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Political crisis deepens over delays to UK Iraq War inquiry report

By Paul Mitchell The chairman of the inquiry into the 2003 Iraq War, Sir John Chilcot, was forced to make a statement last week to justify...

UK Chilcot Inquiry: cover-up continues over war against Iraq

Robert Stevens The most critical documents regarding the preparation and instigation of the illegal war against Iraq will never be seen by the Chilcot Inquiry....

As London lures Saudi oil giant, RT looks at UK’s history of rule-bending for...

Serious questions are being raised over controversial proposals that could lure the multi-trillion share listing...

Better-armored vehicles in Iraq could have saved lives, Fallon tells dead soldier’s mother

Published time: 18 Aug, 2017 11:38 Edited time: 18 Aug, 2017 12:21 Defense Secretary Michael...

The UK High Court Is Wrong

The decision by the UK High Court to block a bid by a former chief of staff of the Iraqi army to bring a...

War crimes? Third of Britons want Tony Blair tried over Iraq invasion

A third of Britons want former Prime Minister Tony Blair to be tried over his...

Attempt to prosecute Tony Blair over Iraq War blocked by High Court

Published time: 31 Jul, 2017 09:43 Edited time: 31 Jul, 2017 13:58 Britain’s High Court...

Blocking Tony Blair’s prosecution for Iraq War ‘an attack on democracy’

The High Court’s refusal to prosecute Tony Blair over the war he launched in Iraq...

Blair accuses BBC of ‘putting words into mouth’ of Iraq War report author Chilcot

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has accused the BBC of “putting words into the mouth”...

Tony Blair failed to ‘be straight’ with the public about Iraq invasion – Chilcot

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair failed to “be straight” with the public about his decision...

Tony Blair should be prosecuted for Iraq War, high court hears

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair should face prosecution for his role in the UK’s intervention...

Special forces officers accused of war crimes against unarmed Afghan civilians

Britain’s Royal Military Police are investigating allegations that SAS soldiers executed unarmed Afghan civilians. ...

US firm at Iraqi base hushed up probe into human trafficking & alcohol smuggling...

A US firm, paid $686 million to secure an Iraqi base for F-16 fighter jets, ignored...

Law firm paid Iraqi fixer £2mn to dig up allegations of British Army abuse

A top law firm paid millions to an Iraqi fixer to find people willing to make allegations of abuse against UK troops carried out...

Party of Defence? Tory government plans to strip soldiers of their rights, inquiry told

Published time: 24 Apr, 2017 12:45 Attempts by the government to remove the UK from certain...

UK govt top lawyer seeking to block prosecution of Tony Blair over Iraq War...

UK Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC is prepared to go to court to demand that...

Chilcot 2.0? Another Iraq War inquiry could be launched if new facts emerge, say...

If new evidence comes to light on the legality of the 2003 war in Iraq...

Tony Blair’s arrival at Iraq-Afghanistan war memorial sparks backlash

Published time: 9 Mar, 2017 12:04 Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s arrival at the unveiling of the...

Tony Blair Iraq War case could be hindered by Supreme Court Brexit ruling –...

Lawyers acting for the bereaved families of service personnel killed in the Iraq War say the Supreme Court’s Article 50 Brexit ruling could affect...

UK minister accuses Russia of MH17 downing & ‘testing’ NATO, Moscow says claims ‘baseless’

When British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon was asked to deliver a speech on ‘Russian resurgence’,...

ISIS, sectarian conflict & chaos: Iraq 10 years after Saddam Hussein’s death

A decade after Saddam Hussein was tried, convicted and executed, Iraq is struggling to defeat Islamic...

Only Iraq abuse inquiry-linked conviction so far is its own investigator, records show

The only successful conviction in the Iraq Historical Abuses Team’s history is of one of...

Battle for Mosul: Beating ISIS won’t end Iraq’s civil war, UK experts tell RT...

Caught in the crossfire, driven to hunger, held as human shields – civilians trapped in...

‘An example should be set’: Tony Blair faces new charges in Parliament for ‘misleading’...

A cross-party group has tabled a new motion against Tony Blair, on the basis of...

UK’s Iraq war probe designed to ‘avoid blame,’ Whitehall memos reveal – report

The injury into UK’s involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq was designed by the government to avoid allocating blame to individuals and departments,...

Blair went ‘beyond the facts’ & damaged UK politics when advocating for Iraq invasion...

Former British PM Tony Blair resorted to rhetoric unsupported by any compelling evidence when he promoted the Iraq invasion to his cabinet and the...

Cameron accused of ignoring own MPs in rush to war with Assad

Impatient to launch airstrikes against Syrian regime targets in 2013, former Prime Minister David Cameron...

British MoD gagging soldiers dissatisfied with Iraq war crime probe handling – media

The British Defense Secretary has reportedly barred soldiers – targeted by an inquiry into alleged...

Cameron tried to quash Iraq War abuse inquiries but was blocked by Britain’s top...

Efforts by former Prime Minister David Cameron to put a stop to the Iraq Historic...

‘I want to face war crimes trial,’ says British Army major over Iraq allegations

An Iraq War major alleged to have been connected with the 2003 drowning death of...

UK gov’t plan to oppose ‘Russian propaganda’? Pump money into BBC

Among the measures the British government has proposed to counter alleged Russian ‘propaganda and disinformation’...

Ten Years Later, Let’s Move Together Forward to Restraint

Ten years ago, Iraqi and Coalition Forces were boots-deep in Operation Together Forward, a two-phase mission to reduce violence and increase security in a...

Lib Dems recycle discredited claim they opposed Iraq War

Britain’s Liberal Democrat party is still using the discredited claim that it opposed the Iraq...

Iraqi Woman Uses Chilcot Report in War Crimes Lawsuit Against George W. Bush

President George W. Bush discusses the Iraq war in Washington, May 24, 2007. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times) Sundus Saleh,...

War Criminal Tony Blair Reveals Self-Doubt After Public Shaming

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has reappeared since his public shaming at the hands of Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry last month to defend...

The Secret US-UK Airwar Against Iraq

The Chilcot Inquiry, set up to look into the British role in the war in Iraq, reported on July 6, and although...

UK’s role in rendition ‘scandal’ must be reinvestigated, demands Tory MP

A senior Tory MP is calling for an inquiry into the failure of government agencies...

Blair in the dock: Bereaved military families crowdfund nearly £50k to sue former PM...

Donations are pouring in to a crowdfunding page launched to help families of soldiers killed...

Military leaders gagged over Chilcot’s Iraq War condemnations

Military chiefs are banned from sharing their views on Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq War Report...

Blair to Bush on 9/12/01: ‘Co-Opt’ Sympathy for War

“It is now that the world is in a state of shock; now that it feels maximum sympathy for the US;...

Blair justified Iraq War with ‘discredited’ child mortality data

Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair cited dubious child mortality figures as part of his justification for...

Iraq war 'was illegal,' Blair's former deputy acknowledges

The 2003 invasion of Iraq was illegal, Lord Prescott, former deputy prime minister to Tony...

Tony Blair’s Political Epitaph and Looming War Crimes Trial?

The banners and placards outside London’s Queen Elizabeth 11 Conference Centre – where the findings of the seven year awaited Chilcot Inquiry into the...

US Still Ducks Iraq Accountability

With the Chilcot report, Great Britain somewhat came to grips with its role in the criminal invasion of Iraq, but...

Iraq war was illegal: John Prescott

Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry: Truth at last or establishment whitewash?

Massively delayed and hugely controversial, the Chilcot Inquiry into the 2003 Iraq War reports back on July 6. RT examines the background of the...

‘Military action was not a last resort’: Chilcot finally releases Iraq War report

Britain chose to join the invasion of Iraq in 2003 before peaceful options for disarmament...

Vindicated? Jeremy Corbyn’s decade-long opposition to the Iraq War

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has a long history of arguing against the Iraq War, demanding...

Unintended Consequences and the Warfare State

“The danger is, as ever with these things, unintended consequences.” So wrote Prime Minister Tony Blair to President George W. Bush in 2002, as...

Chilcot: Intelligence reports confirm Iraq war created ISIS

Intelligence reports examined and now released by the Chilcot inquiry appear to confirm Islamic State...

Civilian war dead must be counted properly in future – Chilcot

Britain did not properly assess how many civilians were killed during its invasion and occupation...

UK govt gambled with troops’ mental health over Iraq & Afghanistan – Chilcot

Multiple wars fought at the same time saw the British government risking troops’ mental health by ignoring their own guidelines on repeated, back-to-back deployments,...

‘They took one Saddam, but got us many more’: Young Iraqi man tells RT...

Blair’s apology for the Iraq invasion is not going to bring the “destroyed” country and dead people back, a disabled Iraqi man, who lost...

MI6 used hoax WMD reports based on action film ‘The Rock’ to justify Iraq...

A fake intelligence source fooled MI6 with false reports based on the action movie ‘The Rock’, which ended up being used to justify Britain’s...

7/7 London bombings, 11yrs on: Iraq War raised terror threat, Chilcot suggests

Eleven years on from the London bombings of July 7, 2005, the Chilcot report appears...

65 Killed in Iraq During Eid Observances

65 Killed in Iraq During Eid Observances The United Kingdom’s long-awaited investigative report on the Iraq War was finally released on Wednesday. The...

British govt urged to come clean on ‘links to torture’ after Iraq invasion

“Faulty evidence” extracted by torture and used to justify the US and UK invasion of...

Blair should have focused on ‘legal’ Afghanistan, not Iraq – Alex Salmond (RT EXCLUSIVE)

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair should have “abstained” from invading Iraq by “all means”, focusing instead on “justified and legal” military action in...

‘Betrayal’: Iraq veterans call for Blair’s indictment after Chilcot report

Veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are calling for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to indict former Prime Minister Tony Blair for war...

Legal basis for Iraq War was flawed Chilcot Inquiry finds

The legal basis for Tony Blair’s decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003 was “far from satisfactory,” according to the findings of...

British spies gave faulty intelligence on Iraq, then quietly withdrew it – Chilcot

The Chilcot report into Britain’s invasion of Iraq is highly critical of the UK intelligence...

Bush, Blair and the Lies That Justified the Illegal Iraq War

The Chilcot report, released today by the British government, concluded what most have known for a long time: that Tony Blair took Britain to...

Blair pledges ‘no excuses’ for Iraq, then spends 2hrs making excuses

Tony Blair has taken responsibility for the Iraq War but refused to accept that Britain’s...

British military equipment ‘wholly inadequate’ in Iraq, says Chilcot

Equipment shortages and logistical failures helped to doom Britain’s war effort in Iraq by leaving...

5 revelations from Chilcot’s damning report into the Iraq war

The long-awaited findings of Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into the invasion of Iraq by Britain in 2003 were finally published on Wednesday. It has taken...

Chilcot Inquiry live reaction

‘Chilcot confirms Tony Blair must now be brought to justice’ – CNDCND, Stop the War and many others are gathered in Westminster listening to...

The Iraq War, Brexit and Imperial Blowback

US President George W. Bush, right, and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair during a news conference at the White House on...

Chilcot’s forgotten witnesses – Britain’s Iraqi diaspora (VIDEO)

The 2003 Iraq invasion and occupation left at least 500,000 dead, scattered refugees to the wind and threw the region into chaos. Yet as...

Iraqi looters ‘commonly’ thrown into river by UK troops… some may have drowned, inquiry...

An inquiry launched to examine claims British forces routinely threw Iraqi looters into a Basra waterway, possibly drowning some, heard that senior officers were...

Chilcot boycott: Grieving service families threaten to reject Iraq report ‘whitewash’

Families of soldiers killed in Iraq are threatening to boycott the Chilcot Report, branding it a ‘whitewash.’ The news comes amid fears that soldiers...

Did Labour MPs launch Corbyn coup to rescue Blair from war crimes charge?

Scottish MP Alex Salmond says the coup against Jeremy Corbyn was launched by a core of right-wing Labour MPs because they fear the anti-war...

NGOs push for judicial inquiry into UK’s links to post-9/11 rendition & torture

A potent alliance of leading human rights NGOs has called for a full judicial inquiry into Britain’s role in rendition a week ahead of...

From Iraq to UK Referendum: Tony Blair’s Toxic Legacy

Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, currently back in Britain, cast a dark shadow over those campaigning to stay in the European Union in the June...

Lib Dems demand 2-day debate on ‘folly & incompetence’ of ‘unwinnable’ Iraq War after...

Liberal Democrat MPs want a two-day debate in the House of Commons on the findings...

Labour could be torn apart by war crime charges for Blair over Iraq

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has hinted he could call for ex-PM Tony Blair to face...

Weeks before Chilcot, Tony Blair scolds Jeremy Corbyn for not backing UK bombing of...

Tony Blair has launched a withering attack on Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, accusing him...

Blair blame game: Ex-PM prepares Iraq War excuses ahead of Chilcot report

Former PM Tony Blair will respond to the Chilcot report on the legality of the...

Iraq War made Tony Blair ‘defensive, awkward, self-conscious’ individual – ex-PM’s ally

Criticism of his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 has “destabilized” Tony Blair, yet he...

Families of soldiers killed in Iraq must pay £770 for copy of Chilcot report

Military families who lost sons and daughters in the Iraq war are told they must...

Is the UK’s Iraq Inquiry Set to “Savage” Tony Blair?

With the publication date of the Chilcot Inquiry into the illegal invasion of Iraq just weeks away (July 6th) reportedly set to “savage” former...
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Video: ‘No regrets?’ Chilcot report to shed light on UK involvement in Iraq War

The families of British soldiers killed in Iraq are planning to use the findings of the Chilcot inquiry into the war to sue Tony...

Families of British soldiers killed in Iraq may sue Tony Blair after Chilcot report

The families of slain British soldiers might sue former UK PM Tony Blair if evidence suggests the equipment provided to the troops during the...

‘Absolutely brutal’ Chilcot Iraq war report will not let Tony Blair & Jack Straw...

Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq war inquiry report will not let former Prime Minister Tony Blair,...

‘Unforgivable’: Majority of Brits can’t absolve Tony Blair of his Iraq war sins

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair can never be forgiven for taking the UK into the...

Tony Blair in Big Trouble Over Iraq War Lies?

With just over six weeks to go before the long-awaited release of the Chilcot report into the Iraq War, the calls for former Prime...

Al-Qaeda-linked extremists could use Syria to launch attacks on West – UK general

A senior British military commander has warned of Al-Qaeda-linked extremists’ “ambitions” in Syria, saying they...

Tony Blair: Western troops need to fight a ‘proper’ war with ISIS

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair says Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) will not be...

‘Tony Blair lied on Iraq and will be exposed by Chilcot report’ – Corbyn

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s lies about weapons of mass destruction and his secret war...

Trump blasts Tony Blair for Iraq War ‘disaster,’ says Britain should stand up to...

Presumptive Republican nominee for the US presidential election Donald Trump has attacked former Prime Minister Tony Blair for the Iraq War “disaster,” saying he...

Crimes of Aggression? Alex Salmond’s quest to have Tony Blair impeached over Iraq hits...

Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Alex Salmond wants to re-energize a cross-party alliance to see...

Pot, kettle: UK urges Saudis to speed up Yemen inquiry, despite its own 6-year...

In a rare bout of public criticism of the Saudi regime, a UK minister has...

House of Sad? Ex-UK general says Gulf States feel ‘let down’ by UK

Britain’s theocratic Gulf allies feel “nervous” and “let down” by Western criticism, according to a former UK general now working as Middle East advisor...

Military chiefs face bashing in Chilcot Iraq war report, possibly published before Brexit vote

Sir John Chilcot’s massively-delayed Iraq war report could be published before the EU referendum despite...

Publish Chilcot Iraq war report within a fortnight or face 'uproar' – MP

There is no good reason why the Chilcot Inquiry report into the legality of the...

Chilcot redacted? Spies to scrutinize Iraq war report before publication

Relatives of British soldiers killed in the Iraq war are concerned that the security services...

UK documentary exposes Saudi role in global terror operations

Jean Shaoul ITV’s Exposure: Saudi Arabia Uncovered portrays the horrific brutality with which the House of Saud maintains its rule and has been the subject...

The Chilcot Inquiry-inquiry: Farcical probe launched into Iraq War report delay

Pushing the boundaries of farce, an inquiry into the Chilcot Inquiry will be launched to...

Iraq Atrocities: The UK’s “Independent” Inquiry

Nothing justifies killing of innocent people. – Tony Blair, CNN, January 15th, 2015 A little over three months short of the thirteenth anniversary of the invasion...

Government attempts to avoid court hearing into UK complicity in rendition

By Mark Blackwood British government lawyers are seeking to suppress claims that former Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the then director of MI6 counterterrorism, Sir...

Chilcot Inquiry gives tentative date for publication of its findings

The British public inquiry into the 2003 Iraq war, also known as Chilcot Inquiry, faces further delay as the head of the probe says...

War criminal Tony Blair urged Gaddafi flee during Libya uprising

Tony Blair encouraged Colonel Gaddafi to flee Libya and find a safe haven as the Arab Spring intensified and rebels raged against his regime,...

Is war criminal Tony Blair up shit-creek without a paddle?

RINF Alternative News In the light of the recent Labour leadership victory by Jeremy Corbyn, the current migrant crisis and growing threat of ISIS, it...

Relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq urge Chilcot to publish report by this year...

Relatives of British soldiers killed in the Iraq war have called on Iraq Inquiry Head Sir John Chilcot to publish a long-awaited report on UK’s role...

Chilcot to apportion Iraq blame far beyond war criminal Tony Blair’s inner circle

Blame for the Iraq War will extend far beyond Tony Blair’s inner circle to include senior intelligence and defense officials and top ministers at...

‘Chilcot inquiry faces further delay until next summer’

The UK’s long-delayed Iraq war probe, otherwise known as the Chilcot inquiry after the name of the investigation chief, John Chilcot, will not be...
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Video: ‘US withholding Chilcot Inquiry docs as they may discourage future wars US is...

Washington's refusal to declassify documents that could inform the UK probe into the 2003 invasion of Iraq is a major scandal in London. Yet...

War criminals ready to sue if criticized in Iraq War report

Sir John Chilcot fears a legal onslaught from those who are sharply criticized in his Iraq War Inquiry report and is refusing to be...

Tony Blair Should Be ‘Dragged in Shackles to Court’ Over Iraq War, Says Father...

Families of servicemen and women killed in Iraq pledge legal action if investigation into war is not published soon by Nadia Prupis The father of a soldier...

Families of dead soldiers threaten legal action over Iraq war inquiry delay

Families of British troops killed following the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq have threatened to take a legal action unless a long-delayed inquiry into...

Jeremy Corbyn wants war criminal Tony Blair to face justice

Tony Blair should stand trial for war crimes if the Chilcot Inquiry rules the former prime minister broke international law by invading Iraq in...

7/7 led to wars abroad and loss of freedoms at home… but do we...

For the London media 7/7 is 'done and dusted', but for Tony Gosling, who helped cover the IRA London bombing campaign for the BBC,...

MPs demand a date for ‘sexed down’ Iraq War inquiry

Jason Beattie, Jack Blanchard Furious MPs have demanded that Sir John Chilcot gives a date for the publication of his long-awaited report into the 2003...

