gas, or export via a pipeline, to Jordan or Turkey. Russian energy state company Gazprom has shown interest in working with the consortium drilling off Israel’s coast.

The discoveries are just a portion of the huge reserves in the Levant Basin, which the United States Geological Survey estimated in 2010 holds some 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. Huge underwater gas deposits have been recently discovered between Cyprus and Israel, who are to develop them jointly. They have become close allies.

The recent discoveries of enormous oil and gas reserves in the little-explored Mediterranean Sea between Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, Syria and Lebanon suggest that the region could become literally a «new Persian Gulf». But there is a reverse side of the medal. New battles over rights to resources in the Levant Basin and Aegean Sea could spark tensions and military conflicts. Turkey insists the gas must be shared, it has sent ships to back its stance. Syria and Lebanon have their own claims. Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria are also advancing claims to the "Aphrodite" gas field off Cyprus…

Israel: hard choices
Before the finding, Israel was in a pretty fix. The Arab Spring toppled Mubarak, under whose regime Egypt had supplied some 40 per cent of Israeli natural gas. The gas pipeline from Egypt became the target of sabotage and disruptions. Now Israel is facing new challenges navigating the geopolitical quagmire. It still has not formulated an export policy and, probably, subsequent security arrangements.

Cooperating with Cyprus risks antagonizing Turkey. The neighboring Egypt and Jordan might provide opportunity, but there is some political risk. Europe is a potentially larger and more stable market, but reaching the continent is a logistical challenge. The most obvious route to Europe would be through Cyprus, then to Turkey. Cyprus fears that in case the alliance is renewed, Israel may instead opt to pipe its excess gas to Turkey directly to reach European markets. It would open the door to co-operation with Turkey, a large market and rising player on the global stage. A pipeline to Greece, connecting with Europe’s distribution system, would be longer, costlier and riskier. The demand in Europe is falling pulling prices lower. Exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to markets, where prices are high, would be an option. But it requires huge investments and a big coastal site. Israeli gas could be liquefied in Cyprus, but that would mean Israel ceding control. A floating LNG vessel, moored at the field, has also been mooted. The technology is new and, as yet, untested. Such a vessel would also be vulnerable to terrorism.

The maritime border between Lebanon and Israel is disputed. The Lebanese Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah poses a formidable threat. Last year it sent a drone deep into Israel, covering more than enough of the distance needed to reach some of the gas fields. The group, backed by Israel’s enemy Iran, also says its rocket arsenal has the range to hit anywhere in Israel, which indicates more sophisticated technology.

The Gaza Strip is ruled by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which has fired thousands of rockets into southern Israel. The platforms are within their range.

Actually the gas rigs are potentially vulnerable to attacks from the plethora of militant groups in Egypt, the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Sending gas to a processing plant in Egypt is an iffy undertaking because the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt is tenuous. There have already been at least a dozen pipeline attacks by militants in Egypt’s Sinai desert.

Still there also some opportunities at hand. Israel now has a stable source of energy to strengthen relationship with its neighbors, for instance it can provide energy to Jordan and Palestine. Jordan has also seen its gas supplies disrupted by the pipeline attacks in Egypt, it has to use oil to make electric plants run. So the country badly needs a stable source of energy. A peace agreement was signed between Jordan and Israel in 1994. A new impetus to commercial activities would help cement the peace.

A terrorist attack is dramatic with dire economic ramifications. It would hike the insurance rates to heights which would call into question the very feasibility of undertaking the project. It would undermine the will of foreign companies to do business in the area. The array of possible threats is impressive: boat bombs, drones, submarine vessels, rockets and missiles. The navy has adopted a theatre-wide defense, which entails the combining of intelligence, control, reconnaissance and physical presence. The service seeks to acquire four offshore patrol vessels that would serve as the backbone for the maritime defense strategy. The cost is $3 billion and it takes time to put them into operation. The construction will take over four years. The vessels are going to be cutting-edge platforms armed with the famous Iron Dome, Barak anti-ship missiles, the Vulcan Phalanx CIWS, a helicopter and other up-to-date systems.

Along with tasking the navy, Israel applies efforts to involve other countries into security arrangements. It would be propitious to remember that Greece and Israel signed a defense pact in September 2011. Although the terms of the Israeli-Greek mutual defence pact are not public, it is believed to include the protection of Cyprus’ military infrastructure. This provision may be regarded as an element of a more extended defense structure. Another is the cooperation agreement between the Greek and Israeli air forces, which have engaged in planning and exercises. These are the steps to build a solid basis. Israel, Cyprus and Greece have been holding intensive talks in recent months at the prime ministers’, ministerial, and chiefs-of-staff levels on offshore gas projects and regional security.

In March 2013 Israeli, Greek and US warships began a joint two-week Mediterranean naval exercise codenamed "Noble Dina". For several years, Israel and the US had carried out naval manoeuvres with Turkey, but in September 2011 Ankara suspended military cooperation with the Jewish state. Now the events have other participants. Obviously the Noble Dina's exercise is designed in part to practice defending offshore gas rigs. In November last year Israeli and US troops concluded a major missile defence exercise lasting more than three weeks and involving 3,500 personnel from the US European Command and 1,000 Israeli troops.

Other actors
Turkey is dependent on imports for 91 per cent of its oil and 98 per cent of its natural gas. It disputes Cyprus’s rights to develop its Exclusive Economic Zone (offshore rights up to 200 nautical miles). The country is not a party to the Law of the Sea treaty. Turkey claims the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state unrecognized internationally, is entitled to a share of the riches. At the same time, it is the only country in the world that doesn’t recognize the state of Cyprus, an EU member. The Cyprus plans to start gas extraction are seen as a hostile action. Turkey has deployed war ships and jet fighters to the area, and engages in retaliatory gas exploration off the south coast of Cyprus. In March this year it suspended projects started with Eni over the participation of the Italian oil group in an exploration project of gas reserves off Cyprus, which Ankara opposes in a dispute on territorial waters. Greece is a party to the Law of the Sea but it never claimed an Exclusive Economic Zone in the Mediterranean because of Turkey’s threats to start war if it did.

As diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey have started to thaw recently, Taner Yildiz, the Turkish energy minister, said his country would be open to the construction of a pipeline to distribute Israel’s newly discovered gas. According to him, a pipeline project between the two countries is a possibility. Ankara is keen to become an energy hub for the region. The announcement follows the above mentioned Israel’s apology to Turkey. Still, the difference on the Palestinian issue is emphasized while the gas prospects are tackled. At the same time, the both countries have important mutual interests, along with energy. They both have borders with Syria and oppose the Syrian incumbent government. Also, the both are allies of the United States, and Washington is strongly pushing for rapprochement. Will economic pragmatism prevail, or geopolitical considerations will make Turkey a spoiler, remains to be seen.

Lebanon. The discovery of Leviathan by Israel in the waters offshore immediately triggered a new geopolitical conflict as Lebanon claimed that part of the gas field lay in Lebanese waters. Lebanon delivered maps to the UN to back its claim, to which Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman retorted, «We won’t give an inch». The fact is that Israel, like the United States, has never ratified the 1982 UN Convention on Law of the Sea dividing world subsea mineral rights. The gas wells at Leviathan are clearly within undisputed Israeli territory, but Lebanon says the field extends over into its subsea waters. Hezbollah claims that the Tamar gas field belongs to Lebanon. Cyprus has offered to mediate between Lebanon and Israel over a maritime border dispute, but has received no response from either side so far. Lebanon says that the bilateral agreement signed in 2010 between Cyprus and Israel and ratified a year later conflicts with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It demands that it be amended in accordance with international laws that govern the demarcation of maritime borders among states. Israel insists that its undersea oil development projects are all in its territorial waters. Both Israel and Lebanon have trillions of cubic feet of underwater natural gas and can benefit tremendously from these resources. However, the problem remains that they need the UN assistance to demarcate the boundary line. Such a process usually occurs through bilateral negotiation or mutually agreed arbitration; however, such an opportunity is missing because the two states are still in a state of war. So far the Israel and Lebanon have dealt with the issue brandishing arms without showing any will to find a mutually advantageous solution.

