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Worldwide protests planned on eve of Bradley Manning trial

Rallies are planned this weekend in dozens of cities across the globe in support of Private first class Bradley Manning as the former Army...

UK: Soldier Killing Suspect Approached by MI5 to Become Informer

Two British-Nigerians frightened the great former colonial empire to death by nearly beheading a soldier, in London. Yet British and other western politicians have...

Oops! Sen. McCain Met Syrian Rebels Accused of Kidnapping

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz., shown) and his goal of openly intervening in the Syrian conflict on behalf of the foreign-backed rebels – many of...

Four killed in Baghdad mosque attack

Firefighters and people gather at the site of an explosion near a mosque in Baghdad. (File Photo)At least four people have been killed and...

War Crimes as Policy

In February the Guardian and BBC Arabic unveiled a documentary exploring the role of retired Colonel James Steele in the recruitment, training and initial...

Citizens of Wisconsin Deliver War Crimes Indictment against President Barack H. Obama

Five nonviolent activists attempted to deliver an indictment for war crimes to Volk Field Commander Colonel Dave Romuald.

25 Signs That Military Veterans Are Being Treated Like Absolute Trash Under The Obama...

Michael SnyderAmerican DreamMay 31, 2013 Why does the Obama administration treat our military veterans like human...

A Proxy War Is Raging In Syria

“Our” Sunni Terrorists Are Fighting “Their” Hezbollah “Terrorists” Right now inside Syria, Hezbollah fighters — backed by the Syrian government, Iran and Lebanon — are...

American Killed Fighting For Syrian Rebels Had Al-Qaeda Flag

Terrorist make-up of Syrian opposition underscored once again Paul Joseph WatsonInfowars.comMay 31, 2013 An...

Four killed in Baghdad mosque attack

At least four people have been killed and more than 17 others injured in a bomb explosion near a mosque south of the Iraqi...

Iran urges ceiling limit to OPEC output

Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi has urged the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to maintain its crude output ceiling given the current situation...

The Imperial Mindset

Max Boot, one of the nation’s leading chickenhawks, and someone who wrote in 2011, rather straightforwardly, that the United States should maintain its presence in Iraq because...

UN blacklists al-Nusra Front: Diplomats

File photo shows foreign-sponsored militants in Syria.The United Nations Security Council has agreed to add the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group al-Nusra Front operating in Syria...

Imperialism, Syria, and the threat of world war

  31 May 2013 ...

Syrian Rebels Massacre Christian Village

While President Obama’s administration weighs overt military aid to Syrian rebels, the true character of the revolution underway in that country is becoming horrifically...

The Pied Pipers of Neoconservatism

This article has been adapted from an address given by Mr. McManus to a meeting of the Robert Welch Club on June 30, 2001,...

The Pied Pipers of Neoconservatism

This article has been adapted from an address given by Mr. McManus to a meeting of the Robert Welch Club on June 30, 2001,...

The Pied Pipers of Neoconservatism

This article has been adapted from an address given by Mr. McManus to a meeting of the Robert Welch Club on June 30, 2001,...

From War to Wall Street: Gen. Petraeus Puts "Killer" Skill Set to New Use

Private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co has a "killer" new employee–former U.S. General and CIA chief David Petraeus. David Petraeus west...

Syrian Rebels Massacre Christian Village

While President Obama’s administration weighs overt military aid to Syrian rebels, the true character of the revolution underway in that country is becoming horrifically...

Israel is fighting a regional war in Syria

The changing internal situation in Syria is putting a new set of plans into motion, which involve Israeli aggression against Syria. Not only have the...

The Cold War Redux?

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_cold_war_redux_20130530/ Posted on May 30, 2013 By Michael T....

Russia’s S-300 Surface to Air Missile, Already Deployed and Functional in Syria?

According to reports, Russia’s S-300 Surface to Air Missile system is to be delivered and deployed to Syria. Israel has responded with veiled threats....

Syrian Rebels Turn on Their Political Leadership

Syrian rebel groups have strongly criticised their political leadership outside Syria, saying it has no real connection to the rebellion and calling for half...

Afghanistan: Is It Really the End Game?

“Gunmen in Pakistan on Monday set ablaze five trucks carrying NATO equipment out of Afghanistan as the international military alliance winds down it combat...

US Accused of Politicizing Weapons of Mass Destruction

UNITED NATIONS - When the United States invaded Iraq back in March 2003, one of its primary objectives was to track down and destroy...

Iran warns of war spillover in Mideast

Iranâ„¢s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari meet in Tehran, May 29, 2013.The Iranian president has warned against the enemiesâ„¢...

Obama Hands Out the Hemlock

In Plato’s Trial and Death of Socrates Socrates is charged with corrupting the youth for the ghastly crime of encouraging his students to ask...

US to let GI avoid death in plea deal

US Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who killed 16 Afghan civilians, plans to plead guilty in a deal with military prosecutors to avoid a death...

Afghan war costs UK over £37bn so far

An independent study has found that the UK military's presence in Afghanistan's Helmand province, where most British troops are based, has cost the country...

Afghan war costs UK over £37bn so far

An independent study has found that the UK military's presence in Afghanistan's Helmand province, where most British troops are based, has cost the country...

Hammond, Manning, Assange and Obama’s Sledgehammer Against Dissent

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/hammond_manning_assange_and_obamas_sledgehammer_against_dissent_20130529/ Posted on May 29, 2013 ...

Iran denies sending fighters to Syria

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has dismissed a report published by a US paper, accusing Tehran of setting up a center for training and sending...

Lifting the Fake EU Arms Embargo: Weapons for Al Qaeda in Syria

On May 27, the so-called one-year EU arms embargo on Syria’s opposition ended. Officially it does so on June 1. EU nations agreed to...

Britain’s Security Service: More Questions about MI5’s Relations with Woolwich Killers

Questions continue to pile up over the security services’ familiarity and contact with the two killers of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, southeast London. Rigby...

The Role of Turkey in the US-NATO-Israeli War on Syria

“Syria is worrying that it will be attacked by Turkey from above and by Israel from below. It is worrying that it will...

We’re Being Watched: How Corporations and Law Enforcement Are Spying on Environmentalists

(Photo illustrations Nadia Khastagir / Design Action)In February 2010 Tom Jiunta and a small group of residents in northeastern Pennsylvania formed the Gas Drilling...

CIA Thwarts Polio Vaccination Campaign

A polio vaccination campaign worker was shot to death in Pakistan on Tuesday, which The New York Times wasted no time in reporting. What...

Media Gets Targeted by Obama Administration, Discovers No One Cares Except the Media

I was watching the local network news one recent evening because apparently I like to torture myself. And what were they reporting on? Michael...

Corporate Spying on Environmental Groups

In February 2010 Tom Jiunta and a small group of residents in northeastern Pennsylvania formed the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition (GDAC), an environmental organization...

‘US involved in never-ending wars’

An American journalist has exposed the United States administrationâ„¢s descent into never-ending wars across the world in his new book. The investigative journalist, Jeremy, Scahill...

UK unlawfully puts Afghans behind bars

UK forces are detaining Afghan nationals without trial, lawyers say.The UK government has acknowledged that its troops in Afghanistan are unlawfully holding eighty to...

Syria confab to open in Tehran shortly

The Tehran Consultative Meeting on Syria, attended by officials and representatives from nearly 30 countries, was held in the Iranian capital in August 2012.The...

‘Iran must partake in Geneva talks’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has reiterated the necessity of Iranâ„¢s presence in a forthcoming international conference on the ongoing crisis in Syria due...

Osama bin Laden Responsible for the 9/11 Attacks? Where is the Evidence?

The idea that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks has been an article of faith for public officials and the mainstream...

Boko Haram: We’re winning Nigeria war

The leader of Boko Haram says the militant group has forced the Nigerian army to retreat and has sustained little damage itself. "Since we started...

Obama asked Pentagon to prepare Syria no-fly zone plans – report

Officials from the Obama administration have revealed that the White House asked the Pentagon to outline plans for a military no-fly zone over Syria, continuing strategy discussions that have been ongoing for more than a year.

America’s Misguided Pivot To Asia

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/americas_misguided_pivot_to_asia_20130528/ Posted on May 28, 2013 ...

Shot Down? Suspected US Drone Crashes in Somalia

Citing local officials and witnesses, Reuters on Tuesday is reporting that a suspected US military drone has crashed in Somalia. According to...

McCain Visits Rebel Army in Syria

John McCain (shown) has put "boots on the ground" in Syria after all – his own. The senior senator from Arizona and ranking Republican on...

UK benefit cuts disgrace war veterans

Charities have slammed the UK coalition's crackdown on welfare benefits, which are affecting ex-soldiers.Leading veteransâ„¢ charities have slammed the UK governmentâ„¢s crackdown on welfare...

UK security services ‘completely out of control’

<!--Tony Gosling-->Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian &...

How Obama and Al-Qaeda Became Syrian Bedfellows

For a president that is executing Bush’s “war on terror” against Al-Qaeda and “it’s affiliates,” it seems odd that President Obama has targeted the...

Naming Our Nameless War

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/naming_our_nameless_war_20130528/ Posted on May 28, 2013 By Andrew J....

Shot Down? Suspected US Drone Crashes in Somalia

Citing local officials and witnesses, Reuters on Tuesday is reporting that a suspected US military drone has crashed in Somalia. According to...

Under the Disguise of The “Battle against Terrorism”: The U.S., Britain and France Support...

The UK Foreign secretary William Hague, and his French counterpart Lauren Fabius, are leading an isolated charge within the EU to lift a supposed...

McCain Visits Rebel Army in Syria

John McCain (shown) has put "boots on the ground" in Syria after all – his own. The senior senator from Arizona and ranking Republican on...

European Powers Lift Embargo, Move to Arm Syrian Opposition. Direct Military Support to Al...

On Monday the foreign ministers of the European Union (EU) met in Brussels and agreed not to renew the arms embargo against Syria. This...

Send John McCain to Guantanamo Bay

Senator meets with America-hating, Al-Qaeda terrorists Paul Joseph WatsonInfowars.comMay 28, 2013 Given the fact...

How Obama and Al-Qaeda Became Syrian Bedfellows

For a president that is executing Bush’s “war on terror” against Al-Qaeda and “its affiliates,” it seems odd that President Obama has targeted the...

Declaring the 9/11 Era Over

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/declaring_the_9_11_era_over_20130527/ Posted on May 27, 2013 ...

McCain sneaks into Syria, meets rebels

Republican Senator John McCain, a staunch advocate of US military aid to the Syrian opposition, has made a surprise visit to war-torn Syria and...

More War, “Kill Courts” at Home. The Real Meaning of Obama’s National Security Speeches

 This past Thursday and Friday, President Obama delivered two speeches designed to outline his new thinking on national security and counter-terrorism. While much was...

Neoconservative Republicans Knock Obama's Shift in War on Terror

A number of neoconservative Republicans spent part of the Memorial Day weekend roundly criticizing the plan announced by President Obama to limit the scope...

Syrian Rebel Alliance Openly Threatens Ethnic Cleansing

A spokesman for the primary rebel alliance in Syria, known as the “Free Syrian Army,” threatened that opposition forces could start implementing a broad...

An Empire of Graves "Around the Globe"

“Ask him about the cemeteries, Dean!” The speaker, if the story is true, was President Lyndon B. Johnson instructing Secretary of State Dean Rusk on...

Dozens killed in string of Baghdad bombings

A series of blasts ripped through Iraq’s capital on Monday, killing more than 70 and leaving many wounded, marking the latest in over 350...

Neoconservative Republicans Knock Obama's Shift in War on Terror

A number of neoconservative Republicans spent part of the Memorial Day weekend roundly criticizing the plan announced by President Obama to limit the scope...

Report on Syria — Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire: “The Syrian State is Under...

Report and Appeal to the International community to support a process of dialogue and reconciliation in Syria between its people and Syrian government and...

Syrian Rebel Alliance Openly Threatens Ethnic Cleansing

A spokesman for the primary rebel alliance in Syria, known as the “Free Syrian Army,” threatened that opposition forces could start implementing a broad...

Car bomb explosions kill 17 in Baghdad

At least 17 people have been killed and dozens of others injured in car bomb attacks that targeted Shia districts of the Iraqi capital...

Obama’s Militarism-Imperialism Lite

A tissue of lies? No, the whole Kleenex box-one tissue interleaved with all the others. Obama is fortunate to be presiding over a country...

Obama’s Militarism-Imperialism Lite

A tissue of lies? No, the whole Kleenex box-one tissue interleaved with all the others. Obama is fortunate to be presiding over a country...

Baghdad car bombs kill 2, injure 16

File photo shows the scene of a car bomb explosion in Iraq.At least two people have been killed and 16 others injured in two...

Escalation and US-NATO Military Intervention in Syria? War spreads to Lebanon

Escalating fighting in Lebanon along with growing efforts by the US and the European powers to arm the Syrian rebels are raising the risk...

Sweden Rebellions Reveal Deepening Racial and Class Divisions

Many people in Sweden and across Europe and the world were shocked at the week of unrest which began on May 19 in the...

The Reality of the War Zone

I am watching a special on the Holocaust. I have seen many before. This time, however, it’s striking me differently. I’m realizing how many...

From Crisis to Crisis in Baghdad

As Iraq edges closer to all-out sectarian civil war, with 400 people killed so far this month, Najmaldin Karim, governor of one of the...

Will EU Sanctions Once Again Target the Civilian Population of Syria?

Beirut. Under withering pressure from Washington and the UK, the European Union, is meeting this week to decide whether to increase the pressure on the...

An Empire of Graves "Around the Globe"

“Ask him about the cemeteries, Dean!” The speaker, if the story is true, was President Lyndon B. Johnson instructing Secretary of State Dean Rusk on...

Baghdad car bombs kill 2, injure 16

At least two people have been killed and 16 others injured in two car bomb attacks that rocked the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad....

The Afghanistan War Comes Home to Philadelphia

Maple Glen War Zone Although I have been a journalist now for 40 years, I have, by design, never sought an assignment as a war...

‘Provinces should focus on resources’

Iranian presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei says resource-rich provinces need to use their own capacities to develop local economies. Addressing a crowd of supporters in the...

‘Provinces should focus on resources’

Iranian presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei says resource-rich provinces need to use their own capacities to develop local economies. Addressing a crowd of supporters in the...

US militarism in Mideast is radicalizing Iran

Iran was once on a path of liberalization and reform before the US Military began sowing destruction throughout the Middle East and Central Asia...

Syrian TV reporter killed by rebel sniper near Qusair

Yara Abbas, a prominent female Syrian war reporter, was killed in the country’s west, Syrian officials confirmed. The country remains a dangerous place for...

UK moves to gag ‘poisonous’ radical preachers, clamp down on Internet extremism

The UK Prime Minister has announced an anti-terror task force to clamp down on the "poisonous narratives" of radical preachers who target recruits in...

Iran-Turkmenistan railway enters service

Iran has officially inaugurated a railroad which connects the northern Iranian city of Gorgan to Incheh Borun town along the border with Turkmenistan. The Gorgan-Incheh...

President’s Obama’s Promise: Global War on Terror to Continue, with Fresh Makeup. Assassinating People...

The United States uses Predator and Reaper drones to kill people at a distance, sometimes at random, sometimes Americans or children, and after a...

“Like Listening to the Crudest Form of Propaganda from Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany”

Thomas DiLorenzolewrockwell.comMay 26, 2013 That’s how emailer John D. describes the Marc Levin (“The Grate...

China repeats assertions regarding Syria

China has once again called for a political solution to the ongoing unrest in Syria and urged the international community to help with finding...

'No world power can counter Iran'

No world power can counter, harm Iran: IRGC cmdr.Iran Defense Ministry hands over a large number of long-range surface-to-surface missile launchers to the Islamic...

America’s “Permanent War”: The “Authorization to Use Military Force” Forever?

The Militant American Empire Doesn’t Need Any More AUMF On September 14, 2001, the Congress authorized the President to wage unfettered, permanent war against...

Alternative media forcing real issues into national news coverage

Jeffrey Phelpsexaminer.comMay 26, 2013 MSNBC’s Maddow is strangely and ironically begging the GOP to...

Tehran museum exhibits war photos

A collection of photos displaying Iranâ„¢s sacred defense in 1980s imposed war has been showcased at Tehranâ„¢s Palestine Museum of Contemporary Art. Some...

Damascus to attend Geneva conference

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem speaks during a press conference in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on May 26, 2013.Damascus says it will take part...

US and Allies Step Up War Preparations against Syria, Lebanon, Iran

The United States and its allies continue to escalate their military aggression against Syria, behind the smokescreen of a proposed international peace conference scheduled...

Syrian Army Continues Crackdown on Terrorists in al-Qseir and Other Areas

SANA reporter quoted a source in the province as saying that units of the armed forces tightened their grip on both sides of Homs-Baalbek...

‘Jordan to host major 18-nation drill’

US soldiers sit in a tank as a helicopter hovers over during the Eager Lion 2012 joint military exercise near the Jordan“Saudi border, 260...

Guns Versus Trade: U.S. and China Rivalry over Africa’s Riches

 In my report on France’s invasion of Mali published in the March issue of The Monitor, I wrote that, “According to U.K. journalist John...

Rand Paul: Senate Is Arming Al-Qaeda and Rushing to War in Syria

“This is an important moment. You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda.” That was the declaration Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.; pictured) made...

Rand Paul: Senate Is Arming Al-Qaeda and Rushing to War in Syria

“This is an important moment. You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda.” That was the declaration Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.; pictured) made...

French soldier on duty stabbed by man 'of North African origin' in Paris, manhunt...

A French soldier patrolling a business area of western Paris was stabbed in the neck on Saturday by a man who quickly fled the...

MI5 ‘tried to recruit’ Woolwich murder suspect

UK intelligence service MI5 approached Woolwich killing suspect Michael Adebolajo to offer him a job, a friend of the alleged murderer claimed in a...

Obama’s Legacy

Shahid Buttar firedoglake.comMay 25, 2013 President Obama’s speech, presenting his vision of a...

‘Obama commits war crimes as pres.’

A political analyst tells Press TV that US President Barack Obama is committing war crimes by defending his administration's use of drones in a...

Brits rally in solidarity with Manning

Demonstrators gathered outside the US embassy in London on August 25, 2012.Activists from across Britain are to stage a protest in support of Bradley...

Brits rally in solidarity with Manning

Demonstrators gathered outside the US embassy in London on August 25, 2012.Activists from across Britain are to stage a protest in support of Bradley...

Boston and the CIA ‘Snafu’: The grey eminence behind Turkey’s Erdogan and AKP

Part I: Graham Fuller, Uncle Ruslan, the CIA and the Boston Bombings Graham Fuller (foreground) and Turkish Muslim guru Fetullah Gülen who has dark ties...

Boston and the CIA ‘Snafu’: The grey eminence behind Turkey’s Erdogan and AKP

Part I: Graham Fuller, Uncle Ruslan, the CIA and the Boston Bombings Graham Fuller (foreground) and Turkish Muslim guru Fetullah Gülen who has dark ties...

No Iran troop deployment to Syria: Vahidi

Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi rejects Western allegations that Iran has sent military forces to Syria. Å“The Islamic Republic of Iran has not...

MI5 ‘tried to recruit’ Woolwich murder suspect

UK intelligence service MI5 approached Woolwich killing suspect Michael Adebolajo to offer him a job, a friend of the alleged murderer claimed in a...

‘UK security services warned for a decade about wars abroad sparking home terror’

Woolwich machete attack is a result of the policy of British government that continues wars abroad despite security services’ warnings that this would increase...

Why We Oppose U.S. and Israeli intervention in Syria

Having overthrown the Governments in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, the U.S. government has sought to topple the Syrian government during the...

Adam Kokesh Calls For “New American Revolution”

Imprisoned activist demands march on governors of 50 states Paul Joseph WatsonInfowars.comMay 24, 2013

SOAS serves as MI6 training ground

SOAS university of London serves as MI6 training ground for spies.SOAS University of London is involved in secret espionage activities under the cover name...

Woolrich London Killing: Terrorism or False Flag?

Reports said two assailants hacked a British soldier to death. He’s been identified as Lee Rigby. He was killed in broad daylight. It was...

Blood on the Streets of London: Who will Protect us from the Real Extremists?

Two men armed with knives and gun(s) apparently hack to death an off-duty soldier outside an army barracks in Woolwich, London. As the soldier lies...

Chomsky calls for Obama trial at ICC

Renowned American academic Noam Chomsky says US President Barack Obama, his predecessor George W. Bush along with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair should...

The entire globe is a battlefield for Pentagon

<!--Pepe Escobar-->Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and...

How CounterTerrorism Equals Terrorism

Obama’s speech yesterday was totally predictable. He played the usual word games, defining the situation in self-serving terms like Counter-Terrorism. You know that song by heart:...

Stockholm Smolders

Stockholm. Stockholm has been the scene of riots this week, to much of the world’s surprise, with the unrest flaring up in immigrant-dominated neighborhoods on...

“Hello, Missy, Fuck You”

When I wrote that first opinion piece after my nephew Chase was killed in Iraq, I naively believed my words could make a difference,...

Obama offers tortured defense of targeted killings

  By ...

‘Woolwich-style attacks to become one of the main ways people protest’

<!--Annie Machon-->Annie Machon is a former intel­li­gence officer for the UK's MI5, who resigned in 1996 to blow the whistle. She is now a...

Women cadets secretly filmed in shower at West Point

A US military sergeant first class has been accused of secretly photographing and filming at least 12 female cadets at West Point, in some...

US in no position to judge Iran election

Iranian political commentator Mohammad Marandi says as a supporter of dictatorships across the world, the US is in no position to pass judgment on...

Bahrainis Demand Regime Change

World media outlets give little attention to the events in Bahrain, a small island nation, which is a key ally of Saudi Arabia and...

Colombia’s Peasants and Workers Under Fire

There has been an alarming escalation of repression against rural populations in Colombia. Much of this is focused against the National Unified Federation of...

The Consequences of Gun-at-the-Head Diplomacy

“The US kill rate in the 1950-53 Korean War equaled more than one 9-11 every day… for the whole 1,100 day war…The US may...

US Political Impotence in the Middle East

In an article published May 15, 2013, American historical social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein wrote, “Nothing illustrates more the limitations of Western power than the...

Israel is fighting a regional war in Syria

<!--Mahdi D. Nazemroaya-->Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is sociologist, award-winning author, and noted geopolitical analyst. ...

‘Obama must be taken before ICC for the war on terror’ – Chomsky

The US war on terror is in fact the most massive terror campaign ever, and the invasion of Iraq was the worst crime in...

Amnesty report blasts US for Gitmo, drone strikes, ‘absence of accountability’

Amnesty International listed US indefinite detention of 166 prisoners at Guantanamo as the country’s primary human rights concern in its latest annual report,. The...

Behind “Syria Peace Talks”, US Prepares Regional War

While ostensibly touring the Middle East to discuss a joint US-Russian proposal for peace talks between the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and...

David Cameron to Arm Woolwich Terrorists?

London attack boosts “clash of civilizations” narrative Paul Joseph WatsonInfowars.comMay 23, 2013 Image: Wikimedia...

Philadelphia Activists Arrested, Framed and Denied Bail for Speaking Out in Favor of Marijuana...

Infowars.comMay 23, 2013 (Philadelphia, PA, May 22, 2013) – Comedy-activist troupe “The Panic Hour” and activist...

UK’s colonial past a possible factor in brutal Woolwich killing

The Woolwich attack in the UK has already been branded as the latest manifestation of global Islamist terrorism. However, it has also been suggested...

‘World welcomes Syria confab in Tehran’

Officials and representatives from over 30 countries pose for a photo during a day-long international consultative meeting on Syria, Tehran, August, 2012.Iranâ„¢s Permanent Mission...

The social disaster in Tornado Alley

  23 May 2013 ...

The SPD celebrates its 150th anniversary

  By Peter Schwarz ...

‘Was the machete supplied by William Hague?’

<!--Afshin Rattansi-->Afshin Rattansi is a journalist, author of “The Dream of the Decade — the London Novels” and an RT Contributor. He can be...

‘Was the machete supplied by William Hague?’

<!--Afshin Rattansi-->Afshin Rattansi is a journalist, author of “The Dream of the Decade — the London Novels” and an RT Contributor. He can be...

On the Road to Damascus: An Eyewitness Report

I participated, May 1-11, 2013 in the Mussalaha International Peace Delegation to Lebanon-Syria alongside fellow TRANSCEND member Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, from Ireland,...

The Path of Hubris and War

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_path_of_hubris_and_war_20130522/ Posted on May 22, 2013 ...

The Path of Hubris and War

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_path_of_hubris_and_war_20130522/ Posted on May 22, 2013 ...

Army commander suspended over sexual misconduct charges

The Army’s top general at Fort Jackson has been suspended over allegations of assault and adultery. The news strikes another blow against the US...

Kerry Complains About Hezbollah Fighters in Syria

Secretary of State says nothing about CIA’s foreign mercenaries, including al-Qaeda Kurt NimmoInfowars.comMay 22, 2013

Federalized Local Police Helped Arrest Adam Kokesh

US adopting RAND Corp Stability Police Force model Adan SalazarInfowars.comMay 21, 2013 Last Saturday’s marijuana...

Courtroom ordered closed for Manning trial session to ‘protect classified information’

A US judge has ruled that some testimony in the Bradley Manning trial will be heard behind closed doors to ensure that classified information...

Israel, US Threatens War with Syria as Sectarian Fighting Spreads across Region

Israeli and Syrian forces exchanged fire across the cease-fire line in the Golan Heights yesterday, amid rising US and Israeli threats of intervention in...

Jalili, Saeed

Saeed Jalili was born in September 1965 in the holy of Mashhad in northeastern Iran. He holds a PhD in political science from Imam...

US suspends top general for adultery

The US Army has suspended the commander of a major training camp for adultery and physical abuse allegations in yet another case of persisting...

CIA Troublemaking in Caucasus

Wayne Madsenstrategic-culture.orgMay 21, 2013 It is clear that Russia’s arrest and expulsion of two...

US-China Confrontation: Washington’s Hacking Charges Escalate Pressure on Beijing

Yesterday, top US officials and media made unsubstantiated allegations of hacking of US computer systems by a military unit in Shanghai, escalating tensions with...

Too Soon to Tell: The Case for Hope, Continued

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/too_soon_to_tell_the_case_for_hope_continued_20130521/ Posted on May 21, 2013 ...

‘Syria conf. aimed at political solution’

Iranâ„¢s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Araqchi says the upcoming meeting of the Friends of Syria, due to be held in Tehran, is aimed at...

Pentagon wants extra $79.4bn for Afghan war

The Pentagon has submitted a request of nearly 80 billion dollars for the fiscal year 2014 to the US Congress to cover the cost of war in Afghanistan.

Revenge of the Bear: Russia Strikes Back in Syria

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/revenge_of_the_bear_russia_strikes_back_in_syria_20130521/ Posted on May 20, 2013 ...

The Bigger Story Behind the AP Spying Scandal

Attack on the Press You know that the Department of Justice tapped scores of phone lines at the Associated Press. You might have heard that the...

What Will Tighter Restrictions on Trade in Iran Do?

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/what_will_tighter_restrictions_on_trade_in_iran_do_20130520/ Posted on May 20, 2013 ...

Veterans Affairs Has 630,000 Claims Backlogged, Some More Than Two Years Old

Infowars.comMay 20, 2013 Veterans who’ve been patiently waiting for the benefits promised them by...

Assange extradition case ‘a fit-up’?

The UK government eavesdropping agency, GCHQ, is facing embarrassing revelations after its internal correspondence was made public by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder...

CIA Troublemaking in Caucasus

It is clear that Russia’s arrest and expulsion of two CIA agents who were trying to recruit members of the Russian intelligence service fighting...

8 killed in bomb blast in Baghdad

Eight people have been killed as a bomb explodes near a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. This article originally appeared...

Car bomb blast kills 13 in Baghdad

At least thirteen people have been killed after a car bomb exploded in a Shia district of the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad, officials...

Car bomb blast kills 13 in Baghdad

At least thirteen people have been killed after a car bomb exploded in a Shia district of the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad, officials...

Obama-Backed FSA Rebels Name Their Brigade “Osama Bin Laden”

White House openly seeking to arm terrorists in Syria Paul Joseph WatsonInfowars.comMay 20, 2013 Underlining once again...

European Union Directly Funds Al Qaeda Looting of Syrian oil

According to a report yesterday in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, the European Union (EU) is directly funding US-backed Sunni Islamist terrorist groups fighting Syrian President...

Iran mass produces air defense system

Iranâ„¢s latest indigenous air defense system Ninth Herz has hit the production line in a ceremony with Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi...

Too Soon to Tell: The Case for Hope, Continued

May 19, 2013  | ...

The decomposition of American democracy

  20 May 2013 ...

'Egypt has not accredited envoy to Iran'

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All Politics Is Local

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Iran warns AL against ‘dangerous trend’

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has denounced the “improper” move by the Arab League to hand Syria’s seat to the Arab country's foreign-backed opposition, warning the block against pursuing a “dangerous trend” regarding Syria.

Granting Syria’s seat in the Arab League to a group that doesn’t have the nation’s direct vote is an improper measure, Amir-Abdollahian said in a meeting with Chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) Ammar Hakim in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Thursday.

The Arab League has begun a dangerous trend that can also be used against certain members of the bloc in the future, he added.

On Tuesday, Syria’s foreign-backed opposition bloc, known as the National Coalition, took Syria’s seat during the Arab League annual summit held in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The League also authorized its members to send all the means of what it called self-defense, including weapons, to the militants fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Iranian envoy further reaffirmed the country’s stance on the importance of resolving the ongoing crisis in Syria through national dialogue within a Syria-Syria framework.

Many people, including large numbers of soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence that broke out in Syria nearly two years ago.

Hakim, for his part, said that the support of certain sides for the extremist groups in Syria would not settle the two-year crisis in the Arab country. He added that the unrest in Syria should be resolved merely through political channels.

