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Assad: We were waiting for US attack & ‘no smoking gun linking Syria to gas attack’

by Martin Rowson

Assad: We were Waiting for US Attack, We’ll Emerge Victorious

Al Manar

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the Syrians were waiting for such an intervention by the US, promising to get out from this war victorious.

During his latest meeting with Syrian military leaders after speculations grew on a US military strike on allegations of chemical attack on Damascus, Assad said that “since the beginning of the crisis, and we were sure that the moment will come when our real enemy knocks his head into our country intervening,” adding that he knows well that the Syrian leaders’ morals are high and “you are on full readiness to face any aggression and protect the homeland.”

But he ordered them to convey these high morals to their inferiors and to the Syrian citizens, according to Al-Akhbar newspaper.

“This is a historic confrontation that we will come out of victorious,” he ended up saying.

President Assad told a visiting delegation of Yemeni politicians also on Thursday that Syria will defend itself against any attack. “Syria will defend itself in the face of any aggression, and threats will only increase its commitment to its principles and its independence,” he said, according to Syria’s state television.

“Syria, with its resistant people and valiant army, is determined to wipe out terrorism which is being backed by Israel and Western nations to serve their own purposes of sowing division in the region, fragmenting its people and forcing them into submission,” the president added. “The people are the guarantors of victory and that is what is happening in Syria.”

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Russia Sending Warships to the Mediterranean

Al Ahed news

The Russian Interfax news agency reported Thursday that Moscow “over the next few days” will be sending an anti-submarine ship and a missile cruiser to the Mediterranean as the West prepares for possible strikes against Syria.

“The well-known situation shaping up in the eastern Mediterranean called for certain corrections to the make-up of the naval forces,” a source in the Russian General Staff told Interfax.

It further mentioned that “a large anti-submarine ship of the Northern Fleet will join them [the existing naval forces] over the next few days.”

“Later it will be joined by the Moskva, a rocket cruiser of the Black Sea Fleet which is now wrapping up its tasks in the northern Atlantic and will soon begin a Transatlantic voyage towards the Strait of Gibraltar,” the agency stated.

In addition, a rocket cruiser of the Pacific Fleet, the Varyag, will join the Russian naval forces in the Mediterranean this autumn by replacing a large anti-submarine ship.
However, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency cited a high-ranking representative of the naval command who said the changes to the country’s forces in the region were not linked to the current tensions over Syria and called them “a planned rotation.”

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Cameron Faces Mounting Opposition over Syria: Up to 70 Tory MPs Not Convinced by Case for Strike

Al Ahed news

The Guardian British daily reported Thursday that PM David Cameron is facing bigger opposition than expected over an attack on Syria, with up to 70 Tory MPs yet to be persuaded by the coalition’s case for military action.

The scale of hostility before Thursday’s initial vote in the Commons on intervention underscores why the prime minister felt it necessary to promise MPs a second vote before British forces have any direct military engagement in Syria.

He made the concession as a growing number of Conservatives publicly expressed their reservations about the case for action, including three of Cameron’s former ministers – Cheryl Gillan, Peter Luff and Sir Gerald Howarth.

Several ministerial aides, including David Burrowes and Daniel Kawczynski, have also spoken of their reluctance to back military intervention, raising the prospect of their resignations if they fail to be persuaded by the government motion.

Backbencher support will be crucial for Cameron as Labor leader Ed Miliband has said he will not back the coalition’s motion for action against Syria.

Instead, Miliband is planning to put forward a more cautious amendment favoring action only if certain conditions have been met in a move that could win round Labor opponents of strikes such as Diane Abbott.

The caveats include seeing the results of UN weapons inspections, compelling evidence that the Syrian regime was responsible for the use of chemical weapons, and clear legal advice that any strike is within international law.
Cameron and Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, have a majority of 77 in the House of Commons, so they will need to win round skeptics in the debate, which starts at 2.30 and could run for eight hours.

However, the threatened rebellion may not materialize on Thursday, as Conservatives MPs may be mollified by the text of the motion promising a second vote.