Cyprus had traditionally sided with the Palestinians and looked apprehensively at Israel building military and trade relations with rival Turkey. It’s all has changed now. The country is involved in working out plans on exploiting the reserves jointly with Israel. One option is to pipe the gas to Cyprus, where it could be processed for export to Europe and beyond. The Israel-Turkey rapprochement is on the minds of Cypriot authorities as future gas revenues are seen as the country’s best hope to overcome the financial morass it has plunged into. Cyprus has looked to Israel to pool their respective gas finds in order to build a gas-processing facility on the island. The United Nations, which supervises a buffer zone between the north and south, has hailed the gas discoveries as a way of generating wealth that could finance a reunification of Cyprus. But there are fears it may turn the other way around and lead to a greater conflict between the island’s two parts. The United States has established its regional headquarters for a new Bureau of Energy Resources in Cyprus. Washington has strongly supported the right of the recognized government of Cyprus to drill in its waters. The US and the EU could have mediated to make a sensible arrangement between southern Cyprus and the Turkish neighbors. But they don’t.

Greece stands to become a major European hub for these energy finds, and longs to develop resources of its own in Greek waters to the west of Cyprus. The hopes are high that Greece could eradicate its debt by exploiting its Mediterranean hydrocarbons. The Greek government openly announces its intention to establish an Exclusive Economic Zone in the Mediterranean. Israel has published a map of a proposed Israel - Cyprus - Greece natural gas pipeline, which follows a route within delineated Greek and Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zones to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas to Greece and then to markets in Italy and Germany. Preliminary estimates show that total offshore oil in Greek waters exceeds 22 billion barrels in the Ionian Sea off western Greece and some 4 billion barrels in the northern Aegean Sea. The exploitation of the reserves already discovered could bring the country more than €302 billion over 25 years. Even if only a fraction of that is available, it would transform the economy Greece and the entire region making it independent from the World Bank and the IMF yoke.

Egypt and Syria are too busy tackling internal problems. Egypt is the second African gas producer with 77 trillion proven reserves. The political instability makes question its reliability as provider, exploration efforts are winding down, security problem coming to surface. Exploration is practically sustained in Syria. There is no sea border delineated between Syria and Cyprus to complicate thing in future. But someday the two will become players in the game. Interesting to note that in July 2011, Syria, Iran and Iraq signed a $10 billion agreement for a gas pipeline from Iran’s Port Assalouyeh near South Pars to Damascus, Syria via Iraq. Iran plans to extend the pipeline from Damascus to Lebanon’s Mediterranean port where it would be delivered to EU markets. Could it have a relation to the ongoing war in Syria is everyone’s guess. Perhaps it gives some clue to understanding the anti-Syrian stance of Qatar, the largest gas exporter.

Chance of naval conflict
A naval conflict is hardly meets the objectives of any state involved. But as history shows, an accidental naval skirmish may lead to a big fire. Dangerous maneuvering may be viewed as a provocation worth of response, especially against the background of exercises. The multinational drills are much more preferable from this point of view. But the trend is not on the rise. Turkey never held joint maneuvers with Israel since 2009. Israel has not taken part in joined naval exercises since 2006, except two large scale drills with the United States. Small navies of Lebanon, Cyprus and Syria have no rich experience of international combined training events.

Russia’s stance on the issue

Israel and Cyprus view Russia as a provider of expertise and the source of potential political support. Not once the Russian Federation has made known its stance that presupposed that Cyprus is a state which has a right for exploration within the boundaries of its exclusive economic zone. The countries in dispute over oil and gas exploration offshore Cyprus should comply with a United Nations convention on the Law of the Sea, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after a meeting with Cypriot President Demetris Christofias in New York in September 2011. Back then he clearly defined the Russia’s stance by adding, «We hope and encourage all parties involved to refrain from any steps that could worsen the situation and encourage everyone to remain within the legal framework of the Law of the Sea».

After a long period, Moscow has returned to the Mediterranean as a sea power. In 2011 it conducted a naval exercise exceeding in scope any training activity since the days of the Soviet Union. The last large-scale drill took place in January 2013 and involved over 20 combat surface ships and submarines from three operational fleets. «We are not interested in even more destabilization in the Mediterranean region, and our fleet's presence there is certainly a factor stabilizing the situation», Lavrov said at a press conference summing up 2012 events on January 23. «Certainly, we will continue to respond to unfriendly moves but the core of our position is the readiness to develop Russian-U.S. relations in all areas and the interest in coordinated actions on the international scene based on equality, mutual respect for interests and non-interference in each other's internal affairs», the Minister said. The US supports the Cyprus exploration rights too and sees eye to eye with Russia concerning the UN mediation to restore the unity of the island. Perhaps, this is an example of promising prospects for Russia-US cooperation, the both parties talked about during the recent April 14-15 visit to Moscow paid by US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.

On February 26 a subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom signed a 20-year deal with Levant LNG Marketing Corp. to exclusively purchase liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Israel’s Tamar offshore gas field in the Mediterranean. Gazprom wants to build up its LNG trading business to diversify away from traditional European customers receiving natural gas via pipelines… The Tamar floating LNG project will produce gas from the Tamar and Dalit gas fields off Israel’s east Mediterranean coast. The project is being implemented by the Tamar upstream consortium.

* * *

The gas discoveries are stirring regional turmoil and are provoking different reactions from all the players in the Eastern Mediterranean The situation could be much better in case Israel and Lebanon came to accord on sea border lines, the divided Cyprus found a way to share the newly found riches, Israel and Turkey concluded an international sea incidents prevention agreement. But the time to act is now. When gas flows reach the international markets, probably, later this year, the divisions may exacerbate. Of course, it remains within each state’s authority to defend its rights within its own exclusive economic zone which should be fixed based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. But all the problems of the region: gas wells, cannon boat diplomacy, Arab-Israeli conflict, the status of divided island of Cyprus, the Syrian civil war - all are closely intertwined and related to core national interests of the countries involved. One issue cannot be separated from another. An outside moderator is an imperative. No way could it be done by some mighty outside player like the USA. It’s the mission of the UN as a decision maker to step in and involve the states, that have national interest in the region, as contributors. The time is right to call for a regional conference sponsored by the United Nations with the main task of making negotiations possible between Lebanon and Israel as well as between the Turks and Greeks in Cyprus. International negotiation and arbitration is the way to tackle the complex issues of the region’s newly found wealth."

miércoles, 24 de abril de 2013

Obituario: Margarita

En horas en que la progresía argentina lucha denodadamente por salvar la República, en momentos en que tipos como los radicales (gente que básicamente cree que los dineros públicos salen de un cajón del ropero) resucitan inmerecidamente para hablar de las Instituciones y de la Independencia de Poderes, en instantes en los cuales El Hugo converge con la Sociedad Rural, en horas en que Mauricio pone caritas severas, en que Francisco y De La Sota planean el festín de los cuervos, en que Pino y Lilita le ponen seriedad a la cosa, en fin, en horas en que al argentino promedio se le oculta, como siempre, lo que está pasando en el mundo, encontramos una perlita perdida, un obituario tardío, si se quiere, pero tan actual que no nos resistimos a postearlo. Margareth Thatcher. Margarita y el declive de Occidente. El artículo es de Webster Tarpley y fue publicado ayer en el sitio iraní PressTV. 
Título: Margareth Thatcher and the Decline of the West.

Texto: “She imposed a series of brutal budget cuts, the most infamous of which was the abolition of a program left over from the Great Depression, which guaranteed a daily pint of milk to schoolchildren between the ages of seven and eleven.

This was a program which had done much good in the poorer mining, industrial, and farming towns and villages of Wales, Scotland, and the north of England, where vitamin deficiency diseases like rickets and pellagra had been an immense public health problem.

