Wednesday, January 7, 2015

USA, North Korea and Hollywood (II)

Alexander VORONTSOV | 07.01.2015 | 16:08

The hackers’ attack against Sony Pictures on November 24, 2014 threw the entire studio of the Hollywood giant into disarray with the computers wiped out. Media called it the biggest corporate hack in history.A group purporting to be the Guardians of Peace took the responsibility for the act. (1) The data stolen by hackers included personal information about Sony Pictures employees and their families, e-mails between employees, information about executive salaries at the company, copies of unreleased Sony films and other information to be made accessible via internet. The perpetrators demanded to cancel the planned release of the film The Interview (2) and threatened to attack movie-goers. A message from the Guardians of Peace group posted online warned of a 9/11-like attack on movie theaters that screen the Sony Pictures Entertainment film. (3) At some point people panicked. After the threats of a terrorist attack the New York premiere of the Sony movie was cancelled. Screenings have also been cancelled at thousands of theaters across the country.  The US administration was really concerned over the goings-on. After some time it peremptorily accused Pyongyang of complicity with no evidence to substantiate the claim. It only cited the results of FBI investigation. (4) The accusations were as groundless as in the case of the Malaysian Boeing airliner that went down in Ukraine. They followed the same pattern: “We know who is guilty, we possess the facts that cannot be made public because it’s hush-hush information. So you have to take our word for it.” Here is another example of the same tactics in use. In 2003 America accused Iraq of pursuing a WMD (weapons of mass destruction) program though the US administration knew it was not true.
North Korea has twice flatly rejected such accusations. It offered its cooperation in finding the truth but Washington refused. Instead it said Pyongyang was welcome to compensate for the losses suffered by Sony Pictures. In 2006-2007 the US Treasury Department conducted an operation against what it called the North Korea’s illegal economic activities. It arrested the Delta Asia bank accounts in Macao. The move negatively affected the six-party nuclear talks held in Beijing at the time. The US never provided any proof of the bank’s illegal activities or its connection to North Korea’s nuclear program. Pyongyang offered to launch a joint investigation but Washington refused as it did in the case of Cheonan - the South Korean corvette sank off the country's west coast near in the Yellow Sea. Back then the United Nations Security Council held an emergency session called upon the South Korea’s initiative. The evidence provided by Seoul was not sufficient to blame North Korea for the tragedy. The US regularly refuses to hold joint investigations with North Korea. It makes the accusations of North Korean complicity in the hackers’ attack against Sony Pictures not credible. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement says “Pyongyang suggested conducting a joint investigation of the incident which would open up additional opportunities for easing the tension. In fact, the step is evidence of the North Korean side’s sincere striving for investigating the issue in every detail.”
Scared by threats movie theaters owners delayed the screening of The Interview.President Barack Obama authorized additional sanctions on North Korea in the wake of the "destructive and coercive" cyber-attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. "We take seriously North Korea's attack that aimed to create destructive financial effects on a U.S. company and to threaten artists and other individuals with the goal of restricting their right to free expression," the White House statement said. It called the sanctions "a response to the Government of North Korea's ongoing provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies, particularly its destructive and coercive cyber-attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment." Obama said the attack was technologically complex and unprecedented in scope. He promised to take punitive actions including returning North Korea to the list of terrorist sponsors. The US turns a blind eye to the fact that some details don’t fit into the version of North Korean complicity in the hackers’ attack. The opinions differ even inside the United States. Stylometric analysis says the linguistic features are not North Korean, for instance, some digital crime perpetrators could even be Russian speakers. Another version is based on the facts ignored by Washington. The Guardians of Peace told media they collaborated with the company’s staffers to make Sony Pictures pay for criminal business-practices. According to the stolen data, there was only one woman out of 17 managers with salaries exceeding 1 million dollars. There is ground to believe that the attack was staged by former Sony employees disgruntled with the management policies.
