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The ‘Forgotten’ US shoot down of Iranian Airliner Flight 655

On the rare occasions the US mainstream media refer to the US shoot-down of an Iranian airliner in 1988, they sustain the myth it was simply a “mistake”.

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This summer marks 30 years since the shoot-down by the USS Vincennes of Iran Air flight 655, which killed all of the plane’s 290 civilian passengers. This shoot-down of a civilian airliner by a US naval ship occurred on July 3, 1988, toward the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq War.

This incident is, of course, something that the people of Iran well remember. Americans who rely on the US mainstream media, on the other hand, would have to be forgiven for never having heard about it.

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Furthermore, in the rare instances when the media do mention it, to this day they tend to maintain official US government falsehoods about what occurred and otherwise omit relevant details that would inform Americans about what really happened.

The lack of mention of the incident or, when it is mentioned, the deceptive reporting about what occurred illustrates an institutionalized bias in the media. The consequence is that Americans seeking to understand US-Iran relations today fail to grasp a key historical event that has helped to define that relationship.

How the Mainstream Media Report the US shoot-down of Flight 655

If one does a quick Google search for relevant keywords specific to the shootdown, only a handful of US mainstream media reports turn up on first-page results.

Max Fisher in the Washington Post wrote a piece about it several years ago, appropriately titled “The Forgotten story of Iran Air Flight 655”. For context, Fisher asserted that “the Vincennes was exchanging fire with small Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf.” As explanation for how the Vincennes “mistook the lumbering Airbus A300 civilian airliner for a much smaller and faster F-14 fighter jet”, Fisher suggested it was “perhaps” due to “the heat of battle” or “perhaps because the flight allegedly did not identify itself.”

The Washington Examiner a couple years ago ran a piece with the headline “Iran says 1988 airliner shootdown is why U.S. can’t be trusted”. The author, Charles Hoskinson, stated simply that “An investigation revealed that the cruiser’s crew mistook the airliner for an attacking F-14 fighter jet while involved in a confrontation with Iranian gunboats.”

Fred Kaplan in Slate noted in a 2014 piece that the incident “is almost completely forgotten” (at least in the US). His article was appropriately subtitled “The time the United States blew up a passenger plane—and covered it up.” As a journalist who had reported on the incident at the time and challenged the US government’s official story, Kaplan noted that “American officials told various lies” intended to blame the Iranians for the tragedy.

The government had claimed that the Vincennes was in international waters at the time, that the plane was flying “outside of the prescribed commercial air route” and descending at the “high speed” of 450 knots directly toward the Vincennes, and that the plane’s transponder was squawking a code over a military channel.

In truth, the Vincennes was in Iran’s territorial waters, the plane was ascending through 12,000 feet at 380 knots within the established commercial air route, and its transponder was squawking the plane’s identity over a civilian channel.

The USS Vincennes

Like Fisher and Hoskinson, however, Kaplan nevertheless maintained the US government’s narrative that “the Iranian Airbus A300 wandered into a naval skirmish” and on that basis characterized it as a “horrible mistake”.

These are the only three examples from within the past decade that appeared in initial search results for various relevant keywords at the time of this writing. It’s also helpful see how America’s “newspaper of record”, the New York Times, has reported it over the years, by searching its online archives.

Doing various related keyword searches at the New York Times website turns up a smattering of articles. Without going further back, a November 1988 piece acknowledged that, contrary to the US government’s claims, “Flight 655 was behaving normally for a commercial jet”. The Times nevertheless maintained the government’s official line that “Iranian [air traffic] tower officials clearly are guilty of not listening to the dozens of radio warnings broadcast by the Navy and ordering the airliner to change course”.

The following month, the Times revealed that this attempt to blame the Iranians was also untruthful. As the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) determined in an investigation of the incident, seven of the eleven warnings issued by the Americans “were transmitted on a military channel that was inaccessible to the airliner crew.” The other four were transmitted on the international civil aviation distress frequency. Of these, only one, transmitted by the USS Sides “39 seconds before the Vincennes fired, was of sufficient clarity that it might have been ‘instantly recognizable’ to the airliner as being directed at it.”