​Cameron mocks Tony Blair’s Save the Children Award, charity scrutinized

Only a day after an online petition calling for Tony Blair’s Save the Children Global Legacy Award to be revoked gained over 100,000 signatures,...

War Criminal Tony Blair shown Iraq inquiry findings prior to public release

Letters containing in-depth conclusions of a public inquiry into Britain’s 2003 Iraq War have been dispatched to the probe’s primary participants. Critics charge that...

Stop David Cameron’s plan to join US bombing of Iraq

Charlie Kimber David Cameron, backed by Labour Party leaders and the Lib Dems, is preparing to bomb Iraq again. It will only make matters worse...

Russian Tanks in Ukraine? Consider the Source

Tony Cartalucci  RINF Alternative News Denying civilians admittedly needed aid constitutes, in the West’s own terms, a crime against humanity. While in Syria attempts by the...

UK government attempts to conceal its involvement in rendition and torture

Robert Stevens The British government is seeking to cover up its role in the illegal “extraordinary rendition”–kidnappings and torture–programme run by the United States. Ahead of...

Big Brother’s War On Israel, Ukraine and Truth

The other night, I saw George Orwells’s 1984 performed on the London stage. Although crying out for a contemporary interpretation, Orwell’s warning about the future was presented...

Iraq whitewash? Swathes of UK public inquiry findings suppressed

A lack of transparency concerning a UK public inquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq has bred heated criticism that its findings may vindicate...

War criminal Tony Blair has made a lucrative career from mass murder

A decade after launching the war that killed a million Iraqis, Tony Blair is still busy helping out dictators and making himself richer, writes...

Given US/UK/Israel wars and lust for more, what do two ‘supreme Law’ treaties say...

Carl Herman  The short answer is war is lawful only in self-defense from armed attack by another nation’s government, and lawful response is to arrest...

War Criminal Tony Blair Sidesteps Call For Iraq Note Release

TONY BLAIR ducked calls yesterday for him to sanction the release of his exchanges with former US president George Bush in the run-up to...

British Government Coverup and Whitewash of Iraq War Crimes: The Chilcot Inquiry

Amidst howls of “whitewash” from media commentators and interested observers of all political hues, it seems the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry in to...

Britain to keep plotting by war criminals Bush & Blair a secret

Announcement met with charges that the public 'has the right to know' why country went to war Sarah Lazare Critics are charging that a UK inquiry...

White House can’t find critical letter on Iraq war from Blair to Bush

The British inquiry into the 2003 Iraq War has hit a major stumbling block, as White House officials have been unable to find an...

Psychological Warfare and the “False Flag” Meme

James F. Tracy False flag operations and assassinations are a central component of the elaborate psychological warfare campaign waged on the American public to justify...

Media Bias: Parroting a “New Cold War” which Threatens America

William Boardman Crimea may be bigger than an archduke, but not more important If American media seem filled these days with bellicose, jingoistic, uniform perspectives on...

Leaked YouTube Tape: Turkey Plotting Pretext for War With Syria?

While there was extensive media coverage of the Turkish government cutting off YouTube late last week, just prior to that, there was a posting...

How the Pentagon Covers Up the Truth About Its War Atrocities

Nick Turse  RINF Alternative News The Pentagon's 3-year program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War is filled with distortions. It’s 2053 – 20 years...

The Truth about the Criminal Bloodbath in Iraq Can’t Be ‘Countered’ Indefinitely

John Pilger  RINF Alternative News The media cover-up has been a weapon in the crimes of western states since the first world war. But a reckoning...

Ex-UK minister of defence and former army chief of staff named in Iraq war...

Jean Shaoul  RINF Alternative News Britain has been referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague over allegations of war crimes committed during the...

The American Legacy in Iraq

Paris. The last thing the U.S. should do is become militarily embroiled in the conflict raging again in Iraq. But for Americans to shake their...

UK police get away with killing of Mark Duggan

Julie Hyland RINF Alternative News The eight to two verdict by a coroner's inquest that Mark Duggan was lawfully killed by London's Metropolitan Police is...

Misconceptions regarding Politics and Human Rights in War-Torn Syria

Since polling on the Syrian war began, majorities of Americans (some quite large) have consistently expressed their opposition to US military intervention in Syria....

Suppressing the Truth on Syria: Mother Agnes Mariam and Britain’s Self Proclaimed “Antiwar Movement”

William Boardman Here's what it looks like when a respected reporter tweets about his blackmail note to an established anti-war organization regarding the organization's upcoming...

UK Prime Minister Covers Up Crimes Against Humanity — Lectures Sri Lanka on Crimes...

“Hypocrisy, the most protected of vices.” Moliere (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, 1622-1673.) Last week a little more was learned as to the circumventions in Whitehall and...

‘Report on Iraq War proves US, UK lies’

The contents of an inquiry in Britain into the US-led war on Iraq will provide further evidence for the already known fact that the...

US Bullies UK To Keep Bush/Blair Iraq War Dialogue Secret

If the U.S. gets its way, the world will never know the top-level discussions between George W. Bush and Tony Blair that paved the...

Canada’s Harper Government Supports Covert Mercenary War on Syria, Funds Al Qaeda Affiliated Rebels

As expected, Prime Minister Harper wholly endorsed President Obama's call to punish the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons on August...

UK intelligence defends mass surveillance as Britain is accused of spying on Germany

By Chris Marsden8 November 2013 A committee of Britain's parliament, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), yesterday questioned the head of the internal security...

Drone Warfare and International Law: Findings of U.N. Reports on Extrajudicial and Arbitrary Executions

Four important reports relating to the use of armed drones have been published over the past ten day. Two official reports by UN...

Selling Empire: American Propaganda and War in the Philippines

by Susan Brewer And of all our race He has marked the American people as his chosen nation to finally lead in the regeneration of...

The Pseudo-War on Terror: How the US Has Protected Some of Its Enemies

Before World War Two American government, for all of its glaring faults, also served as a model for the world of limited government, having...

UK Secretary of State for Justice Asked to Initiate Penal Sanctions Against Tony Blair...

The Rt.Hon., Chris Grayling, The Secretary of State for Justice Ministry of Justice 102 Petty France SW1H 9AJ 23.9.2013 Dear Sir, Re: Obligations of the UK High Contracting Party to...

Cooking the Books: The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the China Lobby and Cold War...

by Jonathan Marshall1 As influential contributors to national policy, intelligence professionals inevitably face strong political and bureaucratic pressures to shape their assessments to fit official...

Coverup of War Crimes in Iraq: When ‘Damning Evidence’ on Congenital Birth Defects becomes...

In a 2010 alert, ‘Beyond Hiroshima – The Non-Reporting Of Fallujah's Cancer Catastrophe', we noted the almost non-existent media response to the publication of...

Hands Off Syria: UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria “is Acting to Incite Further...

Hands Off Syria (Australia) condemns the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria (COI) and calls for its disbanding and replacement by a body...

Suppressed WHO Reports on Rise of Cancer and Birth Defects in Iraq. Cover-Up of...

An initial WHO study completed in 2004 had documented the impacts of depleted uranium.It was suppressed.The WHO is now suppressed a second report...

Dangerous Crossroads. A War on Syria, Prelude to a World War III Scenario?

“In order to facilitate the action of liberative (sic) forces, …a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals. … be accomplished...

15 Signs That Obama Has Already Made The Decision To Go To War With...

The Obama administration seems absolutely determined to help radical Islamic jihadists that have beheaded Christians, that have massacred entire Christian villages, and that have...

WHO Is Delaying Release of Iraqi Birth Defect Data?

Observers say they are on the cusp of getting the hard evidence needed to prove Iraqis are suffering from a disproportionate rate of birth...

UK Spy Warns of Iraq War Disclosures

Photo: Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of Great Britain’s MI-6 intelligence agency. For more than a decade since the Iraq invasion, President Bush, Prime Minister Blair and...

Britain’s Former Top Spy Threatens To Expose Secrets Of Iraq ‘Dodgy Dossier’

Melanie Hall London Telegraph July 21, 2013 A former head of MI6 has threatened to expose the secrets of the ‘dodgy dossier’ if he...

Ex-UK PM faces criticism over Iraq war

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is likely to face condemnation over his promises to former US President George W Bush of Britain backing...

Political Assassination and the Crimes of War: The “Unnatural Death” of Dr. David Kelly

A bearded man of avuncular appearance had started early in replying to e-mails on the 17th July 2003. He was in the office of...

Iraq, Libya, Syria, Extensive US-NATO War Crimes. How the Media Buries “The Evidence”:

Last month, a ComRes poll supported by Media Lens interviewed 2,021 British adults, asking: ‘How many Iraqis, both combatants and civilians, do you think have...

The History of America’s Secret Wars: Corporate Espionage and the Outsourcing of National Security

This text is excerpted from Big Lies: How Our Corporate Overlords, Politicians and Media Establishment Warp Reality and Undermine Democracy Pre-9/11 Flashback When NATO’s US and...

The Chilcot Inquiry. The British Government’s Role in the War on Iraq. Margaret Aldred...

Introductory Note The Chilcot Inquiry chaired by Sir John Chilcot was launched in 2009 by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, with the mandate to inquire into role...

UN warns UK on human rights abuses

UN warns UK govt. on human rights abusesA UN panel criticizes Britain for its record on human rights. A United Nations (UN) panel has...

UK figures accused of Iraq war cover-up

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and current premier David Cameron have been accused of striking a secret deal to prevent the Chilcot inquiry...

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

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

Bush’s Invasion of Iraq was Criminal … Obama’s About to Do the Same Thing...

Washington’s BlogMay 29, 2013 The former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — the highest...

UK security services ‘completely out of control’

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

UK must hold separate inquiries into each Iraqi civilian deaths, high сourt rules

The British high court has ruled that 161 killings by the British military should be subject to hearings modeled on a coroner’s inquest. The...

UK govt. Iraq abuse probe ‘inadequate’

UK govt. Iraq abuse probe Ëœinadequateâ„¢This file picture taken on April 7, 2003 shows Iraqis watching British soldiers advance towards central Basra in the...

The Privatization of War: Mercenaries, Private Military and Security Companies (PMSC)

The Privatization of War: Mercenaries, Private Military and Security Companies (PMSC)

Private military and security companies (PMSC) are the modern reincarnation of a long lineage of private providers of physical force: corsairs, privateers and mercenaries. Mercenaries, which had practically disappeared during the XIXth and XXth centuries, reappeared in the 1960’s during the decolonization period operating mainly in Africa and Asia. Under the United Nations a convention was adopted which outlaws and criminalizes their activities. Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions also contains a definition of mercenary.

These non-state entities of the XXIst century operate in extremely blurred situations where the frontiers are difficult to separate. The new security industry of private companies moves large quantities of weapons and military equipment. It provides services for military operations recruiting former militaries as civilians to carry out passive or defensive security.

However, these individuals cannot be considered as civilians, given that they often carry and use weapons, interrogate prisoners, load bombs, drive military trucks and fulfill other essential military functions. Those who are armed can easily switch from a passive/defensive to an active/offensive role and can commit human rights violations and even destabilize governments. They cannot be considered soldiers or supporting militias under international humanitarian law either, since they are not part of the army or in the chain of command, and often belong to a large number of different nationalities.

PMSC personnel cannot usually be considered to be mercenaries for the definition of mercenaries as stipulated in the international conventions dealing with this issue does not generally apply to the personnel of PMSCs which are legally operating in foreign countries under contracts of legally registered companies.

Private military and security companies operate in a legal vacuum: they pose a threat to civilians and to international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Council has entrusted the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, principally, with the mandate: “To monitor and study the effects of the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market on the enjoyment of human Rights (…) and to prepare draft international basic principles that encourage respect for human rights on the part of those companies in their activities”.

During the past five years, the Working Group has been studying emerging issues, manifestations and trends regarding private military and security companies.  In our reports we have informed the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly about these issues. Of particular importance are the reports of the Working Group to the last session of the Human Rights Council, held in September 2010, on the Mission to the United States of America  (20 July to 3 August 2009), Document A/HRC/15/25/Add.3; on the Mission to Afghanistan (4-9 April 2009), Document A/HRC/15/25/Add.2, and the general report of the Working Group containing the Draft of a possible Convention on Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) for consideration and action by the Human Rights Council, Document A/HRC/15/25.

In the course of our research, since 2006, we have collected ample information which indicate the negative impact of the activities of “private contractors”, “private soldiers” or “guns for hire”, whatever denomination we may choose to name the individuals employed by private military and security companies as civilians but in general heavily armed. In the cluster of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by employees of these companies, which the Working Group has examined one can find: summary executions, acts of torture, cases of arbitrary detention; of trafficking of persons; serious health damages caused by their activities; as well as attempts against the right of self-determination. It also appears that PMSCs, in their search for profit, neglect security and do not provide their employees with their basic rights, and often put their staff in situations of danger and vulnerability.

Summary executions

On 16 September 2007 in Baghdad, employees of the US-based firm Blackwater[1] were involved in a shooting incident in Nisoor Square in which 17 civilians were killed and more than 20 other persons were wounded including women and children. Local eyewitness accounts indicate the use of arms from vehicles and rocket fire from a helicopter belonging to this company.

There are also concerns over the activities and approach of PMSC personnel, their convoys of armored vehicles and their conduct in traffic, in particular their use of lethal force. This particular incident was not the first of its kind, neither the first involving Blackwater.

According to a congressional report on the behaviour of Xe/Blackwater in Iraq, Xe/Blackwater guards were found to have been involved in nearly 200 escalation-of-force incidents that involved the firing of shots since 2005. Despite the terms of the contracts which provided that the company could engage only in defensive use of force, the company reported that in over 80 per cent of the shooting incidents, its forces fired the first shots.

In Najaf in April 2004 and on several other occasions, employees of this company took part in direct hostilities, as well as in May 2007, where another incident involving the same company reportedly occurred involving guards belonging to the company and forces belonging to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior allegedly exchanged gunfire in a sector of Baghdad.

Also in central Baghdad the shooting of employees of the PMSC, Unity Resources Group (URG)[2], protecting a convoy, left two Armenian women, Genevia Antranick and Mary Awanis dead on 9 October 2007 when their car came too close to a protected convoy. The family of Genevia Antranick was offered no compensation and has begun court proceedings against URG in the United States.

This company was also involved in the shooting of 72-year-old Australian Kays Juma. Professor Juma was shot in March 2006 as he approached an intersection being blockaded for a convoy URG was protecting. Professor Juma, a 25-year resident of Baghdad who drove through the city every day, allegedly sped up his vehicle as he approached the guards and did not heed warnings to stop, including hand signals, flares, warning shots into the body of his car and floodlights. The incident occurred at 10am[3].

Torture

Two United States-based corporations, CACI and L-3 Services (formerly Titan Corporation), were involved in the torture of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. CACI and L-3 Services, contracted by the Government of the United States, were responsible for interrogation and translation services, respectively, at Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities in Iraq.

Seventy two Iraqi citizens who were formerly detained at military prisons in Iraq, have sued L-3 Services, Inc. (“L-3”), a military private contractor which provided civilian translators for United States military forces in Iraq and Adel Nakhla, a former employee of L-3 who served as one of its translators there under the Alien Tort Statute. They allege having been tortured and physically and mentally abused during their detention and that they should be held liable in damages for their actions. The plaintiffs assert 20 causes of action, among which: torture; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; assault and battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress[4].

Arbitrary detention 

A number of reports indicate that private security guards have played central roles in some of the most sensitive activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) such as the arbitrary detention and clandestine raids against alleged insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan[5] and the involvement in CIA rendition flights[6] as well as joint covert operations[7]. Employees of PMSC would have been involved in the taking of detainees, from “pick up points” (such as Tuzla, Islamabad or Skopje) transporting them in rendition flights and delivering them to drop off points (such as Cairo, Rabat, Bucharest, Amman or Guantanamo) as well as in the construction, equipping and staffing of CIA’s “black sites”.

Within this context, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit in May 2007 against Jeppesen DataPlan Inc. (a subsidiary company of Boeing) on behalf of five persons who were kidnapped by the CIA disappearing in overseas prisons kept by USA secret services. Jeppesen would have participated in the rendition by providing flight planning and logistical support. The five persons were tortured during their arbitrary detention[8].

Health

The 2009 annual report of DynCorp International refers to four lawsuits concerning the spraying of narcotic plant crops along the Colombian border adjacent to Ecuador on behalf of 3 Ecuadorian Providences and 3266 plaintiffs[9].

From 1991, the United States Department of State contracted the private company DynCorp to supply services for this air-spraying program against narcotics in the Andean region. In accordance with the subscribed contract of 30 January 1998, DynCorp provides the essential logistics to the anti-drug Office of activities of Colombia, in conformity with three main objectives: eradication of cultivations of illicit drugs, training of the army and of personnel of the country, and dismantling of illicit drug laboratories and illicit drug-trafficking networks.

An NGO report indicated the consequences of the spraying carried out within the Plan Colombia had on persons living in the frontier region[10].  One third of the 47 women in the study exposed to the spraying showed cells with some genetic damage. The study established the relationship of the air fumigations of the Plan Colombia with damages in the genetic material. The study demonstrates that when the population is subjected to fumigations “the risk of cellular damage can increase and that, once permanent, the cases of cancerous mutations and important embryonic alterations are increased that prompt among other possibilities the rise in abortions in the area.

This example is particularly important given that Plan Colombia has served as the model for the arrangements that the United States would apply later to Iraq and Afghanistan. Plan Colombia provides immunity to the employees of the PMSC contracted (DynCorp) the same as Order 14 of the Coalition Provisional Authority did in Iraq.

Self-determination

The 2004 attempted coup d’état, which was perpetrated in Equatorial Guinea is a clear example of the link between the phenomenon of mercenaries and PMSCs as a means of violating the sovereignty of States. In this particular case, the mercenaries involved were mostly former directors and personnel of Executive Outcomes, a PMSC that had become famous for its operations in Angola and Sierra Leone. The team of mercenaries also included security guards who were still employed by PMSCs as was the case of two employees of the company Meteoric Tactical Systems providing security to diplomats of Western Embassies in Baghdad-among which to the Ambassador of Switzerland. It also included a security guard who had previously worked for the PMSC “Steele Foundation” and had given protection to President Aristide of Haiti and conducted him to the plane who took him to exile[11].

Trafficking in persons

In 2005, 105 Chileans were providing/or undergoing military training in the former army base of Lepaterique in Honduras. The instruction consisted in anti‐guerrilla tactics such as possible ambushes and deactivation of explosives and mortars how to avoid them. The Chileans had entered Honduras as tourists and were illegally in Honduras. They used high‐caliber weapons such as M‐16 rifles or light machine guns. They had been contracted by a subsidiary of Triple Canopy.

They were part of a group, which included also 189 Hondurans recruited and trained in Honduras. Triple Canopy had been awarded a contract by the United States Department of State. The strong contingent left the country by air from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in several groups with a stopover in Iceland. Then reached the Middle East and were smuggled into Iraq[12].

The majority of the Chileans and Hondurans were engaged as security guards at fixed facilities in Iraq. They had been contracted by Your Solutions Honduras SRL, a local agent of Your Solutions Incorporated, registered in Illinois, United States of America, which in turn had been subcontracted by Triple Canopy, based in Chicago, United States of America. Some of the Chileans are presently working in Baghdad providing security to the Embassy of Australia under a contract by Unity Resources Group (URG).

