Friday, September 22, 2017
Search

Iraq - search results

If you're not happy with the results, please do another search

9/11 Military Trial Judge Frustrated by Government Censorship … Like the 9/11 Commissioners

kangaroo1

Kangaroo Court Show Trials

Huffington Post reports:

A judge expressed frustration on Monday that an unknown U.S. government entity censored his courtroom audiovisual feed, cutting public access to pretrial hearings for five accused Sept. 11 plotters.

“If some external body is turning the commission on or off based on their own views of what things ought to be, with no reasonable explanation … then we’re going to have a little meeting about who turns that light on and off,” said the judge, Col. James Pohl.

Pohl’s comments came after an unknown censor cut off a live media feed to the court proceedings as David Nevin, a lawyer defending Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, began discussing his request for information on his client’s case.

***

A court security officer positioned next to the judge has the ability to dump the feed if anything secret arises. That officer didn’t activate the censorship button on Monday.

***

“I would like to know who has the permission to turn that light on and off, who is listening to this, who is controlling these proceedings, or controlling that aspect of these proceedings,” Nevin said.

This is just one of a series of outrages regarding investigation and trial of alleged 9/11 terrorists.

In 2008, the former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo’s military commissions disclosed that the trials have been rigged to prevent the possibility of acquittal. Specifically, the head of the Guantanamo tribunal — who is actually in charge of both prosecuting and defending the suspects — told the former chief prosecutor:

Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals, we’ve got to have convictions.

In addition, three other Guantanamo prosecutors — Maj. Robert Preston, Capt. John Carr and Capt. Carrie Wolf — “asked to be relieved of duties after saying they were concerned that the process was rigged. One said he had been assured he didn’t need to worry about building a proper case; convictions were assured.”

Another former Guantanamo prosecutor resigned, saying in a sworn declaration that the government pulled all sorts of shenanigans in one case.

The head of the tribunal also said that — even if the defendants are somehow acquitted — they may not be released from Guantanamo.

No wonder the American Bar Association, “which the Pentagon had said would help arrange such representation, has refused to participate because it objects to the trial procedures.” And no wonder the defense attorneys who have agreed to represent the defendants say that the process is completely unfair. See also this interview.

MSNBC speculated that the U.S. put a “stun belt” on alleged terrorist Moussaoui during his trial to keep him in line:

9/11 Commissioners Slam Blatant Obstruction of Justice

The 9/11 Commissioners publicly expressed anger at cover ups and obstructions of justice by the government into a real 9/11 investigation:

  • The Commission’s co-chairs said that the CIA (and likely the White House) “obstructed our investigation”
  • The Senior Counsel to the 9/11 Commission (John Farmer) – who led the 9/11 staff’s inquiry – said “At some level of the government, at some point in time…there was an agreement not to tell the truth about what happened“. He also said “I was shocked at how different the truth was from the way it was described …. The tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public for two years…. This is not spin. This is not true.”

And the Co-Chair of the official Congressional Inquiry Into 9/11 – and former head of the Senate Intelligence Committee – has called for a new 9/11 investigation.

Some examples of obstruction of justice into the 9/11 investigation include:

  • An FBI informant hosted and rented a room to two hijackers in 2000. Specifically, investigators for the Congressional Joint Inquiry discovered that an FBI informant had hosted and even rented a room to two hijackers in 2000 and that, when the Inquiry sought to interview the informant, the FBI refused outright, and then hid him in an unknown location, and that a high-level FBI official stated these blocking maneuvers were undertaken under orders from the White House. As the New York Times notes:

    Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who is a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, accused the White House on Tuesday of covering up evidence ….The accusation stems from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s refusal to allow investigators for a Congressional inquiry and the independent Sept. 11 commission to interview an informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who had been the landlord in San Diego of two Sept. 11 hijackers.

  • The chairs of both the 9/11 Commission and the Official Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 said that Soviet-style government “minders” obstructed the investigation into 9/11 by intimidating witnesses
  • The 9/11 Commissioners concluded that officials from the Pentagon lied to the Commission, and considered recommending criminal charges for such false statements
  • As reported by ACLU, FireDogLake, RawStory and many others, declassified documents shows that Senior Bush administration officials sternly cautioned the 9/11 Commission against probing too deeply into the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001

Both the 9/11 Trials and the 9/11 Commission Investigation Were Based on Unreliable Evidence Produced by Torture

The CIA videotaped the interrogation of 9/11 suspects, falsely told the 9/11 Commission that there were no videotapes or other records of the interrogations, and then illegally destroyed all of the tapes and transcripts of the interrogations.

9/11 Commission co-chairs Thomas Keane and Lee Hamilton wrote:

Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation.

The chief lawyer for Guantanamo litigation – Vijay Padmanabhan – said that torture of 9/11 suspects was widespread. And Susan J. Crawford, the senior Pentagon official overseeing the military commissions at Guantánamo — the novel system of trials for terror suspects that was conceived in the wake of the 9/11 attacks — told Bob Woodward:

We tortured Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture.

Moreover, the type of torture used by the U.S. on the Guantanamo suspects is of a special type. Senator Levin revealed that the the U.S. used Communist torture techniques specifically aimed at creating false confessions. (and see this, this, this and this).  And according to NBC News:

  • Much of the 9/11 Commission Report was based upon the testimony of people who were tortured
  • At least four of the people whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report have claimed that they told interrogators information as a way to stop being “tortured.”
  • One of the Commission’s main sources of information was tortured until he agreed to sign a confession that he was NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO READ
  • The 9/11 Commission itself doubted the accuracy of the torture confessions, and yet kept their doubts to themselves

The Hagel Hearings: The Last Best Chance for the Truth About a Lost War...

Don’t let the forces of regression dominate the media in 2013 - click here to support brave, independent reporting today by making a contribution to Truthout.

He’s been battered by big-money conservative groups looking to derail his bid for secretary of defense.  Critics say he wants to end America’s nuclear program.  They claim he’s anti-Israel and soft on Iran.  So you can expect intense questioning -- if only for theatrical effect -- about all of the above (and undoubtedly then some) as Chuck Hagel faces his Senate confirmation hearings today.  

You can be sure of one other thing: Hagel’s military service in Vietnam will be mentioned -- and praised. It’s likely, however, to be in a separate and distinct category, unrelated to the pointed questions about current issues like defense priorities, his beliefs on the use of force abroad, or the Defense Department’s role in counterterrorism operations.  You can also be sure of this: no senator will ask Chuck Hagel about his presence during the machine-gunning of an orphanage in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta or the lessons he might have drawn from that incident.

Nor is any senator apt to ask what Hagel might do if allegations about similar acts by American troops emerge in Afghanistan or elsewhere.  Nor will some senator question him on the possible parallels between the CIA-run Phoenix Program, a joint U.S.-Vietnamese venture focused on identifying and killing civilians associated with South Vietnam’s revolutionary shadow government, and the CIA’s current targeted-killing-by-drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands.  Nor, for that matter, is he likely to be asked about the lessons he learned fighting a war in a foreign land among a civilian population where innocents and enemies were often hard to tell apart.  If, however, Hagel’s military experience is to be touted as a key qualification for his becoming secretary of defense, shouldn’t the American people have some idea of just what that experience was really like and how it shaped his thinking in regard to today’s wars?

Chuck Hagel on Murder in Vietnam

"In Chuck Hagel our troops see a decorated combat veteran of character and strength -- they see him as one of their own," President Obama said as he nominated the former Republican senator from Nebraska to become the first former enlisted service member and first Vietnam veteran to serve as secretary of defense.  He went on to call him “the leader that our troops deserve.”

Chuck Hagel and his younger brother, Tom, fought together in Vietnam in 1968. The two are believed to be the only brothers to have served in the same infantry squad in that war and even more remarkably, each ended up saving the other's life.  “With Chuck, our troops will always know, just as Sergeant Hagel was there for his own brother, Secretary Hagel will be there for you,” the president said. 

Largely unnoted was the falling out the brothers had over the conflict.  After returning home, Tom began protesting the war, while Chuck defended it.  Eventually, the Hagel brothers reconciled and even returned to Vietnam together in 1999.  Years before, however, the two sat down with journalist and historian Myra MacPherson and talked about the war.  Although their interpretations of what they had been through differed, it’s hard not to come away with the sense that both witnessed U.S. atrocities, and that Chuck Hagel’s vision of the war is far more brutal than most Americans imagine.  That his experience of Vietnam would include such incidents should hardly be surprising, especially given the fact that Hagel served in the 9th Infantry Division under one of the most notorious U.S. commanders, Julian Ewell, known more colorfully as “the Butcher of the Delta.”

The Hagel brothers, MacPherson recounts in her moving and important history Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation, argued over whether American troops were “murdering” people.  Chuck disagreed at first, pointing instead to the depredations of Vietnamese revolutionary forces.  Tom reminded his brother of the CIA’s Phoenix Program which, with an estimated body count of more than 20,000 Vietnamese, too often turned murderous and was no less regularly used by corrupt Vietnamese government officials to settle personal grudges.  “There was some of that,” Chuck finally granted.

Tom then raised an example that hit closer to home -- the time, after an enemy attack, when a sergeant from their unit took out his frustrations on a nearby orphanage.  “Remember the orphanage, Chuck… That sergeant was so drunk and so pissed off that he crawled up on that track [armored personnel carrier] and opened up on that orphanage with a fifty-caliber machine gun,” Tom said.

When Chuck started to object, MacPherson writes, his brother was insistent.  “Chuck, you were there!  Down at the bottom of the sandhill.”  Skeptically, Chuck asked his brother if he was saying the sergeant had “slaughtered children in the orphanage.”  Tom granted that he didn’t know for sure, “because none of us went in to check.”  Chuck responded, “In any war you can take any isolated incident…”

But the war Tom Hagel detailed to MacPherson wasn’t one punctuated by a few isolated “incidents.”  He would talk about officers ordering the mutilation of enemy dead and soldiers shooting up and burning down a village, about how helicopter gunships and napalm decimated large areas of the countryside, about the lethality of indiscriminate weapons fire and about coming upon the bodies of women and children when firefights were over.  He also recounted, in detail, a July 1968 assault on a “hardcore” enemy village in which their unit took part.  After the battle had ended, he said, a lieutenant shot and killed a civilian in cold blood.  “We’re collecting all the NVA [North Vietnamese Army] bodies and this woman walks out of a hootch.  He just shot her dead,” Tom recalled.

The Hagel Hearings: America’s Last Best Chance for the Truth

Recently, MacPherson wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in support of Chuck Hagel’s bid to serve as Secretary of Defense: “His experience has taught him the physical and mental toll of combat.  He would surely think twice before sending young men and women into unnecessary, stupid, or unwinnable conflicts... One thing I know: Chuck Hagel will stand up to whatever is thrown at him.” 

Tom Hagel has recently talked about his brother in similarly glowing terms.  “He’s going to do a great job, he’ll be totally committed to it,” he told Politico. “I think he will bring special sensitivity for enlisted personnel to the job, because, of course, of his experiences as an enlisted person in Nam.”    

While he ultimately voted to authorize the war in Iraq -- despite grave misgivings -- there is a perception that, in the future, Hagel would be reticent to plunge the United States into yet more reckless wars and a strong belief exists among his supporters that he will stand up for America’s sons and daughters in uniform.  On one subject, however, Hagel’s Vietnam experience shows him in a lesser light: sensitivity to the plight of the men and women who live in America’s war zones.  In this area, his seeming unwillingness to face up to, no less tell the whole truth about, the Vietnam War he saw should raise serious questions.  Unfortunately, it’s a blind spot not just for him, but for official Washington generally, and probably much of the country as well. 

It’s worth noting that the Hagel brothers left Vietnam just as their commanding general, Julian Ewell, launched a six-month operation in the Mekong Delta code-named Speedy Express.  One whistleblowing veteran who served in that operation told the Army’s top generals that Ewell’s use of heavy firepower on the countryside resulted in a “My Lai each month” (a reference, of course, to the one massacre most Americans know about, in which U.S. troops slaughtered more than 500 civilians, most of them women, children, and elderly men).  That veteran’s shocking allegations were kept secret and a nascent inquiry into them was suppressed by the Pentagon.

A later Newsweek investigation would conclude that as many as 5,000 civilians were killed during Speedy Express.  A secret internal military report, commissioned after Newsweek published its account, suggested that the magazine had offered a low-end estimate.  The document, kept secret and then buried for decades, concluded:

“While there appears to be no means of determining the precise number of civilian casualties incurred by US forces during Operation Speedy Express, it would appear that the extent of these casualties was in fact substantial, and that a fairly solid case can be constructed to show that civilian casualties may have amounted to several thousand (between 5,000 and 7,000).”

During the war, efforts by U.S. senators to look into Speedy Express were thwarted by Pentagon officials.  More than four decades later, no senator is ever going to launch an investigation into what actually happened or the Pentagon cover-up that kept the American people in the dark for decades.  Theoretically, the Hagel hearings do offer the Senate a belated chance to ask a few pertinent questions about the Vietnam War and the real lessons it holds for today’s era of continuous conflict and for the civilians in distant lands who suffer from it.  But any such hope is, we know, sure to die a quick death in that Senate hearing room.

Chuck Hagel’s views on the Vietnam War underwent a fundamental shift following the release of audio tapes of President Lyndon Johnson admitting, in 1964, that the war was unwinnable.  That "cold political calculation" caused Hagel to vow that he would "never, ever remain silent when that kind of thinking put more American lives at risk in any conflict." 

But what about lives other than those of Americans?  What about children in shot-up orphanages or women who survive a murderous crossfire only to be gunned down in cold blood?  Chuck Hagel may well be, as Mr. Obama contends, “the leader that our troops deserve.”  But don’t the American people deserve a little honesty from that leader about the war that shaped him?  In these few days, the senators considering his nomination have an opportunity, perhaps the last one available, to get some answers about a war whose realities, never quite faced here, continue to dog us so many decades later.  It’s a shame that they are sure to pass it up in favor of the usual political theater.

Israeli Attack on Syria: Desperate Bid to Save Failed US-NATO Covert War

israelus

Israel has conducted airstrikes in Syria based on “suspicions” of chemical weapon transfers, in a flagrant violation of the UN Charter, international law, and in direct violation of Syria’s sovereignty. The Guardian in its report titled, “Israel carries out air strike on Syria,” claims:

“Israeli warplanes have attacked a target close to the Syrian-Lebanese border following several days of heightened warnings from government officials over Syria’s stockpiles of weapons.”

It also stated:

“Israel has publicly warned that it would take military action to prevent the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons falling into the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon or “global jihadists” fighting inside Syria. Israeli military intelligence is said to be monitoring the area round the clock via satellite for possible convoys carrying weapons.”

In reality, these “global jihaidists” are in fact armed and funded by the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel since at least as early as 2007. They are also in fact the direct beneficiaries of Israel’s recent aggression. The Israeli “suspicions” of “weapon transfers” of course, remain unconfirmed, because the purpose of the attack was not to prevent the transfer of “chemical weapons” to Hezbollah in Lebanon, but to provoke a wider conflict aimed not at Israel’s defense, but at salvaging the West’s floundering proxy terrorist forces inside Syria attempting to subvert and overthrow the Syrian nation.


The silence from the United Nations is deafening. While Turkey openly harbors foreign terrorists, arming and funding them with Western, Saudi, and Qatari cash as they conduct raids on neighboring Syria, any Syrian attack on Turkish territory would immediately result in the United Nations mobilizing. Conversely, Turkey is allowed, for years, to conduct air strikes and even partial ground invasions of neighboring Iraq to attack Kurdish groups accused of undermining Turkish security. It is clear the same double standard has long applied to Israel.

Israel, along with the US & Saudi Arabia, are Al Qaeda’s chief sponsors.

It must be remembered that as far back as 2007, it was admitted by US, Saudi and Lebanese officials that the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia were intentionally arming, funding, and organizing these “global jihadists” with direct ties to Al Qaeda for the explicit purpose of overthrowing the governments of Syria and Iran.

Reported by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his New Yorker article, “The Redirection,” it was stated (emphasis added):

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

Of Israel it specifically stated:

“The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.”

Additionally, Saudi Arabian officials mentioned the careful balancing act their nation must play in order to conceal its role in supporting US-Israeli ambitions across the region:

“The Saudi said that, in his country’s view, it was taking a political risk by joining the U.S. in challenging Iran: Bandar is already seen in the Arab world as being too close to the Bush Administration. “We have two nightmares,” the former diplomat told me. “For Iran to acquire the bomb and for the United States to attack Iran. I’d rather the Israelis bomb the Iranians, so we can blame them. If America does it, we will be blamed.””

It may interest readers to know that while France invades and occupies large swaths of Mali in Africa, accusing the Qataris of funding and arming Al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups in the region, France, the US, and Israel are working in tandem with the Qataris to fund and arm these very same groups in Syria.

In fact, the US-based think-tank, the Brookings Institution literally has a “Doha Center” based in Qatar while US-Israeli citizen Haim Saban’s Brookings “Saban Center” conducts meetings and has many of its board of directors based likewise in Doha, Qatar. Doha also served as the venue for the creation of the West’s most recent “Syrian Coalition,” headed by an unabashed supporter of Al Qaeda, Moaz al-Khatib.

These are part of the brick and mortar manifestation of the conspiracy documented by Seymour Hersh in 2007.

The Wall Street Journal, also in 2007, reported on the US Bush Administration’s plans of creating a partnership with Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, noting the group is the ideological inspiration for linked terror organizations including Al Qaeda itself. In the article titled, “”To Check Syria, U.S. Explores Bond With Muslim Brothers,” it states:

“On a humid afternoon in late May, about 100 supporters of Syria’s largest exile opposition group, the National Salvation Front, gathered outside Damascus’s embassy here to protest Syrian President Bashar Assad’s rule. The participants shouted anti-Assad slogans and raised banners proclaiming: “Change the Regime Now.”

The NSF unites liberal democrats, Kurds, Marxists and former Syrian officials in an effort to transform President Assad’s despotic regime. But the Washington protest also connected a pair of more unlikely players — the U.S. government and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The article would also report:

“U.S. diplomats and politicians have also met with legislators from parties connected to the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Egypt and Iraq in recent months to hear their views on democratic reforms in the Middle East, U.S. officials say. Last month, the State Department’s intelligence unit organized a conference of Middle East experts to examine the merits of engagement with the Brotherhood, particularly in Egypt and Syria.”

It describes the ideological and operational links between the Brotherhood and Al Qaeda:

“Today, the Brotherhood’s relationship to Islamist militancy, and al Qaeda in particular, is the source of much debate. Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders cite the works of the Brotherhood’s late intellectual, Sayyid Qutb, as an inspiration for their crusade against the West and Arab dictators. Members of Egyptian and Syrian Brotherhood arms have also gone on to take senior roles in Mr. bin Laden’s movement.”

Yet despite all of this, the US, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, along with Israel and Turkey are openly conspiring with them, and have now for years been arming and funding these very sectarian extremist, terrorist groups across the Arab World, from Libya to Egypt, and now in and around Syria.

Israel’s fears of these terrorists acquiring “chemical weapons” is absurd. They have already acquired them with US, NATO, British, Saudi, Qatari and even Israeli help in Libya in 2011. In fact, these very Libyan terrorists are spearheading the foreign militant groups flooding into Syria through the Turkish-Syrian border.

What Israel’s strike may really mean.

Indeed, Israel’s explanation as to why it struck neighboring Syria is tenuous at best considering its long, documented relationship with actually funding and arming the very “global jihaidists” it fears weapons may fall into the hands of. Its fears of Hezbollah are likewise unfounded – Hezbollah, had it, the Syrians, or the Iranians been interested in placing chemical weapons in Lebanon, would have done so already, and most certainly would do so with means other than conspicuous convoys simply “crossing the border.” Hezbollah has already proven itself capable of defeating Israeli aggression with conventional arms, as demonstrated during the summer of 2006.

In reality, the pressure placed on Syria’s borders by both Israel and its partner, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey in the north, is part of a documented plan to relieve pressure on the Western, Israeli, Saudi-Qatari armed and funded militants operating inside Syria.

The above mentioned, Fortune 500-funded (page 19), US foreign-policy think-tank, Brookings Institution – which has blueprinted designs for regime change in Libya as well as both Syria and Iran – stated this specifically in their report titled, “Assessing Options for Regime Change.”

Image: The Brookings Institution, Middle East Memo #21 “Assessing Options for Regime Change (.pdf),” makes no secret that the humanitarian “responsibility to protect” is but a pretext for long-planned regime change.

….

Brookings describes how Israeli efforts in the south of Syria, combined with Turkey’s aligning of vast amounts of weapons and troops along its border to the north, could help effect violent regime change in Syria:

“In addition, Israel’s intelligence services have a strong knowledge of Syria, as well as assets within the Syrian regime that could be used to subvert the regime’s power base and press for Asad’s removal. Israel could posture forces on or near the Golan Heights and, in so doing, might divert regime forces from suppressing the opposition. This posture may conjure fears in the Asad regime of a multi-front war, particularly if Turkey is willing to do the same on its border and if the Syrian opposition is being fed a steady diet of arms and training. Such a mobilization could perhaps persuade Syria’s military leadership to oust Asad in order to preserve itself. Advocates argue this additional pressure could tip the balance against Asad inside Syria, if other forces were aligned properly.” -page 6, Assessing Options for Regime Change, Brookings Institution.

Of course, airstrikes inside Syria go beyond “posturing,” and indicate perhaps a level of desperation in the West who appear to have elected their chief villain, Israel, to incrementally “intervene” just as they had planned in regards to attacking Iran – also documented by Brookings in a report titled, “Which Path to Persia?

In regards to Iran, in Brookings’ “Which Path to Persia?” report, it states specifically (emphasis added):

“Israel appears to have done extensive planning and practice for such a strike already, and its aircraft are probably already based as close to Iran as possible. as such, Israel might be able to launch the strike in a matter of weeks or even days, depending on what weather and intelligence conditions it felt it needed. Moreover, since Israel would have much less of a need (or even interest) in securing regional support for the operation, Jerusalem probably would feel less motivated to wait for an Iranian provocation before attacking. In short, Israel could move very fast to implement this option if both Israeli and American leaders wanted it to happen.

However, as noted in the previous chapter, the airstrikes themselves are really just the start of this policy. Again, the Iranians would doubtless rebuild their nuclear sites. They would probably retaliate against Israel, and they might retaliate against the United States, too (which might create a pretext for American airstrikes or even an invasion).” -page 91, Which Path to Perisa?, Brookings Institution.

And in this statement we can gather insight behind both Israel’s otherwise irrational belligerent posture throughout its brief history, as well as its most recent act of unprovoked aggression against Syria. Israel’s role is to play the “bad guy.” As a regional beachhead for Western corporate-financier interests, it provides a “foot in the door” to any of the West’s many desired conflicts. By bombing Syria, it hopes to provoke a wider conflict – an intervention the West has desired and planned for since it tipped off Syria’s violent conflict in 2011.

For Syria and its allies – the goal now must be to deter further Israeli aggression and avoid wider conflict at all costs. If NATO’s proxy terrorist forces are as weak as they appear – incapable of tactical or strategic gains, and tapering off into desperate terrorist attacks, it is only a matter of time before NATO’s campaign grinds to a halt. As mentioned before, such a failure on NATO’s part will be the beginning of the end for it, and the Western interests that have been using it as a tool to achieve geopolitical hegemony.

Israel should be expected to commit to increasingly desperate acts to provoke Syria and Iran – as its leadership represent directly corporate-financier interests abroad, not the Israeli people, or their best interests (including peace and even survival). For the people of Israel, they must realize that their leadership indeed does not represent them or their best interests and is able, willing, and even eager to spend their lives and fortunes in the service of foreign, corporate-financier interests and global hegemony.

Controlling Lucifer: How Everyone Loses the Global War on Terror

The president negotiates our withdrawal from Afghanistan, proclaims mission accomplished — and the wars of the last decade continue winding down to nothing.

We’ll be leaving behind an unstable country with one of the world’s highest infant mortality rates and hundreds of armed insurgent groups. We haven’t rescued or rebuilt the country or accomplished any objective that begins to justify the human and financial cost of this adventure. We just lost.

But we’re the most powerful nation on the planet. How is that possible? And, as Tom Engelhardt asks, “who exactly beat us? Where exactly is the triumphant enemy?”

He goes on, in an essay that ran this week on Common Dreams: “Did we in some bizarre fashion fight ourselves and lose? After all, last year, more American servicemen died from suicide than on the battlefield in Afghanistan; and a startling number of Americans were killed in ‘green on blue’ or ‘insider’ attacks by Afghan ‘allies’ rather than by that fragmented movement we still call the Taliban.”

Did we fight ourselves and lose? This is a question for the millennium — a question in which the human future hangs in the balance. A rich, arrogant and unbelievably powerful nation, riding a tide of opportune vengeance, pursuing its global interests, invades a poor, backward country, then a year and a half later invades another. It pours multi-trillions of dollars into the adventure and unleashes the most sophisticated high-tech weaponry the world has ever seen. On the home front, the war is backed by at least 80 percent of the population. It’s a good war, a righteous war, proclaimed by the prodigious public relations arm of the military-industrial consensus as a “war on terror” . . . a war on evil itself.

And we lost. Or sort of lost — at least in the sense that we didn’t win. As Andrew Bacevich wrote in 2010: “By 2007, the American officer corps itself gave up on victory, although without giving up on war. First in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, priorities shifted. High-ranking generals shelved their expectations of winning . . . . They sought instead to not lose. In Washington as in U.S. military command posts, the avoidance of outright defeat emerged as the new gold standard of success.”

His essay was titled, “Is War Becoming Obsolete?” That is, is war becoming an ineffective means of achieving, not merely the aims of its own propaganda (the defeat of evil), but its actual, limited goals of regional dominance, the looting of natural resources, the containment of geopolitical rivals? And if so, does it matter?

Beyond such questions, I sense that a larger question lurks: Might it be that war isn’t something we wage, so much as a force that wages us? And if that’s the case, it doesn’t particularly matter whether we win or lose because it’s not in our control anyway, at least not in the way we think it is. War has been obsolete for at least the last century, in that the damage it inflicted shattered winner and loser alike, almost to the point of mutual suicide — not counting the United States, which emerged powerful and prosperous and on top of the world after World War II. It took another half-century or so for the lose-lose nature of war to catch up to us, and thus for us to begin noticing its obsolescence.

This may be a good time to begin assessing the nature of our loss in the war on terror, beyond the non-achievement of geopolitical ends and non-fulfillment of whatever our mission actually was. Certainly this loss includes expenditures in the trillions of dollars, contributing enormously to the national bankruptcy.

And it also includes the thousands of American combat deaths and the hundreds of thousands of soldiers wounded, both physically and psychologically, during their extended deployments, or suffering from an array of mystery nerve, respiratory and multiple other illnesses— now called chronic multisymptom illness and declared, in a recent report by the federal Institute of Medicine, to be the same symptoms that several hundred thousand vets from the 1991 Gulf War still suffer from — which are the result of the toxic hell that modern warfare inflicts on its battle zones.

In the process of inflicting all this harm on ourselves, of course, we inflicted infinitely more harm on the nations we invaded, killing hundreds of thousands, displacing millions, and polluting Iraq and Afghanistan with radioactive waste from depleted uranium munitions and the toxins of unregulated burn pits, among much else. In 2010, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published the results of a study showing that Fallujah, Iraq, was experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukemia and infant mortality than Hiroshima and Nagasaki did in 1945.

Is war becoming obsolete? When war's toxic aftermath is endured only by the defeated “enemy,” the winners can still cheer. But today there’s no cheering on any side of the erstwhile war on terror. The pertinent question is: How do we stop our mad preparation for future wars?

And there’s only one answer: Stop inventing enemies, whom we proceed to dehumanize. Once we begin the dehumanization process, we lose — not just figuratively, but literally, and in almost incalculable ways. Philip Zimbardo coined the term “the Lucifer Effect” to describe the sadistic corruption that consumes good-hearted men and women when they are given overwhelming power over others. We wage war thinking we can control the Lucifer Effect. We’re always wrong.

The Rise Of America’s Lunatic Fringe

Authored by chindit

The Rise Of America's Lunatic Fringe

Anyone who spends any amount of time on the internet has seen them. They are the moonbats, the wingnuts, the whackjobs, the Conspiratorialists. They are America’s new Lunatic Fringe, and their numbers are growing.

While the rise of the internet fed a segment of society that has always existed, as the cyberworld has become an increasingly important source of both entertainment and information, an entirely new demographic has joined what was already amongst us.

Who are they and what do they believe?  The Lunatic Fringe is not uniform in either its background or beliefs.  Some clearly seem to be emotionally disturbed.  Others are simply naïve and gullible.  Still more are frustrated by an economy and a government that are behaving out of whack with what most people expected from life and from leadership.  They want to believe America stands for something noble, but it is increasingly felt by them that it does not.  They are confused, frustrated, disappointed, and growing angrier by the day.

They feel violated and betrayed.  Some harbor a diffuse rage which could blow at any time.  Others have figuratively thrown in the towel and have joined the ranks of the Preppers and Survivalists.  Surely the rise of this latter element, as evidenced by everything from a NatGeo show to an iPhone App, must be taken seriously and their concerns listened to if not addressed.

Collectively, though individually they differ, the beliefs of the Fringe include a conspiracy behind the JFK assassination, a faked moon landing, and the current favorite:  that 911 was an “inside” job.  The collective also includes the Birthers, and those who believe in everything from FEMA Camps to chemtrails to that retro old favorite of Colonel Jack Ripper, fluoridation.  (Those unfamiliar with these terms should Google them for more information than one might care to have.) The Fringe holds beliefs that have the world controlled variously by the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers, the Bilderbergers, Bohemian Grove, Skull and Bones, the Council on Foreign Relations, 33rd Degree Freemasons, the Vatican, the Queen of England, or just The Illuminati.

Every event and every incident in the world is affected by some Master Plan carried out by whomever the believer chooses from the aforementioned gallery of rogues.  For many, al Qaeda is really al CIAda, and the prime directive of that organization, along with all the other USG alphabet agencies, is to further the goals of the elite, usually through some “false flag” operation or “psy-op”, and this many believe is financed through sales of illicit drugs under the guise of CIA foreign operations.

Believers can “prove” each and every one of their claims via a series of cross-referenced internet links, the source of many undoubtedly just someone’s fertile imagination, but very real to the believers.

To the uninitiated this all seems rather humorous, albeit slightly unsettling.  It would be both wrong and unwise just to slough it off as the ramblings of the insane.  The reason such beliefs are gaining favor is because many Americans have lost faith and lost trust in the government and in America’s elected leadership.  Given what has happened over the last decade, this is not only understandable, it is even, in an odd way, reasonable.  A continual drift to the fringe can be expected because of the many very real things that make the foolish things suddenly more believable.

Why have the people lost faith and trust?  There is a host of reasons, perhaps beginning with the war of choice in Iraq and the vociferous and passionate claims of WMD that turned out to be false.  That war cost lives, cost sympathy and diplomatic capital, and cost trillions even when America was told by former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz that the war “would pay for itself from oil sales” and that “Americans would be welcomed with garlands”.  Neither was anything close to accurate.  Instead the US has war dead, war wounded, a huge bill, fewer friends, and many more enemies.

What truly exacerbated the rush to the fringe was the Financial Crisis and the subsequent railroaded bailouts, which “democratic” America opposed to the tune of 97%, and which were, and still are viewed as rewarding the very people who caused the collapse.  The oft-spoken official claims that “the taxpayer made a profit on the bailouts” just adds salt to the taxpayers’ wounds, as it conveniently fails to take into account the host of programs---from TALF to ZIRP to QEI, II, and III and Twist---that virtually handed the banks the money with which they could “pay back” the bailout cash.

America sees backroom deals and favors to insiders every step of the way, and rightfully so they see this, because that is exactly how the bailout was undertaken.  No one had to pay for his mistakes, and equally significant, no one has been prosecuted despite overwhelming evidence of fraud, malfeasance, and corruption.  Americans cannot help but subscribe to the cynical quip, “everyone is equal under the law, except for those who are above it”.  Fines don't count, especially when the money to pay them comes right back through another door. America's prisons are filled with people who did little more than use a banned substance.  It's time some bankers and officials faced the possibility of similar accommodations, should they be found guilty. Of course, first they must be prosecuted.

The belief that all is not fair is further cemented when the Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer can be taped (PBS, “Frontline”) saying, "Well, I think I am pursuing justice. And I think the entire responsibility of the department is to pursue justice. But in any given case, I think I and prosecutors around the country, being responsible, should speak to regulators, should speak to experts, because if I bring a case against institution A, and as a result of bringing that case, there’s some huge economic effect — if it creates a ripple effect so that suddenly, counterparties and other financial institutions or other companies that had nothing to do with this are affected badly — it’s a factor we need to know and understand."

No matter how one parses that quote it still says the same thing: some are above the law.

The American people are well aware they have been lied to by the leadership. They know that a lobbyist has an infinitely greater chance of getting his way than an entire nation of voters.  They know who pays the bills---the taxpayer---as well as who pays the politicians---the lobbyists.  They see the Federal Debt ballooning to Greek-like proportions, and the best Congress can do, other than take vacation or kick the can, is to tell Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to “get to work, Mr. Chairman”, which means print more money, monetize the deficit, and further dilute the value of the dollar.

Even some people within the government are undoubtedly growing frustrated. Imagine someone in DEA, FBI, CIA, or the military, who sees the slap on the wrist fine handed to a certain non-US bank for a decade or more of drug money laundering and laundering money for Iran, some of which might well have found its way to Hezbollah or to parties aiding the Iraqi insurgency. There are people in Waziristan who face the wrath of a drone-fired Hellfire missile with less evidence to back up the attack.  This bank, incidentally, received a $3.5 billion payment-in-full upon the US taxpayer bailout of insurer AIG.

When trust is gone, everything becomes an affront, a conspiracy, a power grab by the elite.  The recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which gives the President incredibly broad powers, seems to obviate both habeas corpus and the entire Bill of Rights.  When the trust is gone, people are less willing to believe that such a bill would never be used recklessly, or vindictively to put down vocal opponents of whatever Administration happens to be in power at the time.  When trust is gone, the people question new efforts to alter the Second Amendment, even if many are personally outraged at the rash of gun violence that has come to epitomize the United States, so they rush to guns rather than run from them.  When the trust is gone, the message of the Lunatic Fringe is afforded greater reception.  When the trust is gone the Fringe becomes the mainstream.

The government can no longer afford to ignore the Lunatic Fringe, because it is becoming less loon and more understandably and righteously indignant every day.  The government did not create the Fringe, but through callous disregard, incompetence, blatant self-interest, cronyism, selective enforcement, and pandering to its financial support base, the government has fertilized the fringe until it has grown to redwood-like size.  The nation's leadership is viewed not with admiration, but with distrust.  It is no longer the solution, but the problem.  It has reversed from friend to enemy, at least for a not insignificant portion of the citizenry.   The fringe is not going to go away, and it will continue to hammer away at an already fragile society.  It very well could lead to significant social unrest, even random violence.  New records in the Dow will not alter the focus, nor ameliorate the bubbling rage, even if the financial media or the Federal Reserve thinks it will.  This growing demographic of citizens must have their concerns addressed before it is too late.  Woe to those who ignore it.

To paraphrase a certain career New York Senator, “Mr. Government, get to work!”  Or better yet, get out of the way.

Your rating: None Average: 3.3 (13 votes)

The Real Invasion of Africa is Not News, and a Licence to Lie is...

africom

A full-scale invasion of Africa is under way. The United States is deploying troops in 35 African countries, beginning with Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger. Reported by Associated Press on Christmas Day, this was missing from most Anglo-American media.

The invasion has almost nothing to do with “Islamism”, and almost everything to do with the acquisition of resources, notably minerals, and an accelerating rivalry with China. Unlike China, the US and its allies are prepared to use a degree of violence demonstrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Palestine. As in the cold war, a division of labour requires that western journalism and popular culture provide the cover of a holy war against a “menacing arc” of Islamic extremism, no different from the bogus “red menace” of a worldwide communist conspiracy.

Reminiscent of the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, the US African Command (Africom) has built a network of supplicants among collaborative African regimes eager for American bribes and armaments. Last year, Africom staged Operation African Endeavor, with the armed forces of 34 African nations taking part, commanded by the US military.

Africom’s “soldier to soldier” doctrine embeds US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. Only pith helmets are missing.

It is as if Africa’s proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, is consigned to oblivion by a new master’s black colonial elite whose “historic mission”, warned Frantz Fanon half a century ago, is the promotion of “a capitalism rampant though camouflaged”.

A striking example is the eastern Congo, a treasure trove of strategic minerals, controlled by an atrocious rebel group known as the , which in turn is run by Uganda and Rwanda, the proxies of Washington.

Long planned as a “mission” for NATO, not to mention the ever-zealous French, whose colonial lost causes remain on permanent standby, the war on Africa became urgent in 2011 when the Arab world appeared to be liberating itself from the Mubaraks and other clients of Washington and Europe. The hysteria this caused in imperial capitals cannot be exaggerated. NATO bombers were dispatched not to Tunis or Cairo but Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi ruled over Africa’s largest oil reserves. With the Libyan city of Sirte reduced to rubble, the British SAS directed the “rebel” militias in what has since been exposed as a racist bloodbath.

The indigenous people of the Sahara, the Tuareg, whose Berber fighters Gaddafi had protected, fled home across Algeria to Mali, where the Tuareg have been claiming a separate state since the 1960s. As the ever watchful Patrick Cockburn points out, it is this local dispute, not al-Qaeda, that the West fears most in northwest Africa… “poor though the Tuareg may be, they are often living on top of great reserves of oil, gas, uranium and other valuable minerals”.

Almost certainly the consequence of a French/US attack on Mali on 13 January, a siege at a gas complex in Algeria ended bloodily, inspiring a 9/11 moment in David Cameron. The former Carlton TV PR man raged about a “global threat” requiring “decades” of western violence. He meant implantation of the west’s business plan for Africa, together with the rape of multi-ethnic Syria and the conquest of independent Iran.

Cameron has now ordered British troops to Mali, and sent an RAF drone, while his verbose military chief, General Sir David Richards, has addressed “a very clear message to jihadists worldwide: don’t dangle and tangle with us. We will deal with it robustly” – exactly what jihadists want to hear. The trail of blood of British army terror victims, all Muslims, their “systemic” torture cases currently heading to court, add necessary irony to the general’s words. I once experienced Sir David’s “robust” ways when I asked him if he had read the courageous Afghan feminist Malalai Joya’s description of the barbaric behaviour of westerners and their clients in her country. “You are an apologist for the Taliban” was his reply. (He later apologised).

These bleak comedians are straight out of Evelyn Waugh and allow us to feel the bracing breeze of history and hypocrisy. The “Islamic terrorism” that is their excuse for the enduring theft of Africa’s riches was all but invented by them. There is no longer any excuse to swallow the BBC/CNN line and not know the truth. Read Mark Curtis’s Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam (Serpent’s Tail) or John Cooley’s Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism (Pluto Press) or The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski (HarperCollins) who was midwife to the birth of modern fundamentalist terror. In effect, the mujahedin of al-Qaida and the Taliban were created by the CIA, its Pakistani equivalent, the Inter-Services Intelligence, and Britain’s MI6.

Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, describes a secret presidential directive in 1979 that began what became the current “war on terror”. For 17 years, the US deliberately cultivated, bank-rolled, armed and brainwashed jihadi extremists that “steeped a generation in violence”. Code-named Operation Cyclone, this was the “great game” to bring down the Soviet Union but brought down the Twin Towers.

Since then, the news that intelligent, educated people both dispense and ingest has become a kind of Disney journalism, fortified, as ever, by Hollywood’s licence to lie, and lie. There is the coming Dreamworks movie on WikiLeaks, a fabrication inspired by a book of perfidious title-tattle by two enriched Guardian journalists; and there is Zero Dark Thirty, which promotes torture and murder, directed by the Oscar-winning Kathryn Bigelow, the Leni Riefenstahl of our time, promoting her master’s voice as did the Fuhrer’s pet film-maker. Such is the one-way mirror through which we barely glimpse what power does in our name.

For more information on John Pilger, please visit his website at www.johnpilger.com

Meet the Contractors Turning America’s Police Into a Paramilitary Force

You should know about them because they may already know about you.

January 30, 2013  |  

Like this article?

Join our email list:

Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.

The national security state has an annual budget of around $1 trillion. Of that huge pile of money, large amounts go to private companies the federal government awards contracts to. Some, like Lockheed Martin or Boeing, are household names, but many of the contractors fly just under the public's radar. What follows are three companies you should know about (because some of them can learn a lot about you with their spy technologies).

L3 Communications

L3 is everywhere. Those night-vision goggles the JSOC team in Zero Dark Thirty uses?  That's L3. The new machines that are replacing the naked scanners at the airport?  That's L3. Torture at Abu Ghraib? A former subsidiary of L3 was recently ordered to pay $ 5.28 million to 71 Iraqis who had been held in the awful prison. 

Oh, and drones? L3 is on it. Reprieve, a UK-based human rights organization, earlier this month  wrote on its Web site:

“L-3 Communications is one of the main subcontractors involved with production of the US’s lethal Predator since the inception of the programme. Predators are used by the CIA to kill ‘suspected militants’ and terrorise entire populations in Pakistan and Yemen. Drone strikes have escalated under the Obama administration and 2013 has already seen six strikes in the two countries.”

Unsurprisingly, L3 Communications is well connected beyond the national security community. Its chief financial officer recently spoke at  Goldman Sachs, at what the financial titan hilariously refers to as a “fireside chat.”

L3 also supplies local law enforcement with its night-vision products and makes a license-plate recognition  (LPR) device, a machine with disturbing implications. LPR can be mounted on cop cruisers or statically positioned at busy intersections and can run potentially thousands of license plates through law enforcement databases in a matter of hours. In some parts of the country LPR readers can track your location for miles. As the Wall Street Journal noted, surveillance of even “mundane” activities of people not accused of any crime is now “the default rather than the exception.”

L3 Communications embodies the totality of the national security and surveillance state. There is only minimal distinction between its military products and police products. Its night-vision line is sold to both military and law enforcement. Its participation in the drone program is now, as far as we know, limited to countries in the Middle East and North Africa. But in the words of the  New York Times editorial board, “[i]t is not a question of whether drones will appear in the skies above the United States but how soon.” The NYT estimates the domestic drone market at $5 billion, likely a conservative estimate, and contractors will vie for that money in the public and private sphere. L3's venture into airports, the border of where domestic policy meets foreign policy in the name of national security, is therefore significant both symbolically and materially.

In many ways, that is the most important story of the post-9/11 United States: the complete evaporation of the separation of foreign and domestic polices. Whether we're talking about paramilitarized police, warrantless wiretapping, inhumane prison conditions, or drone surveillance, there exist few differences between a United States perpetually at war and a United States determined to police and imprison its people in unacceptable ways and at unacceptable rates.

Harris Corporation: Stingray “IMSI catcher”

Harris Corp. is a huge provider of national security and communications technology to federal and local law enforcement agencies. Though many people have never heard of it, Harris is a major player in the beltway National Security community. President and CEO William M. Brown was recently appointed to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, and in 2009 the Secret Service offered Harris a contract to train its agents in the use of Harris' Stingray line. The Secret Service awarded the company additional contracts in 2012.

Obama, Hagel and the Asian Pivot

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.

President Obama was inaugurated into his second term. He spoke about the economy, but he also spoke a little bit about U.S. foreign policy. Here's a couple of clips of what he had to say.~~~BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully, not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.~~~JAY: Now joining us from Madison, Wisconsin, to discuss whether the next four years of President Obama's foreign policy will be any different than the last four, first of all, is Allen Ruff. He's a U.S. social historian and a freelance writer for publications like Counterpunch and Truthout. And Steve Horn. He's a Madison, Wisconsin, based research fellow of DeSmogBlog and a freelance investigative journalist. He's written in The Guardian and The Nation and other publications.Allen, there wasn't really much reflection of President Obama's real strategic vision. There is this comment that he's—you can have security without perpetual war, that—there's a suggestion that the United States has to work with other countries. But what do you make, based on what you know of President Obama, the last four years, how he sees the world and American interests?ALLEN RUFF, US SOCIAL HISTORIAN AND WRITER: Well, first of all, Paul, we have to say that security has always been touted by every president across the 20th century, certainly, as the primary goal of U.S. foreign policy. We have to ask what security means and for whom.Certainly, security for corporate investment and involvement abroad, security for U.S. national security, national interest abroad, is the motivator. And while they talk about [unintel.] soft power, they'll also readily back that up with force when and wherever possible. And force can be in the terms of direct military intervention and engagement, warfare. It can also be sanctions. It can also be isolation of those that don't toe the line for U.S. imperial interests.So in that sense Obama strikes—for me, anyway—a continuity, that there's no break here. It's most telling right now as he spoke in Washington. One of the things that's going on is the revival for public consumption of the so-called global war on terror as the main reason for U.S. involvement in Africa, as an example.JAY: Now, the appointment of Chuck Hagel—I shouldn't say appointment. President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the secretary of defense, what does that tell us about President Obama's vision, especially towards Iran, and then towards other things in the bigger picture?RUFF: Well, perhaps the most significant thing about Chuck Hagel, from my perspective, something that hasn't been talked about at all, is that Chuck Hagel is an insider to the extent that he currently chairs the Atlantic Council, described by some as the major think tank for NATO. That is, they're very much concerned—the Atlantic Council is hosting—even in the past few months, it's hosted a number of, as an example, Eurasian energy—strategic energy conclaves that have brought people from the private sector, government, and, you know, the NGO imperial think tanks to talk about solidifying U.S. interest in the oil- and gas-rich Central Asia republics, the former Soviet republics.JAY: Well, this goes back to sort of Brzezinskian thinking of the grand chessboard. If you want to be the global power, you need to control the energy resources of Eurasia. But just before we dig into that a little further, just step back one. Do you not think the Chuck Hagel nomination is a sign that Obama does not want to go to war with Iran, that he thinks it would get in the way of this greater vision?RUFF: Well, obviously, there's enough people with enough brainpower, shall we say, in Washington in these various think tanks and circles that understand that a major open conflict with Iran, a war, would lead to a larger conflagration of the entire region. It would exacerbate the whole Persian Gulf interest. You know, from the time of the Carter doctrine, Jimmy Carter's administration, they've defined the Persian Gulf as fundamental to U.S. global interest, that is, the Gulf as the major outflow of oil, gas in the region. Some of that now, of course, is being bypassed through the construction of these east-west pipelines coming out of Central Asia, going under the belly of Russia, across the Caspian and so on, right to Turkey and into Western Europe—Eastern Europe. But, again, the—what it would mean for the rest of the entire Muslim, the Arab world, and so on would be massive.JAY: So, I mean, is Obama signalling, then, that while Israel may be very preoccupied with Iran, and so some of the other Middle Eastern powers as well—Saudi Arabia, Qatar, but particularly Israel—that the broader strategic U.S. interests, in the sense of Brzezinski and being able to maintain the United States as the dominant global power, it's really far more about Eurasia, and a war with Iran doesn't help that?RUFF: Yeah, I think you're right, Paul. The—again, there's a lot of people who like to argue that the Israeli tail wags the American dog, but we don't buy that, and we understand that U.S. "national interest", in quotes, predominates. Certainly they're moving away from that kind of unilateral neocon Bush-era attack mode and trying to at minimum cover their—provide themselves a fig leaf of legitimacy across that part of the world by talking—certainly talking multilateralism.JAY: As people that are familiar with Brzezinski's book—The Grand Chessboard, I think it's called, something like that—the strategic vision is really all about energy resources, and that's certainly—has to be President Obama's preoccupation. What do we know about his thinking on this?STEVE HORN, RESEARCH FELLOW, DESMOGBLOG: Sure. So if you look at a December report disseminated by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was, I guess, edited or sort of overseen by senator—or once-Senator Dick Lugar, that report makes the strong argument that (A) U.S. shale gas, which is obtained via the process called fracking, much of it should be exported to NATO allies as a means of getting NATO E.U. countries off of—Eastern European countries off of gas that comes from Iran and Russia. So it's one huge thing. And then the other big piece of this puzzle is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (and I think by extension the Obama administration) sees Azerbaijan, located off the Caspian Sea, bordering Iran, they see Azerbaijan as the anchor for energy and especially for gas in the region. And that's a key. They want that gas to be exported to E.U. countries as a means of further isolating Iran and Russia.So it's—I think it's going to—that's a central tenet in both global energy policy, at least in terms of how the United States sees it, and how NATO countries see it, and also a central piece of U.S. foreign policy.RUFF: Some of the lines in the speech today almost rang—to me it almost sounded like Woodrow Wilson promising, you know, peace, that we won't be into any major conflicts, that we're going to avoid them. You know, he kept us out of war—that whole traditional liberal Democratic line of the war party of the 20th century.Most revealing for what Obama promises or promised today at the inaugural has to do with the proclaimed Pacific pivot, this reorientation of U.S. military strength and power, the projection of U.S. power back into the Pacific, as if to suggest that the previous administration, the neocons and the Republican [inaud.] too much emphasis on the Middle East and Afghanistan, Iraq, and so on, that the Pacific is where U.S. interests lay and where it always has.The U.S. forces have returned to Subic Bay in the Philippines. One of the great ironies of the new period is the fact that U.S. has a port of call, the U.S. military has a naval port of call at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. They're moving now some several thousand—I believe the number is 6,000 U.S. troops to Australia.And why is this? They see, they understand that the major adversary in the coming period, in the coming years, will be China. And they're—and the Chinese understand it as well. They see themselves as much akin to how the Soviet Union viewed itself decades ago as being encircled by the U.S.To the West, the U.S. is assisting places like Kazakhstan in the development of their hard power and, through soft-power diplomacy, the weaning of a place like Kazakhstan, oil-rich and gas-rich, away from Russia. Now, the Kazakhs, of course, under the dictator Nazarbayev, who the United States has no problem with, is also playing his China cards and Russia cards. But, again, the Pacific is going to take up a lot of U.S. resources and a shift militarily into that region.JAY: So this is a different vision than the Bush and neocons who want regime change. They want—you know, they've always said they wanted Syria, they want Iran. They had others on their list. I guess Gaddafi was on their list earlier, although they did—they were playing nice with Gaddafi in the more recent years. But this is what the Democrats like to call smart power. Is that his vision?RUFF: Sure. Well, look, you're not going to get regime change in China.JAY: Well, it's more about friendly regimes all around China, isn't it? U.S.-friendly regimes, isn't it?RUFF: Yeah, and friendly regimes to which the United States promises ultimately a backup of real power if push comes to shove. The opening of relations in Myanmar—Burma—is very revealing, that suddenly there's been that—again, in a sense a soft-power regime change in outlook, certainly, toward Myanmar, which was on the bad-guys list for—for how long?So, yeah. I mean, they're lining up clients across the region, not only, you know, in East Asia, in the lead South Korea, Taiwan, and so on, but to the west of China as well, in the former Soviet republics, though what's often referred to as the former Soviet space.JAY: And to what extent do you also think this is a response to Arab Spring, meaning popular democratic uprisings that could also be taking place in many other parts of the world, not just the Middle East? In fact, I understand there were many in Africa that were quite brutally suppressed. So it's not just about China, but to a large extent it's about suppressing movements within these countries that would want more control over their own resources.RUFF: Well, I mean, obviously the most striking example that comes to mind is the hypocrisy, the double standard when it came to crushing the Arab Spring, the popular movement in Bahrain, where with a U.S. green light and assistance, really, the Saudis went in to assist the Bahraini monarchy in suppressing that movement. In a place like Kazakhstan right now, there's been this year-long, you know, ongoing repression and closing down of opposition parties, opposition press, the jailing of union leaders, you know, following over a year ago the murder by state security forces of striking oil workers in the Caspian Sea region. But it's sold in terms—if you look at the press coming out of the region, it's sold in terms of these people are terrorists and aiding and abetting terrorists. The revival of the so-called global war on terror as the main [troUf], the main, you know, selling point for interventions, whether it be right now in places like the Sahil in Saharan Africa, right across all the way to, say, the Philippines, is part of the whole fabric.HORN: And you could say that this—sort of all this—all these mechanisms of control of democratic uprisings have come straight home if you look at what's happened in the past year and a half with the Occupy movement, with the FBI and local police departments in concert with the Department of Homeland Security, as various Freedom of Information Act requests by various news organizations and law firms have shown, that all these things have also happened here at home using the same mechanisms. So it's a global phenomenon, and you could say that that's what counterinsurgency is.RUFF: Yeah. I mean, certainly there's—repression at home has always come hand in hand with imperial adventures abroad. That's been the history, again, the longer history of U.S. involvement globally, and to have the client regimes keep order so that again the flows of capital, of energy, of resources, of weapons, of spending go unimpeded. When they talk about stability, stability means primarily that, that is, the continuation of those flows that must go on uninterrupted. And when they do, then force will be used, despite what Barack Obama may have said about hope for peace and deescalation and nonmilitary means.JAY: Right. Okay. Well, this is just the beginning of a discussion. So we will come back to it soon. Thank you both for joining us.RUFF: Thank you.HORN: Thank you.JAY: And thank you for joining us 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.


Comments

Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at [email protected]

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Incestuous Amplification, Economics Edition

Back during the early days of the Iraq debacle, I learned that the military has a term for how highly dubious ideas become not just accepted, but viewed as certainties. “Incestuous amplification” happen when a closed group of people repeat the same things to each other – and when accepting the group’s preconceptions itself becomes a necessary ticket to being in the in-group. A fundamentally flawed notion – say, that the Germans can’t possibly attack though the Ardennes – becomes part of what everyone knows, where “everyone” means by definition only people who accept the flawed notion.

We saw that in the run-up to Iraq, where perfectly obvious propositions – the case for invading is very weak, the occupation may well be a nightmare – weren’t so much rejected as ruled out of discussion altogether; if you even considered those possibilities, you weren’t a serious person, no matter what your credentials.

Which brings me to the fiscal debate, characterized by the particular form of incestuous amplification Greg Sargent calls the Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop. I’ve already blogged about my Morning Joe appearance and Scarborough’s reaction, which was to insist that almost no mainstream economists share my view that deficit fear is vastly overblown. As Joe Weisenthal points out, the reality is that among those who have expressed views very similar to mine are the chief economist of Goldman Sachs; the former Treasury secretary and head of the National Economic Council; the former deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve; and the economics editor of the Financial Times. The point isn’t that these people are necessarily right (although they are), it is that Scarborough’s attempt at argument through authority is easily refuted by even a casual stroll through recent economic punditry.

But these people aren’t part of the in-group, and if they do make it into the in-group’s conversation at all, it’s only by blurring their message sufficiently that the in-group doesn’t understand it.

And at this point, of course, all the Very Serious People have committed their reputations so thoroughly to the official doctrine that they almost literally can’t hear any contrary evidence.

© 2012 The New York Times

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman is professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University and a regular columnist for The New York Times. Krugman was the 2008 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics. He is the author of numerous books, including The Conscience of A Liberal, The Return of Depression Economics, and his most recent, End This Depression Now!.

New leaf or old news? Sen. John Kerry confirmed as US secretary of state

US senators have voted overwhelmingly in favor of John Kerry’s appointment as secretary of state. Kerry’s anti-war past has sparked hopes he will encourage more diplomacy in Washington, while critics suspect he will adopt the imperialist foreign policy

The vote was almost unanimous, with three senators voting against Kerry’s appointment and 94 voting in favor. Three senators abstained from the vote.

The 69-year-old was expected to win handily after President Barack Obama nominated him for the role in December of last year. Kerry accepted the post amid applause, and said he was honored by the appointment.

"What a privilege to work with you and now to work with you in a different way. I thank you very, very much," Kerry said to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He called for “fresh thinking” in US policy, and stressed that "American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone."

Kerry earned his reputation as an anti-war politician following his stint as a spokesperson for peace group Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Additionally, in 1991 he voted against US involvement in the first Gulf War. However, over time Kerry’s image as an anti-war advocate morphed into that of a mainstream politician, RT’s Gayane Chichakyan said, referring to the senator’s support of the 2002 Iraq invasion.

And during a 2004 interview in which he was asked whether or not he would have gone to war if the US had known from the start that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, he replied that he would have approved the invasion.

“His record shows when the tide turns – and that tide can turn very quickly – and the drums of war start beating loud and clear again, John Kerry would probably jump on that tide,” Chichakyan said.

­

Skin-deep

Iraq war veteran Michael Prysner voiced doubts over whether Kerry’s appointment as secretary of state would herald significant changes in US foreign policy.

“We can’t say for sure that there will be no change in US policy with a new secretary of state coming into office,” Prysner explained, adding that minor changes could be expected since Kerry will likely bring his own staff to the administration.

“Any changes that do happen will be completely within this unchanging overarching strategic frame work which is to dominate the world’s resources and economies, the entire earth for the US banks and corporation at the expensive of everyone else,” Prysner told RT.

In a similar vein, Brian Drolet from Deep Dish television said that changes would be purely superficial: “There may be some change in style and tone, but there won’t be a change in substance between Kerry and Clinton.”

Drolet described the role of the secretary of state, for all intents and purposes, as having very little influence over US foreign policy given the absence of any significant changes over the last two decades.

“What has really changed? First-strike wars in Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan and now they’re positioning so-called missile defense on the Turkish-Russian border which is essentially a first-strike weapon,” Drolet told RT.

Kerry will face some significant challenges upon assuming the post of secretary of state. Namely, the unresolved US conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, including the terrorist attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi last September that killed a US ambassador. The Syrian conflict also remains unresolved, as various attempts at brokering pace through diplomatic channels have failed to yield results.

Syria is being destroyed, says UN envoy

The war in Syria has reached "unprecedented levels of horror" after evidence emerged of the massacre of dozens of men, the UN envoy for the country has said.

Lakhdar Brahimi told the divided UN Security Council it must act now to prevent further atrocities like the apparent execution of at least 65 men found dumped in a river in Aleppo.

Syrian rebels blamed president Bashar al Assad's government for the killings, but state media said an Islamist opposition faction was to blame.

"Syria is breaking up before everyone's eyes. Only the international community can help, and first and foremost the Security Council," Mr Brahimi told the council's 15 ambassadors.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appealed for more aid and an end to the violence. He said the situation was "catastrophic and getting worse. Every day, Syrians face unrelenting horrors".

More than 60,000 people have been killed in 22 months of conflict, according to the UN, which will seek £950m in humanitarian funding for beleaguered Syrians at a conference in Kuwait.

Mr Brahimi said Mr Assad's government's legitimacy has been "irreparably damaged" but warned that it could still cling to power as both state and rebel forces commit "equally atrocious crimes".

After briefing the Security Council, Mr Brahimi told reporters: "Syria is being destroyed bit by bit.

"And in destroying Syria, the region is being pushed into a situation that is extremely bad and extremely important for the entire world."

He warned of growing conflict "contamination" in neighbouring countries.

