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Europe’s “Little Guantanamo”: Why The U.S. Wants Serbia To Give Up Kosovo

The U.S. military base in Kosovo was constructed in 1999 without consulting with the government of Serbia and is the largest U.S. military...

The Korean Atrocity: Forgotten US War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

 At a Quebec City celebration of the 70th anniversary of World War II’s Battle of the Atlantic last weekend, Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, Steven...

Washington gets explicit: its ‘war on terror’ is permanent

Glenn GreenwaldThe GuardianMay 17, 2013 Last October, senior Obama officials anonymously unveiled to the Washington Post...

The 1983 Nuclear War Scare

Image: President Reagan and General Secretary Andropov were named “men of the year” in 1983 by the Time Magazine. The Central Intelligence Agency also...

Dead SEALs’ families blame Washington

A Chinook helicopter stands in the shadows of crouching US soldiers. (File photo)The families of US commandos killed in a 2011 downing of a...

The Tragedy of Self Immolation – No One Cares Anymore

May 16, 2013  | ...

<em>The Kill Team</em>: The murderous reality of the US war in Afghanistan

  San Francisco International Film Festival 2013–Part one ...

Obama ‘Is a War Criminal’

by Jacob Chamberlain In an interview with the Guardian published on Sunday, renowned professor and prolific critic of the “military-industrial-complex” and rampant “plutocracy” in the...

Feds delay approval of new Monsanto crops over environmental concerns

Biotech giant Monsanto faced a surprising setback after federal authorities refused to approve a new generation of genetically-engineered crops that could survive an unprecedented...

Beyond theory — the practice of building socialism in Latin America

Global Research Editorial Note In the interest of sharing diversity of opinions and promoting an open atmosphere of exchange and critique with our colleagues we bring...

Where Has All the Money Gone?

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New Revelations of Torture and Murder of Afghan Civilians by US Special Forces

Zakaria Kandahari, a member of a US Special Forces “A Team,” has been accused by Afghan officials of carrying out and directing the torture...

The Militarization of Domestic Law Enforcement: Pentagon Unilaterally Grants Itself Authority Over ‘Civil Disturbances’

By Jed Morey The manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects offered the nation a window into the stunning military-style capabilities of our local...

The Triumph of Progressivism: Graduation 2013 and 1968

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_triumph_of_progressivism_graduation_2013_and_1968_20130514/ Posted on May 14, 2013 ...

Both the Mainstream Media and the Gatekeeper “Alternative” Media Are Pro-War

Why There Is So Much Pro-War Reporting There are five reasons that the mainstream media and the largest alternative media websites are both pro-war. 1. Self-Censorship...

Nuclear Terror in the Middle East

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/nuclear_terror_in_the_middle_east_20130514/ Posted on May 14, 2013 By...

Intimidation act against AP shows 'real fear in House of Power'

The rights of the US citizens are increasingly under attack, as the US is intimidated by the press, which may expose some of the...

‘Gitmo blackens US human rights record’

The Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba has blackened the already-dark history of human rights atrocities committed by the US government, a political analyst tells...

Socialism or “Castles in the Air”?




It’s hardly a secret that the US left is barely alive. While left-wing movements in the US have hardly shaken the foundations of power in my life time, they have known moments of modest success, reshaping the political landscape in significant and irreversible ways. Since World War II, left activism has stirred and nourished important movements like the struggles for African American equality and against US aggression in Vietnam. The left has also played important roles in fueling struggles for women’s and gay rights and for strengthening environmental protection. While 1960s talk of revolution and radical alternatives were more hyperbole than real, the ferment of those days was real.

Unfortunately, little of the US left’s modest success penetrated the labor movement, a social force defanged and declawed by anti-Communism early in the Cold War. And little of the left’s wave of vitality challenged the two-party system in any serious way. As the risings of the sixties recede further and further in our collective memory, the quantity and quality of popular struggle diminishes as well.
It’s not just the number of actions or the size of the crowds that are shrinking, but also the ideological understanding that purports to animate our US left. That is, the ideas embraced by various elements of the left have grown more and more murky and superficial.
What Ails the Left?
There are many symptoms and causes of the relative decline of the US left.
But always looming in the shadows of struggles for social justice is the demon of anti-Communism. Other peoples have suffered periods of hysterical, paranoid anti-Communism, but few countries outside of the US have elevated it to a state religion. While fear of Islam may have currently replaced Cold War fears as the national obsession, anti-Communism remains deeply embedded in the national psyche. Recent movies featuring West Coast and East Coast invasions of the US by forces from the tiny Democratic People’s Republic of Korea only underscore the persistence of this demon.
Of course the US left is neither immune from nor unwelcoming to Red-baiting. From the fifties, “leftists” could earn respectability and credibility with the public ritual of denouncing Communism. It was from this period that critical financial umbilical chords from the most prominent, most influential left and liberal formations to wealthy donors, foundations, and, in some nefarious cases, the security services were established. Any independent organizations deriving grass roots funding from workers’ organizations or the nationally oppressed were routinely looked at suspiciously for Red ties.
By the early sixties, the purge of everything Red or even Pink was largely completed. Everything—words, ideas, associations—even vaguely linked to Communism had disappeared from the mainstream. And the rise of a “new” left reflected the weight of that legacy. Both opportunism and ignorance led most of the left’s new leadership to establish a political camp to the right or left of Communism, demonstrably distant from Communism: radical democracy and social democracy to the right; Maoism and anarchism to the left.
Arguably this failure to establish an honest, objective encounter with Communism, this Cold War attitude of framing all politics as a counterweight to Communism, contributed mightily to the decline of the left in the next decade. The student base and alienation from working people demonstrated the shallowness of New Left ideology. Most leaders and activists turned to careers, the Democratic Party, the social service bureaucracy, or retreated to the universities.
Anti-Communism continued and continues as a blind faith. The fall of Soviet and Eastern European socialism added a new dimension to the anti-Communist canon: Not only was Communism evil, but it didn’t work.
Without the foil of real existing socialism, the US left drifted aimlessly. Some found an ideological anchor in “market socialism,” especially with the rise of Market-Leninism in the Peoples’ Republic of China. Others found romantic answers in Comandante Zero, a pipe-smoking, inscrutable poet/revolutionary diminutive caricature of Che Guevera. Still others attempted to restore life to the New Left of the sixties. One cannot but be reminded of the situation of Russian revolutionaries after the suppressed 1905 uprising as described by Lenin:
The years of reaction (1907-10). Tsarism was victorious. All the revolutionary and opposition parties were smashed. Depression, demoralisation, splits, discord, defection, and pornography took the place of politics. There was an ever greater drift towards philosophical idealism; mysticism became the garb of counter-revolutionary sentiments. (Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder)
Where most European Communists degenerated into social democrats in this period, US leftists, scarred by anti-Communism and with no similar tradition, found hope in narrow-issue activism, cult-like formations, or the unlikely revival of the New Deal Democratic Party.
Obama and the Left
The candidacy of Barack Obama proved to be a disaster for the US left. Anti-war and social justice activists put aside their signs and plans and flocked to the Obama campaign. Grandiose expectations were conjured out of thin air; a candidate associated in the past with conservative Democrats and a professed admirer of Ronald Reagan was imagined to be the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; and even cautious measures of critical support were overwhelmed by wild-eyed enthusiasm.
After the election, most of the US left kept faith with Obama, a faith that has produced very little of the anticipated change, but succeeded in disarming the left. The big loser was the historically most progressive element in US politics: the African American community. Understandably, African Americans rallied to support the first African American president, but his administration has neither represented African Americans nor lifted a finger to relieve the sinking material conditions of life for that community. In fact, often more has been done for African Americans under Republican presidents when the left is actively and vocally pressuring and Democrats are in opposition! As an example, no Republican president would get away with so few African American appointees or nominees in an administration as has the current President!
The US ruling class has successfully and opportunistically gauged the hard won level of racial tolerance of US voters. The new face of US policy and diplomacy presented by Obama was welcomed everywhere—at home and abroad—over the failed Bush regime. A byproduct of this tactic is the disarming of the left and the silencing of African American leaders. Tragically, the US left has accepted the shallow symbolism of an African American president at the expense of the African American masses.
The Crisis and the Left
For the left in the US and internationally, the profound economic crisis beginning in 2008 and continuing today offers a great opportunity to mount an anti-capitalist offensive and project a clear alternative. For over a century and a half that alternative was socialism. The vision articulated over that period differed from time to time, but shared some straightforward features: the theoretical primacy of class relations, public ownership of productive assets, an end to exploitation, a new democracy based upon the rule of the working majority, and social and economic planning. Each feature clearly addresses a glaring, unacceptable shortcoming of capitalism.
But in the US, our left will not address the devastation wrought by capitalism and embrace these features or even discuss them honestly. One of the most prominent and respected national leaders of the anti-war movement recently said: “I used to think I was a socialist… But I also think that people should have the right to be individually enterprising. I have yet to see the society that I would like to live in but I see pieces of it, bits and pieces of it here and there.” This is hardly encouragement for the 11.7 million US citizens looking for a job, the nearly 8 million who would prefer a full-time job over their part-time employment, or the tens of millions who still lack health insurance, all benefits once guaranteed and delivered by real, existing socialism.
Another prominent left pundit, in reviewing another left oracle’s “new economy” manifesto, remarks that the author’s assumptions are “…that socialism, as we have known it in the 20th century did not work.” He blithely concedes that the book’s author “spends little time critiquing 20th century socialism.” Not deterred by the lack of argument, the reviewer affirms that “I was persuaded… that a glimpse into the future is critical largely due to reality of the failure of 20th century socialism, or more accurately, what is better described as the crisis of socialism.” “…did not work,failure,” “crisis” are the unexamined, easy assumptions of our floundering left.
So what do they offer as an alternative?
Anything but the socialism associated with Communism. They take us back to the foolishness that Marx and Engels called “utopian socialism,” the schemes concocted by Fourier and Owen in the early 19th century. In the Communist Manifesto they conclude that utopians “…therefore, endeavor, and that consistently, to deaden the class struggle and to reconcile the class antagonisms. They still dream of experimental realization of their social utopias, of founding isolated phalansteres, of establishing ‘Home Colonies,’ or setting up a ‘Little Icaria”—pocket editions of the New Jerusalem—and to realize all these castles in the air, and they are compelled to appeal to the feeling and purses of the bourgeois… They, therefore, violently oppose all political action on the part of the working class; such action, according to them, can only result from blind unbelief in the new gospel.”
We find a modern incarnation of utopianism in the “New Economy” movement, the US left’s current flavor of the day. Back in late 2011, Professor Gar Alperovitz reached for the golden ring of utopia with his America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming our Wealth, our Liberty, and our Democracy, a book that promised to take the disenfranchised in the US from peasants to lords. Alperovitz, like his utopian predecessors, believes that ideas generously given from a fount of wisdom will, if only embraced by those below, lead to “democratizing capital.” Alperovitz’s magical ideas are the spawning of “thousands of co-ops, worker-owned businesses, land trusts, and municipal enterprises” that will, with time, “democratize the deep structure of the American economic system.” A more romantic version of Marx and Engel’s derisive “new gospel” I cannot imagine.
The very notion of “democratizing” something, let us say “capital,” that doesn’t wish to be “democratized” is mind-boggling. Will capital be embarrassed into sharing the wealth? Will the success of co-ops demonstrate to Exxon that energy should be free to all and produced in an environmentally sound manner? Will the 17-trillion-dollar US-based multinational corporate behemoth shudder in the face of worker-owned enterprises and co-ops, surrendering control of the boards of directors to the people?
I don’t think so.
Alperovitz points to existing self-styled alternative ownership models like ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Programs), community development corporations, co-ops, etc. as the way forward (he concedes that ESOPs have a dubious record). As such, they would offer a relatively painless “evolutionary” road different “from traditional theories of ‘revolution’.” Many “businessmen, bankers, and others, in fact, commonly support the idea [of co-ops] on practical and moral grounds,” Alperovitz proclaims. Of course they do; they see no challenge to capitalism and a possible opportunity to cash in!
The fact that “castles in the air” ideas like Alperovitz’s actually gain traction demonstrates the sad state of the US left. The fact that opinion polls show a decided increase in interest in socialism is encouraging; however, the fact that those new to the idea must taste through the unappealing, non-nourishing gruel currently favored by so many on the left is disappointing. 
For more than a century and a half, socialism—the public and democratic ownership of the essential means of production under a majority peoples’ democracy—continues to be the only ultimate answer to a tenuous and destructive capitalist system.
Zoltan Zigedy
zoltanzigedy@gmail.com


War and Moral Expediancy: US and Israel Support Salafist-Jihadist Terrorists in Syria

Recent Israeli airstrikes on Damascus have once again shed light on a defining western-led policy when it comes to the Middle East: strategic moral...

“A Lake of Blood and Destruction” — The Voices We Never Hear...

Branfman's book "Voices From The Plain...

“A Lake of Blood and Destruction” — The Voices We Never Hear...

Branfman's book "Voices From The Plain...

Stockman’s Rant




On the rare occasion, an article appears in the mainstream press that takes a deeper, more thoughtful view of human affairs, a document that gives a hint or glimpse of an unspoken truth beyond the pablum that occupies media puppets. Such an occasion was the publishing of The New York Times opinion piece entitled “State Wrecked: The Corruption of Capitalism in America” (3-31-2013) and authored by former Reaganite budget director, David Stockman.

Now Stockman is a renegade from corporate Republicanism; he actually believes in the ancient principles put forward by Adam Smith and other classical capitalist thinkers. While corporate Republicans cozy up to their party’s ugly, fascistic outliers, they always, in the end, make their bed with the rich and powerful. Stockman, on the other hand, actually embraces the mythical virtues of small business ownership and town hall democracy. In classical Marxist terms, he represents the ideology of the petite-bourgeoisie.
In the swamp occupied by Democratic and Republican politicos—the breeding ground for conventional politics—such views are unwelcome. Principled politics from the right or the left are alien equally to the snakes and the rats that prey on the cognitively weak and unwary.
Stockman is in a panic because he sees beyond the stock market euphoria and Pollyanna commentaries that have induced the mass delusions of the last several months. And what he sees angers him.
Stockman constructs an indictment, a list of charges against the current US economy: growth of output is woefully inadequate, jobs are both indecently scarce and low paying, the incomes and the net worth of “ordinary” citizens are dropping while poverty is on the rise. To anyone with a grip on reality, these are not signs of real economic recovery or systemic success. He notes that “we’ve had eight decades of increasingly frenetic fiscal and monetary policy activism intended to counter the cyclical bumps and grinds of the free market and its purported tendency to underproduce jobs and economic output. The toll has been heavy.” And yet imagine the toll if no remedial action had been taken! Surely, this unintended critique of eighty years of state-monopoly governance counts as a devastating charge against modern capitalism. If the era of state-monopoly capitalism can do no better than produce the sad state outlined by Stockman, it is decidedly a failure.
Stockman dares speak the truth so discomforting to liberals and social democrats: [World War II] “did far more to end the Depression than the New Deal did,” though he misleadingly praises the Eisenhower years for its “sound money and fiscal rectitude.” Perhaps he is too young to remember the massive increases in military spending, the ambitious interstate highway system, and the enormous growth of public spending brought on by the Cold War and the Sputnik panic. In any case, the dose of war socialism and the “frenetic… activism” of state-monopoly capitalism kept the capitalist ship afloat, though with fewer and fewer rewards for the majority of US citizens.
Stockman correctly sees that the remedies pursued by US state-monopoly capitalism directed more and more of the lubricant of public funds towards the financial sector over the last decades: the Greenspan “put,” the Long-Term Capital Management bailout, extended ultra-low interest rates, TARP, Fed purchases of bank junk, the support of federal bond prices, and support for equity markets. He calls this, not incorrectly, “Keynesianism—for the wealthy.”
And this is a salient point. It is commonplace to express the differences between Democratic and Republican policy makers since the Reagan era as pro- and anti-Keynesianism. But this is wrong. Ironically, it was only during the Clinton administration that growth of government spending was at all curtailed and today fiscal and monetary expansion remains a ready tool of the ruling class well after Reagan's departure. Certainly Keynesian pump priming has taken new and evolving forms over decades: direct job creation, military spending, massive space programs, infrastructure projects, public-private partnerships, repair of financial institutions, and stimulation of financial demand. While one or the other may be the favored priming tool of rulers at any given time, the similarities of the forms are far more important to recognize than their differences. State intervention in markets continues to be at the core of contemporary state-monopoly capitalism. Stockman sees this; others don't.
In Stockman's account, the enabler of pump priming in all of its forms has been debt. Borrowing or printing money is the means to continue the regimen of “frenetic fiscal and monetary policy activism.” But, in his view, this regimen is running out of steam. “The future is bleak.” And the “Fed has incited a global currency war (Japan just signed up, the Brazilians and Chinese are angry, and the German dominated euro zone is crumbling) that will soon overwhelm it...”
A bleak picture indeed, but one entrenched in reality.
So if modern capitalism-- in its state-monopoly form-- is a disaster, does that mean that Stockman advocates socialism?
Definitely not. Instead he holds out for a nostalgic return to the gold standard. Avoiding what he calls “end-state metastasis,” “would necessitate a sweeping divorce of the state and the market economy [the wholesale rejection of state-monopoly capitalism! ZZ]. It would require a renunciation of crony capitalism and its first cousin: Keynesian economics in all its forms. The state would have to get out of the business of imperial hubris, economic uplift and social insurance and shift its focus to managing and financing an effective, affordable, means-tested safety net.”
 In short, Stockman advocates going back to a conjured idyllic time before state-monopoly capitalism, a time imagined by the petite-bourgeoisie as one of healthy competition, entrepreneurship, and opportunity. For him, the golden age of capitalism would be the pre-depression era of small town USA, family farms, vibrant and expansive industry and foreign policy isolationism. Of course any pretense of continuity or viability of that era was dashed by the Great Depression. In fact, the policies decried by Stockman (and associated by Marxists with state-monopoly capitalism) served as a temporary backstop to the further contraction of the capitalist system produced by that fantastic era.
Stockman may wish for a return to an earlier time just as others may wish to time travel back to the court of Louis XIV, but it isn’t going to happen. Capitalism, like any organism, has its own life span, its own history. Saved from a critical illness, capitalism passed from its laissez faire period to a period of intensifying state intervention and management. Today, that phase of capitalism’s development—state-monopoly capitalism-- is also threatened with a critical illness. I would not be so bold as to predict capitalism’s imminent death, but certainly it will not be revived by reliving its past as Stockman fantasizes.
At a time when liberals and conservatives argue pathetically over the right mix of austerity and stimulus, Stockman is a welcome mainstream herald of the profound crisis pummeling global capitalism. His anxiety and anger reflect a deeper understanding of the contradictions of the moment. His rant, spiked with sarcasm and vitriol, stands in stark relief against the smugness of the lap dog punditry.
Krugman Strides into the Ring
 The Stockman screed generated a storm of opposition. Liberals and the fuzzy, mushy left were particularly affronted. Unlike Stockman, they would like to only turn the clock back to the early seventies, another supposedly “idyllic” time when business unionism was generating satisfactory contracts, the “Great Society” programs were blooming, and war in Vietnam was winding down (at least for US combatants). The fruits of the civil rights struggles and urban uprisings were realized in the creation of programs, bureaucracies, and other buffering agents against domestic insurgency. Jobs servicing the Great Society generated a stratum of social liberals who matured into the base of a social democratic left inside and outside of the Democratic Party. For them, the world turned evil and foreboding with the Reagan “revolution,” a movement they characterize as neo-liberalism.
In the dust-up with Stockman, Paul Krugman, columnist for The New York Times, assumed the role of savior and protector of their interests and perspective. Krugman, the darling of the “respectable” left, attacked Stockman for his audacious critique of the track record of state intervention in the capitalist economy. Anyone who follows Krugman knows that his response to the crisis is a simple solution: spend more public funds and spend freely until growth perks up. The soft left finds this an agreeable solution because it promises to save capitalism (and forestall socialism!) while creating a potential material basis for pet welfare programs. It is simply the fantasy of another New Deal. And never mind that Krugman doesn’t share the fantasy!
Apparently, the Stockman-Krugman battle merited a major media appearance before the Sunday morning gasbags, the big stage for what our media passes off as intellectual fare. While I lacked the stomach to watch the sparring between the two, refereed by the likes of Huffington, van Sustern, and Will, I would commend an entertaining account of the match by Mike Whitney in Counterpunch (Krugman vs. Stockman, April 11, 2013).
The merit of Stockman’s account is that he is righteously indignant with an economic system that has failed the great majority of people and inflicted great pain and uncertainty. He goes beyond the dominant rhetoric of “we are all in this together” and “we are all at fault” to find systemic rot in capitalism. He correctly places the blame for this at the doorstep of state-monopoly capitalism, the stage of capitalism evolved to rescue the system from the accumulated contradictions of laissez faire capitalism, contradictions brought to light by the Great Depression. But he cannot go where logic would take him. He cannot entertain options that would transcend capitalism. Thus, he is resigned to a pathetic nostalgia for a bygone era where the contradictions of capitalism did not appear in such sharp focus. While he stretches the bounds of mainstream thinking, he can not see beyond markets and private ownership; he cannot see socialism.
Krugman and most of the US left are thoroughly conventional in their thinking—they offer a more “enlightened” management of the economic system and a cheerful capitalism with a human face. They would be hard pressed to point to a period when capitalism bore a human face, however. Nonetheless, they are undaunted before a rising tide of interest in the socialist option. They are resolute in their fear and rejection of real socialism.
Pressured by five years of relentless economic crisis and increasing signs of favor towards socialism, especially with the young, our feckless left offers a cold plate of empty slogans of localism, anti-consumerism, platitudinous “participatory” democracy, cooperatives, and a vacuous “new” economy. As if these are answers to the $17 trillion dollar US multinational, monopoly capital behemoth. In truth, these are simply evasions and dissemblance. 
If Stockman is right and capitalism is “state-wrecked,” then its time to leave the wreckage and turn to socialism. 
Zoltan Zigedy
zoltanzigedy@gmail.com


The Goldwater Movement

From the July 2001 issue of The American Enterprise Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus By Rick Perlstein, Hill and Wang, 671 pages, $30 “America would remember the sixties as a decade of the Left,” writes Rick Perlstein, in his fascinating and revisionist account of how the 1964 presidential campaign marked a new course of American political life. Really it was the “decade when the polarization began.” The polarization concerned the role of government. In his 1964 campaign against Barry Goldwater, Lyndon Baines Johnson articulated the postwar liberal consensus: “Government is not an enemy … Continue reading

All Politics Is Local

(Photo: Dion van Huyssteen / Flickr)Walking is the thing for very pregnant ladies, because very pregnant ladies don't want to be pregnant anymore, and word has it walking is good for bringing about the endgame. The last bit of being pregnant, comprise...

Amazon Sells Sex Toys as Wellness Products

Amazon Sells Sex Toys as Wellness Products

Posted on Mar 25, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CIA Boosting Covert Arms Shipments to Syria: NYT Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gelb continues:

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

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

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

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

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

The Rise of Air Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reaping What We Sow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Iraq Anniversary Fades, America’s “Strategic Narcissism” Stands Out

WASHINGTON - After a week of retrospectives on the tenth anniversary of Washington’s ill-fated invasion of Iraq, the most compelling consisted of a retrospective of the retrospectives.

(Photo: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images) It came from Marc Lynch, an expert on Arab public opinion at George Washington University and prominent blogger on the foreignpolicy.com website. The flood of retrospectives that materialised over the week, he wrote, has “almost exclusively been written by Americans, talking about Americans, for Americans.”

Lynch even did a tally. The New Republic, an important liberal publication, ran commentaries by eight writers, none Iraqi. Foreign Affairs, the country’s most influential foreign-affairs journal, featured 25 contributors, none Iraqi. The New York Times did slightly better: one Iraqi out of six commentators.

Foreign Policy itself, in cooperation with the Rand Corporation, featured 20 participants in a lengthy discussion on lessons learned from Iraq. Not a single one was Iraqi.

Most major newspapers – and cable news channels — ran a scattering of stories from Iraq in which officials and citizens voiced their satisfaction or, more often, their disillusionment with the results of the invasion and subsequent eight-year occupation, as well as their hopes and fears for the future. But these were largely overshadowed on the international news front by the growing drumbeat for U.S. intervention in Syria and President Barack Obama’s trip to Israel.

This self-absorbed world view also assumes that the United States can always control any events if it just chooses the right tools and puts the right people in charge.

"Strategic narcissism,” as Lynch called it, is neither new in U.S. relations with the rest of the world, nor is it something that the still-reigning global superpower has by any means shed as a result of the Iraq debacle. “The notion that what the United Sates does is the most important aspect of every development pervades American foreign-policy punditry, whether about Iraq or Egypt, Syria and the Arab uprisings,” he wrote.

Indeed, strategic narcissism, combined with a remarkable lack of interest in foreign peoples for an imperial power that has long been insulated by exceptionally weak neighbours and two great oceans, was in many ways responsible for the last great foreign-policy debacle of the post-World War II era: the Vietnam War.

According to Robert McNamara, that war’s defence secretary and later World Bank president, the U.S. foreign-policy elite saw Ho Chi Minh primarily as a puppet of an aggressive and expanding Soviet-Chinese Communist empire rather than as a Vietnamese nationalist.

“The basic lesson is: understand your opponent,” McNamara ruefully told the New York Times in 1997. “We don’t understand the Bosnians, we don’t understand the Chinese and we don’t really understand the Iranians.”

Of course, in the case of Iraq, the key policy-makers – and the commentariat that supported them – claimed to understand the locals quite well, primarily through long-time exiles; most importantly, Ahmad Chalabi, a wealthy banker and confidence man who helped persuade them that invading U.S. troops would be greeted with “flowers and sweets” by a grateful population, and whose ideas about de-Baathification – or “de-Sunnification”, as one military participant in the Rand seminar called it – would set the stage for the bloody sectarian conflict that followed the invasion.

They were also reassured by the neo-conservative views about Arabs of the eminent Islamic historian and ardent Zionist, Bernard Lewis, who, however, in an academic career spanning six decades, had never actually set foot in Iraq.

The ouster of Saddam Hussein by the U.S., they told their credulous – and highly narcissistic — interlocutors would not only put an end to a particularly ruthless and reckless dictator. It would also liberate the Iraqi people, serve as an example (and a first democratic domino) for the rest of the region, intimidate Iran and Syria, and ensure that the U.S. would have a reliable ally in the heart of the Middle East for generations.

Of course, it was not as if the government knew nothing about Iraq or how Iraqis might react to a U.S. invasion. Decades of federal support for Middle East Studies centres at major universities, as well as the accumulation of experience with the region built up in key bureaucracies, notably the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), had produced high levels of expertise, much greater than those on Indochina in the build-up to the war there.

In fact, a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the State Department organised an ambitious “Future of Iraq” project that, in addition to U.S. experts, involved dozens of Iraqi professionals. At the same time, the intelligence community, using its own contacts and expertise, produced a series of reports that sharply questioned the confident predictions of the war hawks both in and outside the administration.

They warned, among other things, that de-Baathification would lead to the sectarian violence that followed, that a successor government could be more a boon for Iran than the U.S., let alone Israel, and that Washington’s ability to shape the consequences of the invasion was far more limited than the White House believed.

The studies, however, were ignored or discarded by the policy-makers and their mainly neo-conservative advisers who believed that the experts involved in these studies were “Arabists” and hence too sympathetic toward the subjects of their study – in this case, Iraqis – to be trusted.

In a recent Foreign Policy article, neo-conservative Elliott Abrams, who served under Ronald Reagan as a top Latin America aide and then as George W. Bush’s senior Middle East adviser (with little Spanish and no Arabic skills, respectively) stressed that every administration should establish a “shadow government of presidential loyalists” to ensure that experts in the relevant bureaucracies do not wrest control of policy.

That approach was vividly described some years ago by Col. Pat Lang (ret.), a former Green Beret and the top Middle East analyst in the Defence Intelligence Agency who had spent most oif his career in the region and who had been recommended to head the Pentagon office of special operations under Bush.

Asked by Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith, a neo-conservative close to Abrams, whether it was true he knew Arabs well and that he spoke Arabic fluently, Lang replied affirmatively. “That’s too bad,” Lang quoted Feith as telling him. “And that was the end of the interview.”

Thus, it was not only Iraqis who were not listened to; also ignored were those in and outside the government who were most knowledgeable about Iraqis and understood that the Chalabi-fuelled dreams of the policy-makers on top were in fact delusions designed to appeal to the imperial narcissists at the top.

While this week’s retrospectives partially rectified the latter problem by including many of those experts, Iraqis, who, like the Vietnamese a generation ago, suffered far more from the decisions taken in Washington, remained almost entirely absent, as stressed by Lynch.

“Lynch is right on the money when he chastises Americans for neglecting Iraqi perceptions of the war,” Stephen Walt, who teaches international relations at Harvard University, told IPS.

“This self-absorbed world view also assumes that the United States can always control any events if it just chooses the right tools and puts the right people in charge. In fact, there are many situations that are beyond our control, and failure to appreciate that fact could sow the seeds of similar debacles in the future.”

“Myopia has consequences,” Lynch wrote. “Failing to listen to those Iraqi voices meant getting important things badly wrong. …The habit of treating Iraqis as objects to be manipulated rather than as fully equal human beings – with their own identities and interests – isn’t just ethically problematic, it’s strategically problematic.”

© 2013 IPS North America

The True Costs of Industrialized Food

“We are the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe. And reclaiming the democratic control over our food and water and our ecological survival is the necessary project for our freedom.” [i]

- Vandana Shiva, physicist and activist

The objective of much of our industrial food system is to provide a profit to shareholders and CEOs. Coca-Cola’s advertising budget was over $2.9 billion dollars in 2010, money well spent from a stockholder’s point of view: profits that year were $11.8 billion.

The current system, however, was not built only to amass wealth. Many policymakers and supporters, historically as today, have been driven by the conviction that industrial agriculture is the best way to produce massive amounts of affordable food. And in some ways it has accomplished this. People in the U.S. spend relatively little on food – about 7 percent of their total spending, as compared to 13 percent in France, 23 percent in Mexico, and 38 percent in Vietnam. Most individuals in the U.S. devote less time, energy, and money to feeding ourselves than they ever have historically.

On the buying end, it seems an irresistibly good deal, our 99¢ soda or $1.50 loaf of bread. But these prices represent just a fraction of the true costs of getting that soda and bread into our shopping bags. We pay for the hidden costs of the corporate food supply chain in multiple ways, not all of them financially.

We subsidize food corporations through our taxes, which pay for public works like transportation infrastructure for long-distance shipping (highways, airports, and railroads), communication infrastructure (satellites, television, radio and internet), energy infrastructure (coal plants and nuclear power stations), and research and development (like government-funded crop research). Tax dollars also fund the government subsidies that keep certain crop prices low, allowing corporations to create their processed foods so cheaply.