But one Tory MP said it showed the prime minister’s weakness. Douglas Carswell, MP for Clacton, suggested the motion offering a second vote in future was a climbdown for Cameron in the face of major opposition. “What to do when you cannot command a majority in Commons for Syria strikes? Table a motion about something else,” he wrote on Twitter.

So far about 30 Tories have publicly come out as skeptics about military strikes, putting Cameron under pressure to set out a robust legal basis and strategy in Thursday’s debate. But there are thought to be more doubters in private.
One Tory MP said he believed at least 70 of his colleagues harbored reservations about handing the coalition a broad mandate for a strike on Syria without more details and a firm timetable being spelled out to parliament.

Gillan, a senior Tory backbencher, said on Wednesday that she and many colleagues had “great doubts”, and warned that intervention could lead to “absolute disaster”. She told the Guardian she did not know how she would vote, but felt “very strongly that we must have a clear objective and thought through the ramifications”.

“I’m very cautious,” she said. ” I sat in the House of Commons listening to Tony Blair and I really believed he was telling me there was no choice. We haven’t had the Chilcot Inquiry yet but I feel we were sold a pup. This is also too important to get wrong. I need to know they have thought this through.”

Peter Luff, one of Cameron’s defense ministers until last year, also told the Guardian he remained to be persuaded in favor of an attack on Syria. “I am yet to hear a compelling case that military action would be for the best,” he said.

Another former defense minister, Sir Gerald Howarth, said he was concerned that Britain was at risk of “getting our hand caught in the mangle” of a civil war between Syrian factions.

Howarth told the BBC Radio 4’s The World at One that he was still open-minded about the vote but skeptical about the benefits of military action as Britain had to “be realistic about what it is we can achieve”.

Davis, a former shadow home secretary, told the Times he could not see a “clear outcome” and was yet to be convinced about military action, but would make up his mind during the debate.

Kawczynski, a parliamentary private secretary to the Wales secretary, said: “People are very torn about the prospect of Britain being involved again in an overseas conflict.” Asked whether he would vote against the motion and give up his government role, Kawczynski said: “The wording will be crucial. It has to refer to the UN.”

David Burrowes, an aide to the environment secretary, wrote on his website that he was “very reluctant to approve the use of British weapons or military in Syria and would need an extremely compelling case to be made to change my mind”.

While many Tory MPs said they were waiting for the debate to make up their minds, some appeared ready to vote against.

One prominent Tory backbencher, Sarah Wollaston, the MP for Totnes, said she would vote against a military strike and called the lack of a free vote an abuse of power by her leadership. After reading the motion, she said it seemed like an “entrapment” to bury an endorsement for military action inside an “over-long and blindingly obvious essay”.

Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford, said she was “extremely reluctant to support British interference”, and would be voting against any attack “as things stand”.

Among the Lib Dems, one senior politician said there was deep unease in the 55-strong parliamentary party, which was the only major one to vote against the Iraq war. There are believed to be several Syria sceptics in the party, but it was not possible to get a more precise estimate of numbers.

Lord Oakeshott, a Lib Dem peer, called on the coalition to release its legal advice about the basis for intervening before asking parliament to approve a campaign in Syria.

“This touches a very raw nerve for Liberal Democrats,” he said. “Now we’re in government there’s a very large responsibility to ensure the full legal advice on which any British act of war is based must published in full before any British button is pressed.”

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China: No Excuse for West to Strike Syria

Al Ahed news

Chinese state media warned the West against strikes on Syria Thursday as momentum mounted for attacking Syria.

In an editorial headed “No excuse for strikes”, the state-run China Daily said the US and its Western allies were “acting as judge, jury and executioner”.

“Any military intervention into Syria would have dire consequences for regional security and violate the norms governing international relations,” it said, adding such a move “will only exacerbate the crisis and could have unforeseen and unwelcome consequences”.

Making a comparison with the war in Iraq, it said the international community should not allow “itself to be led by the nose by US intelligence, which after all was responsible for claiming Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction”.

China is a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council.

In an unsigned commentary, the Global Times, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, added that Washington lacked “a clear political end goal”.

“Citing ‘moral obscenity’ as an excuse to gear up for military action seems rash and hasty,” it said.