The Council has been paralysed on Syria for more than a year. Russia and China have vetoed three western-drafted resolutions which would simply have threatened sanctions.

Russia accuses the West of seeking regime change through force and insists it cannot make Mr Assad stand down. The US and its allies back the opposition stance that there can be no talks with the president.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights opposition group said the Aleppo victims were found with their hands bound and a single bullet wound to the head - and that the death toll could climb to 80.

Hundreds of distressed people watched as muddied corpses were dredged from the Quweiq river.

"The regime threw them into the river so that they would arrive in an area under our control, so the people would think we killed them," rebel fighter Abu Seif said.

A government security official blamed "terrorists" - the regime term for the rebels - for the carnage.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the official SANA news agency said the jihadist Al Nusra Front carried out the executions.

Al Nusra, which has gained notoriety for its suicide bombings, has become a key fighting force, leading rebel attacks throughout the embattled country.

Its suspected affiliation to the al Qaeda offshoot in Iraq have seen it added to the US list of terrorist organisations.

Towards a World War III Scenario? The Role of Israel in Triggering an Attack...

Towards a World War III Scenario? The Role of Israel in Triggering an Attack on Iran

This article was first published in August 2010.

For further details consult Michel Chossudovsky’s book, 

Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War 

available in hardcover or pdf from Global Research.

The stockpiling and deployment of advanced weapons systems directed against Iran started in the immediate wake of the 2003 bombing and invasion of Iraq. From the outset, these war plans were led by the US, in liaison with NATO and Israel.

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration identified Iran and Syria as the next stage of “the road map to war”. US military sources intimated that an aerial attack on Iran could involve a large scale deployment comparable to the US “shock and awe” bombing raids on Iraq in March 2003:

“American air strikes on Iran would vastly exceed the scope of the 1981 Israeli attack on the Osiraq nuclear center in Iraq, and would more resemble the opening days of the 2003 air campaign against Iraq.(See Globalsecurity )

“Theater Iran Near Term”

Code named by US military planners as TIRANNT, “Theater Iran Near Term”, simulations of an attack on Iran were initiated in May 2003 “when modelers and intelligence specialists pulled together the data needed for theater-level (meaning large-scale) scenario analysis for Iran.” ( (William Arkin, Washington Post, 16 April 2006).

The scenarios identified several thousand targets inside Iran as part of a “Shock and Awe” Blitzkrieg:

“The analysis, called TIRANNT, for “Theater Iran Near Term,” was coupled with a mock scenario for a Marine Corps invasion and a simulation of the Iranian missile force. U.S. and British planners conducted a Caspian Sea war game around the same time. And Bush directed the U.S. Strategic Command to draw up a global strike war plan for an attack against Iranian weapons of mass destruction. All of this will ultimately feed into a new war plan for “major combat operations” against Iran that military sources confirm now [April 2006] exists in draft form.

… Under TIRANNT, Army and U.S. Central Command planners have been examining both near-term and out-year scenarios for war with Iran, including all aspects of a major combat operation, from mobilization and deployment of forces through postwar stability operations after regime change.” (William Arkin, Washington Post, 16 April 2006)

Different “theater scenarios” for an all out attack on Iran had been contemplated:  “The US army, navy, air force and marines have all prepared battle plans and spent four years building bases and training for “Operation Iranian Freedom”. Admiral Fallon, the new head of US Central Command, has inherited computerized plans under the name TIRANNT (Theatre Iran Near Term).” (New Statesman, February 19, 2007)

In 2004, drawing upon the initial war scenarios under TIRANNT,  Vice President Dick Cheney instructed USSTRATCOM to draw up a “contingency plan” of a large scale military operation directed against Iran “to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States” on the presumption that the government in Tehran would be behind the terrorist plot. The plan included the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state:

“The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.” (Philip Giraldi, Deep Background,The American Conservative  August 2005)

The Military Road Map: “First Iraq, then Iran”

The decision to target Iran under TIRANNT was part of the broader process of military planning and sequencing of military operations. Already under the Clinton administration, US Central Command (USCENTCOM) had formulated  “in war theater plans” to invade first Iraq and then Iran. Access to Middle East oil was the stated strategic objective:

“The broad national security interests and objectives expressed in the President’s National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Chairman’s National Military Strategy (NMS) form the foundation of the United States Central Command’s theater strategy. The NSS directs implementation of a strategy of dual containment of the rogue states of Iraq and Iran as long as those states pose a threat to U.S. interests, to other states in the region, and to their own citizens. Dual containment is designed to maintain the balance of power in the region without depending on either Iraq or Iran. USCENTCOM’s theater strategy is interest-based and threat-focused. The purpose of U.S. engagement, as espoused in the NSS, is to protect the United States’ vital interest in the region – uninterrupted, secure U.S./Allied access to Gulf oil.” (USCENTCOM, http://www.milnet.com/milnet/pentagon/centcom/chap1/stratgic.htm#USPolicy, link no longer active, archived at http://tinyurl.com/37gafu9)

The war on Iran was viewed as part of a succession of military operations.  According to (former) NATO Commander General Wesley Clark, the Pentagon’s military road-map consisted of a sequence of countries: “[The] Five-year campaign plan [includes]… a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.”  In “Winning Modern Wars” (page 130) General Clark states the following:

“As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan. (See Secret 2001 Pentagon Plan to Attack Lebanon, Global Research, July 23, 2006)

The Role of Israel

There has been much debate regarding the role of Israel in initiating an attack against Iran.

Israel is part of a military alliance. Tel Aviv is not a prime mover. It does not have a separate and distinct military agenda.

Israel is integrated into the “war plan for major combat operations” against Iran formulated in 2006 by US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). In the context of large scale military operations, an uncoordinated unilateral military action by one coalition partner, namely Israel, is from a military and strategic point almost an impossibility. Israel is a de facto member of NATO. Any action by Israel would require a “green light” from Washington.

An attack by Israel could, however, be used as “the trigger mechanism” which would unleash an all out war against Iran, as well retaliation by Iran directed against Israel.

In this regard, there are indications that Washington might envisage the option of an initial (US backed) attack by Israel  rather than an outright US-led military operation directed against Iran. The Israeli attack –although led in close liaison with the Pentagon and NATO– would be presented to public opinion as a unilateral decision by Tel Aviv. It would then be used by Washington to justify, in the eyes of World opinion, a military intervention of the US and NATO with a view to “defending Israel”, rather than attacking Iran. Under existing military cooperation agreements, both the US and NATO would be “obligated” to “defend Israel” against Iran and Syria.

It is worth noting, in this regard, that at the outset of Bush’s second term, (former) Vice President Dick Cheney hinted, in no uncertain terms, that Iran was “right at the top of the list” of the “rogue enemies” of America, and that Israel would, so to speak, “be doing the bombing for us”, without US military involvement and without us putting pressure on them “to do it” (See Michel Chossudovsky, Planned US-Israeli Attack on Iran, Global Research, May 1, 2005): According to Cheney:

“One of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked… Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards,” (Dick Cheney, quoted from an MSNBC Interview, January 2005)

Commenting the Vice President’s assertion, former National Security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in an interview on PBS, confirmed with some apprehension, yes: Cheney wants Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to act on America’s behalf and “do it” for us:

“Iran I think is more ambiguous. And there the issue is certainly not tyranny; it’s nuclear weapons. And the vice president today in a kind of a strange parallel statement to this declaration of freedom hinted that the Israelis may do it and in fact used language which sounds like a justification or even an encouragement for the Israelis to do it.”

What we are dealing with is a joint US-NATO-Israel  military operation to bomb Iran, which has been in the active planning stage since 2004. Officials in the Defense Department, under Bush and Obama, have been working assiduously with their Israeli military and intelligence counterparts, carefully identifying targets inside Iran. In practical military terms, any action by Israel would have to be planned and coordinated at the highest levels of the US led coalition.

An attack by Israel would also require coordinated US-NATO logistical support, particularly with regard to Israel’s air defense system, which since January 2009 is fully integrated into that of the US and NATO. (See Michel Chossudovsky,  Unusually Large U.S. Weapons Shipment to Israel: Are the US and Israel Planning a Broader Middle East War?  Global Research, January 11,2009)

Israel’s X band radar system established in early 2009 with US technical support has “integrate[d] Israel’s missile defenses with the U.S. global missile [Space-based] detection network, which includes satellites, Aegis ships on the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and Red Sea, and land-based Patriot radars and interceptors.” (Defense Talk.com, January 6, 2009,)

What this means is that Washington ultimately calls the shots. The US rather than Israel controls the air defense system: ”’This is and will remain a U.S. radar system,’ Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. ‘So this is not something we are giving or selling to the Israelis and it is something that will likely require U.S. personnel on-site to operate.’” (Quoted in Israel National News, January 9, 2009).

The US military oversees Israel’s Air Defense system, which is integrated into the Pentagon’s global system. In other words, Israel cannot launch a war against Iran without Washington’s consent. Hence the importance of the so-called “Green Light” legislation in the US Congress sponsored by the Republican party under House Resolution 1553, which explicitly supports an Israeli attakc on Iran:

“The measure, introduced by Texas Republican Louie Gohmert and 46 of his colleagues, endorses Israel’s use of “all means necessary” against Iran “including the use of military force.” … “We’ve got to get this done. We need to show our support for Israel. We need to quit playing games with this critical ally in such a difficult area.”’ (See Webster Tarpley, Fidel Castro Warns of Imminent Nuclear War; Admiral Mullen Threatens Iran; US-Israel Vs. Iran-Hezbollah Confrontation Builds On, Global Research, August 10, 2010)

In practice, the proposed legislation is a “Green Light” to the White House and the Pentagon rather than to Israel. It constitutes a rubber stamp to a US sponsored war on Iran which uses Israel as a convenient military launch pad. It also serves as a justification to wage war with a view to defending Israel.

In this context, Israel could indeed provide the pretext to wage war, in response to alleged Hamas or Hezbollah attacks and/or the triggering of hostilities on the border of Israel with Lebanon. What is crucial to understand is that a minor ”incident” could be used as a pretext to spark off a major military operation against Iran.

Known to US military planners, Israel (rather than the USA) would be the first target of military retaliation by Iran. Broadly speaking, Israelis would be the victims of the machinations of both Washington and their own government. It is, in this regard, absolutely crucial that Israelis forcefully oppose any action by the Netanyahu government to attack Iran.

Global Warfare: The Role of US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM)

Global military operations are coordinated out of US Strategic Command Headquarters (USSTRATCOM) at the Offutt Air Force base in Nebraska, in liaison with the regional commands of the unified combatant commands (e.g.. US Central Command  in Florida, which is responsible for the Middle East-Central Asian region, See map below)  as well as coalition command units in Israel, Turkey, the Persian Gulf and the Diego Garcia military base in the Indian Ocean.  Military planning and decision making at a country level by individual allies of US-NATO as well as “partner nations” is integrated into a global military design including the weaponization of space.

Under its new mandate, USSTRATCOM has a responsibility for “overseeing a global strike plan” consisting of both conventional and nuclear weapons. In military jargon, it is slated to play the role of “a global integrator charged with the missions of Space Operations; Information Operations; Integrated Missile Defense; Global Command & Control; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; Global Strike; and Strategic Deterrence…. ”

USSTRATCOM’s responsibilities include: “leading, planning, & executing strategic deterrence operations” at a global level, “synchronizing global missile defense plans and operations”, “synchronizing regional combat plans”, etc. USSTRATCOM is the lead agency in the coordination of modern warfare.

In January 2005, at the outset of the military deployment and build-up directed against Iran, USSTRATCOM was identified as “the lead Combatant Command for integration and synchronization of DoD-wide efforts in combating weapons of mass destruction.” (Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Global Research, January 3, 2006).

What this means is that the coordination of a large scale attack on Iran, including the various scenarios of escalation in and beyond the broader Middle East Central Asian region would be coordinated by USSTRATCOM.

Map: US Central Command’s Area of Jurisdiction

Tactical Nuclear Weapons directed against Iran

Confirmed by military documents as well as official statements, both the US and Israel contemplate the use of nuclear weapons directed against Iran. In 2006, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) announced it had achieved an operational capability for rapidly striking targets around the globe using nuclear or conventional weapons. This announcement was made after the conduct of military simulations pertaining to a US led nuclear attack against a fictional country. (David Ruppe, Preemptive Nuclear War in a State of Readiness: U.S. Command Declares Global Strike Capability, Global Security Newswire, December 2, 2005)

Continuity in relation to the Bush-Cheney era:  President Obama has largely endorsed the doctrine of pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons formulated by the previous administration. Under the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the Obama administration confirmed  “that it is reserving the right to use nuclear weapons against Iran” for its non-compliance with US demands regarding its alleged (nonexistent) nuclear weapons program. (U.S. Nuclear Option on Iran Linked to Israeli Attack Threat – IPS ipsnews.net, April 23, 2010). The Obama administration has also intimated that it would use nukes in the case of an Iranian response to an Israeli attack on Iran. (Ibid). Israel  has also drawn up its own “secret plans” to bomb Iran with tactical nuclear weapons:

“Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.”(Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran – Times Online, January 7, 2007)

Obama’s statements on the use of nuclear weapons against Iran and North Korea are consistent with post 9/11 US nuclear weapons doctrine, which allows for the use of tactical nuclear weapons in the conventional war theater.

Through a propaganda campaign which has enlisted the support of “authoritative” nuclear scientists, mini-nukes are upheld as an instrument of peace, namely a means to combating “Islamic terrorism” and instating Western style “democracy” in Iran. The low-yield nukes have been cleared for “battlefield use”. They are slated to be used against Iran and Syria in the next stage of America’s “war on Terrorism” alongside conventional weapons.

“Administration officials argue that low-yield nuclear weapons are needed as a credible deterrent against rogue states. [Iran, Syria, North Korea] Their logic is that existing nuclear weapons are too destructive to be used except in a full-scale nuclear war. Potential enemies realize this, thus they do not consider the threat of nuclear retaliation to be credible. However, low-yield nuclear weapons are less destructive, thus might conceivably be used. That would make them more effective as a deterrent.” (Opponents Surprised By Elimination of Nuke Research Funds Defense News November 29, 2004)

The preferred nuclear weapon to be used against Iran are tactical nuclear weapons (Made in America), namely bunker buster bombs with nuclear warheads (e.g. B61.11), with an explosive capacity between one third to six times a Hiroshima bomb. The B61-11 is the “nuclear version” of the “conventional”  BLU 113. or Guided Bomb Unit GBU-28. It can be delivered in much same way as the conventional bunker buster bomb. (See Michel Chossudovsky, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO112C.html, see also http://www.thebulletin.org/article_nn.php?art_ofn=jf03norris) . While the US does not contemplate the use of strategic thermonuclear weapons against Iran, Israel’s nuclear arsenal is largely composed of thermonuclear bombs which are deployed and could be used in a war with Iran. Under Israel’s Jericho‐III missile system with a range between 4,800 km to 6,500 km, all Iran would be within reach.


Conventional bunker buster Guided Bomb Unit GBU-27


B61 bunker buster bomb

Radiactive Fallout

The issue of radioactive fallout and contamination, while casually dismissed  by US-NATO military analysts, would be devastating, potentially affecting a large area of  the broader Middle East (including Israel) and Central Asian region.

In an utterly twisted logic, nuclear weapons are presented as a means to building peace and preventing “collateral damage”.  Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons are a threat to global security, whereas those of the US  and Israel are instruments of peace” harmless to the surrounding civilian population“.

“The Mother of All Bombs” (MOAB) Slated to be Used against Iran

Of military significance within the US conventional weapons arsenal is the 21,500-pound “monster weapon” nicknamed the “mother of all bombs” The GBU-43/B or Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (MOAB) was categorized “as the most powerful non-nuclear weapon ever designed” with the the largest yield in the US conventional arsenal. The MOAB was tested in early March 2003 before being deployed to the Iraq war theater. According to US military sources, The Joint Chiefs of Staff  had advised the government of  Saddam Hussein prior to launching the 2003 that the “mother of all bombs” was to be used against Iraq. (There were unconfirmed reports that it had been used in Iraq).

The US Department of Defence has confirmed in October 2009 that it intends to use the “Mother of All Bombs” (MOAB) against Iran. The MOAB is said to be  ”ideally suited to hit deeply buried nuclear facilities such as Natanz or Qom in Iran” (Jonathan Karl, Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran? ABC News, October 9, 2009). The truth of the matter is that the MOAB, given its explosive capacity, would result in extremely large civilian casualties. It is a conventional “killing machine” with a nuclear type mushroom cloud.

The procurement of four MOABs was commissioned in October 2009 at the hefty cost of $58.4 million, ($14.6 million for each bomb). This amount  includes the costs of development and testing as well as integration of the MOAB bombs onto B-2 stealth bombers.(Ibid). This procurement is directly linked to war preparations in relation to Iran. The notification was contained in a 93-page “reprogramming memo” which included the following instructions:

“The Department has an Urgent Operational Need (UON) for the capability to strike hard and deeply buried targets in high threat environments. The MOP [Mother of All Bombs] is the weapon of choice to meet the requirements of the UON [Urgent Operational Need].” It further states that the request is endorsed by Pacific Command (which has responsibility over North Korea) and Central Command (which has responsibility over Iran).” (ABC News,  op cit, emphasis added). To consult the reprogramming request (pdf) click here

The Pentagon is planning on a process of extensive destruction of Iran’s infrastructure and mass civilian casualties through the combined use of tactical nukes and monster conventional mushroom cloud bombs, including the MOAB and the larger GBU-57A/B or Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), which surpasses the MOAB in terms of explosive capacity.

The MOP is described as “a powerful new bomb aimed squarely at the underground nuclear facilities of Iran and North Korea. The gargantuan bomb—longer than 11 persons standing shoulder-to-shoulder [see image below] or more than 20 feet base to nose” (See Edwin Black, “Super Bunker-Buster Bombs Fast-Tracked for Possible Use Against Iran and North Korea Nuclear Programs”, Cutting Edge, September 21 2009)

These are WMDs in the true sense of the word. The not so hidden objective of the MOAB and MOP, including the American nickname used to casually describe the MOAB (“mother of all bombs’), is “mass destruction” and mass civilian casualties with a view to instilling fear and despair.


“Mother of All Bombs” (MOAB)

GBU-57A/B Mass Ordnance Penetrator (MOP)


MOAB: screen shots of test: explosion and mushroom cloud

State of the Art Weaponry: “War Made Possible Through New Technologies”

The process of US military decision making in relation to Iran is supported by Star Wars, the militarization of outer space and the revolution in communications and information systems. Given the advances in military technology and the development of new weapons systems, an attack on Iran could be significantly different in terms of the mix of weapons systems, when compared to the March 2003 Blitzkrieg launched against Iraq. The Iran operation is slated to use the most advanced weapons systems in support of its aerial attacks. In all likelihood, new weapons systems will be tested.

The 2000 Project of the New American Century (PNAC) document entitled Rebuilding American Defenses, outlined the mandate of the US military in terms of large scale theater wars, to be waged simultaneously in different regions of the World:

“Fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars”. 

This formulation is tantamount to a global war of conquest by a single imperial superpower. The PNAC document also called for the transformation of  U.S. forces to exploit the “revolution in military affairs”, namely the implementation of  “war made possible through new technologies”. (See Project for a New American Century, Rebuilding Americas Defenses  Washington DC, September 2000, pdf).  The latter consists in developing and perfecting a state of the art global killing machine based on an arsenal of sophisticated new weaponry, which would eventually replace the existing paradigms.

“Thus, it can be foreseen that the process of transformation will in fact be a two-stage process: first of transition, then of more thoroughgoing transformation. The breakpoint will come when a preponderance of new weapons systems begins to enter service, perhaps when, for example, unmanned aerial vehicles begin to be as numerous as manned aircraft. In this regard, the Pentagon should be very wary of making large investments in new programs – tanks, planes, aircraft carriers, for example – that would commit U.S. forces to current paradigms of warfare for many decades to come. (Ibid, emphasis added)

The war on Iran could indeed mark this crucial breakpoint, with new space-based weapons systems being applied with a view to disabling an enemy which has significant conventional military capabilities including more than half a million ground forces.

Electromagnetic Weapons

Electromagnetic weapons could be used to destabilize Iran’s communications systems, disable electric power generation, undermine and destabilize command and control, government infrastructure, transportation, energy, etc.  Within the same family of weapons, environmental modifications techniques (ENMOD) (weather warfare) developed under the HAARP programme could also be applied. (See Michel Chossudovsky, “Owning the Weather” for Military Use, Global Research, September 27, 2004). These weapons systems are fully operational. In this context, te US Air Force document AF 2025 explicitly acknowledgedthe military applications of weather modification technologies:

“Weather modification will become a part of domestic and international security and could be done unilaterally… It could have offensive and defensive applications and even be used for deterrence purposes. The ability to generate precipitation, fog, and storms on earth or to modify space weather, improve communications through ionospheric modification (the use of ionospheric mirrors), and the production of artificial weather all are a part of an integrated set of technologies which can provide substantial increase in US, or degraded capability in an adversary, to achieve global awareness, reach, and power.” (Air Force 2025 Final Report, See also US Air Force: Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025, AF2025 v3c15-1 | Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning… | (Ch 1) at www.fas.org).

Electromagnetic radiation enabling “remote health impairment” might also be envisaged in the war theater. (See Mojmir Babacek, Electromagnetic and Informational Weapons:, Global Research, August 6, 2004). In turn, new uses of biological weapons by the US military might also be envisaged as suggested by the PNAC: “[A]dvanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.” (PNAC, op cit., p. 60).

Iran’s Military Capabilities: Medium and Long Range Missiles

Iran has advanced military capabilities, including medium and long range missiles capable of reaching targets in Israel and the Gulf States. Hence the emphasis by the US-NATO Israel alliance on the use of nuclear weapons, which are slated to be used either pr-emptively or in response to an Iranian retaliatory missile attack.


Range of Iran’s Shahab Missiles. Copyright Washington Post

In November 2006, Iran tests of surface missiles 2 were marked by precise planning in a carefully staged operation. According to a senior American missile expert (quoted by Debka),  “the Iranians demonstrated up-to-date missile-launching technology which the West had not known them to possess.” (See Michel Chossudovsky, Iran’s “Power of Deterrence”  Global Research, November 5, 2006) Israel acknowledged that “the Shehab-3, whose 2,000-km range brings Israel, the Middle East and Europe within reach” (Debka, November 5, 2006)

According to Uzi Rubin, former head of Israel’s anti-ballistic missile program, “the intensity of the military exercise was unprecedented… It was meant to make an impression — and it made an impression.” (www.cnsnews.com 3 November 2006)

The 2006 exercises, while  creating a political stir in the US and Israel, did not in any way modify US-NATO-Israeli resolve to wage on Iran.

Tehran has confirmed in several statements that it will respond if it is attacked. Israel would be the immediate object of Iranian missile attacks as confirmed by the Iranian government. The issue of Israel’s air defense system is therefore crucial. US and allied military facilities in the Gulf states, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq could also be targeted by Iran.

Iran’s Ground Forces

While Iran is encircled by US and allied military bases, the Islamic Republic has significant military capabilities. (See maps below) What is important to acknowledge is the sheer size of Iranian forces in terms of personnel (army, navy, air force) when compared to US and NATO forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Confronted with a well organized insurgency, coalition forces are already overstretched in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Would these forces be able to cope if Iranian ground forces were to enter the existing battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan? The potential of the Resistance movement to US and allied occupation would inevitably be affected.

Iranian ground forces are of the order of 700,000 of which 130,000 are professional soldiers, 220,000 are conscripts and 350,000 are reservists. (See  Islamic Republic of Iran Army – Wikipedia). There are 18,000 personnel in Iran’s Navy and 52,000 in the air force. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, “the Revolutionary Guards has an estimated 125,000 personnel in five branches: Its own Navy, Air Force, and Ground Forces; and the Quds Force (Special Forces).” According to the CISS, Iran’s Basij paramilitary volunteer force controlled by the Revolutionary Guards “has an estimated 90,000 active-duty full-time uniformed members, 300,000 reservists, and a total of 11 million men that can be mobilized if need be” (Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran – Wikipedia), In other words, Iran can mobilize up to half a million regular troops and several million militia. Its Quds special forces are already operating inside Iraq.


US Military and Allied Facilties Surrounding Iran

For several years now Iran has been conducting its own war drills and exercises. While its Air force has weaknesses, its intermediate and long-range missiles are fully operational. Iran’s military is in a state of readiness. Iranian troop concentrations are currently within a few kilometers of the Iraqi and Afghan borders, and within proximity of Kuwait. The Iranian Navy is deployed in the Persian Gulf within proximity of US and allied military facilities in the United Arab Emirates.

It is worth noting that in response to Iran’s military build-up, the US has been transferring large amounts of weapons to its non-NATO allies in the Persian Gulf including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

While Iran’s advanced weapons do not measure up to those of the US and NATO, Iranian forces would be in a position to inflict substantial losses to coalition forces in  a conventional war theater, on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan. Iranian ground troops and tanks in December 2009 crossed the border into Iraq without being confronted or challenged by allied forces and occupied a disputed territory in the East Maysan oil field.

Even in the event of an effective Blitzkrieg, which targets Iran’s military facilities, its communications systems, etc. through massive aerial bombing, using cruise missiles, conventional bunker buster bombs and tactical nuclear weapons, a war with Iran, once initiated, could eventually lead into a ground war. This is something which US military planners have no doubt contemplated in their simulated war scenarios.

An operation of this nature would result in significant military and civilian casualties, particularly if nuclear weapons are used.

The expanded budget for the war in Afghanistan currently debated in the US Congress is also intended to be used in the eventuality of an attack on Iran.

Within a scenario of escalation, Iranian troops could cross the border into Iraq and Afghanistan.

In turn, military escalation using nuclear weapons could lead us into a World War III scenario, extending beyond the Middle East Central Asian region.

In a very real sense, this military project, which has been on the Pentagon’s drawing board for more than five years, threatens the future of humanity.

Our focus in this essay has been on war preparations. The fact that war preparations are in an advanced state of readiness does not imply that these war plans will be carried out.

original

The US-NATO-Israel alliance realizes that the enemy has significant capabilities to respond and retaliate. This factor in itself has been crucial over the last five years in the decision by the US and its allies to postpone an attack on Iran.

Another crucial factor is the structure of military alliances. Whereas NATO has become a formidable force, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which constitutes an alliance between Russia and China and a number of former Soviet republics has been significantly weakened.

The ongoing US military threats directed  against China and Russia are intended to weaken the SCO and discourage any form of military action on the part of Iran’s allies in the case of a US NATO Israeli attack.

What are the countervailing forces which might prevent this war from occurring? There are numerous ongoing forces at work within the US State apparatus, the US Congress, the Pentagon and NATO.

The central force in preventing a war from occurring ultimately comes from the base of society, requiring forceful antiwar action by hundred of millions of people across the land, nationally and internationally.

People must mobilize not only against this diabolical military agenda, the authority of the State and its officials must be also be challenged.

This war can be prevented if people forcefully confront their governments, pressure their elected representatives, organize at the local level in towns, villages and municipalities, spread the word, inform their fellow citizens as to the implications of a nuclear war, initiate debate and discussion within the armed forces. 

The holding of mass demonstrations and antiwar protests is not enough. What is required is the development of a broad and well organized grassroots antiwar network which challenges the structures of power and authority. 

What is required is a mass movement of people which forcefully challenges the legitimacy of war, a global people’s movement which criminalizes war.

Michel Chossudovsky is an award-winning author, Professor of Economics (Emeritus) at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal. He is the author of The Globalization of Poverty and The New World Order (2003) and America’s “War on Terrorism” (2005). He is also a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His writings have been published in more than twenty languages. he can be reached at the globalresearch.ca website


Author’s note:
Dear Global Research Readers, kindly forward this text far and wide to friends and family, on internet forums, within the workplace, in your neighborhood, nationally and internationally, with a view to reversing the tide of war.  Spread the Word!  

To consult Part I of this essay click below

Preparing for World War III, Targeting Iran
Part I: Global Warfare 

- by Michel Chossudovsky – 2010-08-01


Related articles

Targeting Iran: Is the US Administration Planning a Nuclear Holocaust?
- by Michel Chossudovsky – 2010-08-09

Preparing for World War III, Targeting Iran
- by Michel Chossudovsky – 2010-08-01

Global Military Agenda: U.S. Expands Asian NATO To Contain And Confront China
- by Rick Rozoff – 2010-08-07

Israel’s Insane War on Iran Must Be Prevented

- by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach – 2010-07-31


original

Michel Chossudovsky

Can be ordered online directly from Global Research

China’s “Blackest Day” Is Still In The Future

Wolf Richter   www.testosteronepit.com   www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter

China has tried over the years to come to grips with its pandemic pollution, yet in Beijing, through a combination of factors, it reached catastrophic levels in mid-January and set another record. Result of the white-hot pace of economic growth. And of coal consumption: this year, China is set to burn more coal than the rest of the world combined!

The “Blackest Day,” is how The Economist called January 12 when the Air Quality Index (AQI) reached 755. It was “Beyond index” on a scale where the worst level, “Hazardous,” ranges from 301-500 and carries this warning: “Everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors; people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low.”

On that day, airborne particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM 2.5) reached 886 micrograms per cubic meter, about 35 times the guideline set by the World Health Organization. These particulates contain “sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, carbon, mineral dust, and water” that form a “complex mixture of solid and liquid particles of organic and inorganic substances.” They contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and lung cancer. Mortality in polluted cities exceeds that “in relatively cleaner cities by 15–20%.” The WHO estimated in 2007 that 656,000 Chinese died of air pollution every year, and another 95,600 from water pollution. Surely, this hasn’t gotten any better since.

Among the culprits: coal consumption. It has been on an uninterrupted tear since 2000 as China built a phenomenal number of coal-fired power plants (users of steam coal) and as it expanded its steel and iron industries (users of metallurgical coal). Bubble projects, overcapacity, construction of ghost cities, motor vehicles that turn the exploding net of roads and highways into clogged parking lots.... The excesses are everywhere. And power generating capacity from 2005-2011 doubled, of which 80%—despite efforts to diversify—still comes from coal.

China consumed 1.5 billion tons of coal in 2000, or 28% of total world consumption. By 2011, according to a just released report by the US Energy Information Agency, coal consumption had jumped 153% to 3.8 billion tons, amounting to 47% of total coal consumption in the world. Demand had increased an average of 9% per year! If the China bubble doesn’t accidentally get pricked in the interim, the country will consume more coal in 2013 than the rest of the world combined.

In that “rest of the world,” however, coal consumption has had a hard time, increasing only 1% on average per year over the 12-year period. Fingers are pointing at the US, once the largest coal market, until China came along. Much of the coal-consuming iron and steel industries in the US have migrated across the Pacific, and coal as a fuel for power generation has been on a long structural decline [read... Natural Gas And The Brutal Dethroning of King Coal].

The numbers are epic. China has more power generating capacity than any other country. In addition to being by far the largest consumer of coal, China is also the largest producer and has the third-largest coal reserves. Despite these superlatives, it was only the fourth-largest consumer of natural gas in 2011, though consumption jumped 50% from 2009. Nuclear power, with 15 reactors on line as of mid-2012, provides only a tiny portion of total power generation, but 26 (!) reactors are under construction [here is my article about its sideshow: Blowing Up: The Transfer Of French Nuclear Technology To China]. And renewables? Minuscule. But growing in leaps and bounds, of course.

As these alternatives are desperately trying to gain critical mass, coal consumption will continue to grow—and the pollution record of January 12, as horrid as it was, will turn out to be just another line item on a long list of surpassed records. The “Blackest Day” is still in the future.

While we on the West Coast get to breathe the airborne crap that makes it across the Pacific, there are opportunities for the US in China’s coal-fired bubble economy: coal exports. In 2012, the US exported an estimated 125 million tons of coal. It broke the prior record set in 1981 and was more than double the level of 2009. However, coal production in the US still declined. It’s tough out there.

Despite the frenetic growth in coal consumption in China and certain other parts of Asia, the US exported much more coal to ... Europe! Coal has been very competitive in Europe where natural-gas prices are so high that land-locked producers in the US get water in their eyes when they think about it. In countries like Germany and Belgium that were once coal mining bastions, coal production (and consumption) has been in free-fall. So US producers were able to export 42 million tons to Europe. To Asia, they shipped only 23 million tons—but this too is on the upswing. Even, if in a few years, people in Beijing are trying to figure out how to breathe the air outside.

To supply its bubble economy with raw materials and fossil fuels, regardless of the consequences, China has embarked on an all-out resource grab, in every direction. Its tentacles spread far and wide. Oil is on top of the list. Hence the moves in Iraq, where turmoil has created opportunities. Read.... It Wasn’t Supposed To Be This Way: Chinese Oil Companies Apparent Victors in Post-Saddam Iraq.

Your rating: None

US Imperialism, International Law and the United Nations

liberty statue gun

The broad principles underlying the United Nations (UN) are noble and peaceful. They have unfortunately been perverted from the UN’s inception.

The UN is currently being used as an instrument of domination by several permanent member States of the UN Security Council.

According to the Charter’s Preamble the UN was established:

“to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war [...] to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained [...]” (Charter of the United Nations)

The UN General Assembly (GA) is democratic. One country, one vote. Unfortunately, even if it represents all 193 member states and passes very important resolutions, its members often follow the diktats of the powerful nations on which they depend financially.

The GA has no power. The latter lies in the self-given authority of the five permanent members of the Security Council (U.S.,UK, France, Russia, China), the only ones in possession of the very arbitrary and very powerful veto.

The astonishing number of resolutions passed by the GA regarding Israel have had no effect whatsoever and have invariably been blocked by the US at the Security Council (SC).

In his historic speech at the UN in 2009, which the New York Times unfairly qualified as “rambling”, the late Muammar Gaddafi rightfully and virulently criticized the unjust and contradictory nature of the UN:

The Preamble is very appealing, and no one objects to it, but all the provisions that follow it completely contradict the Preamble. We reject such provisions, and we will never uphold them; they ended with the Second World War. The Preamble says that all nations, small or large, are equal. Are we equal when it comes to the permanent seats? No, we are not equal.

[…] Do we have the right of veto? Are we equal? The Preamble says that we have equal rights, whether we are large or small.

That is what is stated and what we agreed in the Preamble. So the veto contradicts the Charter. The permanent seats contradict the Charter. We neither accept nor recognize the veto.

The Preamble of the Charter states that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest. That is the Preamble that we agreed to and signed, and we joined the United Nations because we wanted the Charter to reflect that. It says that armed force shall only be used in the common interest of all nations, but what has happened since then? Sixty-five wars have broken out since the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council — 65 since their creation, with millions more victims than in the Second World War. Are those wars, and the aggression and force that were used in those 65 wars, in the common interest of us all? No, they were in the interest of one or three or four countries, but not of all nations. (Muammar Gaddafi cited in Who is Muammar Al-Qadhafi: Read his Speech to the UN General Assembly, Global Research, March 23, 2011)

It is worth noting that the Libyan leader was killed during the 2012 NATO military invasion, which had been been approved by the Security Council. Three of the SC”s permanent members namely the U.S., the UK and France, participated in this NATO led invasion.

According to Mahmoud Jibril, Libya’s interim Prime Minister during the Western-backed armed insurrection in 2011, Gaddafi was killed by a French intelligence operative “acting under direct instructions of the French government”.

French President “Sarkozy was eager to prevent the possibility of Gaddafi standing trial, particularly after the Libyan leader had threatened to expose his alleged financial dealings with the French President”. (Joseph Fitsanakis, Did French intelligence agent kill Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi?, intelNews.org, October 2, 2012.)

These allegations are not surprising since France played a leading role in the invasion of Libya.

Was the war on Libya, like the other wars Gaddafi mentioned, “in the common interest of us all” or “in the interest of one or three or four countries”?

Libya was invaded and its leader killed for many reasons, all of which were of financial and geostrategic nature. Mahdi Nazemroaya explains how only a few nations, most of all the U.S., control the UN:

The manipulation of the United Nations for imperialist interests, […] goes back a long way. From its inception, the United Nations was meant to facilitate the global influence of the US after the Second World War. [...]

The UN was used as a tool to control most these former Western European and American colonies of the Third World. At first the US and its post-war allies maintained their domination over the newly formed UN and the former colonies through their numbers and then through a Western Bloc monopoly over the structures of the United Nations. Hereto this monopoly includes control over the agencies and permanent veto-wielding chairs of the fifteen-member Security Council of the United Nations.

The Security Council above all has been used by the US as a means of protecting its interests. The purpose of the Security Council veto is to reject any international resolutions and consensuses against the national interests (or more precisely the interests of the ruling elites) of the US and the other major post-World War II powers [...]

As the Western Bloc began to lose its numerical advantage, control over the Secretariat would be maintained through the Security Council. The UN Security Council does this by filtering all the candidates for the top UN post in the Secretariat. Secretaries-general of the UN are appointed by the UN General Assembly based on the recommendation of the UN Security Council. Thus, the US and other permanent members of the Security Council have vetoes that can eliminate any candidates that would be hostile to their interests. (Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, America’s Takeover of the United Nations, Press TV 3 September 2012.)

The selection process of the UN Secretary-General reveals why those in office espouse concepts such as the so-called “responsibility to protect” (R2P), which actually refers to “military invasion”, and why they fail to act as “spokesm[e]n for the interests of the world’s peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable among them”, as their position requires. If R2P had been drafted with genuine intent, it would have been invoked to protect Palestinians against the permanent Israeli aggression. Under Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretariat has rather endorsed Israeli agressions and approved the illegal blockade of Gaza. Kofi Annan was “an enabler of ‘responsibility to protect’” and Ban Ki-moon its “executioner”, Nazemroaya argues.

In regards to both Libya and Syria, Ban Ki-moon has followed the US and NATO script for R2P and regime change. When a major propaganda effort was launched against Syria following the Houla Massacre, Ban Ki-moon and other UN officials quickly followed the US line and condemned Damascus at a special session of the UN General Assembly in New York City. (Ibid.)

Ronda Hauben details the “mysterious process” by which the Security Council was able to influence the way the UN investigation on the Houla massacre was conducted and how a one-sided version of the events supporting the Western propaganda prevailed:

By a rather mysterious process, the Security Council’s request that an investigation of the Houla massacre, which was to be carried out with the involvement of UNSMIS, was shifted to a significantly different process that was carried out by the Human Rights Council and the Commission of Inquiry it created, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (hereafter CoI). How this shift happened and the significance of this change, merit serious consideration by those who are concerned about the role the UN is playing in the conflict in Syria [...]

Major-General Robert Mood, head of UNSMIS, [...] said that UNSMIS had been to Houla with an investigating team [...] They interviewed locals who told one story. They interviewed locals who told another story. But the circumstances leading up to Houla, the detailed circumstances, the facts related to the incident still remained unclear to the UNSMIS investigators. This led General Mood to say that if there was a decision to support a more extensive on the ground investigation, UNSMIS could help to facilitate it.

In his June 15 press briefing, General Mood said the UNSMIS Report on Houla included statements and interviews with locals with one story and statements and interviews with locals with another story. The August Report of the CoI tells only one story and claims that they either do not have other information or that any other information they know of is inconsistent, so that they have accepted that there is only one story. The Reports that the CoI produced had no on-site interviews or statements, but only telephone or Skype interviews with insurgents or those supporting the account of Houla presented by the armed insurgents. (Ronda Hauben, US-NATO Sponsored Crimes against Humanity in Syria. Coverup by UN Human Rights Council, taz.de,November 28, 2012)

Of all 297 UNSMIS international unarmed military observers on the groundto monitor a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties“, none were from the US. The conditions of the UNSMIS mandate were set by the Security Council, which decided on July 20, 2012 it would allow the mission to be extended only if it confirmed “the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and a reduction in the level of violence sufficient by all sides”. The US must have known those conditions would be impossible to meet since it had itself been providing the rebels with heavy weaponry and contributing to the violence. Even The New York Times ran a story on the CIA arming Syrian rebels on June 21. The UNSMIS mandate was ended on August 19. If the US was not part of the UNSMIS, it was and still is, on the other hand, a member the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The US possibly used its influent position at the Security Council to request that the HRC takes over the Houla massacre investigation, where it could play a part in its findings and align them with its war agenda.

[T]he US was elected to a second three-year term on the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). President Bush boycotted the HRC for criticizing Israel too much, but Obama joined in 2010 to ‘improve’ it. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice welcomed Washington’s re-election this week, saying that the HRC “has delivered real results”, citing its criticism of Syria, though she criticized the rights council’s continued “excessive and unbalanced focus on Israel”. (Eric Walberg, Human Rights: the People vs the UN, November 18, 2012.)

While it should be the guardian and promoter of international law, the UN has shown several times it acts on behalf of the powerful against the powerless. NATO has been manipulating the UN to legitimize its brutal neo-colonial designs and international law is being used in a very selective manner by imperial powers. James Petras explains:

Imperial law supersedes international law simply because imperial law is backed by brute force; it possesses imperial/colonial air, ground and naval armed forces to ensure the supremacy of imperial law.  In contrast, international law lacks an effective enforcement mechanism.

Moreover, international law, to the extent that it is effective, is applied only to the weaker powers and to regimes designated by the imperial powers as ‘violators’. [T]he application and jurisdiction of international law is selective and subject to constraints imposed by the configurations of imperial and national power [...]

To counter the claims and judgments pertaining to international law, especially in the area of theGenevaprotocols such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, imperial legal experts, scholars and judges have elaborated a legal framework to justify or exempt imperial-state activity [...]

This does not imply that imperial rulers totally discard international law: they just apply it selectively to their adversaries, especially against independent nations and rulers, in order to justify imperial intervention and aggression – Hence the ‘legal bases’ for dismantlingYugoslaviaor invadingIraqand assassinating its rulers [...]

Imperial legal doctrine has played a central role in justifying and providing a basis for the exercise of international terrorism.  Executives, such as US Presidents Bush and Obama, have been provided with the legal power to undertake cross-national ‘targeted’ assassinations of opponents using predator drones and ordering military intervention, in clear violation of international law and national sovereignty.  Imperial law, above all else, ‘legalizes’ aggression and economic pillage and undermines the laws of targeted countries, creating lawlessness and chaos among its victims. (James Petras“Legal Imperialism” and International Law: Legal Foundations for War Crimes, Debt Collection and Colonization,December 03, 2012)

On behalf of four men, Canadian and American lawyers recently filed a complaint against Canada with the United Nations Committee against Torture, because the Canadian authorities failed to prosecute George W. Bush during his visit to the country. Considering its strong economic, diplomatic and military ties to the U.S, such a move was not expected from Canada and its inaction demonstrates yet again how the U.S.’ imperial law overcomes international law.

As a signatory to the Convention against Torture, Canada has an obligation to investigate and prosecute a torture suspect on its soil. This is the first time a complaint concerning torture allegations against a high-level U.S. official has been filed with the U.N. Committee. The Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) and the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the complaint on the men’s behalf.

“Canada has the jurisdiction and the obligation to prosecute a torture suspect present in Canada, including a former head of state, and even one from a powerful country,” said Matt Eisenbrandt, CCIJ’s Legal Director. “Canada’s failure to conduct a criminal investigation and prosecution against Mr. Bush when there was overwhelming evidence against him constitutes a clear violation of its international obligations and its own policy not to be a safe haven for torturers.” (Lawyers against the War, Survivors File U.N. Complaint Against Canada for Failing to Prosecute George W. Bush for Torture The Canadian Centre for International Justice, November 14, 2012.)

Global Research offers its readers a list of selected articles on this very important issue. For more in-depth analysis, visit our archives United Nations and Law and Justice.

Global Research has been committed to peace and justice and over the years has provided its readers with insightful analyses pertaining to the UN, international law and illegal wars. We need your help to continue to fight the brutal domination of a ruling elite willing to send young men and women fight unjust wars of aggression to remain in power through destruction and exploitation. You find our articles useful? Make a donation or become a Global Research member!

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online. _______________________________________________________________________________

SELECTED ARTICLES

Who is Muammar Al-Qadhafi: Read his Speech to the UN General Assembly, March 23, 2011

America’s Takeover of the United Nations, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya,  September 3, 2012

US-NATO Sponsored Crimes against Humanity in Syria. Coverup by UN Human Rights Council, Ronda Hauben, November 28, 2012

Human Rights: the People vs the UN, Eric Walberg, November 18, 2012

“Legal Imperialism” and International Law: Legal Foundations for War Crimes, Debt Collection and Colonization, James Petras, December 03, 2012

Survivors File U.N. Complaint Against Canada for Failing to Prosecute George W. Bush for Torture, Lawyers against the War,  November 14, 2012

Hamas Shouldn’t Fire Rockets … But Israel Has Violated HUNDREDS of UN Resolutions, Washington’s Blog, November 20, 2012 

UN General Assembly Vote On Syria: World Gone Unipolar – And Mad, Rick Rozoff, August 06, 2012

Canada’s Vote Opposing UN Recognition of Palestine. Quebec’s Motion to Recognize Palestine Statehood, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, December 05, 2012

UN Vote on Palestine, Stephen Lendman, December 01, 2012

UNESCO Human Rights Conference Honoring Israel’s President Shimon Peres. Four of Five Speakers Pull Out, Ali Abunimah, October 24, 2012

Boycott and Chaos at the United Nations in Geneva: Who Committed War Crimes in Iraq? Dirk Adriaensens, October 03, 2012

The UN and General Mood’s “Missing Report” on Conflicting Accounts of Houla Massacre, Ronda Hauben, September 11, 2012

UN Envoy Brahimi bears Poison Chalice to Syria, Finian Cunningham, September 10, 2012

NAM Summit: Ban Ki-Moon in disgraceful show of US puppetry, Finian Cunningham, August 30, 2012

Can the US and its Allies arbitrarily Violate International Law?, Rick Rozoff and John Robles, August 17, 2012

Terrorism as an Instrument of US Foreign Policy: UN-Backed Rogue States Plan Syria’s Slaughter, Felicity Arbuthnot, August 11, 2012

The Crimes of NATO’s Neocolonial Wars: The Mainstream Media are Organs of State and...

Although ignored by all major news media, one of the most important parliamentary speeches was made recently by Laurent Louis, a young Belgian deputy in the Chamber of Representatives (la Chambre des Représentants).

In his speech Louis denounced the French invasion of Mali which he described as “neo-colonialist”.

Mr. Louis also pointed out that the mainstream media are simply organs of state and corporate propaganda. 

“The leaders of Western countries are taking their people for fools, with the help and support of the press, which today is nothing more than the propaganda organ of the powers that be.”

Not mincing his words, the intrepid Belgian politician lambasted the foreign policy of Belgium and the European Union:

Everywhere in the world, military operations and destabilizations of regimes are becoming more and more frequent. Preventive war has become the rule. Nowadays in the name of democracy or the war on terrorism our states appropriate the right to violate the sovereignty of independent countries and to overthrow legitimate leaders. There was Iraq, Afghanistan, the wars of American lies, followed by Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and thanks to your decisions, our country participated in the front line in crimes against humanity in order to overthrow, every time, every time, progressive and moderate regimes and to replace them with Islamist regimes, whose first desire was to impose Sharia law

Louis went on to accuse the Belgian government of sponsoring terrorism in Syria.

“It’s the same right now in Syria, where our government is shamefully financing the arming of Islamist rebels who are trying to overthrow Bachar Al-Assad; this in the middle of an economic crisis while Belgian citizens have difficulty paying their rent and eating correctly and keeping warm. And our Foreign Minister decides to offer 9 million Euros to the Syrian rebels!”

Louis lashed out at the hypocrisy of the French government, pretending to fight terrorism in Mali while funding and supporting it in Syria. He also condemned NATO’s war in Afghanistan where he accused the latter of making money from drug trafficking.

The Belgian politician did not mince his words:

“ I dismiss all the so-called do-gooders whether they are on the left, the centre or the right who are at the heart of this corrupt power and who like to ridicule me. I piss of our leaders who play with their bombs like children in the playground, and who pretend to be democrats while they are nothing but low-life criminals. I have no respect either for the journalists who have the cheek to treat dissidents as madmen while they know that these dissidents are perfectly correct.”

Louis predicted that NATO’s next target would be Algeria before the final showdown with Iran. He noted that NATO could also decide to wage a terrorist campaign in Europe to justify more repression and foreign wars. This was the reason, he said, for the attacks of 911.

Louis was no doubt alluding to Operation Gladio, a covert terrorist campaign carried out by NATO intelligence in Europe from the 1960s to the 1980s in order to criminalize left-wing groups and increase the power of the capitalist state. Although, investigated by the Belgian and Swiss governments, as well as confessions by many involved to the BBC, many aspects of the terrorism campaign remain mysterious and unresolved.

Before concluding Louis gave the Belgian parliament a brief lesson on Mali’s abundant natural resources, in particular uranium, which the French nuclear energy multinational Areva will now be able to exploit as Malians die of hunger and malnutrition, while the French military will occupy the country with military bases to prevent any revolt of the people.

The thirty three year old politician said more for the ordinary man in one speech than all the parliamentary waffle of the last few decades. In these lugubrious times of ubiquitous lies and obscene evil, Louis’ courage and integrity should serve as an example to other politicians who tread in the corridors of power to speak out and denounce this tyranny now before it destroys all possibility of denunciation.

Listening to Louis’ passionate oratory brought to mind these lines from W.H Auden written in September 1939, on the eve of World War II:

“Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame”

Mehdi’s Morning Memo: Not So Fast Dave

The ten things you need to know on Wednesday 30th January 2013...

1) NOT SO FAST DAVE

Hurrah! From the Huffington Post:

"David Cameron’s hopes of limiting the impact of the 2015 TV debates by staging them before the election campaign gets underway appear dead in the water, after the head of Sky News torpedoed the idea.

"... [S]peaking to The Huffington Post UK, John Ryley, the head of Sky News, flatly rejected the idea.

"'Well, we believe the debates need to take place during the election campaign to be relevant to the voters," he said. "It would be bizarre to hold the debates while Parliament is sitting.'

"Ryley reminded Cameron of his threat to 'empty chair' Gordon Brown in 2010 if he refused to take part and said it would 'bad for democracy, bad for politics, and bad form' if Cameron tried to duck the debates."

Bad luck, Dave. Ryley - a former boss of mine - is a tough, no-nonsense character. It looks like those debates are going to happen - with or without the PM...

Meanwhile, if you read the full HuffPost UK feature on the 2015 TV debates - by Ned Simons and me - you'll learn, among other things, that senior Labour sources are suggesting Nick Clegg's time be cut and redistributed to Ed Miliband. Read our full piece here.

2) GAMBLING ON GAY MARRIAGE

From the Times splash:

"David Cameron is under mounting pressure to push through tax breaks for married couples as a way of averting a Tory rupture over gay marriage.

"Ministers are pressing Downing Street to make a Budget announcement in March implementing the party's promise to reward married couples in the tax system. Cabinet sources told The Times that George Osborne should act 'sooner rather than later' and that the Budget would be 'a good time to placate an awful lot of people'.

"MPs plan to use the coming weeks to warn a reluctant Chancellor that he will increase the risk of losing lifelong Tories from the party unless he acts."

It's a bizarre proposal - but Dave is desperate. Next week, MPs vote on the coalition's bill to introduce same-sex marriage and it's expected that almost half of the party's 303 MPs will vote against, on a free vote.

3) NASTY NICK

Was yesterday the day the Tory dream of a 2015 Commons majority finally came to an end? And were 'Nasty Nick' and his rebellious Lib Dems to blame? My colleague Ned Simons reports:

"Nick Clegg took his revenge on David Cameron today by successfully killing Tory hopes of redrawing the electoral map in a way that would aid the prime minister's reelection, prompting a serious rift between the coalition parties.

"Lib Dem and Labour MPs cheered as they narrowly defeated by 334 votes to 292 an attempt by the Conservative Party to change the number and size of constituencies before 2015.

"In an unprecedented move reflecting the split between coalition parties on the issue, Cameron agreed to suspend the requirement for government ministers to exercise collective responsibility for the vote."

Remember ConHome editor Tim Montgomerie's reaction to the boundary review failure last August? He called it the "worst single electoral setback [for the Tories] since Black Wednesday". Indeed it is...

4) DAVE THE WARRIOR

Today, as a story on the front of the Guardian reports, David Cameron will become

"... the first western leader to visit Algeria since the recent terrorist assault on the country's gas installations that left 35 foreign energy workers dead and saw 36 militants killed by Algerian security forces. Cameron's show of solidarity at the meeting in Algiers comes amid Tory fears that the prime minister is being slowly sucked into a long-term military conflict in the region, symbolised by his decision to send 330 British military personnel to the region to train African troops and support the French intervention in Mali."

Meanwhile, the FT reports that Cameron and George Osborne are "under pressure from Tory MPs to shield the armed forces from further defence cuts in this year's spending review, as the military is dispatched to a new war zone in Mali". And the Telegraph splashes on the threat to the SAS from "new defence cuts".

5) 'MALI WAR COULD BE BRITAIN'S VIETNAM'

That's the headline in the Mirror, which reports on Dave's decision to send another 200 British troops to train an African intervention force (taking the total UK deployment to 330) and quotes former cabinet minister Frank Dobson's comments in the Commons yesterday:

"The American catastrophe in Vietnam started with American troops in a training capacity."

Indeed it did - JFK hid behind the phrase 'military advisers'. Dobson's remarks were echoed by, of all people, Sir Mike Jackson, former chief of the armed forces, who supports the Mali deployment but also warns that a highly successful "conventional" conflict could give way to "a protracted guerrilla warfare away from the conurbations".

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a kid who's won over the internet with his dance moves during a break in the recent Houston Rockets vs Indiana Pacers basketball game.

6) TORTURE INC

The Guardian's award-winning Ian Cobain reports:

"Allegations that British troops in Iraq were responsible for the widespread and systemic abuse of detainees through "terrifying acts of brutality, abuse and intimidation" were raised in the high court yesterday as lawyers representing former prisoners demanded a public inquiry.

"More than a thousand former prisoners complain that they were severely mistreated after being detained by the British military during the five-year occupation of the south-east of the country, while others - including women and children - say they were abused when their male relatives were being detained.

"... The hearing is the latest skirmish in a three-year legal battle between lawyers for the former detainees and the Ministry of Defence (MoD)."

On a related note, HuffPost UK will be hosting a public debate on Iraq - 'Was It Worth It? Iraq, Ten Years On' - on 7 February at 7pm at Goldsmiths, University of London. Speakers include former cabinet minister Clare Short, Times columnist David Aaronovitch, the Independent's Owen Jones and yours truly. Get your free tickets here.

7) 'BROTHERLY SHOVE'

This is my favourite headline from the morning papers - from the Sun, which reveals:

"Ed Miliband was talked out of matching the Tories' EU referendum pledge — by his brother David.

"The under-fire Labour leader's refusal to offer a nationwide vote on Britain's membership has infuriated some senior party figures.

"One claimed Ed vetoed the idea after his older sibling sneered it was 'too populist'."

Meanwhile, the BBC reminds us that "MPs will have their first chance later to discuss the UK's future in Europe since David Cameron promised to hold a referendum on UK membership if he wins the next general election... The Commons debate will take place after Prime Minister's Questions."

Perhaps, just perhaps, we'll get some clarity on what Labour's referendum position actually is, and what the Tories will do if the Europeans don't agree to a 'renegotiation'. But I wouldn't hold your breath.

8) BANKERS NOT SO BASHED

More good news from the world of finance. From the Independent:

"Royal Bank of Scotland is facing criminal charges in the US over allegations its traders tried to fix Libor interest rates, it emerged yesterday.

"... It came as Britain's financial watchdog admitted that top bankers had escaped sanction for misdeeds during the financial crisis because it was 'easier to get the little guys' under Britain's regulatory system."

RBS, says the report, is likely to pay around £500m in fines - but still wants to pay out £250m in bonuses to its investment bankers. You could not make this stuff up.

9) PUSHED INTO POVERTY

From the Guardian:

"Thousands of children and their families who have sought refuge in the UK have been pushed into severe poverty by the low levels of asylum support, a parliamentary inquiry has revealed, concluding that the support system for asylum seekers is in urgent need of reform.

"The inquiry found evidence of children being left destitute and homeless, without state support, and forced to rely on food parcels."

The chair of this cross-party inquiry? Er, the former children's minister Sarah Teather MP.

10) STREWTH!

They're going to the polls down under. Well, not quite yet. From the BBC:

"Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called a general election for 14 September... She said the announcement, eight months in advance, was "not to start the nation's longest election campaign" but to give 'shape and order' to the year."

"... Opinion polls suggest that the opposition, led by Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott, would win an election if the polls were held now."

Oh dear. For a laugh, though, (re)watch this classic video of Gillard tearing strips out of the "sexist" Abbott in the Australian House of Representatives.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 42
Conservatives 33
Lib Dems 11
Ukip 8

That would give Labour a majority of 96.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@ShippersUnbound Tory MPs selling shares in Jesse Norman after Lords rebellion sinks boundary changes. One texts to say: 'Jesse Norman: t***.'

@jameschappers What issue will Tory MPs pick for revenge on LibDems for last night's boundaries vote? (Labour are calling it 'Twit for Twat politics')

@heavencrawley "Clear examples from the past show no correlation between levels of support and numbers of asylum seekers in the UK". Finally, some sense.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Guido Westerwelle, Germany's foreign minister, writing in the Times, says: "Berlin shares Mr Cameron’s desire for reform in Brussels but not his vision for Europe."

Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, says: "UK intervention in Mali treads a familiar – and doomed – path."

Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Britain badly needs an Abraham Lincoln who will think big and act big."


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ([email protected]) or Ned Simons ([email protected]). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

John Kerry’s Conventional Mindset

As his recent confirmation hearing showed, John Kerry won’t think outside the box when he is the Secretary of State.

(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)Take his position on nuclear weapons. He said before the Senate Thursday that eliminating them was a “goal” that could take hundreds of years to achieve. In other words, folks, don’t hold your breath on this one. Kerry here was reflecting the establishment mentality—a mentality that is flawed. “Admire Sen. Kerry, but he exaggerates; won’t take us ‘centuries’ to eliminate nuclear weapons, more likely decades,” tweeted Joe Cirincione, a leading arms-control expert.

On Iran, Kerry was Mr. Both Ways, stating that even though the United States would continue to be engaged in diplomacy with that country, it would not take the military option off the table.

“Our policy is not containment,” he said. “It is prevention, and the clock is ticking.”

Kerry also echoed conventional thinking when he stated that a top priority for the United States should be for it to set right its economic state of affairs, which, according to Kerry, would involve debt reduction. But should that be that high up on the agenda? Not according to Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who in his most recent column chastises the misplaced Beltway attention on the deficit.

Kerry’s performance was so underwhelming that even the New York Times reporter commented: “In a nearly four-hour hearing, Mr. Kerry displayed his familiarity with a broad range of issues but presented no new ideas on how to make headway on the vexing foreign policy problems that he will inherit if he is confirmed, as expected.”