The third version is related to Chinese factor. The United States asked China to help in the investigation as the North Korean traffic that goes through Chinese cyber space. Beijing never detected any North Korean trace.
The US version states that the attack was technologically complicated and it took about a year to prepare it. It means there were many collaborators inside Sony Pictures. In this case Washington has to admit that Pyongyang was able to create a broad net of agents working in the United States and it possesses a capability to organize wide-scale subversive actions.
One way or another, experts believe the Washington’s reaction was disproportional. Digital crimes have become routine but nobody ever tried “to punish” sovereign states for such nefarious deeds. A close scrutiny of the incident against the background of US policy toward North Korea may provide some clue. It is called the policyof “strategic patience” which various Americanexperts believe to be a version of “strategyof containment” aimed at toppling the North Korean government. Many researchers point out it was a surprise when Obama took a tougher stance on the issue than his predecessor George Bush. The instruments used to implement the “strategic patience” policy include increased pressure, sanctions, isolation and rejection of meaningful dialogue and “engagement policy”. In 2014 many peace initiatives put forward by Pyongyang were rebuffed by Washington and Seoul as acts of propaganda. The previous year Pyongyang abstained from nuclear tests and long-range ballistic missiles’ trials. The United States and the allies continued to conduct large-scale exercises near the North Korean border. The military activities serve as means of political pressure. The campaign against human rights violations in North Korea has gained unprecedented proportions. It had never been that tense, as well as it had never been made part of the United Nations General Assembly’s agenda with an aim to refer the case to the International Court in the Hague. No matter the United Nations structures have strictly divided responsibilities, the North Korean issue was added to the agenda of the United Nations Security Council. The very idea that the alleged or real human rights violations in North Korea could pose a threat to international security and become an issue for consideration by the United Nations Security Council in accordance with the UN Charter is ridiculous. The Security Council will hardly come up with a unanimous ruling due to the opposition of Russia and China – the states which adamantly oppose the politicization of the human rights issue in relation to North Korea. At that the pressure on North Korea continues. The hackers’ attack against Sony Pictures is used for the same purpose. The main goal is finding new pretexts to introduce new sanctions against North Korea. If the other countries don’t join in, the US will do unilaterally.
Many experts believe that the goal of unfriendly actions undertaken by Washington and his allies is provoking North Korea into renewal of nuclear tests. It will make easier for the West to introduce a new package of anti-North Korean sanctions. It is worth to note what North Korean experts say. They are sure that since the autumn of 2014 the United States started another offensive to impede the ongoing economic progress in North Korea that has been lasting for a few years now. Under the leadership of Kim Jong-un the country has achieved economic growth. Many social programs have been implemented, including high quality housing for the researchers of the Academy of Sciences, the professors of universities in Pyongyang, a waterpark, modern skiing resort, an equestrian sports complex, etc.
For North Korea the 2014 was a year of growing tensions, as well as the time of continuous economic growth that the country reached even being under international sanctions. It was also the year when military and political leadership consolidated the ranks thanks to the efforts of young Kim Jong-un. In 2014 a three-year mourningperiod for the lateleader Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong-un, ended. It was also the time of increasing cooperation with friendly states, first of all Russia and China. Perhaps all these things will make the regime’s opponents realize that the hopes for the regime change in North Korea are groundless. Perhaps it will help to revive a substantive dialogue on the problems of the Korean Peninsula.
1)Donnelly, Matt. "Sony Hackers Have Flashed A 'Disturbing' New Warning On Staff Computers", Business Insider, 11.12. 2014,
3) "Sony hackers threaten theaters with 9/11-style attack," USA Today, 16.12. 2014.
4)"U.S. Said to Find North Korea Ordered Cyberattack on Sony", The New York Times, December 17, 20014,
Tags: UN North Korea US