If strikes do take place, it added that “it is necessary for Russia and Iran to consider providing direct military aid” to al-Assad’s government.

In parallel, Beijing called for a “cautious” approach to the crisis, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi backing a UN investigation to “find out the truth as soon as possible”.

All parties “should avoid interfering in the investigation work or prejudging the results of the probes”, he told the official Xinhua news agency Wednesday.

Beijing says it opposes intervention in other countries’ internal affairs and has previously attempted to block moves leading to military action in overseas conflict.

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NYT: No Smoking Gun Linking Al-Assad to Gas Attack

Al Ahed news

American officials said Wednesday there was no “smoking gun” that directly links Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to last week’s alleged chemical attack near Damascus, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

They said Thursday’s public intelligence presentation will not contain specific electronic intercepts of communications between Syrian commanders or detailed reporting from spies and sources on the ground.

According to the daily, “the White House faces steep hurdles as it prepares to make the most important public intelligence presentation since February 2003, when Secretary of State Colin L. Powell made a dramatic and detailed case for war to the United Nations Security Council using intelligence – later discredited – about Iraq’s weapons programs.”

“With the botched intelligence about Iraq still casting a long shadow over decisions about waging war in the Middle East, the White House faces an American public deeply skeptical about being drawn into the Syrian conflict and a growing chorus of lawmakers from both parties angry about the prospect of an American president once again going to war without Congressional consultation or approval,” it added.

The bellicose talk coming from the administration is unnerving some lawmakers from Obama’s party, who are angry that the White House seems to have no inclination to seek Congress’s approval before launching a strike in Syria.

“I am still waiting to see what specifically the administration and other involved partners have to say about a potential military strike, but I am concerned about how effective such an action could be,” said Representative Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat who is the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “I am worried that such action could drag the United States into a broader direct involvement in the conflict.”

Meanwhile, US Speaker John A. Boehner wrote a letter on Wednesday to Obama asking the president to provide a “clear, unambiguous explanation of how military action – which is a means, not a policy – will secure US objectives and how it fits into your overall policy.”

The discussion has even brought in former officials intimately involved in making the hurried public case for the Iraq war. In an interview with Fox Business Network, Donald Rumsfeld, who was War secretary at the time, said Wednesday that “there really hasn’t been any indication from the administration as to what our national interest is with respect to this particular situation.”

Americans over all have been skeptical about the United States getting involved in Syria’s war.

A poll published by Quinnipiac University last month found that 61 percent of people said it was not in the national interest to intervene in Syria, while 27 percent said it was. By a similar split, 59 percent opposed providing weapons to rebel forces, while 27 percent were in favor.

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Judge blaming Rachel Corrie for her own death highlights “Israel’s” impunity, family says

by Nick Hayes

by Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, The Electronic Intifada

The Haifa District court ruled earlier today that the Israeli military is not responsible for killing American activist Rachel Corrie, and that Corrie was to blame for her own death.

“Even when she saw the mount of earth moving towards her, she did not move away. The accident was caused by the deceased,” said Israeli Judge Oded Gershon, as he read out a summary of the 62-page ruling in front of a packed courthouse and with Rachel’s mother Cindy, father Craig and sister Sarah sitting in the front row.

Rachel’s death, Gershon said, “was not due to negligence of the state or any of its actors. The state did not violate the right of the deceased [Rachel Corrie] to life.”

Twenty-three-year-old American activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in March 2003. At the time of her death, she was trying to prevent Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in the Gaza border town of Rafah.

“There is no basis for the claim that the bulldozer hit her intentionally. It was a very unfortunate accident. I am confident the operator wouldn’t have continued if he saw her. This was an accident,” Gershon said, adding “the state is not responsible for damages in actions [that occur] in combat operations.”

Seven years in court

The Corrie family intends to appeal the Haifa District Court’s decision at the Israeli high court within 45 days.

The case was originally filed against the state of Israel in 2005 in Haifa District Court. The family accused the state of being responsible for Rachel’s death and of not conducting a thorough investigation into what happened.

Oral testimonies began in March 2010 and 23 witnesses have testified over 15 court hearings since that time. Israeli soldiers testified in court behind a curtain during the trial and a high-ranking Israeli army officer testified that there are no civilians in war.