SF/HJL

Jailed Kurdish Leader Calls for End to Armed Struggle Against Turkey


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Bio

Baris Karaagac is a lecturer in International Development Studies at Trent University, in Ontario. He is also the editor of the book Accumulations, Crises and Struggles: Capital and Labour in Contemporary Capitalism, which will be published in 2013.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay.In the Middle East, momentous developments in the political landscape, all focused on Turkey. On March 21, Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdish independence struggle who is still in a Turkish jail, wrote a letter that was read to over 1 million Kurds calling to an end to the three-decades-long armed struggle and the beginning of a peaceful struggle within what he hoped, I guess, will be a new constitution in Turkey and a new political struggle and process.The next day, March 22, with President Obama sitting next to him, Prime Minister Netanyahu phones Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey, and apologized for the killing of Turkish citizens on the flotilla that was bound to try to break the siege of Gaza. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan accepted the apology with three conditions. And we'll talk about those conditions in a few minutes.Now joining us to discuss the significance of these events is Baris Karaagac. He's a lecturer in international development studies at Trent University in Ontario. He's also the editor of the book Accumulations, Crisis and Struggles: Capital and Labour in Contemporary Capitalism. And he joins us now from Toronto. Thanks very much for joining us, Baris.BARIS KARAAGAC, LECTURER, INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT STUDIES, TRENT STUDIES: Hello, Paul. My pleasure.JAY: So we're going to talk about both of these events. And I don't know if the timing is coincidental or not, but one day after the other, this must have been big news in Turkey. But let's start off chronologically with the letter from the leader of the Kurdish struggle essentially calling for an end to armed struggle.KARAAGAC: So on Thursday last week, which marks the beginning of the new year for millions of people around the Middle East, but also in different parts of the world, from the Balkans to some parts of Central Asia, about 1.5 million Kurds gathered in the largest predominantly Kurdish city in southeastern Turkey.And the importance of this day is that Ocalan had promised or declared that he was going to declare the beginning of a new era, not only for the Kurdish people and the Kurdish struggle, also for Turkey and the Middle East as a whole. So in this speech that was delivered by two members of the Kurdish party that is represented in the Turkish parliament, the BDP, Peace and Democracy Party, he declared the end of an era characterized by armed struggle--of course, not exclusively armed struggle--and the beginning of a new era in which the struggle will be taken to the political, peaceful arenas.And this importance is that this also represents an important change in the AKP governments, as well as the Turkish state's stance, towards the Kurdish movement, because this did not take place without the consent, without the knowledge of the Turkish state in general and the AKP government in particular. The representatives of the Kurdish state had been in touch and negotiating with Ocalan for some time now. This dates back to the actually almost mid--the middle of the first decade of the 21st century. But it did not introduce any positive outcome.This time there seems to be some consensus. And given the recent history of the AKP's stance towards--the AKP policies towards the Kurdish resistance and struggle, which had been quite repressive, this came maybe to some people, especially foreign observers, as a surprise, because now in Turkish jails we have tens of Kurdish journalists and we have thousands of Kurdish politicians who are incarcerated.So the question is that why did the Turkish state decide to change or make such a, you know, seemingly important shift in its policy towards the Kurds? So this is a very, very important question that we need to pose right now.In most analyses, commentators and scholars have focused on Erdogan's bid for presidency in a new presidential system. So they have been arguing that Erdogan needs to make a constitutional change, actually introduce a quite different constitution, replacing the one that was drafted under military rule back in 1982, and he wants to change the regime within Turkey into a presidential one. But this won't be the same as what we see in the U.S. And many people have been critical of this, you know, conception of a presidential system that was introduced by Erdogan, and they argued it actually will be quite undemocratic, with quite, you know, possibly, potentially authoritarian tendencies, with the president controlling both the presidency and the parliament.So, many people have focused on this issue, arguing that Erdogan doesn't have the necessary numbers right now in parliament to take this new constitution to a referendum. He needs 330 members of the parliament. So he used this, you know, rapprochement or, you know, change in Kurdish policy in the negotiations as a negotiation tool.And last month, when the meetings started with Ocalan on the one side and members of the BDP, the Kurdish party, on the other, and also with the participation of a member of the Turkish intelligence, there was a leak of the minutes of one of those meetings. And in those meetings, in those minutes, Ocalan actually clearly says that the Kurdish movement should consider negotiating with Erdogan and maybe agreeing, consenting to his, you know, presidency in a new presidential system in return for a number of cultural and political rights, changing the status of millions of Kurds within Turkey. So this seems to be one important factor that has led to--.JAY: Has the Turkish state actually offering the Kurds anything to prompt any of this? I assume one of the reasons they had an armed struggle in the first place is 'cause the political process wasn't working for them and they weren't winning concessions. This little bit seems [incompr.] unilateral. You know, the Kurds are going to give up their struggle, but what's the Turkish state giving in return? And two, how has this been received by the Kurds, given that their leader is in jail right now? Would he have made the same decision if he wasn't? ... First I asked you, did the Turkish state actually offer anything here in return for giving up the armed struggle? Is there a deal? And two, how's this being received? I mean, there must be some suspicion that this was done while he was in jail, no?KARAAGAC: Well, one thing that characterizes the ongoing process is a number of--so many unknowns. We don't know actually what the Erdogan government promised that it would do.But what is expected by the Kurds and by many people in Turkey is that there will be a number of legal as well as constitutional changes. So if these constitutional and legal changes are made, then the Kurdish movement is planning to retreat.The armed wing of the Kurdish movement, the PKK, is planning to withdraw its troops from--its guerrillas from within Turkish territory. And there are between 1,500 and 2,000 of them in different parts of, you know, central and eastern, particularly in eastern and southeastern Turkey.But as the head of the--you know, the acting leader of the PKK, Karayilan, made it very, very clearly: until these changes will be done, will be achieved, guerrillas will not withdraw. So he's quite optimistic about the potential of establishing, you know, peace, a peaceful process to address the Kurdish issue. He's making it very clear: until these steps are taken by the Turkish government and the state, there won't be an end to armed struggle. At least, they will not stop it. But there is a ceasefire right now. [incompr.]JAY: The Kurds in Iraq, there's bases there. In fact, the Turks have actually intervened in Iraq, attacking Kurdish bases there. Is there any suggestion anything will change about the bases that are in Iraq?KARAAGAC: You know, based on what they've said and based on what we've heard so far, there's nothing. We cannot say anything about it. Maybe in the, you know, weeks and months to come we'll hear something, but we don't know yet.But what the Kurds want right now, you know, is first of all a new definition of citizenship, secondly the recognition of the diversity of the Turkish or the people or the peoples in Turkey, because we--you know, Turkey has historically been a very diverse, heterogeneous, you know, population. For example, in 1913, about 20--more than 20 percent of the population was Christian. Then the Christians were--you know, they had to migrate, left. We know what happened in 1915. This number dropped. But even within the Muslim population we see a huge diversity. We have people from the Caucasus, from the Balkans, from the Middle East, Arabs, Circassians, Kurds, Arabs--sorry, Turks, Laz, etc.JAY: Baris, let me just ask you quickly: so if this deal really goes ahead and there is a deal and there are concessions and all the rest, what's the importance of that to Turkey? And what does that mean for the region?KARAAGAC: Well, the 30-year-old war will come to an end. So, you know, we don't know what--we cannot--we can only speculate about the outcomes. But first of all, Erdogan will be hailed as the great leader who ended this war. And secondly, Turkey will be stopping or preventing the emergence of an independent Kurdistan, you know, new nation state within the region. And this has been a state policy since the beginning of the republic. So this is a huge--you know, this can be seen as an important victory for the Turkish state.JAY: How might it affect Turkey's attitude to what's going on in Syria?KARAAGAC: In Syria? Well, in Syria, in the northern part of Syria, Turks--the Kurds have been--to a great extent they've become autonomous, right? So if--and the party or the movement that controls that part of Syria, the Kurdish regions, is closely linked, organically linked to the PKK. So if Turkey starts, you know, a new process and has better, more cordial relations, amicable relations with the PKK and the overall Kurdish movement within Turkey, as well as in northern Iraq, this will of course increase its influence over northern Syria. That is clear.So, secondly, of course this will also increase its influence and make the relations even closer with the administration in northern Iraq. Turkey is--70 percent of Turkey's trade relations, trade with Iraq, takes place within northern Iraq, right? So these are all the important gains for Turkey. I mean, overall, Turkey will be increasing its influence beyond its borders, right?But I would like to talk about another important reason as to why the Turkish state might have decided to make this move regarding its Kurdish policy, and that is the stalemate when it comes to the war between the Kurdish guerrillas and the Turkish state. So despite this, its 30-year history and 40,000 people dead, neither side is close to victory. The Turkish state knows that it will be impossible, almost impossible to defeat the, you know, Kurdish guerrillas. And the Kurdish guerrillas cannot defeat the Turkish state either.But at the same time, Turkey is a little bit worried now, because before, when it came to the Kurdish insurgency, Turks used to cooperate with different states. They used to cooperate with Iran, they used to cooperate with Syria, and to some extent they used to cooperate with Iraq. Now they cannot cooperate with either Syria or even Iraq or with Iran. So this is again a strategic move on the part of the Turkish state.JAY: Turkey is a member of NATO. So I guess anything that strengthens Turkey's position in the region and essentially an American ally, I guess it gives them another card to play.KARAAGAC: Absolutely. Absolutely.JAY: In the next segment of the interview, we're going to talk about the phone call. Prime Minister Netanyahu calls the prime minister of Turkey, and they make a deal of sorts. So join us for a continuation of our interview on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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President Obama: The Drones Don’t Work, They Just Make It Worse

Less than two weeks after Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster of CIA Chief John Brennan’s confirmation in the US Senate, it seems that the controversy over the legality and transparency of drone attacks has finally provoked a response from the Obama Administration. On March 19, 2013, reports published in the Daily Beast and the Wall Street Journal indicated that the controversial drone program may be shifted from the CIA to the Department of Defense."The drastic escalation in drone strikes in Pakistan during the Obama Administration has caused no decrease in the capacity of drone-targeted groups to carry out terrorist attacks in the region," writes author. (Photo: Reuters)

The reports were based on statements by US officials and a yet unreleased draft document indicating that the Obama White House would like the program to be institutionalised and reformed, moving it into the command structure of the US military instead of within its spy agency. 

It may be true that moving the drone program to the Department of Defense would address some of the critiques regarding transparency and legality. Drone strikes carried out by the military, as they have been in Afghanistan, would be subject to the rules of engagement that govern the use of military force. They would also have a clearer chain of command that would disclose, at least generally, the parameters used to select targets and order strikes, both contentious points on which the CIA-run drone program has been criticised. 

Unlike the CIA, the Department of Defense would not be able to classify all drone operations as “covert” or “clandestine” and would be subject to oversight from other branches of the United States government. Furthermore, while the President did not have to sign off on every strike conducted by the CIA, under a military run program he would have, as Commander-in-chief, clear ultimate authority over the program.  

Under the new formulation, operations would move gradually from the CIA to the Department of Defense, with a lengthy period of transition in which the two agencies would work together. The move would allow the CIA to move out of counter-terrorism and focus again on the collection of human intelligence, a facet of its operation that is said to have suffered.  On March 20,  the Washington Post reported that a panel of White House advisors had expressed grave concerns that the CIA was paying inadequate attention to collecting intelligence on China, the Middle East, and other national security flashpoints, because of its inordinate focus on military operations and drone strikes. A move away from drone strikes, then, would free up the Agency’s resources to do the sort of traditional intelligence gathering with which it is tasked. 

On their own side, White House officials are keen to change the impression that the President Obama is a champion of secret assassinations using armed drones on shaky legal grounds. A major counter terrorism speech is expected soon in which the President will define a new direction in counter-terrorism policy and deflect criticism that his Administration has been operating an illegal killing program. While details of timing are unknown, such a speech can be seen as provoked by the questions raised in Senator Paul’s filibuster regarding the possibility of the President ordering drone strikes on US citizens based on unknown determinations. Although Attorney General Eric Holder denied such a possibility in his response to Senator Paul, questions have continued as to the legal authority of CIA targets and the fact that United States citizens cannot demand any sort of accountability for them.

Not really a change

Moving the drone program from the CIA to the Department of Defense is thus being painted as a victory, even a capitulation, to those critics who have criticised the lack of transparency, accountability, and legal basis of the drone program. However, the details of the move do not suggest a reversal or even a rethinking of the strategic imperatives that the Obama Administration and the CIA have used to justify the drone program. 

First, the gradual process of the transition without any publicly disclosed details of how and when it will be completed are likely to create a situation in which, at least for a time, it would be difficult if not impossible to tell which agency, the Department of Defense or the CIA, would actually be responsible for a strike. Second, according to a government official who spoke to the Washington Post, the CIA program in Pakistan would be phased out even later “because of the complexities there” and because the program, unlike the ones in Yemen and Somalia, was actually begun by the CIA.  Finally, even if the drone program is actually moved to the Department of Defense, it will be incorporated into its most secret portion, the Joint Special Operations Command, whose top-secret operations are also covert and never released to the public.

When these factors are considered, the effort to provide more transparency and an institutional framework for the drone program seem chimerical at best and deceptive at worst. All of them point to a continuation of a national security mindset, within the Obama Administration and the State Department, both believing that drones, cheaply bought and unmanned, are a perfect way to bombard other countries with minimal cost the United States.  With the risk of dead American soldiers reduced to nothing, military officials are also gobbling up the idea of waging remote-control wars all over the world, wherever a possible or even supposed threat can be identified.  

Are Drones effective?

Starkly absent from the debate are any meaningful critiques of the actual effectiveness of drone strikes. Figures obtained from the South Asia Terrorism Portal indicate, for example, that the drastic escalation in drone strikes in Pakistan during the Obama Administration has caused no decrease in the capacity of drone-targeted groups to carry out terrorist attacks in the region. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, President Obama ordered 53 drones strikes in Pakistan in 2009. These strikes were reported to have killed, among others, Tehreek-e-Taliban Commander Baitullah Mehsud and Maulvi Gul Nazeer. In turn, there were approximately 500 bomb blasts in Pakistan that year, most of which were concentrated in the northwestern tribal areas of Pakistan. 

In 2010, President Obama ordered 128 drone strikes which were again reported to have killed various prominent Taliban figures and various Al-Qaeda commanders. The number of bomb blasts carried out by terrorist groups in Pakistan that year was 473, with most of them again concentrated in the tribal areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. In 2011, President Obama ordered 75 drone strikes which killed, among others, Al-Qaeda Chief financial officer Abu Zaid Al Iraqi and Taliban spokesperson Shakirullah Shakir. However, despite this being the third year of drone strikes, terror groups within Pakistan were still able to carry out 673 bomb blasts. They also expanded the geographic area of the blast operations to include not only the remote and sparsely populated tribal areas, but also the urban centers of Karachi in the south and Quetta in the southwest of Pakistan. Finally, in 2012, President Obama ordered 48 drone strikes which were alleged to have killed between 242 and 400 people. Among the dead was Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud, whose death was said to be a big blow to the operative capacities of the organization.

However, even despite this being the fourth year of drone strikes in Pakistan, with so many Al-Qaeda and Tehreek-e-Taliban leaders allegedly killed in strikes in past years, terrorists were nevertheless able to still carry out 652 attacks killing 1,007 people and injuring 2,687. Not only were they able to kill more, they were also able to expand their ambit of operations into other parts of Pakistan, with terrorist attacks in Karachi and Quetta now almost equivalent in damage to the ones that occurred in the northwest, where the war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban had once been isolated.  

The move of Tehreek-e-Taliban activity from the tribal areas of Pakistan, where drones operate more effectively, to urban areas like Karachi has also been documented in a recent report issued by the United States Institute for Peace, which stated that Karachi is now the “preferred hideout of the TTP, Afghan Taliban, other extremist, and sectarian outfits" and that Karachi’s urban density and sprawl offer “the best militant hideout,” since U.S drone strikes cannot be enacted in Karachi, which unlike Federally Administered Tribal Area is the country’s economic and financial capital. The report further goes on to say that militants “are relocating to Karachi and are able to plan local and international operations in the city.”  

That those allegedly being targeted by drones do not seem at all weakened by them seems largely absent from the discussion on drones and the preoccupations of whether the program will be snuck from the secret corners of one US agency to another. The problem of an increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, even after their leaders have been hammered for years by drones, can be ignored by American officials whose interest is ostensibly limited only to protecting Americans. However, if it is concerns of transparency and legality that are provoking the responses from the Obama Administration and the purported move to reassign the drone program to the Department of Defense, perhaps the issue of actual effectiveness can also be added to the mix.

© 2013 Al-Jazeera

Rafia Zakaria

Rafia Zakaria is on the board of directors of Amnesty International. She is a lawyer and a Political Science PhD candidate at Indiana University.

Netanyahu Apologizes as Isolated Israel Needs Turkey Deal

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to another edition of The Wilkerson Report with Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. Larry is the former chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Po...

‘AL measure sets dangerous precedent’

Qatar's Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (R) attends the opening of the Arab League summit in Doha on March 26, 2013.

Iran has criticized the Arab League (AL) for giving Syria's seat to the foreign-backed opposition, warning that the move will set a “dangerous” precedence in the Arab world.

This hasty decision can turn into a new procedure and be applied to other Arab League member states in the future, Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Tuesday.

“This measure taken by the Arab League will be taken to mean the end of the [Arab] League’s role in the region,” he noted.


The Iranian official also advised Arab leaders to end their silence toward Israel's aggression and crimes and focus their efforts on supporting the Palestinian people.

In November 2011, the Arab League suspended Syria's membership, though Damascus is a founding member of the organization.

It consequently called on the opposition National Coalition on March 6 "to form an executive body to take up Syria's seat" at the AL summit scheduled for Tuesday in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Damascus has censured the decision and condemned the Arab League for giving the country's "stolen seat to bandits and thugs," Syrian government daily al-Thawra said in a report published on Monday.

Iraq and Algeria are the only countries that have expressed reservations about the decision, while Lebanon has opposed the move.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of Syrian army and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of militants are foreign nationals.

Damascus says the West and its regional allies including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are supporting the militants.

MRS/SS

Amazon Sells Sex Toys as Wellness Products

Amazon Sells Sex Toys as Wellness Products

Posted on Mar 25, 2013

Amazon and other companies have rebranded once taboo sex paraphernalia, thus starting another sexual revolution; public libraries aren’t free, per se, but they’re an absolutely important investment; meanwhile, is the fact that college athletic directors get paid more than $1 million a year justifiable? These discoveries and more below.

On a regular basis, Truthdig brings you the news items and odds and ends that have found their way to Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication. A specialist in media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross helped found the field of gay and lesbian studies.

Amazon Sells 60,000 Sex Toys and Related Products? Welcome to Sex 4.0
When was the last time you used a sex toy?

How We Got to the Supreme Court
Twenty years ago this July, Michelangelo Signorile went to Hawaii to cover the lawsuit that launched the first salvo in the current war over marriage equality, ultimately leading to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Proposition 8 and, this week, arguments before the Supreme Court: Several gay and lesbian couples took the then-extraordinary step of suing the state of Hawaii, claiming gender discrimination because they were denied marriage licenses.

Winning and Whining, or How to Get Your Just Desserts in America
The phrase “American Exceptionalism” has a long, convoluted, and too often tortured track record.

Obama Ignores the Ugly, Brutal Reality of Occupation and Colonization on His Israel Trip
Round after round of tear gas was shot by a group of Israeli soldiers on a hill overlooking a protest of about 100 Palestinians in support of a hunger striking prisoner.

There Are No Free Libraries
Over the past few months, an image has been making its way around social media to underscore the value of libraries.

Religion Without God
The familiar stark divide between people of religion and without religion is too crude.

Why is Science So Obsessed with Beauty?
Scientists have been musing about beauty, order and natural symmetry since Pythagoras.

Science-fiction Turns Real: Genetically Engineering Animals for War
Scientific advances have us on the verge of being able to control and manipulate animals. Should we use that power?

Mistakes, Excuses, and Painful Lessons from the Iraq War
Ezra Klein has admitted he made a mistake in supporting the Iraq War. And he’s sorry.

The ‘Canonical’ Image of a Drone Is a Rendering Dressed Up in Photoshop
The media of the drone war is not like the media of World War II or Vietnam.

Introducing Brics From Above, And Brics-From-Below
In Durban, South Africa, five heads of state meet on March 26-27 2013 at the International Convention Centre, to assure the rest of Africa that their countries’ corporations are better investors in infrastructure, mining, oil and agriculture than the traditional European and US multinationals.

College Athletic Directors—Why is the Pay So High?
We’ve just learned that nine athletic directors of major college-sports programs make more than $1 million annually, with an average salary of about $515,000.

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The Day That TV News Died

TV talk show host Phil Donahue. TV talk show host Phil Donahue. (Photo: Joe Newman / Public Citizen)Truthout needs your support to produce grassroots journalism and disseminate conscientious visions for a brighter future. Contribute now by clicking here.

I am not sure exactly when the death of television news took place. The descent was gradual—a slide into the tawdry, the trivial and the inane, into the charade on cable news channels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up corporate political puppets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legitimate news. But if I had to pick a date when commercial television decided amassing corporate money and providing entertainment were its central mission, when it consciously chose to become a carnival act, it would probably be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq.

Donahue and Bill Moyers, the last honest men on national television, were the only two major TV news personalities who presented the viewpoints of those of us who challenged the rush to war in Iraq. General Electric and Microsoft—MSNBC’s founders and defense contractors that went on to make tremendous profits from the war—were not about to tolerate a dissenting voice. Donahue was fired, and at PBS Moyers was subjected to tremendous pressure. An internal MSNBC memo leaked to the press stated that Donahue was hurting the image of the network. He would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” the memo read. Donahue never returned to the airwaves.

The celebrity trolls who currently reign on commercial television, who bill themselves as liberal or conservative, read from the same corporate script. They spin the same court gossip. They ignore what the corporate state wants ignored. They champion what the corporate state wants championed. They do not challenge or acknowledge the structures of corporate power. Their role is to funnel viewer energy back into our dead political system—to make us believe that Democrats or Republicans are not corporate pawns. The cable shows, whose hyperbolic hosts work to make us afraid self-identified liberals or self-identified conservatives, are part of a rigged political system, one in which it is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, General Electric or ExxonMobil. These corporations, in return for the fear-based propaganda, pay the lavish salaries of celebrity news people, usually in the millions of dollars. They make their shows profitable. And when there is war these news personalities assume their “patriotic” roles as cheerleaders, as Chris Matthews—who makes an estimated $5 million a year—did, along with the other MSNBC and Fox hosts.

It does not matter that these celebrities and their guests, usually retired generals or government officials, got the war terribly wrong. Just as it does not matter that Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Friedman were wrong on the wonders of unfettered corporate capitalism and globalization. What mattered then and what matters now is likability—known in television and advertising as the Q score—not honesty and truth. Television news celebrities are in the business of sales, not journalism. They peddle the ideology of the corporate state. And too many of us are buying.

The lie of omission is still a lie. It is what these news celebrities do not mention that exposes their complicity with corporate power. They do not speak about Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, a provision that allows the government to use the military to hold U.S. citizens and strip them of due process. They do not decry the trashing of our most basic civil liberties, allowing acts such as warrantless wiretapping and executive orders for the assassination of U.S. citizens. They do not devote significant time to climate scientists to explain the crisis that is enveloping our planet. They do not confront the reckless assault of the fossil fuel industry on the ecosystem. They very rarely produce long-form documentaries or news reports on our urban and rural poor, who have been rendered invisible, or on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or on corporate corruption on Wall Street. That is not why they are paid. They are paid to stymie meaningful debate. They are paid to discredit or ignore the nation’s most astute critics of corporatism, among them Cornel West, Medea Benjamin, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky. They are paid to chatter mindlessly, hour after hour, filling our heads with the theater of the absurd. They play clips of their television rivals ridiculing them and ridicule their rivals in return. Television news looks as if it was lifted from Rudyard Kipling’s portrait of the Bandar-log monkeys in “The Jungle Book.” The Bandar-log, considered insane by the other animals in the jungle because of their complete self-absorption, lack of discipline and outsized vanity, chant in unison: “We are great. We are free. We are wonderful. We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle! We all say so, and so it must be true.”

When I reached him by phone recently in New York, Donahue said of the pressure the network put on him near the end, “It evolved into an absurdity.” He continued: “We were told we had to have two conservatives for every liberal on the show. I was considered a liberal. I could have Richard Perle on alone but not Dennis Kucinich. You felt the tremendous fear corporate media had for being on an unpopular side during the ramp-up for a war. And let’s not forget that General Electric’s biggest customer at the time was Donald Rumsfeld [then the secretary of defense]. Elite media features elite power. No other voices are heard.”

Donahue spent four years after leaving MSNBC making the movie documentary “Body of War” with fellow director/producer Ellen Spiro, about the paralyzed Iraq War veteran Tomas Young. The film, which Donahue funded himself, began when he accompanied Nader to visit Young in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“Here is this kid lying there whacked on morphine,” Donahue said. “His mother, as we are standing by the bed looking down, explained his injuries. ‘He is a T-4. The bullet came through the collarbone and exited between the shoulder blades. He is paralyzed from the nipples down.’ He was emaciated. His cheekbones were sticking out. He was as white as the sheets he was lying on. He was 24 years old. … I thought, ‘People should see this. This is awful.’ ”

Donahue noted that only a very small percentage of Americans have a close relative who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and an even smaller number make the personal sacrifice of a Tomas Young. “Nobody sees the pain,” he said. “The war is sanitized.”

“I said, ‘Tomas, I want to make a movie that shows the pain, I want to make a movie that shows up close what war really means, but I can’t do it without your permission,’ ” Donahue remembered. “Tomas said, ‘I do too.’ ”

But once again Donahue ran into the corporate monolith: Commercial distributors proved reluctant to pick up the film. Donahue was told that the film, although it had received great critical acclaim, was too depressing and not uplifting. Distributors asked him who would go to see a film about someone in a wheelchair. Donahue managed to get openings in Chicago, Seattle, Palm Springs, New York, Washington and Boston, but the runs were painfully brief.

“I didn’t have the money to run full-page ads,” he said. “Hollywood often spends more on promotion than it does on the movie. And so we died. What happens now is that peace groups are showing it. We opened the Veterans for Peace convention in Miami. Failure is not unfamiliar to me. And yet, I am stunned at how many Americans stand mute.”

US Steps up War against Syria after Obama’s “Peace” Trip to Israel

israelus

After US President Barack Obama’s trip to Israel last week the US and its allies are moving ahead with plans to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and install a pro-Western regime. CIA operations and calls to arm the Syrian opposition are escalating, amid a US diplomatic offensive in the Middle East to isolate Assad, and the collapse of a pro-Syrian government in Lebanon.

According to a Wall Street Journal report Saturday, the CIA is expanding its activities to support secular-leaning anti-Assad militias “with training in areas including weapons use, urban combat and countering spying by the regime.” Unnamed US officials said that CIA support to rebel units represents an intensification of US efforts to strengthen the Syrian opposition.

On Friday Obama warned at a joint press conference with King Abdullah II of Jordan of the rising influence of extreme Islamist forces in Syria and announced a shift in US support to more secular forces.

“I am very concerned about Syria becoming an enclave for extremism because extremists thrive in chaos,” Obama said. “They don’t have much to offer when it comes to actually building things, but they’re very good about exploiting situations that are no longer functioning. They fill that gap.”

He said the US supported efforts to “begin the process of moving it in a better direction, and having a cohesive opposition is critical to that.”

Last year, the Obama administration had turned down a CIA-backed proposal to arm more secular opposition units. So far most of the arms shipments have gone to Islamist militias, who are carrying out the bulk of the fighting against Assad. Washington, which operates a CIA station near the Syrian-Turkish border, has long been involved in arming and strengthening the Islamist forces in close collaboration with its regional allies in Turkey and the Persian Gulf.

The announcement of more support to secular elements in the pro-Western Syrian opposition reflects increased efforts by the US and its allies to bring down Assad and install a pro-Western proxy regime in Syria. While the imperialist powers and their Western allies rely on extremist Islamist militias to bring down the Assad regime, they fear that forces such as Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, might prove unreliable in a post-Assad government.

Israel, US imperialism’s main ally in the Middle East, is in particular pressing for the strengthening of more secular elements in the opposition, as it fears the rising influence of armed Islamist terrorists in a neighboring country. According to the Wall Street Journal, a senior Israeli official involved in negotiations on Syria during Obama’s visit stated that “Israel would welcome America’s influence in shaping the post-Assad Syria.”

American-Israeli plans for a more directed military intervention in Syria are accompanied by a diplomatic offensive by both countries to forge a regional pro-war alliance to topple Assad and prepare for war against Iran.

In a move welcomed by the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and announced the restoration of normal diplomatic relations with Turkey. He apologized for the death of Turkish activists during an Israeli raid on the so-called Gaza flotilla in 2010. With Israel, Turkey is one of Washington’s main regional allies; it has repeatedly called for direct military intervention in Syria to bring down Assad.

On Sunday US Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit to Iraq to pressure Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to block flights from Iran to Syria. The US claims that Iran is sending weapons and fighters across Iraq to Syria to support Assad. Maliki’s Shiite government has said that inspections have shown that Iranian flights over its territory carry only humanitarian supplies.

As part of its increasingly aggressive offensive to replace Assad with a pro-imperialist stooge regime, the US is restructuring the Islamist-dominated Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main front of the pro-Western opposition cobbled together under the auspices of the US State Department last November. At a meeting last week the SNC nominated Ghassan Hitto, a US citizen and IT business executive, as the “prime minister” of a so-called “interim government.”

Over the weekend the previous leader of the SNC, Moaz al-Khatib, announced his resignation. A former Imam of the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus, Khatib is an outspoken defender of Jabhat al-Nusra. When the US formally designated the group as a foreign terrorist organization, Khatib protested and urged Washington to reconsider the decision.

The promotion of more secular forces in the Syrian opposition goes hand in hand with continued collaboration with the Islamist militias, however. While Washington announces more cooperation directly with secular figures, it continues to tolerate and oversee huge arms shipments to Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamist terrorist groups, which are largely supplied by Persian Gulf states such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

On Thursday a suicide bombing in a mosque in the Syrian capital, Damascus, killed at least 49 people, including Sunni cleric Sheikh Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti. Syria’s minster for religious endowments, Mohammad Abdul-Satar al-Sayyed, blamed Western-backed terrorist forces for the attack.

The US-led offensive to bring down Assad is accompanied by renewed calls by France and Britain to directly arm the Syrian opposition. On Friday British Foreign Secretary William Hague and his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, called for lifting the EU arms embargo against Syria ahead of a EU foreign ministers meeting in Dublin.

While concerns were raised about the Franco-British plans, the European states agree that the Syrian opposition has to be strengthened. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton described the situation in Syria and the region as “extraordinarily fragile,” announcing that the EU was continuing to discuss how to increase assistance to the “moderate Syrian opposition.” Some countries, such as Germany, Austria or Sweden, favor easing economic sanctions on areas held by the opposition instead of directly providing them with weapons.

The disagreements among the European powers about the scope of support for the Syrian opposition reflect increasing concerns about growing political instability in the entire region. On Friday, Najib Mikati announced his resignation as Lebanese Prime Minister. On Saturday the government stepped down, and Mikati called for a “national salvation” government to rule the deeply divided country.

The sectarian divisions ignited by the Western powers’ proxy war Syria are spilling over into Lebanon, a country which itself was engulfed in a fifteen-year civil war, from 1975 to 1990.

Mikati’s decision came amidst heavy fighting between the Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods in Lebanon’s second city, Tripoli, in which at least 12 people were killed. The Sunni-majority Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood supports the Western-backed, largely Sunni opposition in Syria. Jabal Mohsen is dominated by Lebanese Alawites—the Shiite sect from which Syrian president Assad hails—who sympathize with Hezbollah, the Shia political movement and militia in Lebanon allied with the Assad government and Iran.

CIA Boosting Covert Arms Shipments to Syria: NYT Report

Confirming reports that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is aiding Syrian rebels in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, new evidence has surfaced that several nations, including Turkey, have been working with the CIA over the past year to dramatically increase military aid to Syrian rebels, the New York Times reports Monday.

Free Syrian Army rebels fighting against Assad militias on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Maraat al-Numan, Idlib, Syria (FreedomHouse via Flickr / Creative Commons License) Referring to air traffic data, interviews with anonymous U.S. officials, and rebel commanders, the Times reports that the CIA has been helping coordinate massive arms shipments to groups within the Free Syrian Army, which have included more than than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at the Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

"A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment," Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told the Times.

Fast paced weapons transfers reportedly began over a year ago, in early 2012.

"The intensity and frequency of these flights," were "suggestive of a well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation," Griffiths added.

In a more overt show of support for Syrian rebels, over the weekend Secretary of State John Kerry pledged an additional 60 million dollars in direct aid to the rebels, marking the first time Washington will directly supply rebel forces, Inter Press Service reports.

“Who are those good rebels we want to arm?” asked Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. “The interventionists seem to take for granted that we know them well. The fact is, the interventionists themselves and the U.S. government don’t know squat about Syria and know even less squat about these rebels.”

Gelb continues:

There is one path to sensible strategy and to staying out of trouble. It is for America’s leaders in Congress, the media, and, above all, the administration to learn the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam and get themselves to satisfactorily ask and reasonably answer the tough questions before we selflessly, inadvertently, and foolishly find ourselves in another war.

_____________________

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Drone Warfare is Neither Cheap, Nor Surgical, Nor Decisive: The Ever-Destructive Dreams of Air...