IYSSE at Humboldt University begins seminars on the return of German militarism

By our reporters 

7 January 2015
On Monday, the first in a series of IYSSE (International Youth and Students for Social Equality) seminars took place at Berlin”s Humboldt University (HU) on the topic of “The return of German militarism and the falsification of history”. The IYSSE is running candidates in the January 14-15 student union elections and has organized a series of seminars at the university as part of its campaign.

The meeting at Humboldt University
Although Monday was the first day back following the Christmas break, about fifty students and workers attended the lecture and followed it with great interest. The IYSSE had invited Peter Schwarz, the national editor in Germany of the World Socialist Web Site, to deliver the lecture, which was entitled, “The war guilt debate and the continuity of German foreign policy.”
Opening the meeting, Sven Wurm, the president of the HU IYSSE, explained why the organization was standing four candidates in student union elections. In the past, he said, interest in these elections had been extremely low, with less than 10 percent of students voting. This was due to the fact that chiefly unserious groups had stood candidates.
“We are standing in the Student Union elections to fight against the return of German militarism and are conducting our campaign under the slogan, “Scholarship, instead of war propaganda”. Wurm described how some professors were trying to rewrite history and relativize the war crimes of the Nazi dictatorship. He cited HU Professor Jörg Baberowski, who told Der Spiegel a year ago that “Hitler was not a psychopath, he was not cruel. He didn’t want people to talk about the extermination of the Jews at his table.”
“We want to prevent Humboldt University from once again being transformed into an ideological centre for war and dictatorship”, Wurm said.
Peter Schwarz followed up on this point, explaining that only those grounded in an understanding of past would be able to oppose historical falsifications and war propaganda. Schwarz pointed to the book by David North, “The Russian Revolution and the Unfinished 20th Century”, which will be published in a German translation in the spring. He quoted from the preface, where North writes, “History has become a battleground...The ever-mounting conflicts and crises of the twenty-first century are invariably entangled in disputes over twentieth-century history. As contemporary political struggles evoke historical issues, the treatment of these issues is more and more openly determined by political considerations. The past is falsified in the interest of present-day political reaction... Historical research is ever more shamelessly subordinated to the financial and political interests of the ruling class.”
Schwarz then explained historical debates that sparked sharp conflicts in the second half of the last century. The first was the so-called “Fischer controversy”. In his 1961 book “Griff nach der Weltmacht: die Kriegszielpolitik des Kaiserlichen Deutschland, 1914–18” (“Germany’s Aims in the First World War”), historian Fritz Fischer showed the continuity between the geopolitical aspirations of the German Reich in the First World War and Hitler’s war aims in World War II.
The second debate was the “Historikerstreit” or “Historians’ Dispute”. This was triggered in 1986 by an article by Ernst Nolte, who argued that the Nazi crimes should be seen as an understandable response to the October Revolution, the Russian Civil War of 1918-1921 and the supposed barbarity of Soviet Bolshevism.
Schwarz quoted Nolte, who described the actions of the Nazis as a “reaction born out of fear of the destructive processes of the Russian Revolution.” Nolte insisted that the “demonization of the Third Reich cannot be accepted”.
In both controversies, historians prevailed who argued that Germany either shared or bore the main responsibility for the two world wars. In the first debate Fritz Fischer influenced a younger generation of historians who then contributed considerably to the understanding of the First World War and its causes. In the second, it was the opponents of Ernst Nolte who rejected the relativization and inevitably, the justification, of Nazi crimes.
“This has now all been changed,” said Schwarz. The view of history is being brought in line with the new objectives of German foreign policy, he said.
Humboldt University Professor of Political Theory Herfried Münkler has taken on the task of attacking Fischer, Schwarz said, while Jörg Baberowski, who holds the HU chair of East European History, is concentrating on rehabilitating Nolte. It is no coincidence that Baberowski told Der Spiegel in February, “Nolte was wronged. Historically, he was right”.
Schwarz then focused on the Fischer controversy and refuted the arguments of Herfried Münkler point by point. The claim that Germany “slid into” the First World War or “sleepwalked into it”, the Australian historian Christopher Clark recently asserted, was refuted by the many facts and documents Fischer collected.
Schwarz cited, inter alia, a directive of Kaiser Wilhelm from 1905, which makes it clear that militarism and war preparations also had a domestic function, serving to deflect growing class tensions and suppressing the socialist labour movement. Kaiser Wilhelm feared the spread of the Russian Revolution to Germany and instructed his chancellor Bülow in 1905, “First shoot the socialists, behead them and render them harmless, if necessary through a bloodbath, and then make war abroad.”
Schwarz pointed to more critical evidence cited in Fischer’s book. In 1912, the military historian Friedrich von Bernhardi published a best-selling book entitled, “Germany and the Next War”. In Fischer’s opinion, the considerations and demands it contained, reproduced “with great precision, the intentions of official Germany”.
“In order to secure Germany’s breakthrough to become a world power, Bernhardi lists three aims: the elimination of France, the founding of a Central German Union of States under German leadership, and Germany’s expansion as a world power through the winning of new colonies.
“This was two years before the outbreak of war,” Schwarz said, adding that, “the alleged sleepwalkers clearly had Germany’s war aims firmly in mind.”
In conclusion, Schwarz said, “Münkler’s attacks on Fischer are meant to prevent the study and understanding of the historical models that underpin today’s foreign policy. They serve to poison the intellectual climate and to stifle opposition to militarism.”
It is precisely this development that the IYSSE opposes, he said.
The presentation was met with considerable interest, with members of the audience posing a number of questions. This led to a discussion about why the struggle against war requires the mobilization of the working class on the basis of an international socialist programme.
The seminar series continues next Monday with a lecture entitled, “The relativization of Nazi crimes at Humboldt University”. The presentation will address the question: Why are views that once provoked staunch opposition now accepted without criticism widely in the academic world?
from: Ljiljana Bogoeva Sedlar <