“We are, of course, deeply saddened and deeply troubled by what we heard today,” said Rachel’s mother, Cindy Corrie, in a press conference following the verdict. “I believe that this was a bad day, not only for our family but a bad day for human rights, for humanity, for the rule of law and also for the country of Israel.”

Contrary to the court’s ruling, Cindy Corrie said that her family and their legal team believe that the Israeli soldiers driving the bulldozer saw Rachel the day she was killed. The family also said that Israeli military’s investigation into Rachel’s killing was wholly inadequate.

“I can say without a doubt that I believe my sister was seen as that bulldozer approached her,” said Rachel’s sister, Sarah, during the press conference. “I hope someday [the bulldozer driver] will have the courage to sit down in front of me and tell me what he saw and what he feels.”

The Israeli courts, Cindy said, holding back tears, are part of “a well heeled system to protect the Israeli military, the soldiers who conduct actions in that military” and “provide them with impunity at the cost of all the civilians who are impacted by what they do.”

“We believe that Rachel was seen. Everything that we knew coming into this process, reinforced by everything we saw and heard in court, confirmed our belief that at least one soldier knew she was there. [It was the soldiers’] ability and obligation to see who was in front of their machine. We believe someone in that bulldozer did,” she said.

Last week, the American Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, reportedly told the Corrie family that the Israeli military investigation into Rachel’s killing had not been “thorough, credible and transparent.” Shortly after Rachel’s death, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised US President George W. Bush that such an investigation would be conducted.

“We knew from the start that a civil lawsuit would be an uphill battle but as a family we had to push for answers for accountability and for justice. The diplomatic process between the United States and Israel failed us, and today the Israeli court system demonstrated its failure to us,” Cindy Corrie said.

The court’s ruling

As he read out the summary of his ruling, Israeli judge Gershon found that the Israeli military’s investigation into Rachel Corrie’s death was satisfactory.

He also ruled that the charges of assault and negligence levied against the Israeli military were unfounded, and that forcing Israel to pay damages to the Corrie family was unnecessary since Rachel’s death was unintentional.

Gershon added the area where Rachel Corrie was killed was a closed military zone and “daily combat region” and that the bulldozer’s work — which he said was clearing and flattening the land in the area — was absolutely necessary.

“The task of the army was to clear the area and to clear terrorist hiding places. There was an urgent need to perform this task. The task was not to destroy houses,” Gershon said, as he read a summary of the verdict in court.

In a press conference following the verdict, the Corrie family’s lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, said that the aim of the army’s operations the day Rachel Corrie was killed was to demolish the home of the Nasrallah family, with whom Rachel had been staying.

“It was not right because Rachel was living with this family of Dr. Nasrallah all the period before the killing. Here in this picture, you see how far the bulldozer [was] from the house of Dr. Nasrallah. Any human being who sees this picture can imagine that the aim of this activity in that day, was the destruction of the house of Dr. Nasrallah,” said the Corrie family’s lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein.

Impunity for Israeli crimes continues

“While not surprising, this verdict is yet another example where impunity has prevailed over accountability and fairness. Rachel Corrie was killed while non-violently protesting home demolitions and injuries, injustice in Gaza and today this court has given its stamp on the approval to flout an illegal practices that fail to protect civilian life,” Abu Hussein said, as he read a prepared statement shortly after the verdict was announced.

“In this regard, the verdict blames the victim based on distorted facts and it could have been written directly by the state’s prosecution. We know from the beginning that we had an uphill battle to get truthful answers and justice, but we are convinced that this verdict distorts the strong evidence presented in court and contradicts fundamental principles of international law with regards to protection of human rights defenders,” Abu Hussein said.

The Rachel Corrie case has highlighted the lack of accountability that Israeli soldiers are held to when they commit crimes against Palestinians.

Earlier this month, an Israeli military court didn’t hold anyone accountable for the killing of two Palestinian women in Gaza during Israel’s attacks on the Palestinian territory in 2008-09. The women were killed when an Israeli soldier opened fire on them as they stood waving white flags.