But for Thatcher, that daily pint of milk was the essence of communism, a violation of the free market. The milk distributions were stopped. Since then, Thatcher has been hated by all Britons of goodwill, and since then her nickname has been “Thatcher milk snatcher.” This is the epitaph which should be inscribed on her tomb.

The Romans had a saying, “De mortuis nihil nisi bonum” - say nothing but good things about the dead. It is good advice, but in the face of certain enormous crimes against humanity, it cannot be honored. Such is the case of Margaret Thatcher.

Thatcher offers one of the most egregious cases in recent history of a sociopath in power. She can be seen as the mother, or at least as the grandmother, of the world economic depression which broke out in 2007-2008. Thatcher was a fanatical apostle of the economic theories of the Austrian school ideologue Friedrich von Hayek and especially of Hayek’s 1944 screed, The Road to Serfdom, a raving attack on the highly successful economic methods of the Franklin D. Roosevelt New Deal in the United States. On at least one occasion, Thatcher is known to have brandished a copy of Hayek’s scribblings as her personal holy book.

Hayek had started after World War I as a hack writer in the pay of rent-gouging Viennese landlords who wanted propaganda articles condemning the evils of rent control. He was considered a very marginal academic, almost a crackpot, until he attracted the attention of economic illiterate David Rockefeller, who hired Hayek to help him in cramming for exams at the London School of Economics.

Hayek, like his co-thinker Ludwig von Mises, was an exponent of the backward and primitive Austrian school of economic theory, which had been concocted by feudal-reactionary quackademics in the Habsburg empire to undercut the prestigious German-American school of dirigism and protectionism exemplified by figures like Friedrich List, one of the main inspirations for the recent economic success of places like Japan, Taiwan, and China.

For the Austrian school, any government intervention in or regulation of economic life is automatically classed as totalitarianism. The Austrian school relies on crude slogans of deregulation, privatization, and the free market. The Austrian school is sometimes called the psychological school, since it rejects as collectivist analyses which tried to grasp the broad objectivity of a national economy. The theoretical vantage point of the Austrian school is always the sociopathic urges and desires of the individual predatory speculator.

Austrianism is therefore much inferior to the deeply flawed neo-Keynesian synthesis, which tends to reproduce the outlook of central bankers. The Austrians are even more inferior in comparison to the American System, which has its central focus in the development of the modern labor force.

Before Thatcher, the strange beliefs of figures like von Mises and von Hayek - such as their demand that government must never lift a finger to prevent or mitigate a devastating economic depression - meant that they were not presentable in polite society. If an economist claimed that a pint of milk for school children was the leading edge of Bolshevism, most people concluded that such an economist needed to be committed to a mental institution. If such an economist insisted on this point, he risked being reminded that Hitler and the Nazis had been long since swept into the garbage can of history.

Margaret Thatcher changed all that. The overall impact of her political career has been a radical degradation of the universe of economic discourse of the Western world in the direction of ideas seen in the 1950s and 60s as hopelessly reactionary, or even psychotic. In this sense, Thatcher can be classed as the unifying symbol of a retrograde cultural paradigm shift, not just in Europe and the United States, but worldwide - especially when the influence of her signature monetarist/neoliberal economics on the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and similar institutions is taken into account.

The austerity policies today ravaging Europe under the auspices of the IMF, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission would be simply unthinkable without the massive wave of economic ignorance and barbarism unleashed by Thatcher.

A Creature of Lord Victor Rothschild

The legend of Thatcher portrays her as a self-made woman, a greengrocer’s daughter from Grantham. In reality, the emergence of Thatcher was the work of a formidable political syndicate. One of Thatcher’s most important handlers was by any measure Lord Victor Rothschild (1910-1990), the third Baron Rothschild. Lord Vic was nominally a Labour peer in the House of Lords, but much of his influence derived from his work between 1963 and 1970 as worldwide head of “research” - meaning intelligence - for Royal Dutch Shell, the policy flagship of the seven sisters oil cartel. During much of this time, Lord Vic was a key security adviser to Thatcher. For a number of years Lord Vic also ran the Central Policy Review Staff, the de facto think tank of the British government. Lord Vic was also closely associated with Sir Keith Joseph, a Tory government minister and Thatcher’s top political brain truster.

Thatcher was for many years elected to parliament from the safe Conservative seat of Finchley. However, intelligence reports from the 1980s sometimes noted that Thatcher’s hold on this rotten borough or pocket borough had been consolidated with decisive help from Lord Vic.

Thatcher’s Gurus: Sir Alfred Sherman and Sir Keith Joseph

Another key Svengali for Thatcher was Sir Alfred Sherman, who had fought as a communist volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, but had been followed the typical neocon pattern of evolution towards reactionary ideas. Sir Alfred had been a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Sherman joined with Sir Keith Joseph and Thatcher in 1974 to found the Center for Policy Studies, and soon went on to play a key role in the Conservative Philosophy Group, which elaborated the ideology later known as Thatcherism. This was basically Austrianism with adjustments for the specific conditions of 1970s Britain.

Sir Alfred facilitated Thatcher’s transformation from an obscure backbencher to shadow Prime Minister for the Tories. Thatcher paid tribute to him in 2005, recalling that “We could never have defeated socialism if it hadn’t been for Sir Alfred.” But Sherman sometimes fail to conceal the true brutality of Thatcherism. On one occasion he told a Soviet journalist, “As for the Lumpenproletariat, colored people and the Irish, let’s face it, the only way to hold them in check is to have enough well armed and properly trained police.”

Sir Alfred also helps us to understand the real relation between Thatcher and her handlers. After Thatcher had lost power, he said of her: “Lady Thatcher is great theater as long as someone else is writing her lines; she hasn’t got a clue.” And indeed, much of Thatcher’s political career can be reduced to the obsessive parroting of not more than half a dozen primitive slogans, but with devastating effect.

Sir Keith Joseph, the son of a rich Tory grandee and Lord Mayor of London, had long held that figures like Heath were not nearly reactionary enough. Indeed, Sir Keith and not Thatcher might have become prime minister for the Tories, had it not been for one fateful outburst. Reading a 1974 speech written for him by Sir Alfred Sherman, Joseph added his observation is that, as a result of teen pregnancies among the lower orders of British society, “our human stock is threatened.”

This sounded very much like Nazi eugenics, and essentially disqualified Sir Keith from ever reaching number 10 Downing Street. Instead, both Joseph and Sherman focused their energies on installing Maggie in that post. Later, Joseph would become a point man in efforts to bust the teachers’ union, levy tuition fees for higher education, and radically cut the salaries of teachers and professors. Thus the note of brutal social Darwinism announced by Sir Keith remained throughout as a constant of Thatcher. Sir Keith also pioneered deindustrialization as an active government policy. When some Tories wanted to rebuild and modernize the shipyards on the Mersey River in Liverpool, Sir Keith argued instead for a “managed rundown.” Industrial demontage was another hallmark of Thatcherism.

Another secret of Thatcher’s success was the shameless use of advertising and marketing. Some of this was copied from American methods going back to Richard Nixon, but Thatcher elevated the demagogy of mass manipulation to an entirely new level. In her 1979 and 1983 campaigns, Thatcher relied on the Saatchi and Saatchi PLC advertising agency, which had been founded by two Iraqi Jewish brothers. The Saatchis were responsible for Conservative party advertising which claimed that “Labour isn’t working.” Based on the reputation this firm acquired through a helping Thatcher to her early victories, Saatchi and Saatchi became for a time the largest advertising agency in the world. Maurice Saatchi, now a member of the House of Lords, was made the chairman of the Conservative party.

However, even with this extensive support network, it is not clear that Thatcher ever received the support of a majority of British voters. Her ceiling seems to have been between 40 and 45%, which translated into a majority in the House of Commons only because of the British “first past the post” or winner-take-all system in each election district.