Human rights violations committed by PMSC to their employees

PMSC often put the contracted private guards in situations of danger and vulnerability, such as the ‘private contractors’ of Blackwater, killed in Fallujah in 2004 allegedly due to the lack of the necessary safety means that Blackwater was supposed to provide in order to carry out the mission.

It should not be forgotten that this incident changed dramatically the course of the war and the occupation by the United States in Iraq. It may be considered as the turning point in the occupation of Iraq. This led to an abortive US operation to recapture control of the city and a successful recapture operation in the city in November 2004, called Operation Phantom Fury, which resulted in the death of over 1,350 insurgent fighters. Approximately 95 America troops were killed, and 560 wounded.

The U.S. military first denied that it has use white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon in Fallujah, but later retracted that denial, and admitted to using the incendiary in the city as an offensive weapon. Reports following the events of November 2004 have alleged war crimes, and a massacre by U.S. personnel, including indiscriminate violence against civilians and children.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallujah – cite_note-17 This point of view is presented in the 2005 documentary film, “Fallujah, the Hidden Massacre”. In 2010, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a leading medical journal, published a study, which shows that the rates of cancer, infant mortality and leukemia exceed those reported in Hiroshima and Nagasaki[13].

The over 300 000 classified military documents made public by Wikileaks show that the “Use of Contractors Added to War’s Chaos in Iraq”, as has been widely reported by the international media recently.

The United States has relied and continues to rely heavily on private military and security contractors in conducting its military operations. The United States used private security contractors to conduct narcotics intervention operations in Colombia in the 1990s and recently signed a supplemental agreement that authorizes it to deploy troops and contractors in seven Colombian military bases. During the conflict in the Balkans, the United States used a private security contractor to train Croat troops to conduct operations against Serbian troops. Nowadays, it is in the context of its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular that the State is massively contracting out security functions to private firms.

In 2009, the Department of Defense employed 218,000 private contractors (all types) while there were 195,000 uniformed personnel. According to the figures, about 8 per cent of these contractors are armed security contractors, i.e. about 20,000 armed guards. If one includes other theatres of operations, the figure rises to 242,657, with 54,387 United States citizens, 94,260 third country nationals and 94,010 host-country nationals.

The State Department relies on about 2,000 private security contractors to provide United States personnel and facilities with personal protective and guard services in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Pakistan, and aviation services in Iraq. The contracts for protective services were awarded in 2005 to three PMSCs, namely, Triple Canopy, DynCorp International and the U.S. Training Center, part of the Xe (then Blackwater) group of companies. These three companies still hold the State Department protective services contracts today.

Lack of transparency

The information accessible to the public on the scope and type of contracts between the Government of the United States and PMSCs is scarce and opaque. The lack of transparency is particularly significant when companies subcontract to others. Often, the contracts with PMSCs are not disclosed to the public despite extensive freedom of information rules in the United States, either because they contain confidential commercial information or on the argument that non-disclosure is in the interest of national defense or foreign policy. The situation is particularly opaque when United States intelligence agencies contract PMSCs.

Lack of accountability

Despite the fact of their involvement in grave human rights violations, not a single PMSC or employee of these companies has been sanctioned.

In the course of litigation, several recurring legal arguments have been used in the defense of PMSCs and their personnel, including the Government contractor defense, the political question doctrine and derivative immunity arguments. PMSCs are using the Government contractor defense to argue that they were operating under the exclusive control of the Government of the United States when the alleged acts were committed and therefore cannot be held liable for their actions.

It looks as if when the acts are committed by agents of the government they are considered human rights violations but when these same acts are perpetrated by PMSC it is “business as usual”.

The human rights violation perpetrated by private military and security companies are indications of the threat posed to the foundations of democracy itself by the privatization of inherently public functions such as the monopoly of the legitimate use of force. In this connection I cannot help but to refer to the final speech of President Eisenhower.

In 1961, President Eisenhower warned the American public opinion against the growing danger of a military industrial complex stating: “(…) we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together”.

Fifty years later, on 8 September 2001, Donald Rumsfeld in his speech in the Department of Defence warned the militaries of the Pentagon against “an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America (…) Let’s make no mistake: The modernization of the Department of Defense is (…) a matter of life and death, ultimately, every American’s. (…) The adversary. (…) It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy. (…)That’s why we’re here today challenging us all to wage an all-out campaign to shift Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the battlefield, from tail to the tooth. We know the adversary. We know the threat. And with the same firmness of purpose that any effort against a determined adversary demands, we must get at it and stay at it. Some might ask, how in the world could the Secretary of Defense attack the Pentagon in front of its people? To them I reply, I have no desire to attack the Pentagon; I want to liberate it. We need to save it from itself.”

Rumsfeld should have said the shift from the Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the private sector. Indeed, that shift had been accelerated by the Bush Administration: the number of persons employed by contract which had been outsourced (privatized) by the Pentagon was already four times more than at the Department of Defense.

It is not anymore a military industrial complex but as Noam Chomsky has indicated “it’s just the industrial system operating under one or another pretext”.

The articles of the Washington Post “Top Secret America: A hidden world, growing beyond control”, by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin (19 July 2010) show the extent that “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work”.

The investigation’s findings include that some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States; and that an estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. A number of private military and security companies are among the security and intelligence agencies mentioned in the report of the Washington Post.

The Working Group received information from several sources that up to 70 per cent of the budget of United States intelligence is spent on contractors. These contracts are classified and very little information is available to the public on the nature of the activities carried out by these contractors.

The privatization of war has created a structural dynamic, which responds to a commercial logic of the industry.

A short look at the careers of the current managers of BAE Systems, as well as on their address-books, confirms we are not any longer dealing with a normal corporation, but with a cartel uniting high tech weaponry (BAE Systems, United Defence Industries, Lockheed Martin), with speculative financiers (Lazard Frères, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank), together with raw material cartels (British Petroleum, Shell Oil) with on the ground, private military and security companies[14].

The majority of the private military and security companies has been created or are managed by former militaries or ex-policemen for whom it is big business. Just to give an example MPRI (Military Professional Resources Incorporation) was created by four former generals of the United States Army when they were due for retirement[15]. The same is true for Blackwater and its affiliate companies or subsidiaries, which employ former directors of the C.I.A.[16]. Social Scientists refer to this phenomenon as the Rotating Door Syndrome.

The use of security contractors is expected to grow as American forces shrink. A July report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a panel established by Congress, estimated that the State Department alone would need more than double the number of contractors it had protecting the American Embassy and consulates in Iraq.

“Without contractors: (1) the military engagement would have had to be smaller–a strategically problematic alternative; (2) the United States would have had to deploy its finite number of active personnel for even longer tours of duty -a politically dicey and short-sighted option; (3) the United States would have had to consider a civilian draft or boost retention and recruitment by raising military pay significantly–two politically untenable options; or (4) the need for greater commitments from other nations would have arisen and with it, the United States would have had to make more concessions to build and sustain a truly multinational effort. Thus, the tangible differences in the type of war waged, the effect on military personnel, and the need for coalition partners are greatly magnified when the government has the option to supplement its troops with contractors”[17].

The military cannot do without them. There are more contractors over all than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.

CONCLUSIONS OF THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE impact of Private Security Contracting on U.S. Goals in Afghanistan[18]

Conclusion I: The proliferation of private security personnel in Afghanistan is inconsistent with the counterinsurgency strategy. In May 2010 the U.S. Central Command’s Armed Contractor Oversight Directorate reported that there were more than 26,000 private security contractor personnel operating in Afghanistan. Many of those private security personnel are associated with armed groups that operate outside government control.

Conclusion 2: Afghan warlords and strongmen operating as force providers to private security contractors have acted against U.S. and Afghan government interests. Warlords and strongmen associated with U.S.-funded security contractors have been linked to anti Coalition activities, murder, bribery, and kidnapping. The Committee’s examination of the U.S. funded security contract with ArmorGroup at Shindand Airbase in Afghanistan revealed that ArmorGroup relied on a series of warlords to provide armed men to act as security, guards at the Airbase.

Open-ended intergovernmental working group established by the HR Council

Because of their impact in the enjoyment of human rights the Working Group on mercenaries in its 2010 reports to the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly has recommended a legally binding instrument regulating and monitoring their activities at the national and international level.

The motion to create an open ended intergovernmental working group has been the object of lengthy negotiations, in the Human Rights Council, led by South Africa in order to accommodate the concerns of the Western Group, but primarily those of the United States and the United Kingdom and of a lot a pressure exerted in the capitals of African countries supporting the draft resolution. The text of the resolution was weakened in order to pass the resolution by consensus. But even so the position of the Western States has been a “fin de non recevoir”.

The resolution was adopted by a majority of 32 in favour, 12 against and 3 abstentions. Among the supporters of this initiative are four out of the five members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) in addition to the African Group, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab Group.

The adoption of this resolution opens an interesting process in the UN Human Rights Council where civil society can participate in the elaboration of an international framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies.  The new open ended intergovernmental working group will be the forum for all stakeholders to receive inputs, not only the draft text of a possible convention and the elements elaborated by the UN Working Group on mercenaries but also of other initiatives such as the proposal submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Montreux Document and the international code of conduct being elaborated under the Swiss Initiative.

However, the negative vote of the delegations of the Western Group indicates that the interests of the new staggering security industry – its annual market revenue is estimated to be over USD one hundred billion – have been quite well defended as was the case in a number of other occasions. It also shows that Western governments will be absent from the start in a full in-depth discussion of the issues raised by the activities of PMSC.

We urge all States to support the process initiated by the Council by designating their representatives to the new open-ended intergovernmental working group, which will hold its first session in 2011, and to continue a process of discussions regarding a legally binding instrument.

The participation of the UK and USA main exporters of these activities (it is estimated at 70% the industry of security in these two countries) as well as other Western countries where the new industry is expanding is of particular importance.

The Working Group also urges the United States Government to implement the recommendations we made, in particular, to:

support the Congress Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act, which clearly defines the functions which are inherently governmental and that cannot be outsourced to the private sector;

rescind immunity to contractors carrying out activities in other countries under bilateral agreements;

carry out prompt and effective investigation of human rights violations committed by PMSCs and prosecute alleged perpetrators;

ensure that the oversight of private military and security contractors is not outsourced to PMSCs;
establish a specific system of federal licensing of PMSCs for their activities abroad;

set up a vetting procedure for awarding contracts to PMSCs;

ensure that United States criminal jurisdiction applies to private military and security companies contracted by the Government to carry out activities abroad; and

respond to pending communications from the Working Group.

The United Nations Human Rights Council, under the Universal Periodic Review, initiated a review in November 2010 in Geneva, focussing on the human rights record of the United States. The above article is an edited version of the presentation given by Jose L. Gomez del Prado in Geneva on 3 November 2010 at a parallel meeting at the UN Palais des Nations on that occasion.

Notes

[1] Blackwater Worldwide abandoned its tarnished brand name in order to shake its reputation battered by its criticized work in Iraq, renaming its family of two-dozen businesses under the name Xe’, see Mike Baker, ‘Blackwater dumps tarnished brand name’, AP News Break, 13 February 2009.

[2] URG, an Australian private military and security company, uses a number of ex military Chileans to provide security to the Australian Embassy in Baghdad. Recently one of those “private guards” shot himself, ABC News, reported by La Tercera, Chile, 16 September 2010.

[3]J.Mendes & S Mitchell, “Who is Unity Resources Group?”, ABC News Australia, 16 September 2010.

[4] Case 8:08-cv-01696-PJM, Document 103, Filed 07/29/10. Defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss on a number of grounds. They argue, among others, that the suit must be dismissed in its entirety because they are immune under the laws of war, because the suit raises non-justiciable political questions, and because they possess derivative sovereign immunity. They seek dismissal of the state law claims on the basis of government contractor immunity, premised on the notion that Plaintiffs cannot proceed on state law claims, which arise out of combatant activities of the military. The United States District Court for the district of Maryland Greenbelt Division has decided to proceed with the case against L-3 Services, Inc. It has not accepted the motions to dismiss allowing the case to go forward.

[5] Mission to the United States of America, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/15/25/Add.3, paragraphs 22.

[6] James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, “Blackwater guards tied to secret C.I.A. raids ”, New York Times, 10

December 2009.

[7] Adam Ciralsky, “Tycoon, contractor, soldier, spy”, Vanity Fair, January 2010. See also Claim No. HQ08X02800 in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Binyam Mohamed v. Jeppesen UK Ltd, report of James Gavin Simpson, 26 May 2009.

[8]ACLU Press Release, UN Report Underscores Lack of Accountability and Oversight for Military and Security Contractors, New York, 14 September 2010.

[9] The reports also indicates that the Revenues of DynCorp for 2006 were of USD 1 966 993 and for 2009 USD 3 101 093

[10] Mission to Ecuador, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/4/42/Add.2

[11] A number of the persons involved in the attempted coup were arrested in Zimbabwe, other in Equatorial Guinea itself the place where the coup was intended to take place to overthrow the government and put another in its place in order to get the rich resources in oil. In 2004 and 2008 the trials took place in Equatorial Guinea of those arrested in connection with this coup attempt, including of the British citizen Simon Mann and the South African Nick du Toit. The President of Equatorial Guinea pardoned all foreigners linked to this coup attempt in November 2009 by. A number of reports indicated that trials failed to comply with international human rights standards and that some of the accused had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. The government of Equatorial Guinea has three ongoing trials in the United Kingdom, Spain and Lebanon against the persons who were behind the attempted coup.
[12] Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, Mission to Honduras, United Nations document A/HRC/4/42/Add.1.
[13] Wikipedia
[14] Mercenaries without borders by Karel Vereycken,  Friday Sep 21st, 2007
[15] Among which General Carl E. Vuono, Chief of the Army during the Gulf War and the invasion of Panama; General Crosbie E. Saint, former Commander in Chief of the  USA Army in Europe and General Ron Griffith. The President of MPRI is General Bantant J. Craddock.

[16] Such as Cofer Black, former Chief of the Counter Terrorism Center; Enrique Prado, former Chief of Operations and Rof Richter, second in command of the Clandestine Services of the Company
[17] Article published in the Spring 2010 issue of the University of Chicago Law Review, titled “Privatization’s Pretensions” by Jon D. Michaels, Acting Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law
[18] INQUIRY INTO THE ROLE AND OVERSIGHT OF PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS IN AFGHANISTAN, R E P O R T TOGETHER WITH ADDITIONAL VIEWS OF THE COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES UNITED STATES SENATE, 28 September 2010

UK FM Hague instructed cabinet not to mention Iraq War — report

Published time: March 01, 2013 13:35

British Foreign Minister William Hague. (AFP Photo / Leon Neal)

As the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war looms, the UK cabinet has been urged not to discuss the 2003’s invasion or its legality until an inquiry into it is complete. The instruction has been met with distaste from Liberal Democrat MPs.

A confidential letter warned MPs not to mention the war or deeply controversial issues surrounding it.  As March began, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a directive instructing Conservative MPs to make no mention of Iraq or the conflict’s 100,000 deaths, according to a private correspondence leaked to the Guardian.

“The foreign secretary has written to colleagues to remind them that the agreed position of the coalition government is not to comment on the case justification for the war until Chilcot has reported,” a source close to Hague told the newspaper.

The Chilcot Inquiry is the UK public investigation into the country’s role in the Iraq War. Whitehall sources said that Hague wasn’t attempting to enforce a gag on a highly controversial political issue, but was delaying commenting on the war until after the inquiry’s publication.

The results of the Chilcot Inquiry were supposed to have been published in 2012, but were delayed last July. Conclusions are now expected to be made public mid- to late-2013. However, it is unlikely the inquiry will render a formal judgment on the Iraq intervention.

The report has utilized “oral and documentary evidence,” according to a 2012 letter from Chilcot to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, written at the time of the inquiry’s delay.  This includes evidence such as cabinet meeting minutes.

Despite having agreed it is “essential to hold as much of the inquiry as possible in public,” the British Foreign Office prevented the release of telephone conversations between then-UK PM Tony Blair and then-US President George Bush in the days preceding the invasion.  

The evidence is also inconsistent, and gaps in the documentary record and lapses in memory may have hindered the investigation, according to the letter.

Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry’s head, once said the final report would be twice the size of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ – over 1 million words long.

Anti-war protestors pass Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament on a march opposing a military strike on Iraq on September 29, 2002. (Reuters)

The 2003 invasion resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, and 179 British deaths. The WikiLeaks Iraq war logs showed that more than 90,000 Iraqi civilians died throughout the course of the conflict, placing the overall number of Iraqi deaths at over 100,000.

The instruction not to mention these events has led to a bitter row within the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition. Liberal Democrat ministers stood strongly opposed to the Iraq invasion at the time, while Conservative Party members stood in staunch support. Many Liberal Democrat MPs intend to defy the directive.

“William Hague is entitled to his views on what should be said about the Iraq war but he can’t force them on the Lib Dems,” a senior Liberal Democrat source told the Guardian. “The idea that Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats will be mute on the 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq will get very short shrift indeed.”

The party’s former leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, also spoke out against the attempt to silence MPs on the war’s anniversary, pointing out the high levels of Conservative enthusiasm for the war in 2003, despite their not being the ruling party.

A photo issued 23 March 2003 of a British Royal Marine from 42 Commando squadron firing a Milan wire-guided missile at an Iraqi position on the Fao peninsula 21 March 2003. (AFP Photo / John Mills)

He went on to label UK intervention in Iraq as the country’s biggest foreign policy blunder since Suez, which Conservative MP Kenneth Clarke recently also used as a comparison while speaking to the BBC, calling the Iraq War “the most disastrous foreign policy decision of my lifetime… worse than Suez.”

In 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated that the US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN charter.

Despite the primary motivation for the invasion being Saddam Hussein’s alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, the failure to locate them both before and after the Iraq War intensified international debate about the decision to go to war. The only such discoveries ended up being badly corroded munitions produced in the 1980s, which could not be used as originally intended.

The UK’s decision to participate in the invasion was met with wide-scale protest at the time, not just in England but across Europe and around the world. In February 2003, an estimated 6 to 10 million people participated in protests that spanned 60 countries.

Millions of people are expected to take to the streets of towns and cities across the globe on Saturday to demonstrate against a looming U.S. led war on Iraq in the biggest protests since the Vietnam war. February 15, 2003. (Reuters / Peter MacDiarmid)

In the UK, an estimated 750,000 to 1-million-plus protesters participated in anti-war demonstrations; the march in London was named the largest political demonstration Britain had ever seen. Later in March, tens of thousands of schoolchildren staged walkouts across the country, and in the day following the actual invasion a wide-scale demonstration took place in front of the Houses of Parliament. In the days afterward, over 100,000 people took to the streets.

Iraqis Seek Independent Public Inquiry Over British Torture Allegations

Scores of Iraqis will come to the High Court on Tuesday seeking an "independent" public inquiry into allegations that British interrogators abused, killed and tortured civilians in Iraq. Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), acting on behalf of 180 Iraqis, a...