Today’s unmanned aerial vehicles, most famously Predator and Reaper drones, have been celebrated as the culmination of the longtime dreams of airpower enthusiasts, offering the possibility of victory through quick, clean, and selective destruction.  Those drones, so the (very old) story goes, assure the U.S. military of command of the high ground, and so provide the royal road to a speedy and decisive triumph over helpless enemies below.

Fantasies about the certain success of air power in transforming, even ending, war as we know it arose with the plane itself.  But when it comes to killing people from the skies, again and again air power has proven neither cheap nor surgical nor decisive nor in itself triumphant.  Seductive and tenacious as the dreams of air supremacy continue to be, much as they automatically attach themselves to the latest machine to take to the skies, air power has not fundamentally softened the brutal face of war, nor has it made war less dirty or chaotic.

Indeed, by emboldening politicians to seek seemingly low-cost, Olympian solutions to complex human problems -- like Zeus hurling thunderbolts from the sky to skewer puny mortals -- it has fostered fantasies of illimitable power emboldened by contempt for human life.  However, just like Zeus’s obdurate and rebellious subjects, the mortals on the receiving end of death from on high have shown surprising strength in frustrating the designs of the air power gods, whether past or present. Yet the Olympian fantasy persists, a fact that requires explanation.

The Rise of Air Power

It did not take long after the Wright Brothers first put a machine in the air for a few exhilarating moments above the sandy beaches of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December of 1903, for the militaries of industrialized countries to express interest in buying and testing airplanes.  Previously balloons had been used for reconnaissance, as in the Napoleonic wars and the U.S. Civil War, and so initially fledgling air branches focused on surveillance and intelligence-gathering.  As early as 1911, however, Italian aircraft began dropping small bombs from open-air cockpits on the enemy -- we might today call them “insurgents” -- in Libya.

World War I encouraged the development of specialized aircraft, most famously the dancing bi- and tri-winged fighter planes of the dashing “knights of the air,” as well as the more ponderous, but for the future far more important, bombers.   By the close of World War I in 1918, each side had developed multi-engine bombers like the German Gotha, which superseded the more vulnerable zeppelins.  Their mission was to fly over the trenches where the opposing armies were stalemated and take the war to the enemy’s homeland, striking fear in his heart and compelling him to surrender.  Fortunately for civilians a century ago, those bombers were too few in number, and their payloads too limited, to inflict widespread destruction, although German air attacks on England in 1917 did spread confusion and, in a few cases, panic.

Pondering the hecatombs of dead from trench warfare, air power enthusiasts of the 1920s and 1930s not surprisingly argued strongly, and sometimes insubordinately, for the decisive importance of bombing campaigns launched by independent air forces.  A leading enthusiast was Italy’s Giulio Douhet.  In his 1921 work Il dominio dell’aria (Command of the Air), he argued that in future wars strategic bombing attacks by heavily armed “battle-planes” (bombers) would produce rapid and decisive victories.  Driven by a fascist-inspired logic of victory through preemptive attack, Douhet called for all-out air strikes to destroy the enemy’s air force and its bases, followed by hammer blows against industry and civilians using high-explosive, incendiary, and poison-gas bombs.  Such blows, he predicted, would produce psychological uproar and social chaos (“shock and awe,” in modern parlance), fatally weakening the enemy’s will to resist.

As treacherous and immoral as his ideas may sound, Douhet’s intent was to shorten wars and lessen casualties -- at least for his side.  Better to subdue the enemy by pressing hard on select pressure points (even if the “pressing” was via high explosives and poison gas, and the “points” included concentrations of innocent civilians), rather than forcing your own army to bog down in bloody, protracted land wars.

That air power was inherently offensive and uniquely efficacious in winning cheap victories was a conclusion that found a receptive audience in Great Britain and the United States.  In England, Hugh Trenchard, founding father of the Royal Air Force (RAF), embraced strategic bombing as the most direct way to degrade the enemy’s will; he boldly asserted that “the moral effect of bombing stands undoubtedly to the material effect in a proportion of twenty to one.”

Even bolder was his American counterpart, William “Billy” Mitchell, famously court-martialed and romanticized as a “martyr” to air power.  (In his honor, cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy still eat in Mitchell Hall.)  At the Air Corps Tactical School in the 1930s, U.S. airmen refined Mitchell’s tenets, developing a “vital centers” theory of bombing -- the idea that one could compel an enemy to surrender by identifying and destroying his vulnerable economic nodes.  It therefore came as no accident that the U.S. entered World War II with the world’s best heavy bomber, the B-17 Flying Fortress, and a fervid belief that “precision bombing” would be the most direct path to victory.

World War II and After: Dehousing, Scorching, Boiling, and Baking the Enemy

In World War II, “strategic” air forces that focused on winning the war by heavy bombing reached young adulthood, with all the swagger associated with that stage of maturity.  The moral outrage of Western democracies that accompanied the German bombing of civilian populations in Guernica, Spain, in 1937 or Rotterdam in 1940 was quickly forgotten once the Allies sought to open a “second front” against Hitler through the air.  Four-engine strategic bombers like the B-17 and the British Lancaster flew for thousands of miles carrying bomb loads measured in tons.  From 1942 to 1945 they rained two million tons of ordnance on Axis targets in Europe, but accuracy in bombing remained elusive.

While the U.S. attempted and failed at precision daylight bombing against Germany’s “vital centers,” Britain’s RAF Bomber Command began employing what was bloodlessly termed “area bombing” at night in a “dehousing” campaign led by Arthur “Bomber” Harris.  What became an American/British combined bomber offensive killed 600,000 German civilians, including 120,000 children, reducing cities like Cologne (1942), Hamburg (1943), Berlin (1944-45), and Dresden (1945) to rubble.

Yet, contrary to the dreams of air power advocates, Germany’s will to resist remained unbroken.  The vaunted second front of aerial battle became yet another bloody attritional brawl, with hundreds of thousands of civilians joining scores of thousands of aircrews in death.

Similarly mauled but unbroken by bombing was Japan, despite an air campaign of relentless intensity that killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians.  Planned and directed by Major General Curtis LeMay, new B-29 bombers loaded with incendiaries struck Tokyo, a city made largely of wood, in March 1945, creating a firestorm that in his words “scorched and boiled and baked [the Japanese] to death.”  As many as 100,000 Japanese died in this attack.

Subsequently, 60 more cities were firebombed until the apotheosis of destruction came that August as atomic bombs incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing another 200,000 people.  It quickly became an article of faith among American air power enthusiasts that these bombs had driven Japan to surrender; together with this, the “decisive” air campaign against Germany became reason enough to justify an independent U.S. Air Force, which was created by the National Security Act of 1947.

In the total war against Nazi and Japanese terror, moral concerns, when expressed, came privately.  General Ira Eaker worried that future generations might condemn the Allied bombing campaign against Germany for its targeting of “the man in the street.”  Even LeMay, not known for introspective doubts, worried in 1945 that he and his team would likely be tried as war criminals if the U.S. failed to defeat Japan.  (So Robert McNamara, then an Army Air Force officer working for LeMay, recalled in the documentary The Fog of War.)

But moral qualms were put aside in the post-war glow of victory and as the fear rose of future battles with communism.  The Korean War (1950-1953) may have ushered in the jet age, as symbolized by the dogfights of American Sabre Jets and Soviet MiGs over the Yalu River, but it also witnessed the devastation by bombing of North Korea, even as the enemy took cover underground and refused to do what air power strategists had always assumed they would: give up.

Still, for the U.S. Air Force, the real action of that era lay largely in the realm of dystopian fantasies as it created the Strategic Air Command (SAC), which coordinated two legs of the nuclear triad, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles in silos and nuclear-armed long-range bombers. (The third was nuclear-missile-armed submarines.)  SAC kept some of those bombers carrying thermonuclear weapons in the air 24/7 as a “deterrent” to a Soviet nuclear first strike (and as a constant first strike threat of our own).  “Thinking about the unthinkable” -- that is, nuclear Armageddon -- became all the rage, with “massive retaliation” serving as the byword for air power enthusiasts.  In this way, dreams of clean victories morphed into nightmares of global thermonuclear annihilation, leaving the 1930s air power ideal of “clean” and “surgical” strikes in the dust -- for the time being.

Reaping What We Sow

Despite an unimaginably powerful nuclear deterrent that essentially couldn’t be used, the U.S. Air Force had to relearn the hard way that there remained limits to the efficacy of air power, especially when applied to low-intensity, counterinsurgency wars.  As in Korea in the 1950s, air power in the 1960s and 1970s failed to provide the winning edge in the Vietnam War, even as it spread wanton destruction throughout the Vietnamese countryside.  But it was the arrival of “smart” bombs near that war’s end that marked the revival of the fantasies of air power enthusiasts about “precision bombing” as the path to future victory.

By the 1990s, laser- and GPS-guided bombs (known collectively as PGMs, forprecision guided munitions) were relegating unguided, “dumb” bombs largely to the past.  Yet like their predecessors, PGMs proved no panacea.  In the opening stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, for example, 50 precision “decapitation strikes” targeting dictator Saddam Hussein’s top leadership failed to hit any of their intended targets, while causing “dozens” of civilian deaths.  That same year, air power’s inability to produce decisive results on the ground after Iraq’s descent into chaos, insurrection, and civil war served as a reminder that the vaunted success of the U.S. air campaign in the First Gulf War (1991) was a fluke, not a flowering of air power’s maturity.  (Saddam Hussein made his traditionally organized military, defenseless against air power, occupy static positions after his invasion of Kuwait.)

The recent marriage of PGMs to drones, hailed as the newest “perfect weapon” in the air arsenal, has once again led to the usual fantasies about the arrival -- finally, almost 100 years late -- of clean, precise, and decisive war.  Using drones, a military need not risk even a pilot’s life in its attacks.  Yet the nature of war -- its horrors, its unpredictability, its tendency to outlive its original causes -- remains fundamentally unaltered by “precision” drone strikes.  War’s inherent fog and friction persist.  In the case of drones, that fog is often generated by faulty intelligence, the friction by malfunctioning weaponry orinnocent civilians appearing just as the Hellfire missiles are unleashed.  Rather than clean wars of decision, drone strikes decide nothing.  Instead, they produce their share of “collateral damage” that only spawns new enemies seeking revenge.

The fantasy of air war as a realm of technical decision, as an exercise in decisively finding, fixing, and dispatching the enemy, appeals to a country like the United States that idolizes technology as a way to quick fixes.  As a result, it’s hardly surprising that two administrations in Washington have ever more zealously pursued drone wars and aerial global assassination campaigns, already killing 4,700 “terrorists” and bystanders. And this has been just part of our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president’s campaign of 20,000 air strikes(only 10% of which were drone strikes) in his first term of office.  Yet despite -- or perhaps because of -- these attacks, our global war against al-Qaeda, its affiliates, and other groups like the Taliban appears no closer to ending.

And that is, in part, because the dream of air power remains just that: a fantasy, a capricious and destructive will-o’-the-wisp.  It’s a fantasy because it denies agency to enemies (and others) who invariably find ways to react, adapt, and strike back.  It’s a fantasy because, however much such attacks seem both alluringly low-risk and high-reward to the U.S. military, they become a rallying cause for those on the other end of the bombs and missiles.

A much-quoted line from the movie Apocalypse Now captured the insanity of the American air war in Vietnam.  “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,”says an Air Cav commander played by Robert Duvall.  “Smelled like... victory.”  Updated for drone warfare, this line might read: “I love the sound of drones in the morning.  Sounds like... victory.”  But will we say the same when armed drones are hovering, not only above our enemies’ heads but above ours, too, in fortress America, enforcing security and conformity while smiting citizens judged to be rebellious?

Something tells me this is not the dream that airpower enthusiasts had in mind.

CIA aids huge arms smuggling to Syria — report

Published time: March 25, 2013 13:59
Reuters / Larry Downing

The CIA reportedly has a hand in clandestine supply of arms to Syrian rebels by Gulf States. At least 3,500 tons of have been delivered - some ending up on the black market, with the Turkish government an active player, a media report says.

The flow of arms continues with the help of US agents as Washington criticizes Iran and Russia for delivering weapons to the Syrian regime, the New York Times says. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Iraq on Sunday to close its airspace to Iranian flights just as the latest arms delivery from Qatar for Syrian rebels was landing in Turkey, according to the daily’s report.

The newspaper cites air traffic data, US and foreign officials and rebel commanders in its investigation.

The airlift reportedly began in early 2012 with a Qatari Emir Air Force C-130 transport aircraft flight. Saudi Arabia and Jordan have joined in in November, when it became a major operation. More than 160 military flights have landed in Turkey over the time. Esenboga Airport near Ankara was the prime destination, but others were also involved, the newspaper claims.

“A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment,” Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told the newspaper. He added that it appears as a “well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation.”

Indeed, CIA agents have a direct input on the deliveries, albeit mostly consultative, NYT says. The spy agency reportedly helps with procurement of weapons in Croatia and vets Syrian rebel groups, which would receive the weapons.

A Syrian rebel sniper takes aim at pro-government forces near the Abu Baker brigade in Albab, 30 kilometres from the northeastern Syrian city of Aleppo.(AFP Photo / Edouard Elias)

The involvement was supposedly motivated by the fact that the Arab states would supply arms to the Syrian militants anyway. The hopes CIA its can steer away the arms from Islamists’ hands and prevent weapons which can potentially be used by terrorist against civilian targets from being delivered, a former US official told the newspaper.

The operation was a limited success apparently, NYT says, citing two Islamist commanders.

“There are fake Free Syrian Army brigades claiming to be revolutionaries, and when they get the weapons they sell them in trade,” Hassan Aboud of Soquor al-Sham told the newspaper.

The former official described the program as “a cataract of weaponry.” He said: “People hear the amounts flowing in, and it is huge, but they burn through a million rounds of ammo in two weeks.”

Instrumental to setting up the operation was David H. Petraeus, the CIA director until November, the official said. He had prodded various countries to work together on it.

The scale of the operation increased considerably in November, after the Turkish government agreed to it, the report says. The tipping point may also have been the presidential election in the United States.

Ankara reportedly has oversight over much of the program, down to affixing transponders to trucks ferrying the arms through Turkish territory and across the border. Some in Turkey say Ankara is de facto at war with Damascus because of its involvement in the conflict.

“The use of Turkish airspace at such a critical time, with the conflict in Syria across our borders, and by foreign planes from countries that are known to be central to the conflict, defines Turkey as a party in the conflict,” said Attilla Kart, a member of the Turkish Parliament from the CHP opposition party, who confirmed details about several Saudi shipments. “The government has the responsibility to respond to these claims.”

A masked Syrian Turkmen rebel takes posision in the Hanano district of the northern city of Aleppo.(AFP Photo / Jm Lopez)

Still, rebel commanders complain that they do not receive enough weapons and do not get heavier kinds of weapons like anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.

“The outside countries give us weapons and bullets little by little,” said Abdel Rahman Ayachi, a commander in Soquor al-Sham, an Islamist fighting group in northern Syria.

They accuse Washington of blocking such deliveries.

“Arming or not arming, lethal or nonlethal — it all depends on what America says,” Mohammed Abu Ahmed, who leads a band of anti-Assad fighters in Idlib Province, told NYT.

The CIA and General Petraeus would not comment when contacted by the newspaper. Turkish and Saudi Arabian officials declined to discuss the arms flights. Croatia and Jordan both denied any role in supplying weapons to the Syrian rebels, NYT says. Jordanian aviation officials reportedly went so far as to insist that no cargo flights occurred, and cut communication after presented evidence to the contrary.

The Violent Disorder of Our Public Mind

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Since all human occurrences take place in society, it is obviously a truism that all insanity must, in some sense, be social. On the other hand, if we assert that insanity is due to biological factors then it might seem that insanity can be due to causes that are not in any sense social. However, even the designations that we apply to human activity derive from various social institutions and their forms of mental interpretation, so once again the social penetrates our understanding of insanity.

However, I wish to argue here for a more robust account of social insanity. I wish to argue that not only can individuals be dysfunctional and pathological but that societies can be irrational, self-destructive and given to denial, self-deception and violent self-contamination. Freud knew as much when he asked at the conclusion of Civilization and its Discontents:

… would not the diagnosis be justified that many systems of civilization - or epochs of it - possibly even the whole of humanity - have become "neurotic" under the pressure of civilizing trends?

>Nevertheless, it is true that in our time the term "insanity" tends to refer to a private malady. We lack an appropriate term for disorders of the public mind for the fundamental reason that we lack any notion of the "public mind" itself. And the reason for this disappearance is not that the phenomenon itself has ceased to exist but that public consciousness has become so fragmented and atomic that this collective form of consciousness tends to lack self-awareness. But this dissolution is itself the very form of public consciousness that is so important for us to grasp.

To see more articles by Richard Lichtman and other scholars, visit Truthout's Public Intellectual Project.

For fragmentation, like loneliness or isolation, is only possible in society. It is only when we compete with each other for power and domination, when each of us comes to regard others as impediments to our own realization, all of which are of, course, social forms of action, that we experience ourselves as simultaneously individual and social, encountering acutely the very opposition between our individuality and our social nature. Of course, the most terrible forms of individual pathology occur through the most terrible forms of social chaos and despair.

It was not always so. In the 19th century terms like "alienation," "anomie," "disenchantment" and "ideology" referred to pathologies of social life and public mind as well as to individual dysfunctions. For many of the great sociologists, men like Marx and Durkheim, society had a nature that was not reducible to the sum of its individual members. Nor, of course, did it exist independently of them. It is not an easy phenomenon to conceptualize, but we need finally to ask what we can possibly understand by this term.

The "public mind" is not the sum of individual minds, but their source and presupposition. It is not a universal archetype, for it is specific to each distinct social order. It is not a concrete, innate system of any kind, for it cannot exist independently of the various social relations that activate its potentiality.

The public mind is the pattern of meanings and the system of feelings, desires and aspirations established in the codes, rules and symbols embedded in the objective structures of social, economic, historical and political life. Subjectively, it is the set of assumptions, convictions, beliefs and values that ground the shared sense of social existence of the multitudinous groups that constitute a given social order.

We have difficulty grasping the sense of public mind because in our time the collectivity that exists is obscured by the illusion that the individual is the source rather than the consequence of the culture of capitalism. But all we need to convince ourselves of the existence of social reality is to pass through a significant economic crisis in which we cannot find work because the capitalist cannot locate consumers for his production while his plant lies idle and its machines useless; the commodities they might make available cannot find the workers to operate the machines that would produce them or the consumers to purchase them. This is an irrational system, one in which everything that is required depends on other characteristics that themselves cannot function without the contribution of those aspects of the potential structure that remain actually idle. So, one might say, nothing can be what it is unless everything else is what it was intended to be; and yet, the same can be said for every aspect of the idle system that therefore fails to function.

At the core of the failure of capitalism is a systematic contradiction between the two most fundamental organizing tendencies of our contemporary life. On the one hand we live within a system of capitalism while, on the other, we simultaneously conceptualize ourselves in accordance with the ideals of democracy. These two structures are, however, completely opposed to each other; they are in a fateful contradiction.

For capitalism is an economic system based on institutionalized greed, self-interest, accumulation, expansion, domination and disregard of the lives of others. It is a system of power in blatant opposition to democracy, which is an order of values that exalts simultaneously the individual's uniqueness and capacity for cooperative relationships organized on behalf of justice, equality, dignity and universal freedom.

How has The United States been able to integrate two systems so fundamentally at odds with each other, so antagonistic to each other's motive and meaning, so radically in opposition? When all the falsehood and terrible mystification is pierced and suspended, when the truth fights through the veil of manipulated pretense and self-serving hypocrisy, casting aside, if only briefly, the horrible facade of false consciousness and organized dishonesty, one overriding fact looms portentously above the manipulated mystification of the populace.

How has the United States been able to integrate the contradictory tendencies of capitalist exploitation and democratic idealism? The answer is simple, pathetic and unavoidable: The ostensible integration has never taken place. Since its earliest history and with growing force and increasing speed, the United States has embraced the elitist domination of capitalist power and cloaked itself in the illusion of democratic self-righteousness. "Democracy," or its semblance, has been shaped to support the ravages of capitalist exploitation, while providing the illusion of its devotion to restraining and remaking the ills of economic malice.

Of course, this assertion needs to be supported by all the claims and counterclaims that are finally called upon to provide assurance. However, simply cast your gaze at the fraction of the populace that owns and controls the essential means of social domination, not even the 1% but the 1/10th of 1%, whose wealth and consequent power is more than equivalent to that of the struggling remainder of the citizenry. It is an exercise in despair to explore the whole range of actions that are fatefully skewed in the direction of this ghastly minority and its capacity to serve its interests at the expense of the lives of others whose daily existence is not constituted by a choice among irrelevant luxuries but the need to keep from falling into abject despair, anxiety, depression, illness and death.

Is there any wonder that there is disorder in the land; that lives are made hollow, meaningless and filled with an undying rage against one's self for failing, against others for what seems their superior gratification, for life as a whole that has promised so much and delivered so little. One inhales failure with every painful breath, or in keeping with the splitting of life between the power and the purpose to which we previously alluded, one retrenches, contracts, lives more and more into one's self, while the world beyond our private isolation grows ever more massive and monstrous until its slips in through the crevices of our passive surrender and threatens to take even more of us than we had ever realized was vulnerable.

Is it any wonder that terror and violence prowl about the wasteland of so many lives, or that the larger majority succumbs to apathy and paralysis? One could go on listing indefinitely the acts of dehumanized destruction, incomprehensible violence and deranged terror that transpire out of motives that neither its perpetrators, its victims nor observing savants can comprehend.

But stop for a moment and ask yourself: What is the meaning of this hatred and cold extermination? Ultimately, hatred and violence, murder and mayhem are modes of reconstruction in a world that has failed its most vulnerable, even more than its most comfortable.

Why do I link reconstruction with hatred and violence?  To destroy is to remake the universe, to eliminate from it something - not necessarily what confronts one - but what that fragile presence before us symbolizes to its enraged and often deranged adversary. Violence contracts what cannot be embraced or even expanded; it minimizes what cannot be enlarged or shared: one's powers, one's love, one's creative affirmation of the humanity of life in a world that bears the possibility of transcendence in beauty.

In the passage I previously cited from Freud, he spoke of the destructive possibilities of "civilization." That assertion is in keeping with his tendency to universalize the conditions of life in his time. Reification is his constant nemesis. He pays insufficient attention to the diversity of societies and the importance of their differences. It is more misleading than insightful to trace human failures back to civilization as such. For Freud, of course, the conflict between human existence and civilization is ubiquitous and permanent, as is the conflict within human beings between their tendency to love and draw together against their tendency to die and destroy.

Marx functions with a different paradigm:

The more deeply we go back into history, the more does the individual ... appear as dependent, as belonging to a greater whole ... Only in the eighteenth century, in "civil society," do the various forms of social connectedness confront the individual as a mere means toward his private purposes, as external necessity.

So society confronts the individual and, rather than being a member of that social whole, Marx notes, the individual appears to himself or herself in "civil society" as an independent individual standing outside of society.

And Marx notes something that the advocates of capitalist society are most often blind to:

        ... private interest is already a socially determined interest, which can be achieved only within the conditions laid down by society ... the reciprocal and all-sided dependence of individuals who are indifferent to one another ...

"Indifferent dependence" cannot be the foundation of communal concern nor the root of empathy toward others. It is much more likely to foment conflict and exploitation, rage and repulsion, self-hatred and unending envy.

From the beginning of American history, human relations were constructed through a series of antagonisms: the European settlers against native Americans and Mexican populations; human beings against nature and those same human beings divided again by privilege and power exercised against each other. Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States begins:

Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, emerged from their villages into the island's beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log.

They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawk's bells ... They do not bear arms, and do not know them. Their spears are made of cane ... They would make fine servants ...With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

Columbus wrote further:

As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives    by force in order that they might learn and might give me information ...

The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold? Following that information, he set out to accumulate slaves. He later wrote: "Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold."

Zinn writes:

Among the Arawaks mass suicides began, with cassava poison. Infants were killed to save them from the Spaniards.

The story of Columbus the heroic explorer is still the iconic legend told to the greatest majority of school children in the United States. But the myth of Columbus is not merely for the innocents of the country: Even such authorities as Samuel Eliot Morison, the "distinguished" Harvard historian, endorsed the legend of Columbus' greatness. In his book Christopher Columbus, Mariner, Morison describes the enslavement and murder of the native populations and notes: "The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide."

But Morrison had set out to ennoble Columbus and so he concludes:

He had his faults and his defects, but they were largely the defects of the qualities that made him great - his indomitable will, his superb faith in God and in his own mission as the Christ-bearer to land beyond the seas, his stubborn persistence despite neglect, poverty ... and discouragement.  But there was no flaw, no dark side to the most astonishing and essential of all his qualities - his seamanship.

In other words, though he engaged in "complete genocide," and missed his original mark by several thousand miles, he was an admirable sailor and that, in Morison's eyes, counts for everything.

But why do I linger on Columbus since he was not an American but a Spaniard, raised in a foreign creed and of a different culture?

Morison, however, was an American and a distinguished one at that, who in his extravagant praise of Columbus reveals the deep and rotting soil from which he rose to his position of eminence among American historians, who simultaneously were called upon to establish his preeminence. In reading Morison, it is not Columbus that we primarily discover, but the long established American ideal of dominance and power. As Zinn reminds us:

What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortes did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English to the Powhatans and Pequots of America.

And it is what we have been doing for more than 500 years through the enslavements, invasions, murders, plunderings, dissolutions, eviscerations and wholesale slaughters of those whose lives and labors and territories and resources we coveted to the point of immolation. From the natives of early Virginia and Massachusetts to the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, transformed into shadows of their once living corporeal selves, to the more than 500,000 Iranian civilians and the still uncounted Afghanis and Pakistanis we are still in the process of saving from themselves, we have witnessed an unending baptism of freedom in blood and rotting flesh.

However, it is not the individual atrocities that are the essence of this history but the pattern of imperialist carnage; the underlying structure of dehumanized self-aggrandizement that is most to be explored, comprehended and expunged. It is the fundamental structure of the capitalist system that produces the atrocities, not the atrocities that produce the system. For the atrocities reveal as their cause a set of interrelationships that require and provide for each other - what is referred to as a dialectical system. No aspect of this system can exist independently of the others and so each reveals something of the remainder when it is explored.

The basic aspects of capitalism are: 1) exploitation, 2) expansion, 3) access to state power, 4) enhanced technology, and 5) control of the conscious and unconscious processes of the mentality of the populace.

"Exploitation" signifies that the labor of workers is owned and controlled by those who possess the means by which their wealth is produced. Given this power over wealth, the dominant class keeps a larger and larger portion for itself and returns to the workers only enough to keep them sufficiently vital and aware, so as to maintain the capacity to provide additional labor. At times, when the working class is politically vigorous, it may win concessions and at other times, such as our time now, its share of the total wealth will decline precipitously. In other words, the level of the workers' wellbeing will fluctuate around a norm established by the underlying capacity of the capitalist to control capital and, through this control, the proportion of value accruing to the workers on the one hand and the capitalists on the other.

"Expansion" involves a structural and a geographical aspect. The capitalist system operates on the basis of continuing accumulation of profit. This follows from the fact that the system is competitive and, whether given capitalists embrace this condition or not, if they refuse to compete for a greater share of this wealth, they will find themselves driven from the marketplace and replaced by a new agent who is perfectly willing to take up the missing opportunity. It is not personal temperament or greed that produces capitalism, but capitalism that produces competitive greed. It must, of course, be the case that capitalism could not have originated absent a character structure that was attracted to personal advantage. But this characteristic was in some part the result of a desire for survival rather than enhancement and could not have persisted unless it was embodied in an expanding structure that encompassed more and more of social life.

Expansion and exploitation feed off each other: one as a dynamic process and the other as a structure that the process tends to establish. And everything that might be said about the domestic nature of a given capitalist country needs also to be repeated on the plane of international affairs. So, the world economic system is continually more subject to the voracious interests of various competing countries and the conflicts and outright warfare among them. All the while, individual capitalist firms give rise to oligopolies and monopolies that carry on the procedures of competitive exploitation on an ever more enormous and dangerous scale.

With continued growth, the economy comes more and more to depend on the resources, agencies and directives of the state, which becomes more and more essential as the economic system becomes more complex and requires a "center" that can coordinate the vast arrangement of activities that define modern capitalism: the defense and redefinition of property, the nature of taxation, the distribution of profit, the continuing support for innovation, the situating of labor, the form and content of immigration and numerous other activities that require a central agent to relate each of these activities to the others. And finally, and perhaps most to the point, the state can maintain an illusion of impartiality that defends the system against what would otherwise be the obvious charge of support of capital against the other dimensions of social life.

We should never forget that the tendencies and pressures that exist within the capitalist system have their counterpart in the forms of culture, human nature and psychological formations that pervade the social life of these societies. For example, the move to expansion has its replica in the lives of various segments of the population that sustain it. To maintain and enhance as much of one's self with as little expenditure as possible is not merely the admonition prescribed by the commercial system but is, simultaneously, the purported insight carried throughout the emotional and motivational structure of personal, psychological and social life.

Take without giving is one of the doctrines defining male culture, in which one's capacity to love or what passes for it is hoarded, and the accumulation of the love of others is an indication of a weakness in them that can be manipulated to one's advantage. Need for the love of others must be disguised by aggrandizement and apparent indifference and, consequently, of success in the economic struggle for love. The prevailing prescription of male culture is self-enhancement and the minimization of the resources, powers and defenses of others: greater wealth, greater access to dominance, greater sexual potency, a greater range of powers used to control others and a greater system of defenses to keep these others who are engaged in reciprocal attack upon one's self from succeeding. However, to accumulate without return soon becomes a wearisome task in which the value being sought and hoarded loses its significance as the other who is manipulated through this unequal exchange soon loses value and becomes, in fact, instrumentally useful but humanly worthless.

It is through the myriad forms of manipulation of others that the self loses its human potentiality. The contradiction between power and ideal with which I began these remarks has the dreadful consequence of placing one forever on the precipice of self-condemnation and social exclusion. The values that form one's ideal self are incapable of realization, and the individual therefore comes to assume responsibility for the persistence of its failure. In his brief account of Western attitudes toward death Philippe Aires notes:

Today the adult experiences sooner or later - and increasingly it is sooner - the feeling that he has failed, that his adult life has failed to achieve any of the promises of adolescence.

Adolescence is, of course, the period of life when idealism prevails, as the difficulties that stand between the individual and his or her fulfillment are not understood to derive from the larger society within which individuals are formed and measured rather than from the unique characteristics of these burgeoning individuals themselves.

Nor is this the conclusion of one's sense of failure; there is a further fact less often noted and commented upon: Individuals participate significantly in their own decline and ultimate demise. How does such self-destruction come about?

When we use terms like "masochism" we usually take for granted that we are speaking of individual pathology. However, consider that every social system is obviously inseparable from the channeled energies of its participants. In fact, each system is the embodiment of these energies, so organized as to form a larger and more persistent whole. So it is that the failure of our society, the harm it imposes on us, is in unavoidable measure the effort and product of our own lives. It is because we act out the forms of personhood required by our society that it is able to accumulate its power to force us into acting against ourselves. So masochism is not an individual occurrence but the basic imposition by which we construct the processes that deconstruct us. Constructing the powers of a destructive society, we deconstruct the ideal possibilities inherent in ourselves.

Of course, we are not self-consciously aware of this fact, but it occurs as it does regardless of our self-conscious ignorance. We make the social world that is our undoing. We produce the institutions and structures that maintain our very subordination. Our energies, which we define in terms of self-aggrandizement and rational self-interest, are beyond our understanding, the very opposite of what they initially claim. Our vaunted self-interest is self-denial, our cherished self-realization, the destruction of what we hold most dear.