Small- and medium-sized farmers pay extremely high hidden costs. Their farms have been steadily disappearing as land is further consolidated into the hands of fewer people. The U.S. has lost 800,000 farmers and ranchers in the last 40 years. Between 1900 and 2002, the number of farms in the U.S. shrank by 63 percent, while the average farm size increased by 67 percent.[ii] The dairy industry has undergone an even starker decline: in just over 35 years, between 1970 and 2006, the country lost 88 percent of its dairy farms, while the average herd size per farm increased from 19 to 120 cows.

Some populations, depending on class, race, nationality, and livelihood, pay more dearly than others. As mentioned in our previous piece, black farmers and land owners suffer. Farmworkers and other laborers all along the food supply chain also pay by receiving inadequate wages; they are twice as likely to live below the poverty line.

As consumers, we all pay with our health and well-being. Our country’s most popular cuisine is affectionately called ‘junk,’ after all. Eating the highly processed food made readily available to us has led to epidemic levels of diabetes and heart disease. Individuals get chastised for their own diet-related problems while ‘junk’ food is much easier and cheaper to access than healthy food.

Recent outbreaks of Listeria and stomach acid-resistant E. coli are other manifestations of the costs to our health. Food-safety experts blame the industrialized production of grain-fed cattle and poultry for the emergence of these dangerous bacteria strains.[iii]

Our planet pays profound hidden costs: polluted water, air, and soil; deforestation; acid rain; species extinction; and climate change. The corporate food system wreaks countless ecological harms.

Spraying toxic pesticides on our food has become the norm, so much so that we have come to view it as part of ‘conventional’ agriculture, though there’s nothing conventional about it. Introduced in large scale only after World War II, using surplus warfare chemicals, pesticides are now applied at a rate of 1.1 billion pounds per year in the U.S. That’s 22 percent of the world’s total use.[iv] These chemicals move throughout our ecosystem, making their way into groundwater and our drinking supply, traveling down streams and rivers, and eventually reaching the ocean. In just one example, fertilizer running off fields and down the Mississippi River has created such an imbalance that there is a ‘dead zone’, where nothing can survive, in the Gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey.[v] Pesticides also wind up on our plates and in our bloodstreams. In 2005, the Environmental Working Group tested the umbilical cords of 10 babies from different U.S. hospitals and found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in their blood, including a number of pesticides.[vi]

Monocropping, a farming system where the same crop is grown on a piece of land year after year, is foundational to industrial-scale agriculture. Yet it depletes the soil, upends the ecological balance, and creates conditions highly susceptible to pests and disease, requiring more pesticides and fertilizers.

If all of these costs showed up in the prices we pay at the store, things would be very different. If prices reflected the oil that powers the jet to bring a banana thousands of miles, together with the air pollution that results, the workers’ healthcare costs after handling pesticides, and the future loss of soil health due to monocropping, this fruit would certainly be a luxury item in the North rather than part of an average American breakfast.

Has agribusiness won such control that a turnaround is impossible? No. Small farmers, grassroots groups, and advocacy organizations are demanding food sovereignty, meaning the right of every people to produce adequate, healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food for all. They are everywhere creating and supporting community-controlled, scaled-down, local food networks. Dismantling the governmental policies and global trade rules that have taken agriculture out of the hands of small farmers the world over is the prerequisite for claiming a just and healthy food system.

i. Vandana Shiva, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace (Massachusetts: South End Press, 2005), 5

ii. Carolyn Dimitri, Anne Effland, and Neilson Conklin, “The 20th Century Transformation of U.S. Agriculture and Farm Policy,” USDA Economic Research Service, Electronic Information Bulletin, No. 3, June 2005, www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib3/eib3.htm. An additional statistic from the EPA reports that the number of farms in the U.S. fell from 6.8 million in 1935 to about 2 million in 1997. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Demographics,” modified September 10, 2009, accessed February 29, 2012, www.epa.gov/oecaagct/ag101/demographics.html.

iii. Nina Planck, “Leafy Green Sewage,” The New York Times online, September 9, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/21/opinion/21planck.html?ex=1159675200&;en... 4f2&ei=5070. Made to digest grasses, the stomachs of these animals become unnaturally acidic on grain diets, creating perfect laboratories for bacteria that are harmful to humans. Farms try to counteract these bacteria by using vast amounts of antibiotics. In 2009, nearly 29 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for animal production. 2009 FDA report referenced by Helena Bottemiller, “FDA Releases First Estimate on Antibiotics in Ag,” December 13, 2010, Food Safety News, www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/12/fda-releases-first-estimate-on-antibiotic....

iv. Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (New York: Penguin, 2006). Arthur Grube, et al., “Pesticide Industry Sales and Usage 2006 and 2007 Market Estimates,” US Environmental Protection Agency, February 2011, http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/ pestsales/07pestsales/usage2007.htm#3_1.

v. Elizabeth Weise, “Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone Predicted to be the Size of New Jersey This Year,” USA Today online, June 29, 2010, http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/ post/2010/06/gulf-of-mexico-dead-zone-predicted-to-be-the- size-of-new-jersey-this-year/1.

vi. Environmental Working Group, “Body Burden - The Pollution in Newborns: A benchmark investigation of industrial chemicals, pollutants, and pesticides in umbilical cord blood,” July 14, 2005, http://www.ewg.org/reports/bodyburden2/execsumm.php.

Check back on this series over the next weeks to learn about policy victories which are transforming the industrialized food supply chain, and about how you can get involved.

Download the Harvesting Justice pdf here, and find action items, resources, and a popular education curriculum on the Harvesting Justice website. Harvesting Justice was created for the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, check out their work here.

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

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

American Jewish Poet Hilton Obenzinger on Israel, Zionism, and the Radical Sixties

Born in Brooklyn, New York, the borough that served as the homeland for millions of Jews for decades, Hilton Obenzinger carries Jewish history and lore around with him both mournfully and gleefully.

His many books draw attention to his own Jewish roots, including an oral history he conducted with his Aunt Zosia Goldberg entitled Running Through Fire: How I Survived the Holocaust. There’s also a collection of his poetry entitled This Passover Or The Next I Will Never Be in Jerusalem, which received the American Book Award of the Before Columbus Foundation.

More than 60 years after he celebrated his first Passover with his own family of origin, he’s getting ready to celebrate Passover again with the family he’s created with Estella Habal, an Associate Professor of Asian American Studies at San Jose State University.

With Passover 2013 on the horizon -- it starts March 25 -- I sent Obenzinger an email and took up a long-standing conversation that we’ve kept going through wars, occupations, Seders, and reunions of Sixties radicals.

Jonah Raskin:
How will you celebrate Passover this year?

Hilton Obenzinger: We’ll have an extended family feast: my wife and I, our kids and grandkids. As usual, we’ll combine Passover, Easter, and the arrival of spring. It’s a raucous crowd: Jews, Filipinos, Chinese, and more. We use an illustrated Children’s Bible to tell the story of slavery and the escape of the Jews from Egypt, then move on to Jesus and the last Seder, and finish the Biblical story with the crucifixion and the resurrection. Eventually, we reach the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and sing “Let My People Go.”

We pour plenty of wine, shout good wishes for the Palestinians, Native Americans, and everyone else running for freedom. We end the evening with lines from a version of the Haggadah I wrote: “Next year in Jerusalem delivered from bondage.”

What makes you proud to be a Jew?

Jewish culture is rich and varied with a transnational sense of peoplehood. In Europe, my ancestors were everything from ultra-orthodox to Polish nationalists, to escape-to-America émigrés, to Zionist and Communist. The Nazis murdered almost all of them. In the face of that horror and other horrors of history, Jewish survival is astonishing.

I’m especially proud of the American Jewish experience that pushed me, and others, to join the civil rights and social justice movements. I’ve heard it said that support for equality and justice flows from Jewish ethics and from the history of Jewish persecution. I’d like to believe it.

What are you most ashamed about Jews as an ethnic group?

From my point of view, Zionism turned out to be a moral disaster for the Jews. American Jews have been suckered into supporting Israel in unthinking ways. This has been changing, but not enough American Jews are yelling and screaming to stop Israel’s expansion.

Have you been attacked at Stanford because of your beliefs?

After I began to teach at Stanford in the 1990s, a professor wrote a letter denouncing me as a “terrorist.” He was a very nice guy, very progressive -- except when it came to Israel. A switch would go off and he’d go bananas.

You have used the expression “Zionist crackpot.” What does it mean to you?

I don’t mean the typical supporter of Israel. I mean those people who fall into the extremist syndrome and who are motivated by a deep-rooted sense that Jews are always the victims and that Israel is always under attack even when it’s the aggressor.

Forty years ago, did you believe there would be a resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians?

Yes. And I still do.

Do you see a resolution to the conflict in your own lifetime?

Assuming I live another decade or two, probably not. But you never know. Who would have thought the Soviet Union would collapse? Or a black man would be president? I may not live to see it but it’s likely to happen.

Do you think that there can be a one-state solution to the conflicts between Palestinians and Israelis?

Of course, there can be -- which doesn’t mean it will happen, at least in the near future. The conflict is not at root religious and it hasn’t been going on for thousands of years, as many claim. It started about 130 years ago when Zionism, a Western political movement, called for the settlement of Palestine and the exclusion of the native people. It’s a conflict started by people, not by God; humans created it; humans can fix it.

What do you see happening now?

Israeli Jews are a nationality with their own language and culture, as are the Palestinians, so it would take a lot of good faith to fit all of them together, including the refugees. Good faith is not an abundant commodity nowadays. Meanwhile, the Israeli government has been doing all it can to prevent a two-state solution by expanding settlements and uprooting Palestinian communities.
One state may be inevitable, since the foundations for a viable Palestinian state have been greatly undermined. Israel might move further in its current colonialist direction, creating reservations for the natives and a large open-air prison in Gaza. I don’t care if there are one or four states, actually, just so long as equality and democratic rights are at the core of all of them.

What have you learned from studying the Holocaust?

When we protested the war in Vietnam many of us didn’t want to be “good Germans” -- people passively accepting evil and genocide. My family’s murder always weighs on my mind, so for me it’s imperative to speak out about injustice.

I produced my aunt’s oral testimony called Running through Fire about her escape from the Warsaw Ghetto. I learned from her that everything is muddy -- with some Germans acting morally and courageously and some Jews acting in a craven fashion. I also leaned that in a situation of utter horror, no matter how smart and skilled and, in her case, how beautiful you were, pure luck is a determining factor. I’ve also learned to keep my passport up-to-date.

What does it mean to you to be a Jew?

After my son’s birth I felt compelled to pass on to him a positive Jewish experience without the corruptions of anti-Arab racism, and the “Jewish Disneyland” kitsch that American Jews love. I wanted my son to laugh, to enjoy the bar mitzvah experience, to feel comfortable being Jewish and Filipino -- which is his mother’s ethnic identity.

What do you think Jews and Arabs have in common?

I told my aunt who survived the Nazis that if she could meet Palestinians in refugee camps she would like them, and that they were a lot like her. Palestinians, like Jews, value education and culture, and they insist on persisting. They, too, have historical memories that they won’t allow to be erased and that they act upon. Both Israeli Jews and Palestinians have also managed to drive each other insane. It’s painful watching two peoples destroy each other.

You’ve written about “the Holy Land.” Is it holy to you?

There’s so much blood and hatred there, that it’s hard to conceive of the place as holy.

At Stanford, where you teach, is there a visible Jewish population and a visible Arab population? What observations have you made about them?

Stanford gentility is strong and has its virtues. A lot of the Jewish students sympathize with the Palestinian cause nowadays and a Jewish critic of Israel is hardly an oddity.

You’re involved with Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project? What is it?

2015 will be the 150th anniversary of the introduction of thousands of Chinese workers to build the first transcontinental railway across North America. The work culminated with Leland Stanford driving the famous “golden spike” to complete the line that connected East and West. Despite the photographs, drawings, and observers’ testimonies about the Chinese workers who labored from sunrise to sunset, not a single primary document -- not a letter or a notebook -- has been identified.

So there’s a real Stanford connection, isn’t there?

Construction of the railroad was central to creating the wealth that Leland Stanford used to found the university. Eventually, we’d like to build a monument to the Chinese railroad workers on campus.

What is it about your own experience as a Jew that might help you understand the experience of the Chinese railroad workers?

I remember my father’s experience as an immigrant having to work in dangerous factories. The Chinese in America suffered a lot of abuse -- racial violence, mass deportations, expulsions, and discrimination. Early Chinese immigrants were tenacious and ingenuous and determined to possess the country and be possessed by it -- just like anyone else.

The Columbia protest of 1968 took place 45 years ago. How do you remember it now? In fact, you wrote a book, Busy Dying, that’s in part about that experience. How did writing the book alter your sense of the past?

I have totally blanked out my graduation, but I remember sitting in Low Library in the president’s office in around-the-clock meetings to talk about negotiations and how to nonviolently defend ourselves.

Why did you write your book?

I read accounts of the Sixties and was disturbed by the distortions, stereotypes, and outright lies.

The title Busy Dying borrows from Dylan’s “Busy Being Born.” Did Dylan help shape your Sixties experience?

The line is from “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)." It goes, “he not busy being born is busy dying.” Dylan’s music provides much of the soundtrack of my memories. The lines “busy being born” and “busy dying” express the sense of urgency we faced in the Sixties.

When you look back at the Sixties does it seem like an era mostly of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, or would you propose another trinity?

I got plenty of drugs but not enough of sex. I loved a lot of the rock ‘n’ roll, but I was also into country music, bluegrass, and Vivaldi. In 1968 we were “freaks” because we rebelled. The hippie part of the Sixties is too narrowly focused on middle class white kids, not the GIs fragging their officers, Freedom Riders, or Black Panthers.

At Stanford are you among the sons and daughters of the elite, who will go on to rule the Empire?

Half the undergraduates aren’t white and most aren’t rich. Of course, when Chelsea Clinton attended Stanford that pretty much defined the school’s reality. But I’ve also known students who joined the Zapatistas, organized unions, helped manage their pueblo’s casino to invest tribal funds wisely, restored native farming to the Big Island in Hawaii, develop educational programs in poor communities.

What about recent protest on campus?

In the fall of 2011, the Big Game between Berkeley and Stanford took place at Stanford right after the police attacks on Berkeley students occupying tents on campus. There was a joint rally of students from both schools -- something that I think has never happened before in their fierce rivalry -- to show solidarity against police brutality. It was one of the most astonishing moments in Stanford history. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

Obama Boosts Syria Support as Congress Pushes Military Intervention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2013 IPS North America

Dying Iraq War Veteran Tomas Young Reads “Last Letter” to President Bush and Dick...

Iraq War veteran Tomas Young was left paralyzed in a 2004 attack in Iraq. Released from medical care three months later, Young returned home to become an active member in Iraq Veterans Against the War. He recently announced that he will stop his medicine and nourishment, which comes in the form of liquid through a feeding tube — a decision which will hasten his death. Joining us from his home in Kansas City, Young reads from his letter, "A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran." Young says to Bush and Cheney: "You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans — my fellow veterans — whose future you stole."

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to another clip from Body of War of more voices from the floor of the Senate, the Senate roll call of yes votes authorizing the war in Iraq in 2002.

SEN. BILL NELSON: The threat posed by Iraq grows with each passing day.

SENATE ROLL CALL: Mr. Bayh, aye.

REP. JOSEPH PITTS: It’s a danger that grows every day.

SENATE ROLL CALL: Mr. Bennett, aye.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Each day that goes by, he becomes more dangerous.

SEN. MIKE DeWINE: More diabolical.

REP. JOSEPH PITTS: Every day, Saddam Hussein grows stronger.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: His capabilities become better.

SENATE ROLL CALL: Mr. Biden, aye.

REP. JOSEPH PITTS: Every day, Saddam Hussein builds more chemical and biological weapons.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: The longer we wait, the more dangerous he becomes.

SENATE ROLL CALL: Mr. Bond, aye. Mr. Breaux, aye. Mr. Brownback, aye. Mr. Bunning, aye. Mr. Burns, aye. Mr. Campbell, aye. Ms. Cantwell, aye. Mrs. Carnahan, aye. Mr. Carper, aye. Aye, aye, aye, aye.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD: Wait! Slow down! Don’t rush this through.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the late senator, West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, as you hear the roll call of yes votes, from the film Body of War.

We come 10 years later, 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq. Tomas Young, Iraq War veteran, wounded April 4th, 2004, his fifth day in Iraq, shot in Sadr City, is now writing a letter on this 10th anniversary called "The Last Letter: A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran." Tomas, can you read some of your letter to the former president and vice president?

TOMAS YOUNG: Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

"I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the [9/11] attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the [U.S.] I did not join the Army to 'liberate' Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called 'democracy' in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues."

AMY GOODMAN: Tomas, we—

TOMAS YOUNG: "Instead, this war" —

AMY GOODMAN: Tomas, we’re going to ask you to finish the letter after the broadcast, and we’re going to post it at democracynow.org. But in these last few seconds of the show, is there anything that would convince you not to end your life in the next few months?

TOMAS YOUNG: Not at this moment. There may come a time in the future when I say, "Hey, things are getting better; maybe I should reconsider this." But at this moment, nothing in this world has made me change my mind as to what I’m going to do.

AMY GOODMAN: I want people to go to democracynow.org to see the second part of this conversation that we will continue with Tomas Young and his wife, Claudia Cuellar, from their home in Kansas City, and with legendary talk show host Phil Donahue. Last seconds, Phil?

PHIL DONAHUE: Well, it’s just a study in what the Americans have not seen. If you’re going to send young men and women to war—

AMY GOODMAN: Four seconds.

PHIL DONAHUE: —show the pain. Otherwise, it’s going to be easy for us to have another one.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks for joining us.

Breaking the Cycle of War: It’s Time for a Season of Peace

peace

Worldwide, March brings about changing seasons, shifting temperatures and unpredictable weather – but the one thing we have come to count on is that March is also the month of choice for militarized intervention, armed conflict and declarations of all-out war.

As Michel Chossudovsky writes:

“With the exception of the War on Afghanistan (October 2001), all major US-NATO led military operations over a period of almost half a century – since the invasion of Vietnam by US ground forces on March 8, 1965 – have been initiated in the month of March.” (Read more in “The Pentagon’s “Ides of March”: Best Month to Go to War”)

Is this really a tradition we want to maintain? More importantly, is any time EVER the right time to go to war?

When is it appropriate to kill indiscriminately to further our own agendas?

When is it acceptable to commit unbridled, large-scale murder and label it “humanitarian intervention”?

When do we realize that no month, no season, no time is the right time to attack sovereign nations simply because they have the land we want, the resources we need and the unwillingness to hand them over merely to feed our greed?

How about… NOW?

NATO and the Pentagon have decided that March is the month of war, but the time has come for the people to put a change to that. The time has come to make March a time for PEACE, to END WAR, to enter a new season of AWARENESS.

And knowing the TRUTH about war is the first step in making this a reality.

As F. William Engdahl states:

“There are few online sites besides Global Research where we can go to find analyses of the world we live in today, with its escalating wars, conflicts, betrayal of trust. I strongly urge readers who value one of the few remaining serious sources of truthful analysis to not take that enjoyment passively but to actively support the work of Global Research by your financial contribution.”
F. William Engdahl, author of “Seeds of Destruction” (available through Global Research) and Myths, Lies and Oil Wars

Help us break the cycle of war. Please scroll down to learn how you can support Global Research.

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

bushcriminal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrated Scientist Renounces National Academy and War

Celebrated Scientist Renounces National Academy and War

Posted on Mar 21, 2013
lubrio (CC BY 2.0)

Members of the Yanomami give a cultural demonstration in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2011.

Last month, University of Chicago anthropologist Marshall Sahlins resigned from the National Academy of Sciences to protest the election to the group of Napoleon Chagnon, a peer whose specious arguments in favor of a natural human tendency toward violence have helped militarize the discipline and legitimize wars of aggression.

Saint Martin’s University anthropology professor David Price writes in CounterPunch that Chagnon descended into infamy in the eyes of many of his colleagues when he published a best-selling and widely influential ethnography that described the Yanomami of Brazil (whom he observed during fieldwork in the 1960s and ’70s) as “the fierce people.” He did this, he says, because of the high levels of violence he witnessed within the group and against neighboring tribes. Chagnon put his observations forward as evidence that humans are innately violent, in what he claimed (erroneously, as many anthropologists contend) to be their natural state.

Chagnon’s conclusions have been criticized as being the result of bad scientific practice. Anthropologist Jon Marks, on his blog Anthropomics, recently described Chagnon as an “incompetent anthropologist.” He clarified as follows:

Let me be clear about my use of the word “incompetent”.  His methods for collecting, analyzing and interpreting his data are outside the range of acceptable anthropological practices.  Yes, he saw the Yanomamo doing nasty things.  But when he concluded from his observations that the Yanomamo are innately and primordially “fierce”  he lost his anthropological credibility, because he had not demonstrated any such thing.   He has a right to his views, as creationists and racists have a right to theirs, but the evidence does not support the conclusion, which makes it scientifically incompetent.

Throughout his career, Sahlins has worked to demonstrate that culture can motivate people in ways that have nothing to do with biology. This puts him at direct odds with Chagnon, whose controversial and broadly contested view is that biology is the prime driver of social behavior. Sahlins’ response to the academy’s granting one of its few limited seats to Chagnon echoes Marks’:

By the evidence of his own writings as well as the testimony of others, including Amazonian peoples and professional scholars of the region, Chagnon has done serious harm to the indigenous communities among whom he did research.  At the same time, his “scientific” claims about human evolution and the genetic selection for male violence–as in the notorious study he published in 1988 in Science–have proven to be shallow and baseless, much to the discredit of the anthropological discipline. At best, his election to the NAS was a large moral and intellectual blunder on the part of members of the Academy. So much so that my own participation in the Academy has become an embarrassment.

Another reason for his resignation, he added, was a moral objection to the academy’s increasing role in research that facilitates the United States’ general posture of war:

Nor do I wish to be a party to the aid, comfort, and support the NAS is giving to social science research on improving the combat performance of the US military, given the toll that military has taken on the blood, treasure, and happiness of American people, and the suffering it has imposed on other peoples in the unnecessary wars of this century.  I believe that the NAS, if it involves itself at all in related research, should be studying how to promote peace, not how to make war.”

Scientists worldwide have risen to support Sahlins’ principled stance. Professor Eduardo Viveiros de Castro of the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro told Sahlins and others in an email that Chagnon is “an enemy of Amazonian Indians,” and thanked “Prof. Sahlins for his courageous and firm position in support of the Yanomami and of anthropological science.”

The controversy raises an issue that has plagued the scientific community since its clear emergence in the Enlightenment: How can people of conscience keep science from becoming a pawn for power?

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

David H. Price at CounterPunch:

We are left to wonder what is to become of science, whether practiced with a capital (at times blind) “S” or a lower case inquisitive variety, when those questioning some its practices, misapplications and outcomes are increasingly marginalized, while those whose findings align with our broader cultural values of warfare are embraced.  The NAS’s rallying around such a divisive figure as Chagnon, demonizing his critics, claiming they are attacking not his practices and theories, but science itself damages the credibility of these scientists.  It is unfortunate that the National Academy of Sciences has backed itself into this corner.

The dynamics of such divisiveness are not unique to this small segment of the scientific community. In his 1966 essay on, “The Destruction of Conscience in Vietnam,” Sahlins argued that to continue wage the war, America had to destroy its own conscience—that facing those destroyed by our actions was too much for the nation to otherwise bare, writing: “Conscience must be destroyed: it has to end at the barrel of a gun, it cannot extend to the bullet.  So all peripheral rationales fade into the background.  It becomes a war of transcendent purpose, and in such a war all efforts on the side of Good are virtuous, and all deaths unfortunate necessary.  The end justifies the means.”

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Dying vet to Bush: Day of Reckoning near

Tomas Young, an Army veteran took a bullet in Iraq that confined him to a wheelchair and inspired his vocal opposition to the war.

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq.

I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives.

I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries.

I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day.

I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all-the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

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


I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power.

I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done.

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


Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character.

You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit.

Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens.

I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States.

I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East.

I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion.

I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes.

The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East.


On every level-moral, strategic, military and economic-Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love.

I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned.

You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins?

I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

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

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

Originally posted at Veterans Today

TY/SL

Arundhati Roy on Iraq War’s 10th: Bush May Be Gone, But “Psychosis” of US...

Amy Goodman: March 19th marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. According to a new report by Brown University, a decade of war led to the deaths of roughly 134,000 Iraqi civilians and potentially contributed to the deaths of many hundreds of thousands more. According to the report, the Iraq War has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion, including half-a-trillion dollars in benefits owed to veterans. The report says the war has devastated rather than helped Iraq, spurring militant violence, setting back women’s rights and hurting the healthcare system. Most of the more than $200 billion supposedly set aside for reconstruction in Iraq was actually used for security or lost amid rampant fraud and waste. Many in Iraq continue to suffer the consequences of the invasion. This is Basma Najem, whose husband was shot dead by U.S. forces in Basra in 2011.

Basma Najem: [translated] We expected that we would live in a better situation when the occupation forces, the U.S. forces, came to Iraq. We expected that the situation would be improved. But contrary to our expectation, the situation deteriorated. And at the end, I lost my husband. I have no breadwinner in this world now, and I have six kids. I could not imagine my life would be changed like this. I do not know how it happened.

Amy Goodman: The consequences of the war are still visible here in the United States, as well. Military veterans continue to face extremely high levels of unemployment, traumatic brain injury, PTSDand homelessness. Almost a quarter of recent veterans come home injured either physically or emotionally, and an estimated 18 veterans commit suicide every day. This is Ed Colley, whose son, Army Private Stephen Colley, took his own life in 2007.

Edward Colley: We lost our son shortly after he returned from Iraq. He had asked for help, but he didn’t get the help that he needed. And clearly, he was trying to do what he could for himself and could think of no other cure, obviously, than to take his own life.

Amy Goodman: To talk more about this 10th anniversary, we’re joined by the award-winning writer and activist Arundhati Roy, one of the most vocal critics of the Iraq War. In a moment, she’ll join us from Chicago. But first let’s go back to 2003 to a speech she gave at Riverside Church here in New York.

Arundhati Roy: When the United States invaded Iraq, a New York Times/CBS News survey estimated that 42 percent of the American public believed that Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And an ABC News poll said that 55 percent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein directly supported al-Qaeda. None of this opinion is based on evidence, because there isn’t any. All of it is based on insinuation or to suggestion and outright lies circulated by the U.S. corporate media, otherwise known as the "free press," that hollow pillar on which contemporary American democracy rests. Public support in the U.S. for the war against Iraq was founded on a multitiered edifice of falsehood and deceit, coordinated by the U.S. government and faithfully amplified by the corporate media.

Apart from the invented links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, we had the manufactured frenzy about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. George Bush the Lesser went to the extent—went to the extent of saying it would be suicidal for Iraq—for the U.S. not to attack Iraq. We once again witnessed the paranoia that a starved, bombed, besieged country was about to annihilate almighty America. Iraq was only the latest in a succession of countries. Earlier, there was Cuba, Nicaragua, Libya, Granada, Panama. But this time it wasn’t just your ordinary brand of friendly neighborhood frenzy. It was frenzy with a purpose. It ushered in an old doctrine in a new bottle: the doctrine of preemptive strike, also known as the United States can do whatever the hell it wants, and that’s official. The war against Iraq has been fought and won, and no weapons of mass destruction have been found, not even a little one.

Amy Goodman: Arundhati Roy, speaking in October of 2003 at Riverside Church here in New York, seven months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Arundhati has written many books, including The God of Small Things, which won the Booker Prize. Her other books include Walking with the Comrades and Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers, among others. She now joins us from Chicago.

Arundhati Roy, welcome to Democracy Now! As you watch yourself 10 years ago and reflect back 10 years ago to this week when the U.S. invaded Iraq, your thoughts today?

Arundhati Roy: Well, Amy, before that, we remember how—I think it was 50 million people across the world who marched against the war in Iraq. It was perhaps the biggest display of public morality in the world—you know, I mean, before the war happened. Before the war happened, everybody knew that they were being fed lies. I remember saying, you know, it’s just the quality of the lies that is so insulting, because we are being—used to being lied to.

But, unfortunately, now, all these years later, we have to ask ourselves two questions. One is: Who benefited from this war? You know, we know who paid the price. I heard—I heard you talking about that, so I won’t get into that again. But who benefited from this war? Did the U.S. government? Did the U.S. people benefit? Did they get the oil contracts that they wanted, in the way that they wanted? The answer is no. And yet, today you hear Dick Cheney saying he would do it all over again in a second.

So, unfortunately, we are dealing with psychosis. We are dealing with a psychopathic situation. And all of us, including myself, we can’t do anything but keep being reasonable, keep saying what needs to be said. But that doesn’t seem to help the situation, because, of course, as we know, after Iraq, there’s been Libya, there’s Syria, and the rhetoric of, you know, democracy versus radical Islam. When you look at the countries that were attacked, none of them were Wahhabi Islamic fundamentalist countries. Those ones are supported, financed by the U.S., so there is a real collusion between radical Islam and capitalism. What is going on is really a different kind of battle.

And, you know, most people are led up a path which keeps them busy. And in a way, all of us are being kept busy, while the real business at the heart of it—I mean, apart from the people who suffered during the war. Let’s not forget the sanctions. Let’s not forget Madeleine Albright saying that a million children dying in Iraq because of the sanctions was a hard price but worth it. I mean, she was the victim, it seems, of the sanctions; you know, her softness was called upon, and she had to brazen herself to do it. And today, you have the Democrats bombing Pakistan, destroying that country, too. So, just in this last decade, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria—all these countries have been—have been shattered.

You know, we heard a lot about why—you know, the war in Afghanistan was fought for feminist reasons, and the Marines were really on this feminist mission. But today, all the women in all these countries have been driven back into medieval situations. Women who were liberated, women who were doctors and lawyers and poets and writers and—you know, pushed back into this Shia set against Sunnis. The U.S. is supporting al-Qaeda militias all over this region and pretending that it’s fighting Islam. So we are in a situation of—it is psychopathic.

And while anyone who resisted is being given moral lessons about armed struggle or violence or whatever it is, at the heart of this operation is an immorality and a violence and a—as I keep using this word—psychopathic violence, which even the people in the United States are now suffering for. You know, there is a connection, after all, between all these wars and people being thrown out of their homes in this country. And yet, of course we know who benefits from these wars. May not be the oil contracts, but certainly the weapons industry on which this economy depends for—you know, for a great part. So, all over, even between India and Pakistan now, people are advocating war. And the weapons industry is in with the corporations in India.

So, we are really being made fools of. You know, this is what is so insulting. We are being, you know, given lessons in morality while tens of thousands are being killed, while whole countries are shattered, while whole civilizations are driven back decades, if not centuries. And everything continues as normal. And you have—you have people, like criminals, really, like Cheney, saying, "I’ll do it again. I’ll do it again. I won’t think about it. I’ll do it again." And so that’s the situation we are in now.

Amy Goodman: Arundhati, a decade after the invasion of Iraq, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair stood by his decision to go to war, saying it saved Iraq from a fate worse than Syria’s at the moment.

Tony Blair: I think if we’d—if we’d backed off and we’d left him in power, you just imagine, with what is happening in Syria now, if you’d left Saddam in charge of Iraq, you would have had carnage on an even worse scale in Syria and with no end in sight. So, you know, this was the most difficult decision I ever took and the most balanced decision. But I still—personally, I still believe we were better to remove him than leave him.