The Times nevertheless sustained the US government’s narrative that Iran was at least partly to blame by “allowing an airliner to fly into the area at the time when warships were involved in an intense battle with Iranian gunboats.”

In May 1989, Iran sued the US in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the shoot-down. The Times ran a piece in July about how the US was trying to settle the matter by offering to compensate victims’ families with up to $250,000. The only details of the attack the Times offered readers was to relay the claim from a senior State Department official that “the Vincennes was defending itself against what it believed was a ‘coordinated attack’”.

Another Times article that August reported that Iran’s case was proceeding at the ICJ. For context, the Times simply parroted the government’s official line that, “At the time, the Vincennes was part of a group of American warships protecting neutral shipping in the [Persian] gulf during the war between Iraq and Iran.”

(The ICJ case was dropped in 1996 when the US and Iran reached a settlement in which the US “expressed deep regret” and agreed to pay $61.8 million to the victims’ families.)

In 1992, a Times article reported on the further unravelling of the US government’s official account. It noted that, contrary to the government’s claims, Flight 655 was ascending and flying within the commercial air corridor.

Vice President George H. W. Bush had told the UN that the shoot-down occurred “in the midst of a naval attack initiated by Iranian vessels against a neutral vessel and subsequently against the Vincennes.” In fact, as government officials were now admitting, the Vincennes was in Iranian waters at the time. Furthermore, an investigative report for ABC’s Nightline determined that it was not the Iranian ships that started the naval skirmish, but the US Navy’s.

The US government maintained that, while the Vincennes was admittedly within Iran’s territorial waters, it was the Iranian ships who initiated hostilities. However, even the commander of the USS Sides, Captain David Carlson, whose ship was in the same American convoy, had stated three years prior that the actions of the Vincennes under the command of Captain Will Rogers were “consistently aggressive.”

The Times also noted that neither Captain Rogers nor any other officers or crew of the Vincennes were disciplined.

There are only scarce mentions of the incident by the Times since. Columnist Roger Cohen in an August 2009 piece referred in passing to “the mistaken 1988 shooting-down of Iran Air Flight 655, in which 290 people perished”. A 2015 article mentioned it, stating that the Vincennes was “patrolling the strait [of Hormuz]” and that its crew “apparently mistook the plane for an Iranian F-14 fighter.” The most recent mention that turned up was from February 2 of this year, in an article that states simply that “Iran called the attack deliberate and the United States called it a mistake.”

The above is not an exhaustive list, but these examples illustrate that, on the rare occasions when the US mainstream media do mention the incident, to this day they sustain the US government’s narrative that this killing of 290 civilians was simply a “mistake” for which no one should be held criminally responsible.

So how well does this narrative hold up?

The Facts about the US shoot-down of Flight 655

After the Vincennes shot down Flight 655, as Fred Kaplan noted in his Slate piece, Vice President George H. W. Bush responded by saying, “I will never apologize for the United States of America—I don’t care what the facts are.”

The facts were that the Aegis cruiser USS Vincennes, under the command of Captain Will Rogers III, had entered Iran’s territorial waters and opened fire on and sank two Iranian gunboats posing no threat to the American vessels. (Aboard another Iranian boat the Vincennes was passing by at the same moment Rogers gave the order to open fire, the crew was seen relaxing topside, as captured by the camera of US Navy journalists.)

At the time, as a Navy investigation later acknowledged, the Vincennes detected a plane ascending “on a normal commercial air flight plan profile” and squawking a transponder signal identifying itself as a commercial aircraft.

Aboard the Sides, with identical radar information as received aboard the Vincennes, Captain Carlson determined the plane was a “non-threat”.

Aboard the Vincennes, Lieutenant William Montford warned Captain Rogers that the plane was “possible COMAIR”, but Rogers nevertheless ostensibly convinced himself that his ship was under attack from an F-14 fighter plane and minutes later ordered it shot down.

(Incidentally, the US had sold F-14s to Iran in the early 1970s while it was under the thumb of Washington’s strongman, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was put in power after a CIA-orchestrated coup in 1953 overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government by deposing Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh for having nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The Shah was in turn overthrown during Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.)