The one subject on which Kerry displayed some boldness was climate change, terming it a “life-threatening issue” and claiming he would be a “passionate advocate” for action on that front. But even here, he undercut himself by declaring that he was undecided on the pending Keystone XL pipeline, a strange position for a “passionate advocate” of the environment.

Kerry’s performance before the Senate was in keeping with his career-long inclination to play it safe.

Certainly, Kerry has shown daring a few times in his political life. The most famous example was early on as a returning (and highly decorated) Vietnam vet.

“We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to dies in Vietnam?” he asked Congress. “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

He has exhibited similar flashes on a couple of occasions during his decades as Senator. He was the chair of the Senate committee looking into the Iran/Contra scandal and uncovered many of its misdeeds. Kerry also headed an investigation that exposed massive wrongdoing at the BCCI bank.

But these episodes have been few and far in between. Much of his senatorial tenure has been marked by an overdose of timorousness.

The most obvious instance was the Iraq War. Along with the current Secretary of State and many other Democrats, Kerry rolled over for President Bush. “I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security,” he said. Later on, when Bush’s chicanery became glaringly obvious, Kerry pulled back, a reversal that the Bush campaign mercilessly used against him in 2004.

Kerry’s Senate testimony revealed again his conformist outlook that will not serve the world well when he is at the helm of U.S. foreign policy.

We can expect more of the same with him in charge.

© 2013 The Progressive Magazine

Amitabh Pal is managing editor of The Progressive.

Mali: Angry Looters Hit Timbuktu’s Streets

Crowds of looters have taken to the streets of Timbuktu in Mali after it was liberated of Islamists, raiding the homes and businesses of suspected jihadist supporters. The angry crowd plundered shops they said belonged to Arabs, Mauritanians and Alger...

Court hears Italian “Devil’s Advocate” was fake lawyer

LONDON (Reuters) - An Italian man known as the "Devil's Advocate" went on trial in London on Tuesday accused of posing as a lawyer to defraud 10 sets of victims of a total of almost one million pounds. Giovanni Di Stefano, 57, denies 25 offences of de...

US, a top terrorist state: Chomsky

American academic Noam Chomsky says the United States will be recognized as a leading terrorist state if international law is applied, Press TV reports.

Today’s Most Popular Stories

Most Popular Articles since:

  • facebook2

    By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, January 26 , 2013
  • Who Owns The Federal Reserve?

    By Ellen Brown, January 29 , 2013
  • The Irish Slave Trade – The Forgotten “White” Slaves

    By John Martin, January 27 , 2013
  • cheney2

    By Paul Schreyer, January 28 , 2013
  • DRONERQ-170_Sentinel_impression_3-view

    By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, January 26 , 2013
  • France: Le président Hollande rencontre l’« opposition » syrienne soutenue par les Etats-Unis

    By Thierry Meyssan, January 28 , 2013
  • Iraq War Crimes: Haditha: Another Small Massacre – No One Guilty

    By Dirk Adriaensens, January 28 , 2013
  • iceland

    By Martin Zeis, January 28 , 2013
  • africom

    By Ben Schreiner, January 29 , 2013
  • bp2

    By Washington's Blog, January 28 , 2013
  • "The True Story of the Bilderberg Group" and What They May Be Planning Now

    By Stephen Lendman, June 1 , 2009
  • africamap

    By Abayomi Azikiwe, January 29 , 2013
  • libya_clip_image002

    By Ronda Hauben, January 28 , 2013
  • cia

    By Russia Today, January 28 , 2013
  • By Socialist Project, January 28 , 2013
  • pacific command

    By Wayne Madsen, January 28 , 2013
  • israelflag

    By Wayne Madsen, January 28 , 2013
  • Trilateral Geithner: Corrupted Regulator?

    By Stephen Lendman, January 28 , 2013
  • mali

    By R. Teichman, January 15 , 2013
  • us ripped flag

    By Rebecca Solnit, January 28 , 2013
  • THE COUP OF 2012: Encroachment upon Basic Freedoms, Militarized Police State in America

    By Frank Morales, January 27 , 2013
  • SYRIA: CIA-MI6 Intel Ops and Sabotage

    By Felicity Arbuthnot, January 27 , 2013
  • Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East”

    By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, January 27 , 2013
  • vietnam

    By Global Research News, January 28 , 2013
  • cia

    By Tom Carter, January 28 , 2013
  • school

    By Prof. James F. Tracy, December 25 , 2012
  • The New Mediterranean Oil and Gas Bonanza

    By F. William Engdahl, January 27 , 2013
  • mentalimaging

    By Prof. James F. Tracy, January 22 , 2013
  • The Federal Reserve Cartel: The Eight Families

    By Dean Henderson, June 1 , 2011
  • Mali's Tuareg-Uranium Conspiracy

    By Moeen Raoof, January 13 , 2013
  • Preparing for World War III, Targeting Iran

    By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, January 2 , 2013
  • By Dr. Gary G. Kohls, January 29 , 2013
  • GMO Scandal: The Long Term Effects of Genetically Modified Food on Humans

    By F. William Engdahl, January 22 , 2013
  • syriakurd438

    By Eric Draitser, January 27 , 2013
  • world

    By Lesley Docksey, January 27 , 2013
  • The Worldwide Network of US Military Bases

    By Jules Dufour, July 1 , 2007
  • parenti2

    By Michael Parenti, January 27 , 2013
  • ECHELON: The Global Eavesdropping Scheme

    By Sherwood Ross, July 20 , 2011
  • king

    By Carl Herman, January 22 , 2013
  • lethal silverware

    By Washington's Blog, January 29 , 2013
  • israelus

    By Francis A. Boyle, January 26 , 2013
  • japan

    By Peter Symonds, January 26 , 2013
  • Gross National Product (GNP): How is it Calculated? What does it Measure?

    By John Kozy, January 19 , 2013
  • drone

    By Der Spiegel, December 16 , 2012
  • fed

    By Andre Damon, January 27 , 2013
  • africa america

    By Bonnie Faulkner, January 24 , 2013
  • GLOBAL WARMING OR THE "NEW ICE AGE"? FEAR OF "THE BIG FREEZE."

    By Washington's Blog, January 2 , 2013
  • Egypt Referendum

    By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, January 22 , 2013
  • chemtrails

    By Prof. James F. Tracy, December 14 , 2012
  • By Vicky Pelaez, March 10 , 2008

Turning Tide? Lawmakers Look to Pentagon for Budget Cuts

Don’t let the forces of regression dominate the media in 2013 - click here to support brave, independent reporting today by making a contribution to Truthout.

Washington, DC — As another debt-deal deadline looms this winter in Congress, an unusual alliance of lawmakers has joined forces to put the Pentagon budget under greater scrutiny and to end the almost carte blanche status it enjoyed in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In a letter last month to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders, 11 Democratic and 11 Republican lawmakers asked that Defense Department spending be put squarely on the table in the coming clashes over debt reduction.

“We believe that substantial defense savings can be achieved over the long term without compromising national security, through strategic reductions in the Pentagon’s budget,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

Shifting fiscal and political pressures influence the emerging congressional coalition; approval ratings have hit historic lows among Americans upset by political gridlock.

But some military experts, both analysts who favor deeper spending cuts and those who oppose them, say there are additional reasons for the re-examination: The record federal debt, now at more than $16.4 trillion, has become a crucial priority that Pentagon leaders say affects military planning. At the same time, the national urgency over anti-terrorism has subsided as the Sept. 11 attacks recede into the chronological distance; the Iraq War has ended, the Afghanistan War is winding down and anti-terror efforts shift to new strongholds such as Mali and Yemen.

Lawrence Korb, who held a senior Pentagon post under President Ronald Reagan, sees a group of unlikely partners: Democrats who want to preserve social programs, tea party-backed Republicans focused on slashing the debt and libertarians aligned with Rep. Ron Paul – the Texas Republican and 2012 presidential candidate – who generally oppose U.S. military ventures abroad.

The congressional coalition has been at the center of a movement that’s stunted defense spending since its 2010 peak of $729 billion.

“The tide has turned,” Korb said.

First came the 2011 Budget Control Act, which imposed $487 billion in Pentagon funding cuts over a decade. It also directed Congress to find an additional $500 billion in reductions or accept forced across-the-board 8.6 percent cuts amounting to that total, now slated to start March 1.

Then, last July, the House of Representatives comfortably approved a one-year freeze on defense spending, with 89 Republicans joining 158 Democrats in voting for it. While the moratorium didn’t become law, it sent a signal that bipartisan resistance to unbridled military funding was rising.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a South Carolina Republican who helped spearhead the bipartisan letter, said it was intellectually dishonest for his party to protect the Pentagon while taking the knife to other large federal agencies.

“It undermines Republicans’ credibility on spending issues if we’re not willing to also look at the defense budget for possible savings,” said Mulvaney, who’s just starting his second term. “It’s hard to go home and say that we want to cut everything but not cut a penny on defense. People don’t believe that. More and more Republicans are willing to talk about this openly now.”

While the lawmakers who wrote last month’s letter have yet to get a response, the broader movement they represent alarms some defense analysts, who fear the pushback against military spending may go too far.

“By the time the Obama administration and Congress are done, we won’t have a big enough military to do what we need to do to remain a global power,” Thomas Donnelly, an analyst with the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute in Washington, told McClatchy.

“A lot of people who are in favor of cutting the Pentagon budget want to see the United States play a lesser role in the world,” Donnelly said.

Korb, though, said the Pentagon could easily absorb an additional $500 billion in cuts over a decade, which he said would take its budget down to 2007 levels when adjusted for inflation. He’d like to see Obama, lawmakers and top military brass find the cuts instead of having them indiscriminately imposed across the board.

“The defense budget went up so rapidly, they didn’t have to make any hard choices,” said Korb, who’s now a national security analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington. “They had waste like I’ve never seen. They spent $50 billion on weapons that they then canceled. Their cost overruns on new weapons systems were $400 billion to $500 billion.”

Korb said the last time Congress had forced significant cuts in military spending was during Reagan’s second term, after passage of the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act, following a large surge in Pentagon funding that the late president had championed to counter the Soviet Union.

Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who joined Mulvaney in leading the effort, said the major defense contractors made it difficult for lawmakers to back military spending cuts by spreading subcontractors and suppliers for huge weapons systems such as the F-35 fighter jet across virtually every state.

“Members (of Congress) don’t evaluate the need for weapons systems in terms of national security,” Ellison said. “They’re worried about families coming up to them and asking why they’re cutting jobs.”

Mulvaney cited Republican President Dwight Eisenhower’s warnings about the growing might of “the military-industrial complex” in the former World War II commander’s January 1961 farewell address.

“It is a problem for Republicans who think that defense spending creates jobs but other government spending doesn’t create jobs,” Mulvaney said. “That opens us up to charges of hypocrisy, and rightly so. We’re selective in our Keynesian philosophy.”

Keynesian economists, following the late John Maynard Keynes’ ideas, believe that government intervention is often necessary for sustained growth, especially during recessions and other economic downturns.

Some independent studies have indicated that Pentagon funding of big weapons systems has diminishing returns when it comes to job creation.

Total federal money to the five biggest defense contractors – Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon – increased by 10 percent from 2006 to 2011. But their combined number of employees dropped by 3 percent during the same period, according to a report last year by the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group in Washington.

The Pentagon budget rose from $421 billion in 2001 – that inflation-adjusted figure is in current dollars – to $711 billion in 2011, a 69 percent hike. The increases were used mainly to finance the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and other anti-terror initiatives.

The defense budget fell to $656 billion last year, mainly because of the cuts in the 2011 Budget Control Act.

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone cost $1.4 trillion in the decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, with annual expenditures now declining thanks to the exit of most U.S. troops from Iraq and the ongoing drawdown in Afghanistan.

In last fall’s presidential campaign, Republican nominee Mitt Romney criticized Obama’s proposed future Pentagon funding levels and called for billions of dollars in new military spending.

Now some Republican senators have challenged Obama’s choice of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, himself a Republican, as defense secretary because of Hagel’s past opposition to the Iraq War and his recent calls for major decreases in Pentagon funding.

And lawmakers of both parties – especially those who represent heavy military states – warn of disastrous impacts on national security if the more than $500 billion in military cuts over 10 years proceeds under the forced spending reductions scheduled to begin March 1.

Rep. Tom McClintock, a California Republican who signed the Mulvaney-Ellison letter, said some calls for greater defense spending had baffled him.

“I’ve never understood why we continue to defend Europe from Russia more than two decades after the Soviet Union collapsed,” McClintock said. “We’re spending considerably more today, even inflation-adjusted, than we spent at the height of the Vietnam War, when we were facing down the Soviet Union and had 500,000 combat troops in the field.”

McClintock said the need to reduce the federal debt had made trimming military costs a necessity.

“Before you can provide for the common defense, you have to be able to pay for it. The ability of our country to do so is coming into grave doubt.”

Turkey happy with Iran gas import

Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Sources Taner Yildiz says his country is satisfied with the unchanged level of gas trade with Iran.

“Iran successfully continues its performance on providing natural gas via pipeline. We are happy about the natural gas trade with Iran,” Yildiz said on Tuesday.

The minister stated that despite taking Iran to arbitration court over its gas price, the flow of the gas between the two countries has not been affected.


“We said we were not happy with the high gas price so we took Iran to international arbitration over the price paid for gas imports," he added.

Iran’s natural gas is of crucial importance to Turkey, as it constitutes one-third of the country's total natural gas imports. Turkey uses a significant portion of imported Iranian natural gas to generate electricity.

Iran, which owns the world's second-largest natural gas reserves after Russia, is Turkey's second-biggest supplier after Moscow.

In addition to exporting gas to Turkey, Armenia, and Pakistan, the country is currently negotiating gas exports to Iraq.

Turkey also imports oil from Iran.

PG/SS

‘Greater Mideast, plot to save Zionists’

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) talks to Chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar Hakim in Tehran on Tuesday, January 29, 2013.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reiterated the Iranian authorities’ warning to regional countries against attempts to sow discord among them.

“Arrogant [powers] have said time and again that they seek to create a Greater Middle East and their sole objective is to save the Zionists and dominate the region once more,” Ahmadinejad said in a meeting with the visiting Chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) Ammar Hakim in Tehran on Tuesday.

Ahmadinejad noted that the ongoing crises in the region are linked to the Western conspiracies which aim to guarantee their grip on the regional states.


Stressing the need for regional nations to be vigilant against the enemies’ plots aimed at stoking conflict among them, the Iranian president said, “Solidarity, integrity and attention to people’ conventional rights constitute the best solution to countering the enemies’ conspiracy.”

Ahmadinejad stated that the regional governments should act in a way to support all people and restore their rights.

“Governments should be standard-bearer in defending rights and prosperity of all people. No discrimination should be made between different ethnicities and groups of people.”


For his part, Hakim stated that arrogant powers are intent on triggering ethnic and sectarian conflict in Iraq to reach their own spiteful objectives in the war-wrecked country.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said, “Today the main policy of the global arrogance to counter [the wave of] Islamic Awakening is to sow discord and pit Muslims in Islamic countries against each other.”

KA/SS

Wilkerson: Why Hagel is a Good Choice

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to this week's edition of The Wilkerson Report with Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson.

Larry Wilkerson was the former chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. He's currently an adjunct professor of government at the College of William & Mary and a regular contributor to The Real News. Thanks for joining us.COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FMR. CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: Thanks for having me, Paul.JAY: So I've been wanting to ask you about this for a couple of weeks now. What do you make of President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense?WILKERSON: I think the president has made a pretty astute move putting John Kerry in the State Department and, hopefully, Chuck Hagel in the Department of Defense. He's covered his bases, so to speak, with national security issues with Chuck Hagel's appointment, and he's done the same thing with John Kerry at State. Both have almost unimpeachable credentials with regard to national security policy, and so I think it's a good move on both counts.JAY: Now, he had to know that this was going to infuriate, first of all, one gentleman named Netanyahu, AIPAC and such, and the whole neocon constituency, 'cause, I mean, Chuck Hagel became a very strong critic of the Iraq War, and he's been very unwilling to jump on board sort of hysteria about Iran, and they don't like that.WILKERSON: That's true. I like it a great deal, and I think 60 to 70 percent of Americans will appreciate it also, because that group of Americans, who constitute the bulk of Americans, of course, are not interested in another war in the Middle East, a war which would probably be catastrophic, as former secretary of defense Robert Gates called it. And so I think President Obama has made a move that is in line with his electoral mandate. After all, he won for another four years. And he's selecting people whose views more or less reflect the views of a majority of Americans.JAY: But why are they so antagonistic to Hagel? I mean, he is a Republican. He caucused with them. They know him well. But they're really pulling out their guns.WILKERSON: That's the problem—they do know him well, just as they knew George Voinovich of Ohio well and Olympia Snowe and others—Susan Collins, and other Republicans who are of the—what I shall call the Nelson Rockefeller framework or the Lawrence Wilkerson framework or the Colin Powell framework. They're people who think critically. They're people who are interested in the national outcome of this country's efforts in the world, both foreign and domestic. They're people who believe in allies, believe in friends, believe in talking and acting diplomatically with enemies or potential enemies. They're sane people, in other words. I don't know, Paul, but you may have checked the Republican Party lately. It's got a lot of crazy people in it. It's got a lot of extremists in it. That's why they lost the election. That's why they'll lose the next election if they don't correct their problems. So I'm wonderful with this idea that we've got some Republicans who [are] moderate in their outlook and who are nonetheless going to be in positions of power.JAY: Now, I mean, the group that seems to really be opposing it is sort of not the kind of Tea Party types; it's the old-guard neocon foreign policy guys, you know, Lindsey Graham and his gang of people, I guess the old Bush gang Karl Rove type people. What is it about Hagel? What has he done specifically that they're so worried about?WILKERSON: It's the John Boltons, it's the Douglas Feiths, it's the Elliott Cohens, its others who believe that American military power should be used almost as the sole instrument of American policy. And they're irritated because Chuck Hagel doesn't believe that way. They're irritated because in the past Hagel has shown that he has a very balanced view towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue, that he knows all the guilt isn't on the Palestinian and Arab side, that some of it's on the Israeli side.He's very balanced on the Iran issue. That is to say, he believes diplomacy should run its full course before any option looking like military force is turned to. [snip] also a person who understands, I think, that we are frittering away our military power on the fringes of our empire, and that that's the way empires in the past have gone the route of the dodo. And he doesn't want the American enterprise to go that way. So he's very concerned about our getting our economic house in order, the ultimate bastion/foundation of our power in the world in general, and very [inaud.] in getting our foreign policy issues straight so that we don't further diminish the ability of our domestic scene to correct itself.We've got a lot of work to do in this country, rebuilding infrastructure, addressing climate change, coming up with alternative energy sources, and leading the world, more or less, in this effort, so at the same time we restore our economic power while we're leading the world in a way that will be sustainable to the end of this century. These are huge challenges confronting us. And only now do I see, you know, these brief inklings of recognition of some of these challenges beginning to blossom in the White House, maybe even in that Luddite group of congressmen, many of whom deny that global warming and climate change is even changing.So the challenges that are confronting us are huge, and we don't need people who are so focused on what the neocons are focused on in positions of power. And I'm delighted to see people who have a wider vista and a more moderate approach to foreign and security policy in ministerial positions. It's—this is a great change.JAY: Now, you once gave a speech—I think it was at the Samuel Adams awards that we taped that year, and you said that there's kind of two roads here for people in positions of power who look at the current American empire. You said that there's a fact here, which is the empire is going to come to an end over the next few decades, but sooner than later, and it can either manage that, where United States becomes a kind of a—more of a coequal player in the global scene, or you can manage it in a way that you kind of strike out and make, you know, every attempt to defend something that can't be defended, and that gets very dangerous. What does Hagel's appointment tell you, not so much about him, but even more about President Obama in that context?WILKERSON: I hope it tells me that he's beginning to show he recognizes some of these long-term and far more serious challenges, for example, than Iran. Whether Iran has a nuclear weapon or not, it pales in significance when confronted with some of these other challenges.Richard Haass has a new book that's coming out, Foreign Policy Begins at Home, and in that book I'm sure Richard is going to talk about how we need desperately to repair our home ground in order to have any hope of having an effective foreign and security policy. I think Senator Hagel believes that. I think Senator Kerry believes that. I hope—I hope—that President Obama believes that. [snip] no question about it. There are going to be 3 billion people, many of them in India and China, who are going to come into the middle class and are going to want the standard of living that that connotes.What we're talking about is six to nine planets' worth of resources just to satisfy those desires. We don't have those six to nine planets' worth of resources. So we'd best get busy building the kind of sustainable, the kind of regenerative agriculture, for example, that goes along with that sustainability, and building the kind of infrastructure, technologically and otherwise, that can accommodate this new, massive entry into the middle class, or we're going to have by 2050 nothing but war and anarchy and chaos and, I'm sorry to say, probably a whole lot of death.JAY: So when you assess these personalities—President Obama, Hagel, Kerry—the question comes up about how much they can, even if they do believe in a more rational foreign policy—. And I take your point: I think at least the appointment of Hagel says something about Obama vis-à-vis Iran, that he's not wanting to jump on the go to war with Iran bandwagon. But if you look at Kerry, I mean, Kerry began as this critic of Vietnam, but seems to come, like, full circle—or half a circle, maybe not full circle, 'cause he's not back to being the critic—I mean, this is the guy that said, even if he knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he'd still vote for supporting it. But he's even going further than some of the Republicans and others that voted at the time.WILKERSON: I think it's mostly an effort to shore up what (at least until, maybe one can say, the killing of bin Laden) had been very, very weak foundation for the Democrats on national security. I know for someone who knows about Harry Truman, FDR, and all that they represented in those times, that seems nonsensical, but let's face it. Since George McGovern and his run for the presidency in—what was it?—1968, I guess, the Democrats have really had problems bolstering their national security bona fides. They've had a tremendous problem competing with the Republicans in the realm of national security.And I think that accounts for some of the more, shall we say, out-of-character remarks from time to time from Democrats, because they're trying to reestablish those bona fides. And in a time of post-9/11, it's a very critical thing, politically, for some of them to do. So I think that accounts for some of the more bellicose remarks, if you will, coming from people like John Kerry. I hope it doesn't represent a change in his basic outlook, because the basic outlook is that military force should be the last, the absolute last resort after you have exhausted political, economic, financial, diplomatic, informational, cultural, and all other aspects of national power. Military power should only be the last resort.JAY: Alright. Thanks for joining us, Larry.WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Paul.JAY: And thank you for joining us 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.


Comments

Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at [email protected]

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

The Setting Sun and the American Empire

The euphemisms will come fast and furious.  Our soldiers will be greeted as “heroes” who, as in Iraq, left with their “heads held high,” and if in 2014 or 2015 or even 2019, the last of them, as also in Iraq, slip away in the dark of night after lying to their Afghan “allies” about their plans, few here will notice.Sunset in Afghanistan.

This will be the nature of the great Afghan drawdown. The words “retreat,” “loss,” “defeat,”  “disaster,” and their siblings and cousins won’t be allowed on the premises.  But make no mistake, the country that, only years ago, liked to call itself the globe’s “sole superpower” or even “hyperpower,” whose leaders dreamed of a Pax Americana across the Greater Middle East, if not the rest of the globe is… not to put too fine a point on it, packing its bags, throwing in the towel, quietly admitting—in actions, if not in words —to mission unaccomplished, and heading if not exactly home, at least boot by boot off the Eurasian landmass.

Washington has, in a word, had enough. Too much, in fact.  It’s lost its appetite for invasions and occupations of Eurasia, though special operations raids, drone wars, and cyberwars still look deceptively cheap and easy as a means to control... well, whatever.  As a result, the Afghan drawdown of 2013-2014, that implicit acknowledgement of yet another lost war, should set the curtain falling on the American Century as we’ve known it.  It should be recognized as a landmark, the moment in history when the sun truly began to set on a great empire.  Here in the United States, though, one thing is just about guaranteed: not many are going to be paying the slightest attention.

No one even thinks to ask the question: In the mighty battle lost, who exactly beat us?  Where exactly is the triumphant enemy?  Perhaps we should be relieved that the question is not being raised, because it’s a hard one to answer.  Could it really have been the scattered jihadis of al-Qaeda and its wannabes?  Or the various modestly armed Sunni and Shiite minority insurgencies in Iraq, or their Pashtun equivalents in Afghanistan with their suicide bombers and low-tech roadside bombs?  Or was it something more basic, something having to do with a planet no longer amenable to imperial expeditions?  Did the local and global body politic simply and mysteriously spit us out as the distasteful thing we had become?  Or is it even possible, as Pogo once suggested, that in those distant, unwelcoming lands, we met the enemy and he was us?  Did we in some bizarre fashion fight ourselves and lose?  After all, last year, more American servicemen died from suicide than on the battlefield in Afghanistan; and a startling number of Americans were killed in “green on blue” or “insider” attacks by Afghan “allies” rather than by that fragmented movement we still call the Taliban. 

Whoever or whatever was responsible, our Afghan disaster was remarkably foreseeable.  In fact, anyone who, from 2006 on, read Ann Jones’s Afghan reports at TomDispatch wouldn’t have had a doubt about the outcome of the war. Her first piece, after all, was prophetically entitled “Why It’s Not Working in Afghanistan.” (“The answer is a threefold failure: no peace, no democracy, and no reconstruction.”)  From Western private-contractors-cum- looters making a figurative killing off the “reconstruction” of the country to an Afghan army that was largely a figment of the American imagination to up-armored U.S. soldiers on well-guarded bases whose high-tech equipment and comforts of home blinded them to the nature of the enemy, hers has long been a tale of impending failure.  Now, that war seems headed for its predictable end, not for the Afghans who, as Jones indicates in her latest sweeping report from Kabul, may face terrible years ahead, but for the U.S.  After more than 11 years, the war that is often labeled the longest in American history is slowly winding down and that’s no small thing.

So leave the mystery of who beat us to the historians, but mark the moment. It’s historic.

© 2012 TomDispatch.com

Tom Engelhardt

‘Terrorists only a small part of Syrian rebellion’ – Opposition VP

Another push to support the Syrian opposition has taken place in Paris, as the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition (SNC) met with its sponsors to secure more funding and weapons in a bid to bring peace to Syria, SNC’s vice president told RT.

­However, the renewed attempt on Monday to broker a political transition in Syria and put an end to the country's 22-month-long conflict brought no visible success.

RT caught up with Syrian National Coalition Vice President George Sabra, and asked him what he thinks is needed to bring about peace in Syria.

“We need some new weapons against airplanes,” Sabra told RT’s Maria Finoshina. “You know Bashar Al Assad sends planes to damage villages and cities and civilians. We need to protect ourselves our children from killing every day.”

RT: So to help the Syrian people and to help end the Syrian crisis, you need weapons and money? Is that correct?

George Sabra: Yes, sure. Sure. And we need political support also. Who can cooperate with the man who killed more than 60,000 people? We are concerned, but we are not afraid, because the majority of fighter groups in Syria are not extremists and not terrorists, only fighting for freedom and dignity.

RT: And what about Al Nusra group from Iraq? Are these people fighting for freedom and democracy as well?

GS: They are fighting for freedom and democracy, but maybe we will face some problem with them. Anyway, they are a small part of the revolution in Syria.

RT: But these people are recognized even by the French President as extremists and terrorists…

GS: All over the world you can find extremists, but they are not the real picture, only a small part of it, please recognize that.

RT: So you are absolutely sure that you’ll be able to control them, these people

GS: Sure, very sure, very sure about that.

Though Sabra claims that extremists make up only a small number of the rebels and are easy to contain, historian Gerald Horne does not agree, and argued that a similar scenario played out in Libya.

“We are reassured by [the SNC vice president] that if dissidents come to power they’ll be able to handle the Al Nusra front, but the Libyan dissidents said the same thing when they worked with NATO in 2011 about toppling Colonel Gaddafi," Horne said.

NATO's push for a similar intervention in Syria suggests that Western powers have not learnt “even the most recent lessons of history,” he added. “Now we see that in Benghazi, which was the cradle of the revolt against Gaddafi, the North Atlantic countries have asked their nationals to flee because of presumed impending terrorist attacks launched by those they just helped into power.”

Horne believes that most of what the Syrian National Coalition’s representatives are saying should be taken “with a grain of salt,” as they have no hesitation “putting civilians in harm’s way by launching attacks from crowded urban communities.”

Horne was also struck by the fact that SNC leader stated they would not be involved in any negotiations with the Assad regime.

“The way wars end is that you negotiate with those who are shooting at you,” Horne said. “And this is how this war should end. But if they refuse to negotiate that tends to suggest that this conflict will continue indefinitely.”

Report: US Shops for New Drone Base in Africa

Reporting in the New York Times Monday reveals that the US government is busy in west Africa looking for a country willing to host a military base for a portion its fleet of Predator drones.

US government is looking for a new home in Africa for a base to operate a fleet of Predator drones. (Photo: Air Force) Officials who spoke to the newspaper say that only un-armed surveillance drones would be part of an original plan to establish a base, but "they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes" if they consider it necessary in the future.

According to the Times:

If the base is approved, the most likely location for it would be in Niger, a largely desert nation on the eastern border of Mali, where French and Malian troops are now battling Qaeda-backed fighters who control the northern part of that country. The American military’s Africa Command is also discussing options for the base with other countries in the region, including Burkina Faso, officials said.

The immediate impetus for a drone base in the region is to provide surveillance assistance to the French-led operation in Mali. “This is directly related to the Mali mission, but it could also give Africom a more enduring presence for ISR,” one American military official said on Sunday, referring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Established critics of the US war on terror will not be surprised at the news, as the Pentagon and CIA have been fighting aspects of the so-called 'war on terror' in Africa for much of the last decade. However, establishing a US drone base inside Niger, Burkina Faso or elsewhere will be a clear escalation on the part of AFRICOM.

As Dashiell Bennett writes at The Atlantic,  a new US base "almost certainly guarantees a long-term U.S. presence in North Africa." And continues:

It would also send a clear signal that the U.S. now considers North Africa to be a theater in the never-ending, non-declared war on terror (with lowercase letters). Now that Afghanistan and Iraq are officially "over," the focus appears to be moving West, to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, to the ethnic and religious violence in Nigeria, to the scattered militias in Libya, and toward terrorist attackers like those who hit the Algeria gas facility this month. This just continues the pattern of the Sahara region drawing more and more of America's military resources and attention. And history shows that once the Pentagon establishes a presence in an foreign country, it becomes almost impossible to get them to leave.

It also proves that drones will continue to be the preferred first line of defense overseas. The Times also reports that Americans have already signed a "status of forces" agreement with Niger, the likely location of the new base. There are still several steps of approval to go through, but the wheels are in motion, and it won't be long before the drones will be in the sky.

_________________________

9/11 suspects’ lawyers demand CIA ‘black sites’ to be preserved as evidence

AFP Photo / Michelle Shephard / Toronto Star / Pool

AFP Photo / Michelle Shephard / Toronto Star / Pool

Self-confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other defenders claim they were tortured in Guantanamo, prompting their lawyers to call for the preservation of the CIA secret prisons to use them as evidence.

The pretrial hearing for the suspected terrorist conspirators began Monday. Facing the death penalty for their involvement in the deadly attacks that killed 2,976 people on September 11, 2011, the five prisoners are making a last-ditch attempt to reduce sentence by describing their torture experiences at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base.

Mohammed previously accused the US government of killing millions of people and employing inhumane torture procedures “under the name of national security.” Attorneys representing the defendants are now calling for the judge to demand the preservation of the CIA “black sites” to use as evidence in the case against the US government. If the attorneys are able to prove that any of the evidence against the conspirators was obtained through torture, then this evidence may be excluded during the trial and lead to reduced sentences.

The defense team has also asked the judge to order the US government to give all White House and Justice Departments documents about the CIA’s handling of the prisoners to the defense. The agency moved its al-Qaeda prisoners across borders to the Guantanamo prison after the 9/11 attacks and questioned them without a judicial review. Documents regarding the actions of the intelligence agency have not yet been made available to the defense.

This week’s pretrial hearing is “the first step toward finding what happened in the torture of these men,” James Connell, an attorney for Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, an accused 9/11 conspirator and nephew of Mohammed, said in a press conference on Sunday.

Mohammed and the other defendants will argue that they were subjected to torture including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and threats. The prisoners were allegedly also forced to endure painful positions while having their arms and legs tightly chained.

The preservation of the “black sites” could open the doors for investigation and analysis regarding the treatment of its inmates.

If a person is in isolation,” Connell argues, “how that isolation is enforced is a relevant legal factor as to whether they’ve been illegally punished, and the building design is relevant to that.”

The legality of torture is negated by the Geneva Convention and the UN Convention Against Torture, and its practice is illegal in the US. The CIA has not always been opposed to torturous interrogation techniques, but their implementation was allegedly reduced in 2004 and banned after President Obama took office.

The team of defense lawyers in the 9/11 case will attempt to have some of their defendants’ charges dismissed by bringing up the misconduct that the CIA may have committed in torturing the detainees.

"By its nature, torture affects the admissibility of evidence, the credibility of witnesses the appropriateness of punishment and the legitimacy of the prosecution itself," the defense lawyers wrote in court documents.

Ordering the preservation of a CIA “black site” is difficult, but not impossible: in 2004, the judge overlooking the 9/11 trial ordered the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to be preserved as a crime scene – even though Iraq was still under US occupation.

It is unclear whether the black sites are at risk of destruction, and in an interview with Wired, Connell said he can “neither confirm nor deny that”, but that the defense should have access to the evidence.

“If the government wants to go forward with a case seeking the death penalty against these men, it has to make the evidence which may still exist available to them,” Connell says. “If they will not make relevant evidence available, the law suggests the prosecution cannot go forward with the case. ”

‘NATO spreads sectarian violence’

Speaker of Iran Majlis (parliament) Ali Larijani says NATO forces are stirring up sectarian division in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of helping restore calm to the war-torn countries.

“The presence of NATO [forces] in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in the intensification of domestic problems and emergence of sectarian strife and discrepancy in these countries,” Larijani said in a meeting with senior Turkish Shia cleric Sheikh Salahuddin Ozgunduz on Monday.

“NATO has never cared about the interests of Islamic countries,” Larijani added.

Noting that the Zionist regime and arrogant powers are undermining the Muslim world by fomenting sectarian strife among Muslims, Larijani added, “The entry of NATO into the region is detrimental to Muslims and the Islamic world.”


For his part, Ozgunduz stated that the enemies of Islam seek to undermine Muslim countries by disintegrating them and causing sectarian violence in the region.

KA/SS/MA

Gunships Over Miami: “Machine Gun Fire, Strafing Runs, Troops Rappelling From Choppers, and...

Mac Slavo
January 28th, 2013
SHTFplan.com

Read by 20,780 people

Gun control advocates say deadly assault weapons have no business being on the streets of America.

But, apparently, those same people who would restrict you of your ability to defend yourself have no objections to fully loaded military gunships flying over American population centers.

That’s exactly what happened in Miami, Florida recently when the U.S. military, in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies, staged an “urban training exercise,” justifying the action as as preparation of our troops for deployment overseas.

If we’re supposedly pulling our military out of Afghanistan and Iraq, which urban environment is it that the military and local police are training for?

Military “exercises” in populated urban environments are now so routine, so commonplace, they are no longer reported by the national media and are left as “human interest” stories for local news stations.

For instance, in Miami last Thursday, units of the military industrial complex staged yet another training exercise.

“Diving Blackhawks, blank rounds of machine gun fire, strafing runs, troops rappelling from choppers, and road blockades,” writes Karen De Coster. “All over the skies of Miami at night, just a few days ago. According to this local TV clown in the video, this event was for the purposes of ‘meeting requirements,’ preparing for overseas military drills, and making sure the equipment is in check.”

In the above video, we hear the staccato of door guns pounding away as “military-style choppers” swooped a couple hundred feet above traffic on I-395 in downtown Miami.

From the local CBS disinfo ministry:

The training is designed to ensure that military personnel are able to operate in urban areas and to focus on preparations for overseas deployment. It also serves as a mandatory training certification requirement.

Source: Kurt Nimmo at Infowars.com

The U.S. military has remote training installations all over the world. Why, then, would it be necessary for them to be engaging in exercises over a major U.S. city?

We are being systematically desensitized to a domestic police state. From being violated by security agents at our nation’s airports, to heavily armed hybrid security teams being deployed in martial red zones around the country, the government is reshaping our perceptions of what  ”normal” means.

In this context it’s important to note that Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano recently said that we no longer need to worry about Al Queda as a threat to America. Rather, DHS security and intelligence resources are shifting to the domestic front:

“There’s been a lot of evolution over the past three years,” she said. “The thing that’s most noticeable to me is the growth of the lone wolf,” the single attacker who lives in the United States or elsewhere who is not part of a larger global conspiracy or network, she said.

She named no examples, but it’s a phenomenon that is increasingly the focus of international anti-terror operations.

As has been previously noted, the US military, including the National Guard, have been training for domestic policing actions for many years, and have been actively war gaming large scale economic collapse and civil unrest scenarios.

Make no mistake. The goal of this live environment exercise is not to stop a terrorist threat from Al Queda or some other rogue foreign element.

It’s to stop you.

Hat tip: Infowars, Beyond Collapse

Author: Mac Slavo
Views: Read by 20,780 people
Date: January 28th, 2013
Website: www.SHTFplan.com

Copyright Information: Copyright SHTFplan and Mac Slavo. This content may be freely reproduced in full or in part in digital form with full attribution to the author and a link to www.shtfplan.com. Please contact us for permission to reproduce this content in other media formats.

The 9/11 Plan: Cheney, Rumsfeld and the “Continuity of Government”

cheney2

“If a mandarinate ruled America, the recruiting committee on September 11 would have had to find someone like Cheney.” Washington Post author Barton Gellman in his book “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency”

Terrorism. Emergency plans. Political careers. The history of 9/11 can be written from many angles.

But whatever point of view is chosen, Dick Cheney is a central figure. “Principle is okay up to a certain point”, he once said, “but principle doesn´t do any good if you lose the nomination”. He´s surely an elusive character. Not less than Donald Rumsfeld, his close companion. Both of their lifes are inseperably bound with a dark side of recent American history. The core of the following story was originally told by the authors James Mann and Peter Dale Scott whose thorough research is deeply appreciated. Yet a lot of background information was added. Thus a bigger picture slowly took shape, showing a plan and its actors …

Cheney and Rumsfeld were an old team. Major parts of their careers they had spent together. Both had no privileged family background. Cheney´s father worked as an employee for the department of agriculture, Rumsfeld´s father had a job in a real estate company. The families´ living conditions were modest. Both sons could go to university only with the backing of scholarships.

Rumsfeld, born 1932, chose political science. He was a rather small and sturdy person, but with energetic charisma. While at university he engaged in sport and was known as a succesful ringer. Later Rumsfeld went to the Navy to become a pilot. The Navy hat paid a part of his scholarship. At the end of the 1950s he eventually started his career in politics as assistant of a congressman. Meanwhile father of a young family, and following a short intermezzo at an investment bank, Rumsfeld himself ran for Congress, at the age of 29 only.

Getting backing

The prospects in his Chicago home district were unfavorable. He was inexperienced and almost without any voter base, compared to the other candidates. But the dynamic and ambitious Rumsfeld impressed some of Chicago´s business leaders, such as the boss of pharma heavyweight Searle. They paid for his campaign. With this economic power in his back also one of Chicago´s newspapers supported him. Rumsfeld won the election in 1962 and went to Washington as a republican representative.

At the beginning of the 1960s he visited lectures at the University of Chicago, where Milton Friedman was teaching, one of the most influental economists of his time. Friedman was one of the founding fathers of neoliberalism. He called for less influence of the state and praised the self regulation of the markets. In 1962 his bestseller Capitalism and Freedom was published. Rumsfeld was impressed by these thoughts. In a speech honoring Friedman 40 years later he remembered: “Government, he has told us, has three primary functions: It should provide for the military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. And it should protect citizens against crimes against themselves or their property.” (1) This self-imposed restriction of politics was also the core of Rumsfeld´s belief while he served in Congress in the 1960s.

An apprentice in politics

Cheney, 9 years younger than Rumsfeld, meanwhile studied political science as well. First at Yale, where he left soon because of poor grades, then at a less prestigious university in the Midwest. Contrary to the forceful Rumsfeld he appeared rather defensive, quiet and cautious. His imminent recruiting to the Vietnam war he avoided by getting defered from military service because of his study at the university and the pregnancy of his wife, until he couldn´t be recruited because of his age in 1967.

At the age of 27 Cheney was looking for a job in Washington. He applied for an internship at Rumsfeld´s office. But Rumsfeld rejected him. The failed interview was embarassing for Cheney who in later times liked to tell the story of this flop as an anecdote. But soon both men found together.

Under president Nixon, Rumsfeld had switched in 1969 from Congress to government. First he ran the Office of Economic Opportunity. There he administered federal social programs – not exactly one of his major concerns, but still one step forward in career. Rumsfeld was looking for new staffers to pass on work. By recommendation of a befriended representative he employed Cheney as his assistant. Cheney was a diligent worker and quickly made himself indispensable. Whoever wanted something from Rumsfeld, learned soon to try it via Cheney.

Rumsfeld´s career developed. People started becoming aware of him nationwide. He looked good, was energetic and had a catching smile. His intelligence was outstanding. But he also liked to exaggerate and escalate conflicts and often was unnecessarily blunt to others. Soon he became president Nixon´s advisor (who would praise him as a “ruthless little bastard”). Three years later he went to europe becoming NATO´s ambassador there – escaping from Washington shortly before the Watergate affair would kill the careers of many of Nixon´s advisors.

Tasting power

In the mid of the 1970s politics in America went through a time of upheaval. The economy was in crisis. With the lost war in Vietnam, nationwide student protests and Watergate the leadership of the superpower showed internal signs of decay, culminating in Nixon´s resignation in 1974. Successor Gerald Ford appointed Rumsfeld to become chief of staff with Cheney shadowing him closely as his deputy.

Now both men had arrived in the centre of power. The position of chief of staff was seen as highly influential in the White House. He was the closest advisor to the president, controlled his schedule and also decided who would meet him. After Nixon, Watergate and the extensively publicly discussed CIA scandals the new administration had to fight with a damaged reputation. This difficult situation, with a relatively weak president, increased the importance of the chief of staff.

Rumsfeld and Cheney were partners now and had great influence on president Ford. When he reshuffled his cabinet abruptly in 1975 in the so-called “Halloween massacre”, firing among others the CIA director and the secretary of defense, many suspected Rumsfeld being the wirepuller. Fact was at least that he and Cheney were profiteering.

Rumsfeld now took over the command at the Pentagon. There he started expensive and prolonged defense projects like the Abrams tank and the B-1 bomber, building economic impact for decades. At the same time the 34 years old Cheney moved up to become chief of staff in the White House. Now he was no longer only assistant but an authority with relevant beliefs. One of his rules went: “Principle is okay up to a certain point, but principle doesn´t do any good if you lose the nomination.” (2)

Revolving doors

However soon just that happened. After the defeat of the Republicans in 1976 both men dropped out of government. Together with their families they spent holidays with each other in the Caribbean. Rumsfeld remembers the relaxing break with pleasure: “We played Tennis, boated, and spent time in the sun talking about life. Cheney grilled steaks and made chili.” (3)

Back home Cheney started capitalizing his Washington insider knowledge by working for a consulting company, helping wealthy clients with their investment decisions. But soon he returned to politics. At the end of the 1970s he went as elected Congressman to the House of Representatives. Yet the stress and pressure had their effect on the cautious and restrained Cheney – at age 37 he suffered his first heart attack.

Rumsfeld on the other hand found his new place for a longer time in private business. Dan Searle, the Chicago pharma magnate who had financed his first election campaign 15 years before, now entrusted him his whole company, appointing him to Searle´s CEO. Financially Rumsfeld climbed to new heights with that job. As CEO he got 250.000 Dollars a year, about four times more than as secretary of defense. (4) And also in his new job he made no half measures. Within short time Rumsfeld fired more than half of the employees, generating a huge increase in corporate profit. The business newspapers praised him as an outstanding manager.

In the 1980s the Republicans came back to power with Ronald Reagan. The new president conjured up the threatening picture of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” and increased military spending. The Cold War gained new momentum.

The Armageddon Plan

At this time the White House also developed a secret emergency plan, put in action however only at September 11th, 2001 for the first time. Initially it should guarantee that the government could continue its operations even after a Soviet nuclear strike. The plan was called COG (Continuity of Government) and called for a very special emergency measure: when disaster struck, three teams should be sent to different places in the country, replacing the government. Each team would have an own “president” as well as other people standing in for the different departments and government agencies. If one team would be killed, the next one could be activated. So the planners hoped to keep control over the military and the most important parts of the administration, after an atomic bomb or another disaster had wiped out the government in Washington. (5)

These worries about a possible “decapitation” of the national leadership were deemed very seriously because exactly this course of action was also part of the U.S. war strategy towards the Soviets. (6)

The COG plan existed not only on paper. It was exercised in reality regularly in the 1980s. Once a year the teams, each consisting of a “president”, a “chief of staff” and about 50 staffers, were secretly flown from Washington to a closed military base or a bunker somewhere in the United States. There they played the emergency scenario for several days. Not even their closest relatives knew about the location or purpose of the exercise. (7)

Richard Clarke, later anti-terror coordinator under the presidents Clinton and Bush junior, recalls one of the maneuvers at that time:

 ”I remember one occasion where we got the call. We had to go to Andrews Air Force Base and get on a plane and fly across the country. And then get off and run into a smaller plane. And that plane flew off into a desert location. And when the doors opened on the smaller plane, we were in the middle of a desert. Trucks eventually came and found us and drove us to a tent city. You know, this was in the early days of the program. A tent city in the middle of the desert — I had no idea where we were. I didn’t know what state we were in. We spent a week there in tents, pretending that the United States government had been blown up. And we were it. It’s as though you were living in a play. You play-act. Everyone there play-acts that it’s really happened. You can’t go outside because of the radioactivity. You can’t use the phones because they’re not connected to anything.” (8)

Part of every team was one authentic secretary, leading a government department also in real life. He had to play the president. Yet his real life portfolio didn´t matter – at one point even the secretary of agriculture played the president. In the end the secretary taking part in the exercise was usually just the one being dispensable. Apparently more important was the role of the chief of staff. This part was routinely played only by a person who had been White House chief of staff also in real life. (9)

+Therefore Rumsfeld and Cheney were regular participants of the secret annual COG exercises. Other attendants described them as being involved in shaping the program. (10) So at a time when the two men had no position whatsoever in government (Rumsfeld, as mentioned, was boss of a pharma company, Cheney was congressman), both of them disapeared every year for a few days to practice the take-over of the government after a disaster.

Above the law

The plan was secret also because it bypassed the constitution. Since the presidential succession was already explicitly fixed by law: if the president died, the vice president took over, then followed by the speaker of the house, after him the longest serving senator, then the secretaries of state, treasury, defense and so forth. However the COG plan simply ignored this well balanced constitutional arrangement. In an emergency it called instead for a president who was not democratically legitimized at all.

The plan was authorized with a secret directive by president Reagan. According to his security advisor Robert McFarlane Reagan personally decided who would lead the individual teams. The COG liaison officer in charge inside the National Security Council was Oliver North, who later became known as the key person in the center of the Iran-Contra scandal. (11)

Only incidentally, in connection with that scandal, the first details of the secret plan came to light in 1987. Under president Reagan Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North had coordinated a series of steps building in effect a shadow government, Congress didn´t know about, let alone having approved it. The Miami Herald wrote about this in 1987: “Oliver North helped draw up a controversial plan to suspend the Constitution in the event of a national crisis, such as nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition to a U.S. military invasion abroad. (…) From 1982 to 1984, North assisted FEMA, the U.S. government’s chief national crisis-management unit, in revising contingency plans for dealing with nuclear war, insurrection or massive military mobilization.” (12)

That the COG plan, suspending the constitution, could indeed not only be activated in case of a nuclear war, was laid out in a further directive authorized by Reagan in the last days of his presidency in November 1988. According to this directive the plan should be executed in a “national security emergency”, defined rather vague as a “natural disaster, military attack, technological emergency, or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States”. (13) In effect this meant a massive undermining of democratic principles. The COG plan, executed unter the circumstances mentioned, could also be used as cover for a coup d’état.

Meanwhile Cheney and Rumsfeld went on secretly exercising the take-over of the government during their annually running maneuvers. Belonging to this inner circle of potential state leaders had to be an uplifting feeling for both men. In case of a huge disaster the fate of the nation would lie in their hands.

Reach for the presidency

At the end of the 1980s Cheney moreover had climbed to the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, the elite network connecting business leaders and politicians, well known for its huge influence on American foreign policy. In the meantime Rumsfeld had become a multimillionaire through the sale of the pharma company he had led. He planned running for the presidency in 1988. But his campaign didn´t succeed. From the outset Reagan´s vice president Bush senior had been the republican frontrunner – and finally also won the election.

But now Cheney got his chance. He became secretary of defense in the new administration, the same position Rumsfeld had already held 12 years before. Cheney successfully managed the first Iraq war in 1991, which led – parallel to the decline of the Soviet Union – to a permanent deployment of U.S. troops in the oil-rich Saudi Arabia. The control over Iraq was now in reach.

After the defeat of the Republicans in 1992 Cheney also considered an own presidential campaign. Yet soon he had to realize that he lacked support. Instead he moved to the private sector, becoming CEO of Halliburton, one of the world´s biggest oil supply companies. As secretary of defense he already had build connections to the firm, leading later to multi-billion-dollar contracts with the Pentagon. The new job now also filled Cheney´s pockets, making him a multimillionaire as well.

Meanwhile Rumsfeld had established himself as a highly effective and ambitious business executive. In the 1990s he first led a telecommunications company, then a pharma corporation.

The COG plan still existed, however with other presumptions. After the fall of the Soviet Union it no longer focused on the Russian nuclear threat, but on terrorism. Though it was reported in the mid 1990s that president Clinton wanted the program to phase out, it later became clear that this announcement only applied to the portion of the plan relating to a nuclear attack. (14) Then anti-terror coordinator Richard Clarke later disclosed that he had updated the COG plan in 1998. (15) The corresponding presidential directive (PDD-67) was secret. Its precise content was never made public. (16)

Cold War reloaded

At the same time a circle of neoconservatives around Rumsfeld and Cheney prepared for return to power. At the end of the 1990s they founded an organisation called “Project for the New American Century” (PNAC). Their self declared desire: “increase defense spending significantly” and “challenge regimes hostile to our interests”. (17)

In parallel Rumsfeld headed a congressional commission assessing the threat of foreign long range missiles. Already in the 1980s Ronald Reagan had started plans for a national missile defense, which burdened the national budget over the years with about 50 billion dollars. Yet in the 1990s even the own intelligence agencies saw no longer a real threat. Because who should fire missiles on Washington in the near future? Yeltsin´s Russia? Or China, that became economically more and more interdependent with the United States? However the so-called “Rumsfeld Commission” revised the assessment of the intelligence agencies. In its 1998 published report new possible aggressors were named: North Korea, Iran and Iraq. (18)

The same year Rumsfeld and his PNAC associates had already written an open letter to president Clinton, urging him to be tougher on Iraq. Saddam Hussein´s regime should be “removed”, the letter demanded. (19)

Finally, in September 2000, two month before the presidential election, PNAC published a lengthy strategy paper, giving policy guidance to the next administration. “Rebuilding America´s Defenses” was its programmatic title and it analysed principles and objections of a new defense policy.

Basically the paper called for a massive increase in defense spending and a transformation of the armed forces into a dominant but mobile, rapidly deployable power factor. The aim was enduring military supremacy, which according to PNAC would urgently require new weapons systems like the missile defense. Yet the paper made also clear that the process of implementing these demands would be a long one and provoke resistance, “absent” – quote – “some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” (20)

A question of energy

After George W. Bush´s inauguration in January 2001 the members of this circle secured important posts in the new administration. Cheney turned into the leading figure. This had become apparent well before the election. As early as April 2000 Bush had asked him to handle the selection of his vice presidential running mate. In the end Cheney had all but proposed himself for the job. (21) Meanwhile the workaholic had survived three heart attacks. One of his first recommendations to Bush was the appointment of Rumsfeld, almost 70, as secretary of defense. Deputy of his old associate became Paul Wolfowitz, a hardliner who had already worked for Cheney as chief strategist in the Pentagon at the beginning of the 1990s. Compared to these men president Bush himself was a newcomer in Washington. Though he was blessed with political instinct and a very practical intuition, he could hardly hold a candle to these old hands intellectually.

One of the first steps of the new administration was the creation of a “National Energy Policy Development Group”. It was headed directly by Cheney. Its final report, issued in May 2001, described the situation quite openly:

“America in the year 2001 faces the most serious energy shortage since the oil embargoes of the 1970s. (…) A fundamental imbalance between supply and demand defines our nation´s en­ergy crisis. (…) This imbalance, if allowed to continue, will inevitably undermine our economy, our standard of living, and our national security. (…) Estimates indicate that over the next 20 years, U.S. oil consumption will increase by 33 percent, natural gas consumption by well over 50 percent, and demand for elec­tricity will rise by 45 percent. If America´s energy production grows at the same rate as it did in the 1990s we will face an ever-in­creasing gap. (…) By 2020, Gulf oil producers are projected to supply between 54 and 67 percent of the world´s oil. Thus, the global economy will almost certainly continue to depend on the supply of oil from Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members, particularly in the Gulf. This region will remain vital to U.S. interests.” (22)

Later it was disclosed that Cheney´s energy task force had also secretly examined a map of the Iraqi oil fields, pipelines and refineries along with charts detailing foreign suitors for il-field contracts there. Again, the date was March 2001.

Anticipating the unthinkable

Concurrently to its effort in energy policy the new administration created an “Office of National Preparedness”. It was tasked with the development of plans responding to a possible terror attack and became assigned to the “Federal Emergency Management Agency” (FEMA). (23) FEMA was already responsible for the COG plan since the 1980s. To call it back to mind: “From 1982 to 1984, Oliver North assisted FEMA in revising contingency plans for dealing with nuclear war, insurrection or massive military mobilization.” (24)

Back then Cheney had played a role in shaping these plans. Now he could continue the work – because Bush appointed him to head the new program. (25) Director of FEMA on the other hand became Joe Allbaugh, who had little professional expertise, but could offer other qualities. Allbaugh was Bush´s campaign manager, a man for tough and rather rude matters and also one of the president´s closest confidants. Back in 1994 he had managed Bush´s campaign to become governor of Texas and at the end of 2000 he had helped stopping the recount of votes in Florida. (26) That an expert for political tricks was appointed to head FEMA indicates that the administration had political plans with the emergency management agency from the outset.

Till today it´s undisclosed how the COG plan was refined in detail under Cheney´s direction in 2001.  However the following is apparent: in the months leading to 9/11 Cheney linked anti-terror and emergency management measures with national energy policy. Commissions working on both issues were handled by him simultaneously. This connection anticipated the policy after 9/11, which could be summarized as using a terror attack as rationale for extending the power of the executive and waging war to seize control of world regions important for energy supply.

The emergency plans Rumsfeld and Cheney were involved with since the 1980s culminated in autumn 2001. On the morning of September 11th the secret COG program was implemented for the first time. (27) Shortly before 10:00 a.m., after the impact of the third plane into the Pentagon, Cheney gave the order to execute it. (28)

The shadow government

Almost nothing is known about the content of the plan and the specific effects of its activation. The secrey in this respect appears grotesque. Even the simple fact of the plan´s implementation on 9/11 was concealed for months. After sporadic hints in the press the Washington Post finally disclosed some details in March 2002. In an article titled “Shadow government is at work in secret” it reported that about 100 high-ranking officials of different departments were working outside Washington as part of the emergency plan since 9/11:

“Officials who are activated for what some of them call ‘bunker duty’ live and work underground 24 hours a day, away from their families. As it settles in for the long haul, the shadow government has sent home most of the first wave of deployed personnel, replacing them most commonly at 90-day intervals. (…) Known internally as the COG, for ‘continuity of government’, the administration-in-waiting is an unannounced complement to the acknowledged absence of Vice President Cheney from Washington for much of the past five months. Cheney’s survival ensures constitutional succession, one official said, but ‘he can´t run the country by himself.’ With a core group of federal managers alongside him, Cheney – or President Bush, if available – has the means to give effect to his orders.” (29)

But what orders gave Cheney to his strange “shadow government” while his stays at the bunker? And what justified extending this emergency measure for seemingly infinite time? For the White House clearly hadn´t been wiped out by bombs. The president lived and his administration was able to act. Who needed a permanent second secret government?

After the first disclosure of these facts in spring 2002 leading politicians of the legislative immediately started expressing their astonishment. Soon it became clear that neither Senate nor House of Representatives knew anything about the activation of COG and the work of the “shadow government” in secret. The parliament had simply been ignored. (30) Later the 9/11 Commission experienced similar executive secrecy. Though it mentioned in its final report the implementation of the plan on 9/11, it also admitted not having investigated the issue in depth. Instead the Commission had only been briefed “on the general nature” of the plan. (31)

Patriots under pressure

An immediate response to 9/11 was the Patriot Act, passed only one month later, and allowing a broad range of highly controversial measures, from domestic wiretapping to warrantless detention of foreign terror suspects. The latter legalized the forthcoming procedures at Guantánamo, leading to secret U.S. prisons all over the world.

Two influential opponents of these legal changes were Tom Daschle, Senate Majority Leader, and Patrick Leahy, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both received letters with spores of deadly anthrax. The source was never traced with certainty. After that Daschle and Leahy gave up their resistance against the new legislation and approved the Patriot Act. (32)

In their radical nature the hastily passed changes bore resemblance to decrees while a state of emergency. And indeed were they similarly already part of the COG plan in the 1980s. (33)

Government officials familiar with COG indicated after 9/11 that the plan could really have resulted in martial law – if additionally to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon also large numbers of congressmen and executive branch leaders had been killed on that day. (34)

Is it in this context a coincidence only that the fourth hijacked plane on 9/11 was heading towards Washington to hit the Capitol or the White House? (35)

Killers from Sudan?

There is also circumstantial evidence for an assassination attempt on president Bush in Florida that morning. The Secret Service had received a related warning the night before at 4:08 a.m., according to a TV report by a local ABC affiliate. (36) A few hours later Secret Service agents searched an apartment in Sarasota and arrested four men from Sudan, apparently belonging to the south sudanese liberation army SPLA, a paramilitary force secretly supported by the United States. (37) Also AP reportet these arrests mentioning that the suspects had been released soon again because they had “no connection” to 9/11. The whole issue just would have been a “coincidence”. (38)

President Bush spent the night before 9/11 at a resort on Longboat Key, an island right next to Sarasota where he planned to visit an elementary school on the next morning. Longboat Key Fire Marshall Carroll Mooneyhan was a further witness of the possible assassination attempt. He said that at about 6 a.m. on September 11th a van with self-proclaimed reporters of middle eastern descent had pulled up at Bush´s resort, stating they had a “poolside” interview with the president. The men asked for a special Secret Service agent by name but where turned away by the guards. (39)

Were these “reporters” identical with the Sudanese temporarily arrested by the Secret Service later that morning in Sarasota? The incident resembled at least the successful assassination of Taliban foe Ahmed Shah Massoud two days before on September 9th in Afghanistan. The suicide attackers there were also a fake TV team using a bomb hidden in a camera, as the New York Times reported on September 10th. (40)

Additionally three witnesses remembered seeing Mohammed Atta and a companion at Longboat Key´s Holiday Inn on September 7th, three days before Bush would spend the night on that same small island. (41) September 7th was also the day the White House first publicly announced Bush´s schedule to travel to Sarasota. (42) In this context it is surely worth to consider if Atta scouted out the place for an assassination plot.