Amy Goodman: That was British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former prime minister. Arundhati Roy, your response?

Arundhati Roy: Well, you know, I don’t know. Maybe they need to be put into a padded cell and given some real news to read, you know? I mean, how can you say this, after creating a situation in Iraq where no—I mean, every day people are being blown up? There are—you know, mosques are being attacked. Thousands are being killed. People have been made to hate each other. In Iraq, women were amongst the most liberated women in the world, and they have been driven back into having to wear burqas and be safe, because of the situation. And this man is saying, "Oh, we did such a wonderful thing. We saved these people." Now, isn’t that like—isn’t it insane? I mean, I don’t know how to respond to something like that, because it’s like somebody looking at somebody being slaughtered and saying, "Oh, he must be enjoying it. We are really helping him," you know? So, how do you argue rationally against these people?

Amy Goodman: Can you—

Arundhati Roy: We just have to think about what we need to do, you know? But we can’t have a conversation with them in this—at this point.

Amy Goodman: Do you see President Obama going in a different direction?

Arundhati Roy: Of course not. I don’t see him going in a different direction at all. I mean, the real question to ask is: When was the last time the United States won a war? You know, it lost in Vietnam. It’s lost in Afghanistan. It’s lost in Iraq. And it will not be able to contain the situation. It is hemorrhaging. It is now—you know, of course you can continue with drone attacks, and you can continue these targeted killings, but on the ground, a situation is being created which no army—not America, not anybody—can control. And it’s just, you know, a combination of such foolishness, such a lack of understanding of culture in the world.

And Obama just goes on, you know, coming out with these smooth, mercurial sentences that are completely meaningless. I was—I remember when he was sworn in for the second time, and he came on stage with his daughters and his wife, and it was all really nice, and he said, you know, "Should my daughters have another dog, or should they not?" And a man who had lost his entire family in the drone attacks just a couple of weeks ago said, "What am I supposed to think? What am I supposed to think of this exhibition of love and family values and good fatherhood and good husbandhood?" I mean, we’re not morons, you know? It’s about time that we stopped acting so reasonable. I just don’t feel reasonable about this anymore.

Amy Goodman: We’re going to break and then come back and talk about what’s happening in Kashmir, a place you’ve been focusing on recently, Arundhati. Arundhati Roy is the award-winning writer, renowned global justice activist. Among her books, The God of Small Things, her most recent book, Walking with the Comrades, and Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

A Last-Second Appeal for Sanity

March 18, 2003

Memorandum for: The President

From: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

Subject: Forgery, Hyperbole, Half-Truth: A Problem

We last wrote you immediately after Secretary of State Powell’s UN speech on February 5, in an attempt to convey our concerns that insufficient attention was being given to wider intelligence-related issues at stake in the conflict with Iraq. Your speech yesterday evening did nothing to allay those concerns. And the acerbic exchanges of the past few weeks have left the United States more isolated than at any time in the history of the republic and the American people more polarized.

Today we write with an increased sense of urgency and responsibility. Responsibility, because you appear to be genuinely puzzled at the widespread opposition to your policy on Iraq and because we have become convinced that those of your advisers who do understand what is happening are reluctant to be up front with you about it.

As vet­erans of the CIA and other intelligence agencies, the posture we find ourselves in is as familiar as it is challenging. We feel a continuing responsibility to “tell it like it is” — or at least as we see it — without fear or favor. Better to hear it from extended family than not at all; we hope you will take what follows in that vein.

We cannot escape the conclusion that you have been badly misinformed. It was reported yesterday that your gener­als in the Persian Gulf area have become increasingly concerned over sandstorms. To us this is a metaphor for the shifting sand-type “intelligence” upon which your policy has been built. Worse still, it has become increasingly clear that the sharp drop in US credibility abroad is largely a function of the rather transparent abuse of intelligence re­porting and the dubious conclusions drawn from that reporting — the ones that underpin your decisions on Iraq.

Flashback to Vietnam

Many of us cut our intelligence teeth during the Sixties. We remember the arrogance and flawed thinking that sucked us into the quagmire of Vietnam. The French, it turned out, knew better. And they looked on with won­derment at Washington’s misplaced confidence — its single-minded hubris, as it embarked on a venture the French knew from their own experience could only meet a dead end.

This was hardly a secret. It was widely known that the French general sent off to survey the possibility of regaining Vietnam for France after World War II reported that the operation would take a half-million troops, and even then it could not be successful.

Nevertheless, President Johnson, heeding the ill-informed advice of civilian leaders of the Pentagon with no ex­perience in war, let himself get drawn in past the point of no return. In the process, he played fast and loose with intelligence to get the Tonkin Gulf resolution through Congress so that he could prosecute the war. To that mis­guided war he mortgaged his political future, which was in shambles when he found himself unable to extricate himself from the morass.

Quite apart from what happened to President Johnson, the Vietnam War was the most serious US foreign policy blunder in modern times — until now.

Forgery

In your state-of-the-union address you spoke of Iraq’s pre-1991 focus on how to “enrich uranium for a bomb” and added, “the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of ura­nium from Africa.” No doubt you have now been told that this information was based on bogus correspondence between Iraq and Niger.

Answering a question on this last week, Secretary Powell conceded — with neither apology nor apparent embarrassment — that the documents in question, which the US and UK had provided to the UN to show that Iraq is still pursuing nuclear weapons, were forgeries. Powell was short: “If that information is inaccu­rate, fine.”

But it is anything but fine. This kind of episode inflicts serious damage on US credibility abroad—the more so, as it appears neither you nor your advisers and political supporters are in hot pursuit of those responsible. Senate In­telligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts has shown little enthusiasm for finding out what went awry.

Com­mittee Vice-Chairman, Jay Rockefeller, suggested that the FBI be enlisted to find the perpetrators of the forgeries, which US officials say contain “laughable and child-like errors,” and to determine why the CIA did not recognize them as forgeries. But Roberts indicated through a committee spokeswoman that he believes it is “inappropri­ate for the FBI to investigate at this point.” Foreign observers do not have to be paranoid to suspect some kind of cover-up.

Who Did It? Who Cares!

Last week Wisconsin Congressman Dave Obey cited a recent press report suggesting that a foreign government might be behind the forgeries as part of an effort to build support for military action against Iraq and asked Secre­tary Powell if he could identify that foreign government. Powell said he could not do so “with confidence.” Nor did he appear in the slightest interested.

We think you should be. In the absence of hard evidence one looks for those with motive and capability. The fab­rication of false documentation, particularly what purports to be official correspondence between the agencies of two governments, is a major undertaking requiring advanced technical skills normally available only in a sophis­ticated intelligence service. And yet the forgeries proved to be a sloppy piece of work.

Chalk it up to professional pride by (past) association, but unless the CIA’s capabilities have drastically eroded over recent years, the legendary expertise of CIA technical specialists, combined with the crudeness of the forgeries, leave us persuaded that the CIA did not craft the bogus documents. Britain’s MI-6 is equally adept at such things. Thus, except in the unlikely event that crafting forgery was left to second-stringers, it seems unlikely that the Brit­ish were the original source.

We find ourselves wondering if amateur intelligence operatives in the Pentagon basement and/or at 10 Down­ing Street were involved and need to be called on the carpet. We would urge you strongly to determine the prov­enance. This is not trivial matter.

As our VIPS colleague (and former CIA Chief of Station) Ray Close has noted, “If anyone in Washington deliberately practiced disinformation in this way against another element of our own government or wittingly passed fabricated information to the UN, this could do permanent damage to the com­mitment to competence and integrity on which the whole American foreign policy process depends.”

The lack of any strong reaction from the White House feeds the suspicion that the US was somehow involved in, or at least condones, the forgery. It is important for you to know that, although credibility-destroying stories like this rarely find their way into the largely cowed US media, they do grab headlines abroad among those less dis­posed to give the US the benefit of the doubt.

As you know better than anyone, a year and a half after 9/11 the still traumatized US public remains much more inclined toward unquestioning trust in the presidency. Over time that child-like trust can be expected to erode, if preventive maintenance is not performed — and hyperbole shunned.

Hyperbole

The forgery aside, the administration’s handling of the issue of whether Iraq is continuing to develop nuclear weapons has done particularly severe damage to US credibility. On October 7 your speechwriters had you claim that Iraq might be able to produce a nuclear weapon in less than a year. Formal US intelligence estimates, sanitized versions of which have been made public, hold that Iraq will be unable to produce a nuclear weapon until the end of the decade, if then.

In that same speech you claimed that “the evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program” — a claim reiterated by Vice President Cheney on “Meet the Press” on March 16. Reporting to the UN Security Council in recent months, UN chief nuclear inspector Mohammed ElBaradei has asserted that the inspectors have found no evidence that Iraq has reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.

Some suspect that the US does have such evidence but has not shared it with the UN because Washington has been de­termined to avoid doing anything that could help the inspections process succeed. Others believe the “evidence” to be of a piece with the forgery — in all likelihood crafted by Richard Perle’s Pentagon Plumbers. Either way, the US takes a large black eye in public opinion abroad.

Then there are those controversial aluminum tubes which you have cited in major speeches as evidence of a con­tinuing effort on Iraq’s part to produce nuclear weapons. Aside from one analyst in the CIA and the people report­ing to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, there is virtually unanimous agreement within the intelligence, engineering, and scientific communities with ElBaradei’s finding that “it was highly unlikely” that the tubes could have been used to produce nuclear material.

It is not enough for Vice President Cheney to dismiss ElBaradei’s findings. Those who have followed these issues closely are left wondering why, if the Vice President has evidence to support his own view, he does not share it with the UN.

Intelligence Scant

In your speech yesterday evening you stressed that intelligence “leaves no doubt that the Iraqi regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” And yet even the Washington Post, whose editors have given unswerving support to your policy on Iraq, is awash with reports that congressional leaders, for example, have been given no specific intelligence on the number of banned weapons in Iraq or where they are hidden.

One official, who is regularly briefed by the CIA, commented recently that such evidence as does exist is “only circumstantial.” Another said he questioned whether the administration is shaping intelligence for political purposes. And, in a moment of unusual candor, one senior intelligence analyst suggested that one reason why UN inspectors have had such trouble finding weapons caches is that “there may not be much of a stockpile.”

Having backed off suggestions early last year that Iraq may already have nuclear weapons, your administration continues to assert that Iraq has significant quantities of other weapons of mass destruction. But by all indications, this is belief, not proven fact. This has led the likes of Thomas Powers, a very knowledgeable author on intelli­gence, to conclude that “the plain fact is that the Central Intelligence Agency doesn’t know what Mr. Hussein has, if anything, or even who knows the answers, if anyone.”

This does not inspire confidence. What is needed is candor — candor of the kind you used in one portion of your speech on October 7. Just two paragraphs before you claimed that Iraq is “reconstituting” its nuclear weapons pro­gram, you said, “Many people have asked how close Saddam Hussein is to developing a nuclear weapon. Well, we don’t know exactly, and that’s the problem.”

True, candor can weaken a case that one is trying to build. We are reminded of a remarkable sentence that leapt out of FBI Director Mueller’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 11 — a sentence that does ac­tually parse, but nonetheless leaves one scratching one’s head. Mueller: “The greatest threat is from al-Qaeda cells in the US that we have not yet identified.”

This seems to be the tack that CIA Director Tenet is taking behind closed doors; i.e., the greatest threat from Iraq is the weapons we have not yet identified but believe are there.

It is not possible to end this section on hyperbole without giving Oscars to Secretaries Rumsfeld and Powell, who have outdone themselves in their zeal to establish a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda. You will recall that Rumsfeld described the evidence — widely recognized to be dubious — as “bulletproof,” and Powell characterized the relationship as a “partnership!”

Your assertion last evening that “the terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed” falls into the same category. We believe it far more likely that our country is in for long periods of red and orange color codes.

Half-Truth

Here we shall limit ourselves to one example, although the number that could be adduced is legion.

You may recall that a Cambridge University analyst recently revealed that a major portion of a British intelligence document on Iraq had been plagiarized from a term paper by a graduate student in California — information de­scribed by Secretary Powell to the UN Security Council as “exquisite” intelligence. That same analyst has now ac­quired from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the transcript of the debriefing of Iraqi Gen. Hussein Kamel, son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, who defected in 1995.

Kamel for ten years ran Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile development programs, and some of the information he provided has been highly touted by senior US policymakers, from the president on down. But the transcript reveals that Kamel also said that in 1991 Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. This part of the debriefing was suppressed until Newsweek ran a story on it on February 24, 2003.

We do not for a minute take all of what Kamel said at face value. Rather we believe the Iraqis retain some chemical and biological warfare capability. What this episode suggests, though, is a preference on the part of US officials to release only that information that supports the case they wish to make against Iraq.

In Sum

What conclusions can be drawn from the above? Simply that forgery, hyperbole, and half-truths provide a sandy foundation from which to launch a major war.

Equally important, there is danger in the temptation to let the conflict with Iraq determine our attitude toward the entire gamut of foreign threats with which you and your principal advisers need to be concerned. Threats to US security interests must be prioritized and judged on their own terms. In our judgment as intelligence professionals, there are two real and present dangers today.

1. The upsurge in terrorism in the US and against American facilities and personnel abroad that we believe would inevitably flow from a US invasion of Iraq. Concern over this is particularly well expressed in the February 26 letter from FBI Special Agent Coleen Rowley to Director Mueller, a letter well worth your study.

2. North Korea poses a particular danger, although what form this might take is hard to predict. Pyongyang sees itself as the next target of your policy of preemption and, as its recent actions demonstrate, will take advantage of US pre-occupation with Iraq both to strengthen its defenses and to test US and South Korean responses. Although North Korea is economically weak, its armed forces are huge, well armed, and capable. It is entirely possible that the North will decide to mount a provocation to test the tripwire provided by the presence of US forces in South Korea. Given the closeness of Seoul to the border with the North and the reality that North Korean conventional forces far outnumber those of the South, a North Korean adventure could easily force you to face an abrupt, unwelcome decision regarding the use of nuclear weapons — a choice that your predecessors took great pains to avoid.

We suggest strongly that you order the Intelligence Community to undertake, on an expedited basis, a Special Na­tional Intelligence Estimate on North Korea, and that you defer any military action against Iraq until you have had a chance to give appropriate weight to the implications of the challenge the US might face on the Korean pen­insula.

Richard Beske, San Diego

Kathleen McGrath Christison, Santa Fe

William Christison, Santa Fe

Patrick Eddington, Alexandria

Raymond McGovern, Arlington

Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

What Everyone Should Know About the South

A daughter of the South says the region is changing more than even those who live there realize.

March 18, 2013  |  

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Tracy Thompson, a former newspaper reporter born and raised in Georgia, first got the idea for her book,  “The New Mind of the South,” when a cousin passed on a startling bit of family history. Their shared ancestor, Thomas Thompson, was a Union man. Thompson clan legend held that Thomas had briefly pretended to support the Union, but only because he hoped to be reimbursed for property confiscated by General Sherman. Thomas was in truth a staunch anti-Confederate according to documents held in the National Archive. Furthermore, he wasn’t alone; Thompson found two dozen similar cases from the same small county when she visited the archives herself. “I’d always wondered why, unlike every other Southern family I knew, ours had no Civil War stories, ” she remarks.

For Thompson, this experience captures the “mismatch of history and identity that so many Southerners up through my generation have had, this vague sense of cognitive dissonance that comes with growing up in a world where nothing you see around you quite fits with the picture of history made available to you.” It also conjured up memories of a far more disturbing revelation: the time she learned of the horrific 1899 torture and murder of a young black man 10 miles from the house where she grew up. That, and six more lynchings in counties within “the borders of my childhood universe,” were news to her despite the fact that “there was no shortage of people in my childhood who were happy to regale me with stories about the Yankee soldier buried under the muscadine vines, the privations their family endured during Reconstruction,” and other local lore. Needless to say, her school textbooks, bowdlerized for the Southern market, ignored the subject as well.

“When your past changes, your identity changes,” Thompson writes, and “The New Mind of the South” offers her account of the metamorphosis she has witnessed in her beloved homeland. Some of those changes are demographic, such as the huge influx of immigrants over the past two decades. North Carolina, for example, saw its foreign-born population grow by from 115,000 to 614,000 in the 1990s alone. Latin Americans make up the majority of these new Southerners (even if most of them wouldn’t necessarily call themselves Southerners), but immigrants also come from Vietnam, Pakistan, China and India to work in factories and on farms. It’s a shift that has not so much transformed the classic black/white Southern divide as turned a simple binary model into a protean three-dimensional intimation of the future.

Thompson, a writer who lopes easily from the dispensing of statistics to shoe-leather reporting to touching autobiography to impressive flights of moral reflection, makes an ideal guide to this landscape. Cruising through the nearly deserted countryside of the Mississippi Delta region, she considers the effect of mechanized agribusiness on what for many Southerners is the foundation of their sense of self: their relationship to the land, specifically to a way of life rooted in rural communities. It’s one thing to read a reporter’s observations of boarded-up storefronts and stoic small farmers lamenting that they never run into anyone they know at the post office. What Thompson can also offer is a series of radiant images from her own childhood: eating eggs from her grandfather’s chickens, drinking water pumped from their own land and watching her mother roll out biscuit dough, all to the accompaniment of endless talk: stories, gossip and just plain passing the time.

Yet Thompson never forgets what was left out of all that golden talk, and this gives “The New Mind of the South” a muscular tension that a merely nostalgic memoir or a self-effacing work of reportage could never achieve. She vividly recalls the embracing evangelical church life of her 1960s youth, when the religion was “otherworldly and apolitical” and therefore a marked contrast to the activist fundamentalism that arose in the 1970s or the show-bizzy extravaganza of a megachurch she visits in suburban Atlanta. Yet the latter, an outpost of the “prosperity gospel,” turns out to be more multiracial and feminist than she expected. Such churches can’t provide her with the comfort she once found in the small church where her family used to worship, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t doing some good.

Shocking New Evidence Reveals Depths of ‘Treason’ and ‘Treachery’ of Watergate and Iran-Contra

New evidence continues to accumulate showing how Official Washington got key elements of two major presidential scandals of the Nixon and Reagan administrations wrong.

March 10, 2013  |  

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A favorite saying of Official Washington is that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” But that presupposes you accurately understand what the crime was. And, in the case of the two major U.S. government scandals of the last third of the Twentieth Century – Watergate and Iran-Contra – that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Indeed, newly disclosed documents have put old evidence into a sharply different light and suggest that history has substantially miswritten the two scandals by failing to understand that they actually were sequels to earlier scandals that were far worse. Watergate and Iran-Contra were, in part at least, extensions of the original crimes, which involved dirty dealings to secure the immense power of the presidency.

Shortly after Nixon took office in 1969, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover informed him of the existence of the file containing national security wiretaps documenting how Nixon’s emissaries had gone behind President Lyndon Johnson’s back to convince the South Vietnamese government to boycott the Paris Peace Talks, which were close to ending the Vietnam War in fall 1968.In the case of Watergate – the foiled Republican break-in at the Democratic National Committee in June 1972 and Richard Nixon’s botched cover-up leading to his resignation in August 1974 – the evidence is now clear that Nixon created the Watergate burglars out of his panic that the Democrats might possess a file on his sabotage of Vietnam peace talks in 1968.

The disruption of Johnson’s peace talks then enabled Nixon to hang on for a narrow victory over Democrat Hubert Humphrey. However, as the new President was taking steps in 1969 to extend the war another four-plus years, he sensed the threat from the wiretap file and ordered two of his top aides, chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, to locate it. But they couldn’t find the file.

We now know that was because President Johnson, who privately had called Nixon’s Vietnam actions “treason,” had ordered the file removed from the White House by his national security aide Walt Rostow.

Rostow labeled the file  “The ‘X’ Envelope” and kept it in his possession, although having left government, he had no legal right to possess the highly classified documents, many of which were stamped “Top Secret.” Johnson had instructed Rostow to retain the papers as long as he, Johnson, was alive and then afterwards to decide what to do with them.

Nixon, however, had no idea that Johnson and Rostow had taken the missing file or, indeed, who might possess it. Normally, national security documents are passed from the outgoing President to the incoming President to maintain continuity in government.

But Haldeman and Kissinger had come up empty in their search. They were only able to recreate the file’s contents, which included incriminating conversations between Nixon’s emissaries and South Vietnamese officials regarding Nixon’s promise to get them a better deal if they helped him torpedo Johnson’s peace talks.

So, the missing file remained a troubling mystery inside Nixon’s White House, but Nixon still lived up to his pre-election agreement with South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu to extend U.S. military participation in the war with the goal of getting the South Vietnamese a better outcome than they would have received from Johnson in 1968.

Nixon not only continued the Vietnam War, which had already claimed more than 30,000 American lives and an estimated one million Vietnamese, but he expanded it, with intensified bombing campaigns and a U.S. incursion into Cambodia. At home, the war was bitterly dividing the nation with a massive anti-war movement and an angry backlash from war supporters.

Shadow Lives: How the War on Terror in England Became a War on Women...

Once, as a reporter, I covered wars, conflicts, civil wars, and even a genocide in places like Vietnam, Angola, Eritrea, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, keeping away from official briefings and listening to the people who were living the war.  In the years since the Bush administration launched its Global War on Terror, I’ve done the same thing without ever leaving home.

In the last decade, I didn’t travel to distant refugee camps in Pakistan or destroyed villages in Afghanistan, nor did I spend time in besieged cities like Iraq’s Fallujah or Libya’s Misrata.  I stayed in Great Britain.  There, my government, in close conjunction with Washington, was pursuing its own version of what, whether anyone cared to say it or not, was essentially a war against Islam.  Somehow, by a series of chance events, I found myself inside it, spending time with families transformed into enemies.

I hadn’t planned to write about the war on terror, but driven by curiosity about lives most of us never see and a few lucky coincidences, I stumbled into a world of Muslim women in London, Manchester, and Birmingham.  Some of them were British, others from Arab and African countries, but their husbands or sons had been swept up in Washington’s war. Some were in Guantanamo, some were among the dozen Muslim foreigners who did not know each other, and who were surprised to find themselves imprisoned together in Britain on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda. Later, some of these families would find themselves under house arrest.

In the process, I came to know women and children who were living in almost complete isolation and with the stigma of a supposed link to terrorism. They had few friends, and were cut off from the wider world. Those with a husband under house arrest were allowed no visitors who had not been vetted for “security,” nor could they have computers, even for their children to do their homework.  Other lonely women had husbands or sons who had sometimes spent a decade or more in prison without charges in the United Kingdom, and were fighting deportation or extradition.

Gradually, they came to accept me into their isolated lives and talked to me about their children, their mothers, their childhoods — but seldom, at first, about the grim situations of their husbands, which seemed too intimate, too raw, too frightening, too unknowable to be put into words.

In the early years, it was a steep learning curve for me, spending time in homes where faith was the primary reality, Allah was constantly invoked, English was a second language, and privacy and reticence were givens. Facebook culture had not come to most of these families. The reticence faded over the years, especially when the children were not there, or in the face of the kind of desolation that came from a failed court appeal to lift the restrictions on their lives, an unexpected police raid on the house, a husband’s suicide attempt, or the coming of a new torture report from Washington’s then-expanding global gulag of black sites and, of course, Guantanamo.

In these years, I met some of their husbands and sons as well.  The first was a British man from Birmingham, Moazzam Begg. He had been held for three years in Washington’s notorious offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, only to be released without charges.  When he came home, through his lawyer, he asked me to help write his memoir, the first to come out of Guantanamo.  We worked long months on Enemy Combatant. It was hard for him to relive his nightmare days and nights in American custody in Kandahar and in the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then those limbo years in Cuba. It was even harder for him to visit the women whose absent husbands he had known in prison and who, unlike him, were still there.

Was My Husband Tortured?

In these homes he visited, there was always one great unspoken question: Was my husband or son tortured? It was the single question no one could bear to ask a survivor of that nightmare, even for reassurance. When working on his book, I deliberately left the chapter on his experiences in American hands in Bagram prison for last, as I sensed how difficult it would be for both of us to speak about the worst of the torture I knew he had experienced.

Through Moazzam, I met other men who had been swept up in the post-9/11 dragnet for Muslims in Great Britain, refugees who sought him out as an Arabic speaker and a British citizen to help them negotiate Britain’s newly hostile atmosphere in the post-9/11 years.  Soon, I began to visit some of their wives, too.

In time, I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death unless he was given refugee documents to leave Britain, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.

I was halfway through working on Moazzam’s book when London was struck by our 9/11, which we call 7/7. The July 7, 2005, suicide bombings, in three parts of the London underground and a bus, killed 52 civilians and injured more than 700. The four bombers were all young British men between 18 and 30, two of them married with children, and one of them a mentor at a primary school. In video statements left behind they described themselves as “soldiers” whose aim was to force the British government to pull its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Just three weeks later, there were four more coordinated bomb attacks on the London subway system.  (All failed to detonate.) The four men responsible, longterm British residents originally from the Horn of Africa, were captured, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. In this way, the whole country was traumatised in 2005, and that particularly includes the various strands of the Muslim community in Great Britain.

The British security services quickly returned to a post-9/11 stance on overdrive. The same MI5 intelligence agents who had interrogated Moazzam while he was in U.S. custody asked to meet him again to get his thoughts on who might be behind the attacks. However, three years in U.S. custody and five months at home occupied with his family and his book had not made him a likely source of information on current strains of thought in the British Muslim community.

At the same time, the dozen foreign Muslim refugees detained in the aftermath of 9/11 and held without trial for two years before being released on the orders of the House of Lords were rearrested. In the summer of 2005, the government prepared to deport them to countries they had originally fled as refugees.

All of them had been made anonymous by court order and in legal documents were referred to as Mr. G, Mr. U, and so on. This was no doubt intended to safeguard their privacy, but in a sense it also condemned them.  It made them faceless, inhuman, and their families experienced it just that way. “They even took my husband’s name away, why?” one wife asked me.

The women I was meeting in these years were mostly from this small group, as well as the relatives of a handful of British residents — Arabs — who were not initially returned from Guantanamo with the nine British citizens that the Americans finally released without charges in 2004 and 2005.

Perhaps no one in the country was, in the end, more terrorised than them, thanks to the various terror plots by British nationals that followed. And they were right to be fearful.  The pressure on them was overwhelming.  Some of them simply gave up and went home voluntarily because they could not bear house arrest, though they risked being sent to prison in their native lands; others went through years of house arrest and court appeals against deportation, all of which continues to this day.

Among the plots that unnerved them were one in 2006 against transatlantic aircraft, for which a total of 12 Britons were jailed for life in 2009, and the 2007 attempt to blow up a London nightclub and Glasgow International Airport, in which one bomber died and the second was jailed for 32 years. In the post-9/11 decade, 237 people were convicted of terror-related offences in Britain.

Though all of this was going on, much of it remained remote from the world of the refugee women I came to know who, in the larger world, were mainly preoccupied with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that, with Palestinian developments, filled their TV screens tuned only to Arabic stations.

These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares, but for anyone in their company there was no mistaking them: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another, with several small children, turned back from a prison visit, despite a long journey, because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.

Here was the texture of a hidden war of continual harassment against a largely helpless population.  This was how some of the most vulnerable people in British society — often already traumatised refugees and torture survivors — were made permanent scapegoats for our post-9/11, and then post-7/7 fears.

So powerful is the stigma of “terrorism” today that, in the name of “our security,” whether in Great Britain or the United States, just about anything now goes, and ever fewer people ask questions about what that “anything” might actually be. Here in London, repeated attempts to get influential religious or political figures simply to visit one of these officially locked-down families and see these lives for themselves have failed. In the present political climate, such a personal, fact-finding visit proved to be anything but a priority for such people.

A Legal System of Secret Evidence, House Arrest, and Financial Sanctions

Against this captive population, in such an anything-goes atmosphere, all sorts of experimental perversions of the legal system were tried out.  As a result, the British system of post-9/11 justice contains many features which should frighten us all but are completely unfamiliar to the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom.

Key aspects for the families I have been concerned with include the use of secret evidence in cases involving deportation, bail conditions, and imprisonment without trial. In addition, most of their cases have been heard in a special court known as the Special Immigration Appeals Commission or SIAC, which is housed in an anonymous basement set of rooms in central London.

One of SIAC’s innovative features is the use of “special advocates,” senior barristers who have security clearance to see secret evidence on behalf of their clients, but without being allowed to disclose it or discuss it, even with the client or his or her own lawyer. The resignation on principle of a highly respected barrister, Ian Macdonald, as a special advocate in November 2004 exposed this process to the public for the first time — but almost no one took any interest.

And a sense of the injustice in this arcane system was never sufficiently sparked by such voices, which found little echo in the media. Nor was there a wide audience for reports from a team of top psychiatrists about the devastating psychological impact on the men and their families of indefinite detention without trial, and of a house-arrest system framed by “control orders” that allow the government to place restrictions of almost any sort on the lives of those it designates.

An even less noted aspect of the anti-terror legal system brought into existence after 9/11 was the financial sanctions that could freeze the assets of designated individuals.  First ordered by the United Nations, the financial-sanctions regime was consolidated here through a European Union list of designated people. The few lawyers who specialized in this area were scathing about the draconian measures involved and the utter lack of transparency when it came to which governments had put which names on which list.

The effect on the listed families was draconian.  Marriages collapsed under the strain. The listed men were barred from working and only allowed £10 a week for personal expenses. Their wives — often from conservative cultures where all dealings with the outside world had been left to husbands — suddenly were the families’ faces to the world, responsible for everything from shopping to accounting monthly to the government’s Home Office for every item the family purchased, right down to a bottle of milk or a pencil for a child. It was humiliating for the men, who lost their family role overnight, and exhausting and frustrating for the women, while in some cases the rest of their families shunned them because of the taint of alleged terrorism. Almost no one except specialist lawyers even knew that such financial sanctions existed in Britain.

In the country’s High Court, the first judicial challenge to the financial-sanctions regime was brought in 2008 by five British Muslim men known only as G, K, A, M, and Q. In response, Justice Andrew Collins said he found it “totally unacceptable” that, to take an especially absurd example, a man should have to get a license for legal advice about the sanctions from the very body that was imposing them. The man in question had waited three months for a “basic expense” license permitting funds for food and rent, and six months for a license to obtain legal advice about the situation he found himself in.

In a related case before the judicial committee of the House of Lords, Justice Leonard Hoffman expressed incredulity at the “meanness and squalor” of a regime that “monitored who had what for lunch.” More recently, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court endorsed the comments of Lord Justice Stephen Sedley who described those subject to the regime as being akin to “prisoners of the state.”

Among senior lawyers concerned about this hidden world of punishment was Ben Emmerson, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism. He devoted one of his official U.N. reports to the financial sanctions issue. His recommendations included significantly more transparency from governments who put people on such a list, the explicit exclusion of evidence obtained by torture, and the obligation of governments to give reasons when they refuse to remove individuals from the list.  Of course, no one who mattered was paying the slightest attention.