It was not only Marx and his conservative counterparts who sensed the turning of liberalism into its opposite. It was in 1776 that Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations, in which he argued as a thoughtful economic historian:

Not only would free, competitive markets direct the employment of capital to those industries in which it would be more productive, but they would also result, again through the invisible hand directing selfish profit maximizing into socially beneficial channels ...   

Or as Smith put the matter, speaking of the ordinary participant in the burgeoning capitalist market:

  … he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of greatest value, he intends only his own gain,   in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end that was no part of his intention.

Some 120 years later, Max Weber, a thinker of considerable brilliance and one more sympathetic to capitalism, having separated himself from his usual detached objectivity, noted with uncharacteristic passion and eloquence at the conclusion of The Protest Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism:

The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism ... with irresistible force. In [the Puritan] view the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of "the saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment." But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage...

No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance.  For of the last stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: "Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that is has attained a level never before achieved.

So, at the dawn of the capitalist era, Adam Smith could see in the conjunction of individual self-interests the promise of a greater well-being than economic activity directed by a conscious intelligence could provide. But at the turn of the 20th century Smith's optimism had been transformed into an iron cage, of which "it might be truly said: Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved."

So the ostensive rationality of capitalist triumph is transformed into the alienation of the human condition and the expectation of progressive achievement into a morass of violence directed at others and eventually even at one's self. The murders at Newtown cannot be understood when separated from the long declining loss of rationality and its hope that marks the inversion of the liberal ideal. In short, they cannot be separated from our mass murders in Iraq, our droning of innocent families in Afghanistan, our unwillingness to hold the latest murderers of the dream of economic well-being responsible for their onslaught against the once vital fantasy of the bright rewards of diligent labor and financial probity.

As the dream dies, its debris spreads across the wasted land. To fight against the wounded apathy that blights so many more of us, what can be so exciting as the promising transcendence of this miserable world in a flash of apparent liberation delivered through the muzzle of a gun?

Note how many of these mass murders end in suicide, as though the promised moment of god-like power has been achieved, never to be reproduced again. In the life of such murderers this moment is intended to redeem their anguished trivialization. After the destruction of the other, it is vital to escape the mundane forces that have given rise to one's original rage. The world has been remade and one must leave it as such. One has entered the life of the vanished through one's own miraculous power to transform these others and one's self from the living into the dead. In murder, one enters the land of the transformed, lies with them, their life now absent, now void, as is one's own. This "nullity," as Weber referred to our contemporary condition, has realized the fulfillment of his prophecy in the horror of obliteration. When terror becomes the all too common currency of state and family, culture and sport, it should not surprise us that it finally comes to rest in the blind horror of individual life and death.

US Still Paying Billions in Benefits to Deal With Psychological Effects of War

The U.S. government is paying billions to war veterans and their families, including monthly payments to the children of Civil War veterans. More than $40 billion annually is being paid out to soldiers and survivors of the Civil War, the Spanish-Ameri...

Obama Boosts Syria Support as Congress Pushes Military Intervention

WASHINGTON - As the Syrian uprising enters its third year, the United States and its allies are preparing to materially increase their support of the armed opposition in Syria.

In Aleppo, Karm al Jabal. This neighbourhood is next to Al Bab and has been under siege for six months. Mar 4, 2013. (Credit: Basma/cc by 2.0) Secretary of State John Kerry pledged an additional 60 million dollars in direct aid to the rebels, marking the first time Washington will directly supply rebel forces, but the administration appears as wary as ever to get more directly involved.

The provision of battlefield materiel has been met with some support from hawks who have pushed for greater military intervention, though many policymakers have urged the president to go even further. Exhortations for intervention have increased since rumours began of a chemical weapons attack in Aleppo. Though U.S. officials have largely dismissed the reports, many members of Congress expressed concern about the use of weapons of mass destruction in Syria.

On Monday, Rep. Eliot Engel, the most senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced legislation that would authorise funding for “limited lethal assistance” to Syrian opposition groups, assuming that the groups would be carefully vetted in the process.

"It is for America’s leaders in Congress, the media, and, above all, the administration to learn the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam and get themselves to satisfactorily ask and reasonably answer the tough questions before we selflessly, inadvertently, and foolishly find ourselves in another war.” - Leslie Gelb, CFR

Meanwhile, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin concluded a Senate hearing on Syria by stating that a no-fly zone would “be helpful in breaking the deadlock and bringing down the Assad regime”.

During the hearing, Senator John McCain reiterated his long-held position that the U.S. should intervene more directly in the uprising. Levin and McCain have signed on to a letter urging President Obama to establish no-fly zones and provide more military aid to rebels.

Both the House legislation and the Senate letter were applauded in a press release Thursday from the Foreign Policy Initiative, the think-tank successor to the neoconservative Project for a New American Century: “This week, key members of Congress stepped into the void of U.S. leadership on the Syria conflict, calling for action to end the Assad regime’s slaughter of the Syrian people and avoid an even greater regional catastrophe.”

But the boldest military endorsement thus far came from Senator Lindsey Graham, who responded to rumours of the chemical attack by stating, “You’ve got to get on the ground. There is no substitute…I don’t care what it takes…I vote to cut this off before it becomes a problem.”

The Obama administration and senior military officials have pushed back against this type of involvement. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said earlier this week, “I don’t think at this point I can see a military option that would create an understandable outcome. And until I do, it would be my advice to proceed cautiously.”

Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, warns that this should not be taken to imply that the appetite for any intervention is low.

“They’re clearly already involved in the armed opposition,” Bennis told IPS. “The CIA is on the ground helping sort out who should get money, and they’re training people in Jordan. The idea is, they don’t want to get involved any further.”

Prominent Republicans from both sides of the aisle have also expressed concern about further militarising the conflict. At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, Chairman Ed Royce concurred with the sentiment that “the U.S. has no good options in Syria,” and Rep. Karen Bass warned that the Syrian opposition leaders are too weak to be credible in Syria.

“Who are those good rebels we want to arm?” asked Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. “The interventionists seem to take for granted that we know them well. The fact is, the interventionists themselves and the U.S. government don’t know squat about Syria and know even less squat about these rebels.”

The Free Syrian Army, the moniker bestowed on disparate militias and defected military units that have become the primary vehicle of the anti-Assad opposition, still lacks a functional central structure, and many fear that it has grown increasingly beholden to extremist Salafi groups such as Jabhat Al-Nusra.

“The very real risk in the U.S. providing arms even to those we believe to be moderate Sunni rebels is that even if they do better, and Assad’s regime is weakened, who would be the real beneficiary?” writes Gelb. “No one disputes that the extremist jihadis are far better positioned to take advantage of defeating Assad.”

The Central Intelligence Agency, Defence Department, and State Department have been vetting opposition elements in Jordan and Turkey, attempting to identify “friendly” groups and individuals to furnish with U.S. support, but the process has been fraught with unknowns.

Though the presence of U.S. officials in surrounding states has become near-ubiquitous, Washington continues to suffer from a significant deficit of information from inside Syria itself. This not only precludes the ability to identify friendly (or antagonistic) actors that remain within the Syrian borders, but also the knowledge of what happens to U.S. materiel after it crosses into Syria.

Nevertheless, the changing U.S. position is a clear indication of a shift away from President Obama’s expectation that the uprising would topple Bashar Al-Assad without added U.S. support.

“Obama would have preferred not to get involved at all,” said Bennis, “but that’s not an option. Others are eager to get involved, but their rationale is political, not based on strategic interests.”

According to Gelb, “There is one path to sensible strategy and to staying out of trouble. It is for America’s leaders in Congress, the media, and, above all, the administration to learn the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam and get themselves to satisfactorily ask and reasonably answer the tough questions before we selflessly, inadvertently, and foolishly find ourselves in another war.”

But as exhortations to further intervention rise, the tenor in Washington appears to be moving decidedly in the other direction.

© 2013 IPS North America

Ed Miliband Warns Of ‘Lost Decade’

Ed Miliband has claimed Britain could slide into a "lost decade" because of the government's economic policies. The Labour leader warned that public mistrust of politicians will be Labour's biggest challenge at the next general election. Miliband spo...

Miliband Offers Answer To ‘Decade Of Decline’

Ed Miliband has accused David Cameron of condemning the UK to a "decade of decline" by sticking to austerity plans. In a speech this afternoon, the Labour leader insisted public anger with the coalition is growing in the wake of a no-change Budget - b...

U.S.-Sponsored Genocides: From Guatemala to Congo

Guatemala has put its U.S.-backed genocidal maniac on trial, but Washington continues to protect its agents of mass murder in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “There is no auditorium big enough to hold the all the living Americans who should justly be charged with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.”

“The genocide would have been impossible without the United States.”

The man who unleashed a genocide against the Maya Indians of Guatemala, former dictator and general Efrain Rios Montt, went on trial for his crimes against humanity in Guatemala City, this week. By all rights, the 86 year-old Montt should be joined in the dock by scores of still-living United States officials, including former President George Bush the First.

Back in 1954, the CIA overthrew the reformist government of President Jacobo Arbenz, whose land reform measures had angered the United Fruit Company. The U.S. termination with extreme prejudice of Guatemalan democracy ultimately led to a 36-year rebellion and civil war, with the Americans backing a succession of dictators. General Montt was the most monstrous. In the 1980s, his regime declared total war on the Mayan people of the country’s highlands. Whole villages were massacred and entire regions laid waste as the military attempted to drain the human sea in which the guerilla movement swam. Army documents show clearly that the native Maya were targeted for extermination because of their ethnicity; that all Maya – a majority of Guatemala’s population – were considered enemies of the state. Rios Montt is the first Latin American former head of state to be charged with genocide in his own country.

However, this crime is not Rios Montt’s, alone. The genocide would have been impossible without the United States, which had run the show in Guatemala since 1954 and had armed the general to the teeth. The U.S. corporate media like to call President Ronald Reagan the “Great Communicator” but, in Guatemala, he was the Great Exterminator, encouraging and financing General Rios Montt’s orgy of mass murder. Reagan described the racist butcher as “a man of great personal integrity and commitment” who was “getting a bum rap.” All told, a quarter million or more Guatemalans died in the 40 years since the CIA robbed them of their democracy and independence.

“The Maya were targeted for extermination because of their ethnicity.”

In 1999, when the civil war was over, President Bill Clinton apologized for the harm done to Guatemala by the United States. But by then, Clinton had already set in motion a far larger genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo – a U.S.-sponsored holocaust that has so far claimed 6 million lives. In a just world, Slick Willie would join an auditorium full of Obama, Bush and Clinton administration operatives who, over the space of 16 years, made eastern Congo the charnel house of the planet. Susan Rice would have a place of prominence in this vast assemblage of criminals, as among the most culpable for the worst bloodbath since World War Two.

In fact, there is no auditorium big enough to hold the all the living Americans who should justly be charged with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. There are too many – great crowds of them from each administration, especially in the last ten years, since the invasion of Iraq. Imperialism in its last stages maintains an ever-lengthening Kill List.

Guatemala is coming to grips with its past, in a trial that will probably last a few months. The United States has an infinity of crimes to answer for.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected]

US Sponsored Terror: Syria Teeters on Obama’s “Red Line”

Spokesmen of the Assad government recently accused foreign-backed militants of launching scud missiles containing chemical weapons in the city of Aleppo, killing dozens. Witnesses claim to have seen powder emanate from the rocket, causing those who inhaled the substance to suffocate or require immediate medical attention. An unnamed chemical weapons expert cited by Al-Jazeera claimed that the causalities were not consistent with Syria’s reputed stockpile of chemical agents, stating, “If it’s a chemical warfare agent, it’s not working very well.” Syria’s ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja’afari, called on the UN Secretary-General to form an independent technical mission to investigate the use of chemical weapons by terrorist groups operating in Syria.

While on his first state visit to Israel, Barack Obama cast doubt and expressed deep scepticism toward the Assad government’s version of events, stating that if the government did indeed use chemical weapons, then it meant a “red line” had been crossed. Obama vowed not to make further announcements until concrete facts were established. What this essentially means is that Obama is now in a position to act on his statements and intervene more boldly and directly than the United States has already been doing since the beginning of the conflict. Additionally, NATO personnel have also indicated that they are prepared to employ a wide range of operations. US-European Command Admiral James Stavridis recently told media that the alliance was “prepared, if called upon, to be engaged as we were in Libya.”

Those who have critically monitored the situation from the beginning are under no illusions. The way in which mainstream media sources have covered the Syrian conflict, perhaps more so than any other topic in recent times, shows unequivocally how certain content providers have moved in step with the foreign policy of the Western and Gulf states who have enabled insurgent groups and provided diplomatic cover for opposition politicians who represent their economic and strategic interests. The Obama administration’s policy toward Libya and Syria eyes the same familiar endgame as what the Bush administration sought in its foreign policy adventures. The fact that many of those on the left who campaigned against Iraq and Afghanistan are now generally silent, or even supportive of Obama’s agenda, is proof that his policies have been packaged far more intelligently for mainstream consumption. The reality is that Syria is “Shock and Awe” by other means.

There are a myriad of reasons why Bashar al-Assad must go in the eyes of policy makers in Washington and Tel Aviv, and the destruction of his tenure could not have been possible without the financial muscle of Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s wretchedly opulent Sunni Monarchs. These glittering kingdoms of disaster-capitalism are not only responsible for supplying weapons and cash; a major incentive of theirs is exporting the Wahhabist and Salafist ideologies that many of Syria’s imported jihadists subscribe to, a warped and primal interpretation of Islam that has fueled the sectarian nature of the Syrian conflict and deepened social divisions to their most dangerous point – in a country that was once renowned for its tolerance of religious diversity. These Gulf kingdoms, which are more-or-less given a trump card to commit deplorable human rights violations institutionally, are also responsible for propping up the political arm of their militant foot soldiers, and that comes in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Syria’s opposition coalition, which is itself entirely a creation of foreign powers, has recently elected its own interim prime minister – enter, Ghassan Hitto, a virtually unknown political novice with a US passport and a computer science degree from Purdue University. Hitto is an Islamist Kurd with strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has politically dominated the Syrian National Council since its creation, in addition to organizing tactical elements of the insurgency. The backbone of the Brotherhood’s relationship with the medieval monarchies of the Persian Gulf is grounded in a firm opposition to Shi’a Islam, as extolled by clerical leaders in Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah; Assad himself is also an Alawite, an offshoot of Shi’a Islam. It should be clear enough by now how enflaming sectarian divisions in the region was a prerequisite for those bank-rolling the insurgency, aimed at demolishing the secular Syrian state.

Several high-profile members of Syria’s opposition coalition boycotted the vote for interim prime minister, citing what they viewed as a foreign-backed campaign to elect Hitto. Kamal Labwani, a veteran opposition campaigner, was reported as saying, “We don’t want what happened in Egypt to happen in Syria. They hijacked the revolution.” Those who abstained from the vote accuse Hitto of being a puppet of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that the SNC’s decisions were being dictated from the outside. Walid al-Bunni, another senior figure in the opposition, stated, “The Muslim Brotherhood, with the backing of Qatar, have imposed their prime minister candidate. We will keep away if the coalition does not reconsider its choice.” Let’s just get this straight – Assad, a leader whose presence today is a testament to the fact that he continues to enjoy majority popular support, is considered to have lost his legitimacy. On the other hand, Hitto, a man with no political experience who received 35 votes out of 49 ballots cast during a Syrian National Coalition meeting, is supposed to be legitimate representative of the Syrian people?

These realities can only be interpreted as the boot of the so-called “International Community” squashing the face of the Syrian people, imposing on them a man who does not represent them, but the business interests of multinational corporations who seek to plant their flags in the soil of a post-Assad Syria. Let’s not humor ourselves by thinking John Kerry, William Hague, Laurent Fabius or Qatari Emir Khalifa Al Thani actually care about the people of Syria. However many casualties the Syrian conflict has incurred thus far can be attributable to the influx of foreign funds, foreign arms, and foreign fighters. It would be intellectually dishonest to deny that the tactics of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian Arab Army have also caused widespread civilian causalities and suffering. It is an enormous challenge for a state military to quell unconventional insurgencies of the sort carried out by militants in Syria when these battles take place in densely populated residential areas.

One should not cynically credit Syrian government forces with intentionally killing their own people; this does not serve the purposes of the state in anyway. Civilian deaths that have occurred as a result of government forces engaging the insurgency should more accurately be seen as a heinous by-product of a foreign campaign to topple the Syrian government. While the foreign ministries of Western capitals cite politically charged death-toll statistics to justify their campaign against “Assad the Butcher”, it is absolutely unconscionable that Paris and London have called for lifting the Syrian arms embargo, and for vowing to arm militant groups with or without the consent of the EU. Apparently some seventy thousand people have been killed in Syria according to the United Nations, and these cited European states, which allegedly are so concerned about terrorism, want to dump more guns into Syria – this is madness.

Western states want to install proxy leaders who will grovel to their multinationals and swallow IMF medicine, Gulf states seek unfettered hegemony in their own backyards, and they all want to see the Shi’a resistance smashed to pieces. Following the news of chemical weapons being used in Syria, the most immediate conclusion of this observer is that foreign-backed militants, who have used every opportunity to call for more material and support, employed the use of a smuggled chemical weapon of poor quality to bring about direct military intervention in their favor. Right on cue, Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain are frothing at the mouth, urging President Obama to “take immediate action” and consider deploying troops. Graham was quoted as saying, “If the choice is to send in troops to secure the weapons sites versus allowing chemical weapons to get in the hands of some of the most violent people in the world, I vote to cut this off before it becomes a problem.” There is no surer sign of a pathological mind than when one credits others with the blood on their own hands.

Nile Bowie is an independent political analyst and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at [email protected]

Senate Passes $3.7 Trillion Budget, Its First in 4 Years

Washington - After a grueling, all-night debate that ended close to 5 a.m., the Senate on Saturday adopted its first budget in four years, a $3.7 trillion blueprint for 2014 that would fast-track passage of tax increases, trim spending gingerly and leave the government still deeply in the debt a decade from now.

The 50-to-49 vote sets up contentious — and potentially fruitless — negotiations with the Republican-dominated House in April to reconcile two vastly different plans for dealing with the nation’s economic and budgetary problems. No Republicans voted for the Senate plan on Saturday, and four Democrats — Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Begich of Alaska and Max Baucus of Montana — also opposed it. All four are red-state Democrats up for re-election in 2014.

“The Senate has passed a budget,” Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the Senate Budget Committee chairwoman, declared at 4:56 a.m.

The House plan ostensibly brings the government’s taxes and spending into balance by 2023 with cuts to domestic spending even below the automatic “sequestration” levels now roiling federal programs and it orders significant changes to Medicare and the tax code.

The Senate plan, in contrast, includes $100 billion in upfront infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy and calls for special fast-track rules to overhaul the tax code and raise $975 billion over 10 years through legislation that could not be filibustered. Even with that tax increase and prescribed spending cuts, the Senate plan would leave the government with a $566 billion deficit in 10 years, and $5.2 trillion in additional debt over that time.

“The first priority of the Senate budget is creating jobs and economic growth from the middle out, not the top down,” Ms. Murray, the chairwoman of the Budget Committee, said. “With an unemployment rate than remains stubbornly high, and a middle class that has seen their wages stagnate for far too long, we simply cannot afford any threats to our fragile recovery.”

Republicans were dismissive of the Democrats’ priorities.

“Honest people can disagree on policy, but where there can be no honest disagreement is the need to change our nation’s debt course,” said Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the Budget Committee’s ranking Republican. “The singular truth that no one can escape is that the House budget changes our debt course while the Senate budget does not.”

Passage of the competing plans does advance a more orderly process after nearly three years of crises and brinkmanship. If House and Senate negotiators can agree on a framework for overhauling the tax code and entitlement programs like Medicare, their committees could go to work on detailed legislation, possibly under special rules that protect the bills from a Senate filibuster.

If the negotiations prove fruitless, the next budget crisis looms this summer when Congress must again raise the government’s statutory borrowing limit or risk defaulting on the federal debt. House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio on Thursday revived a rule — breached in January — that any increase in the debt ceiling must be accompanied by equivalent spending cuts.

Final passage of the Senate budget was upstaged by the process that got the senators to it, a record-breaking marathon known since 1977 as the budget “vote-a-rama.” More than 500 amendments were filed, and 70 were voted on. They were advisory only, but they put the Senate on record backing a dizzying variety of subjects, from limiting the regulation of sage grouse and preventing the United Nations from infringing on Americans’ right to bear arms, to repealing a tax on medical devices that helps finance the president’s health care law and building the Keystone XL pipeline through the Midwest.

By 4 a.m., the senators were sitting quietly in their seats, plowing through amendments like sleepy schoolchildren, breaking only to give the Senate pages a standing ovation and to grumble when a senator demanded a roll-call vote if a voice vote would suffice. As the senators recorded their final votes, they hastily headed out of the Capitol for a two-week spring recess.

It was the 32nd all-night Senate session since 1915, and the first since an Iraq War debate in 2007 stretched from 10 a.m. to 5:09 the following morning, according to the Senate Historical Office.

But the sleepy bonhomie did not bridge the budgetary divide between the parties. Senate Republicans and Democrats could not even agree on what was in the Senate budget. Ms. Murray said the plan matched its $975 billion in revenue increases with equivalent cuts and interest savings. But Republicans said it did not, since the proposal reversed $1 trillion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration, but did not count that against the spending cuts.

Those differences did not lend themselves to much optimism going forward.

“The only good news is that the fiscal path the Democrats laid out in their budget resolution won’t become law,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Tehran’s Negotiations with the West

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 Canadian radio host and journalist James Corbett believes that the group of six world powers have not ever been sincere and honest in their negotiations with Iran and constantly used the opportunity of talks to put more pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

 “At this point, the players in this drama have all but given up the pretense that this is a negotiation at all. It has become more of a venue for the west to deliver threats and ultimatums to Iran. The goalposts are constantly shifting and have become so hopelessly nebulous that they are about as realistic as it was for Bush and Blair to demand that Saddam Hussein “disarm” the WMDs he never had or face military invasion,” said Corbett in an interview with Fars News Agency.

James Corbett edits, writes and hosts the Corbett Report. James has been living and working in Japan since 2004. He started The Corbett Report website in 2007 as an outlet for independent critical analysis of politics, society, history, and economics. Corbett has interviewed several renowned authors, journalists, academicians and activists for his listener-supported show. He is also a producer for Global Research TV (GRTV).

What follows is the text of Fars News Agency’s interview with James Corbett ahead of the upcoming nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1.

Q: Iran and the P5+1 held a meeting in Kazakhstan on February 26 to talk about Iran’s nuclear program. The past meetings between Iran and the six world powers yielded few practical results as the West has persistently called on Iran to abandon its enrichment activities, while knowing that Iran’s nuclear program is purely peaceful. What’s your viewpoint in this regard?

A: In labor law there is a concept of “good faith negotiation” which stipulates that both sides in that negotiation have to recognize each other as bargaining representatives, attend and take part in meetings at reasonable times, respond in good time to proposals from other representatives, and to respond to those proposals with reasoned responses indicating a genuine attempt to consider them. On almost every point, the P5+1 powers have shown themselves to be in violation of these principles in their negotiation with Iran over the Iranian nuclear program. The attempt to force concessions and/or impose sanctions as a precondition to negotiations is a clear sign that the P5+1 are not negotiating in good faith.

Take the IAEA’s ‘revelation’ this week that Iran is installing “advanced” centrifuge technology at its Natanz plant. The leak comes conveniently right as these so-called negotiations are set to begin, and provides a convenient excuse for everyone, including, of course, the Obama administration, to deliver more hand-wringing about Iran’s “provocative” actions. The problem with this reading, of course, is that this technology is in no way inconsistent with a peaceful nuclear program, and the very same IAEA report also shows no evidence whatsoever that any of Iran’s nuclear materials are being diverted for weapons purposes. All this is conveniently ignored, however, and the entire attempt to replace Iran’s admittedly outdated 1970s centrifuge technology with more stable, modern equipment is portrayed as some type of monstrous breach of international etiquette.

The hypocrisy is self-evident. Iran cannot so much as upgrade its aging equipment without being accused of provocative action. None of its actions are in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the IAEA itself cannot demonstrate any proof that it is diverting any of its nuclear material for an offensive weapons program. Meanwhile, Israel, its avowed enemy who has repeatedly threatened military action against it for even pursuing the idea of peaceful nuclear technology, is the world’s sixth largest nuclear power and yet is not an NPT signatory and has never allowed its nuclear facilities to be inspected by anyone, least of all the IAEA. What clearer indication can there be that the P5+1 are not negotiating in good faith?

Q: Iran has always expressed its willingness for engaging in talks with the six world powers based on mutual respect and provided that its nuclear rights are recognized, but the Western powers have always imposed new sanctions against Iran before the talks and stalled clear and meaningful negotiations. Isn’t this practice a policy of carrot and stick aimed at intimidating Iran and forcing it into making concessions?

A: At this point, the players in this drama have all but given up the pretense that this is a negotiation at all. It has become more of a venue for the west to deliver threats and ultimatums to Iran. The goalposts are constantly shifting and have become so hopelessly nebulous that they are about as realistic as it was for Bush and Blair to demand that Saddam Hussein “disarm” the WMDs he never had or face military invasion. Just this week, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that “If it [Iran] fails to address the concerns of the international community, it will face more pressure and become increasingly isolated.” What does this blather mean? What are the concerns, and how does Iran go about “addressing” them? It is obvious at this point than nothing short of the government of Iran agreeing to shut down the nuclear program entirely and hand the keys to their country over to America would be enough to meet these vague demands.

A perfect case in point revolves around the sanctions that the US unilaterally imposed this month shutting down the gold-for-gas trade that had developed between Iran and Turkey. The sanctions have already had their effect: the trade is drying up. Now the major powers come along and tell Iran that they might ease up on these sanctions if Tehran scraps their Fordow uranium enrichment plan. This is not a negotiation by any stretch of the imagination, this is one step shy of all-out war. As Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast put it: “They want to take away the rights of a nation in exchange for allowing trade in gold.” No self-respecting state could possibly give in to such demands. This is no carrot here, only stick, and no negotiation, only threats.

Q: 13 American intelligence agencies reported in 2007 that Iran’s nuclear activities haven’t diverted toward producing nuclear weapons and don’t have a military dimension. However, Washington still insists that Iran is after nuclear weapons, obstructing the progress of talks between Iran and the P5+1. Why does the U.S. repeat its claims for which it has no substantial evidence or proof?

A: The claim is entirely political, and explicitly so. One of the key authors of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that came to the conclusion that Iran’s nuclear program is not offensive in nature, Dr. Tom Fingar, recently received a “Sam Adams Award” from the Oxford Student Union for integrity in intelligence work. The event received virtually no attention from any of the press and Dr. Fingar is still a complete unknown to the American public. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have done their best to cover up the findings and assessments of their own intelligence agencies, exactly as the Bush regime worked to cover up any intelligence pointing to Saddam’s lack of WMDs in the run-up to the war in Iraq. The intelligence was being manipulated then, and it is being manipulated now.

Q: It was in 2004 that a German spy stole a laptop computer from a military unit in Iran. The laptop is said to have included thousands of documents regarding Iran’s alleged underground nuclear activities. The American intelligence agencies confirmed that the data in this laptop are genuine, but so far, nothing of the information saved in the laptop have been presented and offered to the public or the inspectors of the IAEA. Can we say that the laptop issue is an intelligence hoax aimed at blemishing Iran’s reputation and putting more pressure on it?

A: How can the public possibly be asked to put their trust in the pronouncements of politicians and government officials who have been caught lying to demonize their enemies time and again? The laptop should not be assumed to exist until it is presented for inspection by independent experts in a neutral setting, and even then all possible forms of tampering and planting of evidence have to be taken into account. Perhaps the intelligence agencies have learned their lesson since the release of the Niger yellowcake documents, which were easily exposed as crude forgeries. If the evidence is never presented, it can never be exposed as a forgery.

Q: The anti-Iran sanctions have created problems for the ordinary Iranian citizens, but it seems that they cannot persuade the Iranian politicians and the people to retreat from the path of peaceful nuclear program the country has been pursuing and investing on. What’s your viewpoint about the sanctions, their humanitarian impact and the effects they have had on Iran’s nuclear program?

A: The sanctions are lunacy on every level: humanitarian, political and strategic. The effects on the Iranian population are well documented and a perfectly predictable outcome of this form of economic warfare. But this has the exact opposite effect as the one supposedly intended by the west. To whatever extent reformist sentiment exists in Iran, the sanctions only help to make the case that the country is under attack by the west and must refuse to back down from the confrontation. If anything, it only stiffens the resolve of Iranians and makes the American dream of some spontaneous uprising from within that much less likely.

Even more bafflingly, the sanctions are having devastating effects on the P5+1 allies. Europe in general and Turkey in particular are sorely in need of Iranian gas to supplement their energy imports. The sanctions put the squeeze on these countries perhaps even more so than Iran, which will always find willing buyers for its gas in Asian markets that are unfettered by western sanctions.

Of course, this is well-known by America and its allies. The reason for the sanctions is not, ultimately, to make Iran cave to their demands; no one is seriously expecting this to happen. It is instead to exacerbate the situation so that international pressure against Iran increases. Europeans and Turks, for example, now have that much more incentive to pressure Iran on its nuclear program, since it is directly effecting their own bottom line.

Q: What’s your opinion about the upcoming nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1? Given that some members of the group have shown no willingness to ease the sanctions as an indication of their goodwill to Iran, can we await the success of the talks after an almost 8-month hiatus?

A” It would be nothing short of a miracle if any sort of agreement is actually struck in Almaty. The P5+1 powers have already made it abundantly clear that they are not interested in any agreement that involves Iran maintaining its nuclear program in any capacity. Sadly, if unsurprisingly, the best possible outcome is also the least likely one: the abolition of nuclear weapons altogether. It is also the one that was suggested by Ayatollah Khamenei last week, in keeping with a long tradition of Iranian proposals for a nuclear free Middle East that have been roundly rejected by the west. Go figure.

CIA trains and spies for Syrian rebels — report

Published time: March 23, 2013 09:33
Free Syrian Army fighters (Reuters/Mohamed Kaddoor/Shaam News Network/Handout)

Some Syrian rebel groups get training and intelligence straight from CIA officers, US officials told media. The helping hand is meant to bolster the secular opposition against both governmental troops and Islamist forces.

The CIA’s increased involvement in Syria is part America’s greater engagement in the war-torn country, according to The Wall Street Journal. The spy agency has selected some small rebel units from the Free Syrian Army to receive combat training and fresh intel they can act upon, the newspaper says, citing unnamed US officials and rebel commanders.

The training is provided by the CIA, working together with British, French and Jordanian intelligence agencies. The rebels are taught to use various kinds of arms, including anti-tank weapons. They are also schooled in urban combat tactics and counterintelligence tactics. 

The experience will supposedly help them stand against the professional Syrian army, which scores victories against the armed opposition thanks to both more advanced weapons and better organization.

The rebels are also receiving fresh intelligence collected by the CIA, which they can act upon at short notice. The extent of the info provided remains in secret, but the US can potentially provide what they gather trough satellite and signal surveillance as well as intelligence coming through exchanges with Israeli and Jordanian agencies.

The CIA is said to keep this part of dealing with the rebels limited, withholding sensitive types of information, like the suspected locations of Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles.

Free Syrian Army fighters from Katibat al-Farouk training on the outskirts of Idlib (AFP Photo/Shaam News Network)

The US spy agency was previously working in Turkey vetting rebel groups for receiving arms shipments from Gulf monarchies. The effort aimed at preventing the weapons from being funneled to Islamists had mixed results, the WSJ says. The CIA also works with Iraqi counterterrorism units to counter the flow of Islamist militants across the border to Syria.