Before they were willing to accept the degradation of Thatcherism, the British people had to be softened up by many years of crisis. No country suffered more from the fake 1973 oil shock than Britain. There was a period of mass strike captivity in which the British labor movement proved it could paralyze the government, but also proved that it was incapable of seizing power and solving the main problems of society. In 1974, electric current and heating were often interrupted, and conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath put the nation on a three-day week. As I wrote about this phase in Surviving the Cataclysm, “the Sick Man of Europe appeared destined to sink beneath the waters of the North Sea, with journalists asking front-page questions like ‘Is Britain Dying?’”

Thatcher Filled the Post-Keynesian Void with Barbarism

It was good luck for Thatcher and her gang that this crisis then had to be administered by the Labour Party government of James Callaghan. The crisis of British society in the middle 1970s had an ideological as well as a practical impact. As I wrote in Surviving the Cataclysm:

“this crisis is associated with the abandonment of Keynesian economics by the British Labour Party, and by extension by the center-left around the world. At the Labour Party conference of September 1976, Callaghan remarked that ‘we used to think that you could just spend your way out of a recession… I tell you, in all candor, that the option no longer exists and that in so far as it ever did exist, it only worked… by injecting bigger doses of inflation into the economy, followed by higher levels of unemployment.’ According to one British commentator, these were the ‘words which effectively buried Keynes.’ The liquidation of Keynes left the field dominated by the primitive Viennese monetarism of von Hayek and the even more primitive monetarism of Milton Friedman and his Chicago School. Callaghan himself would soon be supplanted by Thatcher.”

In this new atmosphere, Thatcher’s governing team was full of monetarists or neoliberal ideologues who could pretend to be professing a new economic theory, rather than simply repackaging a set of cruel and stupid doctrines which had been discredited in the 1930s. This applied to figures like Norman Tebbitt, Nigel Lawson, and Norman Fowler.

Keynes had recommended a mild inflation as a cure for depression. Thatcher demanded the opposite: she wanted to bring on a depression in order to cure inflation. Inflation is a complaint of the rich, who feel that the purchasing power of their cash horde is being diminished. Deflationary depression means unemployment, and this is the scourge of people who need to work for a living. Thatcher proceeded to apply the monetarist recipe with a vengeance, following Milton Friedman’s dumbed-down version of Austrianism. Since Friedman had taught that inflation is a purely monetary phenomenon, Thatcher collapsed the British money supply in a massive exercise of deflation. The value of the British pound soared, and anyone who had any debt was crushed.

Thatcher Caused the British Deflationary Depression of 1979-81

Under Callaghan, unemployment had stood at one million. Thatcher managed to double this to over 2 million in short order. It is estimated that in the early years of Thatcherism no fewer than 2 million manufacturing jobs were permanently destroyed in Britain, and the overall level of industrial production and manufacturing output was reduced by one third. The destruction of domestic export industry was helped by the grotesquely overvalued pound. But the City of London banks were able to use the overvalued pound to buy up assets all around the world at a discount. Unfortunately for Great Britain is a nation, a massive balance of payments crisis ensued.

A constant feature of Thatcherism was the desire to shift the burden of taxation from the wealthy to the middle class, working people, and the poor. This was done through the use of regressive taxation. One such regressive tax was the value-added tax or VAT, which Thatcher raised to 15%. Real unemployment is thought to have reached as many as 5 million persons during this phase.

By 1981, there were riots in Brixton near Lambeth in south London which were widely attributed to unemployment and despair. Contemporary observers had the impression that the entire social fabric of the British Isles was being destroyed. People who might feel attracted to the rhetoric of Ron Paul and Rand Paul need to be reminded that the essential program of Austro-libertarians of this ilk is precisely to induce a massive deflationary depression along the lines of Thatcher’s infamous handiwork. The goal is to shift more wealth to those who already have it.

Traditional politicians have promised to raise the standard of living like putting a chicken in every pot. Thatcher, by contrast, was able to have a homeless person living in almost every doorway in the British Isles. Recipients of social welfare payments (“the dole”) saw their benefits gouged and were put under a slave labor or workfare regime, based on earlier US models.

Some of the less radical members of the British ruling elite now began to have second thoughts about Thatcher’s ideological fanaticism. Thatcher called these figures “The Wets,” and always suggested their main issue was the resentment of leaders who had been prominent under Heath. Lord Carrington and Lord Thorneycroft went to Thatcher in 1981 and demanded that she resign, since her economic policies were manifestly a failure. Thatcher’s response was her trademark demagogy about the need to “stay the course” and her lunatic cry that “the lady’s not for turning.”

Thatcher Saved By 1982 War with Argentina

In spite of her bluster, Thatcher would not have survived much longer in office without the Falklands or Malvinas war with Argentina in the spring of 1982. There are indications that Thatcher lured the inept ruling junta in Buenos Aires into grabbing these islands in the South Atlantic. With different tactics, Argentina could probably have administered the British fleet a crushing defeat, but incompetent counsels prevailed. The British could never have taken back the islands without comprehensive logistical and other support from the United States. This was a moment of great shame for Washington, since according to John Quincy Adam’s Monroe Doctrine, these islands were an integral part of Argentina and the United States was duty bound to oppose the British aggression.

The US had also pledged to defend Argentina under the Rio Pact. But this meant nothing to General Al Haig and the somnambulist Ronald Reagan, who did everything possible to help Thatcher. Thatcher proclaimed that she had overcome the “Suez syndrome” of 1956, meaning that Britain was back as an aggressive imperialist power. Based on chauvinist hysteria around the Malvinas, Thatcher was able to win the 1983 general election, even though she got only 42.4% of the votes.

Thatcher’s foreign policy as carried out by Lord Geoffrey Howe was worthy of the mythical reactionary Colonel Blimp. Thatcher was a great admirer of the Chilean fascist Augusto Pinochet, whose Friedmanite economic policies were essentially identical to her own. She considered Nelson Mandela as a dangerous communist, and did everything possible to prevent economic sanctions from being imposed on apartheid South Africa by the British Commonwealth. This brought her into bitter conflict with Commonwealth leaders like Rajiv Gandhi of India and Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia. But Thatcher took the lead in promoting USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev as a man she could do business. Later, Thatcher would gloat over the destruction of Soviet power to which she had contributed.

Thatcher’s racist and jingoistic Little England foreign policy also earned her the enmity of Queen Elizabeth II, who had her vast empire to look after. When Thatcher was denied an honorary degree by Oxford, and when she was criticized by the Church of England, it is safe to assume that those two pillars of the establishment were acting according to the wishes of Buckingham Palace. A political cartoon dating back to one of Thatcher’s elections showed Queen Elizabeth as a Labour Party agitator in the streets screaming “Tories out!”

But Thatcher’s electoral fortunes were also helped by extensive bombing campaigns by the Irish Republican Army, and organization now known to have been thoroughly penetrated and decisively influenced by British intelligence. When the IRA bombed Thatcher’s hotel in Brighton in October 1984, the Iron Lady launched a new campaign of antiterrorist posturing.

But a great event of Thatcher’s second term in office was her systematic destruction of the miners’ union during the course of a one-year strike in 1984-85. By crushing the militant miners of the National Union of Mineworkers under Arthur Scargill, Thatcher was able to put the entire British labor movement permanently onto the defensive. Thatcher destroyed not only the miners’ union, but put the entire British re-privatized coal mining industry (previously nationalized between 1946 and 1987 as the National Coal Board) on the path to extinction.

Great Britain has been described as an island of coal surrounded by a sea of fish, but Thatcher’s monetarism in service to the financial parasites of the city of London basically wiped out both mining and commercial fisheries. The conclusion is that Thatcher wanted to destroy the unions as a possible platform of mass resistance against the rule of financial oligarchs, and also welcomed the end of industrial capitalists as another group who might oppose the City of London. Britain today is a postindustrial rubble field and junkyard, largely thanks to Thatcher.