Against ideological governments obsessed by terrorism on both sides of the Atlantic and a culture numbed by violent anti-terrorist tales like “24” and Zero Dark Thirty, such complicated and technical initiatives on behalf of individuals who have been given the tag, implicitly if not explicitly, of “terrorist” stand little chance of getting attention.

“Each Time It’s Worse”

Nearly a decade ago, at the New York opening night of Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom, the play Gillian Slovo and I wrote using only the words of the relatives of prisoners in that jail, their lawyers, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, an elderly man approached Moazzam Begg’s father and me.  He introduced himself as a former foreign policy adviser to President John Kennedy. “It could never have happened in our time,” he said.

When the Global War on Terror was still relatively new, it was common for audiences to react similarly and with shock to a play in which fathers and brothers describe their bewilderment over the way their relation had disappeared into the legal black hole of Guantanamo Bay. In the years since, we have become numb to the destruction of lives, livelihoods, futures, childhoods, legal systems, and trust by Washington’s and London’s never-ending war on terror.

In that time, I have seen children grow from toddlers to teenagers locked inside this particular war machine.  What they say today should startle us out of such numbness. Here, for instance, are the words of two teenagers, a girl and a boy whose fathers had been imprisoned or under house arrest in Britain for 10 years and whose lives in those same years were filled with indignities and humiliations:

“People seem to think that we get used to things being how they are for us, so we don’t feel the injustices so much now. They are quite wrong: it was painful the first time, more painful the second, even more so the third. In fact, each time it’s worse, if you can believe that. There isn’t a limit on how much pain you can feel.”

The boy added this:

“There is never one day when I feel safe. It can be the authorities, it can be ordinary people, they can do something bad for us. Only like now when we are all in the house together can I stop worrying about my mum and my sisters, and even me, what might happen to us. On the tube [subway], in class at university, people look at my beard.  I see them looking and I know they are thinking bad things about me. I would like to be a normal guy who no one looks at. You know, other boys, some of my friends, they cut corners, things like driving without a current license, everyone does it. But I can’t, I can’t ever, ever, take even a small risk. I have to always be cautious, be responsible… for my family.”

These children have been brought up by women who, against all odds, have often preserved their dignity and kept at least a modicum of joy in their families’ lives, and so, however despised, however unnoticed, however locked away, made themselves an inspiration to others. They are not victims to be pitied, but women our societies should embrace.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s response to recent proposals that Washington establish a secret court to oversee the targeting of terrorist suspects for death-by-drone and President Obama’s expanding executive power to kill, speak for the world beyond the West.  They offer a different perspective on the war on terror that Washington and Great Britain continue to pursue with no end in sight:

“Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the nineteenth century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.  I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.”

Victoria Brittain, journalist and former editor at the Guardian, has authored or co-authored two plays and four books, including Enemy Combatant with Moazzam Begg. Her latest book, Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2013) has just been published.

Hugo Chávez Kept His Promise to the People of Venezuela

He wrote, he read, and mostly he spoke. Hugo Chávez, whose death has been announced, was devoted to the word. He spoke publicly an average of 40 hours per week. As president, he didn't hold regular cabinet meetings; he'd bring the many to a weekly meeting, broadcast live on radio and television. Aló, Presidente, the programme in which policies were outlined and discussed, had no time limits, no script and no teleprompter. One session included an open discussion of healthcare in the slums of Caracas, rap, a self-critical examination of Venezuelans being accustomed to the politics of oil money and expecting the president to be a magician, a friendly exchange with a delegation from Nicaragua and a less friendly one with a foreign journalist.

Nicaragua is one of Venezuela's allies in Alba, the organisation constituted at Chávez's initiative to counter neoliberalism in the region, alongside Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia. It has now acquired a life of its own having invited a number of Caribbean countries and Mexico to join, with Vietnam as an observer. It will be a most enduring legacy, a concrete embodiment of Chávez's words and historical vision. The Bolívarian revolution has been crucial to the wider philosophy shared and applied by many Latin American governments. Its aim is to overcome global problems through local and regional interventions by engaging with democracy and the state in order to transform the relation between these and the people, rather than withdrawing from the state or trying to destroy it.

Because of this shared view Brazilians, Uruguayans and Argentinians perceived Chávez as an ally, not an anomaly, and supported the inclusion of Venezuela in their Mercosur alliance. Chávez's Social Missions, providing healthcare and literacy to formerly excluded people while changing their life and political outlook, have proven the extent of such a transformative view. It could be compared to the levelling spirit of a kind of new New Deal combined with a model of social change based on popular and communal organisation.

The facts speak for themselves: the percentage of households in poverty fell from 55% in 1995 to 26.4% in 2009. When Chávez was sworn into office unemployment was 15%, in June 2009 it was 7.8%. Compare that to current unemployment figures in Europe.

The facts speak for themselves: the percentage of households in poverty fell from 55% in 1995 to 26.4% in 2009. When Chávez was sworn into office unemployment was 15%, in June 2009 it was 7.8%. Compare that to current unemployment figures in Europe. In that period Chávez won 56% of the vote in 1998, 60% in 2000, survived a coup d'état in 2002, got over 7m votes in 2006 and secured 54.4% of the vote last October. He was a rare thing, almost incomprehensible to those in the US and Europe who continue to see the world through the Manichean prism of the cold war: an avowed Marxist who was also an avowed democrat. To those who think the expression of the masses should have limited or no place in the serious business of politics all the talking and goings on in Chávez's meetings were anathema, proof that he was both fake and a populist. But to the people who tuned in and participated en masse, it was politics and true democracy not only for the sophisticated, the propertied or the lettered.

All this talking and direct contact meant the constant reaffirmation of a promise between Chávez and the people of Venezuela. Chávez had discovered himself not by looking within, but by looking outside into the shameful conditions of Latin Americans and their past. He discovered himself in the promise of liberation made by Bolívar. "On August 1805," wrote Chávez, Bolívar "climbed the Monte Sacro near Rome and made a solemn oath." Like Bolívar, Chávez swore to break the chains binding Latin Americans to the will of the mighty. Within his lifetime, the ties of dependency and indirect empire have loosened. From the river Plate to the mouths of the Orinoco river, Latin America is no longer somebody else's backyard. That project of liberation has involved thousands of men and women pitched into one dramatic battle after another, like the coup d'état in 2002 or the confrontation with the US-proposed Free Trade Zone of the Americas. These were won, others were lost.

Like Bolívar, Chávez swore to break the chains binding Latin Americans to the will of the mighty. Within his lifetime, the ties of dependency and indirect empire have loosened.

The project remains incomplete. It may be eternal and thus the struggle will continue after Chávez is gone. But whatever the future may hold, the peoples of the Americas will fight to salvage the present in which they have regained a voice. In Venezuela, they put Chávez back into the presidency after the coup. This was the key event in Chávez's political life, not the military rebellion or the first electoral victory. Something changed within him at that point: his discipline became ironclad, his patience invincible and his politics clearer. For all the attention paid to the relation between Chávez and Castro, the lesser known fact is that Chávez's political education owes more to another Marxist president who was also an avowed democrat: Chile's Salvador Allende. "Like Allende, we're pacifists and democrats," he once said. "Unlike Allende, we're armed."

The lesson drawn by Chávez from the defeat of Allende in 1973 is crucial. Some, like the far right and the state-linked paramilitary of Colombia would love to see Chavismo implode, and wouldn't hesitate to sow chaos across borders. The support of the army and the masses of Venezuela will decide the fate of the Bolívarian revolution, and the solidarity of powerful and sympathetic neighbours like Brazil. Nobody wants instability now that Latin America is finally standing up for itself. In his final days Chávez emphasised the need to build communal power and promoted some of his former critics associated with the journal Comuna. The revolution will not be rolled back. Unlike his admired Bolívar, Chávez did not plough the seas.

Shadow Lives: How the War on Terror in England Became a War on Women...

Once, as a reporter, I covered wars, conflicts, civil wars, and even a genocide in places like Vietnam, Angola, Eritrea, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, keeping away from official briefings and listening to the people who were living the war.  In the years since the Bush administration launched its Global War on Terror, I’ve done the same thing without ever leaving home.

In the last decade, I didn’t travel to distant refugee camps in Pakistan or destroyed villages in Afghanistan, nor did I spend time in besieged cities like Iraq’s Fallujah or Libya’s Misrata.  I stayed in Great Britain.  There, my government, in close conjunction with Washington, was pursuing its own version of what, whether anyone cared to say it or not, was essentially a war against Islam.  Somehow, by a series of chance events, I found myself inside it, spending time with families transformed into enemies.

I hadn’t planned to write about the war on terror, but driven by curiosity about lives most of us never see and a few lucky coincidences, I stumbled into a world of Muslim women in London, Manchester, and Birmingham.  Some of them were British, others from Arab and African countries, but their husbands or sons had been swept up in Washington’s war. Some were in Guantanamo, some were among the dozen Muslim foreigners who did not know each other, and who were surprised to find themselves imprisoned together in Britain on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda. Later, some of these families would find themselves under house arrest.

In the process, I came to know women and children who were living in almost complete isolation and with the stigma of a supposed link to terrorism. They had few friends, and were cut off from the wider world. Those with a husband under house arrest were allowed no visitors who had not been vetted for “security,” nor could they have computers, even for their children to do their homework.  Other lonely women had husbands or sons who had sometimes spent a decade or more in prison without charges in the United Kingdom, and were fighting deportation or extradition.

Gradually, they came to accept me into their isolated lives and talked to me about their children, their mothers, their childhoods -- but seldom, at first, about the grim situations of their husbands, which seemed too intimate, too raw, too frightening, too unknowable to be put into words.

In the early years, it was a steep learning curve for me, spending time in homes where faith was the primary reality, Allah was constantly invoked, English was a second language, and privacy and reticence were givens. Facebook culture had not come to most of these families. The reticence faded over the years, especially when the children were not there, or in the face of the kind of desolation that came from a failed court appeal to lift the restrictions on their lives, an unexpected police raid on the house, a husband’s suicide attempt, or the coming of a new torture report from Washington’s then-expanding global gulag of black sites and, of course, Guantanamo.

In these years, I met some of their husbands and sons as well.  The first was a British man from Birmingham, Moazzam Begg. He had been held for three years in Washington’s notorious offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, only to be released without charges.  When he came home, through his lawyer, he asked me to help write his memoir, the first to come out of Guantanamo.  We worked long months on Enemy Combatant. It was hard for him to relive his nightmare days and nights in American custody in Kandahar and in the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then those limbo years in Cuba. It was even harder for him to visit the women whose absent husbands he had known in prison and who, unlike him, were still there.

Was My Husband Tortured?

In these homes he visited, there was always one great unspoken question: Was my husband or son tortured? It was the single question no one could bear to ask a survivor of that nightmare, even for reassurance. When working on his book, I deliberately left the chapter on his experiences in American hands in Bagram prison for last, as I sensed how difficult it would be for both of us to speak about the worst of the torture I knew he had experienced.

Through Moazzam, I met other men who had been swept up in the post-9/11 dragnet for Muslims in Great Britain, refugees who sought him out as an Arabic speaker and a British citizen to help them negotiate Britain’s newly hostile atmosphere in the post-9/11 years.  Soon, I began to visit some of their wives, too.

In time, I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death unless he was given refugee documents to leave Britain, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.

I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.

I was halfway through working on Moazzam’s book when London was struck by our 9/11, which we call 7/7. The July 7, 2005, suicide bombings, in three parts of the London underground and a bus, killed 52 civilians and injured more than 700. The four bombers were all young British men between 18 and 30, two of them married with children, and one of them a mentor at a primary school. In video statements left behind they described themselves as “soldiers” whose aim was to force the British government to pull its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Just three weeks later, there were four more coordinated bomb attacks on the London subway system.  (All failed to detonate.) The four men responsible, longterm British residents originally from the Horn of Africa, were captured, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. In this way, the whole country was traumatised in 2005, and that particularly includes the various strands of the Muslim community in Great Britain.

The British security services quickly returned to a post-9/11 stance on overdrive. The same MI5 intelligence agents who had interrogated Moazzam while he was in U.S. custody asked to meet him again to get his thoughts on who might be behind the attacks. However, three years in U.S. custody and five months at home occupied with his family and his book had not made him a likely source of information on current strains of thought in the British Muslim community.

At the same time, the dozen foreign Muslim refugees detained in the aftermath of 9/11 and held without trial for two years before being released on the orders of the House of Lords were rearrested. In the summer of 2005, the government prepared to deport them to countries they had originally fled as refugees.

All of them had been made anonymous by court order and in legal documents were referred to as Mr. G, Mr. U, and so on. This was no doubt intended to safeguard their privacy, but in a sense it also condemned them.  It made them faceless, inhuman, and their families experienced it just that way. “They even took my husband’s name away, why?” one wife asked me.

The women I was meeting in these years were mostly from this small group, as well as the relatives of a handful of British residents -- Arabs -- who were not initially returned from Guantanamo with the nine British citizens that the Americans finally released without charges in 2004 and 2005.

Perhaps no one in the country was, in the end, more terrorised than them, thanks to the various terror plots by British nationals that followed. And they were right to be fearful.  The pressure on them was overwhelming.  Some of them simply gave up and went home voluntarily because they could not bear house arrest, though they risked being sent to prison in their native lands; others went through years of house arrest and court appeals against deportation, all of which continues to this day.

Among the plots that unnerved them were one in 2006 against transatlantic aircraft, for which a total of 12 Britons were jailed for life in 2009, and the 2007 attempt to blow up a London nightclub and Glasgow International Airport, in which one bomber died and the second was jailed for 32 years. In the post-9/11 decade, 237 people were convicted of terror-related offences in Britain.

Though all of this was going on, much of it remained remote from the world of the refugee women I came to know who, in the larger world, were mainly preoccupied with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that, with Palestinian developments, filled their TV screens tuned only to Arabic stations.

These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares, but for anyone in their company there was no mistaking them: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another, with several small children, turned back from a prison visit, despite a long journey, because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.

These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another turned back from a prison visit because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.

Here was the texture of a hidden war of continual harassment against a largely helpless population.  This was how some of the most vulnerable people in British society -- often already traumatised refugees and torture survivors -- were made permanent scapegoats for our post-9/11, and then post-7/7 fears.

So powerful is the stigma of “terrorism” today that, in the name of “our security,” whether in Great Britain or the United States, just about anything now goes, and ever fewer people ask questions about what that “anything” might actually be. Here in London, repeated attempts to get influential religious or political figures simply to visit one of these officially locked-down families and see these lives for themselves have failed. In the present political climate, such a personal, fact-finding visit proved to be anything but a priority for such people.

A Legal System of Secret Evidence, House Arrest, and Financial Sanctions

Against this captive population, in such an anything-goes atmosphere, all sorts of experimental perversions of the legal system were tried out.  As a result, the British system of post-9/11 justice contains many features which should frighten us all but are completely unfamiliar to the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom.

Key aspects for the families I have been concerned with include the use of secret evidence in cases involving deportation, bail conditions, and imprisonment without trial. In addition, most of their cases have been heard in a special court known as the Special Immigration Appeals Commission or SIAC, which is housed in an anonymous basement set of rooms in central London.

One of SIAC’s innovative features is the use of “special advocates,” senior barristers who have security clearance to see secret evidence on behalf of their clients, but without being allowed to disclose it or discuss it, even with the client or his or her own lawyer. The resignation on principle of a highly respected barrister, Ian Macdonald, as a special advocate in November 2004 exposed this process to the public for the first time -- but almost no one took any interest.

And a sense of the injustice in this arcane system was never sufficiently sparked by such voices, which found little echo in the media. Nor was there a wide audience for reports from a team of top psychiatrists about the devastating psychological impact on the men and their families of indefinite detention without trial, and of a house-arrest system framed by “control orders” that allow the government to place restrictions of almost any sort on the lives of those it designates.

An even less noted aspect of the anti-terror legal system brought into existence after 9/11 was the financial sanctions that could freeze the assets of designated individuals.  First ordered by the United Nations, the financial-sanctions regime was consolidated here through a European Union list of designated people. The few lawyers who specialized in this area were scathing about the draconian measures involved and the utter lack of transparency when it came to which governments had put which names on which list.

The effect on the listed families was draconian.  Marriages collapsed under the strain. The listed men were barred from working and only allowed £10 a week for personal expenses. Their wives -- often from conservative cultures where all dealings with the outside world had been left to husbands -- suddenly were the families’ faces to the world, responsible for everything from shopping to accounting monthly to the government’s Home Office for every item the family purchased, right down to a bottle of milk or a pencil for a child. It was humiliating for the men, who lost their family role overnight, and exhausting and frustrating for the women, while in some cases the rest of their families shunned them because of the taint of alleged terrorism. Almost no one except specialist lawyers even knew that such financial sanctions existed in Britain.

In the country’s High Court, the first judicial challenge to the financial-sanctions regime was brought in 2008 by five British Muslim men known only as G, K, A, M, and Q. In response, Justice Andrew Collins said he found it "totally unacceptable" that, to take an especially absurd example, a man should have to get a license for legal advice about the sanctions from the very body that was imposing them. The man in question had waited three months for a "basic expense" license permitting funds for food and rent, and six months for a license to obtain legal advice about the situation he found himself in.

In a related case before the judicial committee of the House of Lords, Justice Leonard Hoffman expressed incredulity at the "meanness and squalor" of a regime that "monitored who had what for lunch." More recently, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court endorsed the comments of Lord Justice Stephen Sedley who described those subject to the regime as being akin to “prisoners of the state.”

Among senior lawyers concerned about this hidden world of punishment was Ben Emmerson, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism. He devoted one of his official U.N. reports to the financial sanctions issue. His recommendations included significantly more transparency from governments who put people on such a list, the explicit exclusion of evidence obtained by torture, and the obligation of governments to give reasons when they refuse to remove individuals from the list.  Of course, no one who mattered was paying the slightest attention.

Against ideological governments obsessed by terrorism on both sides of the Atlantic and a culture numbed by violent anti-terrorist tales like “24” and Zero Dark Thirty, such complicated and technical initiatives on behalf of individuals who have been given the tag, implicitly if not explicitly, of “terrorist” stand little chance of getting attention.

"Each Time It's Worse"

Nearly a decade ago, at the New York opening night of Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom, the play Gillian Slovo and I wrote using only the words of the relatives of prisoners in that jail, their lawyers, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, an elderly man approached Moazzam Begg’s father and me.  He introduced himself as a former foreign policy adviser to President John Kennedy. “It could never have happened in our time,” he said.

When the Global War on Terror was still relatively new, it was common for audiences to react similarly and with shock to a play in which fathers and brothers describe their bewilderment over the way their relation had disappeared into the legal black hole of Guantanamo Bay. In the years since, we have become numb to the destruction of lives, livelihoods, futures, childhoods, legal systems, and trust by Washington’s and London’s never-ending war on terror.

In that time, I have seen children grow from toddlers to teenagers locked inside this particular war machine.  What they say today should startle us out of such numbness. Here, for instance, are the words of two teenagers, a girl and a boy whose fathers had been imprisoned or under house arrest in Britain for 10 years and whose lives in those same years were filled with indignities and humiliations:

"People seem to think that we get used to things being how they are for us, so we don't feel the injustices so much now. They are quite wrong: it was painful the first time, more painful the second, even more so the third. In fact, each time it’s worse, if you can believe that. There isn’t a limit on how much pain you can feel."

The boy added this:

"There is never one day when I feel safe. It can be the authorities, it can be ordinary people, they can do something bad for us. Only like now when we are all in the house together can I stop worrying about my mum and my sisters, and even me, what might happen to us. On the tube [subway], in class at university, people look at my beard.  I see them looking and I know they are thinking bad things about me. I would like to be a normal guy who no one looks at. You know, other boys, some of my friends, they cut corners, things like driving without a current license, everyone does it. But I can’t, I can’t ever, ever, take even a small risk. I have to always be cautious, be responsible... for my family."

These children have been brought up by women who, against all odds, have often preserved their dignity and kept at least a modicum of joy in their families’ lives, and so, however despised, however unnoticed, however locked away, made themselves an inspiration to others. They are not victims to be pitied, but women our societies should embrace.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s response to recent proposals that Washington establish a secret court to oversee the targeting of terrorist suspects for death-by-drone and President Obama’s expanding executive power to kill, speak for the world beyond the West.  They offer a different perspective on the war on terror that Washington and Great Britain continue to pursue with no end in sight:

"Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the nineteenth century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.  I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity."

© 2013 Victoria Brittain

Victoria Brittain

Victoria Brittain, journalist and former editor at the Guardian, has authored or co-authored two plays and four books, including Enemy Combatant with Moazzam Begg. Her latest book, Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2013) has just been published.

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.

The Geopolitics of Oil and Natural Gas: Russia is Back to Stay in the...

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By Felix Imonti

Russia is back. President Vladimir Putin wants the world to acknowledge that Russia remains a global power. He is making his stand in Syria.

The Soviet Union acquired the Tartus Naval Port in Syria in 1971 without any real purpose for it. With their ships welcomed in Algeria, Cuba or Vietnam, Tartus was too insignificant to be developed. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia lacked the funds to spend on the base and no reason to invest in it.

The Russian return to the Middle East brought them first to where the Soviet Union had its closest ties. Libya had been a major buyer of arms and many of the military officers had studied in the Soviet Union. Russia was no longer a global power, but it could be used by the Libyans as a counter force to block domination by the United States and Europeans.

When Gaddafi fell, Tartus became Russia’s only presence in the region. That and the discovery of vast gas deposits just offshore have transformed the once insignificant port into a strategic necessity.

Earlier at the United Nations, Russia had failed to realize that Security Council Resolution 1973 that was to implement a new policy of “responsibility to protect” cloaked a hidden agenda. It was to be turned from a no-fly zone into a free-fire zone for NATO. That strategic blunder of not vetoing the resolution led to the destruction of Gaddafi’s regime and cost Russia construction contracts and its investments in Libyan gas and oil to the tune of 10 billion dollars.

That was one more in a series of humiliating defeats; and something that Putin will not allow to happen again while he is president. Since his time as an officer in the KGB, he has seen the Soviet Empire lose half of its population, a quarter of its land mass, and most of its global influence. He has described the collapse of the Soviet Union as a “geopolitical catastrophe.”

In spite of all of the pressure from Washington and elsewhere to have him persuade Bashar Al-Assad to relinquish power, Putin is staying loyal to the isolated regime. He is calculating that Russia can afford to lose among the Arabs what little prestige that it has remaining and gain a major political and economic advantage in Southern Europe and in the Eastern Mediterranean.

What Russia lost through the anti-Al-Assad alliance was the possibility to control the natural gas market across Europe and the means to shape events on the continent. In July 2011, Iran, Iraq, and Syria agreed to build a gas pipeline from the South Pars gas field in Iran to Lebanon and across the Mediterranean to Europe. The pipeline that would have been managed by Gazprom would have carried 110 million cubic meters of gas. About a quarter of the gas would be consumed by the transit countries, leaving seventy or so million cubic meters to be sold to Europe.

Violence in Iraq and the Syrian civil war has ended any hope that the pipeline will be built, but not all hope is lost. One possibility is for Al-Assad to withdraw to the traditional Aliwite coastal enclave to begin the partitioning of Syria into three or more separate zones, Aliwite, Kurdish, and Sunni. Al-Assad’s grandfather in 1936 had asked the French administrators of the Syrian mandate to create a separate Alawite territory in order to avoid just this type of ethnic violence.

What the French would not do circumstance may force the grandson to accept as his only choice to survive. His one hundred thousand heavily armed troops would be able to defend the enclave.

The four or five million Alawites, Christians, and Druze would have agricultural land, water, a deep water port and an international airport. Very importantly, they would have the still undeveloped natural gas offshore fields that extend from Israel, Lebanon, and Cyprus. The Aliwite Republic could be energy self-sufficient and even an exporter. Of course, Russia’s Gazprom in which Putin has a vital interest would get a privileged position in the development of the resource.

In an last effort to bring the nearly two year long civil war to an end, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov urged Syrian president Bashar al-Assad at the end of December to start talks with the Syrian opposition in line with the agreements for a cease fire that was reached in Geneva on 30 June. The Russians have also extended the invitation to the Syrian opposition National Coalition head, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib. The National Coalition refuses to negotiate with Al-Assad and Al-Assad will not relinquish power voluntarily.

The hardened positions of both sides leaves little hope for a negotiated settlement; and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has made it clear that only by an agreement among the Syrians will Russia accept the removal of Al-Assad. Neither do they see a settlement through a battlefield victory which leaves only a partitioning that will allow the civil war to just wind down as all sides are exhausted.

The Russians are troubled by what they see as a growing trend among the Western Powers to remove disapproved administrations in other sovereign countries and a program to isolate Russia. They saw the U.S involvement in the Ukraine and Georgia. There was the separation of Kosovo from Serbia over Russian objections. There was the extending of NATO to the Baltic States after pledging not to expand the organization to Russia’s frontier.

Again, Russia is seeing Washington’s hand in Syria in the conflict with Iran. The United States is directing military operations in Syria with Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia at a control center in Adana about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to the American air base in Incirlik. The Program by President Obama to have the CIA acquire heavy weapons at a facility in Benghazi to be sent to Turkey and onward to Syria is the newest challenge that Putin cannot allow to go unanswered. It was the involvement of Ambassador Chris Stevens in the arms trade that may have contributed to his murder; and the Russians are not hesitating to remind the United States and Europeans that their dealings with the various Moslem extremists is a very dangerous game.

The Russians are backing their determination to block another regime change by positioning and manning an advanced air defense system in what is becoming the Middle East casino. Putin is betting that NATO will not risk in Syria the cost that an air operation similar to what was employed over Libya will impose. Just in case Russia’s determination is disregarded and Putin’s bluff is called, Surface to surface Iskander missiles have been positioned along the Jordanian and Turkish frontiers. They are aimed at a base in Jordan operated by the United States to train rebels and at Patriot Missile sites and other military facilities in Turkey.

Putin is certain that he is holding the winning hand in this very high stakes poker game. An offshore naval task force, the presence of Russian air defense forces, an electronic intelligence center in Latakia, and the port facilities at Tartus will guarantee the independence of the enclave. As the supplier of sixty percent of Turkey’s natural gas, Moscow does have leverage that Ankara will not be able to ignore; and Ankara well knows that gas is one of Putin’s diplomatic weapons.

When the Turks and U.S see that there is little chance of removing Al-Assad, they will have no option other than to negotiate a settlement with him; and that would involve Russia as the protector and the mediator. That would establish Russia’s revived standing as a Mediterranean power; and Putin could declare confidently that “Russia is back.” After that, the Russians will be free to focus upon their real interests in the region.

And what is Russia’s real interest? Of course, it is oil and gas and the power that control of them can bring.

Obama’s Aggressive Asia Pivot

It involves advancing America's military footprint. Doing so aggressively is planned. China's growing economic might and military strength are targeted. So is checking Russia at the same time.

Senate Confirms Hagel, GOP Lawmaker Says Cheney Going to Hell, and More

Hagel Filibuster Defeated, GOP Lawmaker Says Cheney Going to Hell, and More

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Posted on Feb 26, 2013

Decision Time: The Republican led, history-making filibuster of President Obama’s defense secretary nominee, Chuck Hagel, is over. On Tuesday, the Senate moved to break the filibuster by a 71-27 margin, setting the stage (finally) for a confirmation vote. In total, 18 Republicans supported cloture, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who had all previously voted to uphold the filibuster. (Read more)

Cut to the Chase: With talks to avoid the sequester failing, it’s looking more and more likely that the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts will begin Friday. Roll Call has compiled a list of 15 things you need to know about the impending sequester. Among the more interesting tidbits: The sequester was supposed to be so illogical that Congress would be forced to act; federal agencies don’t have to institute the cuts right away, but failure to do so could mean even deeper reductions later; and because the sequester is only a government slowdown—as opposed to a total shutdown—you can expect government agency interactions that were already hassles to become even bigger ones. (Read more)

CPAC a Punch: Popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will not be among the nearly 40 speakers at next month’s Conservative Political Action Conference. That’s because, according to ABC News, Christie hasn’t been invited to attend the annual conservative event. Although Christie is widely considered to be a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, the news shouldn’t come as a huge shock. His own party has criticized him for praising President Obama in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and right before the November election, and he absolutely ripped GOP congressional leadership last month for initially not passing a Sandy aid package. (Read more)

A Race to Replace: A special primary election is being held in Chicago on Tuesday for the House seat that was vacated by disgraced Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Although both parties are holding elections, Illinois’ 2nd District leans so heavily Democratic that the winner of that primary is expected to win the special general election in April. Early voting indicated a lack of enthusiasm among voters, and Election Day turnout has been low. (Read more)

Video of the Day: Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., is not a fan of the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq nor of a big proponent of those conflicts, Dick Cheney. On Sunday, Jones told a conference put on by Young Americans for Liberty that the former vice president will probably rot in hell for the Iraq War. “Congress will not hold anyone to blame. Lyndon Johnson’s probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War. He probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney.”

Bonus Video of the Day: Stephen Colbert broke character in public over the weekend for an important cause—to endorse his sister, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, who is running for Congress in South Carolina. In making his first political endorsement, Colbert emphasized that Congress needs more women serving in it. “The Republican-controlled House of Representatives can’t even seem to bring themselves to bring the Violence Against Women Act up for a vote! Evidently, violence against women is something too controversial for them to even take a stand on. We need more women and more sensible legislators in Washington,” he said.

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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Torture at Guantanamo: Lt. Col. Stuart Couch on His Refusal to Prosecute Abused Prisoner

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Today we spend the hour taking an inside look at the Guantánamo military prison, where 166 men remain locked up. Many have been held for over a decade without charge. Our first guest today was one of the first military officers assigned to prosecute prisoners at Guantánamo. Stuart Couch joined the Marines in 1987, enrolled in law school, became a military prosecutor, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He eventually left active duty but returned after the September 11th attacks. A friend of his, Michael Horrocks, died on September 11th. Horrocks was the co-pilot of United Airlines Flight 175, the second plane to hit the World Trade Center.

AMY GOODMAN: Two months after the attacks, President Bush issued an order creating military commissions to try prisoners captured abroad. Lieutenant Colonel Couch's first assignment was the prosecution of a man named Mohamedou Ould Slahi. At one point, Slahi was described as "the highest value detainee" at Guantánamo Bay. The case would change Couch's life and put him at the center of a national debate around torture, interrogations and ethics.

Couch's story is featured in the new book, Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay. It's by Wall Street Journal reporter Jess Bravin. Later in the show, we'll be joined by Jess, but first we turn to Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch, who's joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina, where he now works as an immigration judge.

Lieutenant Colonel, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about the first day you went to Guantánamo and what you found.

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, Amy, it was in October of 2003, shortly after I had joined the Office of Military Commissions. And on that particular day, I was waiting to watch the interrogation of one of the detainees who had been assigned to me to prosecute his case. This was a detainee that was particularly cooperative and involved in some very serious activities in the Gulf region. As I was waiting in a room next to his interrogation room, I heard some loud heavy metal rock music playing down the—down the hallway. I went down to investigate. I thought it was a couple of guards that were off duty and didn't realize that we were getting ready to conduct the interview. So I walked down the hallway, and as I reached the room where the source of the music was coming out, the door was cracked. And I looked into the room, and I could—all I could see was a strobe light flashing. The rest of the lights in the room were out, but from the flashes of the strobe light, I could see a detainee in orange sitting on the—seated on the floor and shackled, hand to feet, and rocking back and forth.