Completing the plot

The question arises: Did a circle around Cheney, Rumsfeld and some associates use 9/11 for a disguised coup d’état, partly failed in its execution?

Regardless of the answer to that question – 9/11 in fact allowed the implementation of emergency measures, the weakening of the legislative, the start of several wars and a massive increase in defense spending. The amounts in question easily exceed the imagination of observers.

While in the second half of the 1990s the average national defense budget totaled about 270 billion dollars a year, that number nearly doubled in the decade after 9/11, when the average annual budget went up to over 500 billion. (43) For the Pentagon´s private contractors that meant a sales increase of inconceivable 2.300 billion dollars between 2001 and 2010.

A national economy under arms

If one looks at the development of defense spending in the United States since 1940, some far-reaching conclusions arise. (44) It seems as if the attack on Pearl Harbor and the following involvement in World War II led to a structural change of the American economy. The budgetary value of the military was never reduced to a “normal” level after that. On the contrary it increased decade by decade. Thus the whole economy got into a fatal dependency on the defense business.

This ongoing development came to a halt only with the fall of the Soviet Union. Ten years later then 9/11 became the catalyzing event to kick-start the military buildup again – with all its broad economic effects on the country.

Cheney and Rumsfeld don´t seem to be driving forces in this “game”, but merely two talented managers, risen to the top in the stream of events. Author James Mann, who had disclosed their involvement in the COG plan first in 2004, described their political role this way:

“Their participation in the extra-constitutional continuity-of-government exercises, remarkable in its own right, also demonstrates a broad, underlying truth about these two men. For three decades, from the Ford Administration onward, even when they were out of the executive branch of government, they were never far away. They stayed in touch with defense, military, and intelligence officials, who regularly called upon them. They were, in a sense, a part of the permanent hidden national-security apparatus of the United States, inhabitants of a world in which Presidents come and go, but America keeps on fighting.” (45)

 Notes

 (1)  US Department of Defense, 09.05.02, “Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld speaking at Tribute to Milton Friedman”

http://www.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=216

 (2)  James Mann, “Rise of the Vulcans. The History of Bush ́s War Cabinet”, New York 2004, p. 73

 (3)  Donald Rumsfeld, “Known and Unknown. A Memoir”, New York 2011, p. 240

 (4)  Ibid., p. 245

 (5)  James Mann, “Rise of the Vulcans. The History of Bush ́s War Cabinet”, New York 2004, pp. 138-145

(6)  Ibid., p. 139

(7)  Ibid., p. 138

(8)  ABC, 25.04.04, “Worst Case Scenario – Secret Plan to Control U.S. Government After an Attack Went Into Motion on 9/11″

http://web.archive.org/web/20040429063810/

http://abcnews.go.com/sections/Nightline/Politics/armageddon_plan_040425.html

(9)  James Mann, “Rise of the Vulcans. The History of Bush ́s War Cabinet”, New York 2004, p. 140

(10)  Ibid., p. 138;

Washington Post, 07.04.04, “‘Armageddon’ Plan Was Put Into Action on 9/11, Clarke Says”, Howard Kurtz

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A55877-2004Apr6

(11)  James Mann, “Rise of the Vulcans. The History of Bush ́s War Cabinet”, New York 2004, p. 142

(12)  Miami Herald, 05.07.87, “Reagan Aides and the ‚secret‘ Government”, Alfonso Chardy

http://theforbiddenknowledge.com/hardtruth/secret_white_house_plans.htm

(13)  Peter Dale Scott, “The Road to 9/11. Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America”, Berkeley 2007, p. 185;

Executive Order 12656 – “Assignment of emergency preparedness responsibilities”, 18.11.88

http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/codification/executive-order/12656.html

(14)  Peter Dale Scott, “The Road to 9/11. Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America”, Berkeley 2007, p. 186

(15)  Richard Clarke, “Against All Enemies. Inside America ́s War on Terror”, New York 2004, p. 167

(16)  PDD-NSC-67 – “Enduring Constitutional Government and Continuity of Government Operations”, 21.10.98

www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/pdd/pdd-67.htm

(17)  Project for the New American Century, 03.06.97, “Statement of Principles”

http://newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm

(18)  New York Times, 16.07.98, “Panel Says U.S. Faces Risk Of a Surprise Missile Attack”, Eric Schmitt

http://www.nytimes.com/1998/07/16/us/panel-says-us-faces-risk-of-a-surprise-missile-attack.html

(19)  Project for the New American Century, 26.01.98, “Iraq Clinton Letter”

www.newamericancentury.org/iraqclintonletter.htm

(20)  Project for the New American Century, September 2000, “Rebuilding America´s Defenses”, p. 51

(21)  Barton Gellman, “Angler. The Cheney Vice Presidency”, New York 2008, Chapter 1

(22)  “National Energy Policy – Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group”, 16.05.01

(23)  White House press release, 08.05.01, “Cheney to Oversee Domestic Counterterrorism Efforts”

http://www.usembassy.it/file2001_05/alia/a1050801.htm

(24)  Miami Herald, 05.07.87, “Reagan Aides and the ‚secret‘ Government”, Alfonso Chardy

http://theforbiddenknowledge.com/hardtruth/secret_white_house_plans.htm

(25)  White House press release, 08.05.01, “Cheney to Oversee Domestic Counterterrorism Efforts”

http://www.usembassy.it/file2001_05/alia/a1050801.htm

(26)  Peter Dale Scott, “The Road to 9/11. Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America”, Berkeley 2007, p. 210

(27) 9/11 Commission Report, p. 38

http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf

(28) “Brief Timeline of Day of 9/11 Events, drafted by White House”

www.scribd.com/doc/12992821/Brief-Timeline-of-Day-of-911-Events-drafted-by-White-House

Washington Post, 27.01.02, “America’s Chaotic Road to War”, Dan Balz and Bob Woodward

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/18/AR2006071801175_pf.html

(29)  Washington Post, 01.03.02, “Shadow Government Is at Work in Secret”, Barton Gellman and Susan Schmidt

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/09/AR2006060900891.html

(30)  Washington Post, 02.03.02, “Congress Not Advised Of Shadow Government”, Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A26212-2002Mar1

(31)  9/11 Commission Report, p. 555

http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf

(32)  Salon, 21.11.01, “Why Daschle and Leahy?”, Anthony York

http://dir.salon.com/story/politics/feature/2001/11/21/anthrax/index.html

(33)  Miami Herald, 05.07.87, “Reagan Aides and the ‚secret‘ Government”, Alfonso Chardy

http://theforbiddenknowledge.com/hardtruth/secret_white_house_plans.htm

(34)  ABC, 25.04.04, “Worst Case Scenario – Secret Plan to Control U.S. Government After an Attack Went Into Motion on 9/11″

http://web.archive.org/web/20040429063810/http://abcnews.go.com/sections/Nightline/Politics/armageddon_plan_040425.html

(35)  9/11 Commission Report, p. 14

http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf

(36)  Daniel Hopsicker, “Welcome to Terrorland”, 2004, p. 42

(37)  Ibid., p. 44

(38)  Ibid., p. 45

(39)  Longboat Observer, 26.09.01, „Possible Longboat terrorist incident – Is it a clue or is it a coincidence?“, Shay Sullivan

http://web.archive.org/web/20030220064542/http://www.longboatobserver.com/showarticle.asp?ai=1874

(40)  New York Times, 10.09.01, „Taliban Foe Hurt and Aide Killed by Bomb“

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/10/world/taliban-foe-hurt-and-aide-killed-by-bomb.html

(41)  Longboat Observer, 21.11.01, „Two hijackers on Longboat?“, Shay Sullivan

http://web.archive.org/web/20021209013255/

http://www.longboatobserver.com/showarticle.asp?ai=2172

(42)  White House, 07.09.01, „Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer“

http://web.archive.org/web/20010913052601/

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010907-1.html#week

(43)  US Office of Management and Budget, “Table 3.1 – Outlays by Superfunction and Function: 1940–2016″

www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Historicals

(44)  Ibid.

(45)  The Atlantic, March 2004, “The Armageddon Plan”, James Mann

http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0318-14.htm

James Mann, “Rise of the Vulcans. The History of Bush ́s War Cabinet”, New York 2004, p. 145

‘Israel, main loser of Iran-Egypt ties’

An Iranian lawmaker says the Israeli regime will be the main loser of close ties and unity between Iran and Egypt and is hatching plots to prevent detente between the two important countries.

“Western governments are plotting against Muslim countries to undermine their unity and fan the flames of conflict and differences among them,” a member of Iran Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Mohammad Hassan Asafari said on Monday.

He added that Iran is an influential country at regional and international levels while Egypt is also among important Arab states and cooperation between them will be constructive to the entire region.


The legislator highlighted the significance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s forthcoming visit to Egypt to attend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit, and noted that participants at the event can make major decisions to thwart enemies’ plots.

He added that the OIC summit in Cairo would be a proper opportunity to settle problems in the Muslim world and stop the ongoing conflicts in Muslim countries, particularly in Syria, Bahrain, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to pay a state visit to Egypt on February 6-7 at the official invitation of his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Morsi. Ahmadinejad will attend the 12th OIC summit and also negotiate with the Egyptian president and senior officials attending the event.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi stated that President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Cairo would play a “very effective” role in improving mutual relations.

“Egypt is under the pressure of countries providing it with economic aid such as the US and Saudi Arabia and this is why Iran’s presence in this country will be very helpful,” he added on Monday.

Boroujerdi also underlined the significance of Iran’s presence in the OIC meeting, saying that it would give an opportunity to both countries to talk about the resumption of bilateral relations.

The legislator expressed hope that the participation of the Iranian chief executive in the OIC summit would prepare the ground for bilateral cooperation in various economic, cultural, political and tourism fields.

Iran severed ties with Egypt after Cairo signed the 1978 Camp David Accord with Israel and offered asylum to Iran's deposed monarch Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

However, the Egyptian revolution in February 2011 which led to the ouster of Egypt’s former dictator, Hosni Mubarak, caused relative thaw in relations between Tehran and Cairo.

SF/SS/MA

US shale revolution seen from space

AFP Photo / Mladen Antonov

AFP Photo / Mladen Antonov

Productions at US major shale formations flare off so much gas it can be clearly seen from space.

­The lights of the flares burning in North Dakota's Bakken and Texas’ Eagle Ford shale fields can clearly be seen in night-time satellite photography, Financial Times reported Monday.

Oil companies working there waste enough gas to power all the homes in Chicago and Washngton combined, the newsoutlet reports, what fuels growing concerns about damage to environment and waste of resources.

North Dakota alone, leading state in recent shale boom, flared off 50% more of unwanted gas last year comparing to previous years, while figures from Texas formations went up more than six times from 2010 to 2012, Financial Times reported Monday. Total amount of gas flared in the United States has tripled in five years and makes the country fifth highest n the world behind Russia, Nigeria and Iran and Iraq, the news outlet reported, citing World Bank figures.

Flaring is the safest way to dispose of relatively cheap natural gas, that being released by oil productions in North America. It has been attracting attention of environmental campaigners because of the waste of gas and its consequences for greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution. Investors involved in the production are concerned no less and have warned the leading US oil companies to cut excessive flaring.

The North Dakota legislature is considering a bill to encourage flaring reduction through tax breaks. The state is also pushing producers to use gas to power drilling rigs.

The shale revolution is believed to help the United States become a net fuel exporter by 2030 and achieve energy independence by 2035, the IEA said in November 2012. However hydraulic fracturing process, one of the key components of developing shale resources, causes heated debates. Environmentalists  say the process is too costly and ecologically unfriendly, while advocates insists bigger energy production from shale is a way to energy independence and lower imports.

Martha Raddatz Shuts Down George Will Over Women in Combat

On this Sunday's This Week, guest host Martha Raddatz did a nice job of shooting down George Will's flawed arguments on lifting the ban on women in combat. We've had women out there putting their lives on the line for years now, and it's about time ...

Counting Down to 2014 in Afghanistan: Three Lousy Options, Pick One

Don’t let the forces of regression dominate the media in 2013 - click here to support brave, independent reporting today by making a contribution to Truthout.

Compromise, conflict, or collapse: ask an Afghan what to expect in 2014 and you’re likely to get a scenario that falls under one of those three headings. 2014, of course, is the year of the double whammy in Afghanistan: the next presidential election coupled with the departure of most American and other foreign forces. Many Afghans fear a turn for the worse, while others are no less afraid that everything will stay the same.  Some even think things will get better when the occupying forces leave.  Most predict a more conservative climate, but everyone is quick to say that it’s anybody’s guess.

Only one thing is certain in 2014: it will be a year of American military defeat.  For more than a decade, U.S. forces have fought many types of wars in Afghanistan, from a low-footprint invasion, to multiple surges, to a flirtation with Vietnam-style counterinsurgency, to a ramped-up, gloves-off air war.  And yet, despite all the experiments in styles of war-making, the American military and its coalition partners have ended up in the same place: stalemate, which in a battle with guerrillas means defeat.  For years, a modest-sized, generally unpopular, ragtag set of insurgents has fought the planet’s most heavily armed, technologically advanced military to a standstill, leaving the country shaken and its citizens anxiously imagining the outcome of unpalatable scenarios.

The first, compromise, suggests the possibility of reaching some sort of almost inconceivable power-sharing agreement with multiple insurgent militias.  While Washington presses for negotiations with its designated enemy, “the Taliban,” representatives of President Hamid Karzai’s High Peace Council, which includes12 members of the former Taliban government and many sympathizers, are making the rounds to talk disarmament and reconciliation with all the armed insurgent groups that the Afghan intelligence service has identified across the country. There are 1,500 of them.

One member of the Council told me, “It will take a long time before we get to Mullah Omar [the Taliban’s titular leader].  Some of these militias can’t even remember what they’ve been fighting about.”

The second scenario, open conflict, would mean another dreaded round of civil war like the one in the 1990s, after the Soviet Union withdrew in defeat -- the one that destroyed the Afghan capital, Kabul, devastated parts of the country, and gave rise to the Taliban.

The third scenario, collapse, sounds so apocalyptic that it’s seldom brought up by Afghans, but it’s implied in the exodus already underway of those citizens who can afford to leave the country.  The departures aren’t dramatic.  There are no helicopters lifting off the roof of the U.S. Embassy with desperate Afghans clamoring to get on board; just a record number of asylum applications in 2011, a year in which, according to official figures, almost 36,000 Afghans were openly looking for a safe place to land, preferably in Europe.  That figure is likely to be at least matched, if not exceeded, when the U.N. releases the complete data for 2012.

In January, I went to Kabul to learn what old friends and current officials are thinking about the critical months ahead.  At the same time, Afghan President Karzai flew to Washington to confer with President Obama.  Their talks seem to have differed radically from the conversations I had with ordinary Afghans. In Kabul, where strange rumors fly, an official reassured me that the future looked bright for the country because Karzai was expected to return from Washington with the promise of American radar systems, presumably for the Afghan Air Force, which is not yet “operational.” (He actually returned with the promise of helicopters, cargo planes, fighter jets, and drones.) Who knew that the fate of the nation and its suffering citizens hinged on that?  In my conversations with ordinary Afghans, one thing that never came up was radar.

Another term that never seems to enter ordinary Afghan conversation, much as it obsesses Americans, is “al-Qaeda.” President Obama, for instance, announced at a joint press conference with President Karzai: “Our core objective -- the reason we went to war in the first place -- is now within reach: ensuring that al-Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan to launch attacks against America.”  An Afghan journalist asked me, “Why does he worry so much about al-Qaeda in Afghanistan? Doesn’t he know they are everywhere else?”

At the same Washington press conference, Obama said, “The nation we need to rebuild is our own.” Afghans long ago gave up waiting for the U.S. to make good on its promises to rebuild theirs. What’s now striking, however, is the vast gulf between the pronouncements of American officialdom and the hopes of ordinary Afghans.  It’s a gap so wide you would hardly think -- as Afghans once did -- that we are fighting for them.

To take just one example: the official American view of events in Afghanistan is wonderfully black and white.  The president, for instance, speaks of the way U.S. forces heroically “pushed the Taliban out of their strongholds.” Like other top U.S. officials over the years, he forgets whom we pushed into the Afghan government, our “stronghold” in the years after the 2001 invasion: ex-Taliban and Taliban-like fundamentalists, the most brutal civil warriors, and serial human rights violators.

Afghans, however, haven’t forgotten just whom the U.S. put in place to govern them -- exactly the men they feared and hated most in exactly the place where few Afghans wanted them to be.  Early on, between 2002 and 2004, 90% of Afghans surveyed nationwide told the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission that such men should not be allowed to hold public office; 76% wanted them tried as war criminals.


In my recent conversations, many Afghans still cited the first loya jirga, an assembly convened in 2003 to ratify the newly drafted constitution, or the first presidential election in 2004, or the parliamentary election of 2005, all held under international auspices, as the moments when the aspirations of Afghans and the “international community” parted company. In that first parliament, as in the earlier gatherings, most of the men were affiliated with armed militias; every other member was a formerjihadi, and nearly half were affiliated with fundamentalist Islamist parties, including the Taliban.

In this way, Afghans were consigned to live under a government of bloodstained warlords and fundamentalists, who turned out to be Washington’s guys.  Many had once battled the Soviets using American money and weapons, and quite a few, like the former warlord, druglord, minister of defense, and current vice-president Muhammad Qasim Fahim, had been very chummy with the CIA.

In the U.S., such details of our Afghan War, now in its 12th year, are long forgotten, but to Afghans who live under the rule of the same old suspects, the memory remains painfully raw.  Worse, Afghans know that it is these very men, rearmed and ready, who will once again compete for power in 2014.

How to Vote Early in Afghanistan

President Karzai is barred by term limits from standing for reelection in 2014, but many Kabulis believe he reached a private agreement with the usual suspects at a meeting late last year. In early January, he seemed to seal the deal by announcing that, for the sake of frugality, the voter cards issued for past elections will be reusedin 2014.  Far too many of those cards were issued for the 2004 election, suspiciously more than the number of eligible voters.  During the 2009 campaign, anyone could buy fistfuls of them at bargain basement prices.  So this decision seemed to kill off the last faint hope of an election in which Afghans might actually have a say about the leadership of the country.

Fewer than 35% of voters cast ballots in the last presidential contest, when Karzai’s men were caught on video stuffing ballot boxes.  (Afterward, President Obama phoned to congratulate Karzai on his “victory.”) Only dedicated or paid henchmen are likely to show up for the next “good enough for Afghans” exercise in democracy. Once again, an “election” may be just the elaborate stage set for announcing to a disillusioned public the names of those who will run the show in Kabul for the next few years.

Kabulis might live with that, as they’ve lived with Karzai all these years, but they fear power-hungry Afghan politicians could “compromise” as well with insurgent leaders like that old American favorite from the war against the Soviets, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who recently told a TV audience that he intends to claim his rightful place in government. Such compromises could stick the Afghan people with a shaky power-sharing deal among the most ultra-conservative, self-interested, sociopathic, and corrupt men in the country.  If that deal, in turn, were to fall apart, as most power-sharing agreements worldwide do within a year or two, the big men might well plunge the country back into a 1990s-style civil war, with no regard for the civilians caught in their path.

These worst-case scenarios are everyday Kabuli nightmares.  After all, during decades of war, the savvy citizens of the capital have learned to expect the worst from the men currently characterized in a popular local graffiti this way: “Mujahideen=Criminals. Taliban=Dumbheads.”

Ordinary Kabulis express reasonable fears for the future of the country, but impatient free-marketeering businessmen are voting with their feet right now, or laying plans to leave soon. They’ve made Kabul hum (often with foreign aid funds, which are equivalent to about 90% of the country’s economic activity), but they aren’t about to wait around for the results of election 2014.  Carpe diem has become their version of financial advice.  As a result, they are snatching what they can and packing their bags.

Millions of dollars reportedly take flight from Kabul International Airport every day: officially about $4.6 billion in 2011, or just about the size of Afghanistan’s annual budget. Hordes of businessmen and bankers (like those who, in 2004, set up the Ponzi scheme called the Kabul Bank, from which about a billion dollars went missing) are heading for cushy spots like Dubai, where they have already established residence on prime real estate.

As they take their investments elsewhere and the American effort winds down, the Afghan economy contracts ever more grimly, opportunities dwindle, and jobs disappear.  Housing prices in Kabul are falling for the first time since the start of the occupation as rich Afghans and profiteering private American contractors, who guzzled the money that Washington and the “international community” poured into the country, move on.

At the same time, a money-laundering building boom in Kabul appears to have stalled, leaving tall, half-built office blocks like so many skeletons amid the scalloped Pakistani palaces, vertical malls, and grand madrassas erected in the past four or five years by political and business insiders and well-connected conservative clerics.

Most of the Afghan tycoons seeking asylum elsewhere don’t fear for their lives, just their pocketbooks: they’re not political refugees, but free-market rats abandoning the sinking ship of state.  Joining in the exodus (but not included in the statistics) are countless illegal émigrés seeking jobs or fleeing for their lives, paying human smugglers money they can’t afford as they head for Europe by circuitous and dangerous routes.

Threatened Afghans have fled from every abrupt change of government in the last century, making them the largest population of refugees from a single country on the planet.  Once again, those who can are voting with their feet (or their pocketbooks) -- and voting early.

Afghanistan’s historic tragedy is that its violent political shifts -- from king to communists to warlords to religious fundamentalists to the Americans -- have meant the flight of the very people most capable of rebuilding the country along peaceful and prosperous lines.  And their departure only contributes to the economic and political collapse they themselves seek to avoid.  Left behind are ordinary Afghans -- the illiterate and unskilled, but also a tough core of educated, ambitious citizens, including women’s rights activists, unwilling to surrender their dream of living once again in a free and peaceful Afghanistan.

The Military Monster

These days Kabul resounds with the blasts of suicide bombers, IEDs, and sporadic gunfire.  Armed men are everywhere in anonymous uniforms that defy identification.  Any man with money can buy a squad of bodyguards, clad in classy camouflage and wraparound shades, and armed with assault weapons.  Yet Kabulis, trying to carry on normal lives in the relative safety of the capital, seem to maintain a distance from the war going on in the provinces.

Asked that crucial question -- do you think American forces should stay or go? -- the Kabulis I talked with tended to answer in a theoretical way, very unlike the visceral response one gets in the countryside, where villages are bombed andcivilians killed, or in the makeshift camps for internally displaced people that now crowd the outer fringes of Kabul. (By the time U.S. Marines surged into Taliban-controlled Helmand Province in the south in 2010 to bring counterinsurgency-style protection to the residents there, tens of thousands of them had already moved to those camps in Kabul.)  Afghans in the countryside want to be rid of armed men.  All of them.  Kabulis just want to be secure, and if that means keeping some U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base near the capital, as Afghan and American officials are currently discussing, well, it’s nothing to them.

In fact, most Kabulis I spoke to think that’s what’s going to happen.  After all, American officials have been talking for years about keeping permanent bases in Afghanistan (though they avoid the term “permanent” when speaking to the American press), and American military officers now regularly appear on Afghan TV to say, “The United States will never abandon Afghanistan.”  Afghans reason: Americans would not have spent nearly 12 years fighting in this country if it were not the most strategic place on the planet and absolutely essential to their plans to “push on” Iran and China next.  Everybody knows that pushing on other countries is an American specialty.

Besides, Afghans can see with their own eyes that U.S. command centers, including multiple bases in Kabul, and Bagram Air Base, only 30 miles away, are still being expanded and upgraded.  Beyond the high walls of the American Embassy compound, they can also see the tall new apartment blocks going up for an expanding staff, even if Washington now claims that staff will be reduced in the years to come.

Why, then, would President Obama announce the drawdown of U.S. troops to perhaps a few thousand special operations forces and advisors, if Washington didn’t mean to leave?  Afghans have a theory about that, too.  It’s a ruse, many claim, to encourage all other foreign forces to depart so that the Americans can have everything to themselves.  Afghanistan, as they imagine it, is so important that the U.S., which has fought the longest war in its history there, will be satisfied with nothing less.

I was there to listen, but at times I did mention to Afghans that America’s post-9/11 wars and occupations were threatening to break the country.  “We just can’t afford this war anymore,” I said.

Afghans only laugh at that.  They’ve seen the way Americans throw money around.  They’ve seen the way American money corrupted the Afghan government, and many reminded me that American politicians like Afghan ones are bought and sold, and its elections won by money. Americans, they know, are as rich as Croesus and very friendly, though on the whole not very well mannered or honest or smart.

Operation Enduring Presence      

More than 11 years later, the tragedy of the American war in Afghanistan is simple enough: it has proven remarkably irrelevant to the lives of the Afghan people -- and to American troops as well.  Washington has long appeared to be fighting its own war in defense of a form of government and a set of long-discredited government officials that ordinary Afghans would never have chosen for themselves and have no power to replace.

In the early years of the war (2001-2005), George W. Bush’s administration was far too distracted planning and launching another war in Iraq to maintain anything but a minimal military presence in Afghanistan -- and that mainly outside the capital.  Many journalists (including me) criticized Bush for not finishing the war he started there when he had the chance, but today Kabulis look back on that soldierless period of peace and hope with a certain nostalgia.  In some quarters, the Bush years have even acquired something like the sheen of a lost Golden Age -- compared, that is, to the thoroughgoing militarization of American policy that followed.

So commanding did the U.S. military become in Kabul and Washington that, over the years, it ate the State Department, gobbled up the incompetent bureaucracy of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and established Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in the countryside to carry out maniacal “development” projects and throw bales of cash at all the wrong “leaders.”

Of course, the military also killed a great many people, both “enemies” and civilians.  As in Vietnam, it won the battles, but lost the war.  When I asked Afghans from Mazar-e-Sharif in the north how they accounted for the relative peacefulness and stability of their area, the answer seemed self-evident: “Americans didn’t come here.”

Other consequences, all deleterious, flowed from the militarization of foreign policy.  In Afghanistan and the United States, so intimately ensnarled over all these years, the income gap between the rich and everyone else has grown exponentially, in large part because in both countries the rich have made money off war-making, while ordinary citizens have slipped into poverty for lack of jobs and basic services.

Relying on the military, the U.S. neglected the crucial elements of civil life in Afghanistan that make things bearable -- like education and health care.  Yes, I’ve heard the repeated claims that, thanks to us, millions of children are now attending school.  But for how long?   According to UNICEF, in the years 2005-2010, in the whole of Afghanistan only 18% of boys attended high school, and 6% of girls.  What kind of report card is that?  After 11 years of underfunded work on health care in a country the size of Texas, infant mortality still remains the highest in the world.

By 2014, the defense of Afghanistan will have been handed over to the woefulAfghan National Security Force, also known in military-speak as the “Enduring Presence Force.”  In that year, for Washington, the American war will be officially over, whether it’s actually at an end or not, and it will be up to Afghans to do the enduring.

Here’s where that final scenario -- collapse -- haunts the Kabuli imagination.  Economic collapse means joblessness, poverty, hunger, and a great swelling of the ranks of children cadging a living in the streets.  Already street children are said to number a million strong in Kabul, and 4 million across the country.  Only blocks from the Presidential Palace, they are there in startling numbers selling newspapers, phone cards, toilet paper, or simply begging for small change. Are they the county’s future?

And if the state collapses, too?  Afghans of a certain age remember well the last time the country was left on its own, after the Soviets departed in 1989, and the U.S. also terminated its covert aid.  The mujahideen parties -- Islamists all -- agreed to take turns ruling the country, but things soon fell apart and they took turns instead lobbing rockets into Kabul, killing tens of thousands of civilians, reducing entire districts to rubble, raiding and raping -- until the Taliban came up from the south and put a stop to everything.

Afghan civilians who remember that era hope that this time Karzai will step down as he promises, and that the usual suspects will find ways to maintain traditional power balances, however undemocratic, in something that passes for peace.  Afghan civilians are, however, betting that if a collision comes, one-third of those Afghan Security Forces trained at fabulous expense to protect them will fight for the government (whoever that may be), one-third will fight for the opposition, and one-third will simply desert and go home.  That sounds almost like a plan.

Counting Down to 2014 in Afghanistan: Three Lousy Options, Pick One

Don’t let the forces of regression dominate the media in 2013 - click here to support brave, independent reporting today by making a contribution to Truthout.

Compromise, conflict, or collapse: ask an Afghan what to expect in 2014 and you’re likely to get a scenario that falls under one of those three headings. 2014, of course, is the year of the double whammy in Afghanistan: the next presidential election coupled with the departure of most American and other foreign forces. Many Afghans fear a turn for the worse, while others are no less afraid that everything will stay the same.  Some even think things will get better when the occupying forces leave.  Most predict a more conservative climate, but everyone is quick to say that it’s anybody’s guess.

Only one thing is certain in 2014: it will be a year of American military defeat.  For more than a decade, U.S. forces have fought many types of wars in Afghanistan, from a low-footprint invasion, to multiple surges, to a flirtation with Vietnam-style counterinsurgency, to a ramped-up, gloves-off air war.  And yet, despite all the experiments in styles of war-making, the American military and its coalition partners have ended up in the same place: stalemate, which in a battle with guerrillas means defeat.  For years, a modest-sized, generally unpopular, ragtag set of insurgents has fought the planet’s most heavily armed, technologically advanced military to a standstill, leaving the country shaken and its citizens anxiously imagining the outcome of unpalatable scenarios.

The first, compromise, suggests the possibility of reaching some sort of almost inconceivable power-sharing agreement with multiple insurgent militias.  While Washington presses for negotiations with its designated enemy, “the Taliban,” representatives of President Hamid Karzai’s High Peace Council, which includes12 members of the former Taliban government and many sympathizers, are making the rounds to talk disarmament and reconciliation with all the armed insurgent groups that the Afghan intelligence service has identified across the country. There are 1,500 of them.

One member of the Council told me, “It will take a long time before we get to Mullah Omar [the Taliban’s titular leader].  Some of these militias can’t even remember what they’ve been fighting about.”

The second scenario, open conflict, would mean another dreaded round of civil war like the one in the 1990s, after the Soviet Union withdrew in defeat -- the one that destroyed the Afghan capital, Kabul, devastated parts of the country, and gave rise to the Taliban.

The third scenario, collapse, sounds so apocalyptic that it’s seldom brought up by Afghans, but it’s implied in the exodus already underway of those citizens who can afford to leave the country.  The departures aren’t dramatic.  There are no helicopters lifting off the roof of the U.S. Embassy with desperate Afghans clamoring to get on board; just a record number of asylum applications in 2011, a year in which, according to official figures, almost 36,000 Afghans were openly looking for a safe place to land, preferably in Europe.  That figure is likely to be at least matched, if not exceeded, when the U.N. releases the complete data for 2012.

In January, I went to Kabul to learn what old friends and current officials are thinking about the critical months ahead.  At the same time, Afghan President Karzai flew to Washington to confer with President Obama.  Their talks seem to have differed radically from the conversations I had with ordinary Afghans. In Kabul, where strange rumors fly, an official reassured me that the future looked bright for the country because Karzai was expected to return from Washington with the promise of American radar systems, presumably for the Afghan Air Force, which is not yet “operational.” (He actually returned with the promise of helicopters, cargo planes, fighter jets, and drones.) Who knew that the fate of the nation and its suffering citizens hinged on that?  In my conversations with ordinary Afghans, one thing that never came up was radar.

Another term that never seems to enter ordinary Afghan conversation, much as it obsesses Americans, is “al-Qaeda.” President Obama, for instance, announced at a joint press conference with President Karzai: “Our core objective -- the reason we went to war in the first place -- is now within reach: ensuring that al-Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan to launch attacks against America.”  An Afghan journalist asked me, “Why does he worry so much about al-Qaeda in Afghanistan? Doesn’t he know they are everywhere else?”

At the same Washington press conference, Obama said, “The nation we need to rebuild is our own.” Afghans long ago gave up waiting for the U.S. to make good on its promises to rebuild theirs. What’s now striking, however, is the vast gulf between the pronouncements of American officialdom and the hopes of ordinary Afghans.  It’s a gap so wide you would hardly think -- as Afghans once did -- that we are fighting for them.

To take just one example: the official American view of events in Afghanistan is wonderfully black and white.  The president, for instance, speaks of the way U.S. forces heroically “pushed the Taliban out of their strongholds.” Like other top U.S. officials over the years, he forgets whom we pushed into the Afghan government, our “stronghold” in the years after the 2001 invasion: ex-Taliban and Taliban-like fundamentalists, the most brutal civil warriors, and serial human rights violators.

Afghans, however, haven’t forgotten just whom the U.S. put in place to govern them -- exactly the men they feared and hated most in exactly the place where few Afghans wanted them to be.  Early on, between 2002 and 2004, 90% of Afghans surveyed nationwide told the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission that such men should not be allowed to hold public office; 76% wanted them tried as war criminals.


In my recent conversations, many Afghans still cited the first loya jirga, an assembly convened in 2003 to ratify the newly drafted constitution, or the first presidential election in 2004, or the parliamentary election of 2005, all held under international auspices, as the moments when the aspirations of Afghans and the “international community” parted company. In that first parliament, as in the earlier gatherings, most of the men were affiliated with armed militias; every other member was a formerjihadi, and nearly half were affiliated with fundamentalist Islamist parties, including the Taliban.

In this way, Afghans were consigned to live under a government of bloodstained warlords and fundamentalists, who turned out to be Washington’s guys.  Many had once battled the Soviets using American money and weapons, and quite a few, like the former warlord, druglord, minister of defense, and current vice-president Muhammad Qasim Fahim, had been very chummy with the CIA.

In the U.S., such details of our Afghan War, now in its 12th year, are long forgotten, but to Afghans who live under the rule of the same old suspects, the memory remains painfully raw.  Worse, Afghans know that it is these very men, rearmed and ready, who will once again compete for power in 2014.

How to Vote Early in Afghanistan

President Karzai is barred by term limits from standing for reelection in 2014, but many Kabulis believe he reached a private agreement with the usual suspects at a meeting late last year. In early January, he seemed to seal the deal by announcing that, for the sake of frugality, the voter cards issued for past elections will be reusedin 2014.  Far too many of those cards were issued for the 2004 election, suspiciously more than the number of eligible voters.  During the 2009 campaign, anyone could buy fistfuls of them at bargain basement prices.  So this decision seemed to kill off the last faint hope of an election in which Afghans might actually have a say about the leadership of the country.

Fewer than 35% of voters cast ballots in the last presidential contest, when Karzai’s men were caught on video stuffing ballot boxes.  (Afterward, President Obama phoned to congratulate Karzai on his “victory.”) Only dedicated or paid henchmen are likely to show up for the next “good enough for Afghans” exercise in democracy. Once again, an “election” may be just the elaborate stage set for announcing to a disillusioned public the names of those who will run the show in Kabul for the next few years.

Kabulis might live with that, as they’ve lived with Karzai all these years, but they fear power-hungry Afghan politicians could “compromise” as well with insurgent leaders like that old American favorite from the war against the Soviets, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who recently told a TV audience that he intends to claim his rightful place in government. Such compromises could stick the Afghan people with a shaky power-sharing deal among the most ultra-conservative, self-interested, sociopathic, and corrupt men in the country.  If that deal, in turn, were to fall apart, as most power-sharing agreements worldwide do within a year or two, the big men might well plunge the country back into a 1990s-style civil war, with no regard for the civilians caught in their path.

These worst-case scenarios are everyday Kabuli nightmares.  After all, during decades of war, the savvy citizens of the capital have learned to expect the worst from the men currently characterized in a popular local graffiti this way: “Mujahideen=Criminals. Taliban=Dumbheads.”

Ordinary Kabulis express reasonable fears for the future of the country, but impatient free-marketeering businessmen are voting with their feet right now, or laying plans to leave soon. They’ve made Kabul hum (often with foreign aid funds, which are equivalent to about 90% of the country’s economic activity), but they aren’t about to wait around for the results of election 2014.  Carpe diem has become their version of financial advice.  As a result, they are snatching what they can and packing their bags.

Millions of dollars reportedly take flight from Kabul International Airport every day: officially about $4.6 billion in 2011, or just about the size of Afghanistan’s annual budget. Hordes of businessmen and bankers (like those who, in 2004, set up the Ponzi scheme called the Kabul Bank, from which about a billion dollars went missing) are heading for cushy spots like Dubai, where they have already established residence on prime real estate.

As they take their investments elsewhere and the American effort winds down, the Afghan economy contracts ever more grimly, opportunities dwindle, and jobs disappear.  Housing prices in Kabul are falling for the first time since the start of the occupation as rich Afghans and profiteering private American contractors, who guzzled the money that Washington and the “international community” poured into the country, move on.

At the same time, a money-laundering building boom in Kabul appears to have stalled, leaving tall, half-built office blocks like so many skeletons amid the scalloped Pakistani palaces, vertical malls, and grand madrassas erected in the past four or five years by political and business insiders and well-connected conservative clerics.

Most of the Afghan tycoons seeking asylum elsewhere don’t fear for their lives, just their pocketbooks: they’re not political refugees, but free-market rats abandoning the sinking ship of state.  Joining in the exodus (but not included in the statistics) are countless illegal émigrés seeking jobs or fleeing for their lives, paying human smugglers money they can’t afford as they head for Europe by circuitous and dangerous routes.

Threatened Afghans have fled from every abrupt change of government in the last century, making them the largest population of refugees from a single country on the planet.  Once again, those who can are voting with their feet (or their pocketbooks) -- and voting early.

Afghanistan’s historic tragedy is that its violent political shifts -- from king to communists to warlords to religious fundamentalists to the Americans -- have meant the flight of the very people most capable of rebuilding the country along peaceful and prosperous lines.  And their departure only contributes to the economic and political collapse they themselves seek to avoid.  Left behind are ordinary Afghans -- the illiterate and unskilled, but also a tough core of educated, ambitious citizens, including women’s rights activists, unwilling to surrender their dream of living once again in a free and peaceful Afghanistan.

The Military Monster

These days Kabul resounds with the blasts of suicide bombers, IEDs, and sporadic gunfire.  Armed men are everywhere in anonymous uniforms that defy identification.  Any man with money can buy a squad of bodyguards, clad in classy camouflage and wraparound shades, and armed with assault weapons.  Yet Kabulis, trying to carry on normal lives in the relative safety of the capital, seem to maintain a distance from the war going on in the provinces.

Asked that crucial question -- do you think American forces should stay or go? -- the Kabulis I talked with tended to answer in a theoretical way, very unlike the visceral response one gets in the countryside, where villages are bombed andcivilians killed, or in the makeshift camps for internally displaced people that now crowd the outer fringes of Kabul. (By the time U.S. Marines surged into Taliban-controlled Helmand Province in the south in 2010 to bring counterinsurgency-style protection to the residents there, tens of thousands of them had already moved to those camps in Kabul.)  Afghans in the countryside want to be rid of armed men.  All of them.  Kabulis just want to be secure, and if that means keeping some U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base near the capital, as Afghan and American officials are currently discussing, well, it’s nothing to them.

In fact, most Kabulis I spoke to think that’s what’s going to happen.  After all, American officials have been talking for years about keeping permanent bases in Afghanistan (though they avoid the term “permanent” when speaking to the American press), and American military officers now regularly appear on Afghan TV to say, “The United States will never abandon Afghanistan.”  Afghans reason: Americans would not have spent nearly 12 years fighting in this country if it were not the most strategic place on the planet and absolutely essential to their plans to “push on” Iran and China next.  Everybody knows that pushing on other countries is an American specialty.

Besides, Afghans can see with their own eyes that U.S. command centers, including multiple bases in Kabul, and Bagram Air Base, only 30 miles away, are still being expanded and upgraded.  Beyond the high walls of the American Embassy compound, they can also see the tall new apartment blocks going up for an expanding staff, even if Washington now claims that staff will be reduced in the years to come.

Why, then, would President Obama announce the drawdown of U.S. troops to perhaps a few thousand special operations forces and advisors, if Washington didn’t mean to leave?  Afghans have a theory about that, too.  It’s a ruse, many claim, to encourage all other foreign forces to depart so that the Americans can have everything to themselves.  Afghanistan, as they imagine it, is so important that the U.S., which has fought the longest war in its history there, will be satisfied with nothing less.

I was there to listen, but at times I did mention to Afghans that America’s post-9/11 wars and occupations were threatening to break the country.  “We just can’t afford this war anymore,” I said.

Afghans only laugh at that.  They’ve seen the way Americans throw money around.  They’ve seen the way American money corrupted the Afghan government, and many reminded me that American politicians like Afghan ones are bought and sold, and its elections won by money. Americans, they know, are as rich as Croesus and very friendly, though on the whole not very well mannered or honest or smart.

Operation Enduring Presence      

More than 11 years later, the tragedy of the American war in Afghanistan is simple enough: it has proven remarkably irrelevant to the lives of the Afghan people -- and to American troops as well.  Washington has long appeared to be fighting its own war in defense of a form of government and a set of long-discredited government officials that ordinary Afghans would never have chosen for themselves and have no power to replace.

In the early years of the war (2001-2005), George W. Bush’s administration was far too distracted planning and launching another war in Iraq to maintain anything but a minimal military presence in Afghanistan -- and that mainly outside the capital.  Many journalists (including me) criticized Bush for not finishing the war he started there when he had the chance, but today Kabulis look back on that soldierless period of peace and hope with a certain nostalgia.  In some quarters, the Bush years have even acquired something like the sheen of a lost Golden Age -- compared, that is, to the thoroughgoing militarization of American policy that followed.

So commanding did the U.S. military become in Kabul and Washington that, over the years, it ate the State Department, gobbled up the incompetent bureaucracy of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and established Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in the countryside to carry out maniacal “development” projects and throw bales of cash at all the wrong “leaders.”

Of course, the military also killed a great many people, both “enemies” and civilians.  As in Vietnam, it won the battles, but lost the war.  When I asked Afghans from Mazar-e-Sharif in the north how they accounted for the relative peacefulness and stability of their area, the answer seemed self-evident: “Americans didn’t come here.”

Other consequences, all deleterious, flowed from the militarization of foreign policy.  In Afghanistan and the United States, so intimately ensnarled over all these years, the income gap between the rich and everyone else has grown exponentially, in large part because in both countries the rich have made money off war-making, while ordinary citizens have slipped into poverty for lack of jobs and basic services.

Relying on the military, the U.S. neglected the crucial elements of civil life in Afghanistan that make things bearable -- like education and health care.  Yes, I’ve heard the repeated claims that, thanks to us, millions of children are now attending school.  But for how long?   According to UNICEF, in the years 2005-2010, in the whole of Afghanistan only 18% of boys attended high school, and 6% of girls.  What kind of report card is that?  After 11 years of underfunded work on health care in a country the size of Texas, infant mortality still remains the highest in the world.

By 2014, the defense of Afghanistan will have been handed over to the woefulAfghan National Security Force, also known in military-speak as the “Enduring Presence Force.”  In that year, for Washington, the American war will be officially over, whether it’s actually at an end or not, and it will be up to Afghans to do the enduring.

Here’s where that final scenario -- collapse -- haunts the Kabuli imagination.  Economic collapse means joblessness, poverty, hunger, and a great swelling of the ranks of children cadging a living in the streets.  Already street children are said to number a million strong in Kabul, and 4 million across the country.  Only blocks from the Presidential Palace, they are there in startling numbers selling newspapers, phone cards, toilet paper, or simply begging for small change. Are they the county’s future?

And if the state collapses, too?  Afghans of a certain age remember well the last time the country was left on its own, after the Soviets departed in 1989, and the U.S. also terminated its covert aid.  The mujahideen parties -- Islamists all -- agreed to take turns ruling the country, but things soon fell apart and they took turns instead lobbing rockets into Kabul, killing tens of thousands of civilians, reducing entire districts to rubble, raiding and raping -- until the Taliban came up from the south and put a stop to everything.

Afghan civilians who remember that era hope that this time Karzai will step down as he promises, and that the usual suspects will find ways to maintain traditional power balances, however undemocratic, in something that passes for peace.  Afghan civilians are, however, betting that if a collision comes, one-third of those Afghan Security Forces trained at fabulous expense to protect them will fight for the government (whoever that may be), one-third will fight for the opposition, and one-third will simply desert and go home.  That sounds almost like a plan.

Obama-Clinton ‘show’: ‘US at war with more states than it’s been since 1945’

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) listens to US President Barack Obama speak during a meeting with members of his cabinet at the White House in Washington November 28, 2012 (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

(46.9Mb) embed video

President Barack Obama lavished praise on Hillary Clinton, calling her one of the best secretaries of state in US history. But journalist Don Debar wonders if the Libya takeover can be dubbed Clinton’s “biggest success” after the Benghazi deaths.

­Obama and Clinton appeared together at a press conference as America’s top diplomat prepares to step down next month.

A joint interview of praise aired Sunday speculations that President Obama may prefer Clinton to succeed him in the White House after the 2016 elections.

The two however batted away questions about the future in US politics.

"And I don't think, you know, either he or I can make predictions about what's going to happen tomorrow or the next year," Clinton said.

"I was literally inaugurated four days ago. And you're talking about elections four years from now," answered Obama.

Barack Obama called the incumbent secretary of state a friend and an extraordinary talent and paid tribute to "her discipline, her stamina, her thoughtfulness, her ability to project."

But journalist and human rights activist Don Debar says the praise is gratuitous.

RT: You saw this interview – the president may have praised the secretary of state. But what is your sentiment on her achievements in the position, including the Middle East policy?

Don Debar: Well, look at the condition of the world right now, and know that Hillary Clinton has been active for four years. A really disheartening thing about the show – which is what it was, shown for 60 minutes exclusively in the United States – they spent a lot of time trying to explain to people how these two former primary campaign 2008 adversaries could work together for four years. When most of the rest of the world has the coalition government, or all kinds of adversarial interests, sitting down and hashing things out, and making things go forward. Hillary Clinton’s the biggest achievement was the takeover of Libya, and Barack Obama said if it wasn’t for Hillary Clinton, we wouldn’t have achieved success in Libya, which now, of course, being used as the excuse for fresh intervention in Mali, and laying out the groundwork for much more aggressive action.

RT: You mentioned that this was a bit of a show. What do you make of the timing of this interview? Just last week, Clinton took responsibility for the deadly attack in Benghazi, you were just mentioning the situation in Libya acknowledging the mistakes of American foreign policy there?

DD: You know, she avoided testimony or testifying in the hostile Republican committee. The American ambassador to Libya post-Jamaharia was killed. He was identified by people all over of Libya for a long time, and as being one of the CIA’s point people. And in fact, this country, which was bombed through eight months by NATO, by the US and its allies, with thousands of people dying, many homes, the infrastructure that’s been built in the last 40 years, being devastated in front of the people, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that there would be people that were angry over that, that might want to kill those they identify as being responsible. Yet the entire presentation here and over the last couple of weeks has been something quite different.

Clinton avoided the actual testimony, so everyone else had testified but her – and then you can’t be contradicted by any subsequent testimony. And at this point in time, she is leaving with glasses, we were reminded several times, that are consequence of brain injury she suffered that didn’t allow her to testify. And now she’s being patted on the back by Obama for success in Libya that she didn’t account for the failure of! It’s like watching teenagers.

RT: Obama has declared it a success that his administration has wound down two wars and dismantled the Al-Qaeda leadership. What’s your take?

DD: The United States is now at war with more nation states than it’s been since 1945. And whether you consider drone attacks and active war under the old rules, certainly drone attacks are taking place in countries that are not included in that total, so the world is more at war than it’s been since 1945: in terms of the number of people who die every day, in terms of they get blown up, in terms of assertion of one extrinsic national interest over other national interests on the ground. So for him to claim that, you know, “I’ve wrapped up a war and things are okay” is a joke. But it makes sense, too, because the two things that mobilized Democrats against the Bush administration were the two wars, primarily, the Iraq war, also the Afghanistan war, and now that those are moving off the radar, anti-war Democrats are going to slip, and that allows these people broad movement across the world to continue wars as long as they don’t make Democratic activists upset.

RT:And, briefly, some Republicans see Hillary Clinton as a very strong candidate. If she is to run for the next presidency of the United States, what would be your opinion?

DD: I hope they’re wrong. I don’t want to see a Republican president elected, but I also don’t want to see Hillary Clinton elected, which would be again a Republican president. I have a friend who’s a Republican; he reminds me when a Republican runs against a Republican, a Republican always wins. Hillary Clinton’s husband was the premier Republican president of the late 20th century. He did away with welfare as we knew it, he started war again in Europe, he did away with possibility of keeping down the military after the fall of the Soviet Union. And Hillary Clinton is all the same, with her tenure as the secretary of state.

Fox News Flash: Progressives Despise War! Oh, The Horror.

[h/t Heather] Newsbusters and Fox are stoking up the outrage over this segment aired Saturday morning on the Melissa Harris-Perry show. Wow. All I can really say is, they're really digging deep into their little bag of archetypes to come up with th...

Scientists strive to save dying spoken language of Jesus

British scientists are attempting to preserve the Aramaic language spoken by Jesus and tied to Hebrew and Arabic.

­Professor of linguistics at the University of Cambridge, Geoffrey Khan, has begun a quest to record the ancient language that’s been around for three thousand years before it finally disappears.

Prof Khan decided to record the language after speaking to a Jew from Erbil in northern Iraq. “It completely blew my mind,” Khan told Smithsonian.com.

“To discover a living language through the lips of a living person, it was just incredibly exhilarating,” he added.

By recording some of the remaining native Aramaic speakers, the linguist hopes to preserve the 3,000-year-old language on the verge of extinction. Speakers can be found in different parts of the world, from America to Iraq.

Over the past twenty years Prof. Khan has published several important books on the previously undocumented dialects of Barwar, Qaraqosh, Erbil, Sulemaniyya and Halabja, all areas in Iraq, as well as Urmi and Sanandaj, in Iran. He is also working on a web-based database of text and audio recordings that allows word-by-word comparisons across dozens of Aramaic dialects, Smithsonian.com reported.

Aramaic which belongs to the Semitic family of languages is known for its use in large sections of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra. It is also the main language of Rabbinic Judaism’s key text, the Talmud. Parts of the ancient Dead Sea scrolls were written in Aramaic

The language was used in Israel from 539 BC to 70 AD. According to linguists it was most likely spoken by Jesus.

Pentagon’s New Massive Expansion of ‘Cyber-Security’ Unit is About Everything Except Defense

As the US government depicts the Defense Department as shrinking due to budgetary constraints, the Washington Post this morning announces "a major expansion of [the Pentagon's] cybersecurity force over the next several years, increasing its size more than fivefold."

The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Among other forms of intelligence-gathering, the NSA secretly collects the phone records of millions of Americans, using data provided by telecom firms AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. (Photo: NSA/Getty Images)

Specifically, says the New York Times this morning, "the expansion would increase the Defense Department's Cyber Command by more than 4,000 people, up from the current 900." The Post describes this expansion as "part of an effort to turn an organization that has focused largely on defensive measures into the equivalent of an Internet-era fighting force." This Cyber Command Unit operates under the command of Gen. Keith Alexander, who also happens to be the head of the National Security Agency, the highly secretive government network that spies on the communications of foreign nationals - and American citizens.

The Pentagon's rhetorical justification for this expansion is deeply misleading. Beyond that, these activities pose a wide array of serious threats to internet freedom, privacy, and international law that, as usual, will be conducted with full-scale secrecy and with little to no oversight and accountability. And, as usual, there is a small army of private-sector corporations who will benefit most from this expansion.

Disguising aggression as "defense"

Let's begin with the way this so-called "cyber-security" expansion has been marketed. It is part of a sustained campaign which, as usual, relies on blatant fear-mongering.

In March, 2010, the Washington Post published an amazing Op-Ed by Adm. Michael McConnell, Bush's former Director of National Intelligence and a past and current executive with Booz Allen, a firm representing numerous corporate contractors which profit enormously each time the government expands its "cyber-security" activities. McConnell's career over the last two decades - both at Booz, Allen and inside the government - has been devoted to accelerating the merger between the government and private sector in all intelligence, surveillance and national security matters (it was he who led the successful campaign to retroactively immunize the telecom giants for their participation in the illegal NSA domestic spying program). Privatizing government cyber-spying and cyber-warfare is his primary focus now.

McConnell's Op-Ed was as alarmist and hysterical as possible. Claiming that "the United States is fighting a cyber-war today, and we are losing", it warned that "chaos would result" from an enemy cyber-attack on US financial systems and that "our power grids, air and ground transportation, telecommunications, and water-filtration systems are in jeopardy as well." Based on these threats, McConnell advocated that "we" - meaning "the government and the private sector" - "need to develop an early-warning system to monitor cyberspace" and that "we need to reengineer the Internet to make attribution, geolocation, intelligence analysis and impact assessment - who did it, from where, why and what was the result - more manageable." As Wired's Ryan Singel wrote: "He's talking about changing the internet to make everything anyone does on the net traceable and geo-located so the National Security Agency can pinpoint users and their computers for retaliation."

The same week the Post published McConnell's extraordinary Op-Ed, the Obama White House issued its own fear-mongering decree on cyber-threats, depicting the US as a vulnerable victim to cyber-aggression. It began with this sentence: "President Obama has identified cybersecurity as one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation, but one that we as a government or as a country are not adequately prepared to counter." It announced that "the Executive Branch was directed to work closely with all key players in US cybersecurity, including state and local governments and the private sector" and to "strengthen public/private partnerships", and specifically announced Obama's intent to "to implement the recommendations of the Cyberspace Policy Review built on the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) launched by President George W. Bush."

Since then, the fear-mongering rhetoric from government officials has relentlessly intensified, all devoted to scaring citizens into believing that the US is at serious risk of cataclysmic cyber-attacks from "aggressors". This all culminated when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, last October, warned of what he called a "cyber-Pearl Harbor. This "would cause physical destruction and the loss of life, an attack that would paralyze and shock the nation and create a profound new sense of vulnerability." Identifying China, Iran, and terrorist groups, he outlined a parade of horribles scarier than anything since Condoleezza Rice's 2002 Iraqi "mushroom cloud":

"An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches. They could derail passenger trains, or even more dangerous, derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country."

As usual, though, reality is exactly the opposite. This new massive new expenditure of money is not primarily devoted to defending against cyber-aggressors. The US itself is the world's leading cyber-aggressor. A major purpose of this expansion is to strengthen the US's ability to destroy other nations with cyber-attacks. Indeed, even the Post report notes that a major component of this new expansion is to "conduct offensive computer operations against foreign adversaries".

It is the US - not Iran, Russia or "terror" groups - which already is the first nation (in partnership with Israel) to aggressively deploy a highly sophisticated and extremely dangerous cyber-attack. Last June, the New York Times' David Sanger reported what most of the world had already suspected: "From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran's main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America's first sustained use of cyberweapons." In fact, Obama "decided to accelerate the attacks . . . even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran's Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet." According to the Sanger's report, Obama himself understood the significance of the US decision to be the first to use serious and aggressive cyber-warfare:

"Mr. Obama, according to participants in the many Situation Room meetings on Olympic Games, was acutely aware that with every attack he was pushing the United States into new territory, much as his predecessors had with the first use of atomic weapons in the 1940s, of intercontinental missiles in the 1950s and of drones in the past decade. He repeatedly expressed concerns that any American acknowledgment that it was using cyberweapons - even under the most careful and limited circumstances - could enable other countries, terrorists or hackers to justify their own attacks."

The US isn't the vulnerable victim of cyber-attacks. It's the leading perpetrator of those attacks. As Columbia Professor and cyber expert Misha Glenny wrote in the NYT last June: Obama's cyber-attack on Iran "marked a significant and dangerous turning point in the gradual militarization of the Internet."

Indeed, exactly as Obama knew would happen, revelations that it was the US which became the first country to use cyber-warfare against a sovereign country - just as it was the first to use the atomic bomb and then drones - would make it impossible for it to claim with any credibility (except among its own media and foreign policy community) that it was in a defensive posture when it came to cyber-warfare. As Professor Glenny wrote: "by introducing such pernicious viruses as Stuxnet and Flame, America has severely undermined its moral and political credibility." That's why, as the Post reported yesterday, the DOJ is engaged in such a frantic and invasive effort to root out Sanger's source: because it reveals the obvious truth that the US is the leading aggressor in the world when it comes to cyber-weapons.

This significant expansion under the Orwellian rubric of "cyber-security" is thus a perfect microcosm of US military spending generally. It's all justified under by the claim that the US must defend itself from threats from Bad, Aggressive Actors, when the reality is the exact opposite: the new program is devoted to ensuring that the US remains the primary offensive threat to the rest of the world. It's the same way the US develops offensive biological weapons under the guise of developing defenses against such weapons (such as the 2001 anthrax that the US government itself says came from a US Army lab). It's how the US government generally convinces its citizens that it is a peaceful victim of aggression by others when the reality is that the US builds more weapons, sells more arms and bombs more countries than virtually the rest of the world combined.

Threats to privacy and internet freedom

Beyond the aggressive threat to other nations posed by the Pentagon's cyber-threat programs, there is the profound threat to privacy, internet freedom, and the ability to communicate freely for US citizens and foreign nationals alike. The US government has long viewed these "cyber-security" programs as a means of monitoring and controlling the internet and disseminating propaganda. The fact that this is all being done under the auspices of the NSA and the Pentagon means, by definition, that there will be no transparency and no meaningful oversight.

Back in 2003, the Rumsfeld Pentagon prepared a secret report entitled "Information Operations (IO) Roadmap", which laid the foundation for this new cyber-warfare expansion. The Pentagon's self-described objective was "transforming IO into a core military competency on par with air, ground, maritime and special operations". In other words, its key objective was to ensure military control over internet-based communications:

dod cyber

It further identified superiority in cyber-attack capabilities as a vital military goal in PSYOPs (Psychological Operations) and "information-centric fights":

dod cyber

And it set forth the urgency of dominating the "IO battlespace" not only during wartime but also in peacetime:

dod cyber

As a 2006 BBC report on this Pentagon document noted: "Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military's psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans." And while the report paid lip service to the need to create "boundaries" for these new IO military activities, "they don't seem to explain how." Regarding the report's plan to "provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum", the BBC noted: "Consider that for a moment. The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet."