"Palestinians to be enabled to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel" Ban Ki-moon

UN chief says Palestinians will join int'l court on April 1

Ban Ki-moon announces date for accession to ICC; move will enable Palestinians to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel.
Associated Press
Published: 01.07.15, 09:26 / Israel News

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said late Tuesday that the Palestinians will join the International Criminal Court on April 1, a high-stakes move that will enable them to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel. 

 Mahmoud Abbas signing international treaties on January 1 (Photo: EPA)The Palestinians submitted the documents ratifying the Rome Statute that established the court last Friday, the last formal step to accepting the jurisdiction of the world's permanent war crimes tribunal. The UN said the secretary-general would review the paperwork. 

Mahmoud Abbas signing international treaties on January 1 (Photo: EPA)

In a statement posted on the UN's treaty website, the secretary-general announced his acceptance of the documents saying "the statute will enter into force for the State of Palestine on April 1, 2015" in accordance with the court's procedures. He said he was "acting in his capacity as depositary" for the documents of ratification. 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed documents to join the ICC a day after the UN Security Council rejected a resolution on Dec. 30 that would have set a three-year deadline for the establishment of a Palestinian state .
Joining the ICC is part of a broader Palestinian strategy to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the territories and agreeing to Palestinian statehood. Abbas has been under heavy domestic pressure to take stronger action against Israel after a 50-day war between the Jewish state and militants in Gaza over the summer, tensions over holy sites in Jerusalem, and the failure of the last round of US-led peace talks. 

The Palestinian decision to join the ICC has already sparked retaliation from Israel which froze the transfer of more than $100 million in tax funds collected for the Palestinians on Saturday. It promised tougher action on Sunday. 

Ban Ki-moon touring a tunnel from Gaza into Israel. (Photo: Chaim Tzach/GPO)
Ban Ki-moon touring a tunnel from Gaza into Israel. (Photo: Chaim Tzach/GPO)

The United States also opposed the move, calling it an obstacle to reaching a permanent peace agreementl that would give the Palestinians an independent state. The Obama administration said Monday it was reviewing its annual $440 million aid package to the Palestinians because of the decision to join the ICC. 