Deindustrialization through Deregulation and Privatization

Throughout her time in office, Thatcher mercilessly sought to privatize British government assets, generally selling them off to wealthy Tory clients at bargain basement prices. In addition to the National Coal Board, she also returned British Telecom to the private sector, and set into motion the process which has led to the disastrous re-privatization of British Rail.

By the end of Thatcher’s term in office, when the Chunnel or tunnel under the English Channel was nearing completion, British industrial capabilities were so weak that the London government experienced tremendous difficulty in providing a short Channel Tunnel Rail Link between London and Folkstone-Dover. Observers on the continent joked that Britain from an industrial point of view had become impotent, isolated, and irrelevant.

Thatcher was unable to privatize or abolish the British National Health Service, but she did everything possible to cripple it by drastic spending cuts which cost many lives. Labour MP Glenda Jackson has commented on the tragic state of British hospitals during the Thatcher regime.

In line with her crackpot ideology, Thatcher also fomented a reckless and irresponsible process of deregulation. One of the centerpieces of this was the 1986 “Big Bang” or complete deregulation of the London financial markets. This involved a transition from open outcry trading pits to screen-based trading, but it made London the wild West for derivatives swindles. From this point on, the British regulatory regime was even weaker than the US one. But, precisely because of this lax oversight, predatory bankers, hedge fund hyenas, and other shady enterprises crowded into London, making a success of real estate developments like Canary Wharf.

Mad Cow Disease Courtesy of Thatcher

Thatcher’s deregulation push also had very sinister consequences in the intermediate run. Thatcher was convinced that British farmers were being needlessly harassed by nosy agricultural inspectors, so she slashed that form of oversight as well. In the opinion of some informed observers, the worldwide epidemic of so-called Mad Cow disease (or BSE) can be traced back to abuses which flourished under Thatcher’s practically nonexistent regulatory regime in the British beef industry. Once again, producers paid the price: exports of British beef to the European Union were banned from March 1996 to May 2006.

Like Beppe Grillo today, Thatcher also waged war against local governments she did not like because they were controlled by the Labour Party and opposed her policies. Thatcher’s campaign to destroy the Labour-dominated Greater London Council was a case in point. Thatcher alleged that these local governments were expensive playgrounds for the “loony left.” She also targeted the local governments of Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham/Coventry, Leeds, and other working-class cities.

Thatcher also cultivated an atmosphere of hatred against continental Europe. She claimed that socialism had been defeated in Britain, but could always make a comeback through the machinations of the European super-state emerging in Brussels. In reality, Thatcher was able to cripple the European project by thoroughly infecting it with her primitive and barbaric economic methods, which came to dominate the European Commission and the European Central Bank, supplanting earlier and more effective approaches based on Catholic social thought and social democratic pro-worker thinking. One of Thatcher’s ministers was the infamous Nicholas Ridley, who responded to the collapse of the East German communist regime with chauvinist-inflammatory propaganda warning of the reemergence of a “Fourth Reich.” Today’s US-UK attack on the euro is built on this foundation.

Thatcher’s Downfall: The Regressive Poll Tax

Thatcher set herself up to be ousted through her fanatical ideological commitment to regressive taxation, meaning in practice the redistribution of wealth from the middle class, working people, and the poor to the rich and super rich who were the beneficiaries of her system. The experience of human society shows that regressive taxes, where everyone pays the same amount, cut heavily into the necessities of the poor and the amenities of the middle class, while hardly touching the sybaritic luxuries of the rich. Proportional taxes do the same thing: this applies especially to sales taxes and to Thatcher’s value-added tax (VAT). The only acceptable tax is a progressive tax, which increases its percentage bite as income rises from affluent to rich to super-rich. Those with the greatest ability to pay should contribute most.

One of the worst imaginable taxes is a lump-sum poll tax, formerly used in the American South as a subterfuge to prevent poor black people from voting. In 1990, Thatcher wanted to favor her wealthy backers by switching from local property taxes based on the value of real estate owned to a lump-sum property tax that would fall equally on rich and poor. Thatcher’s poll tax was designed to hit 35 million people, rather than the 18 million who had been paying the property tax. This openly regressive and reactionary tax was tremendously unpopular, and it hit many households which had been supporting Thatcher and the Tories. Soon public opinion surveys showed Thatcher almost 19 points behind the Labour Party.

Thatcher Pushed Bush into War with Iraq

Thatcher may have seen the handwriting on the wall, and may have tried to save herself with yet another war. When the regime of Bush the Elder in the United States had lured Saddam Hussein into occupying Kuwait, the Thatcher regime was the first to demand a military counterattack against the Iraqis based on Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter. Thatcher’s admirers claim that her desire for war with Iraq was far greater than that of the outwardly wimpy President George Herbert Walker Bush. After a key Anglo-American summit at the beginning of this crisis, press leaks inspired by Thatcher suggested that Bush - perhaps still frightened by the fate of LBJ in Vietnam - had begun to “go wobbly” on the military mobilization, and that Thatcher had been forced to carry out an emergency backbone transplant on the president.

What followed was Operation Desert Shield, the deployment of immense NATO military resources into Saudi Arabia. But since the bombing did not start until the middle of January, Thatcher’s hopes for a quick new Malvinas were in vain. Instead, in early November 1990, Lord Geoffrey Howe - a loyalist who had now gone over to the Wets - resigned from her government. Soon, Thatcher faced a challenge from Tory leader Michael “Tarzan” Heseltine. When this challenge revealed the extent of hatred against Thatcher, the Iron Lady finally quit.

Thatcher Claimed “There Is No Such Thing as Society”

One of Thatcher’s most infamous slogans was in that “there is no such thing as society.” This is because, under Austrian school doctrine, economics does not involve an objective worldwide productive process based on a worldwide division of labor, but rather studies the subjective individual psychological choices of predatory speculators. This is also what Ron Paul and Rand Paul believe. There is no society, since there are only discrete alienated individuals competing with each other. Thatcher was also convinced that money, not skilled labor, modern factories, or state-of-the-art infrastructure was the metaphysical representation of wealth. With Thatcherism, market fetishism, money fetishism and general alienation were more intense than hitherto observed.

Thatcher was, despite her chauvinist bluster, a determined enemy of the modern nation state. She was especially hated in Scotland, the site of so many industrial bankruptcies caused by her. Because of this pervasive hatred, the British Conservative Party was fatally weakened in Scotland, with the Scottish National Party and others filling the void. The ability of the British establishment to foment a separatist movement of dupes in Scotland at the present time is the direct consequence of the economic devastation wrought under Thatcher.

The general line of the Anglo-American intelligence establishment, as seen in Iraq, Sudan, and Serbia and planned for many other countries, is the creation of micro-states, mini-states, rump states, failed states, and warlords through the actions of secessionist movements and other vehicles. None of these impotent and squabbling petty entities will have any hope of resisting the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the leading multinational corporations. Thatcherite economics has thus prepared a new round of anti-national subversion a quarter-century after she left government.

As we can see in this case of Scottish secessionism, the British establishment habitually uses the British Isles as a kind of show window for the policies which it wants to inflict on the rest of the world, with special regard for the United States. That was also true of Thatcher herself, who was used as a prototype for the Reagan regime in the United States. Thatcher’s mantra of deregulation, privatization, market fetishism, union busting, colonial aggression, and general sociopathic outlook was wholly taken over by the reactionary actor in the White House.

Thatcher’s Key Role in the Decline of the West

For almost half a century after 1933, the Franklin D. Roosevelt New Deal provided the model for public institutions and policy in the United States, Western Europe, Japan, and in much of the world. The New Deal state was highly successful, withstanding challenges from economic depression, fascism and communism, while unlocking the secrets of the atom, and inaugurating the era of manned space travel. But the oligarchical elites of the Western world always resented the New Deal because it placed limits on their boundless greed and lust for arbitrary power and status. As the Soviet challenge receded, these oligarchical elites began using the methods of deregulation and privatization to dismantle the New Deal institutions.

After Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger had in 1971 wantonly deregulated the highly successful Bretton Woods economic system set up in 1944, the time was ripe for a demagogic ideologue of oligarchical privilege to emerge. That demagogue was Thatcher. Her career has unquestionably marked the beginning of a new phase of the decline of the West. Whether Thatcher’s sociopathic handiwork can be rolled back and her damage undone is the question which remains to be answered.”

Hasta la próxima.

martes, 23 de abril de 2013


A propósito de los tiempos que corren (en Libia, en Siria, en Irak, en Corea, en Venezuela, en…), reproducimos un reciente artículo de Jean-Claude Paye y Tülay Umay en Red Voltaire ( La traducción al español del artículo lleva el siguiente título: "El linchamiento de Gaddafi: Imagen del sacrificio humano y regreso a la barbarie”. Preferimos el título en inglés: “The Lynching of Mouamar Gaddafi: The Cult of Killing and the Symbolic Order of Western Barbarism”. Los lectores de este blog se indignarán, probablemente, con las referencias al magnicidio de Muhammad Gaddafi como "síntoma de un regreso a una sociedad matriarcal". En fin, esta noche no le peguen a la vieja. Acá va la nota:

“La exhibición de las imágenes del linchamiento de Muammar el-Kadhafi ilustra la verdadera entraña de nuestras sociedades, nos paralizan y nos conminan a deponer las armas. Ese sacrificio es síntoma de un regreso a una sociedad matriarcal, a un «estado natural». Al paralizarnos en una violencia sacralizada, esas imágenes nos demuestran que el Imperio estadounidense constituye una regresión inédita en la historia de la humanidad. Nos demuestran también que el objetivo de esta no es sólo la conquista de un objeto, ni el saqueo del petróleo y de los fondos libios sino también, como en la época de las cruzadas, la destrucción de un orden simbólico en provecho de una máquina de producir beneficios, de un capitalismo desencadenado.

En el momento de la difusión de las imágenes del linchamiento de Muammar el-Gaddafi, nuestros dirigentes dieron muestras de un extraño placer. «Strange Fruit» [1], dichas imágenes traen de inmediato a la mente el recuerdo de otras, las del ahorcamiento de Sadam Husein, ejecutado precisamente el día del Aid al-Adha, la fiesta musulmana del sacrificio. Ambos casos nos sumergen en una estructura religiosa que, al sustituir el sacrificio del carnero [2] por el sacrificio humano, restaura la imagen primitiva de la diosa-Madre. Invierte además el Antiguo Testamento y anula el acto de la palabra. Esta religión sin Libro se reduce al fetiche [3]. Carece de Otro y de Ley. Es una simple invitación al disfrute de la muerte como espectáculo.

Gracias a la imagen, la voluntad de poderío se hace ilimitada. La transgresión deja de tener límites, como en el rito del sacrificio, en el espacio y el tiempo y se hace constante. Se hace eco de la violación permanente del orden del derecho proveniente del acto fundador de los atentados del 11 de septiembre de 2011.

Encerrados en la tragedia

La manera como fue tratado el cuerpo de Muammar el-Gaddafi revela la tragedia vivida por el pueblo libio. Su cadáver fue objeto de un doble tratamiento excepcional, de una violación doble del orden simbólico en el que se insertaba esa sociedad. En vez de ser inhumado el día mismo de su muerte, como lo exige el rito musulmán, su cadáver se mantuvo expuesto a las miradas de los curiosos durante 4 días, en un frigorífico. Esta exhibición fue seguida de su enterramiento en un lugar secreto, a pesar del pedido que su esposa había hecho llegar a la ONU de que le fuese entregado el cuerpo.

Esa doble decisión del nuevo «poder» libio pone a la población en una situación que ya conocida en la tragedia griega. Al impedir que la familia enterrara el cuerpo, el nuevo poder político se apropia del espacio del orden simbólico. Mediante la supresión de toda articulación entre la «ley de los hombres» y la «ley de los dioses», el Consejo Nacional de Transición las fusiona y se arroga el monopolio de lo sagrado, poniéndose así por encima de la política.

La decisión del CNT de impedir a la familia la realización del funeral y de exhibir el cadáver tiene como objetivo suprimir el significado del cuerpo para mantener a la vista únicamente el significado de la muerte. La orden de disfrutar la imagen del asesinato no debe encontrar límite alguno. El fetiche perpetúa la compulsión de la repetición. La pulsión se vuelve entonces autónoma y pasa, indistintamente, de una imagen a otra, de la imagen de la muerta a la imagen de la ejecución de la muerte. Su función es acrecentar la voluntad de poderío.

Ser dueño de lo que debe verse

La profanación del cuerpo no es, por consiguiente, más que un elemento de su fetichización. Lo esencial se encuentra en las imágenes del linchamiento de Gaddafi. Captadas a través de un teléfono celular, esas imágenes ocupan el espacio mediático y son reproducidas constantemente. Irrumpen en tiempo real en nuestra vida cotidiana. Nos capturan a pesar nuestro. Pasamos entonces nosotros mismos a formar parte del escenario ya que, en la pulsión cinematográfica, el linchamiento sólo se convierte en acto de sacrificio gracias a la mirada-objeto. Las imágenes nos muestran a personas que toman fotos y que disfrutan el espectáculo filmado. Esas personas exhiben el instante de la mirada. Lo que se presenta como ofrenda no es el objeto sino el sentido que se ofrece a la mirada, para ser dueño de lo que debe verse.

El linchamiento como imagen es una tradición occidental. Al fotografiar a sus víctimas, los miembros del Ku Klux Klan ya exhibían el sacrificio humano como espectáculo. El tratamiento que se dio a Gaddafi forma parte de esa «cultura». Se distingue, sin embargo, de ella en un aspecto. El montaje de las acciones del KKK tenía un fuerte componente ritual, trasmitía la imagen de un orden social subterráneo.

En el caso del linchamiento de Gaddafi, las imágenes captadas a través de los teléfonos celulares se liberan de todo significante, se convierten en algo más real que la realidad, colonizan lo real que de hecho sólo existe entonces como aniquilación. Esas imágenes muestran la fragmentación de la sociedad y, por ende, la omnipotencia de la acción imperial. Nos muestran un mundo que se invierte permanentemente. Nos enfrentan al espanto e nos inyectan la psicosis. Destruyen toda relación con el otro y apelan tan sólo a interioridades, a mónadas cuyo consentimiento buscamos.

Al contrario de un lenguaje que nos inscribe en un «nosotros», la imagen se dirige a cada individuo por separado. Impide todo vínculo social, toda forma de simbolización. Es el paradigma de una sociedad regida por las mónadas. Mucho revelan así dichas imágenes no sobre el conflicto mismo sino sobre el estado de nuestras sociedades, así como sobre el futuro programado para Libia: una guerra permanente.

El sacrificio de un chivo expiatorio

Estas imágenes nos muestran la ejecución de un chivo expiatorio. Actualizan la noción de violencia mimética que René Girard desarrolló en su interpretación del Nuevo Testamento [4]. Mediante la repetición del sacrificio, dichas imágenes nos imponen una violencia sin objetivo. Esta se torna compulsiva. Si bien el chivo expiatorio sirve de catalizador a la violencia, lo cierto es que, contrariamente a lo que afirma Girard, no permite detenerla. La paz sólo será momentánea y no es más que la preparación de una nueva guerra. Cada sacrificio es un llamado a la realización de otro. Después de la destrucción de Libia tendrá que venir la de Siria, después la de Irán… La violencia se vuelve infinita y fundadora.

Al igual que en los enunciados cristianos, los comentarios de los medios sobre las imágenes del linchamiento de Kadhafi convierten al chivo expiatorio en víctima expiatoria. Si Gaddafi es víctima de un linchamiento es porque «así lo quiso». No es víctima de una agresión externa sino que supuestamente obedeció a una ley interna. Su ejecución no es resultado de su voluntad de resistir sino el cumplimiento de un destino personal. René Girard enunció también este procedimiento al referirse a Cristo. La figura de Cristo lleva a un desplazamiento de la noción de chivo expiatorio hacia la de la víctima expiatoria ofrecida para «purgar» el pecado original.