Since then, there have been countless reports of the exploitation by the US national security state to destroy privacy and undermine internet freedom. In November, the LA Times described programs that "teach students how to spy in cyberspace, the latest frontier in espionage." They "also are taught to write computer viruses, hack digital networks, crack passwords, plant listening devices and mine data from broken cellphones and flash drives." The program, needless to say, "has funneled most of its graduates to the CIA and the Pentagon's National Security Agency, which conducts America's digital spying. Other graduates have taken positions with the FBI, NASA and the Department of Homeland Security."

In 2010, Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, gave a speech explicitly announcing that the US intends to abandon its policy of "leaving the Internet alone". Noting that this "has been the nation's Internet policy since the Internet was first commercialized in the mid-1990s", he decreed: "This was the right policy for the United States in the early stages of the Internet, and the right message to send to the rest of the world. But that was then and this is now."

The documented power of the US government to monitor and surveil internet communications is already unfathomably massive. Recall that the Washington Post's 2010 "Top Secret America" series noted that: "Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications." And the Obama administration has formally demanded that it have access to any and all forms of internet communication.

It is hard to overstate the danger to privacy and internet freedom from a massive expansion of the National Security State's efforts to exploit and control the internet. As Wired's Singel wrote back in 2010:

"Make no mistake, the military industrial complex now has its eye on the internet. Generals want to train crack squads of hackers and have wet dreams of cyberwarfare. Never shy of extending its power, the military industrial complex wants to turn the internet into yet another venue for an arms race.

Wildly exaggerated cyber-threats are the pretext for this control, the "mushroom cloud" and the Tonkin Gulf fiction of cyber-warfare. As Singel aptly put it: "the only war going on is one for the soul of the internet." That's the vital context for understanding this massive expansion of Pentagon and NSA consolidated control over cyber programs.

Bonanza for private contractors

As always, it is not just political power but also private-sector profit driving this expansion. As military contracts for conventional war-fighting are modestly reduced, something needs to replace it, and these large-scale "cyber-security" contracts are more than adequate. Virtually every cyber-security program from the government is carried out in conjunction with its "private-sector partners", who receive large transfers of public funds for this work.

Two weeks ago, Business Week reported that "Lockheed Martin Corp., AT&T Inc., and CenturyLink Inc. are the first companies to sign up for a US program giving them classified information on cyber threats that they can package as security services for sale to other companies." This is part of a government effort "to create a market based on classified US information about cyber threats." In May, it was announced that "the Pentagon is expanding and making permanent a trial program that teams the government with Internet service providers to protect defense firms' computer networks against data theft by foreign adversaries" - all as "part of a larger effort to broaden the sharing of classified and unclassified cyberthreat data between the government and industry."

Indeed, there is a large organization of defense and intelligence contractors devoted to one goal: expanding the private-public merger for national security and intelligence functions. This organization - the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) - was formerly headed by Adm. McConnell, and describes itself as a "collaboration by leaders from throughout the US Intelligence Community" and " combines the experience of senior leaders from government, the private sector, and academia."

As I detailed back in 2010, one of its primary goals is to scare the nation about supposed cyber-threats in order to justify massive new expenditures for the private-sector intelligence industry on cyber-security measures and vastly expanded control over the internet. Indeed, in his 2010 Op-Ed, Adm. McConnell expressly acknowledged that the growing privatization of internet cyber-security programs "will muddy the waters between the traditional roles of the government and the private sector." Indeed, at the very same time McConnell published this Op-Ed, the INSA website featured a report entitled "Addressing Cyber Security Through Public-Private Partnership." It featured a genuinely creepy graphic showing the inter-connectedness between government institutions (such as Congress and regulatory agencies), the Surveillance State, private intelligence corporations, and the Internet:

Private-sector profit is now inextricably linked with the fear-mongering campaign over cyber-threats. At one INSA conference in 2009 - entitled "Cyber Deterrence Conference" - government officials and intelligence industry executives gathered together to stress that "government and private sector actors should emphasize collaboration and partnership through the creation of a model that assigns specific roles and responsibilities."

As intelligence contractor expert Tim Shorrock told Democracy Now when McConnell - then at Booz Allen - was first nominated to be DNI:

Well, the NSA, the National Security Agency, is really sort of the lead agency in terms of outsourcing . . . . Booz Allen is one of about, you know, ten large corporations that play a very major role in American intelligence. Every time you hear about intelligence watching North Korea or tapping al-Qaeda phones, something like that, you can bet that corporations like these are very heavily involved. And Booz Allen is one of the largest of these contractors. I estimate that about 50% of our $45 billion intelligence budget goes to private sector contractors like Booz Allen.

This public-private merger for intelligence and surveillance functions not only vests these industries with large-scale profits at public expense, but also the accompanying power that was traditionally reserved for government. And unlike government agencies, which are at least subjected in theory to some minimal regulatory oversight, these private-sector actors have virtually none, even as their surveillance and intelligence functions rapidly increase.

What Dwight Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex has been feeding itself on fear campaigns since it was born. A never-ending carousel of Menacing Enemies - Communists, Terrorists, Saddam's chemical weapons, Iranian mullahs - has sustained it, and Cyber-Threats are but the latest.

Like all of these wildly exaggerated cartoon menaces, there is some degree of threat posed by cyber-attacks. But, as Single described, all of this can be managed with greater security systems for public and private computer networks - just as some modest security measures are sufficient to deal with the terrorist threat.

This new massive expansion has little to do with any actual cyber-threat - just as the invasion of Iraq and global assassination program have little to do with actual terrorist threats. It is instead all about strengthening the US's offensive cyber-war capabilities, consolidating control over the internet, and ensuring further transfers of massive public wealth to private industry continue unabated. In other words, it perfectly follows the template used by the public-private US National Security State over the last six decades to entrench and enrich itself based on pure pretext.

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited

Glenn Greenwald

Pentagon’s New Massive Expansion of ‘Cyber-Security’ Unit is About Everything Except Defense

As the US government depicts the Defense Department as shrinking due to budgetary constraints, the Washington Post this morning announces "a major expansion of [the Pentagon's] cybersecurity force over the next several years, increasing its size more than fivefold."

The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Among other forms of intelligence-gathering, the NSA secretly collects the phone records of millions of Americans, using data provided by telecom firms AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. (Photo: NSA/Getty Images)

Specifically, says the New York Times this morning, "the expansion would increase the Defense Department's Cyber Command by more than 4,000 people, up from the current 900." The Post describes this expansion as "part of an effort to turn an organization that has focused largely on defensive measures into the equivalent of an Internet-era fighting force." This Cyber Command Unit operates under the command of Gen. Keith Alexander, who also happens to be the head of the National Security Agency, the highly secretive government network that spies on the communications of foreign nationals - and American citizens.

The Pentagon's rhetorical justification for this expansion is deeply misleading. Beyond that, these activities pose a wide array of serious threats to internet freedom, privacy, and international law that, as usual, will be conducted with full-scale secrecy and with little to no oversight and accountability. And, as usual, there is a small army of private-sector corporations who will benefit most from this expansion.

Disguising aggression as "defense"

Let's begin with the way this so-called "cyber-security" expansion has been marketed. It is part of a sustained campaign which, as usual, relies on blatant fear-mongering.

In March, 2010, the Washington Post published an amazing Op-Ed by Adm. Michael McConnell, Bush's former Director of National Intelligence and a past and current executive with Booz Allen, a firm representing numerous corporate contractors which profit enormously each time the government expands its "cyber-security" activities. McConnell's career over the last two decades - both at Booz, Allen and inside the government - has been devoted to accelerating the merger between the government and private sector in all intelligence, surveillance and national security matters (it was he who led the successful campaign to retroactively immunize the telecom giants for their participation in the illegal NSA domestic spying program). Privatizing government cyber-spying and cyber-warfare is his primary focus now.

McConnell's Op-Ed was as alarmist and hysterical as possible. Claiming that "the United States is fighting a cyber-war today, and we are losing", it warned that "chaos would result" from an enemy cyber-attack on US financial systems and that "our power grids, air and ground transportation, telecommunications, and water-filtration systems are in jeopardy as well." Based on these threats, McConnell advocated that "we" - meaning "the government and the private sector" - "need to develop an early-warning system to monitor cyberspace" and that "we need to reengineer the Internet to make attribution, geolocation, intelligence analysis and impact assessment - who did it, from where, why and what was the result - more manageable." As Wired's Ryan Singel wrote: "He's talking about changing the internet to make everything anyone does on the net traceable and geo-located so the National Security Agency can pinpoint users and their computers for retaliation."

The same week the Post published McConnell's extraordinary Op-Ed, the Obama White House issued its own fear-mongering decree on cyber-threats, depicting the US as a vulnerable victim to cyber-aggression. It began with this sentence: "President Obama has identified cybersecurity as one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation, but one that we as a government or as a country are not adequately prepared to counter." It announced that "the Executive Branch was directed to work closely with all key players in US cybersecurity, including state and local governments and the private sector" and to "strengthen public/private partnerships", and specifically announced Obama's intent to "to implement the recommendations of the Cyberspace Policy Review built on the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) launched by President George W. Bush."

Since then, the fear-mongering rhetoric from government officials has relentlessly intensified, all devoted to scaring citizens into believing that the US is at serious risk of cataclysmic cyber-attacks from "aggressors". This all culminated when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, last October, warned of what he called a "cyber-Pearl Harbor. This "would cause physical destruction and the loss of life, an attack that would paralyze and shock the nation and create a profound new sense of vulnerability." Identifying China, Iran, and terrorist groups, he outlined a parade of horribles scarier than anything since Condoleezza Rice's 2002 Iraqi "mushroom cloud":

"An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches. They could derail passenger trains, or even more dangerous, derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country."

As usual, though, reality is exactly the opposite. This new massive new expenditure of money is not primarily devoted to defending against cyber-aggressors. The US itself is the world's leading cyber-aggressor. A major purpose of this expansion is to strengthen the US's ability to destroy other nations with cyber-attacks. Indeed, even the Post report notes that a major component of this new expansion is to "conduct offensive computer operations against foreign adversaries".

It is the US - not Iran, Russia or "terror" groups - which already is the first nation (in partnership with Israel) to aggressively deploy a highly sophisticated and extremely dangerous cyber-attack. Last June, the New York Times' David Sanger reported what most of the world had already suspected: "From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran's main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America's first sustained use of cyberweapons." In fact, Obama "decided to accelerate the attacks . . . even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran's Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet." According to the Sanger's report, Obama himself understood the significance of the US decision to be the first to use serious and aggressive cyber-warfare:

"Mr. Obama, according to participants in the many Situation Room meetings on Olympic Games, was acutely aware that with every attack he was pushing the United States into new territory, much as his predecessors had with the first use of atomic weapons in the 1940s, of intercontinental missiles in the 1950s and of drones in the past decade. He repeatedly expressed concerns that any American acknowledgment that it was using cyberweapons - even under the most careful and limited circumstances - could enable other countries, terrorists or hackers to justify their own attacks."

The US isn't the vulnerable victim of cyber-attacks. It's the leading perpetrator of those attacks. As Columbia Professor and cyber expert Misha Glenny wrote in the NYT last June: Obama's cyber-attack on Iran "marked a significant and dangerous turning point in the gradual militarization of the Internet."

Indeed, exactly as Obama knew would happen, revelations that it was the US which became the first country to use cyber-warfare against a sovereign country - just as it was the first to use the atomic bomb and then drones - would make it impossible for it to claim with any credibility (except among its own media and foreign policy community) that it was in a defensive posture when it came to cyber-warfare. As Professor Glenny wrote: "by introducing such pernicious viruses as Stuxnet and Flame, America has severely undermined its moral and political credibility." That's why, as the Post reported yesterday, the DOJ is engaged in such a frantic and invasive effort to root out Sanger's source: because it reveals the obvious truth that the US is the leading aggressor in the world when it comes to cyber-weapons.

This significant expansion under the Orwellian rubric of "cyber-security" is thus a perfect microcosm of US military spending generally. It's all justified under by the claim that the US must defend itself from threats from Bad, Aggressive Actors, when the reality is the exact opposite: the new program is devoted to ensuring that the US remains the primary offensive threat to the rest of the world. It's the same way the US develops offensive biological weapons under the guise of developing defenses against such weapons (such as the 2001 anthrax that the US government itself says came from a US Army lab). It's how the US government generally convinces its citizens that it is a peaceful victim of aggression by others when the reality is that the US builds more weapons, sells more arms and bombs more countries than virtually the rest of the world combined.

Threats to privacy and internet freedom

Beyond the aggressive threat to other nations posed by the Pentagon's cyber-threat programs, there is the profound threat to privacy, internet freedom, and the ability to communicate freely for US citizens and foreign nationals alike. The US government has long viewed these "cyber-security" programs as a means of monitoring and controlling the internet and disseminating propaganda. The fact that this is all being done under the auspices of the NSA and the Pentagon means, by definition, that there will be no transparency and no meaningful oversight.

Back in 2003, the Rumsfeld Pentagon prepared a secret report entitled "Information Operations (IO) Roadmap", which laid the foundation for this new cyber-warfare expansion. The Pentagon's self-described objective was "transforming IO into a core military competency on par with air, ground, maritime and special operations". In other words, its key objective was to ensure military control over internet-based communications:

dod cyber

It further identified superiority in cyber-attack capabilities as a vital military goal in PSYOPs (Psychological Operations) and "information-centric fights":

dod cyber

And it set forth the urgency of dominating the "IO battlespace" not only during wartime but also in peacetime:

dod cyber

As a 2006 BBC report on this Pentagon document noted: "Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military's psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans." And while the report paid lip service to the need to create "boundaries" for these new IO military activities, "they don't seem to explain how." Regarding the report's plan to "provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum", the BBC noted: "Consider that for a moment. The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet."

Since then, there have been countless reports of the exploitation by the US national security state to destroy privacy and undermine internet freedom. In November, the LA Times described programs that "teach students how to spy in cyberspace, the latest frontier in espionage." They "also are taught to write computer viruses, hack digital networks, crack passwords, plant listening devices and mine data from broken cellphones and flash drives." The program, needless to say, "has funneled most of its graduates to the CIA and the Pentagon's National Security Agency, which conducts America's digital spying. Other graduates have taken positions with the FBI, NASA and the Department of Homeland Security."

In 2010, Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, gave a speech explicitly announcing that the US intends to abandon its policy of "leaving the Internet alone". Noting that this "has been the nation's Internet policy since the Internet was first commercialized in the mid-1990s", he decreed: "This was the right policy for the United States in the early stages of the Internet, and the right message to send to the rest of the world. But that was then and this is now."

The documented power of the US government to monitor and surveil internet communications is already unfathomably massive. Recall that the Washington Post's 2010 "Top Secret America" series noted that: "Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications." And the Obama administration has formally demanded that it have access to any and all forms of internet communication.

It is hard to overstate the danger to privacy and internet freedom from a massive expansion of the National Security State's efforts to exploit and control the internet. As Wired's Singel wrote back in 2010:

"Make no mistake, the military industrial complex now has its eye on the internet. Generals want to train crack squads of hackers and have wet dreams of cyberwarfare. Never shy of extending its power, the military industrial complex wants to turn the internet into yet another venue for an arms race.

Wildly exaggerated cyber-threats are the pretext for this control, the "mushroom cloud" and the Tonkin Gulf fiction of cyber-warfare. As Singel aptly put it: "the only war going on is one for the soul of the internet." That's the vital context for understanding this massive expansion of Pentagon and NSA consolidated control over cyber programs.

Bonanza for private contractors

As always, it is not just political power but also private-sector profit driving this expansion. As military contracts for conventional war-fighting are modestly reduced, something needs to replace it, and these large-scale "cyber-security" contracts are more than adequate. Virtually every cyber-security program from the government is carried out in conjunction with its "private-sector partners", who receive large transfers of public funds for this work.

Two weeks ago, Business Week reported that "Lockheed Martin Corp., AT&T Inc., and CenturyLink Inc. are the first companies to sign up for a US program giving them classified information on cyber threats that they can package as security services for sale to other companies." This is part of a government effort "to create a market based on classified US information about cyber threats." In May, it was announced that "the Pentagon is expanding and making permanent a trial program that teams the government with Internet service providers to protect defense firms' computer networks against data theft by foreign adversaries" - all as "part of a larger effort to broaden the sharing of classified and unclassified cyberthreat data between the government and industry."

Indeed, there is a large organization of defense and intelligence contractors devoted to one goal: expanding the private-public merger for national security and intelligence functions. This organization - the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) - was formerly headed by Adm. McConnell, and describes itself as a "collaboration by leaders from throughout the US Intelligence Community" and " combines the experience of senior leaders from government, the private sector, and academia."

As I detailed back in 2010, one of its primary goals is to scare the nation about supposed cyber-threats in order to justify massive new expenditures for the private-sector intelligence industry on cyber-security measures and vastly expanded control over the internet. Indeed, in his 2010 Op-Ed, Adm. McConnell expressly acknowledged that the growing privatization of internet cyber-security programs "will muddy the waters between the traditional roles of the government and the private sector." Indeed, at the very same time McConnell published this Op-Ed, the INSA website featured a report entitled "Addressing Cyber Security Through Public-Private Partnership." It featured a genuinely creepy graphic showing the inter-connectedness between government institutions (such as Congress and regulatory agencies), the Surveillance State, private intelligence corporations, and the Internet:

Private-sector profit is now inextricably linked with the fear-mongering campaign over cyber-threats. At one INSA conference in 2009 - entitled "Cyber Deterrence Conference" - government officials and intelligence industry executives gathered together to stress that "government and private sector actors should emphasize collaboration and partnership through the creation of a model that assigns specific roles and responsibilities."

As intelligence contractor expert Tim Shorrock told Democracy Now when McConnell - then at Booz Allen - was first nominated to be DNI:

Well, the NSA, the National Security Agency, is really sort of the lead agency in terms of outsourcing . . . . Booz Allen is one of about, you know, ten large corporations that play a very major role in American intelligence. Every time you hear about intelligence watching North Korea or tapping al-Qaeda phones, something like that, you can bet that corporations like these are very heavily involved. And Booz Allen is one of the largest of these contractors. I estimate that about 50% of our $45 billion intelligence budget goes to private sector contractors like Booz Allen.

This public-private merger for intelligence and surveillance functions not only vests these industries with large-scale profits at public expense, but also the accompanying power that was traditionally reserved for government. And unlike government agencies, which are at least subjected in theory to some minimal regulatory oversight, these private-sector actors have virtually none, even as their surveillance and intelligence functions rapidly increase.

What Dwight Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex has been feeding itself on fear campaigns since it was born. A never-ending carousel of Menacing Enemies - Communists, Terrorists, Saddam's chemical weapons, Iranian mullahs - has sustained it, and Cyber-Threats are but the latest.

Like all of these wildly exaggerated cartoon menaces, there is some degree of threat posed by cyber-attacks. But, as Single described, all of this can be managed with greater security systems for public and private computer networks - just as some modest security measures are sufficient to deal with the terrorist threat.

This new massive expansion has little to do with any actual cyber-threat - just as the invasion of Iraq and global assassination program have little to do with actual terrorist threats. It is instead all about strengthening the US's offensive cyber-war capabilities, consolidating control over the internet, and ensuring further transfers of massive public wealth to private industry continue unabated. In other words, it perfectly follows the template used by the public-private US National Security State over the last six decades to entrench and enrich itself based on pure pretext.

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited

Glenn Greenwald

Obama’s Vendetta against Whistleblowers: Former CIA Agent Who Revealed US Agents Involved in Torture,...

cia

The Obama administration’s vendetta against whistleblowers continues with the sentence of 30 months jail time handed down on Friday for former CIA agent John C. Kiriakou, who in 2007 acknowledged that US agents were involved in torture.

On December 10, 2007, Kiriakou was interviewed on ABC News about the capture of Abu Zubaydah, who the Bush administration claimed was an Al Qaeda “mastermind” and aide to Osama Bin Laden. In the course of the interview, Kiriakou acknowledged that CIA agents waterboarded Zubaydah.

Kiriakou’s statements about torture in the 2007 interview were ambivalent. On the one hand, Kiriakou stated that the torture of Zubaydah was effective in obtaining information. On the other hand, Kiriakou was apparently troubled by the political, legal, and moral implications of torture.

Whatever Kiriakou’s intentions in his initial ABC News interview, his statements represented the first public confirmation by a government agent that Zubaydah had been waterboarded. The interview was widely reported and lauded internationally, but it also made Kiriakou a number of enemies in high places.

Kiriakou’s 2007 interview represented a step forward in efforts to bring to light the criminal abduction, torture, and murder apparatus erected by the US government in the course of the so-called “war on terror.” The revelation that Zubaydah was tortured certainly implicated top personnel in the US government, as well as the torturers themselves, in war crimes and other serious violations of US and international law.

In the upside-down world of the US justice system, the orchestrators of torture remain at large, and Kiriakou is going to prison.

According to his 2010 memoir entitled, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror (which the CIA prevented him from publishing for two years), Kiriakou did not participate in the torture of Zubaydah. Kiriakou instead relied in the 2007 interview on one internal agency cable, according to which Zubaydah had been waterboarded only once and had provided “actionable intelligence.” In fact, the cable was false. Two years later it emerged that Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times.

In the course of his capture, Zubaydah was shot and seriously injured as he attempted to flee. In secret CIA “black sites,” Zubaydah endured brutal beatings, sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, stress positions, being locked in a crouching position in a tiny box for long periods of time, and loud music at debilitating volumes. At one point, CIA agents removed Zubaydah’s left eye.

The Bush administration claimed that Zubaydah was Al Qaeda’s “number three” leader and the “hub of the wheel.” However, in subsequent legal proceedings, the US government admitted that Zubaydah had not been a “member” of Al Qaeda or even “formally” identified with the organization, and he had no advance knowledge of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

According to his attorneys, Zubaydah currently suffers from permanent brain damage and can no longer remember his father’s name or his mother’s face.

The torture of Zubaydah and others was carried out at the behest of top figures in the US political establishment. The August 2002 “torture memos” drafted by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, which recommend waterboarding, include the following description of the procedure:

“In this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, airflow is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth… During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied from a height of twelve to twenty-four inches. After this period, the cloth is lifted, and the individual is allowed to breathe unimpeded for three or four full breaths… The procedure may then be repeated. The water is usually applied from a canteen cup or small watering can with a spout…”

While Kiriakou is chiefly known for his role in exposing torture, his memoir also contains several damning revelations concerning the Bush administration’s criminal preparations for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which were the subject of a Truthout investigative report.

According to Kiriakou, he and another CIA official were approached in August 2002 by the CIA’s unnamed director of Iraq operations. “Okay, here’s the deal,” the director said. “We’re going to invade Iraq next spring…It’s a done deal…The decision’s already been made…the planning’s completed, everything’s in place.”

Kiriakou said he was told to ignore the public “debate” as to whether the US should invade Iraq. “We were going to war regardless of what the legislative branch or what the federal government chose to do,” Kiriakou wrote. Kiriakou identified the office of Vice President Dick Cheney as one of the principal moving forces behind the war.

The pretext for the Obama administration’s prosecution of Kiriakou was his alleged leak of the names of covert CIA agents involved in torture to journalists in 2008. Kiriakou, for his part, claims the leak was inadvertent. “If I’d known the guy was still under cover,” Kiriakou said, according to the New York Times, “I would never have mentioned him.”

The prosecution of Kiriakou marks the sixth in a string of prosecutions by the Obama administration of individuals who have leaked “classified” information. Before these six prosecutions, there were only three such prosecutions in US history, including the Nixon administration’s prosecution of Daniel Ellsburg, who famously leaked the Pentagon Papers.

The New York Times reported on January 5 that the “leak prosecutions,” including of Kiriakou, “have been lauded on Capitol Hill as a long-overdue response to a rash of dangerous disclosures and have been defended by both Mr. Obama and his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr. ”

“We know the government wants to send a signal…that the U.S. is intent on protecting its secrets from disclosure in cases relating to torture, and wants to chill further disclosures by anyone,” read a statement by the Friends of John Kiriakou, soliciting donations for his legal defense fund.

“But this is a case that should never have been brought anywhere—let alone in a country that values free speech and the protections of the First Amendment. Journalists covering national security issues understand the stakes here, and what this case represents.”

The Obama administration’s trademark political prosecution method is to seek gratuitously excessive prison time for the targeted individual in order to bully that person into making a guilty plea to a lesser charge. In this case, Kiriakou was threatened with up to 45 years in prison, with violations of the World-War-I-era Espionage Act included among the charges in the indictment.

Kiriakou has stated that he accepted the plea deal for 30 months prison time out of concern for his family and young children, who at one point were reduced to living on food stamps following his indictment. In addition to prison time, Kiriakou has accrued approximately $500,000 in legal fees associated with his defense, according to one account.

Kiriakou’s prosecution for allegedly leaking the names of undercover intelligence agents cannot help but recall the Valerie Plame affair. In June 2007, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, was convicted in connection with the leak of the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Plame’s name was leaked in apparent retaliation for revelations by former ambassador Joseph Wilson, Plame’s husband, concerning the falsity of the Bush administration’s “weapons of mass destruction” claims in the period leading up to the invasion of Iraq. In 2007, the Bush administration commuted Libby’s prison sentence.

To date, Kiriakou is the only CIA agent to be prosecuted by the Obama administration in connection with torture.

Global Mining and Tar Sands Oil Drive Canadian Foreign Policy

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And we're continuing our series of interviews with Yves Engler, author of the book The Ugly Canadian, all about Stephen Harper's foreign policy. And Yves now joins us from Ottawa. Thanks for joining us, Yves.

YVES ENGLER, AUTHOR AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks for having me.JAY: When you look at Stephen Harper's foreign policy in sort of big-picture terms, in terms of the political centers in the United States, the sort of neocons around the Republican Party, the sort of center, center-right neoliberals, if you want to call them, in the Democratic Party, I mean, both see America as—needs to be the dominant power. Both want to project American strength and so on and shape events in the globe as best they can through military strength. But there is a difference between that neocon strategy that led to the Iraq War and the sort of, you could say, more—some people call more rational or more pragmatic strategy, empire strategy of Obama. During the time of the Iraq War, Stephen Harper was against Jean Chrétien, the prime minister of Canada. Chrétien was—mostly kept Canada out of the Iraq War. But Stephen Harper was gung ho. He wanted Canada to join in with Iraq. ~~~STEPHEN HARPER, MEMBER, CANADIAN HOUSE OF COMMONS: Mr. Speaker, the situation in Iraq is moving towards imminent crisis and military action. Canadian forces have been on the ground there for some time. In fact, 150 military personnel are involved in joint command arrangements with British and American troops on the ground. Is this deployment continuing? Will these personnel remain in the event of war with Iraq?~~~JAY: Does Harper come down more on the side of the neocons? And is he part of that both mindset and alliances?ENGLER: Yeah, I think so. I mean, he called for Canada to join the Iraq War. I think it's, like, 45 times in the House of Commons he criticized the Liberal government for not explicitly joining or demanding to join. So, yeah, I think he comes down more on the neocon side. I think part of what—and there is a sense of the Conservatives' party, I think, wants—to a certain extent want to kind of replicate what the hard right of the Republican Party has created, in terms of a political party based upon, you know, big-business interests and a sort of base of the party that is very socially conservative kind of Christian fundamentalist. And I think that the Harper government wants to—would like to replicate that and sees that very positively.And a lot of the Harper government foreign policy, you know, one element of understanding this is that foreign policy is the place where he really plays to the most right-wing sectors of the party—the Christian fundamentalists, the right-wing Jewish organizations, the Islamophobes, the mining sector, this military, mining and oil executives, military types. And foreign policy's the place where Harper gets to be as right-wing as he would want to be. On a lot of—on domestic issues he hasn't been as right-wing as a lot of the base would want him to be. And so he—foreign policy sort of—that's how it fits with his sort of electoral strategy. At the more kind of structural level, this rightward shift on Canadian foreign policy, I think, is largely explained by the incredible rise of Canadian mining investment abroad, going from $30 billion in 2002 to $210 billion today; in the case of Africa, going from about $250 million of Canadian investment in—mining investment in Africa in 1989 to $29 billion today. Canadian companies over the past 20, 25 years have just become huge players in international mining. And that's very much tied into the rise of structural adjustment programs that the International Monetary Fund pushed in Latin America and Africa. This sort of opening up of a country's national resource sector to foreign ownership has been very beneficial to Canadian companies. So I think that and the rise of Canadian mining investment's a big explanation for the more rightward shift in Canadian foreign policy. Another explanation is the rise of the tar sands and the oil there, the very highly—very dirty oil, heavy carbon emitting fuel that comes out of the tar sands. And basically, if you're going to expand the tar sands like the Conservative government, like the oil companies would like to see, you're basically telling the rest of the world to screw off when it comes to international climate negotiations. So they've sort of developed a sort of hostility towards the UN because of those oil interests in Latin America. So I think at a structural level the explanation for the more rightward shift in Harper's foreign policy is the rise in mining investment abroad and the rise of the tar sands over the past ten, 20 years.JAY: And in terms of Canadian public opinion, in the last federal election, foreign policy wasn't that big an issue, and he doesn't seem to be suffering consequences from a rightward shift in foreign policy. And even though, I guess, people can argue that the Harper government would not have been elected if there hadn't been sort of a split between the Liberals and NDP of some of the vote, they still didn't do very bad; they did pretty well, and many ridings won outright, in spite of the—they would have won anyway, even if there wasn't a split vote. Has something shifted in terms of Canadians, more broadly speaking, about foreign policy?ENGLER: No, I don't think the public attitude has shifted in—very minimally. I think that the reality is foreign policy is very rarely a major issue when it comes to elections. And most of the time, the dominant media and the opposition parties just go along with whatever the foreign-policy establishment puts forward. That's the general tendency. And so foreign policy's—because there's so little opposition, it is the place to really please the base of his party, right, because there's so little opposition being put up among the official sort of, you know, established political parties and media institutions.So there hasn't—I don't think that—if anything, in fact, Canadians are more internationalist today than they've ever been, I think, much more multicultural, people from many different countries around the world, you know, living in Canada and the population being more aware of global affairs. It's just that foreign-policy issues don't tend to be that high on people's lists of concerns.JAY: Let me ask you a question about Canadian media. What do you make of Canadian media coverage of foreign policy, and then particularly CBC, which one could say at least in the past was more willing to be critical of Canadian foreign policy, but I'm not so sure about these days?ENGLER: Yeah. I mean, the Canadian media is—it's owned by—vast majority of it's owned by a handful of companies. It's much more concentrated than U.S. media is, even. So, you know, it's—the coverage is absolutely terrible from the standpoint of an internationalist, humanist perspective. It's terrible coverage.And the CBC is very much unwilling to forthrightly criticize the Conservative government. Just a couple of nights ago, there was a four-person panel on The National, 15, 20 minutes where they dealt with Canadian foreign policy. And there's—you know, none of the four panelists are willing to—The National being the most important news show that is on the CBC, the nightly news, and there's almost no—the four panelists, basically no substantive criticism, or, you know, very soft criticism of the Conservative government.And, you know, there's—the media's not willing to stand up and say that, you know, Palestinians have been dispossessed for 100 years by Zionism in Israel and it's, you know, morally indefensible to support Israel's ongoing dispossession. You know, media's not willing to say, you know, climate change is already causing hundreds of thousands of people's deaths around the world, and, you know, it's a crime against humanity to try to block all international climate negotiation meetings like the Conservative government has done. Like, the media's not—you know, I had a producer at The Current, one of the big radio programs on the CBC, where he told me about how he'd bring to higher-up producers a story of a Canadian mining company involved with a local community in sort of devastating the local community. And the producer was [incompr.] didn't we cover that story last week? Well, yeah, you did, you covered that story last week from Guatemala. This story's about a Canadian mining company in Mexico, and the story is precisely the fact that this is happening all over the world, that Canadian mining companies are involved in these abuses all over the world, and that there needs to be, you know, public policy change in Canada to rein in some of these practices. But, you know, the media, the producer, higher-up producers, you know, didn't see it that way.JAY: Don't forget Canada's involved in a war. You wouldn't know it. Canada's still fighting in Afghanistan, and next to no debate about why Canada's there. I mean, I used to do a show on CBC called CounterSpin, and we had lots of debates, but we got canceled, and I don't think there's—even at that time, other than our show, there was debates about do Canadian jeeps have enough armor on them. There weren't a heck of a lot of debate on CBC other than CounterSpin—and since, not much—about why Canada's there anyway.ENGLER: Exactly. The media, that's one of the recent times they've just basically taken the government's talking points that the 950 Canadian troops that are still in Afghanistan, that's just training; we don't need to discuss that anymore; that's just training. Well, if you want to train Afghan troops, there's a very easy way of doing it: bring Afghan troops to Canada and train them here. It would be cheaper to do it than to maintain 950 Canadian troops there. It's about supporting the ongoing U.S.-led military mission in Afghanistan. That's the point. It's—you know, we—very clearly. But the media just basically, you know, does the government's talking points. And that's—unfortunately, that's been mostly the nature of the dominant media. They basically follow the government's perspective.JAY: I should throw in there are exceptions that are notable. And on CBC you do find, you know, on certain shows, certain radio shows, you find individuals in some of the shows, like Fifth Estate, and on The Current, like you mentioned, you can find exceptions where there really is a critique, there's a guest. But they really are the exceptions.ENGLER: Of course. And I think those exceptions are becoming less and less. One of the things in the case of the CBC is the government has cut the CBC's budget back and has made it very clear that, you know, it's prepared to do, you know, further cutbacks if it is not pleased by what's on the CBC. But the CBC's just one example. For myself personally, I've now written five books about Canadian foreign policy. I can submit op-eds to from The National Post to The Toronto Star, the most left-wing newspaper in the country, and none of papers in the country will publish the op-eds, right, on Canadian foreign policy. On domestic issues, I've been able to submit some op-eds and get those pieces in. When it comes to foreign policy, the room for debate, the narrowness of the spectrum is very tight.JAY: Any mainstream media, CBC or otherwise, paying attention to your recent book about the ugly Canadian?ENGLER: I got a nice review in The Halifax Chronicle Herald, which is the daily in Halifax—you know, smaller marketplace; a small mention in The Toronto Star by a columnist, paragraph mentioned in a larger column; and, you know, a few very community—during the tour, a few sort of community or smaller-center newspapers, a little bit of coverage. But no one at the CBC, both at TV or radio—are completely unwilling to cover it. You know, a producer—I've been in communication with a producer at The Current. You know, she says, oh, yeah, I got your book, but, you know, can't do a story on this; maybe I'll keep you in mind for the future.JAY: It's kind of outrageous.ENGLER: I mean, the book is incredibly topical, right? There's all these stories about what the Conservatives are doing in terms of foreign policy. But their willingness to go to the point of saying things, making criticisms of the Conservative policy to say, you know, these are tantamount to crimes against humanity or that, you know, the fundamental moral criticisms of what's taking place, there's very little room for that. You can say, yes, these are mistakes they're making, these are—you know, this is weakening Canada's influence in the world. Those types of criticisms are sort of acceptable. If you start talking about these being fundamentally immoral policies, there's very little room for making those types of criticisms.JAY: Well, Yves's going to be a regular commentator on The Real News. So, Canadians, you'll have to stick with us if you want to see more of Yves Engler. Thanks for joining us, Yves.ENGLER: Thanks for having me.JAY: And thank you for joining us 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.


Comments

Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at [email protected]

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Only Three Choices for Afghan Endgame: Compromise, Conflict, or Collapse

KABUL, Afghanistan – Compromise, conflict, or collapse: ask an Afghan what to expect in 2014 and you’re likely to get a scenario that falls under one of those three headings. 2014, of course, is the year of the double whammy in Afghanistan: the next presidential election coupled with the departure of most American and other foreign forces. Many Afghans fear a turn for the worse, while others are no less afraid that everything will stay the same.  Some even think things will get better when the occupying forces leave.  Most predict a more conservative climate, but everyone is quick to say that it’s anybody’s guess.

Only one thing is certain in 2014: it will be a year of American military defeat.  For more than a decade, U.S. forces have fought many types of wars in Afghanistan, from a low-footprint invasion, to multiple surges, to a flirtation with Vietnam-style counterinsurgency, to a ramped-up, gloves-off air war.  And yet, despite all the experiments in styles of war-making, the American military and its coalition partners have ended up in the same place: stalemate, which in a battle with guerrillas means defeat.  For years, a modest-sized, generally unpopular, ragtag set of insurgents has fought the planet’s most heavily armed, technologically advanced military to a standstill, leaving the country shaken and its citizens anxiously imagining the outcome of unpalatable scenarios.

The first, compromise, suggests the possibility of reaching some sort of almost inconceivable power-sharing agreement with multiple insurgent militias.  While Washington presses for negotiations with its designated enemy, “the Taliban,” representatives of President Hamid Karzai’s High Peace Council, which includes 12 members of the former Taliban government and many sympathizers, are making the rounds to talk disarmament and reconciliation with all the armed insurgent groups that the Afghan intelligence service has identified across the country. There are 1,500 of them.

One member of the Council told me, “It will take a long time before we get to Mullah Omar [the Taliban’s titular leader].  Some of these militias can’t even remember what they’ve been fighting about.”

The second scenario, open conflict, would mean another dreaded round of civil war like the one in the 1990s, after the Soviet Union withdrew in defeat -- the one that destroyed the Afghan capital, Kabul, devastated parts of the country, and gave rise to the Taliban.

The third scenario, collapse, sounds so apocalyptic that it’s seldom brought up by Afghans, but it’s implied in the exodus already underway of those citizens who can afford to leave the country.  The departures aren’t dramatic.  There are no helicopters lifting off the roof of the U.S. Embassy with desperate Afghans clamoring to get on board; just a record number of asylum applications in 2011, a year in which, according to official figures, almost 36,000 Afghans were openly looking for a safe place to land, preferably in Europe.  That figure is likely to be at least matched, if not exceeded, when the U.N. releases the complete data for 2012.

In January, I went to Kabul to learn what old friends and current officials are thinking about the critical months ahead.  At the same time, Afghan President Karzai flew to Washington to confer with President Obama.  Their talks seem to have differed radically from the conversations I had with ordinary Afghans. In Kabul, where strange rumors fly, an official reassured me that the future looked bright for the country because Karzai was expected to return from Washington with the promise of American radar systems, presumably for the Afghan Air Force, which is not yet “operational.” (He actually returned with the promise of helicopters, cargo planes, fighter jets, and drones.) Who knew that the fate of the nation and its suffering citizens hinged on that?  In my conversations with ordinary Afghans, one thing that never came up was radar.

Another term that never seems to enter ordinary Afghan conversation, much as it obsesses Americans, is “al-Qaeda.” President Obama, for instance, announced at a joint press conference with President Karzai: “Our core objective -- the reason we went to war in the first place -- is now within reach: ensuring that al-Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan to launch attacks against America.”  An Afghan journalist asked me, “Why does he worry so much about al-Qaeda in Afghanistan? Doesn’t he know they are everywhere else?”

At the same Washington press conference, Obama said, “The nation we need to rebuild is our own.” Afghans long ago gave up waiting for the U.S. to make good on its promises to rebuild theirs. What’s now striking, however, is the vast gulf between the pronouncements of American officialdom and the hopes of ordinary Afghans.  It’s a gap so wide you would hardly think -- as Afghans once did -- that we are fighting for them.

To take just one example: the official American view of events in Afghanistan is wonderfully black and white.  The president, for instance, speaks of the way U.S. forces heroically “pushed the Taliban out of their strongholds.” Like other top U.S. officials over the years, he forgets whom we pushed into the Afghan government, our “stronghold” in the years after the 2001 invasion: ex-Taliban and Taliban-like fundamentalists, the most brutal civil warriors, and serial human rights violators.

Afghans, however, haven’t forgotten just whom the U.S. put in place to govern them -- exactly the men they feared and hated most in exactly the place where few Afghans wanted them to be.  Early on, between 2002 and 2004, 90% of Afghans surveyed nationwide told the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission that such men should not be allowed to hold public office; 76% wanted them tried as war criminals.

In my recent conversations, many Afghans still cited the first loya jirga, an assembly convened in 2003 to ratify the newly drafted constitution, or the first presidential election in 2004, or the parliamentary election of 2005, all held under international auspices, as the moments when the aspirations of Afghans and the “international community” parted company. In that first parliament, as in the earlier gatherings, most of the men were affiliated with armed militias; every other member was a former jihadi, and nearly half were affiliated with fundamentalist Islamist parties, including the Taliban.

In this way, Afghans were consigned to live under a government of bloodstained warlords and fundamentalists, who turned out to be Washington’s guys.  Many had once battled the Soviets using American money and weapons, and quite a few, like the former warlord, druglord, minister of defense, and current vice-president Muhammad Qasim Fahim, had been very chummy with the CIA.

In the U.S., such details of our Afghan War, now in its 12th year, are long forgotten, but to Afghans who live under the rule of the same old suspects, the memory remains painfully raw.  Worse, Afghans know that it is these very men, rearmed and ready, who will once again compete for power in 2014.

How to Vote Early in Afghanistan

President Karzai is barred by term limits from standing for reelection in 2014, but many Kabulis believe he reached a private agreement with the usual suspects at a meeting late last year. In early January, he seemed to seal the deal by announcing that, for the sake of frugality, the voter cards issued for past elections will be reused in 2014.  Far too many of those cards were issued for the 2004 election, suspiciously more than the number of eligible voters.  During the 2009 campaign, anyone could buy fistfuls of them at bargain basement prices.  So this decision seemed to kill off the last faint hope of an election in which Afghans might actually have a say about the leadership of the country.

Fewer than 35% of voters cast ballots in the last presidential contest, when Karzai’s men were caught on video stuffing ballot boxes.  (Afterward, President Obama phoned to congratulate Karzai on his “victory.”) Only dedicated or paid henchmen are likely to show up for the next “good enough for Afghans” exercise in democracy. Once again, an “election” may be just the elaborate stage set for announcing to a disillusioned public the names of those who will run the show in Kabul for the next few years.

Kabulis might live with that, as they’ve lived with Karzai all these years, but they fear power-hungry Afghan politicians could “compromise” as well with insurgent leaders like that old American favorite from the war against the Soviets, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who recently told a TV audience that he intends to claim his rightful place in government. Such compromises could stick the Afghan people with a shaky power-sharing deal among the most ultra-conservative, self-interested, sociopathic, and corrupt men in the country.  If that deal, in turn, were to fall apart, as most power-sharing agreements worldwide do within a year or two, the big men might well plunge the country back into a 1990s-style civil war, with no regard for the civilians caught in their path.

These worst-case scenarios are everyday Kabuli nightmares.  After all, during decades of war, the savvy citizens of the capital have learned to expect the worst from the men currently characterized in a popular local graffiti this way: “Mujahideen=Criminals. Taliban=Dumbheads.”

Ordinary Kabulis express reasonable fears for the future of the country, but impatient free-marketeering businessmen are voting with their feet right now, or laying plans to leave soon. They’ve made Kabul hum (often with foreign aid funds, which are equivalent to about 90% of the country’s economic activity), but they aren’t about to wait around for the results of election 2014.  Carpe diem has become their version of financial advice.  As a result, they are snatching what they can and packing their bags.

Millions of dollars reportedly take flight from Kabul International Airport every day: officially about $4.6 billion in 2011, or just about the size of Afghanistan’s annual budget. Hordes of businessmen and bankers (like those who, in 2004, set up the Ponzi scheme called the Kabul Bank, from which about a billion dollars went missing) are heading for cushy spots like Dubai, where they have already established residence on prime real estate.

As they take their investments elsewhere and the American effort winds down, the Afghan economy contracts ever more grimly, opportunities dwindle, and jobs disappear.  Housing prices in Kabul are falling for the first time since the start of the occupation as rich Afghans and profiteering private American contractors, who guzzled the money that Washington and the “international community” poured into the country, move on.

At the same time, a money-laundering building boom in Kabul appears to have stalled, leaving tall, half-built office blocks like so many skeletons amid the scalloped Pakistani palaces, vertical malls, and grand madrassas erected in the past four or five years by political and business insiders and well-connected conservative clerics.

Most of the Afghan tycoons seeking asylum elsewhere don’t fear for their lives, just their pocketbooks: they’re not political refugees, but free-market rats abandoning the sinking ship of state.  Joining in the exodus (but not included in the statistics) are countless illegal émigrés seeking jobs or fleeing for their lives, paying human smugglers money they can’t afford as they head for Europe by circuitous and dangerous routes.

Threatened Afghans have fled from every abrupt change of government in the last century, making them the largest population of refugees from a single country on the planet.  Once again, those who can are voting with their feet (or their pocketbooks) -- and voting early.

Afghanistan’s historic tragedy is that its violent political shifts -- from king to communists to warlords to religious fundamentalists to the Americans -- have meant the flight of the very people most capable of rebuilding the country along peaceful and prosperous lines.  And their departure only contributes to the economic and political collapse they themselves seek to avoid.  Left behind are ordinary Afghans -- the illiterate and unskilled, but also a tough core of educated, ambitious citizens, including women’s rights activists, unwilling to surrender their dream of living once again in a free and peaceful Afghanistan.

The Military Monster

These days Kabul resounds with the blasts of suicide bombers, IEDs, and sporadic gunfire.  Armed men are everywhere in anonymous uniforms that defy identification.  Any man with money can buy a squad of bodyguards, clad in classy camouflage and wraparound shades, and armed with assault weapons.  Yet Kabulis, trying to carry on normal lives in the relative safety of the capital, seem to maintain a distance from the war going on in the provinces.

Asked that crucial question -- do you think American forces should stay or go? -- the Kabulis I talked with tended to answer in a theoretical way, very unlike the visceral response one gets in the countryside, where villages are bombed and civilians killed, or in the makeshift camps for internally displaced people that now crowd the outer fringes of Kabul. (By the time U.S. Marines surged into Taliban-controlled Helmand Province in the south in 2010 to bring counterinsurgency-style protection to the residents there, tens of thousands of them had already moved to those camps in Kabul.)  Afghans in the countryside want to be rid of armed men.  All of them.  Kabulis just want to be secure, and if that means keeping some U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base near the capital, as Afghan and American officials are currently discussing, well, it’s nothing to them.

In fact, most Kabulis I spoke to think that’s what’s going to happen.  After all, American officials have been talking for years about keeping permanent bases in Afghanistan (though they avoid the term “permanent” when speaking to the American press), and American military officers now regularly appear on Afghan TV to say, “The United States will never abandon Afghanistan.”  Afghans reason: Americans would not have spent nearly 12 years fighting in this country if it were not the most strategic place on the planet and absolutely essential to their plans to “push on” Iran and China next.  Everybody knows that pushing on other countries is an American specialty.

Besides, Afghans can see with their own eyes that U.S. command centers, including multiple bases in Kabul, and Bagram Air Base, only 30 miles away, are still being expanded and upgraded.  Beyond the high walls of the American Embassy compound, they can also see the tall new apartment blocks going up for an expanding staff, even if Washington now claims that staff will be reduced in the years to come.

Why, then, would President Obama announce the drawdown of U.S. troops to perhaps a few thousand special operations forces and advisors, if Washington didn’t mean to leave?  Afghans have a theory about that, too.  It’s a ruse, many claim, to encourage all other foreign forces to depart so that the Americans can have everything to themselves.  Afghanistan, as they imagine it, is so important that the U.S., which has fought the longest war in its history there, will be satisfied with nothing less.

I was there to listen, but at times I did mention to Afghans that America’s post-9/11 wars and occupations were threatening to break the country.  “We just can’t afford this war anymore,” I said.

Afghans only laugh at that.  They’ve seen the way Americans throw money around.  They’ve seen the way American money corrupted the Afghan government, and many reminded me that American politicians like Afghan ones are bought and sold, and its elections won by money. Americans, they know, are as rich as Croesus and very friendly, though on the whole not very well mannered or honest or smart.

Operation Enduring Presence      

More than 11 years later, the tragedy of the American war in Afghanistan is simple enough: it has proven remarkably irrelevant to the lives of the Afghan people -- and to American troops as well.  Washington has long appeared to be fighting its own war in defense of a form of government and a set of long-discredited government officials that ordinary Afghans would never have chosen for themselves and have no power to replace.

In the early years of the war (2001-2005), George W. Bush’s administration was far too distracted planning and launching another war in Iraq to maintain anything but a minimal military presence in Afghanistan -- and that mainly outside the capital.  Many journalists (including me) criticized Bush for not finishing the war he started there when he had the chance, but today Kabulis look back on that soldierless period of peace and hope with a certain nostalgia.  In some quarters, the Bush years have even acquired something like the sheen of a lost Golden Age -- compared, that is, to the thoroughgoing militarization of American policy that followed.

So commanding did the U.S. military become in Kabul and Washington that, over the years, it ate the State Department, gobbled up the incompetent bureaucracy of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and established Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in the countryside to carry out maniacal “development” projects and throw bales of cash at all the wrong “leaders.”

Of course, the military also killed a great many people, both “enemies” and civilians.  As in Vietnam, it won the battles, but lost the war.  When I asked Afghans from Mazar-e-Sharif in the north how they accounted for the relative peacefulness and stability of their area, the answer seemed self-evident: “Americans didn’t come here.”

Other consequences, all deleterious, flowed from the militarization of foreign policy.  In Afghanistan and the United States, so intimately ensnarled over all these years, the income gap between the rich and everyone else has grown exponentially, in large part because in both countries the rich have made money off war-making, while ordinary citizens have slipped into poverty for lack of jobs and basic services.

Relying on the military, the U.S. neglected the crucial elements of civil life in Afghanistan that make things bearable -- like education and health care.  Yes, I’ve heard the repeated claims that, thanks to us, millions of children are now attending school.  But for how long?   According to UNICEF, in the years 2005-2010, in the whole of Afghanistan only 18% of boys attended high school, and 6% of girls.  What kind of report card is that?  After 11 years of underfunded work on health care in a country the size of Texas, infant mortality still remains the highest in the world.

By 2014, the defense of Afghanistan will have been handed over to the woeful Afghan National Security Force, also known in military-speak as the “Enduring Presence Force.”  In that year, for Washington, the American war will be officially over, whether it’s actually at an end or not, and it will be up to Afghans to do the enduring.

Here’s where that final scenario -- collapse -- haunts the Kabuli imagination.  Economic collapse means joblessness, poverty, hunger, and a great swelling of the ranks of children cadging a living in the streets.  Already street children are said to number a million strong in Kabul, and 4 million across the country.  Only blocks from the Presidential Palace, they are there in startling numbers selling newspapers, phone cards, toilet paper, or simply begging for small change. Are they the county’s future?

And if the state collapses, too?  Afghans of a certain age remember well the last time the country was left on its own, after the Soviets departed in 1989, and the U.S. also terminated its covert aid.  The mujahideen parties -- Islamists all -- agreed to take turns ruling the country, but things soon fell apart and they took turns instead lobbing rockets into Kabul, killing tens of thousands of civilians, reducing entire districts to rubble, raiding and raping -- until the Taliban came up from the south and put a stop to everything.

Afghan civilians who remember that era hope that this time Karzai will step down as he promises, and that the usual suspects will find ways to maintain traditional power balances, however undemocratic, in something that passes for peace.  Afghan civilians are, however, betting that if a collision comes, one-third of those Afghan Security Forces trained at fabulous expense to protect them will fight for the government (whoever that may be), one-third will fight for the opposition, and one-third will simply desert and go home.  That sounds almost like a plan.

© 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.

Only Three Choices for Afghan Endgame: Compromise, Conflict, or Collapse

KABUL, Afghanistan – Compromise, conflict, or collapse: ask an Afghan what to expect in 2014 and you’re likely to get a scenario that falls under one of those three headings. 2014, of course, is the year of the double whammy in Afghanistan: the next presidential election coupled with the departure of most American and other foreign forces. Many Afghans fear a turn for the worse, while others are no less afraid that everything will stay the same.  Some even think things will get better when the occupying forces leave.  Most predict a more conservative climate, but everyone is quick to say that it’s anybody’s guess.

Only one thing is certain in 2014: it will be a year of American military defeat.  For more than a decade, U.S. forces have fought many types of wars in Afghanistan, from a low-footprint invasion, to multiple surges, to a flirtation with Vietnam-style counterinsurgency, to a ramped-up, gloves-off air war.  And yet, despite all the experiments in styles of war-making, the American military and its coalition partners have ended up in the same place: stalemate, which in a battle with guerrillas means defeat.  For years, a modest-sized, generally unpopular, ragtag set of insurgents has fought the planet’s most heavily armed, technologically advanced military to a standstill, leaving the country shaken and its citizens anxiously imagining the outcome of unpalatable scenarios.

The first, compromise, suggests the possibility of reaching some sort of almost inconceivable power-sharing agreement with multiple insurgent militias.  While Washington presses for negotiations with its designated enemy, “the Taliban,” representatives of President Hamid Karzai’s High Peace Council, which includes 12 members of the former Taliban government and many sympathizers, are making the rounds to talk disarmament and reconciliation with all the armed insurgent groups that the Afghan intelligence service has identified across the country. There are 1,500 of them.

One member of the Council told me, “It will take a long time before we get to Mullah Omar [the Taliban’s titular leader].  Some of these militias can’t even remember what they’ve been fighting about.”

The second scenario, open conflict, would mean another dreaded round of civil war like the one in the 1990s, after the Soviet Union withdrew in defeat -- the one that destroyed the Afghan capital, Kabul, devastated parts of the country, and gave rise to the Taliban.

The third scenario, collapse, sounds so apocalyptic that it’s seldom brought up by Afghans, but it’s implied in the exodus already underway of those citizens who can afford to leave the country.  The departures aren’t dramatic.  There are no helicopters lifting off the roof of the U.S. Embassy with desperate Afghans clamoring to get on board; just a record number of asylum applications in 2011, a year in which, according to official figures, almost 36,000 Afghans were openly looking for a safe place to land, preferably in Europe.  That figure is likely to be at least matched, if not exceeded, when the U.N. releases the complete data for 2012.

In January, I went to Kabul to learn what old friends and current officials are thinking about the critical months ahead.  At the same time, Afghan President Karzai flew to Washington to confer with President Obama.  Their talks seem to have differed radically from the conversations I had with ordinary Afghans. In Kabul, where strange rumors fly, an official reassured me that the future looked bright for the country because Karzai was expected to return from Washington with the promise of American radar systems, presumably for the Afghan Air Force, which is not yet “operational.” (He actually returned with the promise of helicopters, cargo planes, fighter jets, and drones.) Who knew that the fate of the nation and its suffering citizens hinged on that?  In my conversations with ordinary Afghans, one thing that never came up was radar.

Another term that never seems to enter ordinary Afghan conversation, much as it obsesses Americans, is “al-Qaeda.” President Obama, for instance, announced at a joint press conference with President Karzai: “Our core objective -- the reason we went to war in the first place -- is now within reach: ensuring that al-Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan to launch attacks against America.”  An Afghan journalist asked me, “Why does he worry so much about al-Qaeda in Afghanistan? Doesn’t he know they are everywhere else?”

At the same Washington press conference, Obama said, “The nation we need to rebuild is our own.” Afghans long ago gave up waiting for the U.S. to make good on its promises to rebuild theirs. What’s now striking, however, is the vast gulf between the pronouncements of American officialdom and the hopes of ordinary Afghans.  It’s a gap so wide you would hardly think -- as Afghans once did -- that we are fighting for them.

To take just one example: the official American view of events in Afghanistan is wonderfully black and white.  The president, for instance, speaks of the way U.S. forces heroically “pushed the Taliban out of their strongholds.” Like other top U.S. officials over the years, he forgets whom we pushed into the Afghan government, our “stronghold” in the years after the 2001 invasion: ex-Taliban and Taliban-like fundamentalists, the most brutal civil warriors, and serial human rights violators.

Afghans, however, haven’t forgotten just whom the U.S. put in place to govern them -- exactly the men they feared and hated most in exactly the place where few Afghans wanted them to be.  Early on, between 2002 and 2004, 90% of Afghans surveyed nationwide told the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission that such men should not be allowed to hold public office; 76% wanted them tried as war criminals.

In my recent conversations, many Afghans still cited the first loya jirga, an assembly convened in 2003 to ratify the newly drafted constitution, or the first presidential election in 2004, or the parliamentary election of 2005, all held under international auspices, as the moments when the aspirations of Afghans and the “international community” parted company. In that first parliament, as in the earlier gatherings, most of the men were affiliated with armed militias; every other member was a former jihadi, and nearly half were affiliated with fundamentalist Islamist parties, including the Taliban.

In this way, Afghans were consigned to live under a government of bloodstained warlords and fundamentalists, who turned out to be Washington’s guys.  Many had once battled the Soviets using American money and weapons, and quite a few, like the former warlord, druglord, minister of defense, and current vice-president Muhammad Qasim Fahim, had been very chummy with the CIA.

In the U.S., such details of our Afghan War, now in its 12th year, are long forgotten, but to Afghans who live under the rule of the same old suspects, the memory remains painfully raw.  Worse, Afghans know that it is these very men, rearmed and ready, who will once again compete for power in 2014.

How to Vote Early in Afghanistan

President Karzai is barred by term limits from standing for reelection in 2014, but many Kabulis believe he reached a private agreement with the usual suspects at a meeting late last year. In early January, he seemed to seal the deal by announcing that, for the sake of frugality, the voter cards issued for past elections will be reused in 2014.  Far too many of those cards were issued for the 2004 election, suspiciously more than the number of eligible voters.  During the 2009 campaign, anyone could buy fistfuls of them at bargain basement prices.  So this decision seemed to kill off the last faint hope of an election in which Afghans might actually have a say about the leadership of the country.

Fewer than 35% of voters cast ballots in the last presidential contest, when Karzai’s men were caught on video stuffing ballot boxes.  (Afterward, President Obama phoned to congratulate Karzai on his “victory.”) Only dedicated or paid henchmen are likely to show up for the next “good enough for Afghans” exercise in democracy. Once again, an “election” may be just the elaborate stage set for announcing to a disillusioned public the names of those who will run the show in Kabul for the next few years.

Kabulis might live with that, as they’ve lived with Karzai all these years, but they fear power-hungry Afghan politicians could “compromise” as well with insurgent leaders like that old American favorite from the war against the Soviets, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who recently told a TV audience that he intends to claim his rightful place in government. Such compromises could stick the Afghan people with a shaky power-sharing deal among the most ultra-conservative, self-interested, sociopathic, and corrupt men in the country.  If that deal, in turn, were to fall apart, as most power-sharing agreements worldwide do within a year or two, the big men might well plunge the country back into a 1990s-style civil war, with no regard for the civilians caught in their path.

These worst-case scenarios are everyday Kabuli nightmares.  After all, during decades of war, the savvy citizens of the capital have learned to expect the worst from the men currently characterized in a popular local graffiti this way: “Mujahideen=Criminals. Taliban=Dumbheads.”

Ordinary Kabulis express reasonable fears for the future of the country, but impatient free-marketeering businessmen are voting with their feet right now, or laying plans to leave soon. They’ve made Kabul hum (often with foreign aid funds, which are equivalent to about 90% of the country’s economic activity), but they aren’t about to wait around for the results of election 2014.  Carpe diem has become their version of financial advice.  As a result, they are snatching what they can and packing their bags.