“The Israeli military received strong evidence in dozens of cases that its soldiers killed Palestinians unlawfully during Israel’s ‘Operation Cast Lead,’ yet the military has indicted only four soldiers, and jailed none on such charges,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“The scant accountability for the apparent crimes by Israeli soldiers casts grave doubt on Israel’s willingness to prosecute crimes by its forces” (“Israel: 2009 Killings of Mother and Daughter Unresolved,” Human Rights Watch, 22 August 2012)

Indeed, Rachel’s father, Craig Corrie, said that his daughter’s killing highlighted this impunity, and showed just how the Israeli army “thought [it] could kill people on the border with impunity.”

He explained how, within a seven-week period in 2003, Rachel, British activist Tom Hurndall and British journalist James Miller were killed in the same area of Gaza.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Israeli army demolished over 2,500 Palestinian homes in Gaza from 2000 to 2004; two-thirds of that number were in Rafah alone. “That was why Rachel was there. That context was almost not permitted within the courtroom at all,” Craig said.

“There was a family behind that wall and she knew that family. She slept on the floor in the parents’ bedroom because they couldn’t sleep in the children’s bedroom because they were being fired at by Israeli soldiers. She knew that family and she knew they stood behind that wall,” he added.

“Knowing that, how could she move?”

US backs dictatorial regime in Bahrain to retain hegemony

by Khalil Bendib

by Colin S. Cavell, source

Hearings were held today, Wednesday, August 1, 2012, in the US Congress on the “Implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry Report” by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (named in honor of the former Democratic representative from California who died in 2008).

Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA) and Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) co-chaired the hearings which took place in Room 2237 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC.

And what did they examine you ask? They purportedly examined the extent to which the government of Bahrain has implemented the BICI proposals.

And what are the BICI proposals? These are recommendations included in a report issued by a commission headed by renowned Egyptian-born international criminal law professor Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni in November of 2011.

And why did Bassiouni issue this report? Because he was paid by Hamad Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain, to investigate the allegations of human rights abuses during the regime crackdown on democracy protesters from February 14, 2011, when the Arab Spring rebellion commenced in Bahrain, until Saudi Arabia sent in the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council’s (PGCC) so-called Peninsula Shield Forces on March 14, 2011 to “restore order”. Presumably what happened from the 14th of March, 2011 and afterwards could not be attributed to the King or his hangmen and, therefore, were off-limits to Bassiouni and his investigators, even though the killings, the torture, the arrests and jailings, the beatings and harassments continue to this day-i.e. 17 months after the civil conflict erupted-as do the near-daily protests by the pro-democracy citizenry which periodically march in the streets in the hundreds of thousands to demonstrate their resolve against the monarchy.

In essence, King Hamad was strongly urged by the US Department of State and others to whitewash the murders, tortures, beatings, arrests, jailings, beatings, harassment and other crimes of his regime by establishing a commission-the so-called Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI)- on June 29, 2011, headed by a distinguished jurist-i.e. Cherif Bassiouni-so as to indicate a degree of self-reflection and self-criticism in the hope that the world community would absolve him and his regime of any responsibility for maintaining an autocratic 229-year-old hereditary monarchy and allow the kingdom to return to business as usual.

And why did the US government pressure King Hamad to establish this commission and to issue this report? Because the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, and the US wants to maintain its basing rights on the island kingdom in order to protect its hegemonic position to assert its dominance and control over the Middle Eastern Arab regimes. The commission and the report would demonstrate, it was argued, the maturity of the Al-Khalifa regime and its ability to learn from its mistakes and reform its government.

When did Bassiouni issue this report? The date of the issuance of this infamous 500-page Bassiouni Report was Wednesday, November 23, 2011 when senior members of the Al-Khalifa family gathered in one of the King’s palaces, along with numerous reporters, to hear Bassiouni present a 45-minute verbal summary of his findings. Allegedly, the Report “took 9,000 testimonies, offered an extensive chronology of events, documented 46 deaths, 559 allegations of torture, and more than 4,000 cases of employees dismissed for participating in protests.” To his credit, Bassiouni rejected the regime’s completely unfounded claims that the pro-democracy protests were externally initiated by the country of Iran, and he also recommended a series of reforms designed to prevent human rights abuses from re-occurring. The Report, however, failed to place any blame on the leaders of the Al-Khalifa regime, assigning responsibility for instances of torture, excessive use of violence, and other human rights abuses to low-level functionaries.