The White House has been reluctant to send combat-worthy equipment to Syrian rebels, despite calls inside the US and from Gulf and some European countries to do so. It is concerned that those would end up in the hand of the more powerful Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist force, the Nusra Front. Unlike arms, the intelligence from CIA is operationally useful for a short period of time and would not be traded for years to come, a US official explained.

Washington’s concern over the growing influence of the Nusra Front was reiterated on Friday by President Barack Obama, as he was visiting Jordan as part of his Middle Eastern tour. 

“I am very concerned about Syria becoming an enclave for extremism because extremists thrive in chaos, they thrive in failed states, they thrive in power vacuums,” Obama said after meeting Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

The Nusra Front is believed to be responsible for the bloodiest bombings in Syria over the past months. The latest such attack was the assassination of Mohammad Buti and influential Sunni preacher and supporter of the Syrian government. Buti was killed on Thursday along with some 50 others when a car bomb was detonated near a Damascus mosque.

The US is reportedly gathering intelligence on Nusra Front commanders and fighters for a possible campaign of targeted drone killing similar to those the CIA wages in Pakistan and Yemen and the Pentagon in Afghanistan.

‘Left, Right & Center’: Israel, Nukes and the GOP

‘Left, Right & Center’: Israel, Nukes and the GOP

Posted on Mar 22, 2013
kcrw.com

Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer and the other “Left, Right & Center” panelists discuss President Obama’s approach to Israel. His well-received speech there was more about process than substance but provided a framework for next steps. Will his second term bring about positive foreign policy moves? Will Israel strike Iran—with or without U.S. support—if nuclear development continues? Would a nuclear ban be enforceable?

Iraq did not turn out the way supporters of the war imagined and was far more costly in dollars and lives. History will judge whether we should have gone for containment and whether we should have quit when we did.

Also, a report shows that the Republican National Committee recognizes real problems within the GOP.

Scheer and host Matt Miller are joined this week by Rich Lowry of National Review and Robin Wright of the United States Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

KCRW:


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“NATO 3” Oral Argument Unfolds on Illinois Terrorism Statute’s Constitutionality

On the ten-year anniversary of the launch of the Iraq War, another tentacle of the ever-burgeoning post-9/11 national security state unfolded in a lively courtroom in Chicago in the form of a domestic terrorism case.

At the Cook County Courthouse in Chicago, People's Law Office attorney Michael Deutsch argued that Illinois' domestic terrorism statute - applied to three activists who were in Chicago to protest the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in May 2012 - is unconstitutional. Ten months since the charges were first doled out by the State of Illinois, Deutsch and his team of attorneys still await evidence from the prosecutors in the discovery phase of the trial.

Judge Thaddeus Wilson presided over the contentious two-hour-long oral duel between state prosecutors and the defense team representing Brian Jacob Church, Brent Betterly and Jared Chase - collectively known as the "NATO 3."  The three came to the Windy City last year from Florida and New Hampshire to join protesters demonstrating in the streets against NATO's wars.

The argument pertained to the preemptive, military-style apartment raid and eventual arrest of three young men - eventually five - on charges of conspiracy to commit acts of domestic terrorism in the days leading up to the NATO Summit.

The prosecution's argument focuses on comments made by the three to undercover Chicago police officers, including a question Church allegedly posed asking if they had ever seen a "cop on fire." The prosecution used this phrase, without offering any context for the conversation, to attempt to show that the three had intent to actually carry out the crime.

"On the tenth anniversary of a war that's killed over 1 million Iraqi civilians, Attorney General Anita Alvarez has the gall to charge these protesters who were organizing against war 'terrorists,'" Joe Iosbaker, a Chicago activist raided by the FBI in 2010, said at a press conference before the hearing. (Alvarez's actual title is Cook County State's Attorney; Illinois' attorney general is Lisa Madigan.)

Defense Argues Illinois Statute Unconstitutional, Awaits Discovery Documents 

The Illinois terrorism statute, one of dozens of state-level terrorism laws passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, was brought off the shelf to charge the NATO 3 with plotting to throw Molotov cocktails at strategic targets during the summit.

Merely a day after the court proffer detailing the charges was presented on May 19, it was revealed that two Chicago Police Department officers going by the names "Mo" and "Gloves" or "Nadia" worked in an undercover capacity for two months leading up to the summit to obtain the audio-recorded evidence; Deutsch has alleged the NATO 3 are victims of entrapment.

It was not until June 13 that actual indictments were handed out to the three, weeks after the usually mundane offering of a bail bond was transformed into a major public relations event by Chicago Police Department head Garry McCarthy and State Attorney Alvarez which quickly set off sensational mainstream media coverage.

The NATO 3 lawyers argued at the hearing, as they asserted in a prior motion and memorandum, that the Illinois terrorism statute is so vague it could ensnare the innocent and criminalize First Amendment rights. In the case of the NATO 3, they argue, it did both, leading the defense team to challenge the constitutionality of the Illinois statute on its face.

"This issue does not only concern the defendants, but should concern every citizen in Illinois and beyond, [as it] allows politically motivated mayhem to be prosecuted as terrorism," Deutsch stated at the podium facing Judge Wilson.

Unlike other state statutes, Deutsch argued, the Illinois law does not require that a crime be carried out. Rather, it requires that a "significant portion" of the population feel "coerced" or "intimidated" by the words or actions of the person charged with terrorism.

"[The] statute [is so overbroad that it] criminalizes speech that should be legal," said Deutsch, further arguing that if the case is heard by a jury, members would be unable to interpret the law effectively as currently written.

Prosecution Responds

The prosecution's case centered on the necessity of preemptive action against potential threats at high-level national and international gatherings.

"If done during the NATO Summit, when the eyes of the world are upon you, then you have a different situation," said one of the prosecutors, arguing that the Illinois law was made more broad to cover the nature of US Secret Service Special National Security Events like the Summit, when dignitaries from around the world are gathered together in a confined space.

Prosecutors say that Church asked undercover detectives, "Have you ever seen a cop on fire?" which they argue was threatening to a significant portion of the civilian population even though no action was taken.

The prosecution also argued that the law needed to be written in broad-sweeping fashion to keep citizens safe. The state's legal team utilized the "1 percent doctrine," logic espoused in the Bush administration's 2002 National Security Strategy, arguing that the terrorism statute "is intended to stop this kind of grave conduct before it starts."

The same argument was employed to justify the launch of the war in Iraq, where Saddam Hussein's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were never found. An identical "world is a battlefield" doctrine has continued under the Obama administration.

Lastly, prosecutors argued that the rare use of the law since 9/11 serves as Exhibit A that it can be utilized with proper discretion. When the defense took issue with the nature of the law itself, prosecutors said they were only prepared to discuss the threat they argue the NATO 3 posed - not a "hypothetical, but an on-the-ground reality and threat."

Defense Still Awaits Delivery of Discovery Documents

Another issue of contention was fulfillment of the bill of particulars, or particular documents the defense asked for from the State of Illinois during the discovery phase.

"There is still things that we asked for that they haven't given us, and they keep saying they need more time," Deutsch told Truthout. "There is also an issue about documents from the federal government, as we think the FBI was certainly involved in some way in the arrest. We think the FBI was involved during the period of time in which these undercover police were involved with our clients and there might be memorandums portraying their involvement."

In short, though Judge Wilson announced plans to hand out the legal ruling by March 27, the defense has still not received all of the factual material it needs to make a legal case on behalf of the NATO 3.

The Scene From the Inside the Courtroom 

Church, with short red hair, and Betterly, with long blonde hair in a ponytail, wore bright yellow protective-custody-level Department of Corrections (DOC) prison garb. Chase, bearing short dark-brown hair, wore beige DOC clothing.

They were ushered into a sun-dappled courtroom with dark wood benches at 2 PM by over half a dozen Cook County Sheriff officers on one side and their six-strong legal team and about a dozen supporters on the other.

The hearing began with a bang when a dispute broke out when defense attorney Thomas Durkin asked Judge Wilson why the larger-than-normal police presence was necessary. The dispute ended when Wilson abruptly shouted, "You have been heard!" multiple times.

All of the NATO 3 appeared relaxed and attentive throughout the hearing. They are being held in Cook County Jail, which was under federal investigation for its conditions in 2008.

The Criminalization of Dissent 

The NATO 3 story shares a common narrative thread with other post-9/11 domestic terrorism prosecutions: politically motivated legal statutes, the role of undercover law enforcement, and defendants with what civil rights lawyers have called a mixture of bravado and foolishness.

Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, says that demobilizing activism through the threat of jail time or stiff charges isn't anything new.

"At this point, we have committed to describing dissent as terrorism. This goes all the way back to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act even before 9/11," he said.

While the Illinois statute is one of many state-level laws passed after 9/11, Buttar says that it is unique in its ability to criminalize dissent.

"The Illinois one is the only one that criminalizes potentially nonviolent acts and that should disturb anyone," said Buttar. "The fact that an act can be not violent, yet terrorism, should disturb anyone, and that's exactly why we should be concerned, because we see First Amendment speech being labeled as terrorism."

Phil Donahue on His 2003 Firing From MSNBC, When Liberal Network Couldn’t Tolerate Antiwar...

In 2003, the legendary television host Phil Donahue was fired from his prime-time MSNBC talk show during the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The problem was not Donahue’s ratings, but rather his views: An internal MSNBC memo warned Donahue was a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war," providing "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity." Donahue joins us to look back on his firing 10 years later. "They were terrified of the antiwar voice," Donahue says.

TRANSCRIPT:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Phil, I’d like to bring in another subject in terms of this whole issue, the—what happened to you, directly, as a host on MSNBC in the midst of the run-up to the war, and the responsibilities of the press in America and its—the mea culpas that have rarely been uttered by the pundits and by the journalists over what the American press did in the run-up to war.

PHIL DONAHUE: Well, I think what happened to me, the biggest lesson, I think, is the—how corporate media shapes our opinions and our coverage. This was a decision—my decision—the decision to release me came from far above. This was not an assistant program director who decided to separate me from MSNBC. They were terrified of the antiwar voice. And that is not an overstatement. Antiwar voices were not popular. And if you’re General Electric, you certainly don’t want an antiwar voice on a cable channel that you own; Donald Rumsfeld is your biggest customer. So, by the way, I had to have two conservatives on for every liberal. I could have Richard Perle on alone, but I couldn’t have Dennis Kucinich on alone. I was considered two liberals. It really is funny almost, when you look back on how—how the management was just frozen by the antiwar voice. We were scolds. We weren’t patriotic. American people disagreed with us. And we weren’t good for business.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, I had this unusual experience, Phil, in July of 2006. It was the 10th anniversary of MSNBC, and I was invited on Hardball by Chris Matthews to celebrate the 10th anniversary. I think first Brian Williams was on the show, and then the Israeli ambassador, and then I was on the show. And we were standing outside 30 Rock. It was a big deal. All the execs were on the top floor of 30 Rock, and they were all about to have a big party. And we were just coming out of a commercial.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to congratulate you, Chris, on 10 years of MSNBC, but I wish standing with you was Phil Donahue. He shouldn’t have been fired for expressing an antiwar point of view on the eve of the election. His point of view and the people brought on were also important.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I don’t know what the reasons were, but I doubt it was that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we have the MS—the NBC memo, that was a secret memo—

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Oh, OK, good.

AMY GOODMAN: —that came out, that said they didn’t want him to be the face of this network, an antiwar face, at a time when the other networks were waving the flag.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH: Could I answer the question? I’d love to answer that question.

AMY GOODMAN: Phil Donahue is a great patriot.

AMY GOODMAN: I said there, Phil, you were a great patriot. We did have the NBC memo, the secret memo that said they didn’t want their flagship show to be you, when the other networks were waving the American flag.

PHIL DONAHUE: That’s what it said. And, by the way, that memo was written by a Republican focus group, a Republican counseling group that took the focus group and that revealed that most of the people in the focus group didn’t like me. But I saw that, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, you were the most popular show.

PHIL DONAHUE: Well, often we led the night for the—nobody burned the town down on MSNBC, including me. Fox just ran away with the ratings and continues to enjoy that success.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you watching MSNBC that night?

PHIL DONAHUE: I did. I saw it. And I called the kids. I said, "Hey!" I’m not sure I did it soon enough. But I certainly was grateful for—I mean, I needed the pat on the back at the time.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Phil, the irony that MSNBC now is supposedly this liberal—

PHIL DONAHUE: It’s amazing, really.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —the liberal network now?

PHIL DONAHUE: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You wonder, though, if another—if another move to war came, how liberal it would remain.

PHIL DONAHUE: Well, you know, the coin of the realm is the size of the audience. It’s important to see this. When a broadcasting executive gets out of bed in the morning, before his foot hits the floor, his thoughts are ratings. "What are my ratings?" Not unlike Wall Street people, who get their—and CEOs, their first thought is the price of their stock. So, you know, what—and I was replaced by Michael Savage. So there was a desperate need to get numbers.

AMY GOODMAN: Who is one of the most conservative, and that’s giving conservatives a bad name.

PHIL DONAHUE: This was the decision of—

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Savage lived up to his last name.

PHIL DONAHUE: And this was a decision by higher-ups at General Electric and NBC.

AMY GOODMAN: Tomas, you wanted to say something here. Let me go to a break, and then we’re going to come back, as we wrap up this broadcast. We’re talking to Phil Donahue and Tomas Young, Iraq War veteran, age 33—says he will end his life in the next few months, dealing with the pain of war—and his wife, Claudia Cuellar. We’ll be back in a minute.

Unbreakable US/Israeli Ties

Longstanding US/Israeli ties remain firm. Obama's visit reinforces them. It does more. It assures continued support. It endorses hardline extremism. It affirms occupation harshness. It lets Israel do what it pleases.

Top ex-general slams US terror drone bid

A former top US military official has blasted the Obama administration’s secret targeted killing bid as a blowback to counter terrorism effort, amid reports of US plans to shift responsibility for assassination drone hits from CIA to the Pentagon.

“We’re seeing that blowback,” said former Vice Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright in a Thursday speech in Chicago. “If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.”

Speaking at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Gen. Cartwright further expressed doubts concerning a reported plan by the Obama administration to transfer some terror drone operations from the CIA spy agency to the American military, explaining that he worried about a “blurring of the line” between soldiers and spies if the Pentagon was tasked with the targeted killing bids in sovereign countries “outside a declared area of hostility,” The New York Times reports on Friday.

He further underlined that if there were problems with the assassination drone program, shifting it from one government agency to another would not essentially resolve the problem.


The development comes as recent news reports have cited US government officials as claiming that the administration plans to transfer its targeted killing operations from the CIA to the Pentagon in a supposed bid to make the terror effort ‘more transparent.’

This is while close observers of the assassination drone program have challenged the widely repeated claim that shifting the entire operation to the Defense Department would make it more open, “particularly if it is to be operated by the Joint Special Command (JSOC), among the least transparent elements of the military,” the report adds.

“We know JSOC is far more secretive than the CIA, and that the Congressional oversight is weaker,” said Naureen Shah, associate director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at Columbia Law School, as quoted in the report.

She further emphasized that while units operating under the JSOC were allegedly involved in gross abuse of Iraqi prisoners captured by US-led forces there, “it never had to face public scrutiny about it in the way the CIA did.”


Shah also expressed concerns that the Obama administration’s reported scheme to remove the CIA from the assassination drone operations amounts to “an effort to deflect criticism of the drone program without directly answering that criticism.”

Meanwhile, another report by the US-based NPR radio station further cites administration officials as saying that “they’ve killed most of the really bad guys they’ve been after,” adding that “they lately have been going after second- or third-tier al-Qaeda operatives.”

The report further emphasized that the reported change from CIA to Pentagon will occur gradually as “a phased approach” in specific countries.

MFB/MFB

The Last Letter: A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From...

bushcriminal

To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come.

I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live.

I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.

Tomas Young Out Loud

Tomas Young Out Loud

Posted on Mar 21, 2013
Democracy Now!

Tomas Young, the 33-year-old veteran and author of “The Last Letter: A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from a Dying Veteran,” appeared with his wife on “Democracy Now!” on Thursday to talk about his decision to end his life amid unrelenting pain and suffering from wounds sustained in the Iraq War, and to read his letter aloud.

“The reason I decided to do this now is I am, on one hand, sick and tired of being sick and tired, and on the other hand I don’t want to watch my body waste away,” Young said on the show.

When asked whether anything could persuade him not to end his life in the next few months, Young responded: “Not at this moment. There may come a time in the future when I say, ‘Hey, things are getting better; maybe I should reconsider this.’ But at this moment, nothing in this world has made me change my mind as to what I’m going to do.”

Phil Donahue, a former MSNBC talk show host who was fired from the supposedly liberal network in 2003 for bringing too many anti-war voices on his program, joined the conversation on “Democracy Now!” to discuss the mainstream media’s complicity in taking the nation into the now 10-year-old war.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

‘Democracy Now!’:

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Statutes of Limitations Are Expiring on Some Bush Crimes

Americans have been facing a number of momentous deadlines, including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the “sequester” of $1 trillion from federal programs. But another critical deadline is fast approaching without attracting much notice. Statutes of limitations applicable to possible crimes committed by former President George W. Bush and his top aides, with respect to wiretapping of Americans without court approval and to fraud in launching and continuing the Iraq War, may expire in early 2014, less than a year from now.Vice President Dick Cheney, center, and senior administration officials, June 4, 2008. (Reuters/Larry Downing)

President Bush has publicly admitted to authorizing wiretaps of Americans on more than thirty separate occasions without a court order, an apparent violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In justification, Bush claimed legal advice exempted him as commander-in-chief from obeying FISA. Normally, a lawyer’s advice is not a defense to prosecution, particularly when the client shapes the advice. Here, the White House worked closely with Justice Department lawyer John Yoo on the legal opinion and blocked standard Justice Department review, even though the opinion was seriously flawed according to Yoo’s successors. The opinion bears the hallmarks of a handy stay-out-of-jail card, instead of a serious independent analysis prepared and relied upon in good faith.

Because secrecy still surrounds the Bush wiretaps, we don’t know the dates on which they may have ended and therefore cannot calculate exactly when the five-year statute of limitations expires. Assuming that the warrantless wiretapping ended when Bush left office on January 20, 2009, the statute would run out on January 20, 2014.

President Bush and his team may have also violated the Conspiracy to Defraud the United States statute, which was used to prosecute top officials in the Watergate and Iran/Contra scandals. Together with others in his administration, he made many misstatements to Congress about the Iraq War. In one noteworthy example, just before the invasion, he notified Congress that the invasion met conditions it had set for an attack, including that it was aimed at persons or nations that “planned” or “aided” the 9/11 attacks. But neither Saddam Hussein nor Iraq planned or aided the attacks of 9/11.

The five-year statute of limitations for defrauding the US started running the day President Bush left office, because the Iraq War was undertaken not just to remove Saddam Hussein and install a new government but also, as the former president explained, to secure “victory” and create a “stable” Iraq, an effort that lasted through the end of Bush’s second term. That means the statue of limitations will expire on January 20, 2014.

Since no prosecutions can be brought after the statutes run out, unless investigations are started soon, any crimes that did occur will go unprosecuted and unpunished, deeply entrenching the principle of impunity for top officials. This would be shameful for our country and strike at the heart of the rule of law

After carefully reviewing the facts and law, a fair-minded prosecutor may decide that no prosecution of President Bush and his team is justified. As a former prosecutor, I know that there is a big difference between an apparent violation of a statute and a prosecutable case. I also know, however, that the failure to investigate apparent violations of law because of the high positions of those involved undermines our democracy. There cannot be two standards of justice in America, one for the powerful and another for the rest of us.

Nothing would corrode Americans’ respect for the rule of law more than enshrining a perception of impunity for top government officials. Nothing would encourage future criminality by presidents more than a belief that they are above the law. That is why it is incumbent upon the attorney general to appoint a well-regarded, independent prosecutor promptly, so that appropriate investigations can be completed in the time remaining.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney may also be criminally culpable for waterboarding and other forms of torture. This should also be investigated now, even though there is no statute of limitations for waterboarding and other life-threatening forms of torture—those responsible may be prosecuted as long as they live. Both President Bush and Vice President Cheney have publicly admitted their involvement in waterboarding detainees abroad. The federal anti-torture statute makes it an apparent crime to have done so. Attorney General Holder’s previous exoneration of CIA agents relying on the Justice Department memos regarding torture should not apply to President Bush and Vice President Cheney, because of their role in producing the memos.

The attorney general does not need Congressional approval to appoint a special prosecutor. Nor can political opponents prevent it. President Obama, however, has said that he wants to look forward and not back, and, given the enormous hostility of the congressional Republicans to his existing agenda, it is understandable his attorney general might want to avoid the partisan animosity appointing a special prosecutor would generate.

Despite the political consequences, it is hard to justify letting these statutes expire without conducting any investigation. The president’s oath of office requires him to take care that the laws are faithfully executed, arguably leaving him little political discretion on a subject of this weight and importance. Moreover, justice requires an impartial investigation, not a particular outcome, so the appointment of a special prosecutor is not a partisan endeavor. The investigation may not lead to prosecution, and in any case Obama has the power to pardon Bush as Ford pardoned Nixon if he feels prosecution is unjust.

But failing to act at all, not even to investigate the ample indications of possible crimes, sends a toxic message that a president is above the law. Letting the clock run out on investigating Bush administration misdeeds is an omission which could have disastrous consequences for the rule of law and an unpredictable effect on President Obama’s own place in history.

© 2013 The Nation

Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman served on the House Judiciary Committee during Nixon's impeachment. She co-authored the 1973 special prosecutor statute, and co-wrote (with Cynthia L. Cooper) the 2006 book, The Impeachment of George W. Bush.

Men Who Kick Down Doors: Tyrants at Home and Abroad

Picture this.  A man, armored in tattoos, bursts into a living room not his own.  He confronts an enemy.  He barks orders.  He throws that enemy into a chair. Then against a wall.  He plants himself in the middle of the room, feet widespread, fists clenched, muscles straining, face contorted in a scream of rage.  The tendons in his neck are taut with the intensity of his terrifying performance.  He chases the enemy to the next room, stopping escape with a quick grab and thrust and body block that pins the enemy, bent back, against a counter. He shouts more orders: his enemy can go with him to the basement for a “private talk,” or be beaten to a pulp right here. Then he wraps his fingers around the neck of his enemy and begins to choke her.

No, that invader isn’t an American soldier leading a night raid on an Afghan village, nor is the enemy an anonymous Afghan householder.  This combat warrior is just a guy in Ohio named Shane. He’s doing what so many men find exhilarating: disciplining his girlfriend with a heavy dose of the violence we render harmless by calling it “domestic.”

It’s easy to figure out from a few basic facts that Shane is a skilled predator.  Why else does a 31-year-old man lavish attention on a pretty 19-year-old with two children (ages four and two, the latter an equally pretty and potentially targeted little female)?  And what more vulnerable girlfriend could he find than this one, named Maggie: a neglected young woman, still a teenager, who for two years had been raising her kids on her own while her husband fought a war in Afghanistan?  That war had broken the family apart, leaving Maggie with no financial support and more alone than ever.

But the way Shane assaulted Maggie, he might just as well have been a night-raiding soldier terrorizing an Afghan civilian family in pursuit of some dangerous Talib, real or imagined.  For all we know, Maggie’s estranged husband/soldier might have acted in the same way in some Afghan living room and not only been paid but also honored for it.  The basic behavior is quite alike: an overwhelming display of superior force. The tactics: shock and awe.  The goal: to control the behavior, the very life, of the designated target.  The mind set: a sense of entitlement when it comes to determining the fate of a subhuman creature.  The dark side: the fear and brutal rage of a scared loser who inflicts his miserable self on others.

As for that designated enemy, just as American exceptionalism asserts the superiority of the United States over all other countries and cultures on Earth, and even over the laws that govern international relations, misogyny -- which seems to inform so much in the United States these days, from military boot camp to the Oscars to full frontal political assaults on a woman’s right to control her own body -- assures even the most pathetic guys like Shane of their innate superiority over some “thing” usually addressed with multiple obscenities.

Since 9/11, the further militarization of our already militarized culture has reached new levels.  Official America, as embodied in our political system and national security state, now seems to be thoroughly masculine, paranoid, quarrelsome, secretive, greedy, aggressive, and violent.  Readers familiar with “domestic violence” will recognize those traits as equally descriptive of the average American wife beater: scared but angry and aggressive, and feeling absolutely entitled to control something, whether it’s just a woman, or a small wretched country like Afghanistan.

Connecting the Dots

It was John Stuart Mill, writing in the nineteenth century, who connected the dots between “domestic” and international violence.  But he didn’t use our absurdly gender-neutral, pale gray term “domestic violence.”  He called it “wife torture” or  “atrocity,” and he recognized that torture and atrocity are much the same, no matter where they take place -- whether today in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, or a bedroom or basement in Ohio.  Arguing in 1869 against the subjection of women, Mill wrote that the Englishman’s habit of household tyranny and “wife torture” established the pattern and practice for his foreign policy.  The tyrant at home becomes the tyrant at war.  Home is the training ground for the big games played overseas.

Mill believed that, in early times, strong men had used force to enslave women and the majority of their fellow men.  By the nineteenth century, however, the “law of the strongest” seemed to him to have been “abandoned” -- in England at least -- “as the regulating principle of the world’s affairs.”  Slavery had been renounced.  Only in the household did it continue to be practiced, though wives were no longer openly enslaved but merely “subjected” to their husbands.  This subjection, Mill said, was the last vestige of the archaic “law of the strongest,” and must inevitably fade away as reasonable men recognized its barbarity and injustice.  Of his own time, he wrote that “nobody professes” the law of the strongest, and “as regards most of the relations between human beings, nobody is permitted to practice it.”

Well, even a feminist may not be right about everything.  Times often change for the worse, and rarely has the law of the strongest been more popular than it is in the United States today. Routinely now we hear congressmen declare that the U.S. is the greatest nation in the world because it is the greatest military power in history, just as presidents now regularly insist that the U.S. military is “the finest fighting force in the history of the world.”  Never mind that it rarely wins a war.  Few here question that primitive standard -- the law of the strongest -- as the measure of this America’s dwindling “civilization.”

The War Against Women

Mill, however, was right about the larger point: that tyranny at home is the model for tyranny abroad.  What he perhaps didn’t see was the perfect reciprocity of the relationship that perpetuates the law of the strongest both in the home and far away.

When tyranny and violence are practiced on a grand scale in foreign lands, the practice also intensifies at home.  As American militarism went into overdrive after 9/11, it validated violence against women here, where Republicans held up reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (first passed in 1994), and celebrities who publicly assaulted their girlfriends faced no consequences other than a deluge of sympathetic girl-fan tweets.

America’s invasions abroad also validated violence within the U.S. military itself.  An estimated 19,000 women soldiers were sexually assaulted in 2011; and an unknown number have been murdered by fellow soldiers who were, in many cases, their husbands or boyfriends.  A great deal of violence against women in the military, from rape to murder, has been documented, only to be casually covered up by the chain of command.

Violence against civilian women here at home, on the other hand, may not be reported or tallied at all, so the full extent of it escapes notice. Men prefer to maintain the historical fiction that violence in the home is a private matter, properly and legally concealed behind a “curtain.” In this way is male impunity and tyranny maintained. 

Women cling to a fiction of our own: that we are much more “equal” than we are.  Instead of confronting male violence, we still prefer to lay the blame for it on individual women and girls who fall victim to it -- as if they had volunteered. But then, how to explain the dissonant fact that at least one of every three female American soldiers is sexually assaulted by a male “superior”? Surely that’s not what American women had in mind when they signed up for the Marines or for Air Force flight training.  In fact, lots of teenage girls volunteer for the military precisely to escape violence and sexual abuse in their childhood homes or streets.

Don’t get me wrong, military men are neither alone nor out of the ordinary in terrorizing women.  The broader American war against women has intensified on many fronts here at home, right along with our wars abroad. Those foreign wars have killed uncounted thousands of civilians, many of them women and children, which could make the private battles of domestic warriors like Shane here in the U.S. seem puny by comparison.  But it would be a mistake to underestimate the firepower of the Shanes of our American world. The statistics tell us that a legal handgun has been the most popular means of dispatching a wife, but when it comes to girlfriends, guys really get off onbeating them to death.

 Some 3,073 people were killed in the terrorist attacks on the United States on 9/11. Between that day and June 6, 2012, 6,488 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the death toll for America’s war on terror at home and abroad to 9,561.  During the same period, 11,766 women were murdered in the United States by their husbands or boyfriends, both military and civilian.  The greater number of women killed here at home is a measure of the scope and the furious intensity of the war against women, a war that threatens to continue long after the misconceived war on terror is history.

Getting the Picture

Think about Shane, standing there in a nondescript living room in Ohio screaming his head off like a little child who wants what he wants when he wants it.  Reportedly, he was trying to be a good guy and make a career as a singer in a Christian rock band.  But like the combat soldier in a foreign war who is modeled after him, he uses violence to hold his life together and accomplish his mission.

We know about Shane only because there happened to be a photographer on the scene.  Sara Naomi Lewkowicz had chosen to document the story of Shane and his girlfriend Maggie out of sympathy for his situation as an ex-con, recently released from prison yet not free of the stigma attached to a man who had done time. Then, one night, there he was in the living room throwing Maggie around, and Lewkowicz did what any good combat photographer would do as a witness to history: she kept shooting. That action alone was a kind of intervention and may have saved Maggie’s life.

In the midst of the violence, Lewkowicz also dared to snatch from Shane’s pocket her own cell phone, which he had borrowed earlier.  It’s unclear whether she passed the phone to someone else or made the 911 call herself. The police arrested Shane, and a smart policewoman told Maggie: “You know, he’s not going to stop. They never stop. They usually stop when they kill you.”

Maggie did the right thing.  She gave the police a statement.  Shane is back in prison.  And Lewkowicz’s remarkable photographs were posted online on February 27th at Time magazine’s website feature Lightbox under the heading  “Photographer As Witness: A Portrait of Domestic Violence.”

The photos are remarkable because the photographer is very good and the subject of her attention is so rarely caught on camera.  Unlike warfare covered in Iraq and Afghanistan by embedded combat photographers, wife torture takes place mostly behind closed doors, unannounced and unrecorded.  The first photographs of wife torture to appear in the U.S. were Donna Ferrato’s now iconic images of violence against women at home.

Like Lewkowicz, Ferrato came upon wife torture by chance; she was documenting a marriage in 1980 when the happy husband chose to beat up his wife. Yet so reluctant were photo editors to pull aside the curtain of domestic privacy that even after Ferrato became a Life photographer in 1984, pursuing the same subject, nobody, including Life, wanted to publish the shocking images she produced.

In 1986, six years after she witnessed that first assault, some of her photographs of violence against women in the home were published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and brought her the 1987 Robert F. Kennedy journalism award “for outstanding coverage of the problems of the disadvantaged.”  In 1991, Aperture, the publisher of distinguished photography books, brought out Ferrato’s eye-opening body of work as Living with the Enemy (for which I wrote an introduction). Since then, the photos have been widely reproduced.Time used a Ferrato image on its cover in 1994, when the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson briefly drew attention to what the magazine called “the epidemic of domestic abuse” and Lightbox featured a small retrospective of her domestic violence work on June 27, 2012.

Ferrato herself started a foundation, offering her work to women’s groups across the country to exhibit at fundraisers for local shelters and services.  Those photo exhibitions also helped raise consciousness across America and certainly contributed to smarter, less misogynistic police procedures of the kind that put Shane back in jail.

Ferrato’s photos were incontrovertible evidence of the violence in our homes, rarely acknowledged and never before so plainly seen.  Yet until February 27th, when with Ferrato’s help, Sara Naomi Lewkowicz’s photos were posted on Lightbox only two months after they were taken, Ferrato’s photos were all we had.  We needed more.  So there was every reason for Lewkowicz’s work to be greeted with acclaim by photographers and women everywhere.