There were two civilians who asked me, you know, what was I doing. And I said, "I'm Lieutenant Colonel Couch. You need to turn that down. What's going on here?" And they just basically told me to move along, and shut the door in my face. There was a judge advocate reservist with me, and I said, "Did you see that?" And his immediate response: "Well, yes. That's approved." And so, that was my first inclination that there was—of evidence of coerced interrogations going on at Guantánamo.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what did you do at that point?

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, I started mulling that over. For me, it was—it was a degree of a flashback. Before I had become a lawyer, I was a naval aviator in the Marine Corps, a C-130 pilot. And part of that training as an aviator, we were sent to a school called SERE school—Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape. It's a school conducted by various Department of Defense entities to help train aviators for how to conduct themselves if they're ever taken into captivity by the enemy. Basically, it's—the course is based upon lessons learned of the treatment of aviators in the war in Vietnam and also the treatment of our own POWs that suffered in Korea. And so, what I saw occurring on that day in October of 2003 was right out of the SERE school playbook. It was precisely the same treatment that I had received there.

And so, having had that experience, my immediate concern was, if this is how the evidence is being collected in some of our cases, it's going to be inadmissible, because it's going to be at least coercive and at worst torture that precipitates that information. And so, there—at that time, I was still becoming acquainted with the military commissions process that had been set up. The rules and standards of admissibility of evidence were significantly different than I was accustomed to, both in civilian prosecutions as well as military courts-martial. And so, in my view, this incident sort of crystallized for me very quickly that there were going to be some problems with some of the evidence that we were to use.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, this, of course, was in 2003, before the Abu Ghraib photos were revealed to the world and where—before there was real discussion of possible mistreatment or torture of prisoners in U.S. custody. Could you talk about the—when you then began to get the case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi and what you found as you began to deal with that particular case?

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, by the—not long after I joined the office in August of 2003, the Slahi case was presented to me. And at that time, to our knowledge, he was one of the very few detainees held at Guantánamo Bay that had a 9/11 connection. As I was studying over the different statements that he had made, the intelligence reports that had come out of his interrogations, I could see a trend where he was uncooperative for a long period of time, but then, beginning in the later part of the summer of 2003, I saw where he began to give up significant information. And so, again, as a prosecutor, my view was past conduct and what evidence I had of past conduct and what was going to be his connection to 9/11, if any.

The vast majority—virtually all of the evidence I had against Slahi at that point were his own statements, as well as statements of another detainee. And so, to determine the veracity of that information, I had to find out, OK, why is he saying the things he's saying about his own conduct? And I actually plotted it out over a chart on a timeline, and I could see a definite point where he went from giving no information to giving a lot of information. And so, that was—after I saw what I saw in October of 2003, my concern was, if this—if these were the kinds of interrogation techniques that were being applied to Slahi to get his cooperation, then we might very well have a significant problem with the body of evidence that we were able to present as to his guilt.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you go into the details of some of his interrogations and what they reported?

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, at that time—at that time, I was not privy to what techniques were applied in his interrogations. All I had was the intelligence reports that came out that stated what he—what admissions he made. And I do want to make sure I'm clear on this, that none of the information that I'm going to talk about today is classified at this point; it's all been subject to a congressional inquiry and is a matter of congressional record.

I requested information to tell me, OK, give me the circumstances of the interrogations and interviews where Slahi was giving his information, again, in preparation for the day down the road that I would have to present this evidence in court, with the concern of basically credibility of the information. That information was not provided to me. I had a criminal investigator that was working on this case, and as we began to discuss these matters, he had the same concerns that we might have a problem with the evidence. And I would note he's—he was also a former marine, as well, so we had a lot of commonality on how we viewed the world. This criminal investigator had unofficial sources of information on the intelligence side. There was kind of this dividing line between the law enforcement efforts at Guantánamo and the intelligence efforts at Guantánamo. My investigator had sources of information on the intelligence side, and he was able to start receiving documents and information that painted, for lack of a better term, the rest of the story—in other words, why—you know, what was the nature of these interrogations. And that information was coming out piecemeal.

And so, over the subsequent eight or nine months, it became clear that this information—that what had been done to Slahi amounted to torture. Specifically, he had been subjected to a mock execution. He had sensory deprivation. He had environmental manipulation; that is, you know, cell is too cold, or the cell is too hot. He, at one point, was taken off of the island and driven around in a boat to make him believe that he was being transferred to a foreign country for interrogation. He was presented with a ruse that the United States had taken custody of his mother and his brother and that they were being brought to Guantánamo. It was on a letter with fake letterhead from the State Department, I believe it was. And in the letter, there was a discussion that his mother would be the only female detainee held at Guantánamo and concerns for her safety.

So, any one of these individual things, I don't believe, as a legal matter, rose to the level of torture, until I got evidence of an email between one of the officers responsible for the—for the guards that were guarding Slahi and a military psychologist. And there was this discussion over this email about the fact that Slahi was experiencing hallucinations. And then—and the psychologist, as she was giving her opinion as to this concern raised, it was clear to me that she was aware that the circumstances of Slahi's detention had been set up to such a point where he would experience these types of mental breakdown.

And at that point, I had done some research. We had another lawyer in the office, another prosecutor, who was very experienced in international law, and I had discussed the issue with him. And under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment—it's a treaty that was ratified by the United States in 1996—under that treaty, there is a definition of torture. And under that definition of torture, it includes mental suffering. And so, as I put it all together, what I saw was the fact that Slahi ultimately began to give information after all of these different interrogation techniques had been applied to him. I came to the conclusion we had knowingly set him up for mental suffering in order for him to provide information—

AMY GOODMAN: He was also sexually humiliated.

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: —and that that met the definition under the U.N. Torture Convention.

AMY GOODMAN: Is that right? He was also sexually humiliated.

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: He was. The evidence I saw was—apparently, he had a—he had an issue about the fact that he had been unable to impregnate his wife. And the interrogators at some point learned that and then began to capitalize on that with various issues related to sexuality. There was like a room set up with photographs of male and female genitalia on the walls, a baby crib, just some kind of, you know, just bizarre types of efforts related to his sexual hang-up, if you will.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break and then come back to this discussion, and we'll be joined, as well as Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch, retired U.S. Marine Corps prosecutor, by the author of the book called Terror Courts, Jess Bravin of The Wall Street Journal. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.

[break]

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Lieutenant Colonel Couch, if you could, talk to us about your decision to tell your superiors that you did not feel you could prosecute this case because of the issues of possible torture.

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, Juan, it was—again, it was sort of an incremental thing. I was receiving this information from a criminal investigator that he was gleaning through these unofficial sources. And after studying the U.N. Torture Convention, I found that there was a provision under Article 15 of the U.N. Torture Convention that said any evidence derived as a result of torture was inadmissible in any proceeding. And so, you know, I was trying to figure out, OK, what is "any proceeding"? And as I could tell from the source material behind the U.N. Torture Convention, I came to the legal conclusion that that included a military commission, as we were conducting them at that time under the president's military order of November of 2001.

I then turned to the ethical concern about what information did I need to be able to turn over to a defense counsel for Slahi in the future. And I would note, at that time, Slahi did not have a defense counsel, because we had not gone through the formal process of bringing a charge against him. So, I reviewed the pertinent ethical obligations. Under the discovery provisions of the president's military order at that time, it was evidence of his guilt known to the prosecution. And another provision was that the detainees would have a full and fair trial. And so, it was a very broad, broad construct, if you will, for discovery. As I looked at the ethical obligations that we have in the United States under the ABA Model Rules, and specifically under the rules of professional conduct of my bar, the state of North Carolina, I concluded that if I was in possession of information that, if given to his defense counsel, would allow his defense counsel to utilize those protections under Article 15 of the U.N. Torture Convention, I had that obligation to turn over to that defense counsel what I knew. And that was, again, prospective.

I was wrestling with these—with this legal issue and with this ethical issue. And then, ultimately, you know, one Sunday when I was in church, it all kind of came together. I describe myself as an evangelical Christian. I was attending a church service in the Anglican tradition, and it was a baptism of a child. And anybody who's ever been to one of these services knows that at the end of the baptism all of the congregants in the church stand up, and the pastor goes back and forth with basically the tenets of the Christian faith. And one of those tenets was that we would respect the dignity of every human being. And it was at that time, when I was professing that on Sunday, begged the question to me, if this is what you believe as a Christian, then how does that inform how you're going to act the other six days of the week? And that really, for me, was the moral point that I came to of what I had to do next.

And what I did next was I went and met with the chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions. I told him my legal opinion. I told him my ethical opinion. And then I stated in—you know, I have a moral reservation at this point that what's been done to Slahi is just reprehensible, and for that reason alone, I'm going to refuse to participate in the prosecution of his case. Shortly, within a couple of days, I reduced that—those positions into writing. I provided them to the chief prosecutor. And then, after a few days, I was told to transfer that case to someone else and for me to get busy on my other cases.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in that memorandum, you not only raised the question, you said that, quote, "If these techniques are deemed to be 'torture' under the [Geneva] Convention, then they would also constitute criminal violations of the War Crimes Act." And you went on to say, "As a practical matter, I am morally opposed to the interrogation techniques employed with this detainee and for that reason alone, refuse to participate in his prosecution in any manner." Now that must have been a bomb for you to put that into a memorandum to your supervisors in resigning from the case. What was the reaction?

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, he wasn't happy about it. And—

AMY GOODMAN: And his name was?

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: —in our—that was Colonel Bob Swann. He was not happy about it. I felt like putting it into a memorandum was what I had to do to allow him to make an informed decision about the reservations that I had. My hope was that that memorandum would be shared with higher authorities over in the Department of Defense; you know, even if he didn't agree with my legal reasoning or my ethics opinion or my moral reservations, for that matter, at least to present to someone, "Hey, this is a potential issue that could be raised, and we need to be able to address that." And to my knowledge, that memorandum was never shared outside of the office.

AMY GOODMAN: So the defense never saw it, either.

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, at this point, Slahi has never been charged in a military commission. He does have of counsel who represents him for a habeas corpus petition that he has brought in federal court, but where that memorandum went after that point, I don't know.

Water Torture, as American as Apple Pie

What does it mean when torture, already the definition of “cruel,” becomes usual?

February 24, 2013  |  

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Try to remain calm -- even as you begin to feel your chest tighten and your heart race.  Try not to panic as water starts flowing into your nose and mouth, while you attempt to constrict your throat and slow your breathing and keep some air in your lungs and fight that growing feeling of suffocation.  Try not to think about dying, because there’s nothing you can do about it, because you’re tied down, because someone is pouring that water over your face, forcing it into you, drowning you slowly and deliberately.  You’re helpless.  You’re in  agony

In short, you’re a victim of “water torture.” Or the “water cure.”  Or the “water rag.”  Or the “water treatment.” Or “ tormenta de toca.”  Or  any of the other  nicknames given to the particular form of  brutality that today goes by the relatively innocuous term “waterboarding.” 

The practice only became  widely known in the United States after it was disclosed that the CIA had been subjecting suspected terrorists to it in the wake of 9/11.  More recently, cinematic  depictions of waterboarding in the award-winning film  Zero Dark Thirty and questions about it at the Senate confirmation hearing for incoming CIA chief John Brennan have sparked debate.  Water torture, however, has a surprisingly long history, dating back to at least the  fourteenth century.  It has been a U.S. military staple since the beginning of the twentieth century, when it was employed by Americans fighting an independence movement in the  Philippines.  American troops would continue to use the brutal tactic in the decades to come -- and during the country’s repeated wars in Asia, they would be victims of it, too. 

Water Torture in Vietnam

For more than a decade, I’ve investigated atrocities committed during the Vietnam War.  In that time, I’ve come to know people who employed water torture and people who were brutalized by it.  Americans and their South Vietnamese allies regularly used it on enemy prisoners and civilian detainees in an effort to gain intelligence or simply punish them.  A picture of the practice even landed on the  front page of the  Washington Post on January 21, 1968, but mostly it went on in secret.

Long-hidden military documents help to fill in the picture.  "I held the suspect down, placed a cloth over his face, and then poured water over the cloth, thus forcing water into his mouth,” Staff Sergeant David Carmon  explained in testimony to Army criminal investigators in December 1970.  According to their synopsis, he admitted to using both electrical torture and water torture in interrogating a detainee who  died not long after.

According to summaries of eyewitness statements by members of Carmon’s unit, the prisoner, identified as Nguyen Cong, had been "beat and kicked," lost consciousness, and suffered convulsions.  A doctor who examined Nguyen, however, claimed there was nothing wrong with him.  Carmon and another member of his military intelligence team then "slapped the Vietnamese and poured water on his face from a five-gallon can," according to a summary of his testimony.  An official report from May 1971 states that Nguyen Cong passed out "and was carried to the confinement cage where he was later found dead.”

Years later, Carmon told me by email that the abuse of prisoners in Vietnam was extensive and encouraged by superiors.  "Nothing was sanctioned," he wrote, "but nothing was off-limits short of seriously injuring a prisoner."

It turns out that Vietnamese prisoners weren’t the only ones subjected to water torture in Vietnam.  U.S. military personnel serving there were victims, too.  Documents I came across in the U.S. National Archives offer a glimpse of a horrifying history that few Americans know anything about.

When “War is Peace”: “Peace Prizes” Awarded to War Criminals

war

French President François Hollande was awarded UNESCO’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize for “valuable contribution to peace and stability in Africa” according to the United Nations website: www.un.org.  Former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, chaired the Jury of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize stated that “After analyzing the global situation, it is Africa that held the attention of the Jury with the various threats affecting the continent” with instability affecting Northern Mali by various Al-Qaeda elements created by the west, gave France an opportunity to invade the former colony. “Having assessed the dangers and the repercussions of the situation on French President Francois HollandeAfrica, and on Mali in particular, as well as on the rest of the world, the Jury appreciated the solidarity shown by France to the peoples of Africa.”  Does appreciating “the solidarity” shown by France mean killing hundreds of Malian people since the invasion?  France has killed many civilians that includes children.  The human rights organization Amnesty International has accused French forces of killing civilians since there was “evidence that at least five civilians, including three children, were killed in an airstrike.”  UNESCO’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize is similar to the Nobel Peace Prize whose past winners were known for war crimes.

Henry Kissinger

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the notorious war criminal responsible for an estimated 3 to 4 million deaths during the Vietnam War including the bombing of Cambodia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.  He was responsible for the overthrow of President Salvador Allende of Chile and installed Fascist General Augusto Pinochet which created a “Police State” among the Chilean population.  Kissinger also was instrumental in giving support to one of the worst dictatorships in human history, the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot.  Henry Kissinger committed many other crimes including genocide under both Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford as an “advisor” under the NSA (National Security Agency) and as Secretary of State.  President Barack Obama was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize although he was in office less than a year.  Obama has expanded Drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen, opened several US military bases in Colombia and one in Chile, he ordered a war in Libya without congressional approval, maintained a military presence in Iraq and escalated the war in Afghanistan.  Obama’s record of peace on the international level is questionable.  Obama said that he was “Surprised” and “deeply humbled” after he received the award.  He said the Nobel Peace Prize is a “Call to Action”, meaning more war.  It is fair to say that the US government has been involved in many “actions” across the world, whether militarily or economically that has done more harm than good.

US President Jimmy Carter

The Nobel Peace Prize has also awarded three Israeli Prime ministers that have systematically committed numerous crimes against Palestinians that includes Menachem Begin in 1978, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres in 1994. UNESCO’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize also awarded Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres in 1993 along with Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) during the Oslo I Accord as an attempt by both sides to set up a roadmap to a resolution to end the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.  The Oslo Accords actually failed since Israel never ended its occupation and continued to build “Israeli Settlements.”

The Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize in 1994 and the Nobel Prize in 2002 were both awarded to former US President Jimmy Carter.  Carter supported the dictatorship of the Shah of Iran and The Somoza dictatorship of Nicaragua.  He also supported Indonesia’s Suharto militarily and diplomatically during the invasion and occupation of East Timor.  Under President Carter, US Military Aid to Suharto’s Military increased under Carter causing the deaths of over 200, 000 East Timorese.  UNESCO’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize are in fact an insult to “World Peace”.  UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the Nobel Peace Prize have both proved that “Western political influence” dominate both prizes.

Both awards for “Peace” are just a propaganda tool for Western Powers to wage war to establish peace.  The war on Mali will expand under Hollande since his new peace award would allow him and other key players such as AFRICOM to wage war to establish peace.  George Orwell was correct when he wrote in his classic book “1984” that “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength.”  Mali will see more war because peace is on the agenda, right?

About the author:

Timothy Alexander Guzman is an independent researcher and writer with a focus on political, economic, media and historical spheres. He has been published in Global Research, The Progressive Mind, European Union Examiner, News Beacon Ireland, WhatReallyHappened.com, EIN News and a number of other alternative news sites. He is a graduate of Hunter College in New York City.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article. The Center of Research on Globalization grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author's copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: publications@globalresearch.ca

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America’s Spiritual Death: It’s Time to Learn the Dark History of the U.S....

Stone's TV series, "Untold History of the United States," digs deep into American atrocities the mainstream media doesn't spend much time on.

February 21, 2013  |  

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“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”  --Martin Luther King Jr. “Beyond Vietnam” speech, April 4, 1967

I recently watched all 10 episodes of Oliver Stone's . I strongly recommend it to everyone, but particularly to America's young people who have been robbed of a most precious legacy: an understanding of their true history, and thus their future. I can't think of a more meaningful gift to young people for, as Stone says, “history must be remembered or it will be remembered until the meanings are clear." The same U.S. Executive Branch mentality that produced Vietnam is today illegally and inhumanly murdering and weakening U.S. national security interests throughout the Muslim world, and threatening its own citizens as never before. It has never been more urgent to learn from America’s real history.

I am not ashamed to say this series moved me to tears. First, by its depiction of the millions of lives the U.S. Executive Branch has ruined all over the world. This includes over 21 million -- officially estimated -- killed, wounded and made homeless in Indochina and Iraq alone, bring back the most painful memories of my life: my interviews with over 1,000 Lao refugees who reported seeing beloved parents, spouses and children burned alive, buried alive, and shredded to pieces by years of secret, illegal and inhuman U.S. Executive Branch bombing. [Showtime has made available some of the episodes free to watch over the internet.]

Second, I was touched by the awful beauty of simply seeing the truth told so clearly and vividly. The combination of the information, the imagery and Stone’s narration touched levels far deeper than the mind.

I was most moved by Episode 7, on the war in Indochina, whose closing words below constitute not only an epitaph for the Vietnam War, but for America itself. I thought of Martin Luther King Jr.'s warning as I watched this segment, which chronicles how U.S. leaders waged aggressive war, killing over 3.4 million Vietnamese according to former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and hundreds of thousands more Laotians and Cambodians. The U.S. has never apologized for doing so, let alone cleaned up its tens of millions of unexploded bombs and environmental poisons which continue to kill, wound and deform tens of thousands of innocent civilians. The U.S. has never even contemplated paying the reparations it still owes the Indochinese.

I watched this episode after reading Nick Turse’s monumental new book,  Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, which documents the systematic “industrial-scale” slaughter of Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops, ordered by top U.S. military officers.

I cannot say that I am surprised that America's political leaders, media and public intellectuals continue to ignore the U.S. Executive's ongoing inhumanity and murder of the innocent -- particularly through its global and spreading drone and ground assassination programs and increasing reliance on the automated warmaking I first saw in Laos 40 years ago. America’s elites are as indifferent to the “mere Muslim Rule” today as they were to the “mere Gook Rule” in Vietnam that Turse so painstakingly documents.

But I am astonished that even those who justify U.S. leaders' actions on the grounds of national security have failed to notice the obvious fact that U.S. warmaking in the 1.8 billion-strong Muslim world is jeopardizing U.S. national security as never before. Just as U.S. backing of the Shah of Iran created a U.S. foreign policy disaster in 1978, the continuation of such policies today will guarantee many more Irans in the future.

The Moral Decoding of 9-11: Beyond the U.S. Criminal State, The Grand Plan for...

911

We are bring to the consideration of our readers this incisive and carefully formulated analysis by Canada’s renowned philosopher Professor John McMurtry. 

The complete text published by the Journal of 9/11 Studies can be downloaded in pdf

*          *          *

I was sceptical of the 9-11 event from the first time I saw it on television. It was on every major network within minutes. All the guilty partieswere declared before any evidencewas shown.The first questions of any criminal investigation were erased.  Who had the most compelling motives for the event? Who had the means to turn two central iconic buildings in New York into a pile of steel and a cloud of dust in seconds?[i]

Other questions soon arose in the aftermath. Why was all the evidence at the crime scenes removed or confiscated?

Who was behind the continuous false information and non-stop repetition of “foreign/Arab terrorists”when no proof of guilt existed? Who was blocking all independent inquiry?

Even 11 years on these questions are still not answered.

But those immediately named guilty without any forensic proof certainly fitted the need for a plausible Enemy now that the “threat of the Soviet Union” and “communist world rule” were dead.  How else could the billion-dollar-a-day military be justified with no peace dividend amidst a corporately hollowed-out U.S. economy entering its long-term slide?While all the media and most of the people asserted the official 9-11 conspiracy theory as given fact, not all did.

A Bay Street broker with whom I was improbably discussing the event in Cuba had no problem recognising the value meaning. When I asked what he thought about the official conspiracy theory, he was frank:

“You can call it what you want, but America needs a war to pull the people together and expand into new resource rich areas. That what it has always done from Mexico on. And that is what it needs now”.  When I wondered why none in the know said so, he smirked: “It would be impolite”, adding, “It affects the entire future prosperity of America and the West”. And all the deaths? “It had to be done –far less than it could have been”. The 19 Arabs with box-cutters reducing the World Trade Center buildings to powder in a few seconds?He shrugged.

Thus everyone since 9-11 is prohibited nail-clippers on planes to confirm the absurd – including 15 of the 19alleged hijackers being from Saudi Arabia and several apparently still alive after crashing the planes into the buildings.[ii]As for the diabolical mastermind Osama bin Laden, he is never linked by credible evidence to the crime and never claims responsibility for the strike since the videos of him are fakes. “Ground Zero” is a double entendre. All doubts are erased apriori.

Decoding the U.S. Theater of Wars and the Moral Driver Behind

One already knew that suspension of belief is the first act of fiction, and that instant culture rules the U.S. One already knew that monster technical events are America’s stock in trade. And one already knew the long history of false U.S. pretexts for war – so well established that a young strategic thinker a decade after 9-11 advises the right-wing Washington Policy Institute on how to create a crisis by deadly planned incident to make war on Iran – “it is the traditional way of getting into war for what is best in America’s interests”.[iii]

One further knew from past research that the U.S.’s strategic leadership since 1945 had been Nazi-based in information and connections and the dominant Central-European figures articulating it ever after across Democrat and Republican lineshave a common cause. For over 40 years, Henry Kissinger as Republican and Zbigniew Brzezinski as Democrat have been protégés of David Rockefeller, selected as Trilateral Commission and Bilderberg Group leaders, and capable of any mass-homicidal plan to advance “U.S. interests”. The banker-and-oil imperial line through David Rockefeller as paradigm case goes back to the Nazi period to John Foster Dulles (an in-law) and his brother Allen Dulles (OSS and then CIA Director), who Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg called “traitors” for their support of the Nazi regime.  The Rockefeller Foundation funded and developed German eugenics programs in the pre-war years, Standard Oil supplied oil in collaboration with I.G. Farben, and so on.[iv]

The supreme moral goal and strategic methods governing U.S. covert-state performance have not only have been very similar in moral principle, but have deeply connected Rockefeller protégés Kissinger and Brzezinski, and more deeply still the theoretical godfather of U.S. covert state policy, Leo Strauss, who was funded out of Germany by David Rockefeller from the start.

The inner logic of covert and not-so-covert U.S. corporate world rule since 1945unified under Wall Street financial management and transnational corporate treaties for unhindered control of commodities and money capital flows across all borders is undeniable if seldom tracked. This architecture of the grand plan for a New World Order is evident in both strategic policy and global political and armed action over decades that have seen the objectives increasingly fulfilled with constructed deadly crises as pretexts for war the standard technique.[v]Behind them as first post-Nazi historical turn lies the 1947 National Security Act (NSA) which created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)and explicitly licensesdestruction of life, truth and other societies as institutional methods.

The CIA is charged with designing, planning and executing “propaganda, economic war, direct preventive action, sabotage, anti-sabotage, destruction, subversion against hostile States, assistance to clandestine liberation movements, guerrilla murders, assistance to indigenous groups opposed to the enemy countries of the free world”. The linkage back to Nazi methods and world-rule goal as the highest moral objective is not just one of corresponding ultimate principles and strategic policy formation. It relied on Nazi SS intelligence sources and means from the beginning of the covert terror state.[vi]

There is no heinous means that is not assumed as the highest morality by this long-standing covert institutional formation linking to the presidential office.It is an explicitly secret system involving at least the Defense Department and the CIA, the former with many more operatives and offices.

The Special Activities Division (SAD) to carry out NSA criminal operations, for example, also confers the highest honors awarded in recognition of distinguished valor and excellence – as did the earlier SS prototype in Germany. What people find difficult to recognise is that these actions, whether by the SAD or other system operations,are conceived as the highest duty, however life-system destructive and mass murderous they are. All participants are super patriots in their own view, as were the Nazis. Contradiction between declared and actual values, however, is a central mode of the covert system. For example, what can be considered a high duty in the perpetual U.S.“war on drugs”, the most morally obligatory commitment of the U.S. state,is at the same time a war against and with other drug operations to transport illegal hard drugs into the U.S. itself.[vii]

We might see here a parallel between foreign mass murder and domestic mass murder in 9-11, with both regarded as high patriotism in this supreme morality. In the background of America’s Reichstag Fire and likewise disclosing the unlimited geo-strategic action that can be operationalized as necessary and good, the post-1945 U.S. control of international sea-lanes made the covert U.S. state the world’s dominant narcotics controller so as to fund secret criminal war actions from South-East Asia to Latin America, entailing the addiction of its own peoples.[viii]This woeful method has been long known by experts, but came to be public knowledge in the Reagan-state funding of the death-squad Contras of Nicaragua as “the moral equal of our Founding Fathers” (a tribute he is said to have given later to the drug-running warlords and jihadists of Afghanistan).

These moral contradictions seem insane, but this is so only if one does not comprehend the underlying supreme morality of which they are all expressions.

Even U.S.-sponsored death squads torturing and killing tens of thousands of poor people across Latin America before 2000 and their return as direct covert U.S.-state method from Iraq to Syria after 9-11 – called “the Salvador option”[ix] – is regarded as necessary and obligatory to “defend the Free World and our way of life”. They entail ever more total U.S. world rule and self-maximizing position by strategic deduction from the supreme morality’s first premises.

The covert nature of the mass-murderous operationalization is never from moral embarrassment. It is solely to ensure effectiveness of execution against “soft” and “uninformed” public opinion, to terrorize people in situ from continued resistance, and to annihilate its leadership and community agency all the way down. Throughout the deciding moments of execution of the underlying supreme value program, global corporate money demand multiplication is always the ultimate value driver -as may be tested by seeking any covert U.S. action or overt war which is not so regulated beneath saturating propaganda of lawful intentions of peace and freedom.

These lines of underlying moral institution, policy, strategic plan, and massive life destruction at every level are indisputable facts of the covert and official faces of the U.S. state, but are typically not connected to the September 11, 2001 attack. Since most people cannot believe their own government or the “leader of the free world” could execute such a sabotage action as “9-11” in which thousands of American themselves died, these behavioral reminders forge the unifying meaning.

Worse still occurred in the last “war”before 9-11. In the background providing graphic example of how the covert U.S. state apparatus is structured to attack and murder U.S. citizens themselves to strategically maximize implementation of its supreme value program of transnational corporate money sequences over all barriers, there is the now known Operation Northwoods. Very familiar to the 9-11 truth movement, but unpublicized since its release under freedom of information laws, this Department of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff plan proposed that the CIA and other operatives covert operatives “undertake a range of atrocities” to be blamed on Cuba to provide pretext for invasion.

“Innocent civilians were to be shot on American streets; boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba were to be sunk on the high seas; a wave of violent terrorism was to be launched in Washington DC, Miami and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did commit; planes would be hijacked”.[x]

All would be blamed on Castro the Communist in place of bin Laden the Islamicist, and invasion of desired resistant territory would be achieved as a triumph of American freedom and interests over its enemies.

 Operation Northwoods was not, however, okayed by President Kennedy – perhaps another reason for his assassination and replacement by more pliant presidents to represent “America’s interests” in accord with the supreme morality. Underneath the stolen election of George Bush Jr.in contrast – whose family made its money, in part, by serving the covert financial requirements of the Nazi regime before and during the 1939-45 War – was a domestic and foreign administration which would push further than any in the past to advance “U.S. interests”to full-spectrum world rule. Its project included reversing the Roosevelt New Deal and the social state within the U.S. itself – “an anomaly” as Bush Jr. expressed the historical perspective and ethic at work.

This plan was more explicit in the published Project for the New American Century formed from 1997 on. It even supplied the need for a 9-11 event in its 2000 version, the year that Bush Jr. was elected and the year before 9-11. To indicate the “non-partisan” nature of the planning, Democrat National security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski had already hinted at the usefulness of a 9-11-style domestic attack to move policy forward in his 1998 book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives.[xi]

The Moral Compass of 9-11

As a moral philosopher with social value systems as my primary object of analysis, my first thoughts in understanding “9-11” were of the system motives,known methods, and objective interests driving the event which could coherently explain it.Whatever the immediate hold of the official conspiracy theory on the public mind,a rational explanation is required which is consistent with the suppressed facts and the organising geo-strategic plan on both sides of the event.

For over a decade before 9-11, there were three U.S.-propelled global trends that almost never come into the understanding of 9-11 itself. 9-11 truth seekers themselves have focused on the foreground technics and the transparent motive for oil. But these are undergirded by deeper sea-shifts of geopolitical and economic wars of seizure and destruction by other name against which the world’s people were rising. To compel books of analysis into one unifying frame, transnational corporate-rights treaties from NAFTA to the Maastracht Treaty to the WTO overrode all other rights across borders;the private “financialization”stripping of social sectors and welfare states had advanced across the world; and the totalizing movement of the system across all former “cold war” and cultural borders was “the new world order” in formation. Together these vast shifts towards transnational money-sequence rule of all reversed centuries of democratic evolution. And every step of the supreme value program was life blind at every step of its global operationalization.[xii]

Yet states and cultures were so sweepingly re-set into unaccountable transnational corporate and bank rule that few recognised the absolutist value program being imposed on the world.  Fewer still recognised all was unfolding according to plan.