Well aware that his action might kill civilians, Rogers ordered his gunner to open fire on the plane, shooting it out of the sky.

The Navy’s self-investigation attributed the discrepancy between the known facts and Rogers’ actions to “scenario fulfillment”. Rogers had made “an unconscious attempt to make available evidence fit a preconceived scenario.”

In other words, even though the information the officers and crew aboard the Vincennes were receiving indicated that the plane was ascending along a commercial flight path and squawking its identify as a civilian airliner, Rogers imagined it to be an F-14 fighter jet coming down out of the sky to attack his ship.

US government officials evidently also suffered from “scenario fulfillment” as they proceeded to make claims about what had happened bearing no relationship to reality.

President Ronald Reagan claimed that the killing of 290 civilians was justified as “a proper defensive action”.

Never one to apologize, Vice President Bush, while campaigning for the presidency, called it “just an unhappy incident” and reassured Americans that “life goes on.”

As he was scheduled to speak before the UN Security Council about the incident, Bush said, “I can’t wait to get up there and defend the policy of the United States government” by presenting “the free world’s case” for why 290 mostly Iranian civilians were dead.

Speaking before the Security Council, Bush blamed Iran for allowing a civilian airliner to go about its business carrying passengers to Dubai at a time when an American warship was “engaged in battle”.

He declined to explain how the pilot, Captain Mohsen Rezaian, or the air traffic controllers at the airport in Bandar Abbas, where Flight 655 had taken off, could possibly have known that a US warship with an imaginative captain on board was in Iran’s territorial waters firing at anything that moved.

Bush lied to the Council that the Vincennes had “acted in self-defense” against “a naval attack initiated by Iranian vessels” on the American ship when it “came to the aid” of an “innocent ship in distress.”

Also not wont to question the actions of the US government, the New York Times in an editorial published July 5, 1988, urged Americans via their headline to put themselves “In Captain Rogers’s Shoes”.

Sympathizing with the killer, the Times editors described the shootdown as “horrifying”, but “nonetheless an accident.” It was “hard to see what the Navy could have done to avoid it.” Captain Rogers “had little choice” but to open fire, they opined, assuming the US government’s account “turns out even approximately correct”.

Of course, the official account turned out to be pretty much the opposite of the truth in virtually every aspect, but the Times was, as ever, not over-eager to seriously question the government’s claims.

Thus, the editors maintained the deception that the Vincennes was “in a combat zone” and “engaged in action against Iranian gunboats making high-speed runs against it.”

The editors also relayed as fact that the radar operators aboard the Vincennes had “reported an aircraft heading toward the ship and descending.” Furthermore, they “apparently had indications, which the Navy refuses to discuss, that the plane was a powerful F-14 jet.”

Unimaginatively, the Times editors failed to conceive of the most obvious reason why the Navy would refuse to discuss that claim: because there were no such indications.

The furthest the Times would go to question the official narrative was to state that it was “not yet clear why sophisticated radar did not distinguish between an F-14 and a much larger Airbus.”

The lie the Times was upholding then—as to this day—was that the ship’s sophisticated radar had indicated it was something other than a civilian airliner.

After axiomatically accepting this lie, the editors immediately urged their readers to “put yourself in Captain Rogers’s shoes”. They proceeded to assert that the “evidence” suggested “an imminent attack” by the plane on the Vincennes.

Note that the word “evidence” in this context is being used euphemistically by the Times’ editorial board to mean claims by US government officials that were directly contradicted by the actual evidence available to them.

The Times proceeded to state that, if the US government’s account was at least “largely correct”, then we could safely conclude that the Iran Air pilot was to blame “for failing to acknowledge the ship’s warnings and flying outside the civilian corridor. Iran, too, may bear responsibility for failing to warn civilian planes away from the combat zone of an action it had initiated.”

They concluded that “the onus for avoiding such accidents in the future” fell not on the captains of American warships operating in the territorial waters of other countries, but “on civilian aircraft” flying in their own airspace.