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

Old and New Wars: “Dehumanizing” War. Armies facing Armies no longer happens?

drone

Do we want a generation of veterans who return without guilt? Prof. Jonathon Moreno

Last November global governance expert Professor Mary Kaldor gave a lecture at the Imperial War Museum*, London.  Her theme was Old and New Wars – how the nature of warfare and the organisation of its participants have changed. Old wars, she said, were essentially a battle of wills between two states or leaders. A war of two sides, two armies, can be vicious as it progresses but sooner or later one side wins, one loses, and some kind of treaty is negotiated.  In a literal sense the war ends but, as any good historian knows, each war has carried and planted the seeds of the following war.

However, armies facing armies no longer happens.  There is a halfway stage between old and new wars – such as happened in Vietnam and now in Iraq and Afghanistan – where an invading army finds itself at a loss as to how to fight what is essentially a guerrilla war fought by people trying to rid their country of a force that has come in from outside and is trying to impose its own solution on their state’s difficulties.  But when, politicians having realised they are never going to ‘win’ this war, the invading troops are pulled out, the fighting goes on.  It morphs into a ‘new’ war.  Afghanistan does not have a good outlook, and Iraq is still at war with itself, where no such divisions existed before the invasion.  Nor does the imported heavy battlefield equipment do that well against insurgents with roadside bombs or hand-held rocket launchers – which must be a sore disappointment to those who love big machines.

There is no clear way to end new wars, something which we should take account of.  They are far more complicated in the make-up of combatants, but all are seeking some form of power.  And money (or more accurately, profit) plays a large part. Nor is it easy to tell who is raising money to fund the war, or who is fighting the war to raise money to further their aims.  There are too many actors – soldiers in uniform, freedom fighters, religious fighters, Mujahideen, war lords, mercenaries and. of course, men who simply love killing and migrate from country to country, conflict to conflict.  They went to Iraq and now they are part of the Syrian Free Army.  Foreign passports proliferate in modern conflicts.  So – too many competing interests, with scant attention paid to those who are truly ‘on the ground’, the little people living in little villages, growing little amounts of food for their little families and sadly fertilising their fields with their blood.

How many of these combatants have a natural right to be there, in that country or that province?  How many are interfering in someone else’s conflict?  How many are making the situation worse while justifying their actions by claiming they are there to sort things out?  How many are fighting for power and control over their countrymen?  How many are fighting because they have a particular vision of their country and are trying to force that vision on others?  For each and every one of these fighters one has to ask: what is that one trying to gain?  It is a far cry from the old wars with kings or politicians deciding to go to war to protect their ‘interests’ and sending off hapless soldiers to do the killing and dying.  Or is it?  Is the difference between the old wars and the new simply that the old wars were mostly fought by national armies, not coalitions of convenience like ISAF and not splinter groups representing different interests?  The desire for power, control and profit never alters.

All soldiers, across all time, can and often do act in an inhumane way, committing appalling acts of cruelty.  One only has to read some of the evidence given at the Baha Mousa Inquiry to understand that war insists that other people are ‘the enemy’ and that soldiers feel, as they did in Iraq, that they have the right to torture and beat those whose only crime is to live in the invaded country.  But now soldiers are taking that one step further, too far, treading beyond the line.  The tools and training of modern warfare are dehumanising them.  Take drones.

It is hard to believe that the first armed drones were used in Afghanistan in 2001.  In less than ten years they have become an essential part of fighting war.  They are controlled from half a world away by people who have never been to the country they are targeting; who have no knowledge of the way of life, the culture of the little blobs of humanity they track in their monitors; who have no understanding of the political and corporate background to the ‘war’ they are fighting; and, most importantly, by people who are in no danger of having their own blood spilt.  The deaths they cause are meaningless to the hand that presses the button.  They have meaning enough for the people on the ground, gathering what they can of shattered bodies for burial, and unsurprisingly their use creates more so-called terrorists.

Killing at a distance dehumanizes those doing it – it is not killing but a computer game.  Scoring a ‘hit’ that involves no blood, no entrails, no broken lives brings no guilt, no remorse and no proper awareness of the hurt inflicted on others.  But with the physical damage being inflicted on Western forces (in the US Army alone 73,674 soldiers have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and 30,480 soldiers have returned from combat with traumatic brain injury).  This in itself is a good enough reason to use nothing but drones, and if both sides use them then the only casualties will be absolutely guaranteed to be civilian.  It is bad enough that the US thinks it is fighting a global war on terror, so all the world is a battlefield.  What price the world if another state takes that attitude thinking, quite rightly, that the US drones are a form of terrorism?

Using drones also dehumanizes the people they kill.  These are not fellow humans but terrorists, not civilians but collateral damage, not 8-year-old boys or old men of eighty but potential combatants.  The enemy becomes nothing more than a fly to be swatted, a worm to be stepped on.  President Obama has to personally authorise US drone strikes, more than 300 of them in his first four years of office.  That many of the deaths were of children cannot be disputed, regardless of the fact that the US insists that only ‘combatants’ are killed.  But at the beginning of December last year a senior US army officer speaking to the Marine Corp Times said that troops in Afghanistan were on the lookout for “children with potential hostile intent” – in other words, children could be deliberately targeted.  Yet a few days later, there was Obama weeping on camera over the shocking deaths of the Connecticut school children.  Afghan children obviously don’t rate tears.

Having gone past the old form of war of charging into battle against another army, it is inevitable that soldiers should be expected and trained, when fighting ‘terrorists’ – aka: freedom fighters, resistance fighters, insurgents, supporters of ‘regimes’, religious fundamentalists (non-Christian of course) – to operate in the same way as drones, with targeted assassinations, raids on homes or farmers out in fields.  We are told – and oh, am I tired of this being parroted by politicians justifying murderous actions by their forces – that the terrorists are ‘hiding’ in civilian areas,  using women and children, even their own families as human shields.  If they are not regular soldiers but people resisting occupying forces, they are not using their families as human shields; the houses are their homes, where they live, where they and their families belong.  They are all civilians.  And in much of the Middle East the prevailing culture is that most men, particularly in rural areas, own guns.  Before the West visited so much war upon them, the guns appeared mostly to be used for firing shots into the air at weddings and other celebrations.  But they own guns therefore they must be terrorists.  By that logic, many US citizens are also terrorists.

And now we have the possibility of super-soldiers, the ultimate killing machines.  Not satisfied with the vulnerability of soldiers to fatigue, stress, madness, drug addiction and worse, a sudden sense of morality, the Pentagon and others are researching ways of bypassing all that humanity.  According to bioethicist Professor Moreno, the military co-option of neuroscience is now the fastest growing area of science.  Millions of dollars are being spent in researching the soldier’s brain, testing drugs that will wipe out unpleasant memories of dark deeds done, quell the fatigue, mask pain and eliminate feelings of guilt.  It is not so much using robots (which in one sense is what drones are) as turning humans into unfeeling robots.

But if armies become mere operators of drones, or the ‘super soldier’, guilt-free and heartless, becomes reality, then there really is no end to war.  For the publics’ reaction to damaged soldiers coming back home and being a drain on families’ emotions and the public purse because of PTSD or multiple disablements will be the only thing that just might finally persuade the politicians that war is not worth the fighting.

* This was the annual Remembrance Day Lecture for the Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW)

Foreign Terrorists Wage War on Syria

Syrian authorities said so in 2011. Other reports acknowledged it then and now.

Syria is Washington’s war. It was planned years ago. America wants pro-Western puppet leadership replacing Assad.

All independent governments are targeted for regime change. Imperial rogue states operate that way.

Strategy used is longstanding. On January 4, Michel Chossudovsky discussed it. Current US proxy wars employ earlier tactics. Western-recruited death squads are used.

Using them “go(es) back to the Vietnam war.”

“Terror brigades (commit) targeted assassinations (and) countless atrocities.”

Since Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011, Washington, key NATO allies, Israel, and other regional allies recruited, armed, trained, and directed death squads.

They’re still doing it. They’re imported from abroad. More on that below.

Washington prioritizes the “Salvador Option.” Rules of engagement proliferated massacres, torture, and gruesome atrocities in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

In Vietnam, Operation Phoenix (OP) did the same things earlier. It became a template for future counterterrorism operations.

From 1968 – 1973, CIA operatives, Special Forces, and Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Special Operations Group (MACV-SOG) conducted covert missions.

Their mandate was to crush National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) resistance. Strategy was to terrorize people into submission.

Operations were no holds barred. Indiscriminate mass murder and atrocities were committed. US military personnel and South Vietnamese government officials considered security risks were targeted.

High-value elements mattered most. Countless others were affected. Around 80,000 died before operations ended.

Later reports said OP failed. John Pilger called America’s Southeast Asian war “the grand illusion of the American cause.” What couldn’t succeed finally ended.

Many remember Washington’s humiliating April 30, 1975 Saigon embassy rooftop exit. Perhaps Middle East/North African/Central Asian ones await.

America considers state-sponsored terrorism success stories.

Johnson and Nixon prioritized them. So did Reagan, Bush I and II, Clinton and Obama. Rogue states operate no holds barred. Inviolable international and domestic laws are spurned.

Unchallenged global dominance alone matters. Unlimited body count totals and mass destruction further it. Wars of aggression are called liberating ones. Humanitarian intervention duplicity justifies them.

Patriotism means going along with criminal lawlessness. Truth is turned on its head. Media scoundrels suppress it. Rogue politicians betray their constituents.

It’s institutionalized. Empires never say they’re sorry. Policy is made through the barrel of a gun. It’s not pretty. It proliferates state terror globally. Most people haven’t a clue.

They’re hooked on bread and circuses. They’re mindless about what affects them most. Their dismissiveness compromises their own security. Their futures are jeopardized. Their children may not have one worth living. People are on their own to fight back.

Prioritized wealth, power, privilege and dominance undermine what’s too important to lose. Permanent imperial wars alone divert trillions of vitally needed dollars. They’re not available for essential domestic needs.

Popular ones go begging. Bailing out bankers and rewarding other corporate favorites matter more. So do imperial conquests. Permanent war is policy.

Direct and proxy ones are waged. Brutal assassins are used. They’re recruited abroad. A UN report said 29 countries supply them. The worst of cutthroat killers are hired guns. They’re enlisted to advance America’s imperium.

They’re waging war on Assad. It’s mischaracterized as civil. There’s nothing civil about Washington’s war on Syria. The same dirty game repeats. Independent states are targeted for regime change. All options are used.

They include full-scale war, mass killing, and gruesome atrocities. Nations are transformed into charnel houses. It’s done on the pretext of liberating them.

American-style freedom is slavery. Mainstream discourse doesn’t explain. It repeats long ago discredited notions. Responsibility to protect (R2P) duplicity justifies what demands condemnation.

Media scoundrels suppress imperial lawlessness. Western-inflicted violence and bloodshed go unnoticed. Victims are blamed for aggressor crimes. The same dirty game repeats.

Post-9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq were ravaged and destroyed. So was Libya last year. Now it’s Syria’s turn. Perhaps Iran comes next.

Most Syrians deplore violence. They oppose internal and external elements committing it. They support protective security forces. They represent a vital last line of defense.

Conflict continues without end. On January 1, Press TV headlined “Al-Qaeda, Israel’s Trojan horse in Middle East: Iranian MP,” saying:

Iranian Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee member Mohammad-Hassan Asafari said:

“The Zionist regime has become the largest training base for active terrorists in the Middle East region and the footprint of this sinister regime can be easily traced in recent terrorist operations.”

Al Qaeda and like-minded terrorists wage war on Syria. They’re closely allied with Washington. They’re recruited throughout the region and beyond.

Israel provides training and intelligence support. A separate Press TV report headlined “US, Israel major players in Syria crisis: Iran cmdr,” saying:

“Chairman of Iran’s Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi says the United States and Israel are major players in the Syrian crisis.”

“The number of terrorists in Syria, compared with the people and the popular army of this country, is not high and they are weak.”

“However, they have been provided with advanced weapons and shoot people from hiding places, and this is not a coherent and systematic move.”

The London Independent discussed the issue. It’s report was largely one-sided. It headlined “Foreign fighters fuel the sectarian flames in Syria.”

It called the conflict “sectarian.” Doing so implies civil war. It covered up a foreign invasion. It cited a duplicitous Human Rights Council International Commission of Inquiry for Syria report.

It claimed Syrian forces “resorted to aerial bombardments, including shelling of hospitals.” It called such attacks “disproportionate.” It blamed Assad for Western aggression.

The Media turn truth on its head. Managed news substitutes for the real thing. Readers and viewers aren’t told what they most need to know.

Offensive Patriot missiles arrived in Turkey. They’re positioned near Syria’s border. NATO maintains control.

On January 4, an AFRICOM statement said America began transporting 400 troops to Turkey. Additional equipment will arrive by sea.

US forces will be based at Gaziantep. It’s 50km north of Syria’s border. Missile batteries will be fully operational later in January. They’re for offense, not defense.

Plans may involve establishing a backdoor no-fly zone. Doing so would circumvent Security Council authority.

Washington-led NATO heads closer to full-scale intervention. The new year promises more bloodshed.

On January 6, Press TV headlined “Russian warships gathering off Syria waters to deter West: Report.”

The Sunday Times was cited. It said Russia sent sent five landing ships. On board are military vehicles, hundreds of marines, and combat vessels.

“Russia should be prepared for any developments as it believes the situation in Syria might reach its peak before Easter,” it said. An unnamed diplomatic source was quoted.

He added that Russia intends to deter “the West from deploying ground forces.” Moscow says its ships are to “improve the management, maintenance, and testing of the interaction of naval forces.”

Another Russian warship carrying marines heads for Tartus. Moscow maintains its only Mediterranean base in the Syrian port city.

On December 29, two other warships, the Azov and Nikolai Filchenkov, were deployed. They’ll arrive in Syrian waters shortly.

“In mid-December, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced that a fleet of Russian warships had been sent from the Baltic port of Baltiysk to the Mediterranean Sea near the Syrian waters.”

“Syria, Russia and Iran say” deploying offensive Patriot missiles near Syria’s border “could spark an eventual military action by NATO.”

On January 2, Iran’s Fars News Agency (FNA) headlined “Foreign Military Intervention in Syria: Red Line for Russia,” saying:

Mehdi Sanayee is a senior Iranian legislator. He’s a National Security and Foreign Policy Commission member. He’s also a Russian expert.

He told FNA:

“Causing developments through military intervention and remaining empty-handed in the developments in Syria are Moscow’s red lines.”

Deploying Russian forces represents a “new step” in the Syrian conflict.

“Russia tries to prove on the international scene that it is committed to its strategy, which is opposition to and confrontation against foreign military intervention and unilateral moves in Syria to show that it has not surrendered on them,” he said.

He referred to Vladimir Putin’s earlier comments. They suggested Moscow’s new position. It remains to be seen what follows.

Patrick Seale is a longtime Middle East analyst. On January 1, he offered grim new year tidings. “The coming year” won’t be “happy” for “the tormented Middle East,” he said.

“(T)he balance sheet of the past two years remains profoundly negative.” Nowhere throughout the region have “convincing sign(s) of peace and reconciliation” emerged.

Some countries suffered more than others. He called the “Palestine cause….all but lost. The two-state solution is virtually extinct.” He stopped short of saying it’s been that way for years.

He stressed the importance of preserving a “unitary Syrian state.” Doing so is essential to “containing Israel.” Resolving the conflict militarily can’t succeed.

The only solution is mutually agreed on ceasefire, halting weapons and funding sent insurgents, “isolat(ing) murderous extremists,” and resolving the conflict politically.

At issue isn’t whether Assad stays or goes. Syria is vitally important. It’s essential to protect its “unique historical heritage, its state institutions, its ancient minorities, and its vital role in the defense of Arab independence.”

On January 6, Assad delivered a major address. It’s his first in months. He called for “comprehensive national dialogue in the near future” with opposition elements and other political parties.

“Syria wants peace and reconciliation,” he stressed. At the same time, “(a)rmed groups must halt terrorist acts.” Outside forces direct them.

They’re “terrorists” and “criminals.” They want Syria’s government ousted. He vowed to defeat them. He called for “full national mobilization.”

“We meet today and suffering is overwhelming Syrian land. There is no place for joy while security and stability are absent on the streets of our country. The nation is for all and we all must protect it.”

“These are the enemies of the people, the enemies of God,” he said. “Eventually they resorted to terrorism to terrorize the people.”

“They call it a revolution, but it has nothing to do with revolution. A revolution needs thinkers. These are a bunch of criminals.”

“The first stage of a political solution would require that regional powers stop funding and arming (opposition forces), an end to terrorist operations, and controlling the borders.”

“We will not have dialogue with a puppet made by the West,” he stressed.

The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported what he said in detail.

He prefers responsible conflict resolution. He urged it all along. Mutually agreed on ceasefire is essential. Washington and key NATO partners spurn it.

For months, Assad made good faith efforts. A year ago, Syria’s constitution was rewritten. It was put to a popular referendum.

Despite opposition boycotts, threats, anti-Assad media campaigns, and turnout hampered in violence-torn areas, 89.4% of eligible voters approved it. Another 9% opposed, and 1.2% of ballots were invalid.

It includes 157 articles. Key reforms were instituted. They include political pluralism established for the first time. Presidential term limits and press freedom were mandated.

Last May, first time ever legislative elections were held. Doing so was a milestone political event. Independent candidates participated.

Despite ongoing insurgent violence, turnout was high. Voting went smoothly. Independent monitors supervised the process. They included intellectuals, legislators and judicial authorities from other countries.

Ba’ath party members won a 60% majority. Previously they held just over 50% control. With support from independent MPs, they comprise 90% of Syria’s parliament. Opposition party members were also elected.

Assad said nothing about stepping down. He, Russia, China, Iran, and other sources say Syrians alone should choose their government.

Outside interference is rejected. International law is clear and unequivocal. The UN Charter explains under what conditions intervention, violence and coercion (by one state against another) are justified.

Article 2(3) and Article 33(1) require peaceful settlement of international disputes. Article 2(4) prohibits force or its threatened use, including no-fly zone acts of war.

In addition, Articles 2(3), 2(4), and 33 absolutely prohibit any unilateral or other external threat or use of force not specifically allowed under Article 51 or otherwise authorized by the Security Council in accordance with UN Charter provisions.

Three General Assembly resolutions also prohibit non-consensual belligerent intervention. They include:

• the 1965 Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty;

• the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations; and

• the 1974 Definition of Aggression.

Under no circumstances may one or more nations intervene against another without lawful Security Council authorization. Doing so constitutes illegal aggression.

Article 8 of the 1933 Montevideo Convention of Rights and Duties says “No state has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another.”

Under Article 10, differences between states “should be settled by recognized pacific methods.”

Article 11 calls sovereign state territory “inviolable….”

Washington and key NATO partners spurn international law repeatedly. In 1999, without Security Council authorization, nonbelligerent Yugoslavia was lawlessly attacked and ravaged. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya followed.

Now Syria. America prioritizes attacking one nation at a time or in multiples. Unless stopped, doing so may end up destroying humanity in the process.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected]

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

 

http://www.dailycensored.com/foreign-terrorists-wage-war-on-syria/

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"Sending up the count" is something that's done when troops are out somewhere dark and dangerous, and the leader, normally up in front, wants to make sure everyone's still there. The leader whispers, "send up the count" to the next person, who whispers it to the next person, who whispers it to the next person and so on until it gets to the last person in line. That person starts the whispering back forward again, only this time, they start off by tapping the shoulder of the person in front of them saying "one". The next person taps the shoulder of the person in front of them and says "two". This continues until the person behind the leader in front taps the leader's shoulder with the number of people behind the first person in line.