And how did the king react to the Report? King Hamad expressed deep appreciation for Cherif Bassiouni’s efforts and vowed “to learn” from the “painful events”. The king stated that laws would be reformed to “give greater protection to the valuable right of free speech” and, bizarrely, “to expand the definition of ‘torture’ to ensure that all forms of ill treatment are sanctioned by our criminal laws.” Hamad promised to hold officials accountable and to dismiss those who were not up to their tasks. Then, the king thanked the regime’s military and the PGCC Peninsula Shield Force for restoring order.

After all of this pageantry of fine talk was uttered with the hope of great expectations, the king then finished with a tirade against the Islamic Republic of Iran for “inciting our population to engage in acts of violence, sabotage, and insurrection” with “propaganda [that] fuelled the flames of sectarian strife.” And though he acknowledged that Commission Chair Bassiouni had found no evidence of such external subversion of Bahrain’s internal affairs, the king nevertheless assured everyone that the charge was indeed true and was self-evident to “all who have eyes and ears and comprehend Arabic.”

This last rant by King Hamad thus illuminated to all endowed with reason and a scintilla of fair play that none of the BICI reforms would be implemented as intended and that the regime could now go and congratulate itself once again on pulling off an international public relations coup that would effectively exonerate the regime of any responsibility for its crimes against humanity.

In his expert testimony before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, the Honorable Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, reiterated the usual clichés expected of a US government bureaucrat when he stated that:

“For more than 60 years, the United States military has worked closely with its Bahraini counterparts. The Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, and the country serves as a pillar of our regional security strategy in the [Persian] Gulf region. The U.S. – Bahrain relationship is particularly important in the face of rising threats from Iran.”

Posner then went on to congratulate the Bahraini king. He stated:

“The BICI process was unprecedented both in its scope and the unfettered access the BICI team were granted. King Hamad deserves great credit for initiating this commission and for allowing an independent body to take a critical look at Bahrain’s human rights record and to report so extensively on its findings. We also commend the King for accepting and committing to implement the recommendations of the BICI report.”

Posner then testified that though Bahrain is a strategic partner of the United States, it is nonetheless at a “crossroads”. For example, he noted, there are “deep divisions within Bahraini society” with “[a]lmost nightly confrontations” between the protesters and the police. Posner stated that there are “reports of continuing reprisals against Bahraini citizens who attempt to exercise their universal rights to free expression and assembly.” Also, he testified, that permits for demonstrations are “often denied.” Moreover, he pointed out, the regime “has stopped granting permits for organized demonstrations in central Manama.”

Noting that the much ballyhooed “dialogue” has “broken down,” Posner remarked that “[t]here is little evidence that Bahrain is moving toward a negotiated political agreement on issues such as the powers of parliament and electoral districting.”

For its part, Posner said that the US is pursuing a two-track strategy to promote “meaningful dialogue and negotiation” with the first track focused on encouraging all actors in Bahrain to engage in dialogue while the second track encourages the government to sit down with the civil society organizations “to make progress” on issues “such as safety, health, education, labor, and policing.”

Citing “a fundamental lack of trust between the police and the people whom the police are meant to serve,” Posner recommended “genuine” dialogue to establish trust. Commending the government for certain nominal reforms, he nonetheless urged action on a “full range of other BICI recommendations” including “dropping charges against all persons accused of offenses involving peaceful political expression including freedom of assembly, prosecuting those officials responsible for the violations identified in the BICI report, and ensuring fair and expeditious trials in appeals cases” and “continuing work to professionalize and diversify Bahrain’s security forces to reflect the communities which they serve.”