While Palestinian membership in the ICC doesn't automatically incur U.S. punishment, any Palestinian case against Israel at the court would trigger an immediate cutoff of U.S. financial support under American law. 

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said last week that the Palestinians are seeking to raise alleged crimes committed by Israel, including during last summer's war in Gaza. He said the Palestinians will also seek justice for Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, which he said constitute "a war crime" under the Rome statute. 

An ICC investigation could also lead to possible war crimes charges against Palestinians, but Mansour said the Palestinians don't fear any possible action by the court. 

The ICC said the Palestinians submitted a document to the court's registrar, Herman von Hebel, in The Hague, Netherlands on Jan. 1 stating that Palestine accepts the jurisdiction of the ICC starting June 13 -- about a month before the Gaza war started. 

The International Criminal Court was created to prosecute individual perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Palestine will become the 123rd member. 

But in Monday's press release, the court stressed that accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC "does not automatically trigger an investigation." ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda must determine whether the criteria under the statute for opening an investigation have been met, it said. 

The secretary-general also approved Palestinian documents joining 16 other international treaties, conventions and agreements on Tuesday night.

UN Chief Says Palestinians to Join ICC in April

News | 07.01.2015 | 12:14
The International Criminal Court's Rome Statute will enter into force for Palestine on April 1, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“The Statute will enter into force for the State of Palestine on 1 April 2015 in accordance with its Article 126 (2),” Ban Ki-moon said in a letter Tuesday.
This article provides that the Statute will enter into force on the first day of the month after the 60th day following the deposit of ratification.
On January 2, the United Nations said that Palestinian Permanent Observer to the UN Riyad Mansour had transmitted copies of documents to the Secretariat regarding the accession of Palestine to 16 international conventions and treaties, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
In a separate filing, Palestine has accepted retroactive application of the ICC's Rome Statute to June 13, 2014, for the Gaza conflict.
Tags: International Criminal Court UN Palestinе

Another War in Europe? In Whose Name?