The takeaway lesson presented by the Times was that civilian aircraft should just “avoid combat zones, fly high, [and] acknowledge warnings.”

Finally, the editorial concluded that ultimate blame lay with the government of Iran, with the “accident” instructing the world that it was time for Tehran “to bring an end to its futile eight-year war with Iraq.”

Of course, as the Times editors were perfectly well aware, it was Iraq who started the war, which dragged on for eight long years in large part due to the fact that the US was backing the aggressor.

Far from being held accountable for the mass murder of 290 civilians, Captain Rogers was later presented with the Legion of Merit award “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service” during his time as commanding officer when the shootdown occurred.

Rogers’ weapons and combat systems officer at the time, Lieutenant Commander Scott E. Lustig, received two commendation medals and was praised for “heroic achievement” for his conduct during the incident.

The entire crew of the Vincennes received combat action ribbons.

Conclusion

The US shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655 receives only rare mentions in the US mainstream media despite being a key incident in the history of the US’s relations with Iran that serves as critical context for understanding how Iranians today view the US government.

When it is mentioned, the media’s tendency is to characterize the mass killing as an honest “mistake”, resulting from an action any other country’s navy would have taken if put in the same position. Although it has long been known that the US government’s account of the incident was a pack of lies, the US media to this day characterize it as though the resulting death of civilians was just an unfortunate consequence of war.

When Max Fisher wrote in in the Washington Post in 2013 that “the Vincennes was exchanging fire with small Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf”, it is hard to fathom that he was unaware that the US warship was in Iranian waters; and yet he declined to relay that critical piece of information to his readers.

It is equally hard to fathom that he was unaware it was the Vincennes that initiated hostilities; yet this fact, too, he omitted.

Fisher also unquestioningly parroted the US government’s claim that the Vincennes’ crew “mistook” the plane for an F-14, which he attributed either to “the heat of battle” or the plane’s failure to identify itself.

It may be true that, as the naval investigation determined, Captain Rogers imagined it to be an F-14. Yet, as Lieutenant Colonel David Evans wrote in the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine in August 1993, the information received by the American ships from the plane’s transponder unambiguouslyidentified it as an ascending commercial aircraft.

“Both Captain Rogers and Captain Carlson,” Evans noted in his essay, “had this information.”

It is no less hard to fathom how Fisher could have been unaware of the fact that Flight 655 had been squawking its identify as a civilian aircraft, something even the most precursory research into the incident would have revealed to him.

It is therefore difficult to escape the conclusion that Max Fisher’s purpose in writing was not to educate Americans about what happened, but to sustain the central myth that the shootdown was merely an unfortunate accident of the kind that happens in the fog of war.

He was, in other words, dutifully serving his role as a propagandist.

Charles Hoskinson in his 2015 Washington Examiner piece was hardly more forthcoming.

Fred Kaplan was far more forthcoming in his Slate piece from three years ago; yet even in the face of his own contrary evidence, he still preserved the central myth that the shootdown was merely a “mistake” resulting from Iran Air Flight 655 having “wandered into a naval skirmish”.

This is the same false narrative that America’s “newspaper of record” maintains on those rare occasions when the incident receives a passing mention.

The real story, in sum, is as follows:

Twenty-nine years ago, on July 3, 1988, US warships entered Iranian waters and initiated hostilities with Iranian vessels.

The consoles of the radar operators aboard the USS Vincennes at the time unambiguously showed an aircraft ascending within a commercial corridor in Iranian airspace, with the plane’s transponder signaling its identity as a commercial aircraft.

Captain Rogers nevertheless ordered his gunner to open fire on the plane, shooting it out of the sky and killing the 290 civilians on board.

Subsequently, rather than being held accountable for committing a war crime, Rogers and his entire crew received awards for their actions.

Like Captain Rogers, the mainstream media establishment seems to suffer from institutional “scenario fulfillment”, in which this action did not constitute a war crime or, at best, an act of international terrorism.

In the case of the media, the preconceived notion is that the US is an exceptional nation whose government is sometimes capable of “mistakes”, but only ever acts out of benevolent intent.