We do this especially at night, when we can't see to the end of the line, or even see the next person. We do this to make sure all is well. We do this to make sure everyone knows that whoever's supposed to be there, front and back, is there. We do this to make sure those on the team are still with the team. And if someone is missing, we find them and bring them back into the group. [Emphasis mine]
 
  In the last month,  four Canadian Combat Veterans - who having survived deployment - have died at home, within days of each other. Now add one more, as in the last few days, another young Canadian Soldier ended his own life.  Although each death is being investigated, (as are the other 70+ still being investigated) initial reports are calling these deaths suicide.  I read somewhere the other day that since the current phase of this ongoing Global War On Terror, Canada has lost more than one hundred Veterans to suicide.   Quite apart from the huge gaping holes left within those families, those communities, that number is beyond staggering when you consider that thus far in Afghanistan, 158 Canadian losses have occurred in the sandbox due to enemy action.   In the US, various statistics claim that we lose 22 Veterans a day to suicide now outpacing Combat fatalities.   

 

Those are just the ones we hear about.  These numbers, which represent a horrific new 'normal' for their families after such a devastating loss, tell me that we are failing our Military men and women. 

Veterans Day (US) and Remembrance Day(Commonwealth countries) may be over for another year, but we cannot just return to 'business as usual'.   WE  - yes, all of us -  bear responsibility: our Military leadership; our politicians; our mainstream media, and yes, we civilians are failing our Military.

From where I sit, a very basic question arises:  How can we fix this?

 Dated 2009, I found this from the US:

September 23, 2009

The Sergeant and suicide prevention

Suicide prevention 100%
The theme for this year’s “Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” is “Improving our Soldiers and Families Health: A Healthy Force Combating High Risk Behaviors.” At the conclusion of this article, there are many resources/links.

 [...]

 I was saddened (but not surprised) to learn of the difficulties and problems some of the soldiers experience while deployed. I can cite many articles about the deployment cycle and its’ affect on the military, it is worth mentioning however that difficulties such as depression, suicide, aggression (some of the symptoms of PTSD) aren’t necessarily exclusive to the ‘multi-deployed’, often, it can be ‘first time’ deployers. In fact, the military is studying the ‘mind set’ of the multi-deployed v. first or second timers to examine the element that helps them cope with extreme psychological pressures and extreme battle fatigue (both mental and physical).


My son is on his fourth deployment, a platoon sergeant (SFC) with approximately 70% ‘first time’ deployers. He is extremely proactive, carefully observing, listening and taking care of his men or any others who seek or need help. The NCO is almost always the first line of defense for troops who are experiencing hardships. I know my son has moved the earth and stars to intervene on the behalf of a trooper in trouble. He is also the same one who will allow the Private on duty with him to catch some ‘sleep’ during 24 hour CQ (Desk/phone duty in the company headquarters/on base) instead of the other way around because he remembers what it was like to be the ‘sleep-less’ private.

He asks much from his men but makes sure he gives them the training, tools and personal time they need to achieve the unit’s mission objectives and succeed as individuals.

[...]


While in the process of completing this article, I read an excellent article “Going Beyond the Book Answer: How to Be a Better Leader, written by Specialist Ben Hutto. In the article,  Spc Hutto writes:



“Army leadership, as I learned it for my promotion board, is the ability to influence others by providing purpose, direction and motivation in order to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.” [Emphasis mine]

He talks about ‘leadership by the book’, and states how “the best NCOs are able to communicate the “purpose” behind a command or task no matter how mundane or difficult. ...

There is much more here, with an extensive list of Military resources available.  What strikes me as I read this, and as I listen to our men and women today, is that even with all these programmes in place, something is missing, and to this civilian the missing ingredient is leadership.   In the last few weeks I have seen videos from both the US Military and Canadian Military leadership  as a response to the ongoing - and most recent - crisis within the Military community.  Take a look here and here. 


 All well and good, but as the article linked above clearly shows, part of the solution to current issues is about leadership that is connected to our Troops.  

I asked a Military Veteran (Platoon Sargeant in the Army) friend where we should begin.  The truth he gave me is universal and, even to this civilian, makes sense:

The only thing that is going to fix this is good leadership. F******' know your troops.
 Know when they're out of character and figure out why....[...] If a soldier has any doubt that they can tell their leader anything they need to, that leader is wrong.. [...]
 If you're going to be in charge, BE in charge. It's like I've said MANY many times: the way to "fix" this is good old fashioned leadership, but the Army doesn't allow time for that anymore.


 It means returning to the old climate, where leaders led, and trained rather than sat in a bunch of CYA, meaningless politically correct powerpoints. Those briefings are knee jerk reactions to the need "to do something," by those that have no clue what really can be done.

And that real leadership I've preached so often goes against the political correctness and professional managers the out of touch generals are pushing, so they are even further out of touch with any real means of doing something.

[Yes, real leadership is teaching] ...knowing when to break s***, and when to turn it off and protect your kids.

This simple concept of leadership is not new, and to this day, real leaders understand what their role is. Just this last weekend, I found another article about leadership. While this compelling article is addressing corporate leadership, it IS written by a Veteran, and it is directly related to leadership within our Military. Every aspect echoes what the Veteran above has told me, and adds weight to how crucial leadership is to our men and women within our Military:


Care, and make sure — without being too obvious or hackneyed — that your people know you care. Fight for them, even occasionally when you know you will lose … it engenders loyalty, and sometimes you need that to hold them together when the “big” reasons for all they’re giving just aren’t enough.

No one will follow you until they know you care.  You have to be demonstrative enough that they know you’re invested — not just in the shared mission you’re pursuing together — but in their fate and future.  Know their stories.  Know the texture of their lives.  Know what makes them tick....

Go read Reflections on Leadership here. 


We are losing our men and women who know what leadership really is, and who are committed to the values of leadership.  I came across another column, also written by a Veteran, which painfully demonstrates the disconnect that so obviously exists between our Military community and the rest of society.

 Sunday, December 15, 2013
You.Them.Me.Us 

We are the expendable and the forgotten. I want to be your voice, but I wish I was able to be someone elses voice. I loved him like a brother. Deployed with him. Slept five feet from him. Taught him to surf. Laughed my ass off when he came down to the beach from the parking lot with Scottish, both with their wetsuits on backwards, looking like they lovingly got each other dressed without their grranimals for the first time. What could have been saved with the ringing of a phone and a hello instead ended with a gunshot in Warner-Robbins without the chance to say goodbye.

 When we leave the life we know and try and build something new for ourselves, we miss the brotherhood, the way that your life depends on the man or woman to your left or right. We miss the hugs that the family we were thrown into and grew to love are now replaced by empty memories of better times and the jokes that only made sense to the people who were closer than family could only get away with telling....

[...]

One veteran dies by their own hands every 65 minutes. That is  22 a day. One active duty Soldier kills themselves every 25 hours.  I do this for them. I do this for you....

 For the enormity of the pain of the loss, that most of us will never understand, go read the rest of this one. 

Epic failure by all of us.   Again:  How can we fix this?

Yes, I do mean all of us, since we as civilians must speak out,  stop enabling the failure of our politicians and the Military Chain of Command to adequately support our Military.

 Let's start with the politicians.  To anybody who is half wake, even the casual observers, it is no surprise, not news,  that our current batch of politicians are failing to fulfill their duty - as OUR elected representatives - as they daily fail to meet the sacred obligation we all have to our Military community: our Active Duty; our Veterans; our Military families.

As the most recent headlines have shone a spotlight on the Canadian losses, our politicians have rushed to the media to express their concern about what they are calling 'troubling losses'.

 Read this, an article that pulls no punches about politician's hypocrisy.

As politicians loudly proclaim that they are 'bringing the Troops home' and that 'Combat is over' (nary a whisper of the word 'Victory,' have you noticed?) our Troops and our Veterans are used as pawns in political gamesmanship.  It is our Veterans and their families who are bearing the brunt of budget cuts, in all our countries. Yes, the various Defence Departments may have publicised  transitional programs  as a measure of how they support the Troops, which is better than nothing, I suppose, since according to a survey released in  September, Canadian employers - for example -   'have little interest in hiring Veterans.'.  Meanwhile, the  Canadian government is proposing to  close Veterans Affairs Offices across the country. 

From CBC, comes this from November 29, of an interview with retired Colonel,  and former Veterans' Ombudsman,  Pat Strogan.  Hard to miss his message of our failure to our Veterans:


As Stogran says "this is not news" to those of us paying attention over the years. Neither is it news that politicians persist in pointing to the millions of dollars that have been designated to supporting our Troops and Veterans.

The fact is,  politicians can puff out their self-righteous chests and claim how much they do for our Troops and Veterans, how much money they profess to be throwing at support,  but obviously whatever they, and the Military,  are doing is not working. Period.  Don't take my word for it.   Watch the video above, and read what one of the most recent grieving families has to say about the Military "dropping the ball."

 "Dropping the ball" by both politicians and Military is not unique to Canada.  I read recently that in the UK (for example) Falkland Island Veteran suicides now outnumber those we lost in Combat, and then I read that within the current Troops/Veterans that more British soldiers commit suicide than die in battle.

 From the US, headlines like thisthis, this and this bear witness to the price that our Veterans are expected to continue to pay once they return from Combat.

As a recent editorial in the National Post said: Canada's Duty to its veterans is to act, not just talk.

It is my belief that it is the sacred duty of each of our countries to honour the Service by our Troops.

The FACTS clearly demonstrate the Canadian government is failing our current Troops and Veterans, and our Military families.  

Yes, it is true that there ARE official resources available in Canada, such as Canadian Forces Members Assistance Programme, found within the official site of Veterans Affairs Canada, and they also have a page that lists the Guide to Benefits, Programs, and Services for CAF Members and their Families

They also list a 24 Hour Crisis Line Help Line   

Despite all these services, clearly,  the crisis is going unanswered for some seeking help..  What about the families?  Regular readers here know well that I also always acknowledge that the family also serves.  As one Military Wife told me recently: As a Military family, there is no personal life; there is only the Military life.  For those families, there is the  Family Information Line - which supports the 'Military Families: The Strength Behind the Uniform'.   All terrific, of course, and the absolute minimum we should be doing.  But the numbers of suicide (both those we know of, and those we do not) tell me that these programmes are not helping everybody, and that many, many - who we may only hear about when disaster strikes - are falling through the bureaucratic cracks.

Over the years I have heard -  first-hand - from deployed Troops, and now Veterans, of how they feel our Military leadership, and their political bosses,  are failing them.  

You may remember back in 2010 I shared an open letter here written by a Military Wife who chose to be called "Anonymous".  She wrote, in part:

Monday, February 8, 2010


The families also serve: A military spouse open letter


To the American Public From a Military Spouse An Open Letter (to anyone who can help) Written by: A Military Spouse December 14, 2009

This is a open letter to the Commander in Chief, First Lady Michelle Obama, the leaders of our Armed Forces, and the American Public. If it moves you, contact your elected officials.

News stations count the casualties of the War on Terrorism; by using body counts. Those numbers represent the service members who have not come home breathing to their family members. What about those that came home breathing, but dead inside? Those who suffer daily from some form, or extreme of Depression, PTSD, TBI, or any other of a half dozen syndromes? What about the families left behind whose soldiers are not getting the medical and mental health treatment the government has promised?

Our leaders stand in front of the American public and talk about how much the war is costing, and how much help is available to our returning soldiers and their families. We throw billions upon billions of dollars to artificially hold up the banking system and the value of our dollar. Yet, we sit by and do nothing while our American families fall apart.
I am the spouse of an Active Duty Soldier;
 [...]

I have held up my end of the bargain; the Military and American Government has not. I was on the front lines during the initial invasion. My husband’s military unit deployed on the day the war started in March of 2003...

[...]

I have watched as the man I married has died inside. I have waited for him to work through his demons. ...I have asked for help from the military; I have sought help in the laws written to protect my family. I have received none....

There is much more from this "anonymous" Military spouse here.

I wish I could tell you that "Anonymous" from 2010 was just an anomoly, but I know she is not.  

Over the past decade or so since I started writing on Military matters, I have come to know and love more than a few of the Military and Veteran Families from this current Global War On Terror.  These families  are some of the most amazing people it is my privilege to know, and yes, they do share their thoughts with me.  It is through them that I see and hear what life is really like for these "Girls Behind the Men Behind the Guns."     That poem, written about the women in a long ago war, reminds us that the issues faced by women then and now, and their families, are timeless and universal.  (Yes, I did write a column on that very topic long ago, but I can't find it now.)  

 FACT is that today Military Wives (of both Active Duty and Veterans) do sometimes fall through the bureaucratic cracks, and as they fall not yards of red tape, nor government-sanctioned organisations,  can provide a lifeline.  From one long-time reader I recently got this (and yes, I DO have her permission to share) :


[...]   Behind every soldier/veteran who suffers in silence with "invisible" wounds called PTSD there is a family and loved ones who suffers in silence as well. We have all read and heard about men who were soldiers who took their own lives in the last two weeks. We are angry, upset, and want to find a way to help stop even one more soldier or veteran from taking their lives again. As we try to find away to help soldiers/veterans we also need to keep in mind their families and loved ones.
 
  It is near impossible to do if you are a wife of a soldier who is still serving...the unwritten rule is wives are seen but are not to speak. We too suffer in silence literally and there is not much help out there for us or loved ones of soldiers dealing with PTSD....

I'm very glad there are many programs for soldiers who suffer from OSI/PTSD but there needs to be something for the families of soldiers. We have issues/concerns/problems at 3 am that keep us awake and there is no one we can talk to. OSI/PTSD doesn't only come up during business hours and civilian crisis lines are not equipped to understand nor offer much help/advice. I am not the only military wife who also suffers in silence nor is our family the only one who suffer in silence! We need support as well. There needs to be help for wives/families of soldiers still serving and for families whose soldiers are no longer serving. How many suicides will it take for someone to start helping us!...

[...]

Wives can only seek out so much help.  They have to be careful not to draw attention to their husband's PTSD for fear the military will catch on and put their husband's military career at risk. To this day being an active soldier seeking treatment for PTSD you run a very high chance of ending your military career even if your PTSD is considered mild.  Your personal life is not personal when you are a Military family. 

The soldier can lose his job for doing what his employer,  the government,  is asking him to do:  seek help for his PTSD.

FACT: although this Wife is anonymous, I have heard over the years of more than a few Troops afraid of seeking help because it is a "career killer."   I may not be directly connected to our Military in this current GWOT (although I do come from a family with centuries of Military service, and have been  directly affected by the generational ripples of suicide.)  I have heard many times over these last few years of how reaching out to access help has resulted in an extremely negative career impact.  There is a stigma that kicks a Soldier (or his family) who reaches out for help from the official Military programmes.


Given the escalating number of suicides, I asked another Military Wife - a long time friend - for her thoughts on what needs to be done to fix our struggling Military families.  From her I got this (again shared with permission):
 

A veteran should get every stinking possible piece of assistance to make sure they are at peace with the wars they have had to endure.
There is a way to do 24/7 help. At no cost to the veteran. I did it,  and it ended up becoming the Vet Hut Resource Centers locally here.  Just gather up some volunteer-friends, and make a phone tree. Take the phone tree to the local VA-type deal you have, and let them know your group  is willing to be a 24/7 crisis call group to aide veterans who suffer from PTSD and suicidal problems. 

Then leave it with your version of the VFW and the American Legion (or whatever your local equivalent is) and so forth,  until all groups of veteran support centers have the phone tree. Then be prepared for the phone to never ever ever stop ringing.

IT WORKS THOUGH! Then,  when the calls are too many, you take ALL that statistical information you have gathered about the number of calls, durations, and crisis problems without mentioning names etc, and go to your local veteran support centers and show them IN THEIR FACE how vital a small office of round-the-clock crisis call support is for the suffering veterans. Not just ideas. Empirical theoretical studies that proved successful.  It does work. The only problem is finding volunteers to actually answer the phone constantly. 

This workable plan echoes what the first Military Wife quoted above calls for.

Pretty basic, huh, and doesn't require a gazillion dollars.  I have seen this ingenuity, and this front-line commitment to 'knowing your Troops, looking out for them' extend into the Veteran community, and their families. too. Just as in a Combat zone it is a matter of life and death to know that you can count on the battle buddy to your left and your right to 'cover your six,' so I see Veterans and families applying that after deployment.    Veterans - sick and tired of waiting for governments' broken promises/contracts to be honoured - have created support groups specifically designed and run by Veterans - for Veterans.

In Canada, for example, there are Veteran groups that reach out in the way only a fellow Veteran can, as they continue their battles on the home-front.  There is:

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Their name says it all, as they advocate, both in front of the mainstream media, and behind the scenes among the politicians, for all Veterans.  I also found a very informative article in the Ottawa Citizen where they quote directly from CVA on the history and meaning of our sacred obligation to our Veterans.

Military Minds

Veterans sharing their common experiences, and solutions,  to  the issues they all face.  

VETS - Veterans Emergency Transition Services

 "...formed to reach out and help the many of Canada’s veterans who had not made successful transitions from their military careers to healthy civilian lives...."

 Our Duty - which also has a petition that I urge you to sign, calling on the government to give our Veterans the support they have earned.

These are but a small sampling of Veteran-led groups in Canada that talk MilSpeak. 

These groups DO work, DO pick up the dropped ball that governments and Military bureaucracies fumble. The Military Veteran  friend quoted above reinforces the bond found among Veteran groups:


Sadly this generation ignores the most obvious “support groups” already established. In an electronic world, VFW’s and American Legions are brick and mortar gathering places for Veterans It’s not all cheap beer and war stories, but an employment network of established Veterans that made their way through the post-Military world. It is just sitting in the company of those that “know” without saying a word, what a Veteran has been through, and is going through, even if the overt topic is an argument about the Iron Bowl, Superbowl, NASCAR, World Series, or World Cup. 


 For several years now, in Canada,  Equitas has been pursuing a class action suit representing Veterans who have been severely short-changed under the New Veterans Charter of 2006.  All Canadians who support our Troops, our Veterans and their families should check that site out.  Let it be noted that the Canadian federal government has spent thousands of dollars, in legal fees,  fighting this lawsuit; money that could have helped a lot of Veterans.  However, also comes news,  recently,  of an individual Soldier who has submitted  his own  $20-million statement of claim with the Federal Court. [ He...] alleges the Canadian military did not adequately address his post-traumatic stress disorder. 

How sad is this that our Veterans have to fight the governments when they return home.  Sure, the politicians may say they "support our Troops" but talk is cheap.  In the week prior to Remembrance Day,  Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberals, challenged the Prime Minister to honour our commitments to Veterans. 