Instead, in more than 1,700 comments posted at Lightbox, photographer Lewkowicz was mainly castigated for things like not dropping her camera and taking care to get Maggie’s  distraught two-year-old daughter out of the room or singlehandedly stopping the assault.  (Need it be said that stopping combat is not the job of combat photographers?) 

Maggie, the victim of this felonious assault, was also mercilessly denounced: for going out with Shane in the first place, for failing to foresee his violence, for “cheating” on her already estranged husband fighting in Afghanistan, and inexplicably for being a “perpetrator.”  Reviewing the commentary for theColumbia Journalism Review, Jina Moore concluded, “[T]here’s one thing all the critics seem to agree on: The only adult in the house not responsible for the violence is the man committing it.”

They Only Stop When They Kill You

Viewers of these photographs -- photos that accurately reflect the daily violence so many women face -- seem to find it easy to ignore, or even praise, the raging man behind it all.  So, too, do so many find it convenient to ignore the violence that America’s warriors abroad inflict under orders on a mass scale upon women and children in war zones.

The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq had the effect of displacing millions from their homes within the country or driving them into exile in foreign lands. Rates of rape and atrocity were staggering, as I learned firsthand when in 2008-2009 I spent time in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon talking with Iraqi refugees. In addition, those women who remain in Iraq now live under the rule of conservative Islamists, heavily influenced by Iran. Under the former secular regime, Iraqi women were considered the most advanced in the Arab world; today, they say they have been set back a century.

In Afghanistan, too, while Americans take credit for putting women back in the workplace and girls in school, untold thousands of women and children have been displaced internally, many to makeshift camps on the outskirts of Kabul where 17 children froze to death last January. The U.N. reported 2,754 civilian deaths and 4,805 civilian injuries as a result of the war in 2012, the majority of them women and children.  In a country without a state capable of counting bodies, these are undoubtedly significant undercounts. A U.N. official said, “It is the tragic reality that most Afghan women and girls were killed or injured while engaging in their everyday activities.” Thousands of women in Afghan cities have been forced into survival sex, as were Iraqi women who fled as refugees to Beirut and particularly Damascus.

That’s what male violence is meant to do to women.  The enemy.  War itself is a kind of screaming tattooed man, standing in the middle of a room -- or another country -- asserting the law of the strongest. It’s like a reset button on history that almost invariably ensures women will find themselves subjected to men in ever more terrible ways.  It’s one more thing that, to a certain kind of man, makes going to war, like good old-fashioned wife torture, so exciting and so much fun.

Climate Change Is Here; Why Aren’t We Doing Anything About It?

Climate Change Is Here; Why Aren’t We Doing Anything About It?

Posted on Mar 21, 2013
mariopiperni

Regarding the impending climate crisis, Yale scientist Anthony Leiserowitz tells Bill Moyers: “You almost couldn’t design a problem that is a worse fit with our underlying psychology.” The solution? Part of it involves turning the issue into talking points for conservatives.

How about describing global warming as a threat to Americans’ freedoms? “If you’re a rancher or a farmer in the Great Plains today,” Leiserowitz says, “your freedom is enormously constrained by the fact that you’re in the midst of a two-year severe drought, OK. You don’t get to choose what you’re going to plant. You don’t get to choose what cows you’re going to slaughter. In fact, we’ve just seen in Texas in the past year 2 million head of cow, cattle are no longer in Texas; they had to move them out because they couldn’t provide the food and forage and water for them because of that drought. That’s not freedom, OK. You are literally not able to do the thing that you were raised and that you believe in as part of your culture because the climate has changed.”

Another approach Leiserowitz recommends, however difficult it is to imagine gaining traction among the Republican Party’s entrenched corporate backers, is to cast support for climate change legislation as an opportunity to win more votes from the American public.

Read a transcript of their conversation here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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Men Who Kick Down Doors and the War Against Women

Picture this.  A man, armored in tattoos, bursts into a living room not his own.  He confronts an enemy.  He barks orders.  He throws that enemy into a chair. Then against a wall.  He plants himself in the middle of the room, feet widespread, fists clenched, muscles straining, face contorted in a scream of rage.  The tendons in his neck are taut with the intensity of his terrifying performance.  He chases the enemy to the next room, stopping escape with a quick grab and thrust and body block that pins the enemy, bent back, against a counter. He shouts more orders: his enemy can go with him to the basement for a “private talk,” or be beaten to a pulp right here. Then he wraps his fingers around the neck of his enemy and begins to choke her.A US Marine kicks in a locked door during a search of the village of Khabargho, Afghanistan in this photo from 2004. (Source: Wikimedia commons)

No, that invader isn’t an American soldier leading a night raid on an Afghan village, nor is the enemy an anonymous Afghan householder.  This combat warrior is just a guy in Ohio named Shane. He’s doing what so many men find exhilarating: disciplining his girlfriend with a heavy dose of the violence we render harmless by calling it “domestic.”

It’s easy to figure out from a few basic facts that Shane is a skilled predator.  Why else does a 31-year-old man lavish attention on a pretty 19-year-old with two children (ages four and two, the latter an equally pretty and potentially targeted little female)?  And what more vulnerable girlfriend could he find than this one, named Maggie: a neglected young woman, still a teenager, who for two years had been raising her kids on her own while her husband fought a war in Afghanistan?  That war had broken the family apart, leaving Maggie with no financial support and more alone than ever.

But the way Shane assaulted Maggie, he might just as well have been a night-raiding soldier terrorizing an Afghan civilian family in pursuit of some dangerous Talib, real or imagined.  For all we know, Maggie’s estranged husband/soldier might have acted in the same way in some Afghan living room and not only been paid but also honored for it.  The basic behavior is quite alike: an overwhelming display of superior force. The tactics: shock and awe.  The goal: to control the behavior, the very life, of the designated target.  The mind set: a sense of entitlement when it comes to determining the fate of a subhuman creature.  The dark side: the fear and brutal rage of a scared loser who inflicts his miserable self on others.

As for that designated enemy, just as American exceptionalism asserts the superiority of the United States over all other countries and cultures on Earth, and even over the laws that govern international relations, misogyny -- which seems to inform so much in the United States these days, from military boot camp to the Oscars to full frontal political assaults on a woman’s right to control her own body -- assures even the most pathetic guys like Shane of their innate superiority over some “thing” usually addressed with multiple obscenities.

When tyranny and violence are practiced on a grand scale in foreign lands, the practice also intensifies at home.

Since 9/11, the further militarization of our already militarized culture has reached new levels.  Official America, as embodied in our political system and national security state, now seems to be thoroughly masculine, paranoid, quarrelsome, secretive, greedy, aggressive, and violent.  Readers familiar with “domestic violence” will recognize those traits as equally descriptive of the average American wife beater: scared but angry and aggressive, and feeling absolutely entitled to control something, whether it’s just a woman, or a small wretched country like Afghanistan.

Connecting the Dots

It was John Stuart Mill, writing in the nineteenth century, who connected the dots between “domestic” and international violence.  But he didn’t use our absurdly gender-neutral, pale gray term “domestic violence.”  He called it “wife torture” or  “atrocity,” and he recognized that torture and atrocity are much the same, no matter where they take place -- whether today in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, or a bedroom or basement in Ohio.  Arguing in 1869 against the subjection of women, Mill wrote that the Englishman’s habit of household tyranny and “wife torture” established the pattern and practice for his foreign policy.  The tyrant at home becomes the tyrant at war.  Home is the training ground for the big games played overseas.

Mill believed that, in early times, strong men had used force to enslave women and the majority of their fellow men.  By the nineteenth century, however, the “law of the strongest” seemed to him to have been “abandoned” -- in England at least -- “as the regulating principle of the world’s affairs.”  Slavery had been renounced.  Only in the household did it continue to be practiced, though wives were no longer openly enslaved but merely “subjected” to their husbands.  This subjection, Mill said, was the last vestige of the archaic “law of the strongest,” and must inevitably fade away as reasonable men recognized its barbarity and injustice.  Of his own time, he wrote that “nobody professes” the law of the strongest, and “as regards most of the relations between human beings, nobody is permitted to practice it.”

Well, even a feminist may not be right about everything.  Times often change for the worse, and rarely has the law of the strongest been more popular than it is in the United States today. Routinely now we hear congressmen declare that the U.S. is the greatest nation in the world because it is the greatest military power in history, just as presidents now regularly insist that the U.S. military is “the finest fighting force in the history of the world.”  Never mind that it rarely wins a war.  Few here question that primitive standard -- the law of the strongest -- as the measure of this America’s dwindling “civilization.”

The War Against Women

Mill, however, was right about the larger point: that tyranny at home is the model for tyranny abroad.  What he perhaps didn’t see was the perfect reciprocity of the relationship that perpetuates the law of the strongest both in the home and far away.

When tyranny and violence are practiced on a grand scale in foreign lands, the practice also intensifies at home.  As American militarism went into overdrive after 9/11, it validated violence against women here, where Republicans held up reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (first passed in 1994), and celebrities who publicly assaulted their girlfriends faced no consequences other than a deluge of sympathetic girl-fan tweets.

America’s invasions abroad also validated violence within the U.S. military itself.  An estimated 19,000 women soldiers were sexually assaulted in 2011; and an unknown number have been murdered by fellow soldiers who were, in many cases, their husbands or boyfriends.  A great deal of violence against women in the military, from rape to murder, has been documented, only to be casually covered up by the chain of command.

Violence against civilian women here at home, on the other hand, may not be reported or tallied at all, so the full extent of it escapes notice. Men prefer to maintain the historical fiction that violence in the home is a private matter, properly and legally concealed behind a “curtain.” In this way is male impunity and tyranny maintained. 

Women cling to a fiction of our own: that we are much more “equal” than we are.  Instead of confronting male violence, we still prefer to lay the blame for it on individual women and girls who fall victim to it -- as if they had volunteered. But then, how to explain the dissonant fact that at least one of every three female American soldiers is sexually assaulted by a male “superior”? Surely that’s not what American women had in mind when they signed up for the Marines or for Air Force flight training.  In fact, lots of teenage girls volunteer for the military precisely to escape violence and sexual abuse in their childhood homes or streets.

Don’t get me wrong, military men are neither alone nor out of the ordinary in terrorizing women.  The broader American war against women has intensified on many fronts here at home, right along with our wars abroad. Those foreign wars have killed uncounted thousands of civilians, many of them women and children, which could make the private battles of domestic warriors like Shane here in the U.S. seem puny by comparison.  But it would be a mistake to underestimate the firepower of the Shanes of our American world. The statistics tell us that a legal handgun has been the most popular means of dispatching a wife, but when it comes to girlfriends, guys really get off on beating them to death.

Some 3,073 people were killed in the terrorist attacks on the United States on 9/11. Between that day and June 6, 2012, 6,488 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the death toll for America’s war on terror at home and abroad to 9,561.  During the same period, 11,766 women were murdered in the United States by their husbands or boyfriends, both military and civilian.  The greater number of women killed here at home is a measure of the scope and the furious intensity of the war against women, a war that threatens to continue long after the misconceived war on terror is history.

Getting the Picture

Think about Shane, standing there in a nondescript living room in Ohio screaming his head off like a little child who wants what he wants when he wants it.  Reportedly, he was trying to be a good guy and make a career as a singer in a Christian rock band.  But like the combat soldier in a foreign war who is modeled after him, he uses violence to hold his life together and accomplish his mission.

We know about Shane only because there happened to be a photographer on the scene.  Sara Naomi Lewkowicz had chosen to document the story of Shane and his girlfriend Maggie out of sympathy for his situation as an ex-con, recently released from prison yet not free of the stigma attached to a man who had done time. Then, one night, there he was in the living room throwing Maggie around, and Lewkowicz did what any good combat photographer would do as a witness to history: she kept shooting. That action alone was a kind of intervention and may have saved Maggie’s life.

In the midst of the violence, Lewkowicz also dared to snatch from Shane’s pocket her own cell phone, which he had borrowed earlier.  It’s unclear whether she passed the phone to someone else or made the 911 call herself. The police arrested Shane, and a smart policewoman told Maggie: “You know, he’s not going to stop. They never stop. They usually stop when they kill you.”

Maggie did the right thing.  She gave the police a statement.  Shane is back in prison.  And Lewkowicz’s remarkable photographs were posted online on February 27th at Time magazine’s website feature Lightbox under the heading  “Photographer As Witness: A Portrait of Domestic Violence.”

The photos are remarkable because the photographer is very good and the subject of her attention is so rarely caught on camera.  Unlike warfare covered in Iraq and Afghanistan by embedded combat photographers, wife torture takes place mostly behind closed doors, unannounced and unrecorded.  The first photographs of wife torture to appear in the U.S. were Donna Ferrato’s now iconic images of violence against women at home.

Like Lewkowicz, Ferrato came upon wife torture by chance; she was documenting a marriage in 1980 when the happy husband chose to beat up his wife. Yet so reluctant were photo editors to pull aside the curtain of domestic privacy that even after Ferrato became a Life photographer in 1984, pursuing the same subject, nobody, including Life, wanted to publish the shocking images she produced.

In 1986, six years after she witnessed that first assault, some of her photographs of violence against women in the home were published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and brought her the 1987 Robert F. Kennedy journalism award “for outstanding coverage of the problems of the disadvantaged.”  In 1991, Aperture, the publisher of distinguished photography books, brought out Ferrato’s eye-opening body of work as Living with the Enemy (for which I wrote an introduction). Since then, the photos have been widely reproduced. Time used a Ferrato image on its cover in 1994, when the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson briefly drew attention to what the magazine called “the epidemic of domestic abuse” and Lightbox featured a small retrospective of her domestic violence work on June 27, 2012.

Ferrato herself started a foundation, offering her work to women’s groups across the country to exhibit at fundraisers for local shelters and services.  Those photo exhibitions also helped raise consciousness across America and certainly contributed to smarter, less misogynistic police procedures of the kind that put Shane back in jail.

Ferrato’s photos were incontrovertible evidence of the violence in our homes, rarely acknowledged and never before so plainly seen.  Yet until February 27th, when with Ferrato’s help, Sara Naomi Lewkowicz’s photos were posted on Lightbox only two months after they were taken, Ferrato’s photos were all we had.  We needed more.  So there was every reason for Lewkowicz’s work to be greeted with acclaim by photographers and women everywhere.

Instead, in more than 1,700 comments posted at Lightbox, photographer Lewkowicz was mainly castigated for things like not dropping her camera and taking care to get Maggie’s  distraught two-year-old daughter out of the room or singlehandedly stopping the assault.  (Need it be said that stopping combat is not the job of combat photographers?) When Maggie refused, Shane began grabbing her by the face and neck, choking her. "You can either get beat up here, or we can go talk alone," he said. "Your choice." (Photo: Sara Naomi Lewkowicz)

Maggie, the victim of this felonious assault, was also mercilessly denounced: for going out with Shane in the first place, for failing to foresee his violence, for “cheating” on her already estranged husband fighting in Afghanistan, and inexplicably for being a “perpetrator.”  Reviewing the commentary for the Columbia Journalism Review, Jina Moore concluded, “[T]here’s one thing all the critics seem to agree on: The only adult in the house not responsible for the violence is the man committing it.”

They Only Stop When They Kill You

Viewers of these photographs -- photos that accurately reflect the daily violence so many women face -- seem to find it easy to ignore, or even praise, the raging man behind it all.  So, too, do so many find it convenient to ignore the violence that America’s warriors abroad inflict under orders on a mass scale upon women and children in war zones.

The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq had the effect of displacing millions from their homes within the country or driving them into exile in foreign lands. Rates of rape and atrocity were staggering, as I learned firsthand when in 2008-2009 I spent time in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon talking with Iraqi refugees. In addition, those women who remain in Iraq now live under the rule of conservative Islamists, heavily influenced by Iran. Under the former secular regime, Iraqi women were considered the most advanced in the Arab world; today, they say they have been set back a century.

In Afghanistan, too, while Americans take credit for putting women back in the workplace and girls in school, untold thousands of women and children have been displaced internally, many to makeshift camps on the outskirts of Kabul where 17 children froze to death last January. The U.N. reported 2,754 civilian deaths and 4,805 civilian injuries as a result of the war in 2012, the majority of them women and children.  In a country without a state capable of counting bodies, these are undoubtedly significant undercounts. A U.N. official said, “It is the tragic reality that most Afghan women and girls were killed or injured while engaging in their everyday activities.” Thousands of women in Afghan cities have been forced into survival sex, as were Iraqi women who fled as refugees to Beirut and particularly Damascus.

That’s what male violence is meant to do to women.  The enemy.  War itself is a kind of screaming tattooed man, standing in the middle of a room -- or another country -- asserting the law of the strongest. It’s like a reset button on history that almost invariably ensures women will find themselves subjected to men in ever more terrible ways.  It’s one more thing that, to a certain kind of man, makes going to war, like good old-fashioned wife torture, so exciting and so much fun.

© 2013 Ann Jones

Ann Jones

Ann Jones, writer and photographer, is the author of seven previous books, including War Is Not Over When It's Over, Kabul in Winter, Women Who Kill, and Next Time She'll Be Dead. Since 2001, Jones has worked with women in conflict and post-conflict zones, principally Afghanistan, and reported on their concerns. An authority on violence against women, she has served as a gender adviser to the United Nations. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times and The Nation. For more information, visit her website.

New York Times Hypocrisy

NYT's attempts to set the record straight are duplicitous. They come too late to matter. On May 26, 2004, Times editors headlined "The Times and Iraq," saying...

Malala Yousafzai

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Tomas Young and the End of the Body of War

Tomas Young. (Photo by Claudia Cuellar)Tomas Young was in the fifth day of his first deployment to Iraq when he was struck by a sniper’s bullet in Baghdad’s Sadr City. The single bullet paralyzed him from the chest down, and changed his life forever. Now, nine years later, at the age of 33, Tomas has decided to end his life. He announced recently that he will soon stop his nourishment, which comes in the form of liquid through a feeding tube.

Tomas was the subject of the award-winning documentary “Body of War,” made by legendary TV talk-show host Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro. The 2007 film follows Tomas’ rehabilitation, struggles with his injuries and his political awakening to become one of the most prominent anti-war U.S. veterans of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. He was first moved to action by the efforts of Cindy Sheehan to speak with President George W. Bush while he was on vacation at his so-called ranch in Crawford, Texas. Sheehan’s son, Casey, was killed in Baghdad, on the same day that Tomas was shot. She wanted to ask Pres. Bush, “For what noble cause did my son die?”

I asked Tomas if anything would change his mind about his decision to end his life. “No,” he said, adding that if he were not in such intense, constant pain, then he would not be taking this course. “We wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he said.

"I fought as hard as I could to keep young men and women away from military service. I fought as hard as I could to keep another me from coming back to Iraq. That is what I want to be remembered for."

This week, Tomas released a letter titled “The Last Letter: A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran.”

In it, Tomas wrote, “You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole."

Phil Donahue has stayed in touch with Tomas for years since making “Body of War.” Donahue told me the making of the film was a “spiritual experience ... a chapter of our lives.” He says he understands Tomas’ decision: “Four years after being shot in Sadr City, he sustained a pulmonary embolism. So he struggles now to speak, although you can understand him. He has difficulty grasping silverware, his opposable thumbs are at a serious deficit ... so he has to be fed. When he and his wife, Claudia, have gone out to dinner, she would look for a corner of the restaurant, so when she fed him, they wouldn’t be stared at. He now has pressure sores, with exposed bone. He recently had a colostomy, so he has a bag on the side of his body. He is fed through a tube, and every other commercial he sees on television is about food. It is beyond awful what Tomas has sustained. He now lies immobile, in a dark bedroom in Kansas City, dutifully cared for by his wife, Claudia, who has been with him for five years.”

He added: “Throughout this whole ordeal, I have been with him often enough to know, he wanted to live. That is what makes it extra sad. He wanted to live. He has fought back against every setback, from the inadequate treatment at the Veterans Administration, to his own PTSD. Now the situation is so dire, that no one who is close to him can claim to not understand: He has given up.”

Donahue reflected: “When I look down on this young man, all I can think of is President Bush saying, ‘Bring ‘em on.’ There is almost no remorse. Everybody’s hiding. Richard Perle doesn’t get around much anymore. Cheney is speaking for six-figure fees. I don’t know where Wolfowitz is. Bush is behind a well-secured home.”

Tomas recently appeared via video call from his home in Kansas City, Mo., before a group in Ridgefield, Conn., where Phil Donahue screened “Body of War” and asked Tomas questions. It was at this February event that Tomas publicly announced his intention to die. When asked how he wants to be remembered, Tomas Young replied: “That I fought as hard as I could to keep young men and women away from military service. I fought as hard as I could to keep another me from coming back to Iraq. That is what I want to be remembered for.”

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2013 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 1,100 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

Where Are Progressives in the Fight To Save Public Schools?

This week, here was Paul Krugman’s assessment of the current policy agenda governing the nation’s public schools:(Pics by John Lawhead)

“We have the illusion of consensus, an illusion based on a process in which anyone questioning the preferred narrative is immediately marginalized, no matter how strong his or her credentials.”

Except, Krugman wasn’t writing about education policy, actually. He was writing about the nation’s run up to the Iraq War ten years ago. “Support for the war,” Krugman recalled, ” became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration.”

Krugman compared the type of “groupthink” that preceded the war in Iraq to the current false consensus driving our nation’s flawed economic policy. But he may as well have been writing about the nation’s education policy as well.

For years, federal education policies have been characterized by a “Washington Consensus” that public schools are effectively broken and only a market based reform agenda will fix them.

People calling themselves “progressives” have tended to unite with conservative Republicans in this consensus – even while they chose to fight tooth-and-nail on other issues.

But the Washington Consensus on education was indeed illusionary. And now that the real intentions of the reform agenda are starting to play out on the ground, there are signs that progressives are making the fight for public schools another front in a broader grassroots struggle agains corporate hegemony.

Education Consensus Was A Collusion

In the 2012 elections, veteran education reporter Jay Mathews of The Washington Post. noted that whenever education was the focus, Republican and Democratic candidates “have been happily copying each other.”

The general shared agenda held that schools were in need of broad, top-down “reform” driven by stricter standards, high-stakes testing, and competitive charter schools – in short, a free-market perspective adopted from the business world that would base decisions on “objective data” gathered through testing and competitive ratings to weed out “bad” teachers and schools.

Although this agenda has been mostly driven by the federal government, it has gradually been implemented by most states too, as evidenced by the widespread adoption of test-based school and teacher evaluations and the rapid increase in the numbers of charter schools nationwide.

Like the “groupthink” Krugman noted above, education policy has been a consensus without diversity and without the input of skeptics.

A recent op-ed appearing in Education Week described perfectly how this “illusion of consensus” has been maintained over the years.

Declaring, “greater cooperation across political and ideological lines is badly needed in education,” Capitol Hill insider Jack Jennings described how he “put together an advisory group of people with different opinions” to determine whether the federal school policy known as No Child Left Behind was meeting its goal of increasing student achievement, especially for “historically low-performing groups of students.”

This panel was replete with the usual suspects we see time and again from The Very Serious People in America’s political class: a couple of respectable higher ed folks, an economist, and a preponderance of Beltway belief tank operatives.

There was no one who worked day-to-day in public schools – no district administrators, no school principals, and no classroom teachers in a leadership position. There were no representatives from school boards or parent organizations. No one from the civil rights or social justice community.

But the supposed magic of this panel was that it was “Bipartisan” – that is, if you think having two conservatives, a “nonpartisan,” and a decidedly centrist Democrat (Jennings himself) constituted “political diversity.”

Nevertheless, Jennings declared the panel’s work an unmitigated “success” because it showed that NCLB – a policy now held in such exceptional disrepute, states go to incredible lengths to become exempt from it – had achieved some modest achievement gains.

The panel’s success, of course, was all due to this unbelievable level of “cooperation and compromise.”

If Jennings and other Beltway insiders really wanted more of a consensus view, they should have populated their panel with the kind of diversity that comprised the Commission on Equity & Excellence  which recently concluded that instead of achieving modest gains, federal policies for education have resulted in “schools in high poverty neighborhoods…getting an education that more closely approximates schools in developing nations.”

What Jennings’ tale of reaching “across the aisle” illustrated is that education policy-making among our leadership has been not so much a Washington Consensus as it has been a Washington Collusion.

Writing in Jacobin, Micah Uetricht observed that when the subject is education policy, “Democrats have swallowed the Right’s free market orthodoxy whole.”

Uetricht elaborated:

High-stakes standardized testing, merit pay for teachers, school closures, privatization and union-busting through charter school expansion, blaming teachers and unions for the dismal state of poor urban schools, an unshakable faith in the free market as the Great Liberator of the wretched, over-regulated student masses – all proposals and ideas [are] embraced and promoted by much of the Democratic Party, including President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

But a change is in the wind.

Chicago Teachers Strike:  When Progressives Woke Up?

Uetricht applied his analysis of the Democratic sellout on education to the reform agenda in Chicago, What he found:

Chicago has long been one of the principal testing grounds for neoliberal education reform. Mayor Richard M. Daley, a Democrat from a Democratic political family in that most Democratic of big cities, and Duncan, then CEO of CPS, crafted Renaissance 2010, a program begun in 2004 which pushed closures and ‘turnarounds’ of neighborhood schools and replacing them with nonunion, publicly funded charters, and is largely the basis for the Race to the Top program Duncan currently oversees as Secretary of Education.

Rahm Emanuel and the Board of Education – which includes billionaire hotel heiress and Democratic Party power player Penny Pritzker – have continued this push, particularly around school closures. Currently on the table is a proposal to close 100 unionized neighborhood public schools around the city and replace them with 60 nonunion charters – a move that would simultaneously decimate the union’s membership, redirect public money to privately-run charters that lack basic mechanisms for public accountability, slash teachers’ salaries and benefits, and cause massive disruption in the poor black and brown neighborhoods where the majority of closures would take place.

“The shift towards the destruction of public education through the embrace of the free market was well-known among Chicago teachers,” Uetricht noted.

But then something changed. Instead of entrusting the Democratic Party to “sway back” towards supporting a more progressive agenda, the Chicago Teachers Union decided to take a “more confrontational stance.”

That more controversial tone led to a teacher strike. The strike was strongly backed by Chicago voters and parents,  and the teachers eventually won the day by framing their demands on students’ basic education needs rather than obscure market-speak about “effective” schools and “value added” teaching.

The concessions teachers won “included textbooks for all students on the first day of school, 600 new teachers in the arts and physical education, and mandatory recall of laid-off veteran teachers (rather than replacing them with young, inexperienced, cheaper teachers) when positions become available. Teacher evaluation based on standardized testing was negotiated to its legal minimum, 30 percent – contrasting with the Obama administration’s push under Race to the Top to increase the proportion of teacher evaluations based on standardized tests.”

What happened in Chicago – where people on the ground took control of the narrative and made it about fighting the free market assault on the common good – is now spreading to other communities.

Education’s Progressive Pushback Is Spreading

A notable example of resistance to the corporate takeover of public schools is the campaign in Bridgeport, Connecticut to oust Paul Vallas as interim school superintendent.

Vallas is the granddaddy of free-market education reform resulting in more privatization of public schools. After stints in leading school reform campaigns in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New Orleans, Vallas left in his wake school systems that had been massively “reformed” but still, somehow, are in need of more reform, necessitating more “churn” in school closures and competitive charter schools – a hallmark of market-based reform. How this can be touted as a great success is indeed only possible in “illusionary consensus world.”

What happened in Bridgeport is that progressives got wind of this nonsense and decided it smelled pretty bad. After Vallas was hired as interim superintendent, people on the ground noticed not only was his track record troubling, he also didn’t legally meet the qualifications for the office.

What ensued was a grassroots push-back led in part by the progressive Connecticut Working Families Party. The campaign consisted of an online petition, knocking on doors, a staged sidewalk rally, and a retired teacher flown in from Chicago to testify about Vallas’ past transgressions.

The teacher, Gloria Warner, said, “It just makes me sick to hear that Paul Vallas is trying to do to this city what he did to Chicago. While Paul Vallas was wasting billions of taxpayer dollars, and making hundreds of thousands for himself, I had to spend my hard earned money to buy materials so that I could do my job.”

And parents have spoken up:

JoAnn Kennedy, a parent of two students at Bridgeport’s Bassick High School said, “Every day I sees the mess that is going on. Teachers are afraid to speak up. No teaching is going on. We need leadership that puts students first.”

Another Bridgeport parent, also a board member, Sauda Baraka said, “I expect a Bridgeport superintendent to have the required state certifications . . . with less emphasis on testing and more emphasis on providing school buildings with the necessary support to ensure student success.”

And parent and board member Maria Pereira said “I am not convinced that Paul Vallas is doing the best job for our students. He has a long record of privatizing schools, and turning tax dollars over to corporations, and I am deeply troubled with his decision to repeatedly violate CT State laws by awarding over $13,000,000 in no bid contracts.”

Although Vallas’ illegal contract ended up getting approved, by a consensus-dominated board, there is ample evidence that the community is energized to continue to press the case.

A Movement Grows In Brooklyn

Similar to Bridgeport, citizens in New York City have mobilized against school privatization efforts. According to the local education blog, Gotham News, “The [Mayor] Bloomberg administration has relied heavily on co-location, the practice of allowing one school to open in another school’s building, to open new schools. Its critics say the arrangement breeds unnecessary tension and takes resources away from existing schools.”

As colocations have redirected resources from neighborhood schools to privately operated charter schools – which frequently benefit from donations from foundations endowed with Wall Street money – more neighborhood schools experienced overcrowding and adverse conditions that interrupted students’ learning.

One colocation proposal in particular, at the Brownsville Academy High School in Brooklyn, drew stiff resistance. The colocation – which called for placing a K–5 elementary charter school in the same building as a “last chance” high school, with students “ranging from ages 17 to 21″ – would privatize the public space of a school that was A-rated according to the DOE and was valued by the students for having small class sizes and more personal attention.

When a governing panel hand-picked by the mayor approved the Brownsville colocation, Jason Lewis, for the Village Voice, reported that students from the school “stayed until 11 p.m. pleading with the panel to reconsider. They were trying to figure out why the panel would potentially disrupt one of the city’s rare high-performing transfer high schools to co-locate an elementary school.”

The approval of the Browsnville colocation and others, despite objections from citizens, prompted Lewis to observe, “Anyone who fought against the recent round of co-locations can now rest assured that they never had a say.”

But the Brownsville school community was determined to have a say. According to a report from another NYC education news blog, School Book, “Dozens of Brownsville students fought the co-location with the help of the group New York Communities for Change. Arthur Schwartz, an attorney, filed the suit on the students’ behalf, arguing that co-locating another school in the building would violate the rights of special-needs students who would lose the individualized attention needed in the classroom.

The lawsuit, combined with grassroots activism fomented by the NYCC group, pressured the DOE to rescind the colocation.

But the opposition to colocations isn’t satisfied with one victory. On the contrary, “To actually have them withdraw their proposal for Brownsville Academy, it means a lot,” said Amelia Adams, deputy director New York Communities For Change, in the Village Voice. “It builds momentum. We see this as an opportunity to continue organizing so that colocations aren’t rammed down people’s throats.”

A House Of Cards About To Collapse

The progressive awakening to mistaken education policies driven by the Washington Collusion is not limited to Bridgeport and New York. Nor is it confined to the issues of school leaders and colocations.

Across the country, there is a growing resistance to the emphasis on high-stakes testing that provides the infrastructure supporting market-based education policy, from school closures and ratings to teacher evaluations and merit pay.

FairTest, website for The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, recently reviewed the spreading resistance:

A nationwide protest movement against the stranglehold of high-stakes testing on our schools has escalated to a rolling boil. Boycotts, opt-out campaigns, demonstrations, and community forums are among the tactics being pursued in cities such as Austin, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, Chicago, Denver and Providence. Meanwhile, the number of signers of the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing continues to grow.