It is an assumption that, while deemed axiomatic by the mainstream media establishment, is no less self-delusional than Captain Rogers’ imaginary scenario of this “forgotten” episode in US-Iran relations.

This article was adapted largely from material presented on pages 349-350 of the author’s book Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian ConflictSee the book’s references for additional resources.

Via Foreign Policy Journal

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G GeorgeGonzogalregolo gelliniStop Bush and ClintonMarc Landreville Recent comment authors
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G George
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G George

This has been, and continues to be US behavior for over two centuries now. One of these days it will bite them in the ass; hopefully sooner than later.

Gonzogal
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Gonzogal

comment image comment image comment image

regolo gellini
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regolo gellini

Just hope that coward and assassin Captain Rogers, as well as his medal of honor, received a nice/nasty pancreas cancer ! May he burn in hell with all his family !

Stop Bush and Clinton
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Stop Bush and Clinton

I just shot Hitlery Clinton, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and some of their fellow warmongers. But you have to believe me, it’s because I imagined they were Putin!!! The justice system must let me get away with it and give me a medal for single-handedly defeating the Russian menace that was about to attack us!

Somehow I don’t think it would turn out that way for me.

I also think Rogers was carrying out orders to create a pretext to enter the war against Iran.

Marc Landreville
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Marc Landreville

Notwithstanding that the ship was inside Iranian waters, the shootdown was indeed a mistake. The radar officer that noted that the aircraft was descending was having a dyslexic episode, ostensably due to the pucker factor. The whole Vincennes operation was a comedy of incompetence and errors. They checked the airline schedules over that airway they were under, but failed to appreciate that the aircraft may have been late departing. In any case, after the face-saving and self-congratulatory medals were given, the US Navy never gave Capt. Rogers III another command. He was retired very prematurely the year after… in other… Read more »

Volker
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Volker

IMO it was an deliberate act of US-Terrorism and mass-murderer to provoke Iran in attacking the US-Terrorist Ship and lure them into a war, the USA give a shit about human lifes specially when their victims are non-americans, they give a shit about american lifes if they are black, brown, red or poor.

franz kafka
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franz kafka

If they had only stuck to shooting down airliners.’…

US Deep, and Shallow, State involvement was on full display following 9/11.
In fact, following the Silverstain, Busch, Cheney Demolition of the downtown core of Manhattan, the point man for spreading the OCT (Official Conspiracy Theory) was, if memery [sic] does not fail me, Head of FBI, Agent Mueller.

What a dreadful dejavu I just had.

Logan
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Logan

So while skirmishing with a US warship in the gulf why not just fly a civilian jetliner over them…how so very Persian.

normski1
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normski1

I still believe USA had a hand in the shoot down of MH17!.

Jordi Ferran
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Jordi Ferran

Worth remembering another past event:
” In 1980 NATO brought down Italian airliner in botched attempt to assassinate Gaddafi ”
http://www.minareport.com/2017/05/28/in-1980-nato-brought-down-italian-airliner-in-botched-attempt-to-assassinate-gaddafi/

This combined with NATO Gladio operations shows terrorism (even against your own civilians) has been a valid option for a very long time.

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French opposition rejects Macron’s concessions to Yellow Vests, some demand ‘citizen revolution’

Mélenchon: “I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.”

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Macron’s concessions to the Yellow Vests has failed to appease protesters and opposition politicians, such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called for “citizen’s revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth is achieved.

Immediately after French President Macron declared a “social and economic state of emergency” in response to large-scale protests by members of the Yellow Vest movement, promising a range of concessions to address their grievances, left-wing opposition politician Mélenchon called on the grassroots campaign to continue their revolution next Saturday.

I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.

Macron’s promise of a €100 minimum wage increase, tax-free overtime pay and end-of-year bonuses, Mélenchon argued, will not affect any “considerable part” of the French population. Yet the leader of La France Insoumise stressed that the “decision” to rise up rests with “those who are in action.”