What has been least appreciated about the long-term strategic plan unfolding on both sides of what was immediately called “9-11” – CallEmergency!–is that supreme banker and global money director David Rockefeller had summarized “the plan” to fellow money-party elites across borders at the Bildersberg meeting in Baden Baden Germany in June 1991 -exactly at the same time that the Soviet Union and its resistant barriers fell.[xiii] Bear in mind that Rockefeller among other initiatives appointed both Kissinger and Brzezinski for the lead in both the supranational Bilderberg and Trilateral strategic bodies of which he was the lead patron, not to mention financed the unemployed academic Leo Strauss out of Germany to be the godfather  “philosopher” of the “new world order”. Rockefeller speaks very precisely to his fellow “elite of the elite” of the Western world where only Americans and Europe are invited and reportage excluded:

“A supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries”, Rockefeller said.[xiv]

Observe the foundational new concepts in place of responsible government and democratic accountability. They are now consigned to “past centuries”. A “supranational sovereignty”has replaced them and is morally“preferable”. Rockefeller is not exaggerating. By 1991 a “supranational sovereignty” had already developed in the form of transnational treaties conferring override rights of “profit opportunity” on transnational corporations and private bank rule of government finances across borders – procedurally trumping any elected legislatures and their laws which are inconsistent with their thousands of treaty articles, even when the system eventually leads to world depression as now.[xv] The source of the legitimacy of governments, ultimate sovereignty, has now passed as preferable to “an intellectual elite and bankers”: more exactly, academic strategy servants and transnational money sequences overriding all human and planetary life requirements a-priori by the supreme moral goal.

Ask which function of the world’s people and means of life is not now in debt to Wall Street and the private global banking system it leads. Ask which means of life from food and water to autos and pension cheques is not thus ultimately controlled, or which commodity is not under oligopolist corporate sway. The “surely preferable” objective was already achieved by 1991 or in advanced global institutional motion. Now supreme over all else so that all else is now accountable to it, and it is not accountable to anything above it, “the plan”seemed all but accomplished by Rockefeller’s own considered words.

But what if people resist the new world rule with no life coordinate or constraint at any level of its execution? We may recall that during the death-squad rule of the Argentina generals at this time in which civilians were murdered and tortured in the thousands, National Security Adviser Kissinger congratulated the junta on their “very good results – - The quicker you succeed the better.”Kissinger also heartily approved of the earlier massacres and torture in Chile.

The resistance was in this way pre-empted long before the Soviet Union fell, and after 1990 had no block in the Middle East and Central Asia either. “The plan” has been very long term. Kissinger the geo-executer was originally appointed to high office by Rockefeller (to lead the Council on Foreign Relations back in 1954), and – to give a sense of the long-range trajectory of the plan design –was,incredibly,the U.S. administration’s first choice for an “independent 9-11 Commission”. The obviously not-independent Kissinger was still not a problem for “the free press” and official discourse. But when he was required to disclose his business connections, he withdrew to stay covert in his ongoing backroom capacities and enrichment.

The 9-11 sacrifice is better understood within the deep-structural context of the unfolding plan. Thus David Rockefeller gave special thanks to media like “the New York Times, Washington Post, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion” in co-operating with the plan. Rockefeller was again precise:

This plan for the world would have been impossible for us to develop if we had been subjected to the light of publicity during those years. [xvi]

The plan’s next decisive steps were in fact already in motion as Rockefeller expressed gratitude for the media black-out. A new strategic manifesto from the Pentagon was in preparation entitled “Defense Planning Guidance on Post-Cold- War Strategy,” completed on February 18, 1992.[xvii]Prepared under the supervision of Paul Wolfowitz, then the Pentagon’s Undersecretary for Policy, it was disclosed in March of 1992 by the New York Times.After the first invasion of Iraq, it became known as the Project for the New American Century, publicly released from 1997 to 2000 prior to 9-11.

Again we may note the long arc of planning control, crisis and war as required. Item 6 of the strategic plan defined the agenda in general terms: “In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant power in the region and preserve U.S. and western access to the region’s oil.”

Oil-rich Iraq had in fact been invaded – not only to privatize its peerlessly high-quality surface oilfields but to destroy its region-leading socialist infrastructure.Iraq became accessible for invasion as the arms-bankrupted Soviet Union was in collapse. We may observe that the covertly genocidal destruction of Iraq bridged Republican and Democrat administrations over three changes of government – disclosing how the covert state operates as a moral constant across party fronts.

The actions confirm and express the one supreme moral goal identified above. They bridge from Saddam himself as CIA-payroll killer and war proxy against Iran to recapture lost Iran oilfields dating from 1980 to 1988 to the fall of the USSR in 1991 as the axis of the long-term strategic plan of global turnaround to “America’s century” still to come before and after 9-11.But between 1990 and 2003 Saddam was transmuted from former ally to aggressor against Kuwait in an invasion given an official green light from the U.S. government, to “mushroom cloud”threat with invented “weapons of mass destruction”.

In fact, National Security Adviser Wolfowitz explained after the invasion found nothing of the kind: “[We had] virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil.”

Observe how the invasion is conceived as obligatory for a reason that expresses the supreme value goal. Observe that it occurs less than two years after 9-11, which gave the open-cheque justification for the bombing and occupation which allowed the expropriation of Iraq’s society’s oil resources.

The problem was not the evil Saddam or the “weapons of mass destruction”, the standard reverse projection.[xviii]The problem was the Iraqi people themselves and their developed oil-funded social life infrastructure between the supreme oil-fields and their U.S. corporate control and privatization. 9-11 was,thus, first the justification for invading Afghanistan – to clear the way for pipelines into the former Soviet republics from the Caspian Sea region– pipelines that prompted the U.S. representative to predictively warn the Taliban:“Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.”[xix]9-11 was then the necessary basis of justification for the bombing of Baghdad for the unifying supreme objective.

In fact,seldom published in the corporate media keeping the glare of publicity away from the supreme moral objective, the publicly owned and managed oil revenues of Iraq had been invested since the 1950’s in Iraq’s advanced social infrastructure, leading the Middle East with free higher education, high health standards, and near universal livelihood security. The world’s oldest civilisation was robust in organisational capacities long before the CIA-asset Saddam was installed.

Despite his murdering his way to the top in this function, even Saddam could not destroy the system because socialist government had been achieved decades earlier by a powerful oil-workers’ union base and a population glad to have all education free, an efficient low-cost foods delivery system, and the most advanced public healthcare system in the Middle East. So there was not only the “sea of oil” as a motive to assert U.S. control in the new “supranational sovereignty” of the world. Just as important in this ultimate moral cause, what the U.S. covert state always seeks to destroy by any means, isa successful social infrastructure without private big oil, bankers and transnational corporations free to control it towards higher profit opportunities.

Unravelling the Supreme Moral Doctrine behind the U.S. Covert State

The genocide of Iraq, as the long-opposing “evil empire” was in free-fall, is the most important strategic anchoring prior to “9-11”. Covert strategic policy to forward the supreme goal is by now self-evident, but the inner moral logic is assumed not penetrated.  The most influential of Rockefeller’s protégés in this regard is the “philosopher king” of the U.S. covert state, Leo Strauss. While he never worked in a philosophy department or has any training in logic, his concept of “natural right” fits exactly to the “supranational sovereignty” of private money-sequence rule of the world – what “the intellectual elite” Rockefeller refers to invoke as “moral anchor”, “right” and “justice”.

The moral thought system is not unlike that of Mein Kampf without the racist rant, camouflaged everywhere in practice by the method of big lies – “noble lies” as Strauss exalts them.[xx] The innermost value driver is a perpetual war of dispossession of the weaker for the private transnational money-capital multiplication of the rich.

Nothing in this doctrine is too mendacious, greed-crazed and murderous if it fulfills the plan of this limitless private-capital rule as ultimate moral ground and compass. In Strauss’s canonical teaching of U.S. national security advisers and intellectual following, the ruling moral absolute is expressed by the core master idea behind the “supranational sovereignty” of an “intellectual elite and bankers”:

“limitless capital accumulation – — the highest right and moral duty”.[xxi]

This is the ethical absolute of the covert U.S. state and its strategic decision structure. And there is no internal limit within this moral universe to life means seizure from poorer societies and resource looting for the supreme goal.  It is the natural and absolute Good.

To justify its meaning, the Straussian canon adopts a potted reading of Western moral and political philosophy from Plato through Hobbes, Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx and Weber. This impresses American political operatives of the faith, but Strauss is a failed philosopher turned down by Paul Tillich for his post-doctoral Habilitation and only saved from academic ruin in Germany by Rockefeller grant money. While not taken seriously as philosophy anywhere else, it is worth decoding its talmudic involution for the borrowed ideas that drive its covert state disciples and neo-fascist public “intellectuals” in America.

The ultimately organising idea is to commend all forms of conquering and limitlessly expanding private capital as “natural right and law” with genocidal subjugations justified in glowing moral terms. For example, “noble lies” is the moral category for limitless mendacity. One may wonder how educated people can be so bent out of moral shape. So I now concisely provide what cannot be found elsewhere: the inner logic of the supreme doctrine as perversions of great thinkers.

Its framework of meaning and value helps us to understand why the 9-11 event could easily follow for the managers of the covert U.S. state and its Straussian planners as not at all anomalous or evil within their moral logic. 9-11 follows as a maximally rational and unique tool to achieve the objectives in fact achieved by 9-11, and the geo-strategic cabal behind it is servilely linked from the beginning to the dominant private transnational corporate and banking interests exemplified by David Rockefeller.

To understand this brutal moral universe and its connection to 9-11, the 9-11 wars and a globalizing police state, we need to understand the deformations of its basic organising ideas. Plato’s idea of “the noble lie” means, in fact, a myth or parable to communicate an underlying truth about the triadic human soul of reason, spirit and appetite which, Plato argues, should be reflected in the construction of the ideal state (in which the rulers are communist in their common property to keep them uncorrupted and true).

But through the prism of U.S. global money-party rule a la Strauss this idea becomes the principle of lying to the public to keep the vulgar herd – the people themselves – ignorant and obedient. The philosophies of Hobbes and Hegel are also grist for this mill. Hobbes argues that “man is moved by a restless desire for power after power that ceaseth only in death”, but this brute desire in the “State of Nature” is tamed by “the covenant of peace” ordered by the internal sovereign as absolute.

Via Strauss and the U.S. covert state this becomes right is might and the ultimate “natural right” is limitless private capital power and empire with no end of totalization across the peoples and lands of the world. Hegel too suits a fascist-capitalist reading since he argues “the State is the march of God  through the world”, and war itself is history’s test of which State is a higher realisation of “the absolute Idea”. But Hegel still envisaged a “universal state”to supersede the competitive private-property division of capitalism in the “universalization of right and law on earth”.

Once again U.S. private money-capital power with no bound, the supreme moral goal in the Rockefeller-Strauss doctrine, is opposite to the classical philosophy it invokes. Once more dialectical development of reason to more coherently inclusive conception and life is reversed into one-way private money capital sequences maximized to rule the world with the U.S. military as its instrument of force and terror.

However it conceals its meaning, all positions come down to this underlying value code – as may be tested on whatever transnational money-sequence demand, right or war is launched next. 9-11 construction in such a moral world does not violate this value code. It expresses it in self-maximizing strategic turn to achieve the ultimate goal.

Friedrich Nietzsche may provide the best fodder for the doctrine when he advises that “life is essentially appropriation, injury, overpowering of what is alien and weaker, imposing of one’s own forms, and at its mildest exploitation” in his superman vision of “beyond good and evil”. For philosophical Nietzscheans, this is code for the inner meaning of the angst of artistic creation. But this meaning is predictably lost on the U.S. covert-state school seeking the “supranational sovereignty” of “limitless capital accumulation” as the supreme good with the “intellectual elite” as servants to it. Karl Marx’s link of capitalism’s success to productive force development is the ultimate equivocation upon which this ruling doctrine depends – making no distinction between productive capital providing life goods and unproductive money sequencing hollowing out the world by money-capital multiplication. Marx, it must be acknowledged, did not made the distinction himself since this mutation of capital came a century after his death.[xxii]

Finally Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism does not ground this doctrine of “limitless capital accumulation as the highest right and duty” with the state to serve it, as Strauss again torturously suggests. In fact, Weber deplores any such perversion of public authority. His capitalist model is a young Benjamin Franklin speaking of money saved and invested as like having “a breeding sow”, not a transnational money-sequence juggernaut of eco-genocidal expansion.  Revealingly, Benjamin Franklin and “the protestant ethic” in general were most concerned about non-waste, which Strauss explicitly excludes from the meaning of “limitless capital accumulation”. For Leo Strauss and his U.S. “national security” disciples, the capitalist may waste as much as he wants by “natural right”.

Further, in complete inversion of source, the greed worship of the U.S. state, its patrons and its academy disciples reverses the model of the “spirit of capitalism” exemplified by Benjamin Franklin in proprietary claim on knowledge and inventions. He,in fact,refused to patent his famous Franklin Stove because he believed that no innovation or new knowledge from which other people could benefit should be denied them – just as he himself had benefitted from the community of knowledge and science as the distinguishing feature of being a civilised human being.

In short, it is important to recognise how twisted the covertly ruling doctrine is. No element of it is life coherent or true to the classical thinkers in which it costumes itself. In the end, only the transnational U.S. money party has any place in its rights and obligations, and any sacrifice of other life to its supreme goal is legitimate – linking back to the Nazi-U.S. corporate axis that nearly destroyed the civilised world once before.[xxiii]

Money-Capital Power UeberAlles: How Economic Rationality Leads the Plan

The U.S. culture of money-sequence “rationality” is the underlying intellectual and moral disorder which leads to “limitless money capital accumulation” as the supreme moral goal. In formal terms, the equation of rationality to atomic self-maximization is assumed a-prioriacross domains. With globalizing Wall-Street-led “financialization”, this “rationality” becomes equated to private money-sequence multiplication across all borders as theultimate Good. This is the innermost mutation of value logic and goal, the moral DNA, from which the cancerous world system develops on both sides of 9-11.[xxiv]

This first principle itself is,in fact,built into formal economics, decision and game theory, and strategic science, as I explain step by step in “Behind Global System Collapse: The Life-Blind Structure of Economic Rationality.”[xxv] It is axiomatic but unexamined, life-blindly absolutist but not recognised as morally problematic. To make a long story short, competitive self-maximization in the market is assumed to produce “the best of possible worlds” by mathematical proof. “Pareto efficiency” is believed to demonstrate this by private money exchanges between self-maximizing atoms apriori stripped of all life properties, relations, society, conditions of choice, and all natural and civil life support systems. Pareto himself recognised outside this formula what has since been covered up.

Not only is the formula consistent with most having remaining impoverished by the “optimum” of “no-one worse off”, what none who cite “Pareto efficiency” as a standard academic mantra ever acknowledge or even recognise. Pareto himself is in no doubt of the implication. As the fascist party he belongs to rules Italy and Rockefeller creates the Council of Foreign Relations, he asserts with approval: “Very moral civilized peoplehave destroyed and continue to destroy, without the least scruple, savage or barbarian peoples”.[xxvi]We glimpse here at the roots the supreme morality built into “economic science” itself.

Yet, as demonstrated in “Behind Global System Collapse”, even the most liberal canons of America, including John Rawls’ classic A Theory of Justice, are grounded in the same meta principle.[xxvii] Rationality and value are equated to self-maximizing gain with no limit within game-theoretic interactions as the sole limiting framework of “limitless money capital acquisition”. The generic equation defines, indeed, the dominant intellectual and economic mind-set of America and the global system in action since 1980. The cabal internal to U.S. national security strategic planning follows the moral logic to its most radical conclusions with no constraints by life or law.

The one absolute moral meaning is the spread of U.S. economic, military and political power as good for all, or, more exactly in Straussian language, limitless private transnational money-capital expansion as the highest right and moral duty. Only what is consistent with or serves this supreme morality, it follows, deserves to exist. This is the alpha and omega of the covert doctrine and state, and careful reading can find no disconfirmation beneath the rhetoric of “noble lies”.

The Iraq Paradigm:  Genocide Strategy From 1990 On

The Iraq line of the geostrategic plan from 1990 to 2001 and after is a paradigmatic articulation of the covertly ruling moral logic. It launches into the theatre of war as direct war attack when U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, is instructed to green-light Saddam’s already known plan to invade Kuwait in 1990: “The US. has no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait”, she advises. To formalize the lie as official and traditional, she reports: “Secretary Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America”.[xxviii]

The dispute was, in fact, over Kuwait’s drawing out oil from reserves underlying Iraq as enabled by the colonial split of the oil-rich Kuwait province from Iraq – the classic divide-and-rule policy holding also in the division of oil-rich Kurdistan among four manufactured states. Saddam had good reason to trust the U.S., not only by the long-term official promise of neutrality but as blood-mix ally when he waged a U.S.-supported war of aggression against Iran – which still remains the target. Note the big lie to provoke the supreme crime of war has remained without any glare of publicity that might derail the plan.

When Saddam did exactly as planned by invading Kuwait, Bush Sr. raved about the Nazi-like aggression against a weaker country in the reverse projection that always defines the covert U.S. state before, through and after 9-11. So in the same name of “preventing aggression” U.S. “defense” forces invaded Iraq to destroy any life capacity it had to defend itself – always the strategy since the defeat in Vietnam. The genocide began by the massacre of many tens of thousands of fleeing soldiers. Recall the weeping young woman, the Kuwait ambassador’s daughter, planted next to baby incubators falsely claiming the monster Saddam had murdered the babies. This reverse projection was soon to be made real thousands of times over inside the victim society of Iraq.

Reverse projection of evil is the meta law of U.S. psy-ops propaganda in the deadly conflicts and wars it covertly starts. This is the supreme moral program in action as “noble lies”. In this case, the air-bombing after surrender continued from U.S. and “special ally” Britain as “sanctions of Iraq” to “prevent aggression” – again the reverse projection. In fact the bombs continually fell on the water and electricity infrastructures of the defenceless people and against all lines of repair to restore either – “the line in the sand against Iraq aggression”. We might bear in mind that Wolfowitz was Undersecretary of Defense under Secretary Cheney at this time, their positions not unlike those at the time of 9-11.

Air-bombing, as Bertrand Russell long ago pointed out, is inherently fascist in erasing the killed and maimed from sight while ensuring impunity for the bombers of defenceless people.  But all such mass murder is only collateral damage to the supreme moral goal as “natural right and law”.  The air bombing of Iraq’s water and electricity supplies dressed in one big lie after another continued in slow mass-murderous destruction of the people and their social life infrastructures years on end.

Denis Halliday, United Nations Humanitarian Co-ordinator for the mission finally called it “genocide” (Wikipedia calls it “the Persian Gulf War”) when he resigned in 1998 to protest against “the crimes against humanity”. But no-one knew until the U.S. Department of Defense Intelligence got out that the first sweep of Iraq was planned down to the mass killing of the infants and children. September 11 in 2001 is better understood in this wider context of strategic planning by the covert U.S. terror state. For years the non-stop bombing of the people’s central life-water support system deliberately engineered mass dying from diseases of children in the hundreds of thousands.

What was predicted by Harvard Medical School researchers from the continuous civilian infrastructure bombing by the U.S. military – the deaths of over 500,000 children- was verified by the counts scientifically taken at the risk of researchers as the bombing continued month after month with NATO support.[xxix]

Full-spectrum corporate money-sequencing through Iraq under the Comprehensive Privatization Program would only be enabled by “9-11”down the road. But first the bases of advanced social life organization needed to be destroyed. The later-leaked U.S. Defense Intelligence document entitled “Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities” expresses the moral DNA at work. I cite the key lines of U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency reports because they reveal the character of the supreme moral goal and its strategic planning.“With no domestic sources of water treatment replacement or chemicals like chlorine”and “laden with biological pollutants and bacteria”, the leaked Defense Intelligence Agency report says (italics added), “epidemics of such diseases as cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid” will “probably take six months before the [drinking and sewage water] system is fully degraded”.

The document continues, Conditions are favorable for communicable disease outbreaks [by the one-way air bombing] with the “most likely diseases during next sixty-ninety days of diarrheal diseases (particularly children) acute respiratory diseases (colds and influenza); typhoid; hepatitis (particularly children); measles, diphtheria, and pertussis (particularly children); meningitis including meningococcal (particularly children), cholera”. “Medical Problems in Iraq”, dated March 15, 1991, reports that the “water is less than 5 percent of the original supply – - diarrhea is four times above normal levels – - Conditions in Baghdad remain favorable for disease outbreaks”. The fifth document in June reports “almost all medicines in critically short supply” and “Gastroenteritis killing children – - in the south, 80 percent of the deaths are children”.[xxx]

In short, no limit to covert U.S. planning of indiscriminate mass murder for the supreme goal exists. The number who died in 9-11 suddenly pales in comparison. In all cases, it lets “those inimical to U.S. interests” know that there is no limit to how far the covert terror state will go for the supreme moral code not yet decoded. Combined with wars of aggression before and after 9-11, raining fire and explosions on civilians from the air so that no defense or escape can be made, saturating the fields of public meaning with big lies civilly dangerous to unmask, and bringing vast enrichment and new powers to transnational corporate conglomerates and their past and present CEO’s of the acting U.S. state – all become clear in their ultimate meaning once decoded. As the Democrat U.S. Secretary of State responded to the question of the 500,000 killed children, “we think the price was worth it”. No price is too much to pay for fulfilment of the transcendent project of the global U.S. state and its private capital rule as “the Free World”. “Those inimical to our interests” are those who oppose or are in the way of it, and thus “hate our freedom”.

The  Strategic Logic of Value through 9-11

By 2000 it was very clear to the U.S. strategic planners that the opening up of the Middle East and Central Asia after the fall of the Soviet Union had to be further pursued before it was too late.The great regret for the planning personnel of the coming Bush Jr. administration such as Paul Wolfowitz was that Iraq had not been taken over on the first invasion. The need for “full spectrum dominance” across the Middle East and Central Asia was thus the essential argument of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), with the prescription that no other “regional power”was able to contest this dominance.

The PNAC more explicitly recognised the strategic necessity for what Zbigniew Brzezinski had already called for in 1998 in The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives – namely,“the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat” to ensure public support for “the United States, as the sole and, indeed, the first truly global power”. The now once untouchable Central Asia, formerly of the USSR, was thus targeted as essential not only for its vast oil reserves, but to complete rule of the “first truly global power”.

The Project for the New American Century was more explicit than Brzezinski in 2000, the year before 9-11. As former Defence Minister of Canada, Paul Hellyer, lucidly puts it in a recent address (italics added): “The authors of this American ‘Mein Kampf’ [the PNAC] for conquest recognized the difficulty of persuading sophisticated Americans to accept such a gigantic change in policy. So they wrote the following (subsequently removed from the record):  ‘Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary changes, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.’”[xxxi]

Excepting the Vietnam War ending in military defeat – but vastly enriched armaments and connected private bank and corporate interests – the hitherto favoured strategic-plan mode had been local death squads along with pervasive American media propaganda against the victims as “communists” and “sponsored by the USSR”. But once there was no remotely equal opponent in mass-kill capacities and transnational trade treaties now bound governments within corporate-rights law as overriding domestic laws and policies, anything became permissible. The plan for the “supranational sovereignty” of “limitless capital accumulation” in “full-spectrum power”required only 9-11 to derail world-wide peace, environmental and anti-corporate globalization movements growing into uncontrollable civilian capacity across borders and continents.

People were waking up to the one-way destruction of life systems at all levels. Iraq was not alone in the genocidal clearance of formersocialist infrastructures uniting peoples across ethnic lines. A far more democratic Yugoslavia was set up and destroyed by financial means in the same year by the 1991 U.S. Foreign Operations Appropriations Law after the 1980’s multiplication of public interest rates to over 20percent primedevoured social life support structures across the world.

This was the unseen financialization base of a global war against public and worker economic and political powers that was reaping a cumulative global civilian reaction of opposition to “the plan”. 9-11 ensured against the fightback of financially dispossessed peoples with the signature reverse operation – diversion to an external “terrorist threat” that stood in the way of more sweeping transnational corporate wars on more peoples being dispossessed. Civil war in Yugoslavia long targeted by Reagan’s secret National Security Directive 133 as early as 1984 was predicted and occurred after the underlying employment and welfare structure of multi-ethnic Yugoslavia collapsed under deliberate financial destabilization. (The villain of the piece, Slobodan Milosevic, was himself a major banker).

In oil-rich Somalia, two-thirds of its territory had been leased out to four transnational oil companies by 1993 – a condition of lost grounds of life for Somalians behind the primeval civil war ever since. These are merely expressions of the underlying logic of value and the plan for its supranational rule beneath the lights of publicity as “discretion”. The examples are myriad from Latin America to South-East Asia to sub-Sahara Africa and the Middle East to Israel and Canada today. But a descriptive law of the supreme moral goal holds across all diverse instances of its expression.

Strategic planning for the destruction of social life infrastructures of peoples for private money capital gain without limit is the ultimate value program throughout from the U.S. to China.

The people of the U.S. are not exempt from their own system of covert state rule, although democratic heroism here joins with the larger world against it. This is the ultimate moral struggle on earth today. The moral politics of the disorder are the enforcement of the descriptive law.  This is the ruling meta program, and it is carcinogenic by its nature. The supreme motive force it multiplies by is privately self-maximizing money possession (individual and corporate)seeking to be limitlessly more.More = Better. Less = Militant Demand for More.

The “9-11” event is the epicentre of the supreme moral objective seated in Wall Street. Itis best understood as an ultimate strategic maximizer of theitalicizedformula. Exactly expressed, its ultimatelyregulating axiology is private money inputs through all life to maximally more private money outputs in ad infinitum progression: Money àLife as Meansà More Money or, formally, $àLasMà$1,2,3,4— N.

At the highest level of anchoring moral meaning, this private money-demand rule seeks to beabsolute and total across borders with no quarter. “Full spectrum dominance” is its military method. Yet what distinguishes it from theNazirule it connects with as prior transnational corporate partner in war making is that in the U.S. private money demand multiplication at the top is the only organising value meaning. 97% of its money command is produced by private bank notes of others’ debt to the private bank system centred in Wall Street. Yet despite this very narrow centre of control,almost no global territory or field of life is outside its rule and strategic plan.

The “Trans-Pacific Partnership” is but its latest expression – focusing on private knowledge-patent money sequencing to rule out generic pharmaceuticals and other life-and-death knowledge commons from which higher profits cannot be made. The one underlying common principle throughout all phases is transnational corporate and bank money sequencing to more. Its converse is to overrideall life requirements at all levels, and strategically planned crises and wars are the advancing lines of control and enforcement.

What is not recognized through all the genocidal wars,ecocidal results, collapsing social life support systems and falling wages, however,is that this ruling value sequence rationally leads to9-11” as maximal strategic payoff progression.“Absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event”, the Project for the New American Century declared before 9-11,

“ – - the U.S risks the loss of a global security order that is uniquely friendly to American principles and prosperity”.

Decoded, this meant in theory and practice more transnational private money sequence progression to ever more control over all still-uncontrolled assets for more and richer returns without limit of take or life destruction. But these are unspeakable lines of value meaning, and that is likely why, for example, Wikipedia keeps altering the entry of my name with conspiracy theory attributions and smears to ensure that such deep-structural diagnosis does not gain currency. That is how this system works, and analysis will provide more variations of this gagging method on 9-11 ahead.

The strategic necessity of the 9-11 event for “global security order”can even be asserted by the principal architects of the administration under which it happened, and those who observe this can be dismissed as “conspiracy theorists”. Reverse projection is, as always, the essential psychological operation. The documented but shouted-down logistics included V-P Cheney having control of the air-de

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Why Latin America Didn’t Join Washington’s Counterterrorism Posse

John Brennan.(Photo: Center for Strategic & International Studies / Flickr)There was a scarcely noted but classic moment in the Senate hearings on the nomination of John Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism “tsar,” to become the next CIA director.  When Senator Carl Levin pressed him repeatedly on whether waterboarding was torture, he ended his reply this way: “I have a personal opinion that waterboarding is reprehensible and should not be done.  And again, I am not a lawyer, senator, and I can't address that question.”

How modern, how twenty-first-century American!  How we’ve evolved since the dark days of Medieval Europe when waterboarding fell into a category known to all as “the water torture”!  Brennan even cited Attorney General Eric Holder as one lawyer who had described waterboarding as “torture,” but he himself begged off.  According to the man who was deputy executive director of the CIA and director of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center in the years of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and knew much about them, the only people equipped to recognize torture definitively as “torture” are lawyers.  This might be more worrisome, if we weren’t a “nation of lawyers” (though it also means that plummeting law school application rates could, in the future, create a torture-definition crisis).

To look on the positive side, Brennan’s position should be seen as a distinct step forward from that of the Justice Department officials under the Bush administration who wrote the infamous “torture memos” and essentially left the definition of “torture” to the future testimony of the torturer. (“[I]f a defendant [interrogator] has a good faith belief that his actions will not result in prolonged mental harm, he lacks the mental state necessary for his actions to constitute torture.”)

And keep in mind that Brennan has good company for his position.  Recently, the Open Society Institute published the most comprehensive investigation yet of the offshore system of injustice that George W. Bush and his top officials set up to kidnap “terror suspects,” imprison them without charges or end, and torture and abuse them, or “render” them to other countries willing to do the same.  It turns out that 54 nations (other than the U.S.) took part in setting up, aiding, and maintaining this American global gulag.  It’s a roster of dishonor worth noting: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

Remarkably, according to the Open Society report, just one of those states evidently had a lawyer on hand who could actually recognize torture, even if well after the fact.  “Canada,” its authors write, “is the only country to issue an apology to an extraordinary rendition victim, Maher Arar, who was extraordinarily rendered to, and tortured in, Syria.”

Given this, Greg Grandin, TomDispatch regular and author of Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Lost Jungle City, explores a geographical miracle: of those 54 countries, only two, the U.S. and Canada, came from the Western Hemisphere! Tom

The Latin American Exception: How a Washington Global Torture Gulag Was Turned Into the Only Gulag-Free Zone on Earth
By Greg Grandin

The map tells the story.  To illustrate a damning new report, “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detentions and Extraordinary Rendition,” recently published by the Open Society Institute, the Washington Post put together an equally damning graphic: it’s soaked in red, as if with blood, showing that in the years after 9/11, the CIA turned just about the whole world into a gulag archipelago.

Back in the early twentieth century, a similar red-hued map was used to indicate the global reach of the British Empire, on which, it was said, the sun never set.  It seems that, between 9/11 and the day George W. Bush left the White House, CIA-brokered torture never saw a sunset either.

All told, of the 190-odd countries on this planet, a staggering 54 participated in various ways in this American torture system, hosting CIA “black site” prisons, allowing their airspace and airports to be used for secret flights, providing intelligence, kidnapping foreign nationals or their own citizens and handing them over to U.S. agents to be “rendered” to third-party countries like Egypt and Syria.  The hallmark of this network, Open Society writes, has been torture.  Its report documents the names of 136 individuals swept up in what it says is an ongoing operation, though its authors make clear that the total number, implicitly far higher, “will remain unknown” because of the “extraordinary level of government secrecy associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition.”

No region escapes the stain.  Not North America, home to the global gulag’s command center.  Not Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or Asia.  Not even social-democratic Scandinavia.  Sweden turned over at least two people to the CIA, who were then rendered to Egypt, where they were subject to electric shocks, among other abuses.  No region, that is, except Latin America.