Millions of dollars reportedly take flight from Kabul International Airport every day: officially about $4.6 billion in 2011, or just about the size of Afghanistan’s annual budget. Hordes of businessmen and bankers (like those who, in 2004, set up the Ponzi scheme called the Kabul Bank, from which about a billion dollars went missing) are heading for cushy spots like Dubai, where they have already established residence on prime real estate.

As they take their investments elsewhere and the American effort winds down, the Afghan economy contracts ever more grimly, opportunities dwindle, and jobs disappear.  Housing prices in Kabul are falling for the first time since the start of the occupation as rich Afghans and profiteering private American contractors, who guzzled the money that Washington and the “international community” poured into the country, move on.

At the same time, a money-laundering building boom in Kabul appears to have stalled, leaving tall, half-built office blocks like so many skeletons amid the scalloped Pakistani palaces, vertical malls, and grand madrassas erected in the past four or five years by political and business insiders and well-connected conservative clerics.

Most of the Afghan tycoons seeking asylum elsewhere don’t fear for their lives, just their pocketbooks: they’re not political refugees, but free-market rats abandoning the sinking ship of state.  Joining in the exodus (but not included in the statistics) are countless illegal émigrés seeking jobs or fleeing for their lives, paying human smugglers money they can’t afford as they head for Europe by circuitous and dangerous routes.

Threatened Afghans have fled from every abrupt change of government in the last century, making them the largest population of refugees from a single country on the planet.  Once again, those who can are voting with their feet (or their pocketbooks) -- and voting early.

Afghanistan’s historic tragedy is that its violent political shifts -- from king to communists to warlords to religious fundamentalists to the Americans -- have meant the flight of the very people most capable of rebuilding the country along peaceful and prosperous lines.  And their departure only contributes to the economic and political collapse they themselves seek to avoid.  Left behind are ordinary Afghans -- the illiterate and unskilled, but also a tough core of educated, ambitious citizens, including women’s rights activists, unwilling to surrender their dream of living once again in a free and peaceful Afghanistan.

The Military Monster

These days Kabul resounds with the blasts of suicide bombers, IEDs, and sporadic gunfire.  Armed men are everywhere in anonymous uniforms that defy identification.  Any man with money can buy a squad of bodyguards, clad in classy camouflage and wraparound shades, and armed with assault weapons.  Yet Kabulis, trying to carry on normal lives in the relative safety of the capital, seem to maintain a distance from the war going on in the provinces.

Asked that crucial question -- do you think American forces should stay or go? -- the Kabulis I talked with tended to answer in a theoretical way, very unlike the visceral response one gets in the countryside, where villages are bombed and civilians killed, or in the makeshift camps for internally displaced people that now crowd the outer fringes of Kabul. (By the time U.S. Marines surged into Taliban-controlled Helmand Province in the south in 2010 to bring counterinsurgency-style protection to the residents there, tens of thousands of them had already moved to those camps in Kabul.)  Afghans in the countryside want to be rid of armed men.  All of them.  Kabulis just want to be secure, and if that means keeping some U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base near the capital, as Afghan and American officials are currently discussing, well, it’s nothing to them.

In fact, most Kabulis I spoke to think that’s what’s going to happen.  After all, American officials have been talking for years about keeping permanent bases in Afghanistan (though they avoid the term “permanent” when speaking to the American press), and American military officers now regularly appear on Afghan TV to say, “The United States will never abandon Afghanistan.”  Afghans reason: Americans would not have spent nearly 12 years fighting in this country if it were not the most strategic place on the planet and absolutely essential to their plans to “push on” Iran and China next.  Everybody knows that pushing on other countries is an American specialty.

Besides, Afghans can see with their own eyes that U.S. command centers, including multiple bases in Kabul, and Bagram Air Base, only 30 miles away, are still being expanded and upgraded.  Beyond the high walls of the American Embassy compound, they can also see the tall new apartment blocks going up for an expanding staff, even if Washington now claims that staff will be reduced in the years to come.

Why, then, would President Obama announce the drawdown of U.S. troops to perhaps a few thousand special operations forces and advisors, if Washington didn’t mean to leave?  Afghans have a theory about that, too.  It’s a ruse, many claim, to encourage all other foreign forces to depart so that the Americans can have everything to themselves.  Afghanistan, as they imagine it, is so important that the U.S., which has fought the longest war in its history there, will be satisfied with nothing less.

I was there to listen, but at times I did mention to Afghans that America’s post-9/11 wars and occupations were threatening to break the country.  “We just can’t afford this war anymore,” I said.

Afghans only laugh at that.  They’ve seen the way Americans throw money around.  They’ve seen the way American money corrupted the Afghan government, and many reminded me that American politicians like Afghan ones are bought and sold, and its elections won by money. Americans, they know, are as rich as Croesus and very friendly, though on the whole not very well mannered or honest or smart.

Operation Enduring Presence      

More than 11 years later, the tragedy of the American war in Afghanistan is simple enough: it has proven remarkably irrelevant to the lives of the Afghan people -- and to American troops as well.  Washington has long appeared to be fighting its own war in defense of a form of government and a set of long-discredited government officials that ordinary Afghans would never have chosen for themselves and have no power to replace.

In the early years of the war (2001-2005), George W. Bush’s administration was far too distracted planning and launching another war in Iraq to maintain anything but a minimal military presence in Afghanistan -- and that mainly outside the capital.  Many journalists (including me) criticized Bush for not finishing the war he started there when he had the chance, but today Kabulis look back on that soldierless period of peace and hope with a certain nostalgia.  In some quarters, the Bush years have even acquired something like the sheen of a lost Golden Age -- compared, that is, to the thoroughgoing militarization of American policy that followed.

So commanding did the U.S. military become in Kabul and Washington that, over the years, it ate the State Department, gobbled up the incompetent bureaucracy of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and established Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in the countryside to carry out maniacal “development” projects and throw bales of cash at all the wrong “leaders.”

Of course, the military also killed a great many people, both “enemies” and civilians.  As in Vietnam, it won the battles, but lost the war.  When I asked Afghans from Mazar-e-Sharif in the north how they accounted for the relative peacefulness and stability of their area, the answer seemed self-evident: “Americans didn’t come here.”

Other consequences, all deleterious, flowed from the militarization of foreign policy.  In Afghanistan and the United States, so intimately ensnarled over all these years, the income gap between the rich and everyone else has grown exponentially, in large part because in both countries the rich have made money off war-making, while ordinary citizens have slipped into poverty for lack of jobs and basic services.

Relying on the military, the U.S. neglected the crucial elements of civil life in Afghanistan that make things bearable -- like education and health care.  Yes, I’ve heard the repeated claims that, thanks to us, millions of children are now attending school.  But for how long?   According to UNICEF, in the years 2005-2010, in the whole of Afghanistan only 18% of boys attended high school, and 6% of girls.  What kind of report card is that?  After 11 years of underfunded work on health care in a country the size of Texas, infant mortality still remains the highest in the world.

By 2014, the defense of Afghanistan will have been handed over to the woeful Afghan National Security Force, also known in military-speak as the “Enduring Presence Force.”  In that year, for Washington, the American war will be officially over, whether it’s actually at an end or not, and it will be up to Afghans to do the enduring.

Here’s where that final scenario -- collapse -- haunts the Kabuli imagination.  Economic collapse means joblessness, poverty, hunger, and a great swelling of the ranks of children cadging a living in the streets.  Already street children are said to number a million strong in Kabul, and 4 million across the country.  Only blocks from the Presidential Palace, they are there in startling numbers selling newspapers, phone cards, toilet paper, or simply begging for small change. Are they the county’s future?

And if the state collapses, too?  Afghans of a certain age remember well the last time the country was left on its own, after the Soviets departed in 1989, and the U.S. also terminated its covert aid.  The mujahideen parties -- Islamists all -- agreed to take turns ruling the country, but things soon fell apart and they took turns instead lobbing rockets into Kabul, killing tens of thousands of civilians, reducing entire districts to rubble, raiding and raping -- until the Taliban came up from the south and put a stop to everything.

Afghan civilians who remember that era hope that this time Karzai will step down as he promises, and that the usual suspects will find ways to maintain traditional power balances, however undemocratic, in something that passes for peace.  Afghan civilians are, however, betting that if a collision comes, one-third of those Afghan Security Forces trained at fabulous expense to protect them will fight for the government (whoever that may be), one-third will fight for the opposition, and one-third will simply desert and go home.  That sounds almost like a plan.

© 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.

Netanyahu Deploys ‘Syrian’ Iron-Dome As Israeli Minister Claims US Preparing ‘Surgical’ Strikes Against Iran

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says his nation must prepare for the threat of a chemical attack from Syria, amid concern at enemy efforts to test a post-election coalition Israel, and, as Bloomberg reports, has deployed its new Iron Dome anti-missile system near the border with its northern neighbor. Along with this concern, as many have perhaps suspected, the Israeli Defense Minister confirmed yesterday that the US has prepared plans for a 'surgical' military operation to delay Iran's nuclear program.

As The Jerusalem Post reports, Ehud Barak, speaking in Davos, does not believe any military operation against Iran would devolve into a "full fledged war the size of the Iraqi war" but rather "there should be a readiness and an ability to launch a surgical operation that will delay them by a significant time frame and probably convince them that it won’t work because the world is determined to block them."

Barak added that in the past the US has been heavy-handed but that under Barack Obama, the United States has "prepared quite sophisticated, fine, extremely fine, scalpels," if the worse comes to the worst - even though the Israeli preference would be to end the nuclear threat diplomatically , calling for tougher sanctions (though he expressed doubt that diplomacy would lead to success).

Just another geopolitical hotspot that the world's markets choose to ignore in deference to the one true leader - central bankers.

Via Bloomberg,

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel must prepare for the threat of a chemical attack from Syria as the army deployed its new Iron Dome anti- missile system near the border with its northern neighbor.

Netanyahu told members of the Cabinet during the weekly meeting in Jerusalem today that Israel faces dangers from throughout the Middle East. Top security officials held a special meeting last week to discuss what may happen to Syrian stocks of chemical weapons amid the civil unrest there, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told Army Radio.

“We must look around us, at what is happening in Iran and its proxies and at what is happening in other areas, with the deadly weapons in Syria, which is increasingly coming apart,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet, according to an e-mailed statement.

Syrian rebels, mostly Sunni Muslims, have been fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad since March 2011 in a conflict that the United Nations says has left at least 60,000 people dead. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Iron Dome system, which was used to shoot down hundreds of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip during Israel’s November conflict with Hamas and other militant groups, is being deployed at an unspecified site in the north, according to an Israeli army spokeswoman. She spoke anonymously in accordance with military regulations and said setting up the anti-missile battery was part of routine operations.

Israeli forces must be particularly alert during the period following last week’s election in which Netanyahu is trying to form a new coalition government and enemies are looking for signs of weakness, the prime minister said. Netanyahu’s Likud- Beitenu alliance lost 11 parliamentary seats in the vote and the prime minister said he needs a broad and stable coalition to deal with security threats from the region.

Via The Jerusalem Post,

Defense minister challenges idea that military operation against Iran would develop into a "full fledged war the size of the Iraqi war"; says surgical strikes will delay Tehran's nuclear drive "by a significant time frame."

The United States has prepared plans for a "surgical" military operation to delay Iran's nuclear program in the event that diplomatic efforts to thwart Tehran's drive for nuclear weapons capability fail, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview with The Daily Beast on Friday.

Speaking from Switzerland, where he is attending the Davos World Economic Forum, Barak challenged the notion that a military operation against Iran would develop into a "full fledged war the size of the Iraqi war or even the war in Afghanistan."

“What we basically say is that if worse comes to worst, there should be a readiness and an ability to launch a surgical operation that will delay them by a significant time frame and probably convince them that it won’t work because the world is determined to block them,” Barak told The Daily Beast.

The defense minister stated that, while the US was once heavy-handed in its attempts to carry out pinpointed military actions, under the leadership of President Barack Obama, the United States has "prepared quite sophisticated, fine, extremely fine, scalpels. So it is not an issue of a major war or a failure to block Iran. You could under a certain situation, if worse comes to worst, end up with a surgical operation."

Barak said that even a small-scale series of surgical strikes was a last resort, and that Israel's preference would be to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat diplomatically.

Barak called for harsher sanctions against the Islamic Republic, but noted that he did not believe the diplomatic path was likely to succeed in halting Iran's nuclear drive given Russia and China's tendency to thwart harsher measures in the United Nations.

Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (3 votes)

The Pacific Ocean: The Pentagon’s Next “Human Battleground”

The Pentagon planners and their paid anthropologist shills are gearing up for the Pentagon’s next battle: the one for the Pacific that will ensure that the island nations that dot the vast maritime expanse will remain a part of the Anglo-American sphere of influence and not become part of a «Chinese lake».The Pacific Ocean has been a favorite stomping ground for U.S. government-financed anthropologists ever since Margaret Mead ‘s 1928 treatise on the Samoan people, Coming of Age in Samoa, laid the groundwork for the intelligence-related anthropological study of the peoples of the Pacific Ocean by the U.S. military and intelligence services. Mead later became a researcher for the CIA-connected RAND Corporation and became a supporter of CIA funding of anthropologic surveys and studies via laundered academic research grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).USAID / CIA/Special Operations projects with names like Phoenix, Prosyms, Sympatico, and Camelot used anthropologists and social scientists to reconnoiter targeted tribal areas in South Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, Colombia, and Chile to determine how U.S. Special Forces and intelligence agents could use indigenous peoples to further American military goals. The operations in the cases of Phoenix in South Vietnam and Prosyms in Indonesia resulted in genocide on a massive scale…

Today, the military’s tribal and native peoples targeting programs fall under the nomenclature of «human terrain systems» or HTS. Brought back to life in Afghanistan and Iraq, these genocidal programs now have their eyes on the Pacific in order to gear up for what the Pentagon and Langley planners believe is an inevitable war with China.

It is fitting, therefore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are now looking for up to 15,000 acres of land to lease on American Samoa. The U.S. military wants to establish a major training base on American Samoa for at least five years and probably longer. The base is to provide 24-hour road access that will permit 60 full days of training per year. The Army also wants the base to permit the use of pyrotechnic and blank ammunition during daytime and nighttime training. It is certain that the U.S. is looking at building a simulated rural and village tropical environment for the use of U.S. and future «coalition of the willing» armies to practice battling an enemy in the Pacific region. That «enemy» is China.

The United States obviously foresees the Pacific as a future battleground between American and its allied forces and China for control of the important trade routes that crisscross the vast maritime region. Not since the U.S. military campaign against Japan during World War II has the Pacific seen such an American military projection of power.

The decision by the Obama administration to «pivot» its military forces into Asia and the Pacific has brought about a strong response from China, which sees itself as the ultimate target for the increased U.S. military presence. China’s ambassador to Australia Chen Yuming called the stationing of 2500 U.S. Marines in Darwin an «affront» and a Cold War containment policy toward China.

The establishment of a U.S. military training base on American Samoa follows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first ever attendance by a U.S. Secretary of State of a Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) summit in Rarotonga, Cook Islands on August 31, 2012. It was the first such visit to the Cook Islands and underscored America’s decision to maintain its stranglehold over the small Pacific island nations while at the same time beefing up its military forces in the region.

The United States and its two Pacific overseers – Australia and New Zealand –- are attempting to cement their neo-colonialist hegemony over the Pacific states, which are independent in name only. Enter the Human Terrain practitioners from the Pentagon and CIA to keep the Pacific islanders divided. Clinton’s participation in the PIF summit is aimed at not only maintaining the status quo but in promoting the rivalries between Polynesians, Micronesians, and Melanesians among the island states.

The United States, having virtual ownership of the quasi-independent Micronesian nations of Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands, as well as total control over the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Marianas, can use its influence over Micronesians to play them off against the other two major ethnic groups. They are the Melanesian Spearhead Group of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and the New Caledonia (Kanaky) liberation front and the Polynesian Leaders Group of Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, French Polynesia, as well as the intelligence eyes and ears of Washington, American Samoa. The United States, Australia, and New Zealand can use their Human terrain System knowledge of ethnic rivalries in the Pacific to ensure that China is kept out of the area.

Part of the strategy relies on Taiwan’s «checkbook» diplomacy to maintain Taiwanese rather than Chinese embassies and aid missions in the small island states. There are currently Taiwanese embassies in Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, and Kiribati. Among these, Nauru, Solomon Islands, and Kiribati switched their recognition back to Taiwan after opening up diplomatic relations with China. Kiribati came under pressure after it decided to allow China to build a missile tracking station on south Tarawa. The U.S. believed the China Space Telemetry Tracking Station was going to spy on the «Star Wars II» activity at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands. The Marshallese on the atoll are under constant surveillance by well-armed U.S. security personnel.

In 2004, Vanuatu switched its recognition back to China from Taiwan after Prime Minister Serge Vohor paid a secret visit to Taiwan and was ejected from office in a vote of no confidence. Vohor actually punched the Chinese ambassador after Vohor returned from Taiwan. Such incidents in the Pacific Islands have been known to set off riots between opposing political parties and ethnic groups. The Pentagon will use such politico-ethnic tinderboxes as a secret weapon against China.

The CIA, Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and New Zealand Secret Intelligence Service (NZSIS) have programs to undermine South Pacific governments that establish close relations with Beijing. However, the Human Terrain operatives have gone further. Aware of the animosity that poor Pacific Islanders have toward local successful Chinese businessmen, the bought—and-paid for anthropologists have stirred up riots, especially in Solomon Islands and Tonga, to marginalize China’s influence in the region.

There are contingency plans to foment riots against ethnic Chinese in Fiji, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea. The CIA’s Operation Prosyms in Indonesia relied on longstanding animosity between Muslim Indonesians and ethnic Chinese to stoke riots against the Chinese in the aftermath of the 1965 CIA coup against President Sukarno. The mayhem resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 ethnic Chinese and a severance of relations between the CIA-installed Suharto government and China. President Obama’s anthropologist mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, played a crucial role in Prosyms. Mrs. Dunham’s son appears prepared to reenact anti-Chinese pogroms in the islands of the Pacific.

It is clear that the U.S. military training in American Samoa will be used to train Pacific Islander mercenaries, many of whom, such as Marshall Islanders, American Samoans, and Guamanians already serve in the U.S. military, to train young men from impoverished Kiribati, Micronesia, Samoa, and Fiji. Fijian and Tongan mercenaries, battle-hardened from Western campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other regions, are also available to supplement the U.S. Pacific Command’s training complex on American Samoa. If Fiji’s military-led government , which has been the subject of diplomatic sanctions by Australia and New Zealand, continues to get close to China and North Korea, these Fijian mercenaries could see coup d’état duty on behalf of the CIA, ASIO, and NZSIS in their homeland of Fiji. And the diplomats of the small Chinese embassy in Nuku’alofa, Tonga have witnessed how fast the fury of local Tongans can be turned on the Chinese business community. These blood-soaked scenarios all figure heavily into Pentagon HTS plans for the Pacific.

The United States will continue to keep the Pacific Islands within its vast gulag to prevent the extension of Chinese influence. Today, Pacific Islanders are faced with a virtual «Berlin Wall» that keeps Pacific Islanders confined to their own islands while outsiders, like Chinese and Russians, are kept out. The method by which Washington, Canberra, and Wellington have created airline and sea transit monopolies and transit visa requirements means that Samoans from the Independent State of Samoa cannot visit nearby American Samoa without a special permit. And the U.S. Department of Homeland Security decides who will receive special permits and transit visas, including for those traveling on diplomatic passports. Any scheduled airline that connects any of the islands via American Samoa, Guam, or Hawaii requires a U.S. transit visa and that entails invasive interviews by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel.

There is a reason why so many negotiations and agreement to establish the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership have been secret. As the title indicates, the TPP, as it is known, is a «strategic» trade bloc, which means it also has a military dimension. In essence, it is no different than the Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere established by Imperial Japan during World War II. The United States, not wanting to be viewed as starting the bloc but wanting it to be a replacement for the Cold War military alliance, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), sat in the background while New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, and Chile signed up as charter members in 2005.

As more nations joined, the TTP’s military profile became clearer. The countries that signed up to the TPP were all being groomed for the anti-China military bloc for the Pacific: Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Vietnam, Peru, and the United States signed on. Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines, Colombia, Costa Rica, Laos, and Taiwan later expressed an interest in joining the TPP. The eastward blockade of China became clear. The United States already had existing military alliances with six of the other ten TPP member nations. From Darwin, Australia and Subic Bay, Philippines to Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam and the U.S. built Mataveri Airport on Easter Island (Rapa Nui), the U.S. was delineating the borders of its own Asia-Pacific Sphere and a line over which China would be warned not to cross.

Mrs. Clinton may have arrived in Rarotonga last year amid waves and smiles but her sinister plans for the Pacific region have more to do with using the Pacific Islanders for cannon fodder in what Washington expects to be a coming regional war with China.

Kiriakou and Stuxnet: The Danger of the Still-Escalating Obama Whistleblower War

The permanent US national security state has used extreme secrecy to shield its actions from democratic accountability ever since its creation after World War II. But those secrecy powers were dramatically escalated in the name of 9/11 and the War on Terror, such that most of what the US government now does of any significance is completely hidden from public knowledge. Two recent events - the sentencing last week of CIA torture whistleblower John Kirikaou to 30 months in prison and the invasive investigation to find the New York Times' source for its reporting on the US role in launching cyberwarfare at Iran - demonstrate how devoted the Obama administration is not only to maintaining, but increasing, these secrecy powers.Former CIA officer John Kiriakou becomes the only government official convicted in connection with the US torture program: not for having done it, but for having talked about it. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

When WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables in 2010, government defenders were quick to insist that most of those documents were banal and uninteresting. And that's true: most (though by no means all) of those cables contained nothing of significance. That, by itself, should have been a scandal. All of those documents were designated as "secret", making it a crime for government officials to reveal their contents - despite how insignificant most of it was. That revealed how the US government reflexively - really automatically - hides anything and everything it does behind this wall of secrecy: they have made it a felony to reveal even the most inconsequential and pedestrian information about its actions.

This is why whistleblowing - or, if you prefer, unauthorized leaks of classified information - has become so vital to preserving any residual amounts of transparency. Given how subservient the federal judiciary is to government secrecy claims, it is not hyperbole to describe unauthorized leaks as the only real avenue remaining for learning about what the US government does - particularly for discovering the bad acts it commits. That is why the Obama administration is waging an unprecedented war against it - a war that continually escalates - and it is why it is so threatening.

To understand the Obama White House's obsession with punishing leaks - as evidenced by its historically unprecedented war on whistleblowers - just consider how virtually every significant revelation of the bad acts of the US government over the last decade came from this process. Unauthorized leaks are how we learned about the Bush administration's use of torture, the NSA's illegal eavesdropping on Americans without the warrants required by the criminal law, the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the secret network of CIA "black sites" beyond the reach of law or human rights monitoring, the targeting by Obama of a US citizen for assassination without due process, the re-definition of "militant" to mean "any military age male in a strike zone", the video of a US Apache helicopter gunning down journalists and rescuers in Baghdad, the vastly under-counted civilians deaths caused by the war in Iraq, and the Obama administration's campaign to pressure Germany and Spain to cease criminal investigations of the US torture regime.

In light of this, it should not be difficult to understand why the Obama administration is so fixated on intimidating whistleblowers and going far beyond any prior administration - including those of the secrecy-obsessed Richard Nixon and George W Bush - to plug all leaks. It's because those methods are the only ones preventing the US government from doing whatever it wants in complete secrecy and without any accountability of any kind.

Silencing government sources is the key to disabling investigative journalism and a free press. That is why the New Yorker's Jane Mayer told whistleblowing advocate Jesselyn Radack last April: "when our sources are prosecuted, the news-gathering process is criminalized, so it's incumbent upon all journalists to speak up."

Indeed, if you talk to leading investigative journalists they will tell you that the Obama war on whistleblowers has succeeded in intimidating not only journalists' sources but also investigative journalists themselves. Just look at the way the DOJ has pursued and threatened with prison one of the most accomplished and institutionally protected investigative journalists in the country - James Risen - and it's easy to see why the small amount of real journalism done in the US, most driven by unauthorized leaks, is being severely impeded. This morning's Washington Post article on the DOJ's email snooping to find the NYT's Stuxnet source included this anonymous quote: "People are feeling less open to talking to reporters given this uptick. There is a definite chilling effect in government due to these investigations."

For authoritarians who view assertions of government power as inherently valid and government claims as inherently true, none of this will be bothersome. Under that mentality, if the government decrees that something shall be secret, then it should be secret, and anyone who defies that dictate should be punished as a felon - or even a traitor. That view is typically accompanied by the belief that we can and should trust our leaders to be good and do good even if they exercise power in the dark, so that transparency is not only unnecessary but undesirable.

But the most basic precepts of human nature, political science, and the American founding teach that power exercised in the dark will be inevitably abused. Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power. That's why those who wield political power are always driven to destroy methods of transparency. About this fact, Thomas Jefferson wrote in an 1804 letter to John Tyler [emphasis added]:

"Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions."

About all that, Yale law professor David A Schultz observed: "For Jefferson, a free press was the tool of public criticism. It held public officials accountable, opening them up to the judgment of people who could decide whether the government was doing good or whether it had anything to hide. . . . A democratic and free society is dependent upon the media to inform."

There should be no doubt that destroying this method of transparency - not protection of legitimate national security secrets- is the primary effect, and almost certainly the intent, of this unprecedented war on whistleblowers. Just consider the revelations that have prompted the Obama DOJ's war on whistleblowers, whereby those who leak are not merely being prosecuted, but threatened with decades or even life in prison for "espionage" or "aiding the enemy".

Does anyone believe it would be better if we remained ignorant about the massive waste, corruption and illegality plaguing the NSA's secret domestic eavesdropping program (Thomas Drake); or the dangerously inept CIA effort to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear program but which ended up assisting that program (Jeffrey Sterling); or the overlooking of torture squads in Iraq, the gunning down of journalists and rescuers in Baghdad, or the pressure campaign to stop torture investigations in Spain and Germany (Bradley Manning); or the decision by Obama to wage cyberwar on Iran, which the Pentagon itself considers an act of war (current DOJ investigation)?

Like all of the Obama leak prosecutions - see here - none of those revelations resulted in any tangible harm, yet all revealed vital information about what our government was doing in secret. As long-time DC lawyer Abbe Lowell, who represents indicted whistleblower Stephen Kim, put it: what makes the Obama DOJ's prosecutions historically unique is that they "don't distinguish between bad people - people who spy for other governments, people who sell secrets for money - and people who are accused of having conversations and discussions". Not only doesn't it draw this distinction, but it is focused almost entirely on those who leak in order to expose wrongdoing and bring about transparency and accountability.

That is the primary impact of all of this. A Bloomberg report last October on this intimidation campaign summarized the objections this way: "the president's crackdown chills dissent, curtails a free press and betrays Obama's initial promise to 'usher in a new era of open government.'"

The Obama administration does not dislike leaks of classified information. To the contrary, it is a prolific exploiter of exactly those types of leaks - when they can be used to propagandize the citizenry to glorify the president's image as a tough guy, advance his political goals or produce a multi-million-dollar Hollywood film about his greatest conquest. Leaks are only objectionable when they undercut that propaganda by exposing government deceit, corruption and illegality.

Few events have vividly illustrated this actual goal as much as the lengthy prison sentence this week meted out to former CIA officer John Kiriakou. It's true that Kiriakou is not a pure anti-torture hero given that, in his first public disclosures, he made inaccurate claims about the efficacy of waterboarding. But he did also unequivocally condemn waterboarding and other methods as torture. And, as FAIR put it this week, whatever else is true: "The only person to do time for the CIA's torture policies appears to be a guy who spoke publicly about them, not any of the people who did the actual torturing."

Despite zero evidence of any harm from his disclosures, the federal judge presiding over his case - the reliably government-subservient US District Judge Leonie Brinkema - said she "would have given Kiriakou much more time if she could." As usual, the only real criminals in the government are those who expose or condemn its wrongdoing.

Exactly the same happened with revelations by the New York Times of the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program. None of the officials who eavesdropped on Americans without the warrants required by law were prosecuted. The telecoms that illegally cooperated were retroactively immunized from all legal accountability by the US Congress. The only person to suffer recriminations from that scandal was Thomas Tamm, the mid-level DOJ official who discovered the program and told the New York Times about it, and then had his life ruined with vindictive investigations.

This Obama whistleblower war has nothing to do with national security. It has nothing to do with punishing those who harm the country with espionage or treason.

It has everything to do with destroying those who expose high-level government wrongdoing. It is particularly devoted to preserving the government's ability to abuse its power in secret by intimidating and deterring future acts of whistleblowing and impeding investigative journalism. This Obama whistleblower war continues to escalate because it triggers no objections from Republicans (who always adore government secrecy) or Democrats (who always adore what Obama does), but most of all because it triggers so few objections from media outlets, which - at least in theory - suffer the most from what is being done.

© 2012 The Guardian

Glenn Greenwald

Kiriakou and Stuxnet: The Danger of the Still-Escalating Obama Whistleblower War

The permanent US national security state has used extreme secrecy to shield its actions from democratic accountability ever since its creation after World War II. But those secrecy powers were dramatically escalated in the name of 9/11 and the War on Terror, such that most of what the US government now does of any significance is completely hidden from public knowledge. Two recent events - the sentencing last week of CIA torture whistleblower John Kirikaou to 30 months in prison and the invasive investigation to find the New York Times' source for its reporting on the US role in launching cyberwarfare at Iran - demonstrate how devoted the Obama administration is not only to maintaining, but increasing, these secrecy powers.Former CIA officer John Kiriakou becomes the only government official convicted in connection with the US torture program: not for having done it, but for having talked about it. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

When WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables in 2010, government defenders were quick to insist that most of those documents were banal and uninteresting. And that's true: most (though by no means all) of those cables contained nothing of significance. That, by itself, should have been a scandal. All of those documents were designated as "secret", making it a crime for government officials to reveal their contents - despite how insignificant most of it was. That revealed how the US government reflexively - really automatically - hides anything and everything it does behind this wall of secrecy: they have made it a felony to reveal even the most inconsequential and pedestrian information about its actions.

This is why whistleblowing - or, if you prefer, unauthorized leaks of classified information - has become so vital to preserving any residual amounts of transparency. Given how subservient the federal judiciary is to government secrecy claims, it is not hyperbole to describe unauthorized leaks as the only real avenue remaining for learning about what the US government does - particularly for discovering the bad acts it commits. That is why the Obama administration is waging an unprecedented war against it - a war that continually escalates - and it is why it is so threatening.

To understand the Obama White House's obsession with punishing leaks - as evidenced by its historically unprecedented war on whistleblowers - just consider how virtually every significant revelation of the bad acts of the US government over the last decade came from this process. Unauthorized leaks are how we learned about the Bush administration's use of torture, the NSA's illegal eavesdropping on Americans without the warrants required by the criminal law, the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the secret network of CIA "black sites" beyond the reach of law or human rights monitoring, the targeting by Obama of a US citizen for assassination without due process, the re-definition of "militant" to mean "any military age male in a strike zone", the video of a US Apache helicopter gunning down journalists and rescuers in Baghdad, the vastly under-counted civilians deaths caused by the war in Iraq, and the Obama administration's campaign to pressure Germany and Spain to cease criminal investigations of the US torture regime.

In light of this, it should not be difficult to understand why the Obama administration is so fixated on intimidating whistleblowers and going far beyond any prior administration - including those of the secrecy-obsessed Richard Nixon and George W Bush - to plug all leaks. It's because those methods are the only ones preventing the US government from doing whatever it wants in complete secrecy and without any accountability of any kind.

Silencing government sources is the key to disabling investigative journalism and a free press. That is why the New Yorker's Jane Mayer told whistleblowing advocate Jesselyn Radack last April: "when our sources are prosecuted, the news-gathering process is criminalized, so it's incumbent upon all journalists to speak up."

Indeed, if you talk to leading investigative journalists they will tell you that the Obama war on whistleblowers has succeeded in intimidating not only journalists' sources but also investigative journalists themselves. Just look at the way the DOJ has pursued and threatened with prison one of the most accomplished and institutionally protected investigative journalists in the country - James Risen - and it's easy to see why the small amount of real journalism done in the US, most driven by unauthorized leaks, is being severely impeded. This morning's Washington Post article on the DOJ's email snooping to find the NYT's Stuxnet source included this anonymous quote: "People are feeling less open to talking to reporters given this uptick. There is a definite chilling effect in government due to these investigations."

For authoritarians who view assertions of government power as inherently valid and government claims as inherently true, none of this will be bothersome. Under that mentality, if the government decrees that something shall be secret, then it should be secret, and anyone who defies that dictate should be punished as a felon - or even a traitor. That view is typically accompanied by the belief that we can and should trust our leaders to be good and do good even if they exercise power in the dark, so that transparency is not only unnecessary but undesirable.

But the most basic precepts of human nature, political science, and the American founding teach that power exercised in the dark will be inevitably abused. Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power. That's why those who wield political power are always driven to destroy methods of transparency. About this fact, Thomas Jefferson wrote in an 1804 letter to John Tyler [emphasis added]:

"Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions."

About all that, Yale law professor David A Schultz observed: "For Jefferson, a free press was the tool of public criticism. It held public officials accountable, opening them up to the judgment of people who could decide whether the government was doing good or whether it had anything to hide. . . . A democratic and free society is dependent upon the media to inform."

There should be no doubt that destroying this method of transparency - not protection of legitimate national security secrets- is the primary effect, and almost certainly the intent, of this unprecedented war on whistleblowers. Just consider the revelations that have prompted the Obama DOJ's war on whistleblowers, whereby those who leak are not merely being prosecuted, but threatened with decades or even life in prison for "espionage" or "aiding the enemy".

Does anyone believe it would be better if we remained ignorant about the massive waste, corruption and illegality plaguing the NSA's secret domestic eavesdropping program (Thomas Drake); or the dangerously inept CIA effort to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear program but which ended up assisting that program (Jeffrey Sterling); or the overlooking of torture squads in Iraq, the gunning down of journalists and rescuers in Baghdad, or the pressure campaign to stop torture investigations in Spain and Germany (Bradley Manning); or the decision by Obama to wage cyberwar on Iran, which the Pentagon itself considers an act of war (current DOJ investigation)?

Like all of the Obama leak prosecutions - see here - none of those revelations resulted in any tangible harm, yet all revealed vital information about what our government was doing in secret. As long-time DC lawyer Abbe Lowell, who represents indicted whistleblower Stephen Kim, put it: what makes the Obama DOJ's prosecutions historically unique is that they "don't distinguish between bad people - people who spy for other governments, people who sell secrets for money - and people who are accused of having conversations and discussions". Not only doesn't it draw this distinction, but it is focused almost entirely on those who leak in order to expose wrongdoing and bring about transparency and accountability.

That is the primary impact of all of this. A Bloomberg report last October on this intimidation campaign summarized the objections this way: "the president's crackdown chills dissent, curtails a free press and betrays Obama's initial promise to 'usher in a new era of open government.'"

The Obama administration does not dislike leaks of classified information. To the contrary, it is a prolific exploiter of exactly those types of leaks - when they can be used to propagandize the citizenry to glorify the president's image as a tough guy, advance his political goals or produce a multi-million-dollar Hollywood film about his greatest conquest. Leaks are only objectionable when they undercut that propaganda by exposing government deceit, corruption and illegality.

Few events have vividly illustrated this actual goal as much as the lengthy prison sentence this week meted out to former CIA officer John Kiriakou. It's true that Kiriakou is not a pure anti-torture hero given that, in his first public disclosures, he made inaccurate claims about the efficacy of waterboarding. But he did also unequivocally condemn waterboarding and other methods as torture. And, as FAIR put it this week, whatever else is true: "The only person to do time for the CIA's torture policies appears to be a guy who spoke publicly about them, not any of the people who did the actual torturing."

Despite zero evidence of any harm from his disclosures, the federal judge presiding over his case - the reliably government-subservient US District Judge Leonie Brinkema - said she "would have given Kiriakou much more time if she could." As usual, the only real criminals in the government are those who expose or condemn its wrongdoing.

Exactly the same happened with revelations by the New York Times of the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program. None of the officials who eavesdropped on Americans without the warrants required by law were prosecuted. The telecoms that illegally cooperated were retroactively immunized from all legal accountability by the US Congress. The only person to suffer recriminations from that scandal was Thomas Tamm, the mid-level DOJ official who discovered the program and told the New York Times about it, and then had his life ruined with vindictive investigations.

This Obama whistleblower war has nothing to do with national security. It has nothing to do with punishing those who harm the country with espionage or treason.

It has everything to do with destroying those who expose high-level government wrongdoing. It is particularly devoted to preserving the government's ability to abuse its power in secret by intimidating and deterring future acts of whistleblowing and impeding investigative journalism. This Obama whistleblower war continues to escalate because it triggers no objections from Republicans (who always adore government secrecy) or Democrats (who always adore what Obama does), but most of all because it triggers so few objections from media outlets, which - at least in theory - suffer the most from what is being done.

© 2012 The Guardian

Glenn Greenwald

Sunday Morning Bobblehead Thread


The Rachel Maddow Show -- November 22, 2012

Guess who is going to be wrong on the Sunday shows again? That's right, Mr. Perennial John McCain. There is a truly unique sense of "failing up" that takes place within the Beltway and the Sunday shows that I don't think you could find anywhere else. If you or I in our job was as consistently wrong as John McCain has been, we would be on the unemployment rolls. But there is literally no way for a Republican or conservative to be so wrong, so out of touch that he or she will not be invited back to sit on the Sunday shows panels, especially someone like McCain. I suspect that he has a staffer whose sole purpose is to keep in touch with bookers for all the news outlets and offer his availability week after week.

And bookers, lazy little buggers that they are, don't want to work to find different and maybe better voices.

And hosts, as compromised as they are, don't want to make their golfing buddies or the guy they just sat next to at a fundraiser the night before, feel dismissed or ignored.

And executive producers, as cognizant as they are of the interests of their parent company, aren't invested in informing viewers or framing issues that follow the concerns of anyone outside the Beltway.

And so we are left with yet another Sunday with John McCain being wrong. And Paul Ryan being wrong, and Marsha Blackburn being wrong, and Newt Gingrich, being so very wrong. Thanks, Beltway media.

ABC's "This Week" -- Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and John McCain, R-Ariz. Panel: ABC News' George Will; Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz.; Democratic strategist and ABC News contributor Donna Brazile; NPR "Morning Edition" host Steve Inskeep; and New Republic owner and publisher Chris Hughes. Zero Dark Thirty" screenwriter and producer Mark Boal and Atlantic national correspondent Mark Bowden, best-selling author of "Blackhawk Down."

NBC's "Meet the Press" -- Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; Panel: Incoming President of the Heritage Foundation, former Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC); President and CEO of the NAACP Ben Jealous; Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward; NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell; and NBC News Special Correspondent Ted Koppel.

NBC's "The Chris Matthews Show" -- Chuck Todd, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent; Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent; Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post; Chris Frates, National Journal.

CBS' "Face the Nation" -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly; Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; former Romney Senior Adviser Kevin Madden and Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter.

MSNBC's "UP with Chris Hayes" -- Ambassador Swanee Hunt, the former ambassador to Austria, now the Elizabeth Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; Robin Wright, joint fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center, author of “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion across the Islamic World;” Horace Campbell, professor of African politics, African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University, author of “Pan Africanism, Pan Africanists, and African Liberation in the 21st Century;” Joshua Trevino, vice president of external public relations at the Texas Public Policy Foundation; Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, author of “Ending the Iraq War;” Adam Serwer, reporter and blogger for Mother Jones.

"Melissa Harris-Perry" -- Guest list not released.

CNN's "State of the Union" -- Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal; former CIA Director Michael Hayden; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca); Govs. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., and Scott Walker, R-Wis.; Mia Love, mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah; former Commerce Secretary Carlos Guttierez.

CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" -- Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, King Abdullah II of Jordan.

CNN's "Reliable Sources" -- Bob Costas; Newsweek/Daily Beast's David Frum, Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page; Washington Post’s “Reliable Source” columnist Amy Argetsinger.

"Fox News Sunday" -- Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally; retired Army Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council. Panel: Brit Hume, Fox News Senior Political Analyst; Jeff Zeleny, The New York Times; Kimberley Strassel, The Wall Street Journal; Juan Williams, Fox News Contributor.

So, what's catching your eye this morning?

SYRIA: CIA-MI6 Intel Ops and Sabotage

SYRIA: CIA-MI6 Intel Ops and Sabotage

This incisive article by veteran war correspondent  Felicity Arbuthnot was published by Global Research a year ago, on February 2, 2012.

You will not read it in the New York Times.

At a time of  mounting media fabrications –when “objective truths are fading” and  “lies are passing into history”– this analysis reveals the diabolical modus operandi of US-NATO terrorism and  how covert intelligence ops are applied to trigger conditions for the collapse of nation states. One of these “conditions” is the outright killing of  innocent civilians as part of a cover operation and then blaming president Bashar Al Assad of  have committed atrocities against his own people

Michel Chossudovsky,  Global Research , January 27, 2012


“In order to facilitate the action of liberative (sic) forces, …a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals. …[to] be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention, …

Once a political decision has been reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main (sic) incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals. …Incidents should not be concentrated in Damascus …

Further : a “necessary degree of fear .. frontier incidents and (staged) border clashes”, would “provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS [MI6 should use … capabilitites in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.” (Joint US-UK leaked Intelligence Document, London and Washington, 1957)


“'The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history."
(George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair, 1903-1950.)

For anyone in two minds about what is really going on in Syria, and whether President Assad, hailed a decade ago as “A Modern Day Attaturk”, has become the latest megalomaniacal despot, to whose people a US-led posse of nations, must deliver “freedom”, with weapons of mass, home, people, nation and livelihood destruction, here is a salutary tale from modern history.

Have the more recent sabre rattlings against Syria* been based on US-UK government papers, only discovered in 2003 - and since air brushed (or erroneously omitted) from even BBC timelines, on that country?(i)

In late 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion, Matthew Jones, a Reader in International History, at London’s Royal Holloway College, discovered “frighteningly frank” documents:1957 plans between then UK Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, and then President, Dwight Eisenhower, endorsing: “a CIA-MI6 plan to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion (of Syria) by Syria’s pro-western neighbours.” (ii)

At the heart of the plan was the assassination of the perceived power behind then President Shukri al-Quwatli. Those targeted were: Abd al-Hamid Sarraj, Head of Military Intelligence; Afif al-Bizri, Chief of Syrian General Staff: and Khalid Bakdash, who headed the Syrian Communist Party.

The document was drawn up in Washington in the September of 1957:

“In order to facilitate the action of liberative (sic) forces, reduce the capabilities of the regime to organize and direct its military actions … to bring about the desired results in the shortest possible time, a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals.

“Their removal should be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention, and in the light of circumstances existing at the time.”

In the light of President Assad’s current allegations of foreign forces and interventions, cross border incursions (as Colonel Qadafi’s before him, so sneered at by Western governments and media – and, of course, ultimately proved so resoundingly correct.) there are some fascinating, salutary phrases:

“Once a political decision has been reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main (sic) incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals.

“Incidents should not be concentrated in Damascus … care should be taken to avoid causing key leaders of the Syrian regime to take additional personal protection measures.”

Further : a “necessary degree of fear .. frontier incidents and (staged) border clashes”, would “provide a pretext for intervention”, by Iraq and Jordan - then still under British mandate.

Syria was to be: “made to appear as sponsor of plots, sabotage and violence directed against neighbouring governments … the CIA and SIS [Her Majesty's Secret International Serivce, MI6] should use … capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”

Incursions in to Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, would involve: “sabotage, national conspiracies, and various strong arms activities”, were, advised the document, to be blamed on Damascus.

In late December 2011 an opposition “Syria National Council” was announced, to “liberate the country”, representatives met with Hilary Clinton. There now seems to be a US – endorsed “Syrian Revolutionary Council.”

The Eisenhower-Macmillan plan was for funding of the: “Free Syria Committee” and “arming of political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities”, within Syria.

CIA-MI6, planned fomenting internal uprisings and replacing the Ba’ath-Communist-leaning government, with a Western, user-friendly one. Expecting this to be met by public hostility, they planned to: “probably need to rely first on repressive measures and arbitrary exercise of power.”

The document was signed off in both London and Washington. It was, wrote Macmillan in his diary: “a most formidable report.” A Report which was: “withheld even from British Chiefs of Staff …”

Washington and Whitehall had become concerned at Syria’s increasingly pro-Soviet, rather than pro-Western sympathies – and the Ba’ath (Pan Arab) and Communist party alliance, also largely allied within the Syrian army.

However, even political concerns, were trumped by Syria then controlling a main pipeline from the Western bonanza of Iraq’s oil fields, in those pre-Saddam Hussein days.

Briefly put: in 1957, Syria allied with Moscow (which included an agreement for military and economic aid) also recognized China – and then as now, the then Soviet Union warned the West against intervening in Syria.

Syria, is unchanged as an independent minded country, and the loyalties remain. It broadly remains the cradle of the Pan Arab ideal of Ba’athism, standing alone, since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

In 1957, this independent mindedness caused Loy Henderson, a Senior State Department official, to say that:“the present regime in Syria had to go …”

Ultimately, the plan was not used, since, British mandate or not, neighbouring countries refused to play. However, the project, overtly, bears striking similarity to the reality of events over the last decade, in Syria – and the region.

In a near 1957 re-run, Britain’s Foreign Minister, William Hague has said President Assad “will feel emboldened” by the UN Russia-China vote in Syria’s favour.

Hilary (“We came, we saw, he died”) Clinton, has called for: “friends of a democratic Syria”, to unite and rally against the Assad government:

“We need to work together to send them a clear message: you cannot hold back the future at the point of a gun”, said the women filmed purportedly watching the extrajudicial, illegal assassination of may be, or may be not, Osma Bin Laden and others – but certainly people were murdered – by US illegal invaders – at the point of lots of guns.

Supremely ironically, she was speaking in Munich (5th February) historically: “The birth place of the Nazi party.”

The Russia-China veto at the UN on actions against Syria, has been condemned by the US, varyingly, as: “Disgusting”, ‘shameful”, “deplorable”, “a travesty.”

Eye opening, is the list of US vetoes to be found at (iii). Jaw dropping double standards can only be wondered at (again.).

Perhaps the bottom line is: in 1957, Iraq’s oil was at the top of the agenda, of which Syria held an important key. Today, it is Iran’s – and as Michel Chossudovsky notes so succinctly: “The road to Tehran is through Damascus.”(iv)

Notes

i. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14703995

ii. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2003/sep/27/uk.syria1

iii. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/4237/us-on-un-veto_disgusting-shameful-deplorable-a-tra

iv. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=25955

The End Of An Era

Authored by Dr. Tim Morgan, Tullet Prebon,

The economy as we know it is facing a lethal confluence of four critical factors – the fall-out from the biggest debt bubble in history; a disastrous experiment with globalisation; the massaging of data to the point where economic trends are obscured; and, most important of all, the approach of an energy-returns cliff-edge.

Through technology, through culture and through economic and political change, society is more short-term in nature now than at any time in recorded history. Financial market participants can carry out transactions in milliseconds. With 24-hour news coverage, the media focus has shifted inexorably from the analytical to the immediate. The basis of politicians’ calculations has shortened to the point where it can seem that all that matters is the next sound-bite, the next headline and the next snapshot of public opinion. The corporate focus has moved all too often from strategic planning to immediate profitability as represented by the next quarter’s earnings.

This report explains that this acceleration towards ever-greater immediacy has blinded society to a series of fundamental economic trends which, if not anticipated and tackled well in advance, could have devastating effects. The relentless shortening of media, social and political horizons has resulted in the establishment of self-destructive economic patterns which now threaten to undermine economic viability. We date the acceleration in short-termism to the early 1980s.

Since then, there has been a relentless shift to immediate consumption as part of something that has been called a “cult of self-worship”. The pursuit of instant gratification has resulted in the accumulation of debt on an unprecedented scale. The financial crisis, which began in 2008 and has since segued into the deepest and most protracted economic slump for at least eighty years, did not result entirely from a short period of malfeasance by a tiny minority, comforting though this illusion may be. Rather, what began in 2008 was the denouement of a broadly-based process which had lasted for thirty years, and is described here as “the great credit super-cycle”.

The credit super-cycle process is exemplified by the relationship between GDP and aggregate credit market debt in the United States (see fig. 1.1). In 1945, and despite the huge costs involved in winning the Second World War, the aggregate indebtedness of American businesses, individuals and government equated to 159% of GDP. More than three decades later, in 1981, this ratio was little changed, at 168%. In real terms, total debt had increased by 214% since 1945, but the economy had grown by 197%, keeping the debt ratio remarkably static over an extended period which, incidentally, was far from shock-free (since it included two major oil crises).

From the early 1980s, as figs. 1.1 and 1.2 show, an unmistakeable and seemingly relentless upwards trend in indebtedness became established. Between 1981 and 2009, debt grew by 390% in real terms, far out-pacing the growth (of 120%) in the American economy. By 2009, the debt ratio had reached 381%, a level unprecedented in history. Even in 1930, when GDP collapsed, the ratio barely topped 300%, and thereafter declined very rapidly indeed.

This report is not, primarily, about debt, and neither does it suggest that the problems identified here are unique to the United States. Rather, the massive escalation in American indebtedness is one amongst a host of indicators of a state of mind which has elevated immediate consumption over prudence throughout much of the world.

This report explains that we need only look beyond the predominant short-termism of contemporary thinking to perceive that we are at the confluence of four extremely dangerous developments which, individually or collectively, have already started to throw more than two centuries of economic expansion into reverse.

Before the financial crisis of 2008, this analysis might have seemed purely theoretical, but the banking catastrophe, and the ensuing slump, should demonstrate that the dangerous confluence described here is already underway. Indeed, more than two centuries of near-perpetual growth probably went into reverse as much as ten years ago.

Lacking longer-term insights, today’s policymakers seem bewildered about many issues. Why, for instance, has there been little or no recovery from the post-2008 economic slump? Why have traditional, tried-and-tested fiscal and monetary tools ceased to function? Why have both austerity and stimulus failed us?

The missing piece of the economic equation is an appreciation of four underlying trends, each of which renders many of the lessons of the past irrelevant.

trend #1 – the madness of crowds

The first of the four highly dangerous trends identified here is the creation, over three decades, of the worst financial bubble in history. In his 1841 work Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Charles Mackay (1814-89) identified a common thread of individual and collective idiocy running through such follies of the past as alchemy, witchhunts, prophecies, fortune-telling, magnetizers, phrenology, poisoning, the admiration of thieves, duels, the imputation of mystic powers to relics, haunted houses, crusades – and financial bubbles.

A clear implication of Mackay’s work was that all of these follies had been consigned to the past by intelligence, experience and enlightenment. For the most part, he has been right. Intelligent people today do not put faith in alchemy, fortune-telling, witchcraft or haunting, and – with the arguable exception of the invasion of Iraq – crusades have faded into the history books.

But one folly remains alive and well. Far from confining financial bubbles to historical tales of Dutch tulips and British South Sea stock, the last three decades have witnessed the creation and the bursting of the biggest bubble in financial history.

Described here as ‘the credit supercycle’, this bubble confirmed that one aspect, at least, of the idiocy identified by Mackay continues to wreak havoc. Insane though historic obsessions with tulip bulbs and south seas riches may appear, they are dwarfed by the latterday, ‘money for nothing’ lunacy that, through the credit super-cycle, has mired much of the world in debts from which no escape (save perhaps hyperinflation) exists.

Perhaps the most truly remarkable feature of the super-cycle was that it endured for so long in defiance of all logic or common sense. Individuals in their millions believed that property prices could only ever increase, such that either borrowing against equity (by taking on invariably-expensive credit) or spending it (through equity release) was a safe, rational and even normal way to behave.

Regulators, meanwhile, believed that there was nothing wrong with loosening banking reserve criteria (both by risk-weighting assets in ways that masked leverage, and by broadening definitions of bank capital to the point where even some forms of debt counted as shock-absorbing equity).

Former Federal Reserve boss Alan Greenspan has been ridiculed for believing that banks would always act in the best interests of their shareholders, and that the market would sort everything out in a benign way. But regulators more generally bent over backwards to ignore the most obvious warning signs, such as escalating property price-to-incomes ratios, soaring levels of debt-to-GDP, and such obviously-abusive practices as sub-prime mortgages, NINJA loans and the proliferation of unsafe financial instruments.

Where idiocy and naïveté were concerned, however, regulators and the general public were trumped by policymakers and their advisors. Gordon Brown, for example, proclaimed an end to “boom and bust” and gloried in Britain’s “growth” despite the way in which debt escalation was making it self-evident that the apparent expansion in the economy was neither more nor less than the simple spending of borrowed money.

Between 2001-02 and 2009-10, Britain added £5.40 of private and public debt for each £1 of ‘growth’ in GDP (fig. 1.3). Between 1998 and 2012, real GDP increased by just £338bn (30%) whilst debt soared by £1,133bn (95%) (fig. 1.4).

Asset managers have a very simple term to describe what happened to Britain under Brown – it was a collapse in returns on capital employed.

No other major economy got it quite as wrong as Britain under Brown, but much the same was happening across the Western world, most notably in those countries which followed the disastrous Anglo-American philosophy of “light-touch” financial regulation.

trend #2 – the globalisation disaster

The compounding mistake, where the Western countries were concerned, was a wide-eyed belief that ‘globalisation’ would make everyone richer, when the reality was that the out-sourcing of production to emerging economies was a self-inflicted disaster with few parallels in economic history. One would have to look back to a Spanish empire awash with bullion from the New World to find a combination of economic idiocy and minority self-interest equal to the folly of globalization.

The big problem with globalisation was that Western countries reduced their production without making corresponding reductions in their consumption. Corporations’ outsourcing of production to emerging economies boosted their earnings (and, consequently, the incomes of the minority at the very top) whilst hollowing out their domestic economies through the export of skilled jobs.

This report uses a measure called ‘globally-marketable output’ (GMO) as a metric for domestic production, a measure which combines manufacturing, agriculture, construction and mining with net exports of services. By definition, activities falling outside this category consist of services provided to each other.

At constant (2011) values, consumption by Americans increased by $6,500bn between 1981 and 2011, whilst consumption on their behalf by the government rose by a further $1,700bn, but the combined output of the manufacturing, construction, agricultural and extractive industries grew by barely $600bn. At less than $200bn in 2011, net exports of services did almost nothing to bridge the chasm between consumption and production.

This left two residuals – domestically consumed services, and debt – with debt the clincher. Between 1981 and 2011, and again expressed at constant values, American indebtedness soared from $11 trillion to almost $54 trillion.

Fundamentally, what had happened here was that skilled, well-paid jobs had been exported, consumption had increased, and ever-greater quantities of debt had been used to fill the gap. This was, by any definition, unsustainable. Talk of Western economies modernising themselves by moving from production into services contained far more waffle than logic – Western consumers sold each other ever greater numbers of hair-cuts, ever greater quantities of fast food and ever more zero-sum financial services whilst depending more and more on imported goods and, critically, on the debts used to buy them. Corporate executives prospered, as did the gateholders of the debt economy, whilst the vast majority saw their real wages decline and their indebtedness spiral. For our purposes, what matters here is that reducing production, increasing consumption and taking on escalating debt to fill the gap was never a remotely sustainable course of action. What this in turn means is that no return to the pre-2008 world is either possible or desirable.

trend #3 – an exercise in self-delusion

One explanation for widespread public (and policymaker) ignorance of the truly parlous state of the Western economies lies in the delusory nature of economic and fiscal statistics, many of which have been massaged out of all relation to reality.

There seems to have been no ‘grand conspiracy’ here, but the overall effect of accretive changes has been much the same. In America, for example, the benchmark measure of inflation (CPI-U) has been modified by ‘substitution’, ‘hedonics’ and ‘geometric weighting’ to the point where reported numbers seem to be at least six percentage points lower than they would have been under the ‘pre-tinkering’ basis of calculation used until the early 1980s. US unemployment, reported at 7.8%, excludes so many categories of people (such as “discouraged workers”) that it hides very much higher levels of inactivity.

The critical distortion here is clearly inflation, which feeds through into computations showing “growth” even when it is intuitively apparent (and evident on many other benchmarks) that, for a decade or more, the economy has, at best, stagnated, not just in the United States but across much of the Western world. Distorted inflation also tells wage-earners that they have become better off even though such statistics do not accord with their own perceptions. It is arguable, too, that real (inflation-free) interest rates were negative from as long ago as the mid-1990s, a trend which undoubtedly exacerbated an escalating tendency to live on debt.

Fiscal figures, too, are heavily distorted, most noticeably in the way in which quasi-debt obligations are kept off the official balance sheet. As we explain in this report, the official public debts of countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom exclude truly enormous commitments such as pensions.

trend #4 – the growth dynamo winds down

One of the problems with economics is that its practitioners preach a concentration on money, whereas money is the language rather than the substance of the real economy. Ultimately, the economy is – and always has been – a surplus energy equation, governed by the laws of thermodynamics, not those of the market.

Society and the economy began when agriculture created an energy surplus which, though tiny by later standards, liberated part of the population to engage in non-subsistence activities.

A vastly larger liberation of surplus energy occurred with the discovery of the heat engine, meaning that the energy delivered by human labour could be leveraged massively by exogenous sources of energy such as coal, oil and natural gas. A single US gallon of gasoline delivers work equivalent to between 360 and 490 hours of strenuous human labour, labour which would cost perhaps $6,500 if it were paid for at prevailing rates. Of the energy – a term coterminous with ‘work’ – consumed in Western societies, well over 99% comes from exogenous sources, and probably less than 0.7% from human effort. Energy does far more than provide us with transport and warmth. In modern societies, manufacturing, services, minerals, food and even water are functions of the availability of energy. The critical equation here is not the absolute quantity of energy available but, rather, the difference between energy extracted and energy consumed in the extraction process. This is measured by the mathematical equation EROEI (energy return on energy invested).

For much of the period since the Industrial Revolution, EROEIs have been extremely high. The oil fields discovered in the 1930s, for example, provided at least 100 units of extracted energy for every unit consumed in extraction (an EROEI of 100:1). For some decades now, though, global average EROEIs have been falling, as energy discoveries have become both smaller and more difficult (meaning energy-costly) to extract.

The killer factor is the non-linear nature of EROEIs. As fig. 1.5 shows, the effects of a fall-off in EROEI from, say, 80:1 to 20:1 do not seem particularly disruptive but, once returns ratios have fallen below about 15:1, there is a dramatic, ‘cliff-edge’ slump in surplus energy, combined with a sharp escalation in its cost.