Natalia MEDEN | 04.01.2015 | 00:00

2014 is gone. 100 years ago the Great War of 1914-1918 was unleashed to take away many millions of human lives and destroy four empires. Now the old continent is threatened again. The ominous signs are visible; the information about Ukraine is reduced to a minimum by European media outlets. This approach is not only myope and light-minded - they misinform people and the deceit could lead to tragic consequences.
Prominent people who described the eventsof WWI forthwith,like, for instance, Grand AdmiralAlfred Friedrich von Tirpitz, have provided irrefutable evidence of the fact that European politicians had underestimated the threat of all-out war till the last moment. A number of warnings on this account have already been voiced in Germany. In early December, 60 prominent German personalities from the realms of politics, economics, culture and the media signed a letter published by Die Zeit "War in Europe Again? Not in Our Names!" All the politicians who signed the paper have been ranking officials in the past: a former federal president, a former chancellor, former federal ministers and former prime ministers of federal lands. Only former big shots - never incumbents. That’s life. That’s what German politics is about – the rules are strict and nobody wants to doom his or her political career. The idea to publish the letter was initiated by influential representatives of leading political parties: Christian Democrat Horst Teltschik, Social Democrat Walther Stützle, Antje Vollmer, a member of the Green Party. Dr. Horst Teltschik is a German politician and business manager. He served as national security advisor to Chancellor Helmut Kohl and held a number of other important positions in the German government. From 1999 to 2008, he chaired the Munich Conference on Security Policy, which hosts the premier global international security event bringing security professionals and decision-makers together. As Teltschik explained, he put his signature to prevent the loss of what has been achieved during the recent 25 years as the relationship with Russia developed, though the letter is mainly devoted not to the bilateral relations but rather to serious consequences to be entailed by further escalation of conflict. The authors say the people are scared of another war. (1)
The appeal is addressed to the government, members of parliament and media. What is striking – the federal TV channels ARD and ZDF never said a word about this important public initiative! Die Zeit was the only German newspaper to publish the document. Like if trying to make up for the committed mistake, the newspaper soon introduced its readers to the opinion of those who angrily lambasted the letter of 60. The article written in response was called Putin Closes the Window to Europe (2). Newspapers Frankfurter Allgemeine and Süddeutsche Zeitung published materials containing harsh criticism of the appeal of 60 without publishing the letter itself! You’re welcome to condemn it without reading first! Lutz Bachmann, the leader of the movement which involves more and more people into the protests against Islamization of Germany, flatly refused to talk to journalists.
The posts published in reaction to the anti-letter responses are more interesting than the articles themselves. There are many of them. For instance, a thousand of newspaper’s readers commented on the Die Zeit publication. Many condemn the West blaming it for absence of self–criticism and inability to take on at least some responsibility for starting and escalating the conflict in Ukraine. Some say Western politicians lead Europe to war and they want this madness stopped. (3) Around a half of posts contain harsh criticism of West’s policy. By and large, the public surveys say the same thing. For instance, in December 51% of responders in comparison with 41% in September said that in their opinion Russia really believed it was threatened by the West. It strikes an eye that the number of those who supported a more active participation of NATO in Ukrainian conflict dwindled by 16%. It’s a pity that 40% have not changed their views. It means the idea still has a considerable support. (4) It is even more worrisome that 61% of Germans endorse the Berlin’s tougher stance on Russia in its dialogue with Moscow. The same survey says Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has a modest lead over Chancellor Angela Merkel. 70% of respondents approve his work (the survey puts the Angela Merkel’s approval rating at 67%) while 23% disapprove it (in comparison 32% do not approve of the job the Chancellor is doing). Perhaps the stances adopted by the politicians on Ukraine make difference: Steinmeier wants to sound soft on the issue unlike the Chancellor who keeps on insisting the anti-Russia sanctions are necessary. She has even let know the sanctions could be toughened. That’s what one of the posts send to Märkische Oderzeitung forum says about the Merkel’s policy toward Russia, “The frenzied rhetoric of this woman is unbearable. Her rule has nothing to do with politics. She does not care about German people.” “13 years ago Putin offered the Russian heart to us (meaning his speech delivered in Bundestag in 2001). And how did we respond to it?” “May 8 is the latest date for Merkel to lend a hand to Russia! All other things are nothing else but fuelling hatred and spurring further escalation!” (5)
The differences between Steinmeier and Merkel on Russia periodically get into the German media’s radar screen, though it’s hard to grasp the gist of it. Social Democrat Steinmeier is concerned over possible deterioration of economic situation. So what? German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble of the ChristianDemocratic Union of Germanyis also concerned over the anti-Russia sanctions but does not support the idea of lifting or at least easing them. The rhetoric of Social Democrats appears to be a bit less tough but it has no influence on Berlin.
There is an impression that Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier just put on an act - a badly played amateur performance. It’s not even “a bad cop-good cop” classic game but rather it’s “a bad cop (Merkel) - a not so bad cop (Steinmeier)” version. Such performances lack of taste and depth. Anyway, playing such roles will hardly enhance the German liberals’ credibility.
1) "Wieder Krieg in Europa? Nicht in unserem Namen!"/ Zeit, 5. Dezember 2014.
2) Putin schließt das Fenster zu Europa/Zeit, 8. Dezember 2014.
4)ARD survey – DeutschlandTREND Dezember 2014. S. 8, 13. Such surveys are conducted every month.
5) Russia is the only country Germany never officially apologized to for unleashing WWII. At that the anti-historic version of the events is spread in Germany as well as in the West in general. It says that “two dictatorships” clashed and there was no difference between Hitler and Stalin. 
Tags: Germany Russia Merkel Steinmeier