De esa manera, libres de toda deuda simbólica, de todo cuerpo social, esas imágenes y los comentarios sobre ellas participan en la inversión sistemática de la Ley simbólica, y en el estado de excepción permanente, que se instauró después de los atentados del 11 de septiembre de 2001. Sacralizado, el poder político suplanta al orden simbólico.

Una regresión: del lenguaje de la imagen de la unificación a la diosa-Madre

Esas imágenes nos hacen regresar a un fase en la que el sacrificio humano ocupaba un lugar central en la organización social. Constituyen un retorno a la obsesión primordial de la unificación con la madre [5]. Los trabajos etnológicos, así como el psicoanálisis, nos han demostrado que el sacrificio humano constituye un regreso a una estructura maternal. El amor y el sacrificio son los atributos de una organización social que no distingue ya entre orden político y orden simbólico. Son los paradigmas de una sociedad matriarcal que opera aquí la fusión del individuo con el poder maternal.

Estas imágenes se inscriben en una larga tradición cristiana de inversión de lo que sirve de basamento al Antiguo Testamento. El relato de Abraham es el momento que instituye la prohibición del sacrificio humano. La muerte de Cristo, por el contrario, es la inversión del sacrificio de Isaac. En vez del animal que reemplaza al hijo, es el hijo-Mesías quien se convierte en carnero [6].

En el Antiguo Testamento, la muerte del animal sacrificado es la muerte del dios primitivo. Simboliza así un desplazamiento del sacrificio real hacia el lenguaje: «Si existe un dios, este se halla en las palabras de alianza (el lenguaje)» [7]. Ese movimiento inaugura la existencia de un lugar productor de la metáfora, de transformación de lo real. Las operaciones de desplazamiento y de metáfora, que se hallan en el núcleo de dicho relato, son los procedimientos constitutivos de la ley del lenguaje [8]. La ley del lenguaje es inscripción de la no identidad de la palabra y del objeto. En el conflicto libio, nos sitúan, desde el comienzo, fuera del lenguaje. Kadhafi es un tirano, porque así lo califican. Las masacres de su régimen no tienen que ser comprobadas, basta con afirmar que suceden. La imagen misma del dictador es suficiente. No integra ninguna contradicción ni enfrenta nada real. Es más real que la realidad.

El fin de todo orden simbólico

La ley del lenguaje es la aceptación de que la lengua es ante todo la del otro. Es el reconocimiento por parte del hombre de su propio carácter incompleto. Una vez que se concreta esta simbolización, inculcando la dependencia del individuo con respecto al otro, se emprende un proceso de reconocimiento mutuo y, por esa vía, la formación de una sociedad humana [9]. Esta introduce una deuda simbólica [10], un sistema de relaciones en el cual el individuo encuentra su lugar y donde deja de ser su propio padre. Esta deuda, al contrario del pecado original, tiene un carácter unificador ya que pone al hombre en relación con el otro a partir de un devenir.

Gaddafi estaba imperfectamente insertado en el sistema capitalista globalizado. Funcionaba aún de conformidad con valores provenientes de la sociedad tradicional, sobre todo la del regalo como creador de vínculos sociales. Se vio duramente afectado por el abandono de sus «amigos» Sarkozy, Berlusconi o Tony Blair... [11]. Seguramente pensaba que los regalos que les había hecho habían instaurado un sistema de reconocimiento recíproco que le garantizaba cierta protección. Lo cual demuestra que no había entendido la naturaleza del capitalismo. En ese sistema, toda relación social está abolida. Si bien en las sociedades antiguas el intercambio de objetos sirve de basamento a las relaciones entre los hombres, en el capitalismo la mercancía y el dinero son sujetos. Quienes recibían los regalos de Kadhafi sólo podían verlos como adelantos por algo que les correspondía por derecho. Los dioses oscuros de esta sociedad no pueden ser otros que los de los mercados.

Imágenes de disfrute

Por la ley del idioma, el hombre se distingue de la naturaleza, de la diosa-madre que no tiene interior ni exterior. El asesinato, en vez de ser fundador, es abolido para dar acceso a la palabra. Se establece entonces un orden humano que se diferencia del orden divino. El individuo deja de ser un hijo todo poderoso. Se ve separado del poder maternal.

Las imágenes del linchamiento de Kadhafi nos retrotraen, por el contrario, a lo originario y la omnipotencia. Nos inscriben en una estructura religiosa anterior al logro que fue la prohibición del sacrificio. Estos clichés vuelven a sumergirnos en la violencia incestuosa, en el disfrute de la pulsión háptica, devoradora [12]. El imperativo del disfrute suplanta aquí la política. El ejemplo más significativo nos lo proporciona la entrevista de Hillary Clinton, quien acoge esas imágenes como una ofrenda. Llena de gozo, proclama su propia omnipotencia y expresa su júbilo ante el linchamiento: «¡Vinimos, vimos y él [Kadhafi] murió!», ante las cámaras y micrófonos de la CBS [13].

La violencia inflingida al «Guía» libio es también, para los demás dirigentes occidentales, un instante propicio para expresar la satisfacción que les invade y disfrutar del éxito de su iniciativa. «Tampoco vamos a derramar lágrimas por Gaddfi», declaró Alain Juppé, el ministro francés de Relaciones Exteriores [14].

El cuerpo martirizado como ícono de la violencia

Las posiciones que asumieron nuestros líderes después de la difusión de esas imágenes nos confirman que el verdadero objetivo de esta guerra no era la protección de la población sino la eliminación de Gaddafi. La tribuna de Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy y David Cameron, publicada de forma conjunta el 15 de abril en The Times, The International Herald Tribune y Le Figaro, nos había anunciado sin embargo que «No se trata de expulsar a Gaddfi por la fuerza. Pero es imposible imaginar que Libia pueda tener un futuro con Gaddafi» [15]. Su violencia [de Gaddafi] consistiría entonces esencialmente en el hecho de no haber abandonado el poder, aun siendo inconcebible que se mantuviera en él. Su imagen supuestamente simboliza la tiranía, ya que no pudo lograr que los dirigentes occidentales amaran a la población libia. «Él (Gaddafi) se comportó de manera muy agresiva. Se le ofrecieron buenas condiciones para que se rindiera, y las rechazó», agregó Juppé.

Los medios nos confirman que «los dictadores siempre acaban así». Las huellas de la violencia hacen aparecer lo invisible. El linchamiento se convierte en prueba de que la víctima era en efecto un dictador. Estos estigmas nos muestran lo que nunca vimos: la prueba de las masacres que Gaddafi iba a cometer. Son una muestra de sus intenciones de hacer aquello que la OTAN utilizó como argumento para justificar su intervención.

De esa manera se vinculan las masacres atribuidas al coronel con la imagen de su cuerpo ensangrentado. Las huelles de violencia sobre el cuerpo vivo, y posteriormente sobre el cadáver, no serían entonces el resultado de la violencia de los «liberadores» sino el fruto de la sangre derramada por Gaddafi.

La violencia del crimen nos muestra que efectivamente se trata de una venganza. También nos demuestra que los autores de esa violencia son en realidad víctimas y que este asesinato tiene un carácter sagrado.

La exhibición de un poder sin límites

Las imágenes del momento del sacrificio permiten a nuestros dirigentes exhibir un poder sin límites. El ministro de Defensa de Francia, Gerard Longuet, reveló que la aviación francesa, a pedido del Estado Mayor de la OTAN, había «detenido», o sea bombardeado, la caravana fugitiva en la que se encontraba Gaddafi [16]. El ministro francés reivindica así una violación flagrante de la resolución del Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU. Por su parte, Alain Juppé se dio el lujo de reconocer que el objetivo de la invasión no era otro que poner en el poder al CNT: «La operación debe terminar ahora ya que el objetivo que perseguíamos, o sea acompañar a las fuerzas del CNT en la liberación de su territorio, ya ha sido alcanzado» [17].