What’s most striking about the Post’s map is that no part of its wine-dark horror touches Latin America; that is, not one country in what used to be called Washington’s “backyard” participated in rendition or Washington-directed or supported torture and abuse of “terror suspects.”  Not even Colombia, which throughout the last two decades was as close to a U.S.-client state as existed in the area.  It’s true that a fleck of red should show up on Cuba, but that would only underscore the point: Teddy Roosevelt took Guantánamo Bay Naval Base for the U.S. in 1903 “in perpetuity.”

Two, Three, Many CIAs 

How did Latin America come to be territorio libre in this new dystopian world of black sites and midnight flights, the Zion of this militarist matrix (as fans of the Wachowskis' movies might put it)?  After all, it was in Latin America that an earlier generation of U.S. and U.S.-backed counterinsurgents put into place a prototype of Washington’s twenty-first century Global War on Terror.

Even before the 1959 Cuban Revolution, before Che Guevara urged revolutionaries to create “two, three, many Vietnams,” Washington had already set about establishing two, three, many centralized intelligence agencies in Latin America.  As Michael McClintock shows in his indispensable book Instruments of Statecraft, in late 1954, a few months after the CIA’s infamous coup in Guatemala that overthrew a democratically elected government, the National Security Council first recommended strengthening “the internal security forces of friendly foreign countries."

In the region, this meant three things.  First, CIA agents and other U.S. officials set to work “professionalizing” the security forces of individual countries like Guatemala, Colombia, and Uruguay; that is, turning brutal but often clumsy and corrupt local intelligence apparatuses into efficient, “centralized,” still brutal agencies, capable of gathering information, analyzing it, and storing it.  Most importantly, they were to coordinate different branches of each country’s security forces -- the police, military, and paramilitary squads -- to act on that information, often lethally and always ruthlessly.

Second, the U.S. greatly expanded the writ of these far more efficient and effective agencies, making it clear that their portfolio included not just national defense but international offense.  They were to be the vanguard of a global war for “freedom” and of an anticommunist reign of terror in the hemisphere.  Third, our men in Montevideo, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Asunción, La Paz, Lima, Quito, San Salvador, Guatemala City, and Managua were to help synchronize the workings of individual national security forces.

The result was state terror on a nearly continent-wide scale.  In the 1970s and 1980s, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s Operation Condor, which linked together the intelligence services of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile, was the most infamous of Latin America’s transnational terror consortiums, reaching out to commit mayhem as far away as Washington D.C., Paris, and Rome.  The U.S. had earlier helped put in place similar operations elsewhere in the Southern hemisphere, especially in Central America in the 1960s.

By the time the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans had been tortured, killed, disappeared, or imprisoned without trial, thanks in significant part to U.S. organizational skills and support.  Latin America was, by then, Washington’s backyard gulag.  Three of the region’s current presidents -- Uruguay’s José Mujica, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega -- were victims of this reign of terror.

When the Cold War ended, human rights groups began the herculean task of dismantling the deeply embedded, continent-wide network of intelligence operatives, secret prisons, and torture techniques -- and of pushing militaries throughout the region out of governments and back into their barracks.  In the 1990s, Washington not only didn’t stand in the way of this process, but actually lent a hand in depoliticizing Latin America’s armed forces.  Many believed that, with the Soviet Union dispatched, Washington could now project its power in its own “backyard” through softer means like international trade agreements and other forms of economic leverage.  Then 9/11 happened.

“Oh My Goodness”

In late November 2002, just as the basic outlines of the CIA’s secret detention and extraordinary rendition programs were coming into shape elsewhere in the world, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld flew 5,000 miles to Santiago, Chile, to attend a hemispheric meeting of defense ministers.  "Needless to say,” Rumsfeld nonetheless said, “I would not be going all this distance if I did not think this was extremely important." Indeed.

This was after the invasion of Afghanistan but before the invasion of Iraq and Rumsfeld was riding high, as well as dropping the phrase “September 11th” every chance he got.  Maybe he didn’t know of the special significance that date had in Latin America, but 29 years earlier on the first 9/11, a CIA-backed coup by General Pinochet and his military led to the death of Chile’s democratically elected president Salvador Allende.  Or did he, in fact, know just what it meant and was that the point?  After all, a new global fight for freedom, a proclaimed Global War on Terror, was underway and Rumsfeld had arrived to round up recruits.

There, in Santiago, the city out of which Pinochet had run Operation Condor, Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials tried to sell what they were now terming the “integration” of “various specialized capabilities into larger regional capabilities” -- an insipid way of describing the kidnapping, torturing, and death-dealing already underway elsewhere. “Events around the world before and after September 11th suggest the advantages,” Rumsfeld said, of nations working together to confront the terror threat.

“Oh my goodness,” Rumsfeld told a Chilean reporter, “the kinds of threats we face are global.”  Latin America was at peace, he admitted, but he had a warning for its leaders: they shouldn’t lull themselves into believing that the continent was safe from the clouds gathering elsewhere.  Dangers exist, “old threats, such as drugs, organized crime, illegal arms trafficking, hostage taking, piracy, and money laundering; new threats, such as cyber-crime; and unknown threats, which can emerge without warning.”

“These new threats,” he added ominously, “must be countered with new capabilities.” Thanks to the Open Society report, we can see exactly what Rumsfeld meant by those “new capabilities.”

A few weeks prior to Rumsfeld’s arrival in Santiago, for example, the U.S., acting on false information supplied by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, detained Maher Arar, who holds dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship, at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport and then handed him over to a “Special Removal Unit.” He was flown first to Jordan, where he was beaten, and then to Syria, a country in a time zone five hours ahead of Chile, where he was turned over to local torturers.  On November 18th, when Rumsfeld was giving his noon speech in Santiago, it was five in the afternoon in Arar’s “grave-like” cell in a Syrian prison, where he would spend the next year being abused. 

Ghairat Baheer was captured in Pakistan about three weeks before Rumsfeld’s Chile trip, and thrown into a CIA-run prison in Afghanistan called the Salt Pit.  As the secretary of defense praised Latin America’s return to the rule of law after the dark days of the Cold War, Baheer may well have been in the middle of one of his torture sessions, “hung naked for hours on end.”

Taken a month before Rumsfeld’s visit to Santiago, the Saudi national Abd al Rahim al Nashiri was transported to the Salt Pit, after which he was transferred “to another black site in Bangkok, Thailand, where he was waterboarded.” After that, he was passed on to Poland, Morocco, Guantánamo, Romania, and back to Guantánamo, where he remains.  Along the way, he was subjected to a “mock execution with a power drill as he stood naked and hooded,” had U.S. interrogators rack a “semi-automatic handgun close to his head as he sat shackled before them.”  His interrogators also “threatened to bring in his mother and sexually abuse her in front of him.”

Likewise a month before the Santiago meeting, the Yemini Bashi Nasir Ali Al Marwalah was flown to Camp X-Ray in Cuba, where he remains to this day.   

Less than two weeks after Rumsfeld swore that the U.S. and Latin America shared “common values,” Mullah Habibullah, an Afghan national, died “after severe mistreatment” in CIA custody at something called the “Bagram Collection Point.” A U.S. military investigation “concluded that the use of stress positions and sleep deprivation combined with other mistreatment... caused, or were direct contributing factors in, his death.”

Two days after the secretary’s Santiago speech, a CIA case officer in the Salt Pit had Gul Rahma stripped naked and chained to a concrete floor without blankets.  Rahma froze to death.     

And so the Open Society report goes... on and on and on.

Territorio Libre 

Rumsfeld left Santiago without firm commitments.  Some of the region’s militaries were tempted by the supposed opportunities offered by the secretary’s vision of fusing crime fighting into an ideological campaign against radical Islam, a unified war in which all was to be subordinated to U.S. command.  As political scientist Brian Loveman has noted, around the time of Rumsfeld’s Santiago visit, the head of the Argentine army picked up Washington’s latest set of themes, insisting that “defense must be treated as an integral matter,” without a false divide separating internal and external security.

But history was not on Rumsfeld’s side.  His trip to Santiago coincided with Argentina’s epic financial meltdown, among the worst in recorded history.  It signaled a broader collapse of the economic model -- think of it as Reaganism on steroids -- that Washington had been promoting in Latin America since the late Cold War years.  Soon, a new generation of leftists would be in power across much of the continent, committed to the idea of national sovereignty and limiting Washington’s influence in the region in a way that their predecessors hadn’t been. 

Hugo Chávez was already president of Venezuela.  Just a month before Rumsfeld’s Santiago trip, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the presidency of Brazil. A few months later, in early 2003, Argentines elected Néstor Kirchner, who shortly thereafter ended his country’s joint military exercises with the U.S.  In the years that followed, the U.S. experienced one setback after another.  In 2008, for instance, Ecuador evicted the U.S. military from Manta Air Base.  

In that same period, the Bush administration’s rush to invade Iraq, an act most Latin American countries opposed, helped squander whatever was left of the post-9/11 goodwill the U.S. had in the region.  Iraq seemed to confirm the worst suspicions of the continent’s new leaders: that what Rumsfeld was trying to peddle as an international “peacekeeping” force would be little more than a bid to use Latin American soldiers as Gurkhas in a revived unilateral imperial war. 

Brazil’s “Smokescreen”

Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks show the degree to which Brazil rebuffed efforts to paint the region red on Washington’s new global gulag map.

A May 2005 U.S. State Department cable, for instance, reveals that Lula’s government refused “multiple requests” by Washington to take in released Guantánamo prisoners, particularly a group of about 15 Uighurs the U.S. had been holding since 2002, who could not be sent back to China.

“[Brazil’s] position regarding this issue has not changed since 2003 and will likely not change in the foreseeable future,” the cable said.  It went on to report that Lula’s government considered the whole system Washington had set up at Guantánamo (and around the world) to be a mockery of international law.  “All attempts to discuss this issue” with Brazilian officials, the cable concluded, “were flatly refused or accepted begrudgingly.”

In addition, Brazil refused to cooperate with the Bush administration’s efforts to create a Western Hemisphere-wide version of the Patriot Act.  It stonewalled, for example, about agreeing to revise its legal code in a way that would lower the standard of evidence needed to prove conspiracy, while widening the definition of what criminal conspiracy entailed.

Lula stalled for years on the initiative, but it seems that the State Department didn’t realize he was doing so until April 2008, when one of its diplomats wrote a memo calling Brazil’s supposed interest in reforming its legal code to suit Washington a “smokescreen.”  The Brazilian government, another Wikileaked cable complained, was afraid that a more expansive definition of terrorism would be used to target “members of what they consider to be legitimate social movements fighting for a more just society.” Apparently, there was no way to “write an anti-terrorism legislation that excludes the actions” of Lula’s left-wing social base.

One U.S. diplomat complained that this “mindset” -- that is, a mindset that actually valued civil liberties  -- “presents serious challenges to our efforts to enhance counterterrorism cooperation or promote passage of anti-terrorism legislation.”  In addition, the Brazilian government worried that the legislation would be used to go after Arab-Brazilians, of which there are many.  One can imagine that if Brazil and the rest of Latin America had signed up to participate in Washington’s rendition program, Open Society would have a lot more Middle Eastern-sounding names to add to its list. 

Finally, cable after Wikileaked cable revealed that Brazil repeatedly brushed off efforts by Washington to isolate Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, which would have been a necessary step if the U.S. was going to marshal South America into its counterterrorism posse. 

In February 2008, for example, U.S. ambassador to Brazil Clifford Sobell met with Lula’s Minister of Defense Nelson Jobin to complain about Chávez.  Jobim told Sobell that Brazil shared his “concern about the possibility of Venezuela exporting instability.”  But instead of “isolating Venezuela,” which might only “lead to further posturing,” Jobim instead indicated that his government “supports [the] creation of a ‘South American Defense Council’ to bring Chavez into the mainstream.”

There was only one catch here: that South American Defense Council was Chávez’s idea in the first place!  It was part of his effort, in partnership with Lula, to create independent institutions parallel to those controlled by Washington.  The memo concluded with the U.S. ambassador noting how curious it was that Brazil would use Chavez’s “idea for defense cooperation” as part of a “supposed containment strategy” of Chávez. 

Monkey-Wrenching the Perfect Machine of Perpetual War

Unable to put in place its post-9/11 counterterrorism framework in all of Latin America, the Bush administration retrenched.  It attempted instead to build a “perfect machine of perpetual war” in a corridor running from Colombia through Central America to Mexico.  The process of militarizing that more limited region, often under the guise of fighting “the drug wars,” has, if anything, escalated in the Obama years.  Central America has, in fact, become the only place Southcom -- the Pentagon command that covers Central and South America -- can operate more or less at will.  A look at this other map, put together by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, makes the region look like one big landing strip for U.S. drones and drug-interdiction flights. 

Washington does continue to push and probe further south, trying yet again to establish a firmer military foothold in the region and rope it into what is now a less ideological and more technocratic crusade, but one still global in its aspirations.  U.S. military strategists, for instance, would very much like to have an airstrip in French Guyana or the part of Brazil that bulges out into the Atlantic.  The Pentagon would use it as a stepping stone to its increasing presence in Africa, coordinating the work of Southcom with the newest global command, Africom.   

But for now, South America has thrown a monkey wrench into the machine.  Returning to that Washington Post map, it’s worth memorializing the simple fact that, in one part of the world, in this century at least, the sun never rose on US-choreographed torture.

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Ten Years After Feb. 15 Global Protests, A New Call

WASHINGTON - February 15 -

We Are Many Trailer Feb 2013 from We Are Many on Vimeo.

Ten years ago, on Feb. 15, 2003, sometimes called “the day the world said ‘no’ to war,” millions marched around the world against the then-impending invasion of Iraq in what is widely regarded as the largest protest in history. Two days later The New York Times referred to “two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.”

A “Feb. 15” statement, below, is being released tomorrow — signatories include Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire. It reads: “We don’t just say ‘no’ to war — we say ‘yes’ to peace, we say yes to building economic and social systems that are not dominated by central banks and huge financial institutions. We don’t just say ‘no’ to war — we demand an end to massive resources being squandered on the military while billions are made poorer and poorer as a few reap huge wealth totally disproportionate to any labor or ingenuity of their own.” It raises the possibility of more such protests on a global level in coming months.

AMIR AMIRANI, [email]
Amirani is producer-director of the forthcoming documentary “We Are Many” about the Feb. 15, 2003 global protests. A trailer of the film will be released on Friday.

The following are among the signers of the new Feb. 15 statement:

DAVID MARTY, [email]
Marty is with the International Organization for a Participatory Society in Spain and is co-author of the new book Occupy Strategy.

BILL FLETCHER, [email]
Fletcher is co-founder of United for Peace & Justice as well as the Center for Labor Renewal. He will be speaking at an event commemorating the Feb. 15, 2003 protests on Friday.

SAM HUSSEINI, [email]
Husseini is communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy.

The Feb. 15 Call for Global Protests for Democracy, Solidarity and Justice:

Ten years ago, millions of people around the world said “no” to war on February 15, 2003. Now, we say “yes” to peace; “yes” to demilitarizing, to having decent lives, including economic lives, determined by democratic principles.

The invasion of Iraq still began after the 2003 protests, but the violence wreaked by Bush was more limited than the U.S. government inflicted on Vietnam a generation earlier. Our vigilance was part of the reason for that. Had we acted sooner, we might have been able to avert the disastrous invasion. The lesson is we need more global protest and solidarity, not less. Indeed, had we continued vigorously protesting, we might not have seen the years since 2003 show a lack of accountability for the war makers, even as conscientious whilstleblowers are prosecuted.

This isn’t a reunion party. The same impulses that drove us to the streets in 2003 are still with us; the same war mindset prevails in world affairs. Politicians who backed the Iraq war dominate the U.S., UK and other foreign policy establishments. The dominant media’s demonization of Iran now is similar to what it did to Iraq. The U.S. escalated its war in Afghanistan and launched a series of smaller “dirty wars” in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere with illegal drone killings and now, with AFRICOM and other mechanisms, threatens perpetual war in Africa as well as the Mideast. The Obama administration’s “pivot East” threatens a Cold War or worse with China.

The Arab uprisings displaced some dictators — most successfully when done peacefully by the people in spite of violence by the regimes, as in Tunisia and Egypt. But the oppressive regimes of the Gulf have not only escaped real scrutiny, they are actually molding much of the rest of the region in conjunction with the U.S. and other outside powers — even as the U.S. proclaims its support for “democracy.” Much of the wealth from the Gulf states flows to Western banks, as well as the dictators and their cliques, rather than to benefit the people of that region. The Palestinian people continue to suffer not only neo-liberal dominance, as much of the world does, but also the settler colonialism of Israeli forces.

These issues are not unique to the Mideast — the U.S. has over 1000 bases around the world, some with explicitly colonial frameworks, as with “territories” like Puerto Rico. The U.S. and Russia have tens of thousands of nuclear warheads threatening life on earth. A fundamental transformation is needed. The United Nations has failed in its paramount duty to shield future generations from the scourge of war.

We don’t just say “no” to war — we say “yes” to peace, we say yes to building economic and social systems that are not dominated by central banks and huge financial institutions. We don’t just say “no” to war — we demand an end to massive resources being squandered on the military while billions are made poorer and poorer as a few reap huge wealth totally disproportionate to any labor or ingenuity of their own.

We don’t just say “no” to war — we reject an economic system that in the name of “economic competitiveness” pits workers against each other in regions and nations so they accept work for less and less pay in worse and worse conditions. From the seeds of antiwar that were planted ten years ago, we want a flowering of global democracy. So we can honestly say “We the People” without the hierarchies based on ethnicity, gender, class or nationality.

The rise of the “occupy” movement, the Indignados, Idle No More movement and others has been critical, but we must set up more durable structures, to go beyond merely occupying to liberating and to being connected across national borders. The quest for profit and perpetual financial growth has enriched a tiny minority while causing hardships to the vast majority. The quest for perpetual financial growth and profit has ravaged the earth so that we today face unprecedented threats to the possibility of sustaining a livable habitat for future generations. The quest for profit and perpetual financial growth has corrupted virtually every system in the society, from government to housing to transportation to education to the legal system. The dominance of finance and the military must end; the targeting of the social safety net must end. We, the people, must not pay for a crisis we did not cause, and for wars that are fought in the name of our security — but which ensure perpetual global insecurity and hardship.

Part of the needed building of durable structures that liberate is to globalize and coordinate protests. These could be done regularly, even monthly beginning March 15 and going onward.

Solidarity demands much greater communication between the people of the world, not elites planning for their continued dominance. The response to the decline of U.S. power is not a smarter use of power, or a balance of power with other elites with their own hierarchies. Instead, we issue “This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation” to establish meaningful solidarity with people worldwide.

See the full statement, with list of signatories.

Why Was the Biggest Protest in World History Ignored?

. Anti-war protesters gather in London at the start of a demonstration against war on Iraq, February 15, 2003. 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. (REUTERS/Peter Macdiarmid)Ten years ago today, the world saw what was by some accounts the largest single coordinated protest in history. Roughly ten to fifteen million people (estimates vary widely) assembled and marched in more than six hundred cities: as many as three million flooded the streets of Rome; more than a million massed in London and Barcelona; an estimated 200,000 rallied in San Francisco and New York. From Auckland to Vancouver—and everywhere in between—tens of thousands came out, joining their voices in one simple, global message: No to the Iraq War.

I was among the anti-war contingent that swarmed Manhattan’s midtown on Feb. 15, 2003, a wintry Saturday. We spread across miles of city blocks, trundling past abandoned police barricades as we tried to inch toward the United Nations, where ten days earlier then Secretary of State Colin Powell had presented what we now know was illusory intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. The multitudes in New York were diverse and legion. There were anarchists and military veterans, vociferous students (I was then a freshman in college) and a motley cast of greying peaceniks—many, including one grandmother memorably puttering along in a wheelchair, had opposed American involvement in Vietnam. And there were myriad others: a band of preppy suburbanites with banners announcing themselves—”Soccer Moms Against the War”—musicians, street artists, and workaday New Yorkers. My uncle, a doctor with medical practices in both the U.K. and India, had flown in for the demonstration and was just another face in a vast crowd.

The overwhelming feeling on New York’s streets, despite the grimness of the NYPD and the bite of that February afternoon, was one of unity and hope. Word was seeping in about the scale of the demonstrations elsewhere and it was hard not to bask in our sense of collective purpose. An article in the New York Times would soon trumpet, “There are two superpowers: the United States and world public opinion.” Here’s Sofia Fenner, then a high school senior in Seattle (now a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, currently doing dissertation work in Cairo): “I was just proud to stand with all those people, proud that we as dissenting Americans were not staying home while what seemed like the whole world took up our cause.” In Los Angeles, a pregnant Laila Lalami walked a mile with fellow protesters down Hollywood Boulevard. “I thought—hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. are making their voices heard. Surely they can’t be ignored,” the Moroccan-American novelist told TIME this week. “But they were.”

And there it was. We failed. Slightly more than a month later, the U.S. was shocking and awing its way through Iraqi cities and Saddam Hussein’s defenses and bedding in—though it didn’t know it yet—for a near decade-long occupation. The protests, which by any measure were a world historic event, were brushed aside with blithe nonchalance by the Bush Administration and a rubber-stamp Congress that approved the war. The U.N.’s Security Council was bypassed, and the largely feckless, acquiescent American mainstream media did little to muffle Washington’s drumbeats of war.

A decade later, it’s hard to understand why the display of people power on Feb. 15 proved so ineffectual. The gun-slinging righteousness of post-9/11 America has given way to a more humble West, burdened by unwinnable wars, financial crises and a semi-permanent funk of political dysfunction. Moreover, the explosion of social media in recent years has enabled previously obscure episodes of dissent to reach and reshape the global conversation. Protests matter again. Public spaces—from Cairo’s Tahrir Square to Madrid’s Puerta del Sol to New York’s tiny Zuccotti Park—became sites of a renewed democratic vitality. Yet the mass anti-austerity protests that have rocked Europe or even the largest actions of Occupy Wall Street have not been able to match the scale of what took place on Feb. 15, 2003.

There will be time yet to re-litigate the justifications behind the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, ten years after the fact. The ranks of the war’s cheerleaders have thinned in the intervening years, with a host of journalists and pundits in the U.S. offering their mea culpas for supporting the war so unquestioningly. A dictator is gone, but more than 100,000 Iraqis are dead, as well as 4,804 U.S. and coalition soldiers. The U.S. spent nearly a trillion dollars on a pre-emptive war that didn’t need to happen and a nation-building exercise that has achieved only fragile, uncertain gains. Far from a “Mission Accomplished,” the American adventure in Iraq has become a cautionary tale of hubris and poor planning. It’s clear the West’s current reluctance to take more direct action in ending Syria’s bloody civil war is, in part, a legacy of the U.S. experience in Iraq, where the disintegration of a regime spawned a whole new phase of sectarian slaughter and chaos.

But there’s no satisfaction in looking back and saying, “I told you so”—not with the blood that has been spilled and continues to be spilled. That profound solidarity I felt ten years ago has faded into a form of resignation and sadness. In a region as complex and politically volatile as the Middle East, fixed moral positions are difficult. “Our demands were simple [on Feb. 15], and we were right,” says Fenner, the University of Chicago doctoral candidate. “What I didn’t realize at the time was that, when the war went ahead, nothing would ever be so simple again.”

© 2013 Time

Ishaan Tharoor

Ishaan Tharoor is a staff writer for TIME magazine and co-editor of TIME World, based in New York City.

Senate Republicans Take a Stand Against the Public Interest

It is bizarre that Chuck Hagel, a war hero with a long record of sensible views on the deployment of military power, gets blocked as the president’s nominee to run the Pentagon, while Jack Lew, steeped in Wall Street greed, sails through as Treasury secretary. Chuck Hagel, a former two-term GOP senator from Nebraska and President Obama’s choice for Defense Secretary, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. A Senate panel on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, abruptly postponed a vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be defense secretary. (Photo: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

There is, of course, nothing new about a Treasury secretary having profited from high-level Wall Street connections. After all, Robert Rubin and Hank Paulson, two former honchos at Goldman Sachs, headed the Treasury in the Clinton and Bush administrations, respectively. And Timothy Geithner, whom Lew would be replacing, was head of the New York Federal Reserve when it acted to bail out the too-big-to-fail financial hustlers led by AIG and Citigroup. The revolving door between Wall Street and the Treasury is the key cause of the Great Recession.

So, what’s the big deal that Lew ran two divisions at Citigroup for three years when homeowners were swindled out of their life savings? What’s a $2 million payout to Lew compared with the well over $100 million that Rubin got at that same bank during the years he helped steer it to disaster? In Lew’s case there was also the matter of his investing in one of Citigroup’s offshore schemes on the Cayman Islands that President Obama had roundly condemned, but the few Republicans who brought it up at the nominee’s confirmation hearing this week offered only a mild rebuke for such chicanery.

The big deal, ignored by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee and underplayed by the Republican critics, is that the Treasury Department, under two presidents during this financial crisis, has bailed out the banksters while doing next to nothing to help the victims of those institutions. Even now, in the third stage of a “quantitative easing” that will leave $4 trillion in taxpayer debt, the Federal Reserve, with the Treasury’s blessing, continues to bail out the banks by taking toxic assets off their books while the banks refuse to undertake any serious mortgage readjustments. 

The appointment of Lew might make sense if he had learned from his Wall Street experience that the era of unfettered greed ushered in by the deregulation mania of the Clinton and Bush years has proved a disaster. But Lew is anything but a Wall Street turncoat and continues to feign ignorance as to the causes of the banking disaster. Even though he profited mightily from his years at Citigroup—whose merger between investment and commercial banking was made legal only by the reversal of Glass-Steagall—he denies that deregulation had anything to do with that bank’s ruinous practices.

Asked at a previous confirmation hearing by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., whether deregulation had contributed to the crisis, Lew responded: “I don’t personally know the extent to which deregulation drove it, but I don’t think deregulation was the proximate cause.” Yet Obama now inexplicably turns to Lew to help reregulate the system. Why look to a perp rather than a victim to redress the crime?

The irony in the simultaneous rejection of Hagel by some senators is that he has been a victim of the irrational application of military power. Hagel, severely wounded during the Vietnam War that few today would argue ever made any national security sense, has long urged caution in foreign military involvement. Hawks complain that he opposed the surge in the U.S. presence in Iraq after having at first gone along with the war. Hagel should be admired for having honored the “fool me once” maxim in not wanting to escalate an invasion justified by blatant lies, but instead his prudence has been scorned.

The case is the same with Hagel’s courage to dare to suggest that Israel’s outsized influence on U.S. Mideast policy may be counterproductive to efforts to find a way to end almost a half-century of occupation of the Palestinian people. There are plenty of well-informed citizens on the front lines in Israel who would agree, but few in ruling U.S. political circles.   

The Republicans have turned on Hagel because he dared turn on them in the 2008 election when he refused to endorse Sen. John McCain. All other objections to his nomination are just noise, and what is really at issue is the failure to consider the national interest in its most dangerous manifestation: the waging of war. In contrast to their tepid objections to Lew, who will be easily confirmed, the Republicans still seem determined to derail the Hagel nomination. It is clear that their motivation in both confirmation processes is nothing but partisan and that the public interest will once again be ignored.

© 2012 TruthDig.com

Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer is editor of Truthdig.com and a regular columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.

US in jeopardy? Republicans block Hagel’s appointment as Defense Sec

Former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel.(Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

Former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel.(Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

Republican lawmakers have delayed a vote on Chuck Hagel’s candidacy defense secretary, defying President Obama’s nomination. Democrats decried the Republicans as jeopardizing US national security by delaying Hagel’s appointment.

In a near-party-line vote, a majority of Republicans moved to filibuster Hagel’s nomination. The vote tallied 58 in favor to 40 opposed, falling just short of the 60 votes necessary to escape a filibuster and move Hagel’s nomination through the Senate for final approval.

Republicans justified their decision by saying they required the release of further information on the September 2012 attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

The Republican move was met with fury by Democrats, who slammed it as “tragic,” and an attempt to obstruct the political process. It was the first time this political tactic had been used to delay the appointment of a US Defense Secretary.

"Senate Republicans have made it clear they intend to mount a full-scale filibuster, and block the Senate from holding a final passage vote on Senator Hagel's nomination," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said while addressing the Senate after the vote. He stressed that Republicans were embarking on an attempt at “filibustering while submitting extraneous requests that will never be satisfied.”

President Obama echoed the anti-Republican sentiment in a question-and-answer session organized by Google+, in which he expressed regret that the politics of the vote “intrudes at a time when I'm still presiding over a war in Afghanistan.”

"My expectation and hope is that Chuck Hagel, who richly deserves to get a vote on the floor of the Senate, will be confirmed as our defense secretary," Obama said.

Since President Obama announced ex-Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as his nominee for Secretary of Defense, the Republican Party has been up in arms over his nomination.

The Vietnam veteran is a known anti-war activist, and had previously clashed with Republican lawmakers over his criticism of the “Jewish lobby” in Washington, and for refusing to push for a strike against Iran.

Additionally, his performance at his confirmation hearing raised doubts over his nomination. Critics said that Hagel reacted poorly under aggressive questioning, and appeared unprepared at times.

Hagel severed his links with the Republican Party over ex-President George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War, angering many party members.
Despite being known as an anti-war advocate, since his nomination, Hagel has made warmongering remarks such as claiming the US should be prepared for a possible strike on Iran. He also stressed the importance of the US-Israel relationship, contradicting his previous opposition to Washington’s “Jewish lobby.”

This about-face in policy has led to confusion amongst US lawmakers, as well as speculation that he may be pandering to his former Republican colleagues.

Dismal Indeed: Why Dick Cheney Disdains the ‘Second-Rate’ Obama Team

Dismal Indeed: Why Dick Cheney Disdains the ‘Second-Rate’ Obama Team

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Posted on Feb 14, 2013

By Joe Conason

No doubt President Obama was deeply stung over the weekend to hear Dick Cheney criticize his new national security team. At a Wyoming Republican Party dinner, the former vice president briskly dismissed Obama’s choices as “dismal,” saying that America needs “good people” rather than the “second-rate” figures selected by the president, particularly Vietnam veteran and long-time U.S. senator Chuck Hagel, nominated by the president as Secretary of Defense.

For sage advice on security policy and personnel, after all, there is no living person whose approval could be more meaningful than Cheney. It is hard to imagine a record as profoundly impressive as that of the Bush-Cheney administration, back when everyone knew that he was really in charge of everything important—especially the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.

True, Cheney’s intelligence apparatus failed to capture or kill Osama bin Laden after 9/11—indeed, failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks, despite ample warnings that began with Bill Clinton’s farewell message in January 2001 and culminated in a blaring President’s Daily Brief from the CIA in August 2001. True, Cheney’s defense command allowed bin Laden and Mullah Omar to escape following the invasion of Afghanistan, while American and NATO troops slogged through that deadly conflict without a plausible goal or even an exit strategy. And true, the national security cabinet run by Cheney misled the nation into war against Iraq, on false premises, without adequate preparation or clear objectives, at a cost of many thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. And true, too, the ultimate result was to embarrass the United States repeatedly while increasing the regional power of the mullahs in Iran.