“We expect a real redistribution of wealth,” Benoît Hamon, a former presidential candidate and the founder of the Mouvement Génération, told BFM TV, accusing Macron’s package of measures that benefit the rich.

The Socialist Party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure, also slammed Macron’s financial concessions to struggling workers, noting that his general “course has not changed.”

Although welcoming certain tax measures, Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally (previously National Front), accused the president’s “model” of governance based on “wild globalization, financialization of the economy, unfair competition,” of failing to address the social and cultural consequences of the Yellow Vest movement.

Macron’s speech was a “great comedy,”according to Debout la France chairman, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who accused the French President of “hypocrisy.”

Yet many found Melanchon’s calls to rise up against the government unreasonable, accusing the 67-year-old opposition politician of being an “opportunist” and “populist,” who is trying to hijack the social protest movement for his own gain.

Furthermore, some 54 percent of French believe the Yellow Vests achieved their goals and want rallies to stop, OpinionWay survey showed. While half of the survey respondents considered Macron’s anti-crisis measures unconvincing, another 49 percent found the president to be successful in addressing the demands of the protesters. Some 68 percent of those polled following Macron’s speech on Monday especially welcomed the increase in the minimum wage, while 78 percent favored tax cuts.

The Yellow Vest protests against pension cuts and fuel tax hikes last month were organized and kept strong via social media, without help from France’s powerful labor unions or official political parties. Some noted that such a mass mobilization of all levels of society managed to achieve unprecedented concessions from the government, which the unions failed to negotiate over the last three decades.

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Soros Mimics Hitler’s Bankers: Will Burden Europeans With Debt To ‘Save’ Them

George Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas.

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Via GEFIRA:


After the Second World War, many economists racked their brains to answer the question of how Hitler managed to finance his armament, boost the economy and reduce unemployment.

Today his trick is well known. The economic miracle of Führer’s time became possible thanks to the so-called Mefo promissory notes.

The notes were the idea of the then President of the Reichsbank, Hjalmar Schacht, and served not only to finance the armament of the Wehrmacht for the Second World War, but also to create state jobs, which would otherwise not have been possible through the normal use of the money and capital markets, i.e. the annual increase in savings in Germany.

The Reich thus financed the armaments industry by accepting notes issued by the dummy company Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft GmbH (hence the name Mefo) rather than paying them in cash. The creation of money was in full swing from 1934 to 1938 – the total amount of notes issued at that time was 12 billion marks. The Reichsbank declared to the German banks that it was prepared to rediscount the Mefo notes, thus enabling the banks to discount them.

Because of their five-year term, the redemption of notes had to begin in 1939 at the latest. This threatened with enormous inflation. Since Schacht saw this as a threat to the Reichsmark, he expressed his doubts about the Reich Minister of Finance. But it did not help, and Schacht was quickly replaced by Economics Minister Walther Funk, who declared that the Reich would not redeem the Mefo notes, but would give Reich bonds to the Reichsbank in exchange. At the time of Funk, the autonomous Reichsbank statute was abolished, the Reichsbank was nationalized, and inflation exploded in such a way that Mefo notes with a circulation of 60 billion Reichsmark burdened the budget in post-war Germany.

George Soros also proposes such a money flurry in the style of Schacht and Funk.

Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas. He calls on the EU heads of state and governments to effectively deal with the migrant crisis through money flooding, which he calls “surge funding”.

“This would help to keep the influx of refugees at a level that Europe can absorb.”

Can absorb? Soros would be satisfied with the reception of 300,000 to 500,000 migrants per year. However, he is aware that the costs of his ethnic exchange plan are not financially feasible. In addition to the already enormous costs caused by migrants already in Europe, such a large number of new arrivals would add billions each year.

Soros calculates it at 30 billion euros a year, but argues that it would be worth it because “there is a real threat that the refugee crisis could cause the collapse of Europe’s Schengen system of open internal borders among twenty-six European states,” which would cost the EU between 47 and 100 billion euros in GDP losses.