El éxito de la ofensiva de la OTAN vino acompañado, por parte de los vencedores, de declaraciones cada vez más numerosas en las que se reconocía la violación sistemática, aunque justificada, de la resolución del Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU. El filósofo, escritor, cineasta, estratega y diplomático Bernard-Henri Levy incluso reconoció, en su libro La guerre sans l’aimer [En español: «La guerra sin desearla». Nota del Traductor.], que «Francia proporcionó directa o indirectamente cantidades muy importantes de armas a los rebeldes libios que combatían por derrocar a Muammar el-Gaddafi» [18]. Todas estas declaraciones ilustran la estructura síquica del niño todopoderoso, figura fálica del Estado maternal, de un poder carente de límites que se sitúa más allá de la palabra y que, por lo tanto, no se siente obligado a respetar ni siquiera sus propios compromisos.

Esas posiciones recuerdan las declaraciones de Tony Blair cuando reconoció que no había armas de destrucción masiva en Irak, pero que la guerra contra Sadam Husein fue justificada porque puso fin al reinado de un dictador.

La víctima y el sacrificio: los valores de un regreso a la barbarie

El asesinato cometido contra Gaddafi, como acto de «venganza de las víctimas», tiene como resultado que Gaddafi no será juzgado. Esta consecuencia coincide con los intereses de las firmas petroleras y los gobiernos occidentales, cuyos estrechos vínculos con el régimen del coronel no saldrán por lo tanto a relucir ante la opinión pública. El principal resultado de la sustitución de la organización de un juicio [contra Gaddafi] ante la Corte Penal Internacional por las imágenes del linchamiento es que, en vez de verse detenida por la palabra, la violencia se hace infinita. Libia, al igual que Irak y Afganistán, se convertirá en escenario de una guerra perpetua. En lo tocante a nuestros propios regímenes políticos, estos se sumergen en un estado de excepción permanente. Este viene acompañado de la aparición de un poder absoluto, cuyo actuar político va más allá de cualquier orden vinculado al derecho.

Una intervención militar emprendida en nombre del amor de los dirigentes occidentales por los pueblos víctimas de un «tirano» [19] y magnificada por la exhibición del sacrificio de este último revela es síntoma de una regresión de nuestras sociedades a la barbarie.

El tratamiento del sacrificio de Gaddafi como imagen icónica confirma el carácter cristiano de una guerra desatada en nombre del amor por las víctimas. La destrucción de Libia por las fuerzas de la OTAN se inserta en la larga tradición de las cruzadas, de las guerras contra la ley simbólica iniciadas en nombre del hombre-Dios [20]. Estas ya eran resultado de una reorganización de Europa bajo la autoridad papal [21]. Hoy en día, este conflicto, aún más que la guerra contra Irak, implica una sumisión total de los países europeos al Imperio estadounidense.

La guerra por la democracia es la versión postmoderna de la «guerra santa», sagrada no porque el enemigo fueran los «infieles» sino porque la ordenaba el Papa, como infalible representante del hombre-Dios. Hoy en día, el carácter sagrado de la agresión proviene del carácter naturalmente democrático de su patrocinador estadounidense, cuyo presidente recibió el premio Nóbel de la paz antes de haber realizado el menor acto político. Ese premio consagra al presidente de Estados Unidos como ícono cristiano, como la personificación misma de la paz y la democracia. No se trata en esta versión de la sacralización del hombre creado a la imagen y semejanza de Dios, sino a la imagen de sí mismo y de su naturaleza pacífica y democrática."


[1] Título de una canción que Abel Meeropol compuso en 1946 par Abel Meeropol en la que se denuncian las Necktie Party (ahorcamientos) que se organizaban en el sur de Estados Unidos y a los blancos asistían vestidos como para una fiesta. Interpretada por Billie Holiday, la difusión de esta canción fue un enorme éxito.
[2] Al blandir un cuchillo para sacrificar a su hijo, Abraham encuentra un carnero en el lugar del niño. El que debe morir es el macho cabrío, el animal-padre, el padre primitivo, o sea un fantasmagórico linaje de ancestros, al mismo tiempo que una divinidad arcaica, una forma feroz de Dios que reclama constantemente sacrificios. in Jean-Daniel Causse, «Le christianisme et la violence des dieux obscurs, liens et écarts», AIEMPR, XVIIe congrès international Religions et violences, Estrasburgo, 10-14 de julio de 2006.
[3] Paul Laurent Assoun, Le fétichisme, Que sais-je?, PUF, 1994. «Le fétiche ou l’objet au pied de la lettre», in Éclat du fétiche, Revue du Littoral 42.
[4] Réné Girard, La Violence et le sacré, Le Seuil, 1972.
[5] El significado primordial del deseo de la madre es rechazado normalmente gracias a la sustitución del significado del Nombre del Padre que inscribe en el lenguaje. El sacrificio es un regreso a ese estado natural de unificación con la madre. In Catherine Alcouloumbré, «La métaphore paternelle», Espaces Lacan, Seminario 1998-1999.
[6] Bible Chrétienne, II, Commentaires, Èditions Anne Sigier, 1990, p. 318, in Nicolas Buttet, L’Eucharistie à l’école des saints, Éditions de l’Emmanuel, París 2000, p. 38.
[7] Jean-Daniel Causse, «Le christianisme et la violence des dieux obscurs, liens et écarts», AIEMPR, XVIIe congrès international Religions et violence, Estrasburgo 2006, p. 4.
[8] Son el reflejo de dos operaciones fundamentales del lenguaje –la sustitución y la combinación–, que son el eje paradigmático y el eje sintagmático. Ver: Vincent Calais, La théorie du langage dans l’enseignement de Jacques Lacan, L’Harmattan, París 2008, p. 59.
[9] Hervé Linard de Guertechin, «A partir d’une lecture du sacrifice d’Isaac (Genèse 22)», Lumen Vitoe 38 51987), p. 302-322.
[10] Contrariamente al pecado original, esa deuda tiene un carácter unificador ya que pone al hombre en relación con el otro, a partir de un devenir y no de un originario. El pecado original, por el contrario, encierra en la imagen de un superyó.
[11] «Kadhafi préférait "mourir en Libye qu’être jugé" par la CPI» [En español, «Kadafhi prefería “morir en Libia a ser juzgado” por la CPI». NdT.], La Libre Belgique y AFP, 31 de noviembre de 2011.
[12] «Le sacrifice se centre sur le noyau sacrificiel originel: l’endocannibalisme» in Pierre Solié, Le sacrifice fondateur de civilisation et d’individuation, resumen.
[13] «Hillary Clinton se félicite de la mort de Mouammar Kadhafi», Réseau Voltaire, 22 de octubre de 2011.
[14] «La mort de Kadhafi marque la fin de l’engagement de l’OTAN en Libye», con AFP, 21/10/2011.
[15] «Tribune de Barack Obama, David Cameron et Nicolas Sarkozy sur la Libye», Réseau Voltaire, 15 de abril de 2011.
[16] «L’aviation française a stoppé le convoi de Kadhafi, affirme Longuet», TF1, 20 de octubre de 2011.
[17] «La mort de Kadhafi marque la fin de l’engagement de l’OTAN en Libye»,, Op. Cit..
[18] «Les coulisses de la guerre selon BHL», La Libre Belgique, 7 de noviembre de 2011.
[19] Jean-Claude Paye, Tülay Umay, «Faire la guerre au nom des victimes», Réseau Voltaire, 9 de mayo de 2011.
[20] Maurice Bellet, Le Dieu pervers, Desclée de Brouwer, París 1979, pp 16-17.
[21] Paul Rousset, Les origines et les caractères de la première Croisade, La Baconnière, Neuchâte11945.