How can Obama presume to compare his own record with all of that?

Obviously Cheney’s success cannot be measured by achievement alone. That wouldn’t be fair at all. No, his success resides in the capacity to commit disastrous misconduct and malfeasance in office and still be taken seriously by the serious people in Washington, D.C.

If only the president were sensible enough to appoint figures of the same caliber as Cheney’s choices in the Bush years—men such as Donald Rumsfeld, whose capacity to deceive the public remains unequaled a full decade after he first declared utter certainty about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein’s huge, perilous cache of “weapons of mass destruction.”

“We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat,” explained Rummy somewhat inanely. He also assured us that the Iraqi people would warmly welcome U.S. troops, that the war would require a commitment of no more than six months and that we wouldn’t need to send an overwhelming force of troops to prevail.

Like his old comrade and boss Cheney, Rumsfeld remained perfectly arrogant and absolutely rigid to the end and beyond, even as all his predictions and promises proved tragically hollow. Even when he came under attack by the neoconservative propaganda apparatus, led by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, for “glibly passing the buck” for administration failures, Rumsfeld never admitted any fault or responsibility. Leaving office in disgrace, he spent years composing a farrago of falsehoods to be published between hard covers, seeking to justify his reign of error—and topped the bestseller lists following a triumphant tour of television and radio.

Now there was a first-rate Defense Secretary. President Obama, please take note.

© 2013 CREATORS.COM


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Senate Republicans Take a Stand Against the Public Interest

Senate Republicans Take a Stand Against the Public Interest

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Posted on Feb 14, 2013
AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Chuck Hagel, a former two-term GOP senator from Nebraska and President Obama’s choice for Defense Secretary, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. A Senate panel on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, abruptly postponed a vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be defense secretary.

By Robert Scheer

It is bizarre that Chuck Hagel, a war hero with a long record of sensible views on the deployment of military power, gets blocked as the president’s nominee to run the Pentagon, while Jack Lew, steeped in Wall Street greed, sails through as Treasury secretary. 

There is, of course, nothing new about a Treasury secretary having profited from high-level Wall Street connections. After all, Robert Rubin and Hank Paulson, two former honchos at Goldman Sachs, headed the Treasury in the Clinton and Bush administrations, respectively. And Timothy Geithner, whom Lew would be replacing, was head of the New York Federal Reserve when it acted to bail out the too-big-to-fail financial hustlers led by AIG and Citigroup. The revolving door between Wall Street and the Treasury is the key cause of the Great Recession.

So, what’s the big deal that Lew ran two divisions at Citigroup for three years when homeowners were swindled out of their life savings? What’s a $2 million payout to Lew compared with the well over $100 million that Rubin got at that same bank during the years he helped steer it to disaster? In Lew’s case there was also the matter of his investing in one of Citigroup’s offshore schemes on the Cayman Islands that President Obama had roundly condemned, but the few Republicans who brought it up at the nominee’s confirmation hearing this week offered only a mild rebuke for such chicanery.

The big deal, ignored by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee and underplayed by the Republican critics, is that the Treasury Department, under two presidents during this financial crisis, has bailed out the banksters while doing next to nothing to help the victims of those institutions. Even now, in the third stage of a “quantitative easing” that will leave $4 trillion in taxpayer debt, the Federal Reserve, with the Treasury’s blessing, continues to bail out the banks by taking toxic assets off their books while the banks refuse to undertake any serious mortgage readjustments. 

The appointment of Lew might make sense if he had learned from his Wall Street experience that the era of unfettered greed ushered in by the deregulation mania of the Clinton and Bush years has proved a disaster. But Lew is anything but a Wall Street turncoat and continues to feign ignorance as to the causes of the banking disaster. Even though he profited mightily from his years at Citigroup—whose merger between investment and commercial banking was made legal only by the reversal of Glass-Steagall—he denies that deregulation had anything to do with that bank’s ruinous practices.

Asked at a previous confirmation hearing by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., whether deregulation had contributed to the crisis, Lew responded: “I don’t personally know the extent to which deregulation drove it, but I don’t think deregulation was the proximate cause.” Yet Obama now inexplicably turns to Lew to help reregulate the system. Why look to a perp rather than a victim to redress the crime?

The irony in the simultaneous rejection of Hagel by some senators is that he has been a victim of the irrational application of military power. Hagel, severely wounded during the Vietnam War that few today would argue ever made any national security sense, has long urged caution in foreign military involvement. Hawks complain that he opposed the surge in the U.S. presence in Iraq after having at first gone along with the war. Hagel should be admired for having honored the “fool me once” maxim in not wanting to escalate an invasion justified by blatant lies, but instead his prudence has been scorned.

The case is the same with Hagel’s courage to dare to suggest that Israel’s outsized influence on U.S. Mideast policy may be counterproductive to efforts to find a way to end almost a half-century of occupation of the Palestinian people. There are plenty of well-informed citizens on the front lines in Israel who would agree, but few in ruling U.S. political circles.   

The Republicans have turned on Hagel because he dared turn on them in the 2008 election when he refused to endorse Sen. John McCain. All other objections to his nomination are just noise, and what is really at issue is the failure to consider the national interest in its most dangerous manifestation: the waging of war. In contrast to their tepid objections to Lew, who will be easily confirmed, the Republicans still seem determined to derail the Hagel nomination. It is clear that their motivation in both confirmation processes is nothing but partisan and that the public interest will once again be ignored.

Click here to check out Robert Scheer’s new book,
“The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.”

Keep up with Robert Scheer’s latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at www.truthdig.com/robert_scheer.

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Veterans For Peace: Debt Ceiling Is No Excuse

WASHINGTON - February 13 - Veterans for Peace has released the following statement: U.S. interest payments on debt are at an historic low, not an historic high. The shortage of funds in the federal government is due to an unemployment crisis, outrageo...

Obama and the Illusory State of the Empire

obama

Barack Obama would never be so crass as to use a State of the Union (SOTU) address to announce an “axis of evil”.

No. Double O Bama, equipped with his exclusive license to kill (list), is way slicker. As much as he self-confidently pitched a blueprint for a “smart” – not bigger – US government, he kept his foreign policy cards very close to his chest.

Few eyebrows were raised on the promise that “by the end of next year our war in Afghanistan will be over”; it won’t be, of course, because Washington will fight to the finish to keep sizeable counterinsurgency boots on the ground – ostensibly to fight, in Obama’s words, those evil “remnants of al-Qaeda”.

Obama promised to “help” Libya, Yemen and Somalia, not to mention Mali. He promised to “engage” Russia. He promised to seduce Asia with the Trans-Pacific Partnership – essentially a collection of corporate-friendly free-trade agreements. On the Middle East, he promised to “stand” with those who want freedom; that presumably does not include people from Bahrain.

As this was Capitol Hill, he could not help but include the token “preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons”; putting more “pressure” on Syria – whose “regime kills its own people”; and to remain “steadfast” with Israel.

North Korea was mentioned. Always knowing what to expect from the horse’s mouth, the foreign ministry in Pyongyang even issued a preemptive attack, stressing that this week’s nuclear test was just a “first response” to US threats; “second and third measures of greater intensity” would be unleashed if Washington continued to be hostile.

Obama didn’t even bother to answer criticism of his shadow wars, the Drone Empire and the legal justification for unleashing target practice on US citizens; he mentioned, in passing, that all these operations would be conducted in a “transparent” way. Is that all there is? Oh no, there’s way more.

Double O’s game

Since 9/11, Washington’s strategy during the George W Bush years – penned by the neo-cons – read like a modified return to land war. But then, after the Iraq quagmire, came a late strategic adjustment, which could be defined as the Petraeus vs Rumsfeld match. The Petraeus “victory” myth, based on his Mesopotamian surge, in fact provided Obama with an opening for leaving Iraq with the illusion of a relative success (a myth comprehensively bought and sold by US corporate media).

Then came the Lisbon summit in late 2010, which was set up to turn the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into a clone of the UN Security Council in a purely Western format, capable of deploying autonomous military interventions – preemption included – all over the world. This was nothing less than classic Bush-Obama continuum.

NATO’s Lisbon summit seemed to have enthroned a Neoliberal Paradise vision of the complex relations between war and the economy; between the military and police operations; and between perennial military hardware upgrading and the political design of preemptive global intervention. Everything, once again, under Obama’s supervision.

The war in Afghanistan, for its part, was quite useful to promote NATO as much as NATO was useful to promote the war in Afghanistan – even if NATO did not succeed in becoming the Security Council of the global American Empire, always bent on dominating, or circumventing, the UN.

Whatever mission NATO is involved in, command and control is always Washington’s. Only the Pentagon is able to come up with the logistics for a transcontinental, global military operation. Libya 2011 is another prime example. At the start, the French and the Brits were coordinating with the Americans. But then Stuttgart-based AFRICOM took over the command and control of Libyan skies. Everything NATO did afterwards in Libya, the virtual commander in chief was Barack Obama.

So Obama owns Libya. As much as Obama owns the Benghazi blowback in Libya.

Libya seemed to announce the arrival of NATO as a coalition assembly line on a global scale, capable of organizing wars all across the world by creating the appearance of a political and military consensus, unified by an all-American doctrine of global order pompously titled “NATO’s strategic concept”.

Libya may have been “won” by the NATO-AFRICOM combo. But then came the Syria red line, duly imposed by Russia and China. And in Mali – which is blowback from Libya – NATO is not even part of the picture; the French may believe they will secure all the gold and uranium they need in the Sahel – but it’s AFRICOM who stands to benefit in the long term, boosting its military surge against Chinese interests in Africa.

What is certain is that throughout this convoluted process Obama has been totally embedded in the logic of what sterling French geopolitical analyst Alain Joxe described as “war neoliberalism”, inherited from the Bush years; one may see it as a champagne definition of the Pentagon’s long, or infinite, war.

Double O’s legacy

Obama’s legacy may be in the process of being forged. We might call it Shadow War Forever – coupled with the noxious permanence of Guantanamo. The Pentagon for its part will never abandon its “full spectrum” dream of military hegemony, ideally controlling the future of the world in all those shades of grey zones between Russia and China, the lands of Islam and India, and Africa and Asia.

Were lessons learned? Of course not. Double O Bama may have hardly read Nick Turse’s exceptional book Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, where he painstakingly documents how the Pentagon produced “a veritable system of suffering”. Similar analysis of the long war on Iraq might only be published by 2040.

Obama can afford to be self-confident because the Drone Empire is safe. [1] Most Americans seem to absent-mindedly endorse it – as long as “the terrorists” are alien, not US citizens. And in the minor netherworlds of the global war on terror (GWOT), myriad profiteers gleefully dwell.

A former Navy SEAL and a former Green Beret have published a book this week, Benghazi: the Definitive Report, where they actually admit Benghazi was blowback for the shadow war conducted by John Brennan, later rewarded by Obama as the new head of the CIA.

The book claims that Petraeus was done in by an internal CIA coup, with senior officers forcing the FBI to launch an investigation of his affair with foxy biographer Paula Broadwell. The motive: these CIA insiders were furious because Petraeus turned the agency into a paramilitary force. Yet that’s exactly what Brennan will keep on doing: Drone Empire, shadow wars, kill list, it’s all there. Petraeus-Brennan is also classic continuum.

Then there’s Esquire milking for all it’s worth the story of an anonymous former SEAL Team 6 member, the man who shot Geronimo, aka Osama bin Laden. [2] This is familiar territory, the hagiography of a Great American Killer, whose “three shots changed history”, now abandoned by a couldn’t-care-less government machinery but certainly not by those who can get profitable kicks from his saga way beyond the technically proficient torture-enabling flick – and Oscar contender – Zero Dark Thirty.

Meanwhile, this is what’s happening in the real world. China has surpassed the US and is now the biggest trading nation in the world – and counting. [3] This is just the first step towards the establishment of the yuan as a globally traded currency; then will come the yuan as the new global reserve currency, connected to the end of the primacy of the petrodollar… Well, we all know the drill.

So that would lead us to reflect on the real political role of the US in the Obama era. Defeated (by Iraqi nationalism) – and in retreat – in Iraq. Defeated (by Pashtun nationalism) – and in retreat – in Afghanistan. Forever cozy with the medieval House of Saud – “secret” drone bases included (something that was widely known as early as July 2011). [4] “Pivoting” to the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, and pivoting to a whole bunch of African latitudes; all that to try to “contain” China.

Thus the question Obama would never dare to ask in a SOTU address (much less in a SOTE – State of the Empire – address). Does the US remain a global imperial power? Or are the Pentagon’s – and the shadow CIA’s – armies nothing more than mercenaries of a global neoliberal system the US still entertains the illusion of controlling?

Notes

1. Poll: 45% approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, CBS News, February 12, 2013.
2. The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden… Is Screwed, Esquire, February 11, 2013.
3. China Eclipses U.S. as Biggest Trading Nation, Bloomberg News, February 10, 2013.
4. Secret drone bases mark latest shift in US attacks on al-Qaeda, The Times, July 26, 2011.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

A Conspiracy of Stupidity

You could, of course, sit there, slack-jawed, thinking about how mindlessly repetitive American foreign and military policy is these days. Or you could wield all sorts of fancy analytic words to explain it.  Or you could just settle for a few simple, all-American ones.  Like dumb. Stupid. Dimwitted. Thick-headed. Or you could speak about the second administration in a row that wanted to leave no child behind, but was itself (Photo via Bing maps)incapable of learning, or reasonably assessing its situation in the world.

Or you could simply wonder what’s in Washington’s water supply. Last week, after all, there was a perfect drone storm of a story, only a year or so late — and no, it wasn’t that leaked “white paper” justifying the White House-directed assassination of an American citizen; and no, it wasn’t the two secret Justice Department “legal” memos on the same subject that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee were allowed to “view,” but in such secrecy that they couldn’t even ask John O. Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism tsar and choice for CIA director, questions about them at his public nomination hearings; and no, it wasn’t anything that Brennan, the man who oversaw the White House “kill list” and those presidentially chosen drone strikes, said at the hearings. And here’s the most striking thing: it should have set everyone’s teeth on edge, yet next to nobody even noticed.

Last Tuesday, the Washington Post published a piece by Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung about a reportorial discovery which that paper, along with other news outlets (including the New York Times), had by “an informal arrangement” agreed to suppress (and not even very well) at the request of the Obama administration. More than a year later, and only because the Times was breaking the story on the same day (buried in a long investigative piece on drone strikes), the Post finally put the news on record.  It was half-buried in a piece about the then-upcoming Brennan hearings. Until that moment, its editors had done their patriotic duty, urged on by the CIA and the White House, and kept the news from the public. Never mind, that the project was so outright loony, given our history, that they should have felt the obligation to publish it instantly with screaming front-page headlines and a lead editorial demanding an explanation.

On the other hand, you can understand just why the Obama administration and the CIA preferred that the story not come out. Among other things, it had the possibility of making them look like so many horses’ asses and, again based on a historical record that any numbskull or government bureaucrat or intelligence analyst should recall, it couldn’t have been a more dangerous thing to do. It’s just the sort of Washington project that brings the word “blowback” instantly and chillingly to mind.  It’s just the sort of story that should make Americans wonder why we pay billions of dollars to the CIA to think up ideas so lame that you have to wonder what the last two CIA directors, Leon Panetta and David Petraeus, were thinking. (Or if anyone was thinking at all.)

“Agitated Muslims” and the “100 Hour War”

In case you hadn’t noticed, I have yet to mention what that suppressed story was, and given the way it disappeared from sight, the odds are that you don’t know, so here goes. The somewhat less than riveting headline on the Post piece was: “Brennan Nomination Exposes Criticism on Targeted Killings and Secret Saudi Base.” The base story was obviously tacked on at the last second. (There had actually been no “criticism” of that base, since next to nothing was known about it.)  It, too, was buried, making its first real appearance only in the 10th paragraph of the piece.

According to the Post, approximately two years ago, the CIA got permission from the Saudi government to build one of its growing empire of drone bases in a distant desert region of that kingdom. The purpose was to pursue an already ongoing air war in neighboring Yemen against al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula.

The first drone mission from that base seems to have taken off on September 30, 2011, and killed American citizen and al-Qaeda supporter Anwar al-Awlaki. Many more lethal missions have evidently been flown from it since, most or all directed at Yemen in a campaign that notoriously seems to be creating more angry Yemenis and terror recruits than it’s killing. So that’s the story you waited an extra year to hear from our watchdog press (though for news jockeys, the existence of the base was indeed mentioned in the interim by numerous media outlets).

One more bit of information: Brennan, the president’s right-hand counterterrorism guy, who oversaw Obama’s drone assassination program from an office in the White House basement (you can’t take anything away from Washington when it comes to symbolism) and who is clearly going to be approved by the Senate as our the new CIA director, was himself a former CIA station chief in Riyadh. The Post reports that he worked closely with the Saudis to “gain approval” for the base. So spread the credit around for this one. And note as well that there hasn’t been a CIA director with such close ties to a president since William Casey ran the outfit for President Ronald Reagan, and he was the man who got this whole ball of wax rolling by supporting, funding, and arming any Islamic fundamentalist in sight — the more extreme the better — to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Chalmers Johnson used to refer to the CIA as “the president’s private army.” Now, run by this president’s most trusted aide, it once again truly will be so.

Okay, maybe it’s time to put this secret drone base in a bit of historical context. (Think of this as my contribution to a leave-no-administration-behind policy.) In fact, that Afghan War Casey funded might be a good place to start. Keep in mind that I’m not talking about the present Afghan War, still ongoing after a mere 11-plus years, but our long forgotten First Afghan War. That was the one where we referred to those Muslim extremists we were arming as “freedom fighters” and our president spoke of them as “the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.”

It was launched to give the Soviets a bloody nose and meant as payback for our bitter defeat in Vietnam less than a decade earlier. And what a bloody nose it would be! Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev would dub the Soviet disaster there “the bleeding wound,” and two years after it ended, the Soviet Union would be gone. I’m talking about the war that, years later, President Jimmy Carter’s former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski summed up this way: “What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

That’s all ancient history and painful to recall now that “agitated Muslims” are a dime a dozen and we are (as Washington loves to say) in a perpetual global “war” with a “metastasizing” al-Qaeda, an organization that emerged from among our allies in the First Afghan War, as did so many of the extremists now fighting us in Afghanistan.

So how about moving on to a shining moment a decade later: our triumph in the “100 Hour War” in which Washington ignominiously ejected its former ally (and later Hitler-substitute) Saddam Hussein and his invading Iraqi army from oil-rich Kuwait?  Those first 100 hours were, in every sense, a blast. The problems only began to multiply with all the 100-hour periods that followed for the next decade, the 80,000th, all of which were ever less fun, what with eternal no-fly zones to patrol and an Iraqi dictator who wouldn’t leave the scene.

The Worldwide Attack Matrix and a Global War on Terror

Maybe, like Washington, we do best to skip that episode, too.  Let’s focus instead on the moment when, in preparation for that war, U.S. troops first landed in Saudi Arabia, that fabulously fundamentalist giant oil reserve; when those 100 hours were over (and Saddam wasn’t), they never left. Instead, they moved into bases and hunkered down for the long haul.

By now, I’m sure some of this is coming back to you: how disturbed, for instance, the rich young Saudi royal and Afghan war veteran Osama bin Laden and his young organization al-Qaeda were on seeing those “infidels” based in (or, as they saw it, occupying) the country that held Islam’s holiest shrines and pilgrimage sites.  I’m sure you can trace al-Qaeda’s brief grim history from there: its major operations every couple of years against U.S. targets to back up its demand that those troops depart the kingdom, including the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. airmen in 1996, the destruction of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, and the blowing up of the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000.  Finally, of course, there was al-Qaeda’s extraordinary stroke of dumb luck (and good planning), those attacks of September 11, 2001, which managed — to the reported shock of at least one al-Qaeda figure — to create an apocalyptic-looking landscape of destruction in downtown New York City.

And here’s where we go from dumb luck to just plain dumb. Lusting for revenge, dreaming of a Middle Eastern (or even global) Pax Americana, and eager to loose a military that they believed could eternally dominate any situation, the Bush administration declared a “global war” on terrorism. Only six days after the World Trade Center towers went down, George W. Bush granted the CIA an unprecedented license to wage planet-wide war. By then, it had already presented a plan with a title worthy of a sci-fi film: the “Worldwide Attack Matrix.” According to journalist Ron Suskind in his book The One Percent Doctrine, the plan “detailed operations [to come] against terrorists in 80 countries.”

This was, of course, a kind of madness. After all, al-Qaeda wasn’t a state or even much of an organization; in real terms, it barely existed.  So declaring “war” on its scattered minions globally was little short of a bizarre and fantastical act. And yet any other approach to what had happened was promptly laughed out of the American room. And before you could blink, the U.S. was invading… nuts, you already knew the answer: Afghanistan.

After another dazzlingly brief and triumphant campaign, using tiny numbers of American military personnel and CIA operatives (as well as U.S. air power), the first of Washington’s you-can’t-go-home-again crew marched into downtown Kabul and began hunkering down, building bases, and preparing to stay. One Afghan war, it turned out, hadn’t been faintly enough for Washington. And soon, it would be clear that one Iraq war wasn’t either. By now, we were in the express lane in the Möbius loop of history.

“Stuff Happens”

This should be getting more familiar to you. It might also strike you — though it certainly didn’t Washington back in 2002-2003 — that there was no reason things should turn out better the second time around. With that new “secret Saudi base” in mind, remember that somewhere in the urge to invade Iraq was the desire to find a place in the heart of the planet’s oil lands where the Pentagon would be welcome to create not “enduring camps” (please don’t call them “permanent bases”!) — and hang in for enduring decades to come.

So in early April 2003, invading American troops entered a chaotic Baghdad, a city being looted. (“Stuff happens,” commented Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in response.) On April 29th, Rumsfeld held a news conference with Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, broadcast on Saudi TV, announcing that the U.S. would pull all its combat troops out of that country. No more garrisons in Saudi Arabia.  Ever.  U.S. air operations were to move to al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar.  As for the rest, there was no need even to mention Iraq. This was just two days before President Bush landed a jet, Top Gun-style, on an aircraft carrier off San Diego and — under a White House-produced banner reading “Mission Accomplished” — declared “the end of major combat operations in Iraq.” And all’s well that ends well, no?

You know the rest, the various predictable disasters that followed (as well as the predictably unpredictable ones). But don’t think that, as America’s leaders repeat their mistakes endlessly — using varying tactics, ranging from surges to counterinsurgency to special operations raids to drones, all to similar purposes — everything remains repetitively the same. Not at all. The repeated invasions, occupations, interventions, drone wars, and the like have played a major role in the unraveling of the Greater Middle East and increasingly of northern Africa as well.

Here, in fact, is a rule of thumb for you: keep your eye on the latest drone bases the CIA and the U.S. military are setting up abroad — in Niger, near its border with Mali, for example — and you have a reasonable set of markers for tracing the further destabilization of the planet. Each eerily familiar tactical course change (always treated as a brilliant strategic coup) each next application of force, and more things “metastasize.”

And so we reach this moment and the news of that two-year-old secret Saudi drone base. You might ask yourself, given the previous history of U.S. bases in that country, why the CIA or any administration would entertain the idea of opening a new U.S. outpost there. Evidently, it’s the equivalent of catnip for cats; they just couldn’t help themselves.

We don’t, of course, know whether they blanked out on recent history or simply dismissed it out of hand, but we do know that once again garrisoning Saudi Arabia seemed too alluring to resist.  Without a Saudi base, how could they conveniently strike al-Qaeda wannabes in a neighboring land they were already attacking from the air? And if they weren’t to concentrate every last bit of drone power on taking out al-Qaeda types (and civilians) in Yemen, one of the more resource-poor and poverty-stricken places on the planet?  Why, the next thing you know, al-Qaeda might indeed be ruling a Middle Eastern Caliphate.  And after that, who knows? The world?

Honestly, could there have been a stupider gamble to take (again)? This is the sort of thing that helps you understand why conspiracy theories get started — because people in the everyday world just can’t accept that, in Washington, dumb and then dumber is the order of the day.

When it comes to that “secret” Saudi base, if truth be told, it does look like a conspiracy — of stupidity.  After all, the CIA pushed for and built that base; the White House clearly accepted it as a fine idea. An informal network of key media sources agreed that it really wasn’t worth the bother to tell the American people just how stupidly their government was acting. (The managing editor of the New York Times explained its suppression by labeling the story nothing more than “a footnote.”)  And last week, at the public part of the Brennan nomination hearings, none of the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is supposed to provide the CIA and the rest of the U.S. Intelligence Community with what little oversight they get, thought it appropriate to ask a single question about the Saudi base, then in the news.

The story was once again buried. Silence reigned. If, in the future, blowback does occur, thanks to the decision to build and use that base, Americans won’t make the connection.  How could they?

It all sounds so familiar to me. Doesn’t it to you? Shouldn’t it to Washington?

© 2013 Tom Engelhardt

Tom Engelhardt

The Hubris of the Drones

Protesters march against drone warfare during President Obama's inauguration, January 21, 2013.Protesters march against drone warfare during President Obama's inauguration, January 21, 2013. (Photo: World Can't Wait)Last week, The New York Times published a chilling account of how indiscriminate killing in war remains bad policy even today. This time, it’s done not by young GIs in the field but by anonymous puppeteers guiding drones that hover and attack by remote control against targets thousands of miles away, often killing the innocent and driving their enraged and grieving families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we’re trying to eradicate.

The Times told of a Muslim cleric in Yemen named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, standing in a village mosque denouncing al Qaeda. It was a brave thing to do — a respected tribal figure, arguing against terrorism. But two days later, when he and a police officer cousin agreed to meet with three al Qaeda members to continue the argument, all five men — friend and foe — were incinerated by an American drone attack. The killings infuriated the village and prompted rumors of an upwelling of support in the town for al Qaeda, because, the Times reported, “such a move is seen as the only way to retaliate against the United States.”

Our blind faith in technology combined with a false sense of infallible righteousness continues unabated. Reuters correspondent David Rohde recently wrote:

“The Obama administration’s covert drone program is on the wrong side of history. With each strike, Washington presents itself as an opponent of the rule of law, not a supporter. Not surprisingly, a foreign power killing people with no public discussion, or review of who died and why, promotes anger among Pakistanis, Yemenis and many others.”

Rohde has firsthand knowledge of what a drone strike can do. He was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008 and held for seven months. During his captivity, a drone struck nearby. “It was so close that shrapnel and mud showered down into the courtyard,” he told the BBC last year. “Just the force and size of the explosion amazed me. It comes with no warning and tremendous force… There’s sense that your sovereignty is being violated… It’s a serious military action. It is not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

“It’s a serious military action… not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

A special report from the Council on Foreign Relations last month, “Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies,” quotes “a former senior military official” saying, “Drone strikes are just a signal of arrogance that will boomerang against America.” The report notes that, “The current trajectory of U.S. drone strike policies is unsustainable… without any meaningful checks — imposed by domestic or international political pressure — or sustained oversight from other branches of government, U.S. drone strikes create a moral hazard because of the negligible risks from such strikes and the unprecedented disconnect between American officials and personnel and the actual effects on the ground.”

Negligible? Such hubris brought us to grief in Vietnam and Iraq and may do so again with President Obama’s cold-blooded use of drones and his indifference to so-called “collateral damage,” grossly referred to by some in the military as “bug splat,” and otherwise known as innocent bystanders.

Yet the ease with which drones are employed and the lower risk to our own forces makes the unmanned aircraft increasingly appealing to the military and the CIA. We’re using drones more and more; some 350 strikes since President Obama took office, seven times the number that were authorized by George W. Bush. And there’s a whole new generation of the weapons on the way — deadlier and with greater endurance.

According to the CFR report, “Of the estimated three thousand people killed by drones… the vast majority were neither al-Qaeda nor Taliban leaders. Instead, most were low-level, anonymous suspected militants who were predominantly engaged in insurgent or terrorist operations against their governments, rather than in active international terrorist plots.”

By the standards of slaughter in Vietnam, the deaths caused by drones are hardly a bleep on the consciousness of official Washington. But we have to wonder if each innocent killed — a young boy gathering wood at dawn, unsuspecting of his imminent annihilation; a student who picked up the wrong hitchhikers; that tribal elder arguing against fanatics — doesn’t give rise to second thoughts by those judges who prematurely handed our president the Nobel Prize for Peace. Better they had kept it on the shelf in hopeful waiting, untarnished.

‘Cuz the Bible Tells Me So

We humans constantly are telling ourselves stories about moral and immoral behavior. Many of the most memorable -- if only because of repetition -- are from the Bible. From them we learn about moral courage and cowardice, about wisdom and folly, about when to obey and when to rebel.  And, of course, most Bible stories tell us to believe in God. But God -- He/She/It -- is so many things at once: God is Love, God is Nature, God is Truth. How can I believe in all these things at the same time? I’m more comfortable with each of those declarations about what God  IS when  the formula is reversed. For example, I prefer Nature is God. If that identifies me as a pagan, so be it. But the Bible stories still move me profoundly, especially when I try to apply them to the world around me.  

For instance, remember the story of King Herod and the Massacre of the Innocents? Herod, in an attempt to protect his crown from being supplanted by the rumored birth of the King of the Jews, ordered the execution of all male children in Nazareth under the age of two. He cannot identify which child might be Jesus, so he decides to kill them all. We are expected to think about this monstrous crime as the work of a paranoid maniac, which it is. And we may be expected to learn that totalitarian leadership can lead to this sort of barbarity. That is also correct.   

But couldn´t we also interpret Herod´s actions as the use of rational and necessary collateral damage to ensure the continued integrity of the state? If the sanctity of the state is the foremost good, then security has to trump justice and the right to life of any individual. In fact, security then becomes justice. It’s the same political and philosophical excuse used for drone warfare by our government today. If children are killed as a by-product of killing terrorists, then the killing is justified. Herod feared Jesus wanted to overthrow his state. Our government fears the terrorists do. Are all actions that advance the security of the state de facto ethical?  Should our drones be called Herod? (Image: Giotto's 'Massacre of the Innocents')

Take a look at Giotto’s masterful 14th Century fresco of the Massacre of the Innocents.  Above the town square, where his soldiers are lancing and decapitating children, Herod stands calmly giving his orders, pointing out the next victim as calmly as a US president ordering a drone strike. In neither case is any consideration given to law or to morality, or to what we might quaintly call “due process.” We witness the paranoid justice of security.  

What lesson is this behavior meant to teach our children? I am reminded of how Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled in the late 1960s to answer young black men in the ghetto when they asked him why they should not use violence to achieve their rights. They reminded Dr. King that the US government claimed the use of extreme violence in Vietnam as justified and necessary to promote democracy, so why shouldn’t they use the same method to achieve equality at home? King’s only answer was to condemn the war as immoral, a war that was racist, imperialist, and for the benefit of the military-industrial complex at the expense of the poor.  

Another instructive Bible story is the Wisdom of Solomon parable. King Solomon is approached by two women both claiming to be the mother of the same child. How can he know who is telling the truth? DNA tests were still a ways off. So, he suggests a compromise. Compromises are good. He raises his sharp sword intending to slice the baby in half.  </