Research suggests that the global average EROEI, having fallen from about 40:1 in 1990 to 17:1 in 2010, may decline to just 11:1 by 2020, at which point energy will be about 50% more expensive, in real terms, than it is today, a metric which will carry through directly into the cost of almost everything else – including food.

crisis, culpability and consequences

If the analysis set out in this report is right, we are nearing the end of a period of more than 250 years in which growth has been ‘the assumed normal’. There have been setbacks, of course, but the near-universal assumption has been that economic growth is the usual state of affairs, a rule to which downturns (even on the scale of the 1930s) are the exceptions. That comfortable assumption is now in the process of being over-turned.

The views set out here must provoke a host of questions. For a start, if we really are nearing a cliff-edge economic crisis, why isn’t this visible already? Second, who is to blame for this? Third, how bad could it get? Last, but surely most important, can anything be done about it?

Where visibility is concerned, our belief is that, if the economy does tip over in the coming few years, retrospect – which always enjoys the 20-20 vision of hindsight – will say that the signs of the impending crash were visible well before 2013.

For a start, anyone who believed that a globalisation model (in which the West unloaded production but expected to consume as much, or even more, than ever) was sustainable was surely guilty of wilful blindness. Such a state of affairs was only ever viable on the insane assumption that debt could go on increasing indefinitely. Charles Mackay chronicled many delusions, but none – not even the faith placed in witchcraft – was ever quite as irrational as the belief (seldom stated, but always implicit in Western economic policy) that there need never be an end to a way of life which was wholly dependent on ever-greater debt.

Even to those who were happy to swallow the nonsense of perpetually expanding indebtedness, the sheer scale of debt – and, relevantly in this context, of quasi-debt commitments as well – surely should have sounded  warning bells. From Liverpool to Los Angeles, from Madrid to Matsuyama, the developed world is mired in debts that can never be repaid. In addition to formal debt, governments have entered into pension and welfare commitments which are only affordable if truly heroic assumptions are made about future prosperity.

At the same time, there is no real evidence that the economy is recovering from what is already a more prolonged slump than the Great Depression of the 1930s. We are now more than four years on from the banking crisis and, under anything approaching normal conditions, there should have been a return to economic expansion by now. Governments have tried almost everything, from prolonged near-zero interest rates and stimulus expenditures to the creation of money on a gigantic scale. These tools have worked in the past, and the fact that, this time, they manifestly are not working should tell us that something profoundly different is going on.

The question of culpability has been the equivalent of Sherlock Holmes’ “dog that did not bark in the night”, in that very few individuals have been held to account for what is unarguably the worst economic disaster in at least eighty years. A small number of obviously-criminal miscreants have been prosecuted, but this is something that happens on a routine basis in normal times, so does not amount to an attribution of blame for the crisis. There has been widespread public vilification of bankers, the vast majority of whom were, in any case, only acting within the parameters of the ‘debtfuelled, immediate gratification’ ethos established across Western societies as a whole.

Governments have been ejected by their electorates, but their replacements have tended to look very similar indeed to their predecessors. The real reason for the seeming lack of retribution is that culpability is far too dispersed across society as a whole. If, say, society was to punish senior bankers, what about the thousands of salesmen who knowingly pushed millions of customers into mortgages that were not remotely affordable? The suspicion lingers that there has been a ‘grand conspiracy of culpability’, but even the radical left has failed to tie this down to specifics in a convincing way.

The real causes of the economic crash are the cultural norms of a society that has come to believe that immediate material gratification, fuelled if necessary by debt, can ever be a sustainable way of life. We can, if we wish, choose to blame the advertising industry (which spends perhaps $470bn annually pushing the consumerist message), or the cadre of corporate executives who have outsourced skilled jobs in pursuit of personal gain. We can blame a generation of policymakers whose short-termism has blinded them to underlying trends, or regulators and central bankers who failed to “take away the punch-bowl” long after the party was self-evidently out of control.

But blaming any of these really means blaming ourselves – for falling for the consumerist message of instant gratification, for buying imported goods, for borrowing far more than was healthy, and for electing glib and vacuous political leaders.

Beyond visibility and culpability, the two big questions which need to be addressed are ‘how bad can it get?’ and ‘is there anything that we can do about it?’

Of these, the first question hardly needs an answer, since the implications seem self-evident – economies will lurch into hyper-inflation in a forlorn attempt to escape from debt, whilst social strains will increase as the vice of resource (including food) shortages tightens. In terms of solutions, the first imperative is surely a cultural change away from instant gratification, a change which, if it is not adopted willingly, will be enforced upon society anyway by the reversal of economic growth.

The magic bullet, of course, would be the discovery of a new source of energy which can reverse the winding-down of the critical energy returns equation. Some pin their faith in nuclear fusion (along lines being pioneered by ITER) but this, even if it works, lies decades in the future – that is, long after the global EROEI has fallen below levels which will support society as we know it. Solutions such as biofuels and shales are rendered non-workable by their intrinsically-low EROEIs.

Likewise, expecting a technological solution to occur would be extremely unwise, because technology uses energy – it does not create it. To expect technology to provide an answer would be equivalent to locking the finest scientific minds in a bankvault, providing them with enormous computing power and vast amounts of money, and expecting them to create a ham sandwich.

In the absence of such a breakthrough, really promising energy sources (such as concentrated solar power) need to be pursued together, above all, with social, political and cultural adaptation to “life after growth”.

Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (3 votes)

A Terrible Normality: The Massacres and Aberrations of History

parenti2

 Through much of history the abnormal has been the norm.

This is a paradox to which we should attend. Aberrations, so plentiful as to form a terrible normality of their own, descend upon us with frightful consistency.

The number of massacres in history, for instance, are almost more than we can record.  There was the New World holocaust, consisting of the extermination of indigenous Native American peoples throughout the western hemisphere, extending over four centuries or more, continuing into recent times in the Amazon region.

There were the centuries of heartless slavery in the Americas and elsewhere, followed by a full century of lynch mob rule and Jim Crow segregation in the United States, and today the numerous killings and incarcerations of Black youth by law enforcement agencies.

Let us not forget the extermination of some 200,000 Filipinos by the U.S. military at the beginning of the twentieth century, the genocidal massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks in 1915, and the mass killings of African peoples by the western colonists, including the 63,000 Herero victims in German Southwest Africa in 1904, and the brutalization and enslavement of millions in the Belgian Congo from the late 1880s until emancipation in 1960—followed by years of neocolonial free-market exploitation and repression in what was Mobutu’s Zaire.

French colonizers killed some 150,000 Algerians. Later on, several million souls perished in Angola and Mozambique along with an estimated five million in the merciless region now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The twentieth century gave us—among other horrors—more than sixteen million lost and twenty million wounded or mutilated in World War I, followed by the estimated 62 million to 78 million killed in World War II, including some 24 million Soviet military personnel and civilians, 5.8 million European Jews, and taken together:  several million Serbs, Poles, Roma, homosexuals, and a score of other nationalities.

In the decades after World War II, many, if not most, massacres and wars have been openly or covertly sponsored by the U.S. national security state. This includes the two million or so left dead or missing in Vietnam, along with 250,000 Cambodians, 100,000 Laotians, and 58,000 Americans.

Today in much of Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East there are “smaller” wars, replete with atrocities of all sorts. Central America, Colombia, Rwanda and other places too numerous to list, suffered the massacres and death-squad exterminations of hundreds of thousands, a constancy of violent horrors. In Mexico a “war on drugs” has taken 70,000 lives with 8,000 missing.

There was the slaughter of more than half a million socialistic or democratic nationalist Indonesians by the U.S.-supported Indonesian military in 1965, eventually followed by the extermination of 100,000 East Timorese by that same U.S.-backed military.

Consider the 78-days of NATO’s aerial destruction of Yugoslavia complete with depleted uranium, and the bombings and invasion of Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Western Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now the devastating war of attrition brokered against Syria. And as I write (early 2013), the U.S.-sponsored sanctions against Iran are seeding severe hardship for the civilian population of that country.

All the above amounts to a very incomplete listing of the world’s violent and ugly injustice. A comprehensive inventory would fill volumes. How do we record the countless other life-searing abuses: the many millions who survive wars and massacres but remain forever broken in body and spirit, left to a lifetime of suffering and pitiless privation, refugees without sufficient food or medical supplies or water and sanitation services in countries like Syria, Haiti, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Mali.

Think of the millions of women and children around the world and across the centuries who have been trafficked in unspeakable ways, and the millions upon millions trapped in exploitative toil, be they slaves, indentured servants, or underpaid laborers. The number of impoverished is now growing at a faster rate than the world’s population.  Add to that, the countless acts of repression, incarceration, torture, and other criminal abuses that beat upon the human spirit throughout the world day by day.

Let us not overlook the ubiquitous corporate corruption and massive financial swindles, the plundering of natural resources and industrial poisoning of whole regions, the forceful dislocation of entire populations, the continuing catastrophes of Chernobyl and Fukushima and other impending disasters awaiting numerous aging nuclear reactors.

The world’s dreadful aberrations are so commonplace and unrelenting that they lose their edge and we become inured to the horror of it all. “Who today remembers the Armenians?” Hitler is quoted as having said while plotting his “final solution” for the Jews. Who today remembers the Iraqis and the death and destruction done to them on a grand scale by the U.S. invasion of their lands? William Blum reminds us that more than half the Iraq population is either dead, wounded, traumatized, imprisoned, displaced, or exiled, while their environment is saturated with depleted uranium (from U.S. weaponry) inflicting horrific birth defects.

What is to be made of all this? First, we must not ascribe these aberrations to happenstance, innocent confusion, and unintended consequences.  Nor should we believe the usual rationales about spreading democracy, fighting terrorism, providing humanitarian rescue, protecting U.S. national interests and other such rallying cries promulgated by ruling elites and their mouthpieces.

The repetitious patterns of atrocity and violence are so persistent as to invite the suspicion that they usually serve real interests; they are structural not incidental.  All this destruction and slaughter has greatly profited those plutocrats who pursue economic expansion, resource acquisition, territorial dominion, and financial accumulation.

Ruling interests are well served by their superiority in firepower and striking force. Violence is what we are talking about here, not just the wild and wanton type but the persistent and well-organized kind. As a political resource, violence is the instrument of ultimate authority. Violence allows for the conquest of entire lands and the riches they contain, while keeping displaced laborers and other slaves in harness.

The plutocratic rulers find it necessary to misuse or exterminate restive multitudes, to let them starve while the fruits of their land and the sweat of their labor enrich privileged coteries.

Thus we had a profit-driven imperial rule that helped precipitate the great famine in northern China, 1876-1879, resulting in the death of some thirteen million. At about that same time the Madras famine in India took the lives of as many as twelve million while the colonial forces grew ever richer.  And thirty years earlier, the great potato famine in Ireland led to about one million deaths, with another desperate million emigrating from their homeland. Nothing accidental about this: while the Irish starved, their English landlords exported shiploads of Irish grain and livestock to England and elsewhere at considerable profit to themselves.

These occurrences must be seen as something more than just historic abnormalities floating aimlessly in time and space, driven only by overweening impulse or happenstance. It is not enough to condemn monstrous events and bad times, we also must try to understand them. They must be contextualized in the larger framework of historical social relations.

The dominant socio-economic system today is free-market capitalism (in all its variations). Along with its unrelenting imperial terrorism, free-market capitalism provides “normal abnormalities” from within its own dynamic, creating scarcity and maldistributed excess, filled with duplication, waste, overproduction, frightening environmental destruction, and varieties of financial crises, bringing swollen rewards to a select few and continual hardship to multitudes.

Economic crises are not exceptional; they are the standing operational mode of the capitalist system. Once again, the irrational is the norm. Consider U.S. free-market history: after the American Revolution, there were the debtor rebellions of the late 1780s, the panic of 1792, the recession of 1809 (lasting several years), the panics of 1819 and 1837, and recessions and crashes through much of the rest of that century. The serious recession of 1893 continued for more than a decade.

After the industrial underemployment of 1900 to 1915 came the agrarian depression of the 1920s—hidden behind what became known to us as “the Jazz Age,” followed by a horrendous crash and the Great Depression of 1929-1942. All through the twentieth century we had wars, recessions, inflation, labor struggles, high unemployment—hardly a year that would be considered “normal” in any pleasant sense. An extended normal period would itself have been an abnormality. The free market is by design inherently unstable in every aspect other than wealth accumulation for the select few.

What we are witnessing is not an irrational output from a basically rational society but the converse: the “rational” (to be expected) output of a fundamentally irrational system. Does this mean these horrors are inescapable? No, they are not made of supernatural forces. They are produced by plutocratic greed and deception.

So, if the aberrant is the norm and the horrific is chronic, then we in our fightback should give less attention to the idiosyncratic and more to the systemic. Wars, massacres and recessions help to increase capital concentration, monopolize markets and natural resources, and destroy labor organizations and popular transformative resistance.

The brutish vagaries of plutocracy are not the product of particular personalities but of systemic interests. President George W. Bush was ridiculed for misusing words, but his empire-building and stripping of government services and regulations revealed a keen devotion to ruling-class interests.  Likewise, President Barack Obama is not spineless. He is hypocritical but not confused. He is (by his own description) an erstwhile “liberal Republican,” or as I would put it, a faithful servant of corporate America.

Our various leaders are well informed, not deluded. They come from different regions and different families, and have different personalities, yet they pursue pretty much the same policies on behalf of the same plutocracy.

So it is not enough to denounce atrocities and wars, we also must understand who propagates them and who benefits. We have to ask why violence and deception are constant ingredients.

Unintended consequences and other oddities do arise in worldly affairs but we also must take account of interest-driven rational intentions. More often than not, the aberrations—be they wars, market crashes, famines, individual assassinations or mass killings—take shape because those at the top are pursuing gainful expropriation. Many may suffer and perish but somebody somewhere is benefiting boundlessly.

Knowing your enemies and what they are capable of doing is the first step toward effective opposition. The world becomes less of a horrific puzzlement.  We can only resist these global (and local) perpetrators when we see who they are and what they are doing to us and our sacred environment.

Democratic victories, however small and partial they be, must be embraced. But the people must not be satisfied with tinseled favors offered by smooth leaders. We need to strive in every way possible for the revolutionary unraveling, a revolution of organized consciousness striking at the empire’s heart with the full force of democracy, the kind of irresistible upsurge that seems to come from nowhere while carrying everything before it.

Michael Parenti’s most recent books are The Culture Struggle (2006), Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader (2007), God and His Demons (2010), Democracy for the Few (9th ed. 2011), and The Face of Imperialism (2011). For further information about his work, visit his website: www.michaelparenti.org.

Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East”

The term “New Middle East” was introduced to the world in June 2006 in Tel Aviv by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who was credited by the Western media for coining the term) in replacement of the older and more imposing term, the “Greater Middle East.”

CNN Taps Crazy Wingnut Allen West to Weigh in on Women’s Combat Pay

I would love to know why Anderson Cooper and his producers at CNN thought anyone in their audience would benefit from hearing what wingnut former Rep. Allen West had to say about the recent announcement that the Pentagon is removing military's ban on women serving in combat, given his background.

I don't know about anyone else, but someone who bragged about torturing Iraqi policemen is not the person I want to hear from when it comes to any matters involving our military, but here he was, on CNN, being treated like he's someone who's sane and credible, which he's not.

Allen West Slams Women In Combat ‘Social Experiment,’ Suggests They Should Also Join NHL And NBA:

Former Republican Congressman and Army veteran Allen West made his views about the recent decision to allow women to serve in combat roles known this morning on Twitter and Facebook. And tonight, he brought those views to CNN.

Appearing on Anderson Cooper 360 along with retired General Rick Hillier of the Canadian Forces, West laid out his opposition to the new rule, saying that with all of the budget issues the military is having right now, the focus shouldn’t be on “this foray into an inequality trip.”

West then went off into an extended sports metaphor that seemed to have both Anderson Cooper and General Hillier baffled:

“I have to tell you, if this is the case, then why do we have separate hockey leagues? Women should be out there playing ice hockey with the guys in the NHL. We should not have a WNBA. I can’t shoot a three-pointer, but there are ladies who could certainly take me to the hoop. Maybe they should be competing with Kobe Bryant.”

Cooper quickly steered the conversation back to the more practical concerns surrounding women in combat, asking Hillier if he had seen any advantages in his career working with women in combat. Read on...

I'm guessing there are a whole lot of people out there that would rather have a woman serving next to them in combat than a loose cannon like West. He's no longer in the Congress but it seems our corporate media isn't done allowing him to pollute our airways.

First NATO Patriot battery goes operational in Turkey

Dutch soldiers, with the Patriot system in the background, chat during media day at a military airbase in Adana, southern Turkey, January 26, 2013. (Reuters / Murad Sezer)

Dutch soldiers, with the Patriot system in the background, chat during media day at a military airbase in Adana, southern Turkey, January 26, 2013. (Reuters / Murad Sezer)

NATO has declared operational the first Patriot anti-missile battery deployed in southern Turkey, set to intercept possible rockets fired from Syria. The other five units are expected to be in place and operational over the next few days.

The first battery to go combat ready was provided by the Netherlands, according to NATO. The unit is the latest version of the US-made Patriots, which is optimized for intercepting incoming rockets. It’s deployed in the city of Adana.

Other Patriot systems, which are expected to be set up and made fully operational by the end of January, will be stationed in the Turkish cities of Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep.

The United States, Germany and the Netherlands are providing two such anti-missile facilities each. NATO claims the deployment of the surface-to-air missile Patriot systems is ‘defensive only’ and ‘it will in no way support a no-fly zone or any offensive operation’.

Turkey has raised fears that more violence could spread across the border from Syria, including the possible use of chemical weapons, following an incident earlier in October, when several shells of Syrian origin fell on Turkish territory, killing several civilians. Ankara retaliated with artillery strikes. It later asked for NATO help in December to beef up its air defenses against a possible Syrian attack. The request was granted, as the United States, Germany and the Netherlands decided to send Patriots to Turkey, along with a contingent of 1,200 soldiers to operate them.

Military vehicles of a Patriot missile system are loaded on a ship in the harbour of Travemuende, January 8, 2013. (Reuters / Fabian Bimmer)
Military vehicles of a Patriot missile system are loaded on a ship in the harbour of Travemuende, January 8, 2013. (Reuters / Fabian Bimmer)

The Syrian government has described the NATO deployment as a provocation, while Russia and Iran have protested against the deployment of Patriot missile systems.

“The more military hardware you accumulate in one place the more risk you have that this hardware one day would be used,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told RT earlier in December. “As for the purpose of this deployment, yes, I read and hear that some experts believe that if it is intended to prevent any Syrian crossfire then it could be positioned a bit differently. And as it is envisaged to be positioned, some people say it is quite useful to protect the American radar which is part of the American missile defense system they are building quoting, ‘the threat from Iran’. If this is the case then it is even more risky, I would say, because this multiple purpose deployment could create additional temptations.”

Turkey has already witnessed some negative reaction inside the country, amid protest still underway. Many of the local population in the port cities, where the missiles due to be based, are strongly against the deployment. In the town of Kahramanmaras protesters burnt US, NATO and Israeli flags several days ago.

The Patriot system is pictured during media day at a military airbase in Adana, southern Turkey, January 26, 2013. (Reuters / Murad Sezer)
The Patriot system is pictured during media day at a military airbase in Adana, southern Turkey, January 26, 2013. (Reuters / Murad Sezer)

“Is there a war of Syria against Turkey? No, there isn’t. These missiles are for Israel and against Iran,” Turkish citizen Malik Ecder Kirecci, told the media.

Like many Turkish locals, independent observers are also skeptical about the nature of the Patriot’s mission and if the missiles will protect the Turks at all.

“Considering that the US wants to use Turkey as an advance missile shield, the Patriots might be stationed there forever. Turkey wanted to modernize its weapons anyway and had already started taking bids for similar weapons systems. Under these circumstances, the weapons are most likely directed against Iran," Dmitry Polikanov, the vice president of the Moscow-based PIR Center and an independent think-tank, told RT.

The North Atlantic alliance also deployed Patriot batteries on Turkish soil during the US-led invasion of Iraq 10 years ago. However, they were never used and were withdrawn a few months later.

Dutch soldiers Geroal Bakker and Nick Hoetjes (R), with the Patriot system in the background, chat during media day at a military airbase in Adana, southern Turkey, January 26, 2013. (Reuters / Murad Sezer)
Dutch soldiers Geroal Bakker and Nick Hoetjes (R), with the Patriot system in the background, chat during media day at a military airbase in Adana, southern Turkey, January 26, 2013. (Reuters / Murad Sezer)

Ex-CIA officer: Torture great way to get false confessions

Torture brings forth unreliable information and false confessions, apart from the fact that it is a serious violation of all manner of international agreements, former CIA officer Ray McGovern told RT.

“You can’t get reliable information from torture. But torture works beautifully if you want unreliable information” says McGovern.

His comments come amid the trial of John Kiriakou, a CIA veteran sentenced to two years in prison, after leaking sensitive information about Washington’s torture program.

Kiriakou, the man who oversaw the capture of Al-Qaeda's third-in-command, blew the lid on America’s torture program, revealing the name of an alleged torturer at Guantanamo Bay.

Kiriakou came out against Washington’s torture program supporting the notion that torture is illegal, says McGovern adding that the accusations against Kiriakou are political andhe is being punished out due to rank-hypocrisy.

RT: John Kiriakou says he is not punished for what he did but for what he is. What are your thoughts on this?

Ray McGovern: It’s mostly of what he said. He’s being punished out of rank-hypocrisy. Look at the chronology here,in 2007 he came out very loudly against torture as being not worthy of the US and not efficient, not a way to get information.Less than a year later two lawyers confirmed it : one’s name was Obama, the others name was Holder. Obama having become president, Eric Holder another lawyer having become attorney general. They said water boarding is torture, torture is illegal. What happened? Nothing happened to the torturers. What is now happening is with the person who happened to agree with Holder andObama, and disagree with the previous president Bush. What did Bush say? At his exist interview with Matt Lauer, he said that he is proud to have authorized that, the lawyer told me it was legal.

RT: So you are saying that a bearer of bad news is being used as a scape goat here? Ultimately as we all know post 9/11 security has been paramount for America. I suppose one might argue that can indeed former CIA agents run loose with secrets?

RM: The instructions were to make people ‘confess’. Confess to what? Confess to the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Confess to the existence of operational ties between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein? It was all a croc. They had to make this stuff up. You can’t get reliable information from torture. But torture works beautifully if you want unreliable information. So they drew up not only ties weapons of mass destruction but also ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda. When UK and US invaded Iraq, 69 percent of the people in the United States believed that there were operational ties between al-Queda and Iraq. And that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. It was a masterful propaganda performance on the part of the US and UK. How did they do that? One of the ways was that they tortured this one prisoner Alibi sent him to Egypt where he confessed that he sent people from Al-Queda to Hussein in Iraq to receive instruction in explosives…

RT: It’s all kind of murky. There have been people in the past that have said invading Iraq for 9/11 is like invading Mexico for the bombing of Cahaba. Essentially when John Kiriakou comes out with his information about waterboarding, I want to ask you where is the line between whistleblowing and that of leaking sensitive information? It certainly seems a little blurry.

RM: John Kiriakou didn’t leak any sensitive information. George Bush did, so did Eric Holder and Obama. Waterboarding is torture. Torture is a violation of all manner of international agreements. So Kiriakou’s crime is sticking with the notion that torture was illegal. And he is accused I suppose of having identified or leaked to the press a person who is involved in torture. Now that person’s name was already in the press. He lives in northern Virginia, where I live. I’d like to knock on his door and say‘ Do you think its fair for you to have supervised the torture program and John Kiriakou who is against torture going to jail?’ I’d really like to do that. As a matter of fact I may do that when I get home.

Health Care in Syria before and During the Crisis

syriaflag

by Kherallah M, Alahfez T, Sahloul Z, Eddin KD, Jamil G.

Syrian International Coalition for Health, Global Health Equity Foundation, Geneva

The Syrian International Coalition for Health (SICH) is a consortium of organizations and health professionals who are committed to improving health care and healthcare delivery in Syria. SICH was formed in 2012 in response to increasingly urgent calls for comprehensive reform. The coalition adopted five principles: Quality, equity, sustainability, broad participation and shared responsibility. Global Health Equity Foundation (GHEF), as a major contributor to human and community development worldwide, combines its core strategies of research, advocacy and capacity building to host this coalition. From administrative headquarters in Geneva, GHEF supports the SICH agenda in an equitable and neutral fashion. The coalition with its affiliates (Syrian American Medical Society, Syrian British Medical Society, Middle East Critical Care Assembly and others) along with its experts and specialists will play a major role in the Post-Conflict Needs Assessment in Syria and will evaluate the capacity and functionality of the health system to develop and implement the needed strategies and projects.

Before the crisis: Baseline health status

Health indicators improved considerably in the Syrian Arab Republic over the past three decades according to data from the Syrian Ministry of Health with life expectancy at birth increasing from 56 years in 1970 to 73.1 years in 2009; infant mortality dropped from 132 per 1000 live births in 1970 to 17.9 per 1000 in 2009; under-five mortality dropped significantly from 164 to 21.4 per 1000 live births; and maternal mortality fell from 482 per 100 000 live births in 1970 to 52 in 2009. [1] The Syrian Arab Republic was in epidemiological transition from communicable to non- communicable diseases with the latest data showing that 77% of mortalities were caused by non-communicable diseases. [2] Total government expenditure on health as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product was 2.9 in 2009. [3] Despite such low public investment access to health services increased dramatically since the 1980s, with rural populations achieving better equity than before. [1]

Despite the apparent improved capacity of the health system, a number of challenges prevail which need to be addressed to reduce inequities in access to health care and to improve the quality of care; these include, addressing validity of the data, overall inequity, lack of transparency, inadequate utilization of capacity, inadequate coordination between providers of health services, uneven distribution of human resources, high turnover of skilled staff and leadership, inadequate number of qualified nurses and allied health professionals. More recently there has been an uncontrolled and largely unregulated expansion of private providers, resulting in uneven distribution of health and medical services among geographical regions. Standardized care and quality assurance and accreditation are major issues that need to be addressed; a recent study revealed that mortality rates among critically ill patients admitted to the intensive care units with severe 2009 H1N1 influenza A was 51% in Damascus compared to an APACHE II predicted mortality rate of 21% with a standardized mortality ratio of 2.4 (95% confidence interval: 1.7-3.2, P-value < 0.001). [4]

During the crisis: Health care provision

Syria is experiencing a protracted political and socioeconomic crisis that resulted in a severe deterioration of living conditions which has also significantly eroded the health system.

  • At least 25,000 Syrians have been killed with many more were injured, among them women and children among the casualties; health staff were killed and injured while on-duty. Injuries include multiple traumas with head injuries, thorax and abdominal wounds. A Total of 192,825 refugees were registered by UNHCR as of September 7, 2012and residing in refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq in addition to 53,442 refugees who are awaiting registration together with an undetermined number of displaced people who are being sheltered with host families outside Syria [5] . It is estimated that more than 2.3 million have been internally displaced; these numbers are rising by the day as the crisis is escalating very rapidly.
  • Vital infrastructure has been compromised or destroyed, resulting in a lack of shelter and energy sources, deterioration of water and sanitation services, food insecurity and serious overcrowding in some areas.
  • Access to health care is severely restricted, hampered by security factors. Maternal and child health services at the primary health care (PHC) level are disrupted. The consequences for maternal and child morbidity and mortality, among deliveries that took place during the conflict period remains unclear.
  • Specific concerns remain for the chronically sick. It is estimated that more than half of those chronically ill have been forced to interrupt their treatment. These concerns are exacerbated by the virtual halt of referrals of ordinary patients outside the conflict areas as life-threatening injuries receive higher priority in an overwhelmed health care system. Elective surgery and nonurgent routine medical interventions are delayed or interrupted indicating that a growing number of patients, mainly with chronic conditions are facing a dire situation, while awaiting treatment.
  • The quality of health care has been further affected by the deterioration in the functionality of medical equipment due to the lack of spare parts and maintenance shortages of drugs and medical supplies due to sanctions. [6] Routine operations are affected and many elective interventions suspended.

Very few assessments were taken place to assess the status of health care services at the conflict areas; the World Health Organization (WHO) completed a rapid assessment in late June to assess the availability and functionality of health services and resources in affected areas. The survey included 342 primary health care centers (PHC) and 38 hospitals in several affected provinces: Rural Damascus, Homs, Hama, Idleb, Der El Zor, Dara’a, and Tartous. The first six provinces were selected to assess the effect of the current unrest on health services, while Tartous was selected to assess the degree of overburdened health facilities, due to high numbers of internal refugees from other affected provinces. It was found that about 43% of PHCs are partially functioning, and 2% of PHCs are nonfunctioning, 13% PHCs are inaccessible due distance of PHC from patients (50%, mostly in Idleb); lack of safety (34%, mostly in Homs and Hama); difficulties in public transportation (8%, mostly in Tartous) or temporary relocation of patients (2%) while only 50% of hospitals are fully functioning due to lack of staff, equipment and medicine. The report showed an urgent need for infant incubators in some hospitals, CT scans, Doppler, echography, anesthesia equipment, and ambulances. Antibiotics, anti-ulcer medication, sterilizers and antidotes are also urgently needed. The major obstacles are a lack of safety related to the current situation, long distances to hospitals, and difficulties in available public transportations (12.5%). These issues exist mainly in Rural Damascus, Daraa, Homs and Der El Zor provinces. The majority of PHCs and hospitals also count on the national water supply system as a main source of water (88%, 87%, respectively). A large proportion of PHCs have no available sanitation system (mostly in Hama, Der El Zor and Dara’a). Only one-tenth of PHCs have usable generators; the majority has usable blood pressure apparatuses (94%); Availability of nebulizers, fetoscopes and suction machines are 44%, 30% and 18%, respectively. This assessment is limited due security issues, the dynamic situation and the rapid escalation of the crisis, it is expected the needs are at larger scale after the recent escalation in the last 2 months. [7]

There is a need for a larger assessment and evaluation of health services in the affected areas. Prompt coordinated efforts and proactive solutions of health care services for displaced people are necessary in order to mitigate the serious and negative outcomes. Multiple interventions have been attempted by the WHO in response to the crisis including the distribution of surgical kits and equipment of mobile health units in Homs and rural Damascus. [7]

After the crisis: Post-conflict needs assessment

In the postcrisis phase, there will be an urgent need for a development process designed to examine and assess the health situation in the country using a holistic approach; one that encompasses the health sector, socioeconomic status, the determinants of health, and upstream national policies and strategies that have a major bearing on health.

Post-conflict needs assessments (PCNAs) are multilateral exercises that should be undertaken by the international organizations in collaboration with the national government of Syria. The Syrian International Coalition for Health with its affiliates (Syrian American Medical Society, Syrian British Medical Society, Middle East Critical Care Assembly and others) along with its experts and specialists will play a major role in the PCNAs and in the development and implementation of strategies and needed projects. PCNAs are increasingly used by national and international actors as an entry point for conceptualizing, negotiating and financing a common shared strategy for recovery and development in fragile, post-conflict settings. The PCNA includes both the assessment of needs and the national prioritization and costing of needs in an accompanying transitional results matrix. The assessment will evaluate the capacity and functionality of the health system in addition to the following points:

  • Complications and permanent disabilities for people with traumatic injuries and hearing impairment caused by explosions due to inappropriate follow-up and treatment.
  • Potential risks for women who went into labor as well as infants born during the crisis period associated with the lack of appropriate care during labor, delivery and postpartum.
  • Complications and excess mortality in patients with chronic diseases due to suspension of treatment and delayed access to health care.
  • Epidemic outbreaks of water and food-borne diseases due to limited access to clean water and sanitation and a weak public health surveillance system.
  • Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases due to interrupted vaccination programs.
  • Psychological trauma and mental health problems particularly upon children due to the effects of the conflict, ongoing insecurity and lack of protective factors.
  • Deterioration of health and nutritional status leading to increasing morbidity and mortality due to a further decline in socioeconomic and security conditions and in the quality of health care.
  • The extent of vulnerable groups (elderly, pregnant women, and children) or individuals who are severely affected by the emergency, having reduced coping mechanisms and limited access to appropriate services or support networks.
  • The magnitude of restricted access to specialized tertiary care.

The Syrian International Coalition for health is determined within its scope and limitation to do all what it is possible not to allow a repeat of what has happened in other countries of the region, namely a total collapse of existing health infrastructure and systems.

References Top
1. Syrian Arab Republic, Ministry of Health Statistics, 2009, Available from: http://www.moh.gov.sy/Default.aspx?tabid=337. [Last accessed on 2012 July 29]. Back to cited text no. 1
2. Syrian Arab Republic, Ministry of Health Statistics, 2009, Available from: http://www.who.int/nmh/countries/syr_en.pdf. [Last accessed on 2012 July 29]. Back to cited text no. 2
3. WHO, Global health Observatory Data Repository: Available from: http://apps.who.int/ghodata/?theme=country#. [Last accessed 2012 July 29] Back to cited text no. 3
4. Alsadat R, Dakak A, Mazlooms M, Ghadhban G, Fattoom S, Betelmal I, et al. Characteristics and outcome of critically ill patients with 2009 H1N1 influenza infection in Syria. Avicenna J Med 2012;2:34-7. Back to cited text no. 4
Medknow Journal
5. UNHCR, Syria Regional Refugee Response: Available from: http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/download.php?id=683 [Last accessed 2012 Sept 9]. Back to cited text no. 5
6. Al Faisal W, Al Saleh Y, Sen K. Syria: Public health achievements and sanctions. Lancet 2012;379:2241. Back to cited text no. 6
[PUBMED]
7. Word Health Organization, regional office of Eastern Mediterranean, Situation reports for the Syrian Arab Republic. Available from: http://www.emro.who.int/images/stories/eha/documents/Sitrep_7_for_the_Web.pdf. [Last accessed on 2012 July 29]. Back to cited text no. 7

Finally, the Republicans Are Afraid

For anyone who has lived through the past several decades of Republican bullying – from Richard Nixon’s anything-goes politics through Karl Rove’s dreams of a “permanent Republican majority” – it had to be startling to hear House Speaker John Boehner complaining that President Barack Obama’s goal was “to annihilate” the GOP.

During a private luncheon of the Republican Ripon Society on Tuesday, Boehner cited Obama’s progressive agenda as outlined in his Second Inaugural Address as representing an existential threat to the GOP.

“It’s pretty clear to me that he knows he can’t do any of that as long as the House is controlled by Republicans,” Boehner said. “So we’re expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party.” The Ohio Republican also claimed that it was Obama’s goal “to just shove us into the dustbin of history.”

Of course, Boehner may be wildly exaggerating the Republican plight to shock the party out of its funk, raise more money, and get right-wing activists back to the barricades. Still, his comments marked a remarkable reversal of fortune, like the playground bully getting his nose bloodied and running to the teacher in tears.

Even if hyped from political effect, Boehner’s lament also might force some progressives to rethink their negative views about President Obama. If indeed Obama has gotten the upper hand on America’s swaggering Right, then he might not be the political wimp that many on the Left have pegged him to be.

Without doubt, America’s political landscape has shifted from what it was just eight years ago when President George W. Bush was talking about using his political capital to privatize Social Security and Bush’s political guru, Karl Rove, was contemplating an enduring Republican control of all three branches of the U.S. government.

As part of that Zeitgeist of 2005, as Bush entered his second term, right-wing activist Grover Norquist joked about keeping the Democrats around as neutered farm animals. The president of Americans for Tax Reform – most famous for getting Republicans to pledge never to raise taxes – told the Washington Post that congressional Democrats should grow accustomed to having no power and no reproductive ability.

“Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans,” Norquist said. “Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant. But when they’ve been ‘fixed,’ then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful.”

How We Got There

That moment of right-wing arrogance represented a culmination of decades of hardball Republican politics, a take-no-prisoners style that usually encountered only the softest of responses from the Democrats and progressives.

Arguably the pattern was set in fall 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson learned that GOP presidential nominee Nixon was sabotaging the Vietnam peace talks to ensure his victory over Vice President Hubert Humphrey – but Johnson stayed silent about what he called Nixon’s “treason” out of concern that its exposure would not be “good for the country.” [See Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Nixon’s success in 1968 – and the Democratic silence – contributed to his decision several years later to create an extra-legal intelligence unit to spy on and undermine the Democrats heading into Election 1972. Finally, Nixon’s political chicanery undid him when his team of burglars was arrested inside the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate building. The resulting scandal led to his resignation in 1974.

But the Republican response to Watergate wasn’t to mend the party’s ways but rather to learn how to protect against ever again being held accountable. That reality became the political back story of the next three decades, as the Right built up a fearsome media apparatus and deployed well-funded operatives to shield Republicans and to discredit anyone who presented a threat, whether untamed Democrats, nosy reporters or average citizens.

This Right-Wing Machine showed off its value during the 1980s and early 1990s when President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush were caught up in the Iran-Contra national security scandal but succeeded in skating away with only minimal political damage. Instead of Reagan and Bush being held accountable for their crimes, far worse damage was inflicted on the careers of investigators, journalists and witnesses who tried to expose the wrongdoing.

Within this political/media framework, when Democrats did win elections, Republicans immediately demeaned them as illegitimate interlopers. For instance, Bill Clinton’s electoral victory in 1992 was an opportunity for the Right-Wing Machine to demonstrate that it could play offense as well as defense, tying up Clinton’s presidency endlessly in trivial “scandals” and setting the stage for the GOP congressional comeback in 1994.

Over those decades, the Republicans behaved as if national power was their birthright. In Election 2000, they saw nothing wrong with aggressively disrupting the recount in Florida, both with rioters on the ground and partisan justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. It didn’t matter that Vice President Al Gore had won the nation’s popular vote and would have carried Florida if all legal ballots were counted. What mattered was putting a Republican in the White House by whatever means necessary. [For details, see Neck Deep.]

The Republican Apex

After the 9/11 attacks, even as Democrats set aside partisan concerns to support President George W. Bush’s response to the crisis, Bush and the Republicans painted the Democrats as “soft on terror” and unpatriotic. The GOP did whatever it took to expand and solidify power.

In 2004, the Republicans and the Right went so far as to portray Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry as a fake Vietnam War hero. GOP activists even mocked his war wounds by passing out “Purple Heart Band-Aids” at the Republican National Convention.

Then, after Bush rode his post-9/11 reputation as a “war president” to a second term, Republican operatives like Rove and Norquist saw their moment for making their political power permanent, in effect turning the United States into a one-party state with the Democrats kept around for the necessary cosmetics of a “democracy.” The GOP would use its money, its media and its control of the judicial process to make successful electoral challenges unthinkable.

But 2005 instead turned out to be the GOP’s high-water mark, a time of premature celebration, the last moment of sunlight before the arrival of darkening clouds, or in this case, the American people’s realization that the Right’s anti-government extremism – mixed with the neocons’ imperialist wars – was a recipe for disaster.

Bush’s inept handling of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that it inflicted along the Gulf of Mexico showed the downside of a hollowed-out federal government. And the bloody stalemate in Iraq revealed the dangers of ill-conceived military adventures.

Bush’s tax-cutting and deregulation produced other harmful consequences, including soaring federal deficits, rising income inequality, an eroding middle class and an unstable “bubble” economy that finally burst in 2008. The electorate’s recognition of Bush’s failures led to Democratic victories, including Obama’s election as President.

Yet, despite the extraordinary national crisis that Bush left behind – millions of Americans losing their jobs and their homes as well as two unfinished wars – the Republicans refused to play the role of “loyal opposition.” They pulled out their successful playbook from the early Clinton years and confronted Obama with unrelenting hostility.

Once again, the obstructionist strategy worked at least in a narrow political sense. By mid-2009, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and other loud voices from the muscular Right-Wing Machine had whipped up a passionate Tea Party opposition to Obama, including crypto-racist allegations that the President was born in Kenya, despite the evidence of birth records in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, America’s weak and disorganized Left mostly complained that Obama hadn’t delivered on everything that he should have. For his part, Obama squandered valuable time reaching out for a bipartisanship that never came, and the mainstream news media faulted him anyway for failing to achieve that bipartisanship.

Getting Obama

So, the Right surged to electoral victories in 2010. Republicans reclaimed the House and seized control of many state governments. Senior Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, openly declared that their top priority would be to ensure Obama’s failure as President and his defeat in 2012. Part of the Republican strategy to reclaim national power was to disenfranchise blacks and other minorities by creating obstacle courses of legal impediments to voting, such as onerous voter ID laws and reduced hours.

Many top GOP operatives, including Rove, remained confident of success as late as Election Night 2012, expecting Mitt Romney to unseat Barack Obama. However, Democrats blocked many of the voter-suppression schemes and Obama marshaled an unprecedented coalition of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, women and the young to decisively defeat Romney.

In Congress, Democrats strengthened their control of the Senate and narrowed the Republican majority in the House. That GOP majority was retained only because Republicans had gerrymandered districts after the 2010 elections enabling the party to keep most seats despite losing the popular vote nationally.

During his Second Inaugural Address, Obama also made clear that he had finally forsaken the “inside game” of trying to sweet talk the Republicans into cooperation or negotiating from positions of weakness. Instead, Obama delivered a strong defense of American progressivism. He tied that tradition to the ideals of the Framers who wrote the Constitution with the intent of creating a vibrant Republic, a government of, by and for the people.

Obama’s speech and its warm reception apparently unnerved Speaker Boehner who suddenly saw something akin to an existential threat to the GOP. There were the painful election results, the nation’s shifting demographics, the newly assertive President, and hundreds of thousands of Americans again packing the Mall to celebrate Obama’s victory.

After his Inaugural Address as he stepped back into the U.S. Capitol, President Obama paused, turned around and looked back at the throngs of people waving American flags as far as the eye could see. He said wistfully, “I’m not going to see this again.”

From his seat in the Inaugural reviewing stands, Speaker Boehner saw the same impressive scene, and he may have grasped its implicit message. The large and diverse crowd personified the Obama coalition — and the mortal threat that it represents to traditional American politics, always dominated by white men of means.

Of course, the Republicans still have the Right-Wing Machine churning out propaganda to rally the party’s angry white-male base. Plus, the GOP is coming up with more new plans for minimizing the votes of black and brown people and maximizing the political clout of whites, such as a scheme in several states to apportion presidential electors based on the Republicans’ gerrymandered congressional districts.

But Boehner seems to sense that something fundamental has changed. Perhaps he was playacting a bit when he warned fellow Republicans that Obama hoped to “annihilate” the Republican Party. But – overdramatized or not – Boehner’s alarm suggests that finally it is the Republicans who are afraid.

Arab Elites Defend Economic Models that Gave Rise to Arab Spring, but Made Them...

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Bio

Raja Khalidi has spent most of his professional career with UNCTAD, where he is currently Chief, Office of the Director, Division on Globalization and Development Strategies. He holds a B.A. from Oxford University and M.Sc. from University of London SOAS. From 2000-2006, Mr. Khalidi was Coordinator of UNCTAD's Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian people, which combines the analytical and operational expertise of the UNCTAD secretariat in an integrated manner. His assignments at UNCTAD have also dealt with Debt and Development Finance, the global economic crisis and institutional development and strategic management reform. His own publications include a book on the dynamics of Arab regional economic development in Israel and contributions on Palestinian economic development issues to the Palestinian Encyclopedia, the Journal of Palestine Studies, edited volumes, as well as Jadaliya online and Palestinian, Israeli and international media. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.

We're continuing our interview with Raja Khalidi. He's at the UNCTAD in Geneva. That's the UN Conference on Trade and Development, where he's currently chief, Office of the Director, Division on Globalization and Development Strategies. He speaks here today with his own opinions, which are not necessarily those of UNCTAD.Thanks for joining us again.RAJA KHALIDI, SENIOR ECONOMIST, UNCTAD, GENEVA: Nice to be back.JAY: So let's just continue our discussion. As things unfold in Palestine and in the other countries in the Middle East—we can start with Palestine—there's a tremendous role being played by Qatar and Saudi Arabia in virtually all of the countries that had an Arab Spring. They're very involved in Syria, arming the opposition. They're doing this in cooperation with the United States. There also seems to be—Turkey seems to be part of this plan, at least as far as Syria goes. And when you look at what kind of Middle East they have in mind, I guess it's a reflection of what kind of countries Qatar and Saudi Arabia are, to a large extent, although some of these countries are going to have elections, and they're hoping the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power in these countries through the electoral process. But what kind of economies do they want to build?KHALIDI: Well, in the region, we haven't really seen from these new governments any significant change in their posture towards their economic—towards how they're going to go about resolving the economic problems that in some cases I suppose you could say brought them to power. In Tunis, perhaps less so than in Egypt (it's been more pronounced in Egypt), negotiations of the IMF led to a renewal of—we're not sure of all the details, but the renewal of some of the same conditionalities that perhaps in some—in our view, at least, led to or contributed to the buildup of the socioeconomic pressures that contributed to the whole uprisings of last year. We haven't seen governments yet adopt a different posture in terms of their dealings with the international community. And of course they want—you know, it's reasonable that these transitional situations, you don't want to scare off investors, you want to maintain whatever trade you've got set up as a result of, you know, many years of liberalization in all of these countries. So I don't think that there's, however, any realization yet among policymakers. I think there's a lot of discussion in the media among experts, even among international organizations, of the extent to which different policies are required, different, in some cases significantly, to those that characterize the regimes of the past 20 years [incompr.] But I don't see that trickling through to—seeping—you know, penetrating yet into any of the policymaking that we've seen among Arab governments in the last two years.JAY: I mean, the way it appears to me is you have Qatar and Saudi Arabia, together with Turkey, but especially in—other than Syria, it seems, mostly Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and then to a large extent Qatar, managing these Arab Spring revolutions from Libya to Egypt in a way that brings to power forces that will essentially carry on kind of neoliberal economic policy, so privatization and open the markets to foreign capital and such, except instead of being done, for example, in Egypt under the dictatorship of Mubarak, it's now going to be done with some kind of democratic form, but with the face—the face of it will be the Muslim Brotherhood, and perhaps not only in Egypt.KHALIDI: Look, I don't think the alliances that have been built so far between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries in general, and the new Muslim brethren dominated governments of Tunisia and Egypt are really predicated so much on the survival of an economic model. I think the survival and the endurance of the economic model comes from much deeper causes, in a sense.I mean, it's partly because you don't have policymakers in place who know anything else. This is the way that they've always dealt with the world, and they haven't yet internalized the extent to which the demands that continue to come up—and you've seen it even in the constitutional—in the current showdown between—in Egypt.The economic and social demands continue to be, you know, increasingly more urgently voiced in some cases, because, you know, nothing has been done to even indicate that a different approach is going to be taken to dealing with them. And so I think there's that. You know, I think the problem—what I'm trying to say is that the political alliances that you've mentioned are to do with other things. They're to do with ideology.JAY: Do you not think this is partly about the Arab Spring kind of let loose a lot of democratic forces whose demands were not just about political democracy but were also about more economic democracy, and wanted to question, you know, how is stuff owned and how is the wealth of the country distributed? And do they not want to keep a lid on that?KHALIDI: I don't think they're worried about that. I think they're just worried about losing power, to be honest. I'm talking about now the regimes who have yet to be challenged, the monarchies in particular. That's what their main concern is, and keeping a lid on the region as a whole. I don't think that when they've, you know, promoted, be it in Syria or in Egypt or Tunisia, political or other forces allied to them, it's been so much because they're assured that these people continue to run the same economic policies. I think the economic policies come along with other things. In Arab politics, the economics, you know, economic policies, of course it's important, and of course they want to maintain the models that have made them, you know, a lot of elites in the region very rich, you know, through illegitimate as well as other—you know, even sometimes sanction forms of pillaging, if you wish, of national resources. There's no doubt about that, that there are a lot of forces that want to keep that system in place and that know that this is being challenged widely.On the other hand, I think that, you know, at least in—money—in Saudi Arabia, at least, there was a major—and in some of the other Gulf countries, as the first Arab Spring, real—the original Arab Spring, if you want to call it that, erupted, by the summer of last year, of 2011, they had handed out some, I don't know, you know, at least $50 billion in extra payments, you know, transfer payments to households.So, you know, in a situation where you have no organized—either at the national level in many of these countries or regionally, not only no organized opposition, but there's no real leadership for the Arab Spring movements, if you wish. There are different contenders to the thrones or to that title, but in general this is still a very disparate movement, and each country has very different components, you know, constituents, and demands. So, you know, I don't think they need to worry too much about those demands turning into new pressure. I think the issues that are being—you know, that are being hotly debated are, unfortunately, to do with sectarianism, that sort of an—ethnic differences, and obviously, you know, political, constitutional liberties and all that as well. Those are determining the agendas of the political alliances of the region. The other thing I wanted to say, though, was that, you know, from the PLO's—you know, the perspective of the history of the PLO as a revolutionary movement in the region, which, you know, maybe it has—it is no longer, but it certainly was in the '60s and the '70s, into the '80s, one could say, you know, the PLO spent many years fending off Arab governments' intervention, to the extent that they actually officialized it by having an executive committee that had factions, you know, supported by Iraq, by Syria, etc. So it's nothing new to revolutionary movements in the region for governments, you know, regimes who, even if they're—these are not—you know, in the Palestinian case, it wasn't a revolutionary movement against the Arab regimes, but of course the Arab regimes, certainly at the time and for many years, wanted to make sure it didn't become one. So it was better for them to rally around and, one could argue, at different times divert, etc., the PLO's course that it would have—. And as a result of which, the issue of the independence of the Palestinian decision, which is something that Yasser Arafat, you know, was famous for, always reaffirming as a way of implying, I'm not subservient to any of the governments, etc., you know, it's something that even Mashal the other day, the head of Hamas in Gaza, reiterated.So what I wanted to make—the analogy, I think, that is pertinent is that the Arab uprisings, as I mentioned, without leaders clearly identified, without, you know, organization even to represent them in any way, are even at greater risk of intervention. And it's only natural that the governments of the region will want to suppress, divert, hijack, you know, ride the wave, whatever. And we're seeing it in some cases. But we're also seeing it continue in Egypt. And I think even in the Palestinian case we're seeing a continued popular, broad social base movement that is continuing to insist on the things that we've heard even, you know, from Tahrir in the very first months of this whole episode of the last two years.JAY: Okay. In the next segment of our interview we're going to talk more about Palestine. Please join us for the next segment 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.


Comments

Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at [email protected]

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Royal torture ring: Bahraini princess on trial

A Bahraini princess is in court for the torture of three pro-democracy activists in detention. The princess’s case is the latest in a string of cases of torture and violence has seen the light in a report issued by Bahraini opposition.

Princess Nora Bint Ebrahim al-Khalifa who serves in Bahrain’s Drugs Control Unit, allegedly collaborated with another officer to torture three activists held in detention following a pro-democracy rally against the island kingdom’s monarchy.

The princess categorically denies the charges of torture set against her.

Two of the princess’s alleged victims were Doctors Ghassan Daif and Bassem Daif, who went to help the hundreds wounded when police opened fire with teargas and birdshot during protests in 2011. They were taken into custody in March of that year when it is thought that al-Khalifa tortured them.

Ayat al-Qurmazi
Ayat al-Qurmazi

The third victim, 21-year-old Ayat al-Qurmazi, was arrested for public reading of inflammatory poetry criticizing the royal family. She claims her blindfold slipped while she was being tortured and she caught a glimpse of al-Khalifa.

As Muslim women have never before been known to take part in interrogations and tortures, Nora Al-Khalifa stands out as the grossest character in the human rights activists’ report, RT’s Nadezhda Kevorkova said.

Princess Nora’s case is the latest in a series of torture scandals highlighted in a report by the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights.

A 55-pages report titled ‘Citizens in the Grip of Torture’ is based on the nine interviews with named and anonymous witnesses. It was published both in English and Arabic.

The report states that two of the Bahraini King’s sons Nasser Bin Hammad Al-Khalifa and Khalid Bin Hammad Al-Khalifa, as well as two other members of the royal family, Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa and Nora Bint Ebrahim Al-Khalifa, directly took part in torturing the activists.

Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa (L), Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa (M), Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa (R). (Photos from Report: Citizens in the Grip of Torturers)
Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa (L), Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa (M), Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa (R). (Photos from Report: Citizens in the Grip of Torturers)

Torture stories include rare details that Muslims usually prefer to shun for ethical reasons, Bahraini opposition activists told Kevorkova.

After getting numerous letters from torture victims who mentioned the four members of the royal family among the arresters and torturers, the report’s authors decided it was vital to get an investigation going, RT’s Kevorkova said.

Included in the report are short CVs of those four members of the Bahrain’s royal family accused of human rights violations.

Nasser Bin Hamad, the fourth son of the King Hamad, is a colonel and commander of Bahrain’s royal guard. Bin Hamad, his 23-year-old brother, has also held a number of senior positions despite his young age and is married to Saudi Arabian King’s daughter.

The other two Al-Khalifas directly responsible for cases of torture and violence as stated in the report are Colonel Khalifa Bin Ahmed, a high-ranking police officer dismissed from his post in September 2011, and Lieutenant Nora Bint Ebrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain’s Drug Enforcement Administration.

Tortured for reading verses

Poet Ayat Al-Qurmozy was arrested in March 2011 after reciting a poem against the Bahraini regime during a peaceful demonstration in Pearl Roundabout. She was detained by masked men dressed in civilian clothing. On her release, al-Qurmozy told of tortures used on her by both men and women. One of the women involved was identified as Nora al-Khalifa.

The report states that Nora spat on al-Qurmozy and into her mouth, slapped her in the face repeatedly, administered electric shocks and shouted anti-Shia slurs.

On the eighth day of her arrest, al-Qurmozy was brought blindfolded into a room full of men, documents the report. They shouted abuse at her and demanded she tell them by whom she was given the verses and how much she was paid for reading them.

“I was surprised by a woman grabbing me and slapping me hard in the face… When she was screaming, cursing and slapping me hard on my face, the blindfold came down off my eyes and I saw her face a bit but they rushed to lift it,” al-Qurmozy later said, as cited in the report.

Al-Qurmozy was then brutally beaten, and Nora gave her electric shocks every time she lost consciousness, the report says. After that Nora allegedly went on torturing the young poet every night, beating her on the face and spitting on her every time she found her without a blindfold.

Threatened by rape, the poet girl was forced to confess to her ‘guilt’ in front of a camera. But her torture continued after al-Qurmozy was thrown into a car, the report says, elaborating on how Nora slapped her on the head, threatened to cut out her tongue, spat and put a wooden bathroom broom into her mouth and beat her continually. All these abuses were witnessed by another arrested woman, Jalila Salman, who was put in the same car.

Tortured for taking part in demonstration

Sheikh Mohammad Habib al-Mekdad, president of Zahraa Association for Orphans, was arrested at home in April 2011 by a group of 50-60 people wearing civilian clothes and masks. He was still in detention at the time of the report.

Mohammed Habib Al Mekdad
Mohammed Habib Al Mekdad

Al-Mekdad was stripped naked and beaten, and then put in pitch-dark prison cell, where he was continually tortured, the report says. According to al-Mekdad, he was hung head down, beaten for hours, and had sensitive body parts exposed to electric shock.

Prince Nasser Bin Hamad came to interrogate al-Mekdad and other detainees, making sure they recognized him before their questioning, the report says. On learning that al-Mekdad took part in a Safriya protest march in front of the Bahraini king’s palace, where some people shouted “Down with King Hamad,” the prince began beating him.

Prince Nasser then supervised the torture in person, Al-Mekdad said at the February 2012 court trial according to the report. There he showed more than 50 electric shock traces on his body and told the judge he was tortured by a drill piercing his leg and humiliated by spitting in his mouth. Prince Nasser forced al-Mekdad to kiss pictures of the royal family in between the torture sessions.

None of these words were taken down in the court, and the judge asked al-Mekdad to remain silent, saying that “this court has its respect,” the report states.

Tortured for SMS

This is what happens in Bahrain if the king’s son finds a suspicious SMS in your phone, RT’s Kevorkova said, citing the story of the man speaking on condition of anonymity.

According to the report, the man was stopped at a checkpoint near Safriya Palace in May 2011 while driving in a car with his wife and children. He recognized one of the patrolmen as Prince Khalid Bin Hamad. Unsatisfied with the fact that nothing was found in the car, the prince started searching through text messages on the man’s phone, and found an old SMS on the Pearl Roundabout demonstration.

The prince then ordered the man’s brother be called to take the woman and children home, but on his arrival both were arrested, the report says. They were thrown to the ground, beaten and forced “to repeat the royal greeting,” with Khalid Bin Hamad ordering to beat them again for every royal family member’s name they didn’t know.

The men were also forced to eat hot chili peppers and insult some opposition figures. The reports states that the police has also started beating the men on coming to the scene.

Both were sentenced to 60 days in prison and dismissed from their jobs.

Another man cited in the report was also arrested at a checkpoint after policemen noticed his car was parked near Pearl Roundabout and took the car’s number down.

For that he was put in al-Qalaa prison and tortured daily with the use of special devices and techniques, including chaining, limb piercing and beating with clubs, the report claims. He was also deprived of sleep and his religious practices, the report adds.

Prince Nasser Bin Hamad allegedly supervised the man’s torture, which was carried out by foreigners.

“This is not Iran, we came to you from Iraq, and we are Saddamists,” they shouted as they tortured him, according to the report.

The man was cited as saying that his friend Karim Fakhrawi, who was also detained, died during one such torture session.

RT sent a letter to Bahraini Information Affairs Authority last week asking for the comment on the report, but has so far not received an answer.

­RT's Nadezhda Kevorkova contributed to this report

Royal torture ring: Bahraini princess on trial

A Bahraini princess is in court for the torture of three pro-democracy activists in detention. The princess’s case is the latest in a string of cases of torture and violence has seen the light in a report issued by Bahraini opposition.

Princess Nora Bint Ebrahim al-Khalifa who serves in Bahrain’s Drugs Control Unit, allegedly collaborated with another officer to torture three activists held in detention following a pro-democracy rally against the island kingdom’s monarchy.

The princess categorically denies the charges of torture set against her.

Two of the princess’s alleged victims were Doctors Ghassan Daif and Bassem Daif, who went to help the hundreds wounded when police opened fire with teargas and birdshot during protests in 2011. They were taken into custody in March of that year when it is thought that al-Khalifa tortured them.

Ayat al-Qurmazi
Ayat al-Qurmazi

The third victim, 21-year-old Ayat al-Qurmazi, was arrested for public reading of inflammatory poetry criticizing the royal family. She claims her blindfold slipped while she was being tortured and she caught a glimpse of al-Khalifa.

As Muslim women have never before been known to take part in interrogations and tortures, Nora Al-Khalifa stands out as the grossest character in the human rights activists’ report, RT’s Nadezhda Kevorkova said.

Princess Nora’s case is the latest in a series of torture scandals highlighted in a report by the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights.

A 55-pages report titled ‘Citizens in the Grip of Torture’ is based on the nine interviews with named and anonymous witnesses. It was published both in English and Arabic.

The report states that two of the Bahraini King’s sons Nasser Bin Hammad Al-Khalifa and Khalid Bin Hammad Al-Khalifa, as well as two other members of the royal family, Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa and Nora Bint Ebrahim Al-Khalifa, directly took part in torturing the activists.

Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa (L), Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa (M), Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa (R). (Photos from Report: Citizens in the Grip of Torturers)
Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa (L), Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa (M), Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa (R). (Photos from Report: Citizens in the Grip of Torturers)

Torture stories include rare details that Muslims usually prefer to shun for ethical reasons, Bahraini opposition activists told Kevorkova.

After getting numerous letters from torture victims who mentioned the four members of the royal family among the arresters and torturers, the report’s authors decided it was vital to get an investigation going, RT’s Kevorkova said.

Included in the report are short CVs of those four members of the Bahrain’s royal family accused of human rights violations.

Nasser Bin Hamad, the fourth son of the King Hamad, is a colonel and commander of Bahrain’s royal guard. Bin Hamad, his 23-year-old brother, has also held a number of senior positions despite his young age and is married to Saudi Arabian King’s daughter.

The other two Al-Khalifas directly responsible for cases of torture and violence as stated in the report are Colonel Khalifa Bin Ahmed, a high-ranking police officer dismissed from his post in September 2011, and Lieutenant Nora Bint Ebrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain’s Drug Enforcement Administration.

Tortured for reading verses

Poet Ayat Al-Qurmozy was arrested in March 2011 after reciting a poem against the Bahraini regime during a peaceful demonstration in Pearl Roundabout. She was detained by masked men dressed in civilian clothing. On her release, al-Qurmozy told of tortures used on her by both men and women. One of the women involved was identified as Nora al-Khalifa.

The report states that Nora spat on al-Qurmozy and into her mouth, slapped her in the face repeatedly, administered electric shocks and shouted anti-Shia slurs.

On the eighth day of her arrest, al-Qurmozy was brought blindfolded into a room full of men, documents the report. They shouted abuse at her and demanded she tell them by whom she was given the verses and how much she was paid for reading them.

“I was surprised by a woman grabbing me and slapping me hard in the face… When she was screaming, cursing and slapping me hard on my face, the blindfold came down off my eyes and I saw her face a bit but they rushed to lift it,” al-Qurmozy later said, as cited in the report.

Al-Qurmozy was then brutally beaten, and Nora gave her electric shocks every time she lost consciousness, the report says. After that Nora allegedly went on torturing the young poet every night, beating her on the face and spitting on her every time she found her without a blindfold.

Threatened by rape, the poet girl was forced to confess to her ‘guilt’ in front of a camera. But her torture continued after al-Qurmozy was thrown into a car, the report says, elaborating on how Nora slapped her on the head, threatened to cut out her tongue, spat and put a wooden bathroom broom into her mouth and beat her continually. All these abuses were witnessed by another arrested woman, Jalila Salman, who was put in the same car.

Tortured for taking part in demonstration

Sheikh Mohammad Habib al-Mekdad, president of Zahraa Association for Orphans, was arrested at home in April 2011 by a group of 50-60 people wearing civilian clothes and masks. He was still in detention at the time of the report.

Mohammed Habib Al Mekdad
Mohammed Habib Al Mekdad

Al-Mekdad was stripped naked and beaten, and then put in pitch-dark prison cell, where he was continually tortured, the report says. According to al-Mekdad, he was hung head down, beaten for hours, and had sensitive body parts exposed to electric shock.

Prince Nasser Bin Hamad came to interrogate al-Mekdad and other detainees, making sure they recognized him before their questioning, the report says. On learning that al-Mekdad took part in a Safriya protest march in front of the Bahraini king’s palace, where some people shouted “Down with King Hamad,” the prince began beating him.

Prince Nasser then supervised the torture in person, Al-Mekdad said at the February 2012 court trial according to the report. There he showed more than 50 electric shock traces on his body and told the judge he was tortured by a drill piercing his leg and humiliated by spitting in his mouth. Prince Nasser forced al-Mekdad to kiss pictures of the royal family in between the torture sessions.

None of these words were taken down in the court, and the judge asked al-Mekdad to remain silent, saying that “this court has its respect,” the report states.

Tortured for SMS

This is what happens in Bahrain if the king’s son finds a suspicious SMS in your phone, RT’s Kevorkova said, citing the story of the man speaking on condition of anonymity.

According to the report, the man was stopped at a checkpoint near Safriya Palace in May 2011 while driving in a car with his wife and children. He recognized one of the patrolmen as Prince Khalid Bin Hamad. Unsatisfied with the fact that nothing was found in the car, the prince started searching through text messages on the man’s phone, and found an old SMS on the Pearl Roundabout demonstration.

The prince then ordered the man’s brother be called to take the woman and children home, but on his arrival both were arrested, the report says. They were thrown to the ground, beaten and forced “to repeat the royal greeting,” with Khalid Bin Hamad ordering to beat them again for every royal family member’s name they didn’t know.

The men were also forced to eat hot chili peppers and insult some opposition figures. The reports states that the police has also started beating the men on coming to the scene.

Both were sentenced to 60 days in prison and dismissed from their jobs.

Another man cited in the report was also arrested at a checkpoint after policemen noticed his car was parked near Pearl Roundabout and took the car’s number down.

For that he was put in al-Qalaa prison and tortured daily with the use of special devices and techniques, including chaining, limb piercing and beating with clubs, the report claims. He was also deprived of sleep and his religious practices, the report adds.

Prince Nasser Bin Hamad allegedly supervised the man’s torture, which was carried out by foreigners.

“This is not Iran, we came to you from Iraq, and we are Saddamists,” they shouted as they tortured him, according to the report.

The man was cited as saying that his friend Karim Fakhrawi, who was also detained, died during one such torture session.

RT sent a letter to Bahraini Information Affairs Authority last week asking for the comment on the report, but has so far not received an answer.

­RT's Nadezhda Kevorkova contributed to this report

Criticism grows of France war on Mali

Criticism has grown of France’s rush to war in Mali without clear international approval, Press TV reports.

On January 11, France launched a war under the pretext of halting the advance of fighters in Mali.

Some political analysts believe that Mali’s abandoned natural resources, including gold and uranium reserves, could be one of the reasons behind the French war.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned that the war in Mali could leave at least 700,000 people homeless.

On Thursday, France 24 Editor in Chief, Atmane Tazaghart told Press TV that “If France try to occupy Mali with a long ground operation, they will find themselves in the same situation that the Americans found themselves in Afghanistan and Iraq, they will be in a war of attrition against an enemy which can easily attack and then hide among the local population.”

This comes after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday the United Nations would not be engaged in France’s war on Mali.


"Directly assisting offensive military actions would also place our civilian personnel in the region in jeopardy. I take this issue very seriously," Ban said.

On Monday, the political opposition in France also expressed regret over the country’s “isolation” and lack of “clear objectives” in the war on Mali, calling on the French government to clarify the goals of the war.

Chaos broke out in Mali after President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a military coup on March 22, 2012. The coup leaders said they mounted the coup in response to the government's inability to contain the Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country, which had been going on for two months.

MAM/HN

Erdogan sacks 4 ministers

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed his interior minister Idris Naim Shahin due to his improper description of the death of 34 civilians in an airstrike launched against Kurdish separatists along Iraqi border in 2011.

Former governor of Istanbul Muammer Guler is reported to be successor-in-waiting to Shahin after Thursday’s move. The education, health, and tourism ministers were also replaced on Thursday.

Sahin came under fire after he described the 2011 deaths of civilians as an “experience” for Turkish security forces.

The reshuffle coincides with the start of a fresh round of peace talks between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to end nearly three decades of conflict.

The Turkish government and the PKK recently agreed on a peace roadmap under which Turkey would grant wider rights to the 15-million-strong Kurds.

The Kurdish fighters demand that Turkey recognize Kurdish identity in its new Constitution. They also want the release of hundreds of activists imprisoned for links to the PKK.

The PKK has been fighting for an autonomous Kurdish region inside Turkey since the 1980s.

Clashes between Turkish forces and PKK fighters have intensified in recent months.

KA/HN

“محو الدول عن الخارطة”: من ذا الذي يفشل “الدول الفاشلة”ØŸ

 

البروفيسور ميشيل شوسودوفسكي

ترجمة: علي شكري

“ثمة شائعة خطيرة يجري تداولها حول العالم ويمكنها أن تفضي إلى عواقب خطيرة، مفادها أن الرئيس الإيراني قد هدد بتدمير إسرائيل، أو، طبقاً للعبارة الملفقة المنسوبة إليه “يجب محو إسرائيل من على الخارطة”. وخلافاً للاعتقاد الشائع، فإن هذا العبارة لم ترد إطلاقاً على لسانه” (أراش نوروزي، المحو عن الخارطة: شائعة العصر كانون الثاني/يناير 2007)

لقد هاجمت الولايات المتحدة، على نحو مباشر أو غير مباشر، نحو 44 بلداً في العالم منذ العام 1945، بل إنها هاجمت بعضها على نحو متكرر. وكان الهدف المعلن لتلك التدخلات العسكرية إحداث “تغيير في نظام الحكم”. وفي كل الحالات كانت تستخدم ذرائع “الديمقراطية” و”حقوق الإنسان” لتبرير تلك الأعمال الأحادية غير القانونية. (البروفيسور إريك واندل، حملة الولايات المتحدة الصليبية (1945 – )، غلوبال ريسيرتش، شباط/فبراير 2007)

هذه مذكرة [للبنتاغون] تصف كيف سنقوم باجتياح سبعة بلدان خلال خمس سنوات، بدءاً بالعراق ثم سورية، لبنان، ليبيا، الصومال، السودان، وانتهاءاً بإيران. قلت هل هي سرية للغاية؟ قال “نعم يا سيدي”، فقلت إذن لا ترني إياها.” (الجنرال ويسلي كلارك، ديموكراسي ناو، 2 آذار/مارس، 2007)

* * * * * *

إن واشنطن هي بصدد تدمير قائمة طويلة جداً من البلدان.

فمن ذا الذي يمارس “محو البلدان من على الخارطة” إذن؟ إيران أم الولايات المتحدة؟

 خلال الفترة التي تسمى من قبيل الكياسة “حقبة ما بعد الحرب”—والتي تمتد من العام 1945 وحتى الآن— شنت الولايات المتحدة هجمات عسكرية مباشرة أو غير مباشرة على أكثر من 40 بلداً.

وفيما تقوم السياسة الخارجية الأمريكية على مبدأ نشر الديمقراطية، فإن النزعة التدخلية الأمريكية –بالوسائل العسكرية والعمليات السرية—أدت إلى إشاعة عدم الاستقرار وتمزيق وحدة دول ذات سيادة.

إن تدمير الدول جزء من المشروع الإمبريالي لبسط هيمنتها العالمية. وطبقاً للمصادر الرسمية، فإن لدى الولايات المتحدة 737 قاعدة عسكرية خارج حدودها. (إحصائية 2005)

مصطلح “الدول الفاشلة”

“يتوقع” تقرير التوجهات العالمية (كانون الأول/ديسمبر 2012) الصادر عن مجلس الاستخبارات القومي في واشنطن NIC، أن تتحول 15 دولة في أفريقيا وآسيا والشرق الأوسط إلى “دول فاشلة” بحلول العام 2030 كنتيجة للمنازعات المحتملة والمعضلات البيئية.

وتشمل قائمة البلدان في تقرير المجلس للعام 2012 كلاً من أفغانستان، النيجر، مالي، كينيا، بوروندي، إثيوبيا، راوندا، الصومال، جمهورية الكونغو الديمقراطية، ملاوي، هايتي، اليمن. (انظر ص 39)

وفي تقريرها للعام 2005 والذي نشر عشية التجديد للولاية الثانية للرئيس جورج بوش، توقع مجلس الاستخبارات القومي أن تصبح الباكستان دوبة فاشلة بحلول العام 2015 “تحت تأثير الحرب الأهلية والطلبنة والصراع من أجل السيطرة على الأسلحة النووية.

وقورنت الحالة الباكستانية وقتها بيوغسلافيا التي تشظت إلى سبع دول تابعة بعد عقد من “الحروب الأهلية” التي رعاها وأدارها الناتو والولايات المتحدة.

وتوقعت NIC أن تتحول الباكستان إلى دولة شبيهة بيوغسلافيا تمزقها الحروب الأهلية وحمامات الدم والصراعات الإفليمية (إينرجي كومباس 2 آذار/مارس 2005).

وفيما يشير إلى أن الدول الفاشلة تصبح ملاذاً آمناً للمتطرفين دينياً وسياسياً (ص 143)، فإن التقرير لا يعترف بحقيقة أن الولايات المتحدة وحلفاءها قد دأبت منذ السبعينات من القرن الماضي على تقديم الدعم السري لقوى التطرف الديني كوسيلة لزعزعة استقرار دول وطنية علمانية. فكلا اليلدين باكستان وأفغانستان كان علمانياً خلال السبعينات.

الدول الفاشلة من الطراز اليوغسلافي أو الصومالي ليست نتيجة للانفسامات الاجتماعية الداخلية، بل هي هدف استراتيجي تم تحقيقه عبر العمليات السرية بما في ذلك العسكرية.

يقوم صندوق السلام Fund for Peace في واشنطون المتخصص في “الأبحاث من أجل الأمن المستدام” سنوياً بنشر مؤشر الدول الفاشلة Failed States Index بالاستناد إلى تقييم المخاطر (انظر الخارطة). ثمة 33 دولة جرى تصنيفها كدول فاشة (ضمن فئتي الإنذار Alert أو التنبيه Warn).

ووفقاً لصندوق السلام، فإن “الدول الفاشلة” هي أهداف للإرهابيين المرتبطين بالقاعدة.

ويأتي التصنيف التراتبي السنوي لصندوق السلام ومجلة فورين بوليسي للدول الفاشلة والهشة بمؤشرات عالمية مثيرة للقلق في وقت تتصاعد فيه المخاوف الدولية من إقامة المتطرفين المرتبطين بالقاعدة دويلة حاضنة في شمال مالي لتوسيع نشاطاتهم الجهادية.

وبطبيعة الحال، لم يشر التفرير إلى تاريخ القاعدة بوصفها أداة استخبارية أمريكية أو إلى دورها في نشر الانقسامات والاضطرابات في الشرق الأوسط وآسيا الوسطى وأفريقيا، حيث تشكل نشاطاتها في معظم هذه المناطق جزءاً من الأجندات الاستخبارية السرية الشيطانية.

الدول الضعيفة والفاشلة: تهديد لأمريكا

بمنطق ملتوٍ، يزعم الكونغرس الأمريكي أن الدول الفاشلة الضعيفة إنما تمثل تهديداً لأمن الولايات المتحدة. وتتضمن هذه “عدداً من التهديدات الصادرة عن دول توصف بدرجات متفاوتة كدول ضعيفة، هشة، واهنة، غير مستقرة، مضطربة، فاشلة، مأزومة، أو منهارة“.

عندما انتهت الحرب الباردة في مطلع التسعينات، لاحظ المحللون تشكل بيئة جديدة للأمن الدولي تصبح فيها الدول الفاشلة والضعيفة منصات للجريمة المنظمة العابرة للحدود، وانتشار المواد والتكنولوجيا النووية، وبؤراً ساخنة للمنازعات الأهلية والأزمات الإنسانية. وأصبحت احتمالات المخاطر التي تمثلها الدول الفاشلة والضعيفة أكثر وضوحاً مع هجوم القاعدة في 11 أيلول/سبتمبر 2001 على الولايات المتحدة التي دبرها أسامة بن لادن من ملاذه الآمن الذي وفرته له أفغانستان. وقد دفعت أحداث 11/9 الرئيس جورج دبليو بوش إلى الزعم (في وثيقة استراتيجية الأمن القومي الأمريكي للعام 2002) بأن “الدول الضعيفة، مثل أفغانستان، يمكن أن تمثل خطراً على مصالحنا القومية لا يقل عما تمثله الدول القوية.” (الدول الضعيفة والفاشلة: المخاطر المتنامية والسياسة الأمريكية، تقرير مركز خدمات أبحاث الكونغرس CRS إلى الكونغرس، واشنطن 2008)

ما أغفله تقرير مركز خدمات أبحاث الكونغرس هو أن “البؤر النشطة للجريمة المنظمة والنزاعات الأهلية” إنما هي ناتجة عن العمليات الاستخبارية السرية الأمريكية.

 من الحقائق الموثقة جيداً، أن اقتصاد المخدرات الأفغاني الذي ينتج أكثر من 90% من إجمالي الإنتاج العالمي من الهيروين يتشابك مع عمليات تبييض أموال بالمليارات تشارك فيها كبرى المؤسسات المالية العالمية. وتحظى تجارة المخدرات الأفغانية بحماية الـCIA وقوات الاحتلال الأطلسي في ذلك البلد.

تصنيف سورية كـ”بلد فاشل”

تهيء الفظائع التي ارتكبت بحق الشعب السوري من قبل الجيش السوري الحر المدعوم أمريكياً وأطلسياً الشروط الضرورية لحرب طائفية. ومن شأن التطرف الطائفي تحطيم سورية كدولة وطنية واضمحلال السلطة المركزية في دمشق.

إن هدف السياسة الخارجية لواشنطن هو تحويل سورية إلى ما يسميه المجلس الاستخباري القومي الأمريكي NIC “بلداً فاشلاً”. فتغيير النظام يعني المحافظة على وجود سلطة مركزية، ولكن تطور الأزمة السورية يشي بأن “تغيير النظام” لم يعد هو الهدف، بل تقسيم وتدمير سورية كدولة وطنية.

فالاستراتيجية الأمريكية-الأطلسية-الإسرائيلية تقوم على تقسيم البلاد إلى ثلاث دول ضعيفة. حيث نجد أن آخر التقارير الإخبارية تزعم إنه “إذا رفض بشار الأسد التنازل عن السلطة” فإن “البديل سيكون بلداً فاشلاً كالصومال.”

أحد السيناريوهات المحتملة للتقسيم والذي جاء في تقرير صحفي إسرائيلي، يتضمن دويلات “مستقلة” سنية وعلوية-شيعية وكردية ودرزية.

فبحسب الجنرال في الجيش الإسرائيلي يائير غولان فإن “سورية هي في حرب أهلية ستنتهي بها دولة فاشلة يزدهر فيها الإرهاب.” ويضيف الجنرال غولان بأن الجيش الإسرائيلي يقوم حالياً بتحليل “الكيفية التي ستتشظى بها سورية” (رويترز 31 أيار/مايو، 2012)

في شهر تشرين الثاني/نوفمبر الماضي، صرح مبعوث السلام الأممي الاخضر الابراهيمي بأن سورية قد تتحول إلى “صومال أخرى”، …”محذراً من سيناريو تملأ فيه المليشيات وأمراء الحرب الفراغ الذي سيخلفه انهيار سلطة الدولة.” (رويترز 22 تشرين الثاني/نوفمبر، 2012)

“ما أخشاه هو الأسوء …انهيار الدولة وتحول سورية إلى صومال أخرى.”

“أعتقد بأنه ما لم يتم التعامل مع القضية بشكل صحيح، فإن الخطر هو “الصوملة” وليس التقسيم؛ انهيار الدولة وبروز أمراء الحرب والميليشيات والجماعات المقاتلة.” (المصدر السابق)

بيد أن المبعوث الأممي للسلام لم يشر إلى حقيقة أن تحطيم الصومال كان عملاً مدبراً. لقد كان جزءاً من خطة عسكرية واستخبارية أمريكية سرية، يعاد تطبيقها حالياً في عدد من البلدان المستهدفة في الشرق الأوسط وأفريقيا وآسيا والتي تصنف كـ”بلدان فاشلة”.

السؤال المركزي هو: من ذا الذي يُفشل الدول فيجعلها فاشلة؟ من الذي “يمحيها عن الوجود”؟

إن التفتيت المدبر لسورية كدولة ذات سيادة لهو جزء متكامل من خطة عسكرية واستخبارية تشمل أيضاً كلاً من لبنان وإيران وباكستان. فبحسب “تنبؤات” المجلس القومي للاستخبارات [الأمريكية]، فإن تفتيت باكستان مخطط للإنجاز خلال السنوات الثلاث المقبلة.

CODEPINK Protester Disrupts Kerry Nomination Hearing; Calls for an End to US Aid to...

WASHINGTON - January 24 - During Senator Kerry’s Secretary of State nomination hearing, 19-year-old Lachelle Roddy from Tampa, Florida, a student of Hollins University and a staffer in the CODEPINK Washington DC office, spoke out and demanded an end to US military aid to Israel and a halt to belligerent US policies towards the entire Middle East region. “We’re killing thousands of people in the Middle East who are not a threat to us. When is it going to be enough? When are enough people going to be killed? I’m tired of my friends in the Middle East not knowing if they’re going to live to see the next day!”

After she spoke, Senator Kerry acknowledged her sentiments and said that people around the world “measure what we do,” hopefully signaling the possibility of a change in American foreign policy during the next administration.

With inaugural weekend over and the next term off to a start, CODEPINK and other activists groups are calling on the President and Congress to pursue a peace platform, which includes ending the proliferation and use of killer drones, and halting US military aid to Israel which is being used to oppress the Palestinians.

Roddy was arrested is currently being held by Capitol Police, and will be available later for interviews. Please contact Alli McCracken in the CODEPINK DC office to schedule them at 860 575 5692.

CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. CODEPINK rejects foreign policies based on domination and aggression, and instead calls for policies based on diplomacy, compassion and a commitment to international law. With an emphasis on joy and humor, CODEPINK women and men seek to activate, amplify and inspire a community of peacemakers through creative campaigns and a commitment to non-violence.

Turks Rally Against NATO Missile Deployment Near Syrian Border

Part of the NATO Patriot anti-missile complexes, which were requested by Ankara from the Alliance, has already arrived in Turkey. They are planned to be deployed near the border with Syria, ostensibly to protect Turkey against possible missile attacks from the Syrian side.

Anti-missile complexes will be also located in the southeastern province of Kahramanmarash. Contrary to the authorities’ assertions that Patriots will only carry out defensive tasks, locals have serious concerns about their safety.

“We strongly object to the deployment of the NATO military facilities in the territory of Turkey since this exacerbates our relations with our neighbors, which were at an excellent level only 10 years ago. We went through that in 1991, when the missiles were deployed in Incirlik. Then, too, it was asserted that they were destined exclusively for defensive purposes. However, this did not prevent full-scale and unreasonable bombings of Iraq”, Esat Shengul, head of the regional branch of the main opposition Republican People’s Party said to the Voice of Russia.

In his opinion, the deployment of Patriots is part of the American Greater Middle East project, aimed at providing free access to energy resources.

Head of the local branch of the Nationalist Movement Party Mustafa Bastirmaji agrees with Shengul. “The West is trying to cause a clash between the peoples of the region. Moreover, it tries to unleash a Sunni-Shiite war in the region. Elements of such a confrontation are already evident in Syria. Later Iran’s turn will come. And it is scary to imagine what will happen then. We do not want it”, the politician stated in an interview with the Voice of Russia.

Turkish activists rally against NATO’s Patriot deployment

Turks have rallied against the NATO deployment of Patriot missiles on the country’s soil, media report.

Some 150 leftists and right-wing activists lit smoke bombs and burned an American flag outside the port area as dozens of camouflaged German military vehicles carrying Patriot batteries were offloaded in Iskenderun.

Another rally in downtown Iskenderun later gathered thousands of anti-NATO protesters, who chanted “Yankee go home!” and “Murderer America, get out of the Middle East!”

Some protesters said the root of evil was the “collaborationist government,” and not Syria. Riot police arrested several demonstrators.

Can Iran make a difference in Syria? Russia says ‘yes’

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, speaks during the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly September 26, 2012 at UN headquarters in New York. (AFP Photo/Stan Honda)

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, speaks during the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly September 26, 2012 at UN headquarters in New York. (AFP Photo/Stan Honda)

Russia’s deputy foreign minister has called on the international community to give Tehran a chance to participate in ending the crisis in Syria.

­Moscow is confident that the Islamic Republic of Iran “can and must play a positive role” in finding a political way to reverse the conflict in Syria, Gennady Gatilov told reporters on Thursday.

"We think it unacceptable to ignore Tehran's potential,” he emphasized. “We spoke about [Iran’s participation] before the first meeting in Geneva.”

Since March 15, 2011, Syria has been involved in a civil war between forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and a militant political opposition. Russia has been advocating a diplomatic solution to the bloodshed in an effort to avoid another “Libyan scenario,” referring to the West’s military intervention in Libya, which Russia harshly criticized.

Despite a crippling economic sanctions regime against Iran over its failure to cooperate with UN nuclear inspectors, Moscow is convinced that Tehran, given its strong relationship with the Assad regime, may hold the key for a solution to the Syrian crisis.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the violence nearly two years ago.

To date, international mediators have been unable to get the warring sides to honor a ceasefire and enter into negotiations.

Russia is convinced Iran could play a constructive role in breaking the stalemate.

"We should involve the Iranians rather than isolate them; they are an important element in the architecture of regional security," Gatilov noted. "Moreover, we have a strong impression that Iran is ready to make a constructive contribution to resolving the crisis.”

Syria, which is often referred to as Iran’s closest ally, sided with Tehran in the eight-year Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), and the two countries have remained partners ever since.

It remains to be seen, however, how the international community will respond to any cooperation in Syria by Iran, which continues to attract suspicion over its alleged nuclear weapons program.

Tehran rejects the accusations, saying it is developing its nuclear potential in order to provide energy needs for its civilian sector.

Robert Bridge, RT

Military Contracting: Our New Era of Corporate Mercenaries

Private military contracting has ballooned into an industry worth more than $100bn a year. (Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)In early 1995, Sierra Leone was on the brink of collapse. A violent civil war had ravaged the country, leaving thousands dead and countless others wounded. The insurgent rebels, infamous for recruiting child soldiers, were just weeks from the beleaguered capital, Freetown, and appeared unassailable.

Several months later, however, the tide had turned: the government's authority was strengthened, rebel forces were repelled, and control over the country's major economic assets was restored. Executive Outcomes, a private military contractor armed with helicopters and state of the art artillery, helped change the course of the war.

Nearly every tool necessary to wage war can now be purchased: combat support, including the ability to conduct large-scale operations and surgical strikes; operational support, like training and intelligence gathering; and general support, like transportation services and paramedical assistance. The demand for these services, in turn, has ballooned: the gross revenue for the private military contractor industry is now in excess of $100bn a year.

The privatization of conflict is no longer a trend. It's the norm.

The United States relied so heavily on contractors during the recent Iraq war that no one knows with certainty how many were on the ground. In late 2010, the United Arab Emirates, fearful that the Arab uprisings might spread to the Gulf, paid Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide, $529m to create an elite force to safeguard the emirate. And today, Russia is openly considering forming a cadre of private military contractors to further its interests abroad.

Yet, the laws that govern this industry tell a different story. Instead of a transnational system with meaningful collaboration, we have a patchwork of state laws that allow companies to forum-shop and circumvent regulations. Contractors can likewise relocate, as they typically rent the equipment necessary to complete their contracts; their primary source of capital is human, not physical.

In addition to closing loopholes, states must monitor contractors, and prosecute them when they commit crimes. To this day, not a single contractor has been successfully prosecuted for its role in the Abu Ghraib prison atrocities or the Nisour Square massacre, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.

Contractors claim that their services are market- and self-regulated. They contend that wanton violence would stop governments from seeking their assistance. Yet, the theatre of war often obscures their activities.

In its final report to the US Congress, the Commission on Wartime Contracting found that the US government lost more than $30bn to contractor waste and fraud in Afghanistan and Iraq. Also, corporations can rename and rebrand, thereby mitigating reputational harm. Consider Blackwater USA, which changed its name to Xe Services LLC, and then to Academi – all in the last four years.

The UN working group on the use of mercenaries has suggested that certain military functions, like combat services and interrogation, not be outsourced to private contractors. Its guidelines should be followed. Outsourcing foreign policy goals undermines democratic oversight because contractor activities, including casualties, typically escape public scrutiny. It can also allow states to evade legislative oversight.

The greatest check against war is the horror of war itself. Yet, as the physical distance between warring states grows, so does the temptation to loosen our moral compass. Violence that lacks immediacy is easier to ignore. Permitting third parties to wage war for profit risks a world in which war is not the last resort but an economic transaction in which the victims are faceless and nameless.

And so, we return to Sierra Leone. Although the intervention by Executive Outcomes is sometimes touted as illustrating the viability of military contractors, history suggests otherwise. The contractor was later accused of interfering in domestic politics to pursue financial gain, and an associated firm received payment through diamond mine concessions, which compromised the country's economic future.

Moreover, violence resumed after Executive Outcomes left Sierra Leone. It became clear that the government had over-relied on the contractor and undercut its own institutions.

The fog of war is hazy enough. We don't need additional, unregulated cloud cover.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

Arjun Sethi

Arjun Sethi is a lawyer in Washington, DC, and a frequent commentator on civil rights and social justice-related issues. He has written for the Washington Post, USA Today, and CNN, among other publications

I Hate to Bother You: Is Justice Right Side Up?

I Hate to Bother You: Is Justice Right Side Up?

Is justice right side up?

Has world justice been frozen in an upside-down position?

The shoe-thrower of Iraq, the man who hurled his shoes at Bush, was condemned to three years in prison. Doesn’t he deserve, instead, a medal?

Who is the terrorist? The hurler of shoes or their recipient? Is not the real terrorist the serial killer who, lying, fabricated the Iraq war, massacred a multitude, and legalized and ordered torture?

Who are the guilty ones–the people of Atenco, in Mexico, the indigenous Mapuches of Chile, the Kekchies of Guatemala, the landless peasants of Brazil—all being accused of the crime of terrorism for defending their right to their own land? If the earth is sacred, even if the law does not say so, aren’t its defenders sacred too?

According to Foreign Policy Magazine, Somalia is the most dangerous place in the world. But who are the pirates? The starving people who attack ships or the speculators of Wall Street who spent years attacking the world and who are now rewarded with many millions of dollars for their pains?

Why does the world reward its ransackers?

Why is justice a one-eyed blind woman? Wal-Mart, the most powerful corporation on earth, bans trade unions. McDonald’s, too. Why do these corporations violate, with criminal impunity, international law? Is it because in this contemporary world of ours, work is valued as lower than trash and workers’ rights are valued even less?

Who are the righteous and who are the villains? If international justice really exists, why are the powerful never judged? The masterminds of the worst butcheries are never sent to prison. Is it because it is these butchers themselves who hold the prison keys?

What makes the five nations with veto power in the United Nations inviolable? Is it of a divine origin, that veto power of theirs? Can you trust those who profit from war to guard the peace?

Is it fair that world peace is in the hands of the very five nations who are also the world’s main producers of weapons? Without implying any disrespect to the drug runners, couldn’t we refer to this arrangement as yet another example of organized crime?

Those who clamor, everywhere, for the death penalty are strangely silent about the owners of the world. Even worse, these clamorers forever complain about knife-wielding murderers, yet say nothing about missile-wielding arch-murderers.

And one asks oneself: Given that these self-righteous world owners are so enamored of killing, why pray don’t they try to aim their murderous proclivities at social injustice? Is it a just a world when, every minute, three million dollars are wasted on the military, while at the same time fifteen children perish from hunger or curable disease? Against whom is the so-called international community armed to the teeth? Against poverty or against the poor?

Why don’t the champions of capital punishment direct their ire at the values of the consumer society, values which pose a daily threat to public safety? Or doesn’t, perhaps, the constant bombardment of advertising constitute an invitation to crime? Doesn’t that bombardment numb millions and millions of unemployed or poorly paid youth, endlessly teaching them the lie that “to be = to have,” that life derives its meaning from ownership of such things as cars or brand name shoes? Own, own, they keep saying, implying that he who has nothing is, himself, nothing.

Why isn’t the death penalty applied to death itself? The world is organized in the service of death. Isn’t it true that the military industrial complex manufactures death and devours the greater part of our resources as well as a good part of our energies? Yet the owners of the world only condemn violence when it is exercised by others. To extraterrestrials, if they existed, such monopoly of violence would appear inexplicable. It likewise appears insupportable to earth dwellers who, against all the available evidence, hope for survival: we humans are the only animals who specialize in mutual extermination, and who have developed a technology of destruction that is annihilating, coincidentally, our planet and all its inhabitants.

This technology sustains itself on fear. It is the fear of enemies that justifies the squandering of resources by the military and police. And speaking about implementing the death penalty, why don’t we pass a death sentence on fear itself? Would it not behoove us to end this universal dictatorship of the professional scaremongers? The sowers of panic condemn us to loneliness, keeping solidarity outside our reach: falsely teaching us that we live in a dog-eat-dog world, that he who can must crush his fellows, that danger is lurking behind every neighbor. Watch out, they keep saying, be careful, this neighbor will steal from you, that other one will rape you, that baby carriage hides a Muslim bomb, and that woman who is watching you–that innocent-looking neighbor of yours—will surely infect you with swine flu.

In this upside-down world, they are making us afraid of even the most elementary acts of justice and common sense. When President Evo Morales started to re-build Bolivia, so that his country with its indigenous majority will no longer feel shame facing a mirror, his actions provoked panic. Morales’ challenge was indeed catastrophic from the traditional standpoint of the racist order, whose beneficiaries felt that theirs was the only possible option for Bolivia. It was Evo, they felt, who ushered in chaos and violence, and this alleged crime justified efforts to blow up national unity and break Bolivia into pieces. And when President Correa of Ecuador refused to pay the illegitimate debts of his country, the news caused terror in the financial world and Ecuador was threatened with dire punishment, for daring to set such a bad example. If the military dictatorships and roguish politicians have always been pampered by international banks, have we not already conditioned ourselves to accept it as our inevitable fate that the people must pay for the club that hits them and for the greed that plunders them?

But, have common sense and justice always been divorced from each other?

Were not common sense and justice meant to walk hand in hand, intimately linked?

Aren’t common sense, and also justice, in accord with the feminist slogan which states that if we, men, had to go through pregnancy, abortion would have been free. Why not legalize the right to have an abortion? Is it because abortion will then cease being the sole privilege of the women who can afford it and of the physicians who can charge for it?

The same thing is observed with another scandalous case of denial of justice and common sense: why aren’t drugs legal? Is this not, like abortion, a public health issue? And the very same country that counts in its population more drug addicts than any other country in the world, what moral authority does it have to condemn its drug suppliers? And why don’t the mass media, in their dedication to the war against the scourge of drugs, ever divulge that it is Afghanistan which single-handedly satisfies just about all the heroin consumed in the world? Who rules Afghanistan? Is it not militarily occupied by a messianic country which conferred upon itself the mission of saving us all?

Why aren’t drugs legalized once and for all? Is it because they provide the best pretext for military invasions, in addition to providing the juiciest profits to the large banks who, in the darkness of night, serve as money-laundering centers?

Nowadays the world is sad because fewer vehicles are sold. One of the consequences of the global crisis is a decline of the otherwise prosperous car industry. Had we some shred of common sense, a mere fragment of a sense of justice, would we not celebrate this good news?

Could anyone deny that a decline in the number of automobiles is good for nature, seeing that she will end up with a bit less poison in her veins? Could anyone deny the value of this decline in car numbers to pedestrians, seeing that fewer of them will die?

Here’s how Lewis Carroll’s queen explained to Alice how justice is dispensed in a looking-glass world:

“There’s the King’s Messenger. He’s in prison now, being punished: and the trial doesn’t begin until next Wednesday: and of course the crime comes last of all.”

In El Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero found that justice, like a snake, only bites barefoot people. He died of gunshot wounds, for proclaiming that in his country the dispossessed were condemned from the very start, on the day of their birth.

Couldn’t the outcome of the recent elections in El Salvador be viewed, in some ways, as a homage to Archbishop Romero and to the thousands who, like him, died fighting for right-side-up justice in this reign of injustice?

At times the narratives of History end badly, but she, History itself, never ends. When she says goodbye, she only says: I’ll be back.

Eduardo Galeano is the sage of the Americas. Galeano’s classics include: Open Veins of Latin America and Genesis.

The Case Against Kerry

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.

With all the attention on the nomination by President Obama of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, there hasn't been quite as much discussion about his nomination of John Kerry for secretary of state. I guess that's partly because he seems rather beloved by the Republicans and is likely to get passed without much issue. But there are issues, according to our next guest, Stephen Zunes.He now joins us where he's a professor of politics. And he is also chair of the Middle Eastern studies at the University of San Francisco. He's also a columnist and senior analyst of Foreign Policy in Focus. I should say he's actually joining us now from North Carolina, where he's traveling. Thanks for joining us, Stephen.STEPHEN ZUNES, CHAIR, MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO: My pleasure.JAY: So everyone's—generally in the mainstream media seems to like this appointment of John Kerry. But you don't. Why?ZUNES: John Kerry, though he—his earlier Senate career included some bold challenges to U.S. foreign policy, particularly regarding Central America, the nuclear arms race, and his support for various dictators around the world, moved sharply to the right in the past decade or so, including support for the invasion of Iraq, support for the more hardline elements in Israel, and a number of policy statements and initiatives which seem to indicate a pretty serious disdain to basic principles of human rights, international law. In addition, a series of statements ranging from his false claims about Iraq's military potential during the waning days of Saddam Hussein's reign to his attacks on Amnesty International and other reputable human rights organizations for reporting violations of human rights by U.S. allies have also raised questions about his credibility.JAY: So just to track his history a little bit, I mean, he made a name for himself 'cause he came back as this decorated war vet and opposed to the war in Vietnam. And if you listen to the rhetoric at that time, he sounds rather progressive in his foreign policy position.~~~JOHN KERRY, VIETNAM WAR VETERAN: We could come back to this country and we could be quiet, we could hold our silence, we could not tell what went on in Vietnam. But we feel because of what threatens this country, the fact that the crimes threaten it, not red, not redcoats, but the crimes which we're committing are what threaten it. And we have to speak out.~~~JAY: So give us a bit of the arc of what happened to that John Kerry.ZUNES: Well, it's hard to say. I mean, some people say he did it for political expediency because he had long desired to run for president. Of course, he did in 2004, receiving the Democratic nomination and losing narrowly to President Bush. But in the post-9/11 era, he tended to take a pretty hardline position. He went around claiming that the United States has a right to invade other countries without international support. He attacked the UN secretary-general, he attacked fellow Democrats, he attacked the Spanish prime minister and others who raised questions about this kind of U.S. unilateralism, his claims, for example, that Iraq—that everybody agreed that Iraq had advanced nuclear weapons program. And, in fact, there were very well publicized, even at that time, divisions among national security analysts, even within the government, about those facts. So he claimed that they had biological and chemical weapons even more advanced than they did prior to the Gulf War of 1991 and the subsequent disarmament that was imposed by the international community. These things kind of raised serious, you know, questions [unintel.] the extent he would go to supporting a U.S. intervention in various parts of the world.JAY: And didn't he go so far as to say that if he—knowing what he knows now, he'd still vote for it?ZUNES: Yeah. This is the scary part, actually. When he was running for president in 2004, unlike, say, Chuck Hagel and some other people who immediately regretted their vote for the war and backtracked, Kerry doubled down. He said that even if he knew that Iraq did not have these chemical and biological weapons and nuclear weapons programs, he would have supported the invasion anyway, because they might have the potential [inaud.] some day and Iraq was a repressive dictatorship.But by that criteria, repressive regimes with the potential to make nonconventional weapons, there are at least 30, 40 countries around the world that meet that criteria. And he was essentially saying, we have the right to invade any one of them.JAY: Now, a lot of people breathed a sigh of relief when Susan Rice didn't get nominated, because she is known as a, quote, humanitarian imperialist—in other words, she's known to be very pro-interventionist, using humanitarian framing for the intervention. But is Kerry any different than that?ZUNES: No, not really. And indeed he's been quite supportive of intervention that doesn't even remotely resemble humanitarian initiatives. He's been a big supporter, for example, when—in backing the Bush administration's defense of Israel's wars on Lebanon and Gaza. He basically has taken this position that [unintel.] his attacks against Howard Dean for saying that the United States should work more multilaterally with other countries, saying, oh, that's just an excuse for doing nothing, he would surrender our right of self-defense, and the like. He attacked Spanish Prime Minister, you know, Zapatero as giving in to terrorism when Zapatero said, we are going to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq because the Bush administration refuses to allow the UN to play a stronger role. I mean, again, this guy is pretty hardcore. In many ways, he has embraced some of the very basic assumptions we normally associate with the right-wing Republican neoconservatives.JAY: So this tells us a lot about President Obama's foreign policy outlook, I think, because on the one hand, the reason he always said he opposed the Iraq War is 'cause it was a stupid war, not because he's against those kinds of interventions. He just saw that that particular war would actually weaken America's ability to project power. And those are virtually his words. So you see the appointment of Chuck Hagel—he thinks a war with Iran would be stupid, and he wants someone that could help keep the lid on that. On the other hand, he's not against the use of armed force to project power, and there he has Kerry. So it isn't actually contradictory, these two appointments.ZUNES: No. But in certain ways, though, it does—I do see it as something of a betrayal by Obama, in that when he was running for president, he said he promised not just to end the Iraq War, but to end the mindset which led to the Iraq War in the first place. And he was smart enough—or whether it be for, you know, pragmatic reasons or anything else, recognized that the invasion of Iraq and occupation would be a disaster. And, you know, he should be given at least some credit for that understanding. But at the same time, almost every major appointment he has made dealing with foreign policy and national security—Gates in defense; Hillary Clinton, secretary of state; Dennis Blair at DNI; Napolitano at Homeland Security; Biden as vice president; Emanuel as chief of staff—and all these people were among the right-wing minority of Democrats that supported the Iraq War. Remember, the majority of Democrats on Capitol Hill voted against the authorization. [unintel.] again, virtually every single one of Obama's appointments to these top positions have been among that right-wing minority.JAY: I interviewed Susan Rice during the New Hampshire primary in 2008, and I asked her this question directly, and she was essentially his spokesperson on foreign policy during the election campaign, and I asked her if—what is this new mindset? I said, if you're going to have a new mindset the way he's promised, doesn't that mean you have to question the whole underlying assumption that there has to be—the United States has to be a global military power? I said, you know, what do you think about closing down most or all of the foreign military bases? What is the difference in your strategy in Afghanistan? Is it going to be just troop-based or not? And I asked her essentially that question, and she essentially—not essentially—she took off her microphone and walked out of the interview. She said, I don't have to do this.ZUNES: Really? It's interesting. I think in many ways that these appointments, including Kerry, are exemplary of this idea that somehow the United States is above the law and its allies are above the law. In fact, I remember when the International Court of Justice in a unanimous (save for the U.S. judge) opinion that said that Israel, like all other countries, had to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention and other principles of international humanitarian law in the occupied territories. In 2004, John Kerry sharply criticized the International Court of Justice for its unanimous ruling (save for the U.S. judge) that said that Israel, like all countries, is bound by provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, specifically that while they can build a separation barrier on their internationally recognized borders, they cannot build this separation wall deep inside occupied territory in this serpentine fashion as part of a land grab to incorporate all these settlements. Well, John Kerry denounced the World Court as being anti-Israel, as not supporting Israel's right to self-defense, and even said that the World Court should have no jurisdiction whatsoever, that it should simply be a matter of the Israeli courts to decide, and the U.S. should support whatever the Israeli courts say. But when you think about the implications of this, he's basically saying that if a country invades and occupies another country, any legal question regarding international humanitarian law or anything else should be determined by the courts of the occupying power. In other words, that combined with his rationalization for the invasion of Iraq, seems to indicate that a wholesale rejection of the United Nations system, 20th-century international law, and embrace a 19th-century notion of right of conquest.JAY: Alright. Well, I guess this is just the beginning of discussions about John Kerry, 'cause it seems rather sure he's going to be nominated. Thanks for joining us, Stephen.ZUNES: My pleasure.JAY: And thank you for joining us 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.


Comments

Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at [email protected]

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

US military contractor report $2bn loss

Major US military contractor General Dynamics report $2 billion loss (File photo).

One of the biggest US aeronautics corporations and military contractors General Dynamics has reported an annual loss of USD2 billion, blaming on recent cuts to the government’s defense budget.

The company, which is based in the Washington DC suburb of Falls Church in Virginia, announced plans on Wednesday to reduce its information technology (IT) business by USD2 billion amid the declining government demand, The Washington Post reports Thursday.

The announcement, according to the report, prompted major worries within the Washington metropolitan area since government-based IT contracting has served as the “key ingredient” to the region’s economic growth in the past decade.


Information technology, the daily notes, would likely be “the first segments of the private sector to sustain tangible damage from federal budget cuts - because it’s easier for the government to stop rewiring offices than it is to stop building a ship or a tank.”

The area’s dependence on government contracting work, particularly in the field of IT, makes it especially vulnerable to planned budget cuts agreed to over the past couple of years by US President Barack Obama and the nation’s legislators in Congress.

This is while the US Government “procurement spending” in the area steadily climbed by double digits from 2000 to 2010. In 2012, however, it declined by 5.5 percent, the report says.

Meanwhile, the amount of the loss reported by General Dynamics has “stunned” some analysts “accustomed to years of steady profits at the company.”


Defense contractors, moreover, have been getting ready for the planned military budget cuts as the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down.

The Defense Department budget is facing budget cuts of nearly 500 billion dollars over 10 years as part of an agreement reached between the US Congress and the White House in 2011.

The report further cites economist as estimating that the planned spending cuts would “destroy some 450,000 jobs” across the Washington metropolitan area, which includes most densely populated areas in states of Virginia and Maryland near the US capital.

MFB/MFB

US military to lift ban on women in combat

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has decided to lift a ban on women serving in combat, a senior defense official said Wednesday, after a decade of war that saw female troops thrust onto the battlefield. Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, the chairma...

Air Force appalled by the number of sex assaults

A US Air Force general has referred to sexual misconduct within the service as a “cancer”, shedding new light on the extent of the problem in wake of a sex scandal that occurred at the Air Force training headquarters.

Gen. Mark Welsh, chief of staff of the US Air Force, disclosed disturbing sexual assault statistics at a congressional hearing on Wednesday. Sexual assault ranging from inappropriate touches to rape has been on the rise, with 2012 seeing 796 reported cases. Last year’s figures show a 30 percent increase from 2011, during which 614 cases of sexual assault were reported, according to AP.

“Calling these numbers unacceptable does not do the victims justice,” Welsh said in a testimony in front of the House Armed Services Committee. “The truth is, these numbers are appalling.”

Welsh pledged never to stop attacking the problem, which he said might be greater than currently believed, since many cases go unreported. US airmen are responsible for conducting most of the sexual assaults, which raises an alarm over the problem among the Air Force’s own members.

All of these airmen have at one point reported to the training headquarters at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, which is the site of a major scandal that erupted two years ago. Starting in 2009, 43 female trainees were allegedly assaulted – and in many cases, raped – by their military training instructors during and after basic training. An investigation led to the termination of 35 such instructors, including two commanders who oversaw the men. There are about 500 military training instructors who oversee about 35,000 airmen, 7,000 of which are women.

Fifteen instructors are currently still under investigation for charges ranging from adultery, rape and acting unprofessionally, while six have been convicted and nine more are waiting for their courts-martial.

But punishing the offenders in the Lackland sex scandal does little to tackle the problem. Welsh attributes the rising number of sexual assaults to a culture in the Air Force that needs to be addressed. Binge drinking and the sharing of obscene sexual images, songs and stories may contribute to the inappropriate actions of the airmen.

“A young man who routinely binge drinks and loses control of himself is going to conduct bad behavior,” Welsh said. “That bad behavior could result in sexual assault. Let’s stop the binge drinking.”

But the problem of sexual assault has a greater range than just the Air Force. Almost half of all US military women deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan say they were sexually harassed or assaulted, with 47 percent of those alleging the perpetrators were US military men who held a higher rank.

“Women in the armed forces are now more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat,” Newsweek’s Jesse Ellison wrote last year. And similarly to that of the US Air Force, the inappropriate behavior among US troops is at least partially attributed to a sexist culture.

“It comes down to culture. (It) hasn’t changed, no matter what the generals or the secretaries of defense say about zero tolerance,” California Rep. Jackie Speier told USA Today in December. “They have not scrubbed the sexism… out of the military.”

The Case Against Kerry

WASHINGTON - January 23 -

STEPHEN ZUNES, [email]
Professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, Zunes recently wrote the piece “The Case Against Kerry,” which states: “John Kerry’s attacks on the International Court of Justice, his defense of Israeli occupation policies and human rights violations, and his support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq raise serious questions about his commitment to international law and treaty obligations. His false claims of Iraqi ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and his repeated denial of human rights abuses by allied governments well-documented by reputable monitoring groups raise serious questions about his credibility.

“In the 1980s, during the early part of his Senate career, Kerry was considered one of the more progressive members of the U.S. Senate on foreign policy. … More recently, however, Kerry became a prominent supporter of various neoconservative initiatives. …

“In 2002, he voted against an unsuccessful resolution authorizing the president to use force against Iraq only if the United Nations Security Council permitted such force under the UN Charter and instead voted for an alternative Republican resolution, which authorized President Bush to invade that oil-rich country unilaterally in violation of the UN Charter.

“The October 2002 war resolution backed by Kerry was not like the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution regarding Vietnam, where there was no time for reflection and debate. Kerry had been briefed by the chief UN weapons inspector and by prominent scholars of the region, who informed him of the likely absence of any of the alleged ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and the likely consequences of a U.S. invasion, but he voted to authorize the invasion anyway. It was not a ‘mistake’ or a momentary lapse of judgment. It demonstrated Kerry’s dismissive attitude toward fundamental principles of international law and international treaties that prohibit aggressive war.

“Kerry and his supporters claim he does not really reject international law. They note that, in voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Kerry stated at that time that he expected President Bush ‘to work with the United Nations Security Council and our allies … if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force.’ He then promised that if President Bush failed to do so, ‘I will be the first to speak out.’

“However, Senator Kerry broke that promise. When President Bush abandoned his efforts to gain United Nations Security Council authorization for the war in late February 2003 and pressed forward with plans for the invasion without a credible international coalition, Kerry remained silent. Indeed, when President Bush actually launched the invasion soon afterwards, Senator Kerry praised him, co-sponsoring a Senate resolution declaring that the invasion was ‘lawful and fully authorized by the Congress’ and that he ‘commends and supports the efforts and leadership of the President … in the conflict with Iraq.’”

See video of some of Kerry’s statements on Iraq leading to his war vote as well as the IPA news release “Kerry’s Judgement Questioned Because of Pro-War Vote.

The Case Against Kerry

WASHINGTON - January 23 -

STEPHEN ZUNES, [email]
Professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, Zunes recently wrote the piece “The Case Against Kerry,” which states: “John Kerry’s attacks on the International Court of Justice, his defense of Israeli occupation policies and human rights violations, and his support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq raise serious questions about his commitment to international law and treaty obligations. His false claims of Iraqi ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and his repeated denial of human rights abuses by allied governments well-documented by reputable monitoring groups raise serious questions about his credibility.

“In the 1980s, during the early part of his Senate career, Kerry was considered one of the more progressive members of the U.S. Senate on foreign policy. … More recently, however, Kerry became a prominent supporter of various neoconservative initiatives. …

“In 2002, he voted against an unsuccessful resolution authorizing the president to use force against Iraq only if the United Nations Security Council permitted such force under the UN Charter and instead voted for an alternative Republican resolution, which authorized President Bush to invade that oil-rich country unilaterally in violation of the UN Charter.

“The October 2002 war resolution backed by Kerry was not like the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution regarding Vietnam, where there was no time for reflection and debate. Kerry had been briefed by the chief UN weapons inspector and by prominent scholars of the region, who informed him of the likely absence of any of the alleged ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and the likely consequences of a U.S. invasion, but he voted to authorize the invasion anyway. It was not a ‘mistake’ or a momentary lapse of judgment. It demonstrated Kerry’s dismissive attitude toward fundamental principles of international law and international treaties that prohibit aggressive war.

“Kerry and his supporters claim he does not really reject international law. They note that, in voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Kerry stated at that time that he expected President Bush ‘to work with the United Nations Security Council and our allies … if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force.’ He then promised that if President Bush failed to do so, ‘I will be the first to speak out.’

“However, Senator Kerry broke that promise. When President Bush abandoned his efforts to gain United Nations Security Council authorization for the war in late February 2003 and pressed forward with plans for the invasion without a credible international coalition, Kerry remained silent. Indeed, when President Bush actually launched the invasion soon afterwards, Senator Kerry praised him, co-sponsoring a Senate resolution declaring that the invasion was ‘lawful and fully authorized by the Congress’ and that he ‘commends and supports the efforts and leadership of the President … in the conflict with Iraq.’”

See video of some of Kerry’s statements on Iraq leading to his war vote as well as the IPA news release “Kerry’s Judgement Questioned Because of Pro-War Vote.

Up in arms: Turkey Patriots ready by weekend amid local protest (PHOTOS)

Turkish leftists and nationalists protest against the deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey near the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun in Hatay province January 21, 2013. (Reuters / Umit Bektas)

Turkish leftists and nationalists protest against the deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey near the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun in Hatay province January 21, 2013. (Reuters / Umit Bektas)

Patriot missile batteries sent to Turkey from NATO countries will start operating this weekend, despite continuing protests from local activists unhappy at their deployment. In the latest incident German troops were mobbed by protesters.

After Ankara asked for NATO help in December to beef up its air defenses against a possible Syrian attack, the United States, Germany and the Netherlands have sent Patriots to Turkey, along with a contingent of 1,200 soldiers to operate them.

The Dutch army will be the first to have them operational, British Brigadier Gary Deakin, a senior NATO official told Reuters.

“We expect to have an initial operating capability this weekend, that is what we are aiming at. The first units will arrive on station, they will plug in to the NATO command and control network and they will be then ready to defend the population. The full capability we are aiming to deliver at the end of this month,” he said.

German military vehicles carrying equipment for NATO patriot defence missiles are deployed at a military base in Kahramanmaras January 23, 2013.(Reuters / Umit Bektas)
German military vehicles carrying equipment for NATO patriot defence missiles are deployed at a military base in Kahramanmaras January 23, 2013.(Reuters / Umit Bektas)

But many of the local population in the areas where the missiles will be based are against the deployment and angry at the presence of foreign soldiers on Turkish soil,

“As Muslim Turks we are against foreign soldiers,” said Mr Tutuen, the President of the Kanhranmaras division of the religious Felicity Party, in the south eastern region of Anatolia, it was reported Wednesday by the UAE English language newspaper, the National.

Since NATO troops started to arrive in Turkey, there have been protests by Islamist and leftist groups. In the town of Kahramanmaras protesters burnt US, NATO and Israeli flags.

About 400 German troops will man the Patriot batteries in Kahramanmaras and will live in a Turkish army barrack overlooking the town, which is about 100 kilometers north of the Syrian border.

“Deterrence may help to diffuse tension a little,” said Col Marc Ellermann, the commander of the German unit.

Turkish leftists and nationalists protest against the deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey near the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun in Hatay province January 21, 2013. (Reuters / Umit Bektas)
Turkish leftists and nationalists protest against the deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey near the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun in Hatay province January 21, 2013. (Reuters / Umit Bektas)

But the locals are skeptical at the nature of the mission and if the missiles will protect them at all.

“If they put their missiles here, that means we will be the first place that will be attacked, doesn’t it?” Alaatin Namli, a local shop owner, told the National.

“Is there a war of Syria against Turkey? No, there isn’t. These missiles are for Israel and against Iran,” said Malik Ecder Kirecci, who runs a corner shop next to the barracks housing the German soldiers.

Tuesday saw several hundred protesters gather in Iskenderun and outside the Incirlik NATO airbase in Adana against the deployment. Police broke up the demonstrations with tear gas, pepper spray and batons.

Seven German soldiers have already been mobbed Tuesday in the port city of Iskenderun, in the southern Turkish province of Hatay.

A leftist group member clashes with Turkish riot policemen during a protest against NATO Patriot missiles in front of the US military base on January 21, 2013 at Incirlik in Adana. (AFP Photo / Anil Bagrik)
A leftist group member clashes with Turkish riot policemen during a protest against NATO Patriot missiles in front of the US military base on January 21, 2013 at Incirlik in Adana. (AFP Photo / Anil Bagrik)

While on their way to the market, they were attacked by a group of activists from the Turkey Youth Union who tried to throw sacks on their heads. The soldiers managed to escape with the help of locals and took shelter in a jewelry shop, before the activists were detained by riot police.

The planned stunt was a reference to an incident when US soldiers arrested Turks during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and put sacks over their heads; judged as deeply insulting by many Turks.

The fact that the soldiers in Iskenderun were German and not American did not seem to make any difference.

“Whether it was German or American soldiers whose heads we put sacks on, it does not matter. All of them are NATO soldiers. We will not allow Turkey to be the centre for attacks in the Middle East,” said the leader of the group, it was reported in the Turkish press.

The German unit will travel from Iskenderun to Kahramanmaras over the next few days by road and authorities in Kahramanmaras are trying to work out the best way of doing this with minimal disruption.

For the time being some residents are prepared to give the Germans the benefit of the doubt, as long as they behave themselves.

While Cuma Tahiroglu, a parliamentary candidate for the Felicity Party in Kahramanmaras, warned that if the Germans flaunt their weapons around town they “will turn into Americans in our eyes.”

Members of Turkish unions stage a protest against the deployment of patriot missiles by NATO in Turkey on January 20, 2013 In Ankara. (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)
Members of Turkish unions stage a protest against the deployment of patriot missiles by NATO in Turkey on January 20, 2013 In Ankara. (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)

Members of Turkish unions stage a protest against the deployment of patriot missiles by NATO in Turkey on January 20, 2013 In Ankara. The banner reads: "No to Patriots". (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)
Members of Turkish unions stage a protest against the deployment of patriot missiles by NATO in Turkey on January 20, 2013 In Ankara. The banner reads: "No to Patriots". (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)

A leftist group member bites the arm of aTurkish riot policeman during a protest against the deployment of NATO Patriot missiles, on January 21, 2013, in front of a US military base at Incirlik in Adana. (AFP Photo)
A leftist group member bites the arm of aTurkish riot policeman during a protest against the deployment of NATO Patriot missiles, on January 21, 2013, in front of a US military base at Incirlik in Adana. (AFP Photo)

Are “We the People” the Terrorists Now?

Hebshi Shoshana is an American citizen and the mother of 7-year-old twins. She's also one of the latest casualties of the hysteria built into our national war on terror.

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, she flew on Frontier Airlines flight to Detroit. When the plane pulled up to the gate, all the passengers onboard were ordered to stay in their seats, put their heads down, and their arms up in front of them. Federal agents carrying large, military style weapons then boarded the plan, and marched down the aisles.

"I wondered if there was a fugitive on board," Shoshana said.

What she didn't realize at the time was the she was the "fugitive."

The agents stopped at Shoshana's row, ordered her to stand up along with two other men she had been randomly seated next to, and then she was handcuffed and removed from the plane at gunpoint. From there, they put her in a small jail cell, stripped the American mother of two children naked, and told to squat and cough while officers watched.

"I was scared and alone," she said. "I can't