Soros thus sees the financing of migrants and also of non-European countries that primarily receive migrants (which he also advocates) as a win-win relationship. He calls for the introduction of a new tax for the refugee crisis in the member states, including a financial transaction tax, an increase in VAT and the establishment of refugee funds. Soros knows, however, that such measures would not be accepted in the EU countries, so he proposes a different solution, which does not require a vote in the sovereign countries.

The new EU debt should be made by the EU taking advantage of its largely unused AAA credit status and issuing long-term bonds, which would boost the European economy. The funds could come from the European Stability Mechanism and the EU balance of payments support institution.

 “Both also have very similar institutional structures, and they are both backed entirely by the EU budget—and therefore do not require national guarantees or national parliamentary approval.“

In this way, the ESM and the BoPA (Balance of Payments Assistance Facility) would become the new Mefo’s that could issue bills of exchange, perhaps even cheques for Turks, Soros NGOs. Soros calculates that both institutions have a credit capacity of 60 billion, which should only increase as Portugal, Ireland and Greece repay each year the loans they received during the euro crisis. According to Soros, the old debts should be used to finance the new ones in such a way that it officially does not burden the budget in any of the EU Member States. The financial institutions that are to carry out this debt fraud must extend (indeed – cancel) their status, as the leader of the refugees expressed such a wish in his speech.

That Soros is striving to replace the indigenous European population with new arrivals from Africa and Asia is clear to anyone who observes its activities in Europe. The question is: what does he want to do this for and who is the real ruler, behind him, the real leader?

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The French People Feel Screwed

For the first time in his presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

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Authored by David Brown via The Gatestone Institute:


On December 4, French Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe told deputies of the ruling party, “La République en Marche”, that a proposed fuel tax rise, which had led to the largest protests France has seen in decades, would be suspended.

The protesters, called Gilets-Jaunes — “Yellow Vests,” because of the vests drivers are obliged by the government to carry in their vehicles in the event of a roadside breakdown — say that the fuel tax was the last straw from a president who took office with a promise to help the economically left-behind but instead has favoured the rich.

Even by French standards, the protests of the “Yellow Vests” during the weekend of December 1 were startling. Burning cars and vast plumes of grey smoke seemed to engulf the Arc De Triomphe as if Paris were at war. Comparisons were drawn with the Bread Wars of the 17th Century and the spirit of the Revolution of the 18th Century.

For more than two weeks, the “Yellow Vests” disrupted France. They paralyzed highways and forced roads to close — causing shortages across the country – and blocked fuel stations from Lille in the North to Marseilles in the South.

During protests in France’s capital, Paris, the “Yellow Vests” were soon joined by a more violent element, who began torching cars, smashing windows and looting stores. 133 were injured, 412 were arrested and more than 10,000 tear gas and stun grenades were fired.

One elderly lady was killed when she was struck by a stray grenade as she tried to shutter her windows against the melee.

There was talk of imposing a State of Emergency.

The “Yellow Vests” present the most significant opposition French President Emmanuel Macron has faced since coming to office in May 2017. Unlike previous protests in France, which have divided public opinion, these have widespread support – 72% according to a Harris Interactive Poll published December 1st.

Fuel tax rises — announced in November before being retracted on December — were intended to help bring down France’s carbon emissions by curbing the use of cars. Macron makes no secret of his wish to be seen as a global leader for environmental reform.

He forgets that back at home, among the people who elected him, fuel prices really matter to those outside big cities, where four-fifths of commuters drive to work and a third of them cover more than 30km each week.

The increases have incensed people in smaller communities, where they have already seen speed limits reduced to please the Greens and cuts to the local transport services.

These additional costs-of-living increases come at an extremely bad time for ordinary French people working outside of Paris. Lower-middle class families are not poor enough to receive welfare benefits but have seen their income flat-line whilst cost-of-living and taxes have risen.

An analysis by the Institut des Politiques Publiques think-tank shows that benefits cuts and tax changes in 2018 and 2019 will leave pensioners and the bottom fifth of households worse off, while the abolition of the wealth tax means that by far the biggest gains will go to the top 1%

This is tough to swallow. Macron is seen as being out of touch with ordinary people and is unlikely to escape his new title, “the President of the Rich.”