Education historian Diane Ravitch has observed that the false consensus driving education policies is essentially a “house of cards” about to “come tumbling down.” When it does, it will be grassroots progressives who push it over.

© 2013 Education Opportunity Network

Jeff Bryant

Jeff Bryant is an associate fellow at Campaign for America's Future and editor of the recently launched Education Opportunity Network, a project of the Institute for America’s Future, in partnership with the Opportunity to Learn Campaign.

CIA and FBI Counter-Terrorism Officials: Cheney Lied About 9/11 Hijacker

Preface: Obama is worse.

Everyone knew that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction (update here).

Dick Cheney admits that he lied about 9/11.

MSNBC recently noted that these two facts are intertwined:

Mark Rossini, was then an FBI counter-terrorism agent detailed to the CIA. He was assigned the task of evaluating a Czech intelligence report that Mohammed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker, had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague before the attack on the World Trade Towers.

Cheney repeatedly invoked the report as evidence of Iraqi involvement in 9/11. “It’s been pretty well confirmed that he [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with  a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia  last April,” Cheney said on Meet the Press on Dec. 9, 2001.

But the evidence used to support the claim–a supposed photograph of Atta in Prague the day of the alleged meeting—had already been debunked by Rossini. He analyzed the photo and immediately saw it was bogus: the picture of the Czech “Atta” looked nothing like the real terrorist. It was a conclusion he relayed up the chain, assuming he had put the matter to rest.

Then he heard Cheney endorsing the discredited report on national television. “I remember looking at the TV screen and saying, ‘What did I just hear?’ And I–first time in my life, I actually threw something at the television because I couldn’t believe what I just heard,” Rossini says.

Rossini gave MSNBC an example in an interview for the documentary Hubris:

Mohammed Atta was a sleight guy … barely 5’5 or 5’6, and skinny.  The guy in the photograph was muscular, thick, and had a neck like the size of two of my necks.  And I thought, “that’s not Mohammed Atta in the photograph!”  But I sent it to the lab anyway, knowing that would put it to rest.

McClatchy confirmed in 2009:

Former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration…

For most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document…

When people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.”Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam . . .

A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under “pressure” to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.

“While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq,” Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. “The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

“I think it’s obvious that the administration was scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link (between al Qaida and Iraq),” [Senator] Levin said in a conference call with reporters. “They made out links where they didn’t exist.”

Levin recalled Cheney’s assertions that a senior Iraqi intelligence officer had met Mohammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, in the Czech Republic capital of Prague just months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The FBI and CIA found that no such meeting occurred.

Postscript:  Indeed the entire torture program was implemented in an attempt to justify the Iraq war.  And the 9/11 Commission was set up with false torture testimony.  More background on the Iraq war.

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US President’s Visit: Obama comes to Bless Israel’s Government of Settlers

netanyauobama

Those who hoped that Barack Obama would be arriving in Israel to bang Israeli and Palestinian heads together, after four years of impasse in the peace process, will be sorely disappointed.

The US president’s trip beginning today may be historic – the first of his presidency to Israel and the Palestinian territories – but he has been doing everything possible beforehand to lower expectations.

At the weekend, Arab-American leaders revealed that Obama had made it clear he would not present a peace plan, because Israel has indicated it is not interested in an agreement with the Palestinians.

Any lingering doubts about Israel’s intentions were removed by the announcement of a new cabinet, hurriedly sworn in before the president’s visit. This government makes Benjamin Netanyahu’s last one, itself widely considered the most hardline in Israel’s history, look almost moderate.

Ynet, Israel’s popular news website, reported that settler leaders hailed this as their “wet dream” cabinet.

Zahava Gal-On, leader of the opposition Meretz party, concurred, observing that it would “do a lot for the settlers and not much at all for the rest of Israeli society”.

The settlers’ dedicated party, Jewish Home, has been awarded three key ministries – trade and industry, Jerusalem, and housing – as well as control of the parliamentary finance committee, that will ensure that the settlements flourish during this government’s term.

There is no chance Jewish Home will agree to a settlement freeze similar to the one Obama insisted on in his first term. Rather, the party will accelerate both house-building and industrial development over the Green Line, to make the settlements even more attractive places to live.

Uzi Landau, of Avigdor Lieberman’s far-right Yisraeli Beiteinu party, has the tourism portfolio and can be relied on to direct funds to the West Bank’s many Biblical sites, to encourage Israelis and tourists to visit.

The new defence minister, who oversees the occupation and is the only official in a practical position to obstruct this settler free-for-all, is Likud’s Moshe Yaalon, a former military chief of staff known for his ardent support of the settlements.

True, Yair Lapid’s large centrist party Yesh Atid is represented too. But its influence on diplomacy will be muted, because its five ministers will handle chiefly domestic issues such as welfare, health and science.

The one exception, Shai Piron, the new education minister, is a settler rabbi who can be expected to expand the existing programme of school trips to the settlements, continuing the settlers’ successful efforts to integrate themselves into the mainstream.

Far from preparing to make concessions to the US president, Netanyahu has all but declared his backing for Jewish Home’s plan to annex large parts of the West Bank.

The only minister with any professed interest in diplomatic talks, and that mostly driven by her self-serving efforts to stay popular with the White House, is Tzipi Livni. She is well aware that opportunities for negotiations are extremely limited: the peace process received just one perfunctory mention in the coalition agreement.

Obama, apparently only too aware he is facing an Israeli government even more intransigent than the last one, has chosen to avoid addressing the Knesset. Instead he will direct his speech to a more receptive audience of Israeli students, in what US officials have termed a “charm offensive”.

We can expect grand words, a few meagre promises and total inaction on the occupation.

In a sign of quite how loath the White House is to tackle the settlements issue again, its representatives at the United Nations refused on Monday to take part in a Human Rights Council debate that described the settlements as a form of “creeping annexation” of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Obama’s hands-off approach will satisfy his constituency at home. A poll for ABC-TV showed this week that most Americans support Israel over the Palestinians – 55 per cent to 9 per cent. An even larger majority, 70 per cent, think the US should leave the two sides to settle their future for themselves.

Ordinary Israelis, the US president’s target audience, are none too keen on his getting involved either. Recent survey data show that 53 per cent think Obama will fail to protect Israel’s interests, and 80 per cent believe he will not bring progress with the Palestinians over the next four years. The mood is one of indifference rather than anticipation.

These are all good reasons why neither Obama nor Netanyahu will be much focused on the Palestinian issue over the three-day visit. As analyst Daniel Levy observed: “Obama is coming first and foremost to make a statement about the US-Israel bond, not the illegal occupation.”

That is also how it looks to most Palestinians, who have grown increasingly exasperated by US obstructionism. US officials who went to Bethlehem in preparation for Obama’s visit on Friday found themselves caught up in anti-Obama demonstrations. More are expected today in Ramallah.

Other Palestinians protested his visit by establishing today a new tent community on occupied Palestinian land next to Jerusalem. Several previous such encampments have been hastily demolished by Israeli soldiers.

The organisers hope to highlight US hypocrisy in backing Israel’s occupation: Jewish settlers are allowed to build with official state backing on Palestinian land in violation of international law, while Palestinians are barred from developing their own territory in what is now considered by most of the world as the Palestinian state.

The unspoken message of Obama’s visit is that the Netanyahu government is free to pursue its hardline agenda with little danger of anything more than symbolic protest from Washington.

The new Israeli cabinet lost no time setting out its legislative priorities. The first bill announced is a “basic law” to change the state’s official definition, so that its “Jewish” aspects trump the “democratic” elements, a move the Haaretz newspaper termed “insane”.

Among the main provisions is one to restrict state funding to new Jewish communities only. This points to a cynical solution Netanyahu may adopt to placate the simmering social protest movement in Tel Aviv, which has been demanding above all more affordable housing.

By freeing up even more cheap land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, he can expand the settlements, further eat away at Palestinian territory, silence the protests, and wrong-foot the opposition. All he needs is Obama’s blessing.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi.

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Posted on Mar 20, 2013

By Mr. Fish


   

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President Obama Visits Israel, But Expectations are Low

TRNN is a rare source of objective facts, analysis and commentary, not available in mainstream news. - Robert Log in and tell us why you support TRNN Bio Transcript Shir Hever: From March 20th to March 22nd, president Barack Obama w...

Dying vet to Bush: Day of Reckoning near

Tomas Young, an Army veteran took a bullet in Iraq that confined him to a wheelchair and inspired his vocal opposition to the war.

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq.

I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives.

I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries.

I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day.

I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all-the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans-my fellow veterans-whose future you stole.


I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power.

I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done.

You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans-my fellow veterans-whose future you stole.


Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character.

You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit.

Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens.

I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States.

I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East.

I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion.

I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes.

The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East.


On every level-moral, strategic, military and economic-Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love.

I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned.

You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins?

I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live.

I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.

Originally posted at Veterans Today

TY/SL

Baghdad attacks linked to al-Qaeda

The al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq network has once again claimed responsibility for bomb attacks that killed 65 people and injured over 200 others in the capital, Baghdad.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the terrorist group claimed responsibility for at least 20 bomb explosions and multiple shooting attacks carried out in mainly Shia-populated neighborhoods of Baghdad on March 19.

Al-Qaeda-linked militants often target civilians and Iraqi government officials in an attempt to destabilize the country.

On March 17, the terrorist network also claimed responsibility for the March 14 attack on the Iraqi Justice Ministry in the capital that claimed the lives of nearly 20 people and injured some 30 others.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a shadowy group that was once allegedly led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was reportedly killed in June 2006.

According to the US government and military officials, after Zarqawi’s death, the group’s leadership fell to Ayyub al-Masri, who was killed, along with Abu Omar al-Baghdadi -- another leader of the group -- in a joint operation by Iraqi and US troops in Salahuddin Province in April 2010.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in the country since the US-led invasion in March 2003.

DB/MYA/HSN

Baghdad Bombs Kill Dozens 10 Years After U.S. Invasion

Baghdad Bombs Kill Dozens 10 Years After U.S. Invasion

Posted on Mar 20, 2013
AP/Hadi Mizban

People gather at the scene of a car bomb attack close to one of the main gates to Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone, which houses major government offices and the embassies of several countries, including the United States and Britain.

Nearly 10 years to the day after the start of the Iraq war, some 19 car bombs and a shooting in the country’s capital left 57 people dead, almost 200 wounded and many more wondering if they’ll ever feel safe again.

The Tuesday bombings were just the latest in an ongoing saga of sectarian attacks that, we learned recently, were originally fostered by American invaders.

The legacy of the American military planners who sought to gain the advantage by turning one sect against the other is, as in so many imperial misadventures, never-ending violence.

Where is John McCain to remind us that his surge worked? Where is George W. Bush to declare the mission accomplished? Where is Thomas Friedman to say it was all worth it? Sadly only one of those warmongers has had the decency to go into seclusion.

More below about the bombings from the New York Times:

By midmorning, the familiar sight of black smoke rose above a cityscape of palm fronds, turquoise-tiled mosque domes and squat concrete buildings. By midafternoon, the numbers had stacked up: 57 dead and nearly 190 wounded in separate attacks that included 17 car bombs, 2 adhesive bombs stuck to cars, and a killing with a silenced gun.

Most attacks hit Shiite neighborhoods. Their targets varied: restaurants, a bank, a vegetable market and a parking garage. Others were near a courthouse and a university, and some seemed to have no target other than innocent passers-by. Many Iraqis say they worry about an increase in sectarian tensions. Though there were no immediate claims of responsibility, the attacks were carried out in the fashion of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the Sunni insurgent group weakened but not vanquished by the American military.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer. Follow him on Twitter: @peesch.

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Crimes Against Humanity: No Amnesty for Guatemala’s Former Dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt

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On March 13th the Center of Legal Action in Human Rights, revealed the Court of Constitutionality (Guatemala’s highest court) ruled in its favour, refusing amnesty to Efraín Ríos Montt.

The country’s Supreme Court previously denied Montt amnesty.

The trial of the ex-dictator on charges of genocide among other crimes against Mayan peoples resumes March 19th after numerous challenges (previous 1 & 2) The Associated Press reports the prosecution holds that Montt failed to stop the crime when he had the power to, while Montt’s defense claims he knew nothing about the crimes. Co-defendants are General José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez (ret., former chief of military intelligence), Montt’s defense minister  Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes (reported by the National Institute of Forensic Sciences to be mentally unfit for trial), and Luis Enrique Mendoza – vice-minister of defense (who is still ‘at large’).

An overview of  Guatemala 2013

In 2012 the country elected as President former general Otto Perez Molina, often called the American Embassy’s candidate, a graduate of the School of the Americas, former head of Guatemalan military intelligence, and in 1982-3 during the genocide against Ixil Mayan Indians for which Rios Montt is charged in court – a commander of the region  where genocide occurred. Under his tenure as head of military intelligence, Jennifer Harbury’s  husband was tortured for a year until killed as a rebel.

A Catholic priest who didn’t cooperate with government terror, Bishop Juan José Gerardi Conedera, was assassinated. President Molina was also a member of the SOA trained Guatemalan special forces unit called ” Kaibiles,” known for their tactic of dismembering people and other atrocities; in 2011 four former “Kaibiles” and their commander were sentenced to over 6000 years for the inhumanity of their acts (rightsaction).

Perez’s appointed minister of defense, joint chiefs commander and sub-commander, were all “Kaibiles”. The Guatemalan human rights community and those involved in prosecuting war crimes cases have since 2011 been subjected to spurious war crimes charges laid in great number by supporters of the military. So the trial of Rios Montt occurs within a context which may be reluctant to question the responsibility and sources of genocidal programs from beyond Guatemala’s borders. The bravery of Guatemala’s human rights community, attorney general Claudia Paz y Paz, and the judiciary, reveals a commitment to justice beyond the imagination of North American judiciaries which have witnessed genocide against the people of Iraq, among other national groups, without encouraging charges against the leaders responsible.

Presentation of evidence will take several months. The trial is a victory for the people of Guatemala and an affirmation of the United Nations’ Convention on Genocide. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has asked that authorities “take all necessary measures to ensure that judges, prosecutors, lawyers and other stakeholders to carry out their duties without fear for their life, integrity and security, and that of their families. The protection of all those involved in this crucial case is essential, if the rule of law is to be seen to be respected, and truth and justice are to prevail in Guatemala.” Guatemala adhered to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, April 2, 2012.

Some background. Partial sources online:

“Guatemalan court strikes down amnesty claim by ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt in genocide case,” Associated Press, March 13, 2013,

The Washington Post; “Guatemala court upholds genocide trial for ex-dictator Ríos Montt,” March 13, 2013,

tico times.net; “Ex-Guatemala strongman on trial after 30 years,” Sonia Perez-Diaz, March 18, 2013,

Google News; “The Ríos Montt genocide trial finally begins in Guatemala,” Guadalupe Marengo, March 18, 2013, 

The Independent; “Tribunal adelanta fecha de juicio a Ríos Montt,” Sonia Perez, Feb. 20, 2013,

terra;  “Otto Pérez Molina,” current, Wikipedia; “Today the Cup of Justice in Guatemala is 1% Full: Retired General Arrested on charges of Genocide & Forced Disappearances,”

Grahame Russell, June 1011, Rights Action; “Pillay hails start of genocide trial in Guatemala,”Press release OHCHR, March 18, 2013,

United Nations Human Rights; “Marching towards the past in Guatemala: a new government head by a ‘genocidal’ general; an army trained by former Kaibil elite forces, some of who are implicated in the Zetas drug cartel in Mexico,” Annie Bird, Dec. 27, 2011, Rights Action.

 by John Bart Gerald, March 19, 2013

War Without End

U.S. Marines occupy Baghdad in front of the Al Fanar hotel that housed Voices activists throughout the Shock and Awe bombing. (Photo: WNV/Iraq Peace Team)U.S. Marines occupy Baghdad in front of the Al Fanar hotel that housed Voices activists throughout the Shock and Awe bombing. (Photo: WNV/Iraq Peace Team)Ten years ago today, Iraqis braced themselves for the anticipated “Shock and Awe” attacks that the United States was planning to launch against them. The media buildup for the attack assured Iraqis that barbarous assaults were looming. I was living in Baghdad at the time, along with other Voices in the Wilderness activists determined to remain in Iraq, come what may. We didn’t want U.S.-led military and economic war to sever bonds that had grown between ourselves and Iraqis who had befriended us over the past seven years. Since 1996, we had traveled to Iraq numerous times, carrying medicines for children and families there, in open violation of the economic sanctions which directly targeted the most vulnerable people in Iraqi society — the poor, the elderly and the children.

I still feel haunted by children and their heartbroken mothers and fathers whom we met in Iraqi hospitals.

“I think I understand,” murmured my friend Martin Thomas, a nurse from the U.K., as he sat in a pediatric ward in a Baghdad hospital in 1997, trying to comprehend the horrifying reality. “It’s a death row for infants.” Nearly all of the children were condemned to death, some after many days of writhing in pain on bloodstained mats, without pain relievers. Some died quickly, wasted by water-borne diseases. As the fluids ran out of their bodies, they appeared like withered, spoiled fruits. They could have lived, certainly should have lived — and laughed and danced, and run and played — but instead they were brutally and lethally punished by economic sanctions supposedly intended to punish a dictatorship over which civilians had no control.

The war ended for those children, but it has never ended for survivors who carry memories of them.

Likewise, the effects of the U.S. bombings continue, immeasurably and indefensibly.

Upon arrival in Baghdad, we would always head to the Al Fanar Hotel which had housed scores of previous delegations.

Often, internationals like us were the hotel’s only clients during the long years when economic sanctions choked Iraq’s economy and erased its infrastructure. But in early March of 2003, rooms were quickly filling at the Al Fanar. The owner invited his family members and some of his neighbors and their children to move in, perhaps hoping that the United States wouldn’t attack a residence known to house internationals.

Parents in Iraq name themselves after their oldest child. Abu Miladah, the father of two small girls, Miladah and Zainab, was the hotel’s night desk clerk. He arranged for his wife, Umm Miladah, to move with their two small daughters into the hotel. Umm Miladah warmly welcomed us to befriend her children. It was a blessed release to laugh and play with the children, and somehow our antics and games seemed at least to distract Umm Miladah from her rising anxiety as we waited for the United States to rain bombs and missiles down on us.

When the attacks began, Umm Miladah could often be seen uncontrollably shuddering from fear. Day and night, explosions would rattle the windows and cause the Al Fanar’s walls to shake. Ear-splitting blasts and sickening thuds would come from all directions, near and far, over the next two weeks. I would often hold Miladah, who was three years old, and Zainab, her 18-month-old baby sister, in my arms. That’s how I realized that they both had begun to grind their teeth, morning, noon and night. Several times, we witnessed eight-year-old Dima, the daughter of another hotel worker, gazing up in forlorn shame at her father from a pool of her own urine, having lost control of her bladder in the first days of “Shock and Awe.”

And after weeks, when the bombing finally ended, when we could exhale a bit, realizing we had all survived, I was eager to take Miladah and Zainab outside. I wanted them to feel the sun’s warmth, but first I headed over to their mother, wanting to know if she felt it was all right for me to step out with her children.

She was seated in the hotel lobby, watching the scene outside. U.S. Marines were uncurling large bales of barbed wire to set up a check point immediately outside our hotel. Beige military jeeps, armored personnel carriers, tanks and Humvees lined the streets in every direction. Tears were streaming down Umm Miladah’s face. “Never before did I think that this would happen to my country,” she said. “And I feel very sad. And this sadness, I think it will never go away.”

She was a tragic prophet.

The war had just ended for those killed during the “Shock and Awe” bombing and invasion, and it was to abruptly end for many thousands killed in the ensuing years of military occupation and civil war. But it won’t end for the survivors.

Effects go on immeasurably and indefensibly.

Effects of war continue for the 2.2 million people who’ve been displaced by bombing and chaos, whose livelihoods are irreparably destroyed, and who’ve become refugees in other countries, separated from loved ones and unlikely to ever reclaim the homes and communities from which they had to flee hastily. Within Iraq, an estimated 2.8 million internally displaced people live, according to Refugees International, “in constant fear, with limited access to shelter, food, and basic services.”

The war hasn’t ended for people who are survivors of torture or for those who were following orders by becoming torturers.

Nor has it ended for the multiple generations of U.S. taxpayers who will continue paying for a war which economists Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz have so far priced at $4 trillion.

For Bradley Manning, whose brave empathy exposed criminal actions on the part of U.S. warlords complicit in torture, death squads and executions, the war most certainly isn’t over. He lives as an isolated war hero and whistleblower, facing decades or perhaps life in prison.

The war may never end for veterans who harbor physical and emotional wounds that will last until they die. On March 19, on the 10th anniversary of the Shock and Awe invasion, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, joined by the Center for Constitutional Rights and other activist groups, will gather in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., to launch an initiative claiming their right to heal. Rightfully, they’re calling for health care, accountability and reparations, and just as rightfully, they’re calling for our support.

A civilized country would heed their call. A civilized country would demand heartfelt reparations to the people of Iraq and cease to interfere in their internal affairs, would secure freedom and official praise for whistleblowers like Bradley Manning, and would rapidly begin to liberate itself from subservience to warlords and war profiteers. Gandhi was once asked, “What do you think of western civilization?” And famously, he answered, “I think it would be a good idea.”

Steubenville Rape Trial: Blogger Who Exposed Case Speaks Out After Ohio Teens Found Guilty

Two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, have been found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl at a party last August. On Sunday, the teenagers, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were found delinquent in the sexual assault of the girl who witnesses testified was too drunk to move or speak. The case sparked a national controversy following the emergence of images and social media postings from the night of the assault. We’re joined by Alexandria Goddard, a crime blogger who first exposed crucial evidence in the case by taking screen shots of incriminating social media posts, photographs and videos, before they could be deleted. The hacker group Anonymous picked up on Goddard’s posts and released shocking video from the night of the assault. We also speak to Marc Randazza, a First Amendment lawyer who represented Goddard when she was unsuccessfully sued for defamation. "I’m convinced that if Ms. Goddard hadn’t started blogging about this and Anonymous hadn’t taken up the standard, that this case would have been swept under the rug," Randazza says.

Transcript

Amy Goodman: We begin our show in Steubenville, Ohio, where two high school football players have been found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl at a party last August. On Sunday, the teenagers, Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, were found delinquent in the sexual assault of the girl who witnesses testified was too drunk to move or speak. Mays, who was a high school quarterback, was also found delinquent on a second charge: taking and distributing a picture of the girl. Both young men had insisted that any sex that occurred between them and the girl was consensual. After the ruling, they broke down into tears, apologized to the victim, and were sent to a juvenile detention facility. They were also required to register as juvenile sex offenders.

Ohio state Attorney General Mike DeWine, a former U.S. senator, said he plans to convene a grand jury to determine if other crimes had been committed.

Attorney General Mike Dewine: As I've indicated, we've been involved in an extensive investigation, trying to determine, trying to learn if any other individuals committed any crimes. While we have interviewed almost 60 individuals, 16 people refused to talk to our investigators. I have reached the conclusion that this investigation must—cannot be completed, this investigation simply cannot be completed, that we cannot bring finality to this matter without the convening of a grand jury.

Amy Goodman: Although the attack occurred in the summer, it only gained national attention after the cyber-activist group Anonymous obtained and published a shocking video from the night of the assault. The now-notorious 12-minute video shows a former classmate of the young men mocking the victim, laughingly referring to her as dead, and continuously joking about sexual assault.

Steubenville Teen 1: Is it really rape? Because you don't know if she wanted to or not. She might have wanted to. That might have been her final wish.

Steubenville Teen 2: No, y'all think she's dead?

Steubenville Teen 1: She's dead.

Amy Goodman: Along with the video, an Instagram photo also went viral. The now-infamous photo shows the two Steubenville high school football players holding their 16-year-old victim over a basement floor, one by her arms, one by her legs. State forensic analysts reportedly sifted through more than 396,000 text messages and 940 video clips recovered from cellphones as part of the investigation.

The Steubenville story has made national and international headlines, largely thanks to a local crime blogger. Before many of the partygoers could delete incriminating social media posts, the blogger, Alexandria Goddard, made copies and publicized them on her website, Prinniefied.com. She was sued for defamation, but the charges have since been dropped. Many Steubenville locals criticized Goddard for bringing negative public attention to the football team; others have praised her for holding sexual perpetrators accountable.

Well, for more, we're joined right now by Alexandria Goddard. And in Las Vegas, Nevada, we're joined by her First Amendment lawyer, Marc Randazza.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! First, Alexandria, your reaction to Friday—to the verdict that came down yesterday?

Alexandra Goddard: I'm glad that the victim had her day in court and that justice was served and, you know, hope that the grand jury that's going to convene will hold others accountable who might be found accountable.

Amy Goodman: Let's talk about that grand jury. Talk about Attorney General Mike DeWine and what he said yesterday.

Alexandra Goddard: He stated that the investigation can't be completed until they convene a grand jury to determine if other charges can be brought forward.

Amy Goodman: And why has this taken so long? Can you go back to August, Alexandria, and just give us a timeline? Explain what happened and when you came to know and make public what you knew.

Alexandra Goddard: I came to know about it on August 22nd, the date that the two were arrested. The incident occurred on August 11th. And I believe in October, November, sometime, they had the probable cause hearing. And, I mean, it's a juvenile matter. And the trial was yesterday. But I came to know of it on August 22nd.

Amy Goodman: And explain what actually took place. Go back to Steubenville, where you are from, and talk about what happened.

Alexandra Goddard: There were various end-of-the-summer parties, and the victim was alleged to have been at three different locations, and the rape occurred at the last location. All of these kids were tweeting about the state of her sobriety and taking pictures, sending them back and forth. But that's what happened. I mean, there were just several parties, and she was at various parties that evening with the two that were convicted yesterday.

Amy Goodman: I want to ask you about the role of cyber-activists in exposing what happened. In January, we spoke to, well, he called himself "X," a member of the hacktivist group Anonymous, using a pseudonym.

"X": I think it's apparent to anybody who can stomach watching it for the entire 12 minutes. I, myself, here at our location—we've been working night and day on this operation, and I've watched it at least a dozen times, and it makes me sick each time we watch it. I think it speaks for itself.

Amy Goodman: He's talking, of course, about this video. However, special prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter claimed the actions of the cyber-activist group Anonymous put more pressure on the rape victim.

Marianne Hemmeter: No matter how you cut this case, she was the center of the storm. And it wasn't just Steubenville or Ohio; it became international. She's a 16-year-old girl. She didn't want to go forward on charges. She knew something bad had happened. But she was piecing it together like everybody else. And here is a girl who's 16 who's going to have to testify to the most intimate details of her life, some of which might be embarrassing. And to have not just a local stage, but an international stage, was unbelievably pressure-filled for her—and other witnesses. You know, we had pretty good working relationships with some of the witnesses that you heard from, but once Anonymous hit, there was a chilling effect.

Amy Goodman: That was special prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter standing next to Ohio's attorney general, Mike DeWine. Alexandria, your response?

Alexandra Goddard: You know, those—the kids put it on the Internet, and the Internet is an international audience. You know, I believe that Anonymous did bring attention to the case, and—you know, but it's also empowered others to speak out and demand that justice be meted out.

Amy Goodman: On Sunday, CNN covered the news of the guilty verdict in the Steubenville case in a way that raised some eyebrows. Correspondent Poppy Harlow lamented that the "promising" lives of the rapists had been ruined.

Poppy Harlow: Incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened, as these two young men, that had such promising futures—star football players, very good students—literally watched as they believed their life fell apart. One of—one of the young men, Ma'lik Richmond, when that sentence came down, he collapsed. He collapsed in the arms of his attorney, Walter Madison. He said to him, "My life is over. No one is going to want me now." Very serious crime here, both found guilty of raping this 16-year-old girl at a series of parties back in August.

Amy Goodman: CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow. Alexandria Goddard, your response?

Alexandra Goddard: My father told me when I was a child, if you do the crime, you do the time. We all know the difference between right and wrong and are responsible for our decisions. And, you know, when—again, if you break the law, you get punished for it. We all know that.

Amy Goodman: Can you talk about the role of the football team in Steubenville, where you come from, how important is it, and who these two young men were in the community?

Alexandra Goddard: I don't have knowledge of them personally in the community. I haven't lived in the area for some years. The football team is very revered in the town. I mean, they're very proud of their football team. But it's—you know, it's not just Steubenville that loves their football team. That whole Ohio Valley area, you know, their high school football is important to them.

Amy Goodman: And what happened around the larger issue of other people taking pictures, not intervening, but photographing, videoing, using their cellphones to—you know, to film what was taking place rather than stopping it, going to this issue of the attorney general, Mike DeWine, saying they're going to convene a grand jury?

Alexandra Goddard: Well, you have a number of children who were taking photographs, retweeting them. And rather than stand up and say, "Stop it," they were passing around the information and, you know, humiliating and revictimizing this girl through the use of social media.

Amy Goodman: I want to talk to you about the lawsuit brought against you, Alexandria, which also brings in your lawyer, Marc Randazza, the lawsuit about you making public these images that you got on Facebook. Can you talk about what you found and how—why you were sued?

Alexandra Goddard: There were no images from Facebook. Anything that was posted on my website was for public viewing. All Twitter accounts were open. Nothing was private. The lawsuit itself was not because pictures were posted. It was because anonymous commenters on my blog basically dared to have an opinion about some members—you know, some of the people who were involved in the events of that night. And so, the family of the ex-boyfriend sued me and 25 commenters for defamation of character.

Amy Goodman: And you were named in the suit, though it was later dropped. Marc Randazza, can you talk about this First Amendment issue?

Marc Randazza: Yeah, the lawsuit was filed as a classic SLAPP suit. The point of it was to shut Alexandria up and to shut up the commenters. I think you've touched on the fact that this was a—the people involved in this enjoy a position of privilege in the community, and they are not used to having their misdeeds laid bare. And Alexandria really picked up the ball when the local mainstream media dropped it and stuffed the story, essentially. And in order to keep that story stuffed, that's why I'm convinced that the lawsuit itself was filed, because it wasn't just against her—and, frankly, against her for comments that she made—but they sued her as well for allowing comments by other people, which there's very clear federal law that renders her immune for those—for liability for those comments.

Amy Goodman: Talk about who Cody Saltsman was—is, Marc Randazza.

Marc Randazza: Well, he was the plaintiff in the case. But, you know, he is—he pretty wisely decided to drop the case, after we began to put up some kind of a fight, along with my local counsels, Mr. Nye and Mr. [Haren]. And the fact is that he actually seemed to have some level of contrition for bringing the case. So, you know, I don't want to get too much into him, because he seems to have done the right thing.

Amy Goodman: And, Alexandria Goddard, your reaction to them dropping the case?

Alexandra Goddard: Oh, you know, I was elated. No one wants to be sued. Lawsuits take up very precious time, and I would rather be out doing things I enjoy than battling a defamation suit.

Amy Goodman: And, Marc, the issue of other people now—it's many months later, but the attorney general talking about convening a grand jury to go after others. Many years ago, there was the New Bedford rape case in a bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and the call of the community to not only go after the actual perpetrator, of the men—the people who had raped the woman in the bar, but all those who had been egging them on and who were there and didn't try to stop it or call anyone to stop it.

Marc Randazza: And so, what's your question?

Amy Goodman: The question around the issue of a convening of a grand jury now, many months later, but talking about widening the targets of people who should be prosecuted.

Marc Randazza: Well, look, that's—you know, that's not the case I'm involved in. I'm not the criminal lawyer here; I'm the First Amendment lawyer here. But I think that the grand jury being convened is a direct result of all of the sunlight put on this case. I'm convinced that if Ms. Goddard hadn't started blogging about this and Anonymous hadn't taken up the standard, that this case would have been swept under the rug. And I think that not only were—not only would perhaps justice not have been brought yesterday, but I think we also might have found that the limited amount of justice that was brought would have been brought only upon the heads of the two boys who were sentenced yesterday. If there is wider responsibility, well, then the investigation needs to continue. And I'm glad that it is.