Our politicians continue to fail our Veterans, and our Veterans continue to do at home what they did in the sandbox: fight for rights, but now they are fighting for their own rights.  I came across a stunning statistic out of the US which claimed huge numbers of homeless and hungry Veterans.    How can this be, that in NYC, for example and according to a recent article,  thousands of Veterans are having to eat at soup kitchens???  That is just one city, and I have no way of verifying the truth of their claims. However, I wrote back in October of how the cuts to Military budgets in the UK are swelling the number of homeless Veterans there.  Again, at least one volunteer group is working tirelessly to address that very real issue: Soldiers Off the Street. 



Thank God there are these volunteer groups throughout Canada, the US and the UK who stand up for each other, while the fat-cat politicians obviously remain sitting down on their job. Something in the system is very broken, and regardless of the actual number, if there is even one Veteran living on the streets, that is an epic fail, in my opinion.


So what about the current batch of politicians who appear to be clueless about Military matters, and whose ignorance woefully fails our Troops and our Veterans? As things stand right now, not one of the leaders in the UK, Canada, or the US has served in our Military.  They have no clue what it means to BE a Veteran. As I have watched our Troops and Veterans in the Global War on Terror, I have been anticipating that some of them would enter the political arena, but this is proving to be a very slow process.   In Canada, as of May 2013, out of 4,210 Parliamentarians, a paltry 14 are listed as having Military Service (and one of those is an Honorary.)  That is 0.3325416% in control of our Defence Department, all our Military policies..

From the US, I found this dated 2012:




And yes, there was this underneath the graph:


Military service by politicians is quickly nearing zero. Perhaps this is why many of our politicians are so trigger-happy these days. No one has fought and no one knows just what they are doing when they commit our soldiers overseas.

Ya think?  What this underscores for me is that we need more politicians who ARE Veterans, who know what being in the Military actually means. When I was discussing this with another Veteran friend, they were quick to remind me of  Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan both being non-Veterans.  Good point, but I would also suggest that  both of those leaders, even as civilians, demonstrated their governmental, bureaucratic support for our Troops and Veterans.   The Troops then knew they were supported. The world was a very different place then.  Unlike today, where our political leaders continue to prove that they don't *get it*,  even as they pay lip service to 'support the Troops' when absolutely necessary, it seems to me that Troops from the Reagan/Thatcher era never doubted the support from those leaders. It also seems to me, through the lens of hindsight, that Reagan and Thatcher were smart enough to listen to our Military leaders and defer to their expertise and experience (unlike the current crop of political leaders.)

As another Veteran friend (yes, I know a few!) pointed out to me recently: another part of the difference is the very low fatality rate in our current and recent wars. These low fatality rates are in large part due to military successes in trauma treatment, so that fewer troops have been killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan than on single days of earlier wars.

This obviously means that we have more Veterans, returning as Wounded Warriors, who have earned all the benefits that we as a society are obligated to provide. Our Veterans today,  who would most assuredly have died in previous wars, are more visible, and yes, they are dealing with long-term issues that we, as a society,  are failing to adequately and effectively address..

One of those issues is the terrible belief by some of our Troops and Veterans that the only option they have is to choose suicide.  

As I heard somewhere recently:  suicide is a symptom that becomes an unacceptable solution.  


The Veteran friend initially quoted above had this to say about suicidal Veterans:

The reality is that suicidal veterans sometimes get raided because they admit they have a gun, who the hell is going to call that line?

 Suicide is not prevented by strangers. It's prevented by friends, who notice their friend needs help, before it becomes suicidal ideation.


Powerpoints can’t fix this. Generals can’t fix this. Only individuals can fix this.

 Too often civilians and even fellow veterans say and do all the wrong things. When a veteran’s life begins to derail, often those around him withdraw, making it worse. Often, those “friends” he had before the war, suddenly have nothing in common with him. Instead of just listening, they’re more concerned with their own, in his eyes, trivial, problems.


But, when veterans see broken promises, such as promises that “getting help won’t be held against you,” while those that do get help get screwed by the very military that makes the promise, they’re not going to get help. And getting (real) help isn’t seeing a shrink that has never been there, done that. It is finding someone that can help him find his own way through the challenges he’s facing, those challenges that seem to be becoming insurmountable.

 Veterans are withdrawing from society, because increasingly society is self-absorbed and disconnected from what is important to our veterans.


A column from War On Terror News in 2009 reminds that this is not a recent phenomenon, but that within the GWOT environment, we must find solutions:

June 09, 2009

Victimizing Our Veterans: Suicidal Struggles

As the Army struggles to stem the tide of rising suicides, it seems to be at a loss to how to overcome the stigmas attached to seeking help for the underlying causes.  It seems to understand that the Warrior Culture is adverse to asking for help but while the leadership is truly seeking a means to turn the tide that has brought suicide rates up to the same level as the civilian population, it has not realized the self-destructive tactic of encouraging victimization.

The military leadership continues to search with noble motivation for a solution, currently encouraging Soldiers to demonstrate strength by admitting mental wounds.  But it describes the symptoms of PTSD and depression as causes of suicide.  It describes these as mental illnesses, even as it has created less boring mandatory briefings for the troops to endure.  Shrinks continue to prescribe medications to overcome chemical inbalances that lead to the symptoms, not the causes.


It has however realized that the illnesses which are symptoms are caused by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, but not what the root causes are.  The Military creates Warriors capable, motivated, and ready to overcome all challenges, but military life and tours of duty can be a challenge to overcoming those challenges.  Too often, the military's answer to a challenge is to add paperwork, briefings, and responsibilities to all Troops when it identifies that the Troops are buckling under the burdens. 


The military has a habit of taking a simple, successful program and developing it into a cumbersome, complicated problem.  There are so many examples of this that it becomes redundant to point to AAR's, OER's, Counseling Statements, NCOER's, and weeks upon weeks of mandatory briefings.  Each of these has a noble, positive purpose that once discovered was forcefed into a paperwork feeding frenzy that destroy the purpose itself in too many cases.



Muttered too often these days is "If I have to sit through one more 'suicide awareness' briefing, I'm going to kill myself."  Those uttering such phrases are not suicidal but would prefer to train and tired of the training distractors that eat up their time.  They are often fans of their own sarcastic irony, even as they often realize the danger of being referred to a shrink for their "suicidal tendencies."


Yet, the Army has more than once not only cancelled training, but also pulled Troops out of the field, during training exercises in knee-jerk reaction to correct issues.  In Roughneck Nine-One, SFC Antenori tells of just such an event from approximately 2002, as Fort Bragg responded to a rash of negative actions by returning Troops that led to his SF team being brought back in at the very climax of an exercise.  More recently, FT Campbell Troops were stood down for 3 straight days of "suicide awareness."


Overcoming depression for a Warrior is not a matter of victimizing the Warrior.  It is not a matter of taking pills.  It is not a matter of justifying their feelings.  For a Warrior, it is a plan of action to overcome the challenges that have led to the loss of control.  [Emphasis mine] A Warrior often trudges through the bogs of mud mentally and physically, despite conditions that would cause others to quit.  As the upper eschelons see the Warrior successfully complete extraordinary missions, it adds to the taskings, it adds to the weight a Warrior must physically and mentally carry....


I could copy and paste all of this article, but instead would suggest you go read it here.  For all the commonsense within it, it would be really helpful if some Generals also read it:




But with the advancement of communications, a General can watch a squad level engagement on the other side of the world in real time.  The danger comes in when he tries to command that battle from the safety of his office....


Leadership, again. From where I sit, it is lack of leadership, both in the Military and governments that is sorely lacking.  Our Troops, our Veterans and their families are paying the price. 

 

Not only our Troops, but our Veterans, are missing the 'old style' leadership; leadership that undoubtedly saves their lives while in Combat, and can certainly save their lives once they become Veterans.

Today we see the old school Military leadership being deliberately being purged, as our politicians continue to declare - ignorantly and shortsightedly in my opinion - that "war is  over." NO, it is not.
Still, our Military leaders, who know Combat first-hand, are leaving.  Don't believe me?  Take a look:


 DISTURBING: The List Of Purged Military High Officers Under Obama 

 And there is this: [US] Army will cut almost 2,000 captains, majors

Where does all this leave our Veterans?  In the same place as they were in the front-lines of the GWOT: relying on their battle buddies from the sandbox, the battle buddies who have been there, done that, and know what hell they have survived.

As another Veteran friend of mine recently commented:  We are not broken.  We are changed.

Who better to understand, and address those changes than another Veteran?  As the politicians, and the Military leadership who has perhaps never seen Combat continue in their failure to understand, and implement, real help that could save lives, our Veterans are 'sending up the count', and adapting what worked in Combat into their post-combat lives.



Take a look at what Sgt Brian Harding has to say..


"We are reaching out to find guys who maybe have fallen through the cracks."

To this civilian, that even one of our Troops, our Veterans falls through the cracks is unacceptable. 

 


I recently heard Canadian former chief of defence staff Rick Hillier interviewed on CBC radio, and his insights reinforce what Sgt Brian Harding and any other Veteran I know has said:



Hillier, who also served in Afghanistan as the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul in 2004, said he suffered only minuscule symptoms of PTSD when he returned home, having the occasional dream or waking up at night.



He credits his strong circle of friends and family for making him feel healthy and comfortable upon his return, but warns that not all soldiers are so lucky.



His final message to troops is to not be alone this holiday season.



"Don't be alone. Do not be alone over this period of time.

"If you've got a problem, we learned long ago in combat that there is no embarrassment in admitting a weakness. No embarrassment in approaching somebody else," Hillier said.



"You know, we entrust our battle buddies with our very lives on the battlefield, this is now a different battlefield, so trust them. Go talk to your battle buddies. Talk to them and tell them you've got a problem. [Emphasis mine]


There is much more here, which includes a link to the radio interview I mentioned above.  If you haven't read Rick Hillier's biography, A  Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War,  I highly recommend it.



As Pat Strogan says in the video above, these issues faced by our Troops and our Veterans are not just 'flavours of the day...there will be more suicides.'   These issues our Troops and Veterans face on a daily basis MUST be addressed in the months and years to come.  To do any less is to dishonour each and every one of our Military and their families. It is an epic fail by all of us. 

 

 Weeks ago, as I decided to write this column, I planned only to write a one-off.  However, I have been reminded of the enormity of the failure of all of us to actively 'Support OUR Troops'...  I deliberately say 'all of us' because from where I sit, there is more than enough failure to go around for all of us.



Despite my familial ties to our Military, and my close 'family' ties to many in the current Global War On Terror, as a civilian, no, I do not have the authority of our men and women who have risked and sometimes given all in Combat;  nor would I ever claim such authority.  However, after years of caring about our Troops, our Veterans, and our Military families - of watching and listening to them -  I maintain my belief that we as civilians do have an irrefutable responsibility to stand with them. 



We all must listen,  learn and be educated by those most knowledgeable, our Combat Veterans. If we truly mean to  respect and honour the Service and Sacrifice of our Troops, Veterans and their families, we need to do more than pay lip service. To say we 'support the Troops' is not enough.  We ALL need to walk the walk.  We need to demand our politicians also honour our Military Family. We need to address this 'unacceptable solution,' which - even during the course of my researching and writing this one article -  has claimed more lives from our Military Family.  


.
WE must not fail.  Period.


[cross-posted from Assoluta Tranquillita ]

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*Reposted from Assoluta Tranquillita*



Today from the BBC:

24 November 2013

Iran agrees to curb nuclear activity at Geneva talks


Iran has agreed to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for about $7bn (£4.3bn) in sanctions relief, after days of intense talks in Geneva. 

The deal will last for six months, while a permanent agreement is sought.


US President Barack Obama welcomed the deal, saying it would "help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon".


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran's right to uranium enrichment had been recognised. Israel, however, said the agreement was a "historic mistake".


World powers suspect Iran's nuclear programme is secretly aiming at developing a nuclear bomb - a charge Iran has consistently denied.


In a nationwide broadcast on Sunday, President Rouhani repeated that his country would never seek a nuclear weapon He hailed the deal, saying it met one of Iran's fundamental principles.


"No matter what interpretations are given, Iran's right to enrichment has been recognised," he said....


Much more here.


To say that this "coup for John Kerry" is monumentally stupid, with global implications,  doesn't even come close to my reaction when I first heard this late last night. Am I the only one who noticed that again, the current US administration 'concludes' yet another 'historical agreement' under dark of night? Wonder if they left the washable red crayons at home?


 Israel's Prime Minister had this to say:



What was achieved last night in Geneva is not an historic agreement; it is an historic mistake. Israel is not bound by this agreement. The Iranian regime is committed to the destruction of Israel, and Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.
Photo: Haim Zach, GPO


'Historic mistake' is absolutely right, and proves - yet again - that the MIC and his mouthpiece John Kerry are wilfully ignorant of the FACTS of history.


On Twitter Netanyahu said this (H/T Twitchy): 



Israel knows better than anybody what any student of history should know. They live with the constant threat from Iran, who is on the record, repeatedly, as vowing to wipe Israel off the map.  Israel also knows well, as MIC et al seem determined to ignore, that appeasement of such murderous regimes as Iran, does NOT work.


From elsewhere on social media today:


"Those who fail to learn from History, are doomed to repeat it."
In 1938, after signing the Munich agreement with Adolf Hitler, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared 'peace for our time'. Yesterday in Geneva, the US and global powers signed an agreement with Iran easing sanctions for 'peace'. Israel will not allow the past to repeat itself.




As the world msm applauds this bright new day,  I heard Kerry quoted as saying that 'no, human rights in Iran were not part of this negotiating process.'.  I have to ask:  Why not?????   As the title of this piece says "Neda was unavailable for comment". Neda, for those who forget, was one of those Iranian citizens who was gunned down and murdered in the bloody aftermath of the 2009 elections in Iran. Need reminding?  Go here, (with graphic video) here, or here to read what the current US administration said about human rights abuses in Iran..

An excerpt from that last link:

[...]
29 September 2010 Last updated at 14:59 ET

US imposes sanctions on Iranian officials for 'abuses'


US President Barack Obama has ordered for the first time sanctions against senior Iranian officials for "sustained and severe violations of human rights".


The eight men include the head of the Revolutionary Guards, a former interior minister and the prosecutor general.


The treasury department said they would face a travel ban and asset freeze.


The alleged abuses include the killings and beatings of anti-government protesters after the disputed presidential election in June 2009.


[...]


In a statement, the White House said: "As the president noted in his recent address to the United Nations General Assembly, human rights are a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity for the United States."...


Yes, he really said that.  But I guess that was so long ago, so 'what difference does it make' today, or to the rest of the world?  Even further back but still in recent history, was the 1979 siege by Iranian 'students' of the US Embassy in Tehran.   That was American citizens under attack by the terrorist regime of Iran.  Today?  There are other Americans,  (and no doubt many thousands of Iranian citizens) being held and tortured in Iran, whose fate was not part of the current negotiations. The administration may consider this American's treatment irrelevant in light of this new dawn, but others are noting:

 An Appalling Betrayal of American Pastor Saeed Abedini 
 
On the night of November 23, 2013, the President of the United States left an American pastor, Saeed Abedini, behind.


The "deal" with Iran announced tonight by President Obama, which allegedly halts "part" of Iran's nuclear program, allows Iran to enrich uranium and allows it to maintain a nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions and humanitarian relief.


It is outrageous that the Obama Administration commenced these negotiations and concluded them without the release of Pastor Saeed – a U.S. citizen.  In fact, the Administration has just confirmed that he was not even part of the negotiations, stating that “The P5+1 talks focused exclusively on nuclear issues.”


The Obama Administration did not volunteer this information; it was revealed only after a specific inquiry from Fox News.


For more than a year, Pastor Saeed has undergone torture at the hands of his Iranian captors, most recently being transferred to one of the most deadly prisons in the world.  Yet instead of demanding the release of this innocent U.S. citizen as a precondition to any negotiations with Iran, the Obama Administration is relaxing sanctions and providing humanitarian relief, while getting nothing but more meaningless promises in return....


Read the rest of this here. 


There is also a former US Marine still being held in an Iranian prison under who knows what conditions of deprivation.  I seriously doubt if  Amir Mirza Hekmati's fate was 'part of these negotiations.'  

Back in March 2012, War On Terror News wrote this:

Monday, March 05, 2012


Marine Death Sentence Overturned in Iran


 Iranian state media is reporting that the Supreme Court has overturned a death sentence for a U.S. citizen convicted of "spying for the CIA."


Quoting the prosecutor general, ISNA reported on Monday that the case of former U.S. Marine Amir Mirza Hekmati “has been sent back” to a lower court for retrial.

Picture courtesy of www.FreeAmir.org



The 28-year-old Hekmati was arrested in December.


Iranian TV showed Hekmati in December appearing to confess his crimes, in a mixture of English and Farsi. Hekmati  talked of receiving language training.


Hekmati said he received the training at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before traveling to Iran.  His family said he was in Iran visiting grandparents.  VoA.


Please continue to send letters to Amir Hekmati.


As recently as September this year, he was still there, at the mercy of the Iranian 'justice' system:


American held in Iran writes letter to John Kerry describing "miserable prison conditions"

September 11, 2013

DETROIT A former U.S. Marine held in Iran for two years said in a letter to the U.S. secretary of state that he has endured "miserable prison conditions" and believes Tehran is holding him hostage for use in a possible prisoner exchange.
Amir Hekmati's letter, handwritten and dated Sept. 1, was addressed to John Kerry and first published Wednesday by Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Hekmati, 30, wrote that he has been "held on false charges based solely on confessions obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions and prolonged periods of solitary confinement.

"This is part of a propaganda and hostage-taking effort by Iranian intelligence to secure the release of Iranians abroad being held on security-related charges," he wrote in the letter that the Guardian said was smuggled from the prison.

[...]


Hekmati has been detained in Iran on what the U.S. says are false espionage charges since his 2011 arrest. Hekmati's family says he traveled to Iran to visit his grandmothers.

The letter goes on to say that while Hekmati and his family "have suffered greatly," he "will accept nothing but" an unconditional release.

The State Department late last month repeated its call for Tehran to release Hekmati and two other Americans....

Read the rest here.


  In the midst of all the back-slapping and applause, there is at least one country - other than Israel - who was swift in speaking out about this latest turn of events.   Can you guess which one? No 'thumbs up' from Canada.

From the CBC:

Iran nuclear deal gets 'deeply skeptical' response from Canada


Iran agrees to halt nuclear program in historic deal with 6 world powers


Nov 24, 2013


Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he is "deeply skeptical" of the newly brokered nuclear deal with Iran and says Canada's sanctions will remain in "full force" against the country.


"We will evaluate the deal reached not just on the merits of its words but more importantly, on its verifiable implementation," Baird said at a news conference in Ottawa on Sunday.


He said that because of previous Iranian leaders had made hostile comments toward Israel, “we're deeply skeptical of the deal and the work that's brought us to this stage.”...


Much more here.


There are so many things wrong with this 'interim' deal, not least of which IS the global impact.  No matter that MIC et al would have us all believe that a new era of  kumbaya is upon us, wishing AND empty rhetoric doesn't make it so. 
 


I have been saying for a while now that we live in very dangerous times.


Pay attention! 
 
 
For more reaction, go here.