“People have this feeling that the Paris technocrats are doing complicated things to screw them,” said Charles Wyplosz, an economics professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

It is probably not as complex as that. The French people feel screwed.

As employment and growth are slowing, Macron, for the first time in his presidency, is under serious pressure. Unemployment is at 9%; his efforts to reform Europe are stalling, and his approval rating has plummeted to just 23% according to a recent opinion poll by IFOP.

Images of Macron at the Arc De Triomphe daubed in graffiti calling for him to step down, or worse, have done little to bolster his image abroad.

So far, Macron had said he would not bow to street protests. To underline his point, in September 2017, he called protestors against French labour-market reform “slackers”.

The political U-Turn on the fuel tax is a turning point for the Macron presidency. The question is : What next, both for Macron and the “Yellow Vests”?

Macron most likely needs to plough ahead with his reform agenda, and doubtless knows he has the support of a solid majority in the National Assembly to do so. France is crippled by debt (nearly 100% of GDP) and its grossly bloated public sector. There are 5.2 million civil servants in France, and their number has increased by 36% since 1983. These represent 22% of the workforce compared to an OCDE average of 15%.

Tax-expert Jean-Philippe Delsol says France has 1.5 million too many “fonctionnaires [officials]. When you consider that public spending in France now accounts for 57 per cent of gross domestic product. Soon the system will no longer function as there will be less and less people working to support more and more people working less”.

Macron’s mistake, in addition to a seeming inclination for arrogance, is not to have made national economic reform his absolute priority right from his initial grace period after his election. Lower public expenses would have made it possible to lower taxes, hence creating what economists call a virtuous circle. Instead, he waited.

Now, at a time when he is deeply unpopular and social unrest is in full sway he is looking to make further reforms in unemployment benefits, scaling them back by reducing the payments and the length of time beneficiaries can receive the money. The “President of the Rich” strikes again.

There is talk that he may also re-introduce the wealth tax to try to placate the protestors.

Macron’s presidential term lasts until May 13, 2022. Understandably, Macron will be focused on the elections to the European Parliament expected to be held May 23-26, 2019. Headlines have signalled that Marine Le Pen and the National Rally (formally National Front) are ahead in the polls at 20%, compared to Macron’s En Marche at 19%.

The shift is understandable, given the divide between the countryside, where Le Pen has solid support, and the cities, where Macron’s centre-left prevail.

In contrast, the “Yellow Vests” have galvanised support after standing up for the “impotent ordinary”, and seem much buoyed by the solidarity they have been shown by both fire fighters and the police. There are images online of police removing their helmets and firefighters turning their backs on political authority to show their support for the protestors.

Whilst Macron’s political opposition may be fragmented, this new breed of coherent public opposition is something new. Leaderless, unstructured and organised online, the “Yellow Vests” have gained support from the left and right, yet resisted subjugation by either.

Being leaderless makes them difficult to negotiate withor to reason with in private. The “Yellow Vests” seem acutely aware of this strength, given their firm rebuttal of overtures for peace talks from the Macron government.

Enjoying huge support from the public and with reforms to the social welfare system on the horizon, the “Yellow Vests” are not going away.

For the first time in his Presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

After Macron rebuked nationalism during his speech at the armistice ceremony, Trump was quick to remind the French President of his low approval rating and unemployment rate near 10%. A stinging broadside from Trump on twitter suggests that Macron may well be relegated to Trump’s list of global “Losers“:

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

The “impotent ordinary” in the United Kingdom, who might feel betrayed over Brexit, and the nationalists in Germany, who have suffered under Merkel , are no doubt staring in wonder at the “Yellow Vests”, wishing for the same moxie.

The historian Thomas Carlyle, chronicler of the French Revolution, said the French were unrivaled practitioners in the “art of insurrection”, and characterised the French mob as the “liveliest phenomena of our world”.

Mobs in other countries, by comparison, he argued were “dull masses” lacking audacity and inventiveness. The blazing yellow vests of the French protest movement , however, have made Macron appear increasingly dull and weak too.

David Brown is based in the United Kingdom.

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