Amy Goodman: In January, we spoke to Monika Johnson Hostler, president of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. She said the Steubenville case has forced America to take a hard look at its views on rape.

Monika Johnson Hostler: What we are calling for is not just how this is handled in Steubenville, Ohio, but really asking America to take a hard look at ourselves in how we are—handle sexual violence and rape in our country. I think we've been able to point our fingers and turn our heads to rapes that have happened in other countries and not held ourselves accountable as Americans to say that we absolutely still have a culture of rape, where women and girls are still degraded and dehumanized, and rape is in the fabric of this country. And unfortunately, I would think, centuries later, that we would be further along in terms of our response, but yet we still see Americans blaming victims. So, in terms of our overall response, we're calling for America to take a hard look at itself and really think about the culture that we're raising our kids in and the things that we are allowing to happen by not acknowledging, as a community, as a society, the importance of supporting the rape victim.

Amy Goodman: That was Monika Johnson Hostler, president of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. Alexandria Goddard, as we wrap up, your response to what she said? And also, given what you went through with the lawsuit, though it was dropped, the kind of chilling effect you think that has for future people like you to get involved in the way that you did as a blogger?

Alexandra Goddard: I think everyone—you know, we have a responsibility to be involved in our community. And, you know, if you see what you perceive to be injustice, you shouldn't sit by and do nothing about it. You should stand up and, you know, protect your right to free speech, but, you know—and what you believe in. That's what our country is founded on.

Amy Goodman: And will you continue to follow this case, Alexandria?

Alexandra Goddard: Yes, I will.

Amy Goodman: Alexandria Goddard, Steubenville-based blogger. Marc Randazza, lawyer who represented Alexandria when she was sued for defamation after documenting the rape case. That suit was ultimately dropped.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, it's the 10th anniversary of the bombing of Iraq. We'll be back in a minute.

MP Wants Journalists Banned From Parliament

His comments came after John Whittingdale, chairman of the committee, called on Lord Leveson to answer questions in Parliament regarding his plans for press regulation.

US thanks Albania for MKO asylum offer

The United States has welcomed an offer from the NATO member Albania to grant asylum to members of the anti-Iranian terrorist group Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO).

State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Monday thanked Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha for his "humanitarian gesture” and called on the MKO to accept Tirana’s "generous” offer immediately.

Berisha announced the decision in a statement on Saturday, saying the Albanian government is ready to accommodate in Tirana 210 members of the MKO group “for humanitarian reasons.”

Political experts, however, warn that Albania’s decision to grant asylum to the MKO members has nothing to do with humanitarian concerns, and will give the terrorists a safe haven where they can work with former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

The KLA is notorious as a murderous group of drug runners and terrorists who receive training from NATO and the United States for operations around the world.

The United States removed the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization from its terror list On September 28, 2012, following similar moves by Britain and the European Union in 2008 and 2009.

MKO terrorists fled to Iraq in the 1980s and had the support of Iraq's executed dictator Saddam Hussein, who allowed them to set up a military base called Camp Ashraf in Diyala Province, near the Iranian border.

MKO members currently live at Camp Liberty, a former US military camp near Baghdad Airport, after their relocation from Camp Ashraf under growing pressure from the Iraqi government and people for the terrorist group to leave the country.

MRS/SS

War without End

Ten years ago today, Iraqis braced themselves for the anticipated “Shock and Awe” attacks that the United States was planning to launch against them. The media buildup for the attack assured Iraqis that barbarous assaults were looming. I was living in Baghdad at the time, along with other Voices in the Wilderness activists determined to remain in Iraq, come what may. We didn’t want U.S.-led military and economic war to sever bonds that had grown between ourselves and Iraqis who had befriended us over the past seven years. Since 1996, we had traveled to Iraq numerous times, carrying medicines for children and families there, in open violation of the economic sanctions which directly targeted the most vulnerable people in Iraqi society — the poor, the elderly and the children.(WNV/Iraq Peace Team)

I still feel haunted by children and their heartbroken mothers and fathers whom we met in Iraqi hospitals.

“I think I understand,” murmured my friend Martin Thomas, a nurse from the U.K., as he sat in a pediatric ward in a Baghdad hospital in 1997, trying to comprehend the horrifying reality. “It’s a death row for infants.” Nearly all of the children were condemned to death, some after many days of writhing in pain on bloodstained mats, without pain relievers. Some died quickly, wasted by water-borne diseases. As the fluids ran out of their bodies, they appeared like withered, spoiled fruits. They could have lived, certainly should have lived — and laughed and danced, and run and played — but instead they were brutally and lethally punished by economic sanctions supposedly intended to punish a dictatorship over which civilians had no control.

The war ended for those children, but it has never ended for survivors who carry memories of them.

Likewise, the effects of the U.S. bombings continue, immeasurably and indefensibly.

Upon arrival in Baghdad, we would always head to the Al Fanar Hotel which had housed scores of previous delegations.

Often, internationals like us were the hotel’s only clients during the long years when economic sanctions choked Iraq’s economy and erased its infrastructure. But in early March of 2003, rooms were quickly filling at the Al Fanar. The owner invited his family members and some of his neighbors and their children to move in, perhaps hoping that the United States wouldn’t attack a residence known to house internationals.

Parents in Iraq name themselves after their oldest child. Abu Miladah, the father of two small girls, Miladah and Zainab, was the hotel’s night desk clerk. He arranged for his wife, Umm Miladah, to move with their two small daughters into the hotel. Umm Miladah warmly welcomed us to befriend her children. It was a blessed release to laugh and play with the children, and somehow our antics and games seemed at least to distract Umm Miladah from her rising anxiety as we waited for the United States to rain bombs and missiles down on us.

When the attacks began, Umm Miladah could often be seen uncontrollably shuddering from fear. Day and night, explosions would rattle the windows and cause the Al Fanar’s walls to shake. Ear-splitting blasts and sickening thuds would come from all directions, near and far, over the next two weeks. I would often hold Miladah, who was three years old, and Zainab, her 18-month-old baby sister, in my arms. That’s how I realized that they both had begun to grind their teeth, morning, noon and night. Several times, we witnessed eight-year-old Dima, the daughter of another hotel worker, gazing up in forlorn shame at her father from a pool of her own urine, having lost control of her bladder in the first days of “Shock and Awe.”

And after weeks, when the bombing finally ended, when we could exhale a bit, realizing we had all survived, I was eager to take Miladah and Zainab outside. I wanted them to feel the sun’s warmth, but first I headed over to their mother, wanting to know if she felt it was all right for me to step out with her children.

She was seated in the hotel lobby, watching the scene outside. U.S. Marines were uncurling large bales of barbed wire to set up a check point immediately outside our hotel. Beige military jeeps, armored personnel carriers, tanks and Humvees lined the streets in every direction. Tears were streaming down Umm Miladah’s face. “Never before did I think that this would happen to my country,” she said. “And I feel very sad. And this sadness, I think it will never go away.”

She was a tragic prophet.

The war had just ended for those killed during the “Shock and Awe” bombing and invasion, and it was to abruptly end for many thousands killed in the ensuing years of military occupation and civil war. But it won’t end for the survivors.

Effects go on immeasurably and indefensibly.

Effects of war continue for the 2.2 million people who’ve been displaced by bombing and chaos, whose livelihoods are irreparably destroyed, and who’ve become refugees in other countries, separated from loved ones and unlikely to ever reclaim the homes and communities from which they had to flee hastily. Within Iraq, an estimated 2.8 million internally displaced people live, according to Refugees International, “in constant fear, with limited access to shelter, food, and basic services.”

The war hasn’t ended for people who are survivors of torture or for those who were following orders by becoming torturers.

Nor has it ended for the multiple generations of U.S. taxpayers who will continue paying for a war which economists Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz have so far priced at $4 trillion.

For Bradley Manning, whose brave empathy exposed criminal actions on the part of U.S. warlords complicit in torture, death squads and executions, the war most certainly isn’t over. He lives as an isolated war hero and whistleblower, facing decades or perhaps life in prison.

The war may never end for veterans who harbor physical and emotional wounds that will last until they die. On March 19, on the 10th anniversary of the Shock and Awe invasion, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, joined by the Center for Constitutional Rights and other activist groups, will gather in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., to launch an initiative claiming their right to heal. Rightfully, they’re calling for health care, accountability and reparations, and just as rightfully, they’re calling for our support.

A civilized country would heed their call. A civilized country would demand heartfelt reparations to the people of Iraq and cease to interfere in their internal affairs, would secure freedom and official praise for whistleblowers like Bradley Manning, and would rapidly begin to liberate itself from subservience to warlords and war profiteers. Gandhi was once asked, “What do you think of western civilization?” And famously, he answered, “I think it would be a good idea.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License

Kathy Kelly

Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and is presently a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul. Kathy Kelly's email is [email protected]

At least 56 killed, 200 wounded in series of explosions in Baghdad (VIDEO)

Published time: March 19, 2013 06:58 Car bombs and roadside blasts have killed at least 23 people and wounded nearly 90 in Shi'ite districts across the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Tuesday, according to police and hospital sources. Security forc...

A Last-Second Appeal for Sanity

March 18, 2003

Memorandum for: The President

From: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

Subject: Forgery, Hyperbole, Half-Truth: A Problem

We last wrote you immediately after Secretary of State Powell’s UN speech on February 5, in an attempt to convey our concerns that insufficient attention was being given to wider intelligence-related issues at stake in the conflict with Iraq. Your speech yesterday evening did nothing to allay those concerns. And the acerbic exchanges of the past few weeks have left the United States more isolated than at any time in the history of the republic and the American people more polarized.

Today we write with an increased sense of urgency and responsibility. Responsibility, because you appear to be genuinely puzzled at the widespread opposition to your policy on Iraq and because we have become convinced that those of your advisers who do understand what is happening are reluctant to be up front with you about it.

As vet­erans of the CIA and other intelligence agencies, the posture we find ourselves in is as familiar as it is challenging. We feel a continuing responsibility to “tell it like it is” — or at least as we see it — without fear or favor. Better to hear it from extended family than not at all; we hope you will take what follows in that vein.

We cannot escape the conclusion that you have been badly misinformed. It was reported yesterday that your gener­als in the Persian Gulf area have become increasingly concerned over sandstorms. To us this is a metaphor for the shifting sand-type “intelligence” upon which your policy has been built. Worse still, it has become increasingly clear that the sharp drop in US credibility abroad is largely a function of the rather transparent abuse of intelligence re­porting and the dubious conclusions drawn from that reporting — the ones that underpin your decisions on Iraq.

Flashback to Vietnam

Many of us cut our intelligence teeth during the Sixties. We remember the arrogance and flawed thinking that sucked us into the quagmire of Vietnam. The French, it turned out, knew better. And they looked on with won­derment at Washington’s misplaced confidence — its single-minded hubris, as it embarked on a venture the French knew from their own experience could only meet a dead end.

This was hardly a secret. It was widely known that the French general sent off to survey the possibility of regaining Vietnam for France after World War II reported that the operation would take a half-million troops, and even then it could not be successful.

Nevertheless, President Johnson, heeding the ill-informed advice of civilian leaders of the Pentagon with no ex­perience in war, let himself get drawn in past the point of no return. In the process, he played fast and loose with intelligence to get the Tonkin Gulf resolution through Congress so that he could prosecute the war. To that mis­guided war he mortgaged his political future, which was in shambles when he found himself unable to extricate himself from the morass.

Quite apart from what happened to President Johnson, the Vietnam War was the most serious US foreign policy blunder in modern times — until now.

Forgery

In your state-of-the-union address you spoke of Iraq’s pre-1991 focus on how to “enrich uranium for a bomb” and added, “the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of ura­nium from Africa.” No doubt you have now been told that this information was based on bogus correspondence between Iraq and Niger.

Answering a question on this last week, Secretary Powell conceded — with neither apology nor apparent embarrassment — that the documents in question, which the US and UK had provided to the UN to show that Iraq is still pursuing nuclear weapons, were forgeries. Powell was short: “If that information is inaccu­rate, fine.”

But it is anything but fine. This kind of episode inflicts serious damage on US credibility abroad—the more so, as it appears neither you nor your advisers and political supporters are in hot pursuit of those responsible. Senate In­telligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts has shown little enthusiasm for finding out what went awry.

Com­mittee Vice-Chairman, Jay Rockefeller, suggested that the FBI be enlisted to find the perpetrators of the forgeries, which US officials say contain “laughable and child-like errors,” and to determine why the CIA did not recognize them as forgeries. But Roberts indicated through a committee spokeswoman that he believes it is “inappropri­ate for the FBI to investigate at this point.” Foreign observers do not have to be paranoid to suspect some kind of cover-up.

Who Did It? Who Cares!

Last week Wisconsin Congressman Dave Obey cited a recent press report suggesting that a foreign government might be behind the forgeries as part of an effort to build support for military action against Iraq and asked Secre­tary Powell if he could identify that foreign government. Powell said he could not do so “with confidence.” Nor did he appear in the slightest interested.

We think you should be. In the absence of hard evidence one looks for those with motive and capability. The fab­rication of false documentation, particularly what purports to be official correspondence between the agencies of two governments, is a major undertaking requiring advanced technical skills normally available only in a sophis­ticated intelligence service. And yet the forgeries proved to be a sloppy piece of work.

Chalk it up to professional pride by (past) association, but unless the CIA’s capabilities have drastically eroded over recent years, the legendary expertise of CIA technical specialists, combined with the crudeness of the forgeries, leave us persuaded that the CIA did not craft the bogus documents. Britain’s MI-6 is equally adept at such things. Thus, except in the unlikely event that crafting forgery was left to second-stringers, it seems unlikely that the Brit­ish were the original source.

We find ourselves wondering if amateur intelligence operatives in the Pentagon basement and/or at 10 Down­ing Street were involved and need to be called on the carpet. We would urge you strongly to determine the prov­enance. This is not trivial matter.

As our VIPS colleague (and former CIA Chief of Station) Ray Close has noted, “If anyone in Washington deliberately practiced disinformation in this way against another element of our own government or wittingly passed fabricated information to the UN, this could do permanent damage to the com­mitment to competence and integrity on which the whole American foreign policy process depends.”

The lack of any strong reaction from the White House feeds the suspicion that the US was somehow involved in, or at least condones, the forgery. It is important for you to know that, although credibility-destroying stories like this rarely find their way into the largely cowed US media, they do grab headlines abroad among those less dis­posed to give the US the benefit of the doubt.

As you know better than anyone, a year and a half after 9/11 the still traumatized US public remains much more inclined toward unquestioning trust in the presidency. Over time that child-like trust can be expected to erode, if preventive maintenance is not performed — and hyperbole shunned.

Hyperbole

The forgery aside, the administration’s handling of the issue of whether Iraq is continuing to develop nuclear weapons has done particularly severe damage to US credibility. On October 7 your speechwriters had you claim that Iraq might be able to produce a nuclear weapon in less than a year. Formal US intelligence estimates, sanitized versions of which have been made public, hold that Iraq will be unable to produce a nuclear weapon until the end of the decade, if then.

In that same speech you claimed that “the evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program” — a claim reiterated by Vice President Cheney on “Meet the Press” on March 16. Reporting to the UN Security Council in recent months, UN chief nuclear inspector Mohammed ElBaradei has asserted that the inspectors have found no evidence that Iraq has reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.

Some suspect that the US does have such evidence but has not shared it with the UN because Washington has been de­termined to avoid doing anything that could help the inspections process succeed. Others believe the “evidence” to be of a piece with the forgery — in all likelihood crafted by Richard Perle’s Pentagon Plumbers. Either way, the US takes a large black eye in public opinion abroad.

Then there are those controversial aluminum tubes which you have cited in major speeches as evidence of a con­tinuing effort on Iraq’s part to produce nuclear weapons. Aside from one analyst in the CIA and the people report­ing to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, there is virtually unanimous agreement within the intelligence, engineering, and scientific communities with ElBaradei’s finding that “it was highly unlikely” that the tubes could have been used to produce nuclear material.

It is not enough for Vice President Cheney to dismiss ElBaradei’s findings. Those who have followed these issues closely are left wondering why, if the Vice President has evidence to support his own view, he does not share it with the UN.

Intelligence Scant

In your speech yesterday evening you stressed that intelligence “leaves no doubt that the Iraqi regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” And yet even the Washington Post, whose editors have given unswerving support to your policy on Iraq, is awash with reports that congressional leaders, for example, have been given no specific intelligence on the number of banned weapons in Iraq or where they are hidden.

One official, who is regularly briefed by the CIA, commented recently that such evidence as does exist is “only circumstantial.” Another said he questioned whether the administration is shaping intelligence for political purposes. And, in a moment of unusual candor, one senior intelligence analyst suggested that one reason why UN inspectors have had such trouble finding weapons caches is that “there may not be much of a stockpile.”

Having backed off suggestions early last year that Iraq may already have nuclear weapons, your administration continues to assert that Iraq has significant quantities of other weapons of mass destruction. But by all indications, this is belief, not proven fact. This has led the likes of Thomas Powers, a very knowledgeable author on intelli­gence, to conclude that “the plain fact is that the Central Intelligence Agency doesn’t know what Mr. Hussein has, if anything, or even who knows the answers, if anyone.”

This does not inspire confidence. What is needed is candor — candor of the kind you used in one portion of your speech on October 7. Just two paragraphs before you claimed that Iraq is “reconstituting” its nuclear weapons pro­gram, you said, “Many people have asked how close Saddam Hussein is to developing a nuclear weapon. Well, we don’t know exactly, and that’s the problem.”

True, candor can weaken a case that one is trying to build. We are reminded of a remarkable sentence that leapt out of FBI Director Mueller’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 11 — a sentence that does ac­tually parse, but nonetheless leaves one scratching one’s head. Mueller: “The greatest threat is from al-Qaeda cells in the US that we have not yet identified.”

This seems to be the tack that CIA Director Tenet is taking behind closed doors; i.e., the greatest threat from Iraq is the weapons we have not yet identified but believe are there.

It is not possible to end this section on hyperbole without giving Oscars to Secretaries Rumsfeld and Powell, who have outdone themselves in their zeal to establish a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda. You will recall that Rumsfeld described the evidence — widely recognized to be dubious — as “bulletproof,” and Powell characterized the relationship as a “partnership!”

Your assertion last evening that “the terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed” falls into the same category. We believe it far more likely that our country is in for long periods of red and orange color codes.

Half-Truth

Here we shall limit ourselves to one example, although the number that could be adduced is legion.

You may recall that a Cambridge University analyst recently revealed that a major portion of a British intelligence document on Iraq had been plagiarized from a term paper by a graduate student in California — information de­scribed by Secretary Powell to the UN Security Council as “exquisite” intelligence. That same analyst has now ac­quired from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the transcript of the debriefing of Iraqi Gen. Hussein Kamel, son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, who defected in 1995.

Kamel for ten years ran Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile development programs, and some of the information he provided has been highly touted by senior US policymakers, from the president on down. But the transcript reveals that Kamel also said that in 1991 Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. This part of the debriefing was suppressed until Newsweek ran a story on it on February 24, 2003.

We do not for a minute take all of what Kamel said at face value. Rather we believe the Iraqis retain some chemical and biological warfare capability. What this episode suggests, though, is a preference on the part of US officials to release only that information that supports the case they wish to make against Iraq.

In Sum

What conclusions can be drawn from the above? Simply that forgery, hyperbole, and half-truths provide a sandy foundation from which to launch a major war.

Equally important, there is danger in the temptation to let the conflict with Iraq determine our attitude toward the entire gamut of foreign threats with which you and your principal advisers need to be concerned. Threats to US security interests must be prioritized and judged on their own terms. In our judgment as intelligence professionals, there are two real and present dangers today.

1. The upsurge in terrorism in the US and against American facilities and personnel abroad that we believe would inevitably flow from a US invasion of Iraq. Concern over this is particularly well expressed in the February 26 letter from FBI Special Agent Coleen Rowley to Director Mueller, a letter well worth your study.

2. North Korea poses a particular danger, although what form this might take is hard to predict. Pyongyang sees itself as the next target of your policy of preemption and, as its recent actions demonstrate, will take advantage of US pre-occupation with Iraq both to strengthen its defenses and to test US and South Korean responses. Although North Korea is economically weak, its armed forces are huge, well armed, and capable. It is entirely possible that the North will decide to mount a provocation to test the tripwire provided by the presence of US forces in South Korea. Given the closeness of Seoul to the border with the North and the reality that North Korean conventional forces far outnumber those of the South, a North Korean adventure could easily force you to face an abrupt, unwelcome decision regarding the use of nuclear weapons — a choice that your predecessors took great pains to avoid.

We suggest strongly that you order the Intelligence Community to undertake, on an expedited basis, a Special Na­tional Intelligence Estimate on North Korea, and that you defer any military action against Iraq until you have had a chance to give appropriate weight to the implications of the challenge the US might face on the Korean pen­insula.

Richard Beske, San Diego

Kathleen McGrath Christison, Santa Fe

William Christison, Santa Fe

Patrick Eddington, Alexandria

Raymond McGovern, Arlington

Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

WMD Lies – Mainstream Media Must Also Shoulder Responsibility

Even since before the hyped "shock and awe" beginning of the Iraq war, it was obvious to almost every critical-thinking person that a tidal wave of government lies and deceit was about to lead to mass murder.

Parents of British man killed by US drone blame UK government

The parents of a British-born man killed by a US drone strike after being stripped of his UK citizenship have spoken out for the first time – to say they will never forgive the British Government for his death.

Gamal Sakr blames government for son’s death. (Photo: Susannah Ireland/ Independent) Mohamed Sakr was born and brought up in London before he was targeted and killed in February 2012 in Somalia.

Now his Egyptian-born parents Gamal and Eman Sakr, who have lived in Britain for 35 years, have accused ministers of betraying this country’s democratic values.

Speaking to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism from their London home, the couple said they believe their son was left vulnerable to the attack after the government stripped him of his British citizenship months before he was killed.

“This is the hardest time we have ever come across in our family life,’ Mr  Sakr said in tears. “I’ll never stop blaming the British government for what they did to my son. They broke my family’s back.”

The comments follow the revelations by the Bureau and published in the Independent that the Home Secretary Theresa May has ramped up the use of powers allowing her to strip UK citizenship from dual nationals without first proving wrongdoing in the courts.

The investigation revealed the Coalition government has stripped 16 people, including five born in Britain, of their UK passports. Two, including Sakr, were later killed by drone strikes and one was secretly rendered to the United States.

The law states that the government cannot make someone stateless when it removes their citizenship. But Egyptian-born Mr and Mrs Sakr say their son Mohamed never had anything other than a British passport, despite in principle having dual nationality.

In September 2010 the family received notification that the government intended to remove their son’s British citizenship, on the grounds that he was ‘involved in terrorism-related activity’.

It was the first known instance in modern times of a British-born person being stripped of his nationality. His family insist that the action meant Mohamed, who was in Somalia, was left effectively stateless and stranded.

His mother still can’t quite believe it happened. ‘I was shocked. It never crossed my mind that something here in Britain would happen like this, especially as Mohamed had no other passport, no other nationality. He was brought up here, all his life is here.’

Mohamed’s parents were so worried that their other sons might also lose their British citizenship that they renounced the entire family’s dual Egyptian nationalities, shortly after they were told that Mohamed had been deprived of his citizenship.

‘I did this for the protection of the family, because they grew up here, they were all born here. And I felt that for them it was my responsibility to protect them. It was the only way I could protect them against that stupid law,’ says Mr Sakr.

‘No member of my family ever had an Egyptian passport,’ says Mr Sakr. ‘For the kids it never crossed my mind that they would have anything other than their British passports. I know they are British, born British, they are British, and carried their British passports.’

Mr and Mrs Sakr have thrived in Britain, running a successful business. They moved here from Egypt 35 years ago thinking it was a good place to raise a family.

‘It was democratic, and compared to where I was before in Egypt that was a big gap,’ Mr Sakr explains. ’There was no dictator here, no bad laws like there were back home, so we decided to start a new life.’

Mohamed was born in London in 1985 and grew up as a normal, sporty child. ‘He was very popular amongst his friends, yet very quiet at the same time, very polite, he was just a normal child,’ recalls Eman.

As he got older his parents had worried about him getting into trouble.  ‘He loved going out, he loved to dress up, to wear the best clothes, he liked everything to be top range,’ recalls Mr Sakr.

‘I used to tell him, after midnight there’s no good news. So I’d say, “Make sure you are home before 12”. He said “OK, OK I’ll try, you know,”’ said his mother.

In his early twenties he calmed down and in 2007 set up an executive car valeting business. His parents thought their son would follow in his father’s entrepreneurial footsteps.

But in the summer of the same year Mohamed travelled to Saudi Arabia on what his parents say was a pilgrimage ‘with a couple of friends and their wives’, before heading to Egypt to join his family on holiday. From there, the Sakrs say, Mohamed and his younger brother also visited the family of a girlfriend in Dubai.

His actions were innocent, the family insists. But Mohamed was questioned for ‘at least three hours’ by immigration officials on his return to the UK. The questions focused on the countries he had visited and his reasons for going there.

‘He told them, “I didn’t plan to visit all these countries ­- it’s just how my summer has happened,”’ his mother recalls.

It’s thought that UK counter-terrorism officials were becoming concerned that a group of radicalised young men was emerging in the capital, influenced by British Islamists who had returned home after fighting in Somalia.

The Sakrs both say that their eldest son became the subject of repeated police ‘harassment’ in which he was stopped on numerous occasions by plain-clothes officers.

After one incident Mohamed told his mother ‘They’re watching me momma, everywhere I go they watch me.’ The family became convinced that their phones were being tapped.

Mohamed was spending a lot of time with a friend he had met when he was 12 – Bilal al­-Berjawi. The two had lived in adjacent flats.

The childhood friends would both lose their British citizenship weeks apart in 2010 – and would die weeks apart too, in covert US airstrikes.

Berjawi’s Lebanese parents had brought him to London as a baby, and like Sakr, Berjawi had drawn the attention of Britain’s counter-terrorism agencies.

The Sakr family insists they were not aware of any wrongdoing on Mohamed’s part, despite frequent trouble with the police.

In February 2009 Berjawi and Sakr visited Kenya for what they told their families was a ‘safari’.

Both were detained in Nairobi, where they were said to have been interrogated by British intelligence officials. The authorities suspected them of terrorism-related activities.

They were released and only deported back to the UK because both, at that time, still had their British citizenship.

While the two were still being detained in Kenya, police arrived at the London family home with a search warrant.

Cards left behind by officers identify them as members of SO15,­ the Met’s counter-terrorism squad. Mr Sakr says he was shocked to be told that the family might have to vacate their home for up to two weeks while officers searched. The indignant family found themselves put up in the nearby Hilton hotel.

Two days later the family was allowed home. And shortly afterwards Mohamed and Bilal were deported back to Britain.

Mr Sakr challenged his son: ‘I was asking questions, why has this happened and Mohamed said “Daddy, it’s finished, it will never happen again. It’s all done and dusted.” So I just put a cap on it and continued with a normal life.’

Mohamed’s mother insisted on accompanying him to a mosque so she could hear the sermons he was listening to.

I wanted to hear what they’re saying, I was always on top of this, always. I wanted to know why the police were after him, why?’ says Mrs Sakr. ‘So he used to take me to different mosques, and the sermons were normal, nothing unusual.’

In October 2009, with ever-growing trouble with the British authorities, Mohamed and Berjawi decided to slip out of the country. Neither told their families that they were leaving, or where they were going.

‘The police came asking “Where is Mohamed?” And I said “I don’t know.” That was the honest answer, I didn’t know where my son was,’ says Mr Sakr.

Months later Mohamed phoned his parents from Somalia. Both he and Berjawi were now living in a country gripped by civil war between radical Islamists and a rump UN-backed government.

While it’s been reported that both men were drawn to terrorist-linked groups, the Sakrs say the pair had innocent connections with the troubled east African nation. Berjawi had married a Somali woman in London, and Sakr at one time had also been engaged to marry a Somali girl.

Although both were killed by the US, most of the allegations against Sakr and Berjawi remain secret.

Some information has emerged, however. In November 2009, the pair were named along with a third British man in a Ugandan manhunt, accused of ‘sneaking into the country’ to plot terrorist activities. Later the men were linked to deadly bombings in that country’s capital.

The letter seen by the Bureau informing Mohamed’s family that he was losing his citizenship states he was ‘involved in terrorism-related activity’ and for having links with ‘Islamist extremists’, including his friend Bilal al-Berjawi.

The Sakrs remain defensive about these claims. ‘Have they done anything? Have they been caught in anything? Have they been caught in any action? Do they have any evidence against them that they have been involved in this or that? I haven’t seen. And they haven’t come up with it,’ says Mr Sakr.

‘It says they took his freedom away because he knew Bilal! Does it mean that because I know a bad person it means I’m bad, or know good people that I’m good? He’d known Bilal since he was 12 years old!,’ says Mohamed’s mother.

At first Mohamed wanted to fight the deprivation order, and his family hired lawyers in the UK. But they were told that in order to mount an effective appeal Mohamed would need to return to Britain.

Letter from the Home Office.

Letter from the Home Office.

His parents say he was too scared to come back.

‘He said, “Daddy, it is impossible for me,”’ says Mr Sakr. “He said, “If I go from here, they’ve already taken my passport from me, maybe they will catch me somewhere, and you will never hear from me again.” He knew something could happen to him.’

In February 2012, news agencies reported that a high-ranking Egyptian al Qaeda official had been killed in a US drone strike in Somalia.

It would be days before the family realised those reports actually referred to their son.

Mr Sakr says: ‘Their hands were washed. And that’s what they claimed when the news first came. They announced that Mohamed was Egyptian [cries]. That’s why they tried to show to the rest of the world, “He’s an Egyptian. He’s not British.”

‘Intelligence killed millions of Iraqis on the basis of wrong information. If we go and kill everyone based on intelligence information, then we are not living in the world of democracy and justice. We are living in the world of “Who has the power and who has the weapons to kill,”’ Mr Sakr rails.

‘If you’re not happy about a dictator or about rules or freedom of speech, and then you come to a country like Britain which we know for hundreds and hundreds of years has talked of democracy and freedom, and laws and justice. And suddenly you find there’s no justice, no freedom of speech, no democracy.’

© 2013 The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Drone strikes in Syria? CIA ‘boosting’ intelligence force to ‘size up’ Syrian extremists

Published time: March 16, 2013 11:47
A Syrian rebel crosses a street while trying to dodge sniper fire in the old city of Aleppo in northern Syria.(AFP Photo / Jm Lopez)

The CIA may be preparing for lethal drone strikes in Syria, as it is extending its intelligence-gathering on Islamic radicals in the country, US media has reported. At the same time, US officials are pressing for the supplying arms to rebels.

“The CIA has stepped up secret contingency planning to protect the United States and its allies as the turmoil expands in Syria, including collecting intelligence on Islamic extremists for the first time for possible lethal drone strikes,” according to current and former US officials, reported in the LA Times.

The agency’s counterterrorism center has recently transferred an unspecified number of targeting officers to the area. The center is notorious for its previous drone campaigns in Yemen and Pakistan.

Targeting officers are responsible for the compilation of large packages of information on specific zones. Those working on Syria are currently based at the organization’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, as not many US operatives have been deployed to the area.

The increased focus on identifying threats in Syria carries the implication that the agency is preparing plans for counter-action – both violent and nonviolent – against potential militants, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“If we do this, why don't we start droning people in Hezbollah?” a former CIA officer with experience in Iraq told the Los Angeles Times. “It opens the door for a lot of other things.”


In a trend apparently countering the CIA’s alleged securi