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Despite 24-hour news and talk about transparency, there's a lot we don't know about our past, much less current events. What’s worse, some of what we think we know isn't true.
The point is that it’s no accident. 
    Consider, for example, the circumstances that led to open war in Vietnam. According to official history, two US destroyers patrolling in the Gulf of Tonkin off North Vietnam were victims of unprovoked attacks in August 1964, leading to a congressional resolution giving President Johnson the power "to take all necessary measures."
     In fact, the destroyers were spy ships, part of a National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping program operating near the coast as a way to provoke the North Vietnamese into turning on their radar and other communications channels. The more provocative the maneuvers, the more signals that could be captured. Meanwhile, US raiding parties were shelling mainland targets. Documents revealed later indicated that the August 4 attack on the USS Maddox – the pretext for passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution – may not even have taken place.
     But even if it did, the incident was still stage managed to build up congressional and public support for the war. Evidence suggests that the plan was based on Operation Northwoods, a scheme developed in 1962 to justify an invasion of Cuba. Among the tactics the Joint Chiefs of Staff considered then were blowing up a ship in Guantanamo Bay, a phony "communist Cuba terror campaign" in Florida and Washington, DC, and an elaborate plan to convince people that Cuba had shot down a civilian airliner filled with students. That operation wasn't implemented, but two years later, desperate for a war, the administration's military brass found a way to create the necessary conditions in Vietnam.
For more than half a century, the eyes and ears of US power to monitor and manipulate information (and with it, mass perceptions) has been the NSA, initially designed to assist the CIA. Its original task was to collect raw information about threats to US security, cracking codes and using the latest technology to provide accurate intelligence on the intentions and activities of enemies. Emerging after World War II, its early focus was the Soviet Union. But it never did crack a high-level Soviet cipher system. On the other hand, it used every available means to eavesdrop on not only enemies but also allies and, sometimes, US citizens.
     In Body of Secrets, James Bamford described a bureaucratic and secretive behemoth, based in an Orwellian Maryland complex known as Crypto City. From there, supercomputers linked it to spy satellites, subs, aircraft, and equally covert, strategically placed listening posts worldwide. As of 2000, it had a $7 billion annual budget and directly employed at least 38,000 people, more than the CIA and FBI. It was also the leader of an international intelligence club, UKUSA, which includes Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Together, they monitored and recorded billions of encrypted communications, telephone calls, radio messages, faxes, and e-mails around the world.
     Over the years, however, the line between enemies and friends blurred, and the intelligence gatherers often converted their control of information into unilateral power, influencing the course of history in ways that may never be known. No doubt the agency has had a hand in countless covert operations; yet, attempts to pull away the veil of secrecy have been largely unsuccessful.
     In the mid-1970s, for example, just as Congress was attempting to reign in the CIA, the NSA was quietly creating a virtual state, a massive international computer network named Platform. Doing away with formal borders, it developed a software package that turned worldwide Sigint (short for "signal intelligence": communication intelligence, eavesdropping, and electronic intelligence) into a unified whole. The software package was code named Echelon, a name that has since become a synonym for eavesdropping on commercial communication.
     Of course, the NSA and its British sister, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), refused to admit Echelon existed, even though declassified documents appeared on the Internet and Congress conducted an initial investigation. But a European Parliament report also confirmed Echelon's activities, and encouraged Internet users and governments to adopt stronger privacy measures in response.
     In March 2001, several ranking British politicians discussed Echelon's potential impacts on civil liberties, and a European Parliament committee considered its legal, human rights, and privacy implications. The Dutch held similar hearings, and a French National Assembly inquiry urged the European Union to embrace new privacy enhancing technologies to protect against Echelon's eavesdropping. France launched a formal investigation into possible abuses for industrial espionage.
A prime reason for Europe's discontent was the growing suspicion that the NSA had used intercepted conversations to help US companies win contracts heading for European firms. The alleged losers included Airbus, a consortium including interests in France, Germany, Spain, and Britain, and Thomson CSF, a French electronics company. The French claimed they had lost a $1.4 billion deal to supply Brazil with a radar system because the NSA shared details of the negotiations with Raytheon. Airbus may have lost a contract worth $2 billion to Boeing and McDonnell Douglas because of information intercepted and passed on by the agency.
     According to former NSA agent Wayne Madsen, the US used information gathered from its bases in Australia to win a half share in a significant Indonesian trade contract for AT&T. Communication intercepts showed the contract was initially going to a Japanese firm. A bit later a lawsuit against the US and Britain was launched in France, judicial and parliamentary investigations began in Italy, and German parliamentarians demanded an inquiry.
     The rationale for turning the NSA loose on commercial activities, even those involving allies, was provided in the mid-90s by Sen. Frank DeConcini, then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I don't think we should have a policy where we're going to invade the Airbus inner sanctum and find out their secrets for the purpose of turning it over to Boeing or McDonnell Douglas," he opined. "But if we find something, not to share it with our people seems to me to be not smart."
      President Bill Clinton and other US officials buttressed this view by charging that European countries were unfairly subsidizing Airbus. In other words, competition with significant US interests can be a matter of national security, and private capitalism must be protected from state-run enterprises.
      The US-Europe row about Airbus subsidies was also used as a "test case" for scientists developing new intelligence tools. At US Defense Department conferences on "text retrieval," competitions were staged to find the best methods. A standard test featured extracting protected data about "Airbus subsidies."
In the end, influencing the outcome of commercial transactions is but the tip of this iceberg. The NSA's ability to intercept to virtually any transmitted communication has enhanced the power of unelected officials and private interests to set covert foreign policy in motion. In some cases, the objective is clear and arguably defensible: taking effective action against terrorism, for example. But in others, the grand plans of the intelligence community have led it to undermine democracies.
     The 1975 removal of Australian Prime Minister Edward Whitlam is an instructive case. At the time of Whitlam's election in 1972, Australian intelligence was working with the CIA against the Allende government in Chile. The new PM didn’t simply order a halt to Australia's involvement, explained William Blum in Killing Hope, a masterful study of US interventions since World War II. Whitlam seized intelligence information withheld from him by the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and disclosed the existence of a joint CIA-ASIO directorate that monitored radio traffic in Asia. He also openly disapproved of US plans to build up the Indian Ocean Island of Diego Garcia as a military-intelligence-nuclear outpost.
     Both the CIA and NSA became concerned about the security and future of crucial intelligence facilities in and near Australia. The country was already key member of UKUSA. After launching its first space-based listening post-a microwave receiver with an antenna pointed at earth-NSA had picked an isolated desert area in central Australia as a ground station. Once completed, the base at Alice Springs was named Pine Gap, the first of many listening posts to be installed around the world. For the NSA and CIA, Whitlam posed a threat to the secrecy and security of such operations.
     An early step was covert funding for the political opposition, in hopes of defeating Whitlam's Labor Party in 1974. When that failed, meetings were held with the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, a figurehead representing the Queen of England who had worked for CIA front organizations since the 50s. Defense officials warned that intelligence links would be cut off unless someone stopped Whitlam. On November 11, 1975, Kerr responded, dismissing the prime minister, dissolving both houses of Parliament, and appointing an interim government until new elections were held.
     According to Christopher Boyce (subject of The Falcon and the Snowman, a fictionalized account), who watched the process while working for TRW in a CIA-linked cryptographic communications center, the spooks also infiltrated Australian labor unions and contrived to suppress transportation strikes that were holding up deliveries to US intelligence installations. Not coincidentally, some unions were leading the opposition to development of those same facilities.
     How often, and to what effect, such covert ops have succeeded is another of the mysteries that comprise an unwritten history of the last half century. Beyond that, systems like Echelon violate the human right to individual privacy, and give those who control the information the ability to act with impunity, sometimes destroying lives and negating the popular will in the process.
Hiding the Agenda in Peru
In May 1960, when a U-2 spy plane was shot down over Soviet territory, President Dwight Eisenhower took great pains to deny direct knowledge or authorization of the provocative mission. In reality, he personally oversaw every U-2 mission, and had even riskier and more provocative bomber overflights in mind.
     It's a basic rule of thumb for covert ops: When exposed, keep denying and deflect the blame. More important, never, never let on that the mission itself may be a pretext, or a diversion from some other, larger agenda.
     Considering that, the April 20, 2001, shoot down of a plane carrying missionaries across the Brazilian border into Peru becomes highly suspicious. At first, the official story fed to the press was that Peruvian authorities ordered the attack on their own, over the pleas of the CIA "contract pilots" who initially spotted the plane. But Peruvian pilots involved in that program, supposedly designed to intercept drug flights, insist that nothing was shot down without US approval.
     Innocent planes were sometimes attacked, but most were small, low flying aircraft that didn't file flight plans and had no radios. This plane maintained regular contact and did file a plan. Still, even after it crash-landed, the Peruvians continued to strafe it, perhaps in an attempt to ignite the plane's fuel and eliminate the evidence.
     "I think it has to do with Plan Colombia and the coming war," said Celerino Castillo, who had previously worked in Peru for Drug Enforcement Agency. "The CIA was sending a clear message to all non-combatants to clear out of the area, and to get favorable press." The flight was heading to Iquitos, which "is at the heart of everything the CIA is doing right now," he added. "They don't want any witnesses."
     Timing also may have played a part. The shoot down occurred on the opening day of the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. Uruguay's President Jorge Ibanez, who had proposed the worldwide legalization of drugs just weeks before, was expected to make a high-profile speech on his proposal at the gathering. The downing of a drug smuggling plane at this moment, near territory held by Colombia's FARC rebels, would help to defuse Uruguay's message and reinforce the image of the insurgents as drug smugglers.
     If you doubt that the US would condone such an operation or cover it up, consider this: In 1967, Israel torpedoed the USS Liberty, a large floating listening post, as it was eavesdropping on the Arab-Israeli war off the Sinai Peninsula. Hundreds of US sailors were wounded and killed, probably because Israel feared that its massacre of Egyptian prisoners at El Arish might be overheard. How did the Pentagon respond? By imposing a total news ban, and covering up the facts for decades.
     Will we ever find out what really happened in Peru, specifically why a missionary and her daughter were killed? Not likely, since it involves a private military contractor that is basically beyond the reach of congressional accountability.
     In 2009, when the Peru shoot down became one of five cases of intelligence operation cover up being investigated by the US House Intelligence Committee, the CIA inspector general concluded that the CIA had improperly concealed information about the incident. Intelligence Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky, who led the investigation, didn’t rule out referrals to the Justice Department for criminal prosecutions if evidence surfaced that intelligence officials broke the law. But she couldn’t guarantee that the facts would ever come to light, since the Committee’s report of its investigation would be classified.
     The most crucial wrinkle in the Peruvian incident is the involvement of DynCorp, which was active in Colombia and Bolivia under large contracts with various US agencies. The day after the incident, ABC news reported that, according to “senior administration officials,” the crew of the surveillance plane that first identified the doomed aircraft "was hired by the CIA from DynCorp." Within two days, however, all references to DynCorp were scrubbed from ABC's Website. A week later, the New York Post claimed the crew actually worked for Aviation Development Corp., allegedly a CIA proprietary company.
     Whatever the truth, State Department officials refused to talk on the record about DynCorp's activities in South America. Yet, according to DynCorp's State Department contract, the firm had received at least $600 million over the previous few years for training, drug interdiction, search and rescue (which included combat), air transport of equipment and people, and reconnaissance in the region. And that was only what they put on paper. It also operated government aircraft and provided all manner of personnel, particularly for Plan Colombia.
DynCorp began in 1946 as the employee-owned air cargo business California Eastern Airways, flying in supplies for the Korean War. This and later government work led to charges that it was a CIA front company. Whatever the truth, it ultimately became a leading PMC, hiring former soldiers and police officers to implement US foreign policy without having to report to Congress.
     The push to privatize war gained traction during the first Bush administration. After the first Gulf War, the Pentagon, then headed by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, paid a Halliburton subsidiary nearly $9 million to study how PMCs could support US soldiers in combat zones, according to a Mother Jones investigation. Cheney subsequently became CEO of Halliburton, and Brown & Root, later known as Halliburton KBR, won billions to construct and run military bases, some in secret locations.
     One of DynCorp’s earliest “police” contracts involved the protection of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and, after he was ousted, providing the “technical advice” that brought military officers involved in that coup into Haiti’s National Police. Despite this dodgy record, in 2002 it won the contract to protect another new president, Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai. By then, it was a top IT federal contractor specializing in computer systems development, and also providing the government with aviation services, general military management, and security expertise.
     Like other private military outfits, the main danger it has faced is the risk of public exposure. Under one contract, for example, DynCorp sprayed vast quantities of herbicides over Colombia to kill the cocaine crop. In September 2001, Ecuadorian Indians filed a class action lawsuit, charging that DynCorp recklessly sprayed their homes and farms, causing illnesses and deaths and destroying crops. In Bosnia, private police provided by DynCorp for the UN were accused of buying and selling prostitutes, including a 12-year-old girl. Others were charged with videotaping a rape.
     In the first years of the 21st century, DynCorp's day-to-day operations in South America were overseen by State Department officials, including the Narcotic Affairs Section and the Air Wing, the latter a clique of unreformed cold warriors and leftovers from 80s operations in Central America. It was essentially the State Department's private air force in the Andes, with access to satellite-based recording and mapping systems.
     In the 1960s, a similar role was played by the Vinnell Corp., which the CIA called "our own private mercenary army in Vietnam." Vinnell later became a subsidiary of TRW, a major NSA contractor, and employed US Special Forces vets to train Saudi Arabia's National Guard. In the late 1990s, TRW hired former NSA director William Studeman to help with its intelligence program.
     DynCorp avoided the kind of public scandal that surrounded the activities of Blackwater. In Ecuador, where it developed military logistics centers and coordinated “anti-terror” police training, the exposure of a secret covenant signed with the Aeronautics Industries Directorate of the Ecuadorian Air Force briefly threatened to make waves. According to a November 2003 exposé in Quito’s El Comercio, the arrangement, hidden from the National Defense Council, made DynCorp’s people part of the US diplomatic mission.
     In Colombia, DynCorp’s coca eradication and search-and-rescue missions led to controversial pitched battles with rebels. US contract pilots flew Black Hawk helicopters carrying Colombian police officers who raked the countryside with machine gun fire to protect the missions against attacks. According to investigative reporter Jason Vest, DynCorp employees were also implicated in narcotics trafficking. But such stories didn’t get far, and, in any case, DynCorp’s “trainers” simply ignored congressional rules, including those that restrict the US from aiding military units linked to human rights abuses.
     In 2003, DynCorp won a multimillion-dollar contract to build a private police force in post-Saddam Iraq, with some of the funding diverted from an anti-drug program for Afghanistan. In 2004, the State Department further expanded DynCorp’s role as a global US surrogate with a $1.75 billion, five year contract to provide law enforcement personnel for civilian policing operations in “post-conflict areas” around the world. That March, the company also got an Army contract to support helicopters sold to foreign countries. The work, described as “turnkey” services, includes program management, logistics support, maintenance and aircrew training, aircraft maintenance and refurbishment, repair and overhaul of aircraft components and engines, airframe and engine upgrades, and the production of technical publications.
     In short, DynCorp was a trusted partner in the military-intelligence-industrial complex. "Are we outsourcing order to avoid public scrutiny, controversy or embarrassment?" asked Rep. Schakowsky upon submitting legislation to prohibit US funding for private military firms in the Andean region. "If there is a potential for a privatized Gulf of Tonkin incident, then the American people deserve to have a full and open debate before this policy goes any further."
     If and when that ever happens, the discussion will have to cover a lot of ground. Private firms, working in concert with various intelligence agencies, constitute a vast foreign policy apparatus that is largely invisible, rarely covered by the corporate press, and not currently subject to congressional oversight. The Freedom of Information Act simply doesn't apply. Any information on whom they arm or how they operate is private, proprietary information.
     The US government downplays its use of mercenaries, a state of affairs that could undermine any efforts to find out about CIA activities that are concealed from Congress. Yet private contractors perform almost every function essential to military operations, a situation that has been called the “creeping privatization of the business of war.” By 2004, the Pentagon was employing more than 700,000 private contractors.
     The companies are staffed by former generals, admirals, and highly trained officers. Name a hot spot and some PMC has people there. DynCorp has worked on the Defense Message System Transition Hub and done long-range planning for the Air Force. MPRI had a similar contract with the Army, and for a time coordinated the Pentagon's military and leadership training in at least seven African nations.
     How did this outsourcing of defense evolve? In 1969, the US Army had about 1.5 million active duty soldiers. By 1992, the figure had been cut by half. Since the mid-1990s, however, the US has mobilized militarily to intervene in several significant conflicts, and a corporate “foreign legion” has filled the gap between foreign policy imperatives and what a downsized, increasingly over-stretched military can provide.
     Use of high technology equipment feeds the process. Private companies have technical capabilities that the military needs, but doesn’t always possess. Contractors have maintained stealth bombers and Predator unmanned drones used in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some military equipment is specifically designed to be operated and maintained by private companies.
     In Britain, the debate over military privatization has been public, since the activities of the UK company Sandline in Sierra Leone and Papua New Guinea embarrassed the government in the late 1990s. But no country has clear policies to regulate PMCs, and the limited oversight that does exist rarely works. In the US, they have largely escaped notice, except when US contract workers in conflict zones are killed or go way over the line, as in the case of Blackwater.
     According to Guy Copeland, who began developing public-private IT policy in the Reagan years, “The private sector must play an integral role in improving our national cybersecurity.” After all, he has noted, private interests own and operate 85 percent of the nation’s critical IT infrastructure. He should know. After all, Copeland drafted much of the language in the Bush Administration’s 2002 National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace as co-chair of the Information Security Committee of the Information Technology Association of America.
     Nevertheless, when the federal government becomes dependent on unaccountable, private companies like DynCorp and Blackwater (later renamed Xe Services) for so many key security services, as well as for military logistics, management, strategy, expertise and “training,” fundamental elements of US defense have been outsourced. And the details of that relationship are matters that the intelligence community will fight long and hard to keep out of public view.
Corporate Connections and "Soft Landings"
Although the various departments and private contractors within the military-intelligence-industrial complex occasionally have turf battles and don't always share information or coordinate strategy as effectively as they might, close and ongoing contact has long been considered essential. And it has expanded as a result of the information revolution. The entire intelligence community has its own secret Intranet, which pulls together FBI reports, NSA intercepts, analysis from the DIA and CIA, and other deeply covert sources.
     Private firms are connected to this information web through staff, location, shared technology, and assorted contracts. Working primarily for the Pentagon, for example, L-3 Communications, a spinoff from major defense contractor Lockheed Martin, has manufactured hardware like control systems for satellites and flight recorders. MPRI, which was bought by L-3, provided services like its operations in Macedonia. L-3 also built the NSA's Secure Terminal Equipment, which instantly encrypts phone conversations.
     Another private contractor active in the Balkans was Science Applications, staffed by former NSA and CIA personnel, and specializing in police training. When Janice Stromsem, a Justice Department employee, complained that its program gave the CIA unfettered access to recruiting agents in foreign police forces, she was relieved of her duties. Her concern was that the sovereignty of nations receiving aid from the US was being compromised.
     In 1999, faced with personnel cuts, the NSA offered over 4000 employees "soft landing" buy outs to help them secure jobs with defense firms that have major NSA contracts. NSA offered to pay the first year's salary, in hopes the contractor would then pick up the tab. Sometimes the employee didn't even have to move away from Crypto City. Companies taking part in the program included TRW and MPRI's parent company, Lockheed Martin.
     Lockheed was also a winner in the long-term effort to privatize government services. In 2000, it won a $43.8 million contract to run the Defense Civilian Personnel Data System, one of the largest human resources systems in the world. As a result, a major defense contractor took charge of consolidating all Department of Defense personnel systems, covering hiring and firing for about 750,000 civilian employees. This put the contractor at the cutting edge of Defense Department planning, and made it a key gatekeeper at the revolving door between the US military and private interests.
Shortly after his appointment as NSA director in 1999, Michael Hayden went to see the film Enemy of the State, in which Will Smith is pursued by an all-seeing, all hearing NSA and former operative Gene Hackman decries the agency's dangerous power. In Body of Secrets, author Bamford says Hayden found the film entertaining, yet offensive and highly inaccurate. Still, the NSA chief was comforted by "a society that makes its bogeymen secrecy and power. That's really what the movie's about.''
     Unlike Hayden, most people don't know where the fiction ends and NSA reality begins. Supposedly, the agency rarely "spies" on US citizens at home. On the other hand, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows a secret federal court to waive that limitation. The rest of the world doesn't have that protection. Designating thousands of keywords, names, phrases, and phone numbers, NSA computers can pick them out of millions of messages, passing anything of interest on to analysts. One can only speculate about what happens next.
     After 9/11 the plan was to go further with a project code named Tempest. The goal was to capture computer signals such as keystrokes or monitor images through walls or from other buildings, even if the computers weren't linked to a network. One NSA document, "Compromising Emanations Laboratory Test Requirements, Electromagnetics," described procedures for capturing the radiation emitted from a computer-through radio waves and the telephone, serial, network, or power cables attached to it.
     Other NSA programs have included Oasis, designed to reduce audiovisual images into machine-readable text for easier filtering, and Fluent, which expanded Echelon's multilingual capabilities. And let's not forget the government's Carnivore Internet surveillance program, which can collect all communications over any segment of the network being watched.
     Put such elements together, combine them with business imperatives and covert foreign policy objectives, then throw PMCS into the mix, and you get a glimpse of the extent to which information can be translated into raw power and secretly used to shape events. Although most pieces of the puzzle remain obscure, enough is visible to justify suspicion, outrage, and a campaign to pull away the curtain on this Wizard of Oz. But fighting a force that is largely invisible and unaccountable – and able to eavesdrop on the most private exchanges, that is a daunting task, perhaps even more difficult than confronting the mechanisms of corporate globalization that it protects and promotes.

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Mehdi’s Morning Memo: The Living Standards Election

The ten things you need to know on Thursday 14 February 2013...

1) THE LIVING STANDARDS ELECTION

Ed Miliband is going to do his best impression of Ronald Reagan in a 'major speech' (is there ever a minor speech?) on the economy in Bedford today. It's all about living standards, it seems.

The Labour leader has been speaking to - who else? - the Guardian ahead of his address:

"Ed Miliband promises to make the 2015 general election a 'living standards election' as he claims that the coalition's squeeze on middle-income Britain has deepened the recession and created the "chilling prospect" of a further decade of pressure on most families' living standards.

"... Bidding to set the frame for the next election, and drawing on some of the strategy that helped re-elect Barack Obama, the Labour leader says: 'I am offering a choice between an economic recovery made by the many, not just a few at the top, and a Conservative strategy that consists of trickle-down from the top, a squeeze on the middle and a race to the bottom.'

"He goes on: 'I will be asking the question 'are you better off than you were four years ago?' and I don't think it is in dispute – people are worse off. The Office for Budget Responsibility figures are showing earnings behind inflation, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows the same. It would be a good start if David Cameron could just admit the facts.'"

Miliband will be speaking in Bedford - where the 'One Nation' prime minister Harold Macmillan, of course, declared that "You've never had it so good" in 1957.

Meanwhile, the Labour leader's shrewdest adviser and close ally (Lord) Stewart Wood, in an exclusive piece for the Huffington Post UK, sets out the context and thinking behind Miliband's speech. He writes:

"In 2013, the problem of the Middle has become the central economic challenge facing our country. It is at the heart of our growth crisis as well as our living standards crisis."

Wood adds that "our economy is too dependent on a low-skill, low-wage model of competitiveness. One measure of this is the UK’s historic (and continuing) deficit in skills" and says that the Tory idea "that the key to our economic turnaround is further deregulation of one of the most deregulated economies in the advanced industrial world is somewhere between dubious and ridiculous."

The shadow cabinet minister also claims that Labour has begun to "flesh out" new policies on the economy over the past two years.

I guess we'll have to wait till later this morning to see what policies, if any, Miliband unveils in Bedford. Either way, the Labour leader is right to focus on (falling) living standards. I mean, it worked for the Gipper, right?

2) BREAKING: BLAIRITE REJECTS BLAIRISM

It isn't just Ed Miliband giving a big speech today. Hats off to shadow defence secretary and arch-Blairite Jim Murphy for being willing to make some painful concessions about Blair's failures on foreign and defence policy - from the Independent:

"A new approach to intervening in foreign countries will be set out by Labour today as the shadow Defence Secretary, Jim Murphy, accuses David Cameron of failing to learn the lessons from Tony Blair's mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Ten years after the Iraq War, Labour will attempt to further distance itself from a conflict which alienated many voters by warning against the 'ideological' crusade against al-Qa'ida favoured by Mr Blair and Mr Cameron."

Murphy will also admit that "an almost primitive understanding of the Afghan population, culture and geography prior to Nato intervention severely undermined international attempts to work with proxies and our political strategy was in its conception insufficiently representative. In Iraq there was a serious deficit in Western comprehension of the Sunni-Shia or intra-Shia dynamics."

Hear, hear!

3) BLAST FROM THE PAST

And it isn't just Labour figures who are giving 'big' speeches today, either. Former Conservative prime minister Sir John Major plans to dole out some advice for his party in a speech on Europe at Chatham House later today.

Sir John will welcome his successor but two's promise of an in/out referendum on the EU, saying it's a "gamble" but one that Cameron can't avoid and which could remove "the poison" of Europe from British - and, specifically, Tory - politics.

In a nice phrase, the ex-PM will also warn the current PM to beware of MPs with "with Tory heads and UK independence hearts looking to leave the EU".

He'll also warn eurosceptic Conservative MPs to stop bombarding their leader with demands on the EU and making him look like he's under duress and behaving in the interests of his party, rather than the country.

In an interview with me a few months ago, backbench MP Nadine Dorries said the current political climate reminded her of the early 1990s, with all the instability at the top of government and the attacks on Major over Europe from eurosceptics. I guess we now know that Major himself kinda agrees with her.

4) WHO KNEW WHAT AND WHEN?

Worried about the row over horsemeat? Perhaps you should be - whether you're a member of the public or a member of the government. From the Times splash:

"The Government knew last summer that a sudden ban on cheap British beef and lamb meant it was 'inevitable' that unlawful meat would be imported from Europe.

"MPs will demand today that the food watchdog is given powers to order supermarkets to carry out safety tests after it failed to identify the use of horsemeat in ready meals for up to a year, despite a warning from a government minister last June.

"The Times can also reveal that tests at British abattoirs in the past two weeks have confirmed that eight out of 200 horses slaughtered were contaminated with the veterinary drug phenylbutazone (“bute”), which is banned from food."

5) EYE ON EASTLEIGH

Satirist, comedian and new Labour candidate in Eastleigh, John O'Farrell, comes under some scrutiny in today's papers - from the Daily Telegraph:

"Labour's candidate for the Eastleigh by–election once backed the idea of voting for the Liberal Democrats to keep out the Conservatives in a marginal seat – just like the one he is now contesting.

"... it has emerged that [O'Farrell] once advised his brother to vote Lib Dem in Richmond to keep out the Tories in 1997."

Whoops!

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6) ARE YOU LISTENING, MR PRESIDENT?

Whatever you think of Barack Obama, it is difficult to dispute that the US president has been a disaster for civil liberties. Remember, for instance, how he promised to shut down Gitmo? Well, he'll be reminded of his failure - and the human cost of it - later today. From the Huffington Post UK:

"A 20,000-strong petition will be presented to US President Barack Obama to urge the release of a British detainee at Guantanamo Bay who has been held at the camp for exactly 11 years.

"Shaker Aamer, 44, was taken to the notorious US detention centre on 14 February 2002 under suspicion of recruiting and financing terror group al Qaida.

"Aamer has never been charged or tried with an offence and remains detained despite the US authorities officially approving him for transfer in 2009."

(via Huffington Post UK)

7) DELHI DAVE

From the FT:

"The prime minister will take a delegation of British business leaders to Mumbai and New Delhi to exploit what he called "a special relationship" between the two countries, despite trade links having been strained."

Two points worth mentioning here: 1) Dave will be under pressure to explain to Indian authorities and the country's media why his government seems to be openly discriminating against university students from the subcontinent who want to study in the UK, and 2) it's a rather lopsided special relationship, given it's Cameron's second visit to India since becoming prime minister while his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, has not reciprocated with a visit to London and shows no signs of planning to do so.

8) NEED HELP?

From the Times:

"A mental health clinic is to be set up for MPs at Westminster to help the rising number of politicians who admit that they suffer depression and anxiety.

"Specialist treatment will be offered after officials approved funding of £25,000 a year. On Monday Parliament gave final approval to the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill, scrapping the law that says that MPs lose their seats if they have been sectioned for more than six months, as well as a rule allowing company directors to be removed because of mental illness."

9) UNGAGGED

The BBC's Today programme has this exclusive:

"A health service manager claims he was gagged by the NHS from speaking out about his dismissal and his concerns over patient safety.

"Gary Walker said he had no choice but to sign an agreement linked to a confidentiality clause in April 2011.

"He said it was a case of either signing the so-called 'super gag' agreement or losing his house.

"... It comes a week after Robert Francis QC, who led the public inquiry into the Stafford hospital scandal, demanded that such agreements should be 'banned'."

10) IT'S ALL IN THE MIND

Are all those speeches, debates, arguments, pamphlets, columns and manifestos a waste of time? Scientists now say that brain scans provide a better clue to our political allegiances than the party loyalties of our parents.

From the Daily Telegraph:

"Liberals and conservatives use different parts of their brain when they respond to risk, according to a team of British and American scientists. They were able to predict if people voted Democrat or Republican with 83 per cent accuracy just by studying their brain activity.

"Volunteers from the parties were asked to play a gambling game while their brains were scanned. Republicans and Democrats were no different in terms of the risks they took during the game, but there was a marked contrast in the way their brains dealt with risk–taking. Democrats showed significantly greater activity in the left insula, a brain region associated with social and self–awareness. Republicans had a more active right amygdala, a region involved in defensive "fight–or–flight" responses.

According to the study, brain activity in these two regions alone was enough to predict with pretty astonishing accuracy whether the participant was a Democrat or Republican.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 42
Conservatives 32
Lib Dems 9
Ukip 9

That would give Labour a majority of 114.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@damiangreenmp How modern media works. Keith Vaz demands to know why I am not in Commons. I get abuse on Twitter. Reason? My wife in hospital. Happy now?

‏@BorisWatch All sympathy to @damiangreenmp but some reflection on where this view that 'if you're not working you're shirking' came from might help?

@ChrisBryantMP Cracking qu by anas sarwar: when the pm's answers are analysed will they be found to be 100% bull?

900 WORDS OR MORE

Peter Oborne, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Nick Clegg and his poor Lib Dems are having a nervous breakdown."

John O'Farrell, writing in the Guardian, explains: "Why I'm standing for Labour in the Eastleigh byelection."

Leo McKinstry, writing in the Daily Mail, says: "What's the point of a food safety quango that couldn't save us from eating stallion burgers?"


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

From Afghanistan: My Voice Is Not Political, It Is Human

It’s hard for me, an ordinary citizen of Singapore, a medical doctor engaged in social enterprise work in Afghanistan and a human being wishing for a better world, to write this from Kabul.Raz, Abdulhai and the author in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo: Voices for Creative Nonviolence)

But people are dying.

And children and women are feeling hopeless.

 “What’s the point in telling you our stories?” asked Freba, one of the seamstresses working with the Afghan Peace Volunteers to set up a tailoring co-operative for Afghan women. “Does anyone hear? Does anyone believe us?”

Silently within, I answered Freba with shame,” You’re right. No one is listening.”

So, I write this in protest against my government’s presence in the humanitarian and war tragedy of Afghanistan, as a way to lend my voice to Freba and all my Afghan friends.

I do so in dissent, against the global security of imprisoned minds.

I thought, “If no one listens as humans should, we should at least speak like free men and women.”

Singapore’s complicity in the humanitarian and war tragedy of Afghanistan

It is clear that the Taliban, the many Afghan and regional warlords, militia groups and the Afghan government are responsible for the current humanitarian and war tragedy of Afghanistan.

But Singapore is also responsible because it is one of the fifty U.S. /NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) coalition countries working with the corrupt Afghan government (rated the most corrupt country in 2012).

While the Singapore government would never support any corrupt Singaporean leader even for a day, they have sent troops to support the most corrupt leaders on earth! If accountability is at all important, we cannot say, ‘Oh…never mind!”

Moreover, Singapore has inadvertently become a minor accomplice of the self-interests of the U.S. government in Afghanistan ; The U.S. Vice President , Joe Biden, spoke at the Munich Security Conference recently, "The United States is a Pacific power. And the world's greatest military alliance ( NATO ) helps make us an Atlantic power as well. As our new defense strategy makes clear, we will remain both a Pacific power and an Atlantic power." 

American power and economic interests naturally do not include the best interests of ordinary Singaporeans or Afghans.

The Afghan humanitarian tragedy

In the normal, logical world, it should inspire the doubt and curiosity of Singaporeans that while the U.S. /NATO coalition was spending billions of dollars every week on the Afghan war ( the U.S. alone was spending two billion dollars every week ), Afghans have been perishing under one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. At least 36% live below the poverty line and 35% of Afghan men do not have work . The UN calls the acute malnutrition of nearly one million children in the Afghan south ‘shocking’ . Almost three quarters of all Afghans do not have access to safe drinking water .

On several occasions in the past few years, Afghanistan was declared the worst country for children and women, and yet, many of us still hold this warped presumption, “Afghanistan is the worst country for children and women but whatever we are doing over there MUST somehow be right!”

The Afghan war tragedy

In the normal, logical world, it should at least matter to ‘result-orientated’ Singaporeans that the very expensive Afghan/U.S. coalition’s ‘war against terrorism’ has increased rather than decreased ‘terrorism’, with the Global Terrorism Index reporting that terrorist strikes in the region have increased four times since the start of the Iraq war in 2003.

Even President Karzai said in the UK recently that the security situation in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan was better before British troops were deployed.

Adding to this cynical mess of increased ‘terrorism’ at the hands of global superpowers, the U.S. has established an epicenter of drone warfare in Afghanistan, with Afghans and Pakistanis and other ‘insurgents’ as their ‘targets’, and Singapore as one of their many allies. Singapore has had teams helping in drone reconnaissance operations, reconnaissance that may have eventually ended up with a U.S. /NATO decision to kill someone without trial.

I had raised this personal concern once in a meeting room at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ; I was appreciative of the attentiveness given to this issue, but sensed that there was no great interest in ‘investigating’ how Singapore’s co-operation in the drone operations in Afghanistan may be violating international law, as was suggested by the ex-UN Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings, Mr Philip Alston.

A recent New York Times article highlights these ‘fears  for U.S. allies’, reporting on a lawsuit in the British courts that ‘accuses British officials of becoming “secondary parties to murder” by passing intelligence to American officials that was later used in drone strikes.’ My life has been changed by listening to Afghan friends like Raz Mohammad tell how ‘drones bury beautiful lives’.

The U.N. is finally living up to its charter to ‘remove the scourge of war’ by duly investigating drone warfare. Major U.S. newspapers are also asking for more transparency over Obama’s weekly, premeditated ‘kill lists’. There has been concern over unchecked Powers getting even more out of all jurisdictions with the appointment of ‘drone justifier’ John Brennan as Obama’s CIA Director nominee.

Even the UN Committee on the Rights of a Child has been "alarmed" at reports of the deaths of hundreds of children from US attacks and air strikes in Afghanistan since the committee last reviewed U.S. practices in 2008.

Singapore should be alarmed too.

Singapore’s own identity as a militarized, authoritarian country

Deep within, like most human beings, Freba yearns for a decent livelihood without war. Abdulhai and the Afghan Peace Volunteers wish for friends from all 195 countries of the world, a better world without borders!

What kind of identity do Singaporeans wish for their country, a peaceful and friendly country or otherwise?

Again, I’m concerned. We like pictures of be-medaled soldiers more than unsung ‘Mother Teresa’ heroines. Our government has a significant number of ex-military commanders.

According to the Global Militarisation Index released by the Bonn International Centre for Conversion (BICC), Singapore has been the second most militarized nation in the world for years. The latest ranking puts Singapore just second to Israel and one brutal position more militarized than Syria.

The world is awakening, the human race is revolutionizing, and so is Singapore’s electorate. Most ordinary folk in the world don’t want to send missiles or guns to kill strangers in other places! Human beings have always preferred otherwise.

What also worries me is that this militarized mindset may be behind Singapore’s enthusiasm in the drone show-business, and in ‘unintentionally’ being part of the U.S.’ ‘Asia pivot’ by hosting four U.S. littoral combat ships.

Even on the economic front, while Singapore has one of the higher Gini coefficients of income inequality in the world, not many people in Singapore are aware of or debating Singapore’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, again a partnership that corporate America is pushing for.

What Singapore has aligned herself with in Afghanistan is militarized authoritarianism that concentrates profit and power in the hands of a few. While this follows global norms, such a system works mainly for the wealth and power of the 1% in the short term, but not for the daily needs of the 99% in either the short or long term.

I personally think that both the democratic and socialist practices of today are ‘non-progressive’ vehicles for the rule of the few ‘Kings, Emperors, Presidents, and Prime Ministers’ over the many presumably ‘ignorant, helpless and sometimes lazy’ subjects. These elitist systems tend to maintain control by ‘pacifying the masses’ through formal education, mainstream media and force.

I hope Singapore can steer itself away from this ‘norm’, an ugly ‘norm’ in which war becomes fun, like when Prince Harry described his combat pilot job in Afghanistan as "a joy … because I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I'm probably quite useful."

I believe that for effective defense and genuine security, we ought to be friends with neighbours and all peoples of other lands rather than militarists with superior weapons.

Perhaps these are differences in opinions which can be included in Our Singapore Conversation.

It’s hard for me to write this, but I am sincerely ashamed to be a citizen of the 2nd most militarized nation on earth, a country that has participated in the legally-questionable drone warfare in Afghanistan.

Thankfully, I have hope in Singaporeans like I have hope in humanity. There are alternatives. The world is awakening, the human race is revolutionizing, and so is Singapore’s electorate. Most ordinary folk in the world don’t want to send missiles or guns to kill strangers in other places! Human beings have always preferred otherwise.

My voice is not political. My voice is human.

Afghans are hurting very badly.

And I am hurting too.

Hakim

Hakim ([email protected]) is a mentor for the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul. www.ourjourneytosmile.com

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!

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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

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

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

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