Referring to several hundred pending criminal cases against protesters and noting that many protesters remain in prison after more than a year, Posner particularly condemned the regime for prosecuting 20 medical professionals whose crime was assisting not only pro-monarchy supporters but, as well, pro-democracy activists. The regime “received convictions in nine of 18 felony cases against medical professionals before the appellate court, with sentences ranging from one month to five years,” he noted. Fear and trepidation currently pervade Bahrain’s healthcare system, and Posner pointed out that many young Bahrainis “often elect not to seek treatment in public clinics and hospitals when they are injured for fear of being turned in to the police by their doctors on allegations of participating in demonstrations.” The sectarian divide promoted by the regime between Shi’as and Sunnis has created a shortage of talent in critical areas and damaged the reputation of Bahrain’s medical services as a consequence.

Posner also highlighted the inability on the part of the regime to hold accountable “those officials responsible for the violations described in the BICI report.” To date, he pointed out, “only nine policemen-five Pakistani and one Yemeni national and three Bahrainis-are known to have been brought to trial for human rights violations.” Furthermore, stated Posner, “[o]ngoing violence in the streets between police and protesters points to the need for professional, integrated police and security forces that reflect the diversity of the communities they serve and that adopt a community policing approach.”

Wrapping up his testimony, Posner premised his concluding statement on the fact that “President Obama has said that stable, democratic societies make the best partners and allies.” With this acknowledgment, Posner concluded: “And so while there is no single path or timetable to forging a real democracy, there are a core set of underlying principles that, as Secretary Clinton recently noted, ‘have to be enshrined not only in the constitution, not only in the institutions of government, but in the hearts and minds of the people’.”

Trying to make a monarchy act democratically is about as useless as trying to make a pig fly. Apparently Posner recognizes the futility of reforming the criminal Al-Khalifas. If so, then the Obama Administration has two options: either stick with the Khalifa monarchy and try to put out or quiet down the fire of revolution in Bahrain knowing full well that the regime will not reform itself, or quietly set the stage for a democratic regime transition in the island kingdom in order to extend US basing rights in Bahrain into the next generation. The Khalifas are betting that everything will remain the same and that, eventually, the people will quiet down and stay home.

Propaganda war: Houla Massacre & Israeli president supports armed groups in Syria

by Khalil Bendib

Propaganda War: Houla Massacre Committed by US-NATO Sponsored “Free Syrian Army”. But They Accuse Syrian Government

by Thierry Meyssan, source

[The] 108 bodies were laid out by the Free ’Syrian’ Army [1] in a mosque in Houla. According to the rebels, these were the remains of civilians massacred on 25 May 2012 by pro-government militia known as ‘Shabbihas’.
The Syrian government appeared completely shocked by the news. It immediately condemned the killings, which it attributed to the armed opposition.

While the national news agency, SANA, was unable to provide details with certainty, the Syrian Catholic news agency, Vox Clamantis, immediately issued a testimony of some of the events formally accusing the opposition [2].

Five days later, the Russian news channel Rossiya 24 (exVesti) aired a very detailed 45-minute report, which remains to date the most comprehensive public inquiry [3].

The West and Gulf States who are working towards a “regime change” in Syria and have already recognized the opposition as a privileged interlocutor, have adopted the FSA’s version of events without waiting for the report from the United Nations Supervision Mission (UNSMIS).

As a sanction, most of them have resorted to a prearranged measure, namely the expulsion of Syrian ambassadors to their respective countries. This does not represent a rupture of diplomatic relations, as the rest of the accredited Syrian diplomatic personnel will remain stationed where they are.

The United Nations Security Council adopted a presidential statement condemning the massacre without indicating who was responsible. It furthermore reminded the Syrian government of its responsibilities, namely the protection of its people using proportionate measures, that’s to say without the use of heavy weapons [4].

Contrary to this, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay endorsed the allegations blaming the Syrian authorities, and demanded that the case be transferred to the International Criminal Court.

French President François Hollande and his Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius have announced their intention to convince Russia and China not to obstruct a future Security Council’s resolution authorizing the use of force, while the French press is accusing Russia and China of protecting a criminal regime.

Responding to these charges, Russia’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrey Denissov expressed regret over France’s “basically emotional reaction” – devoid of analysis. He reiterated that the steadfast position of his country, in this case as for others, is not to support governments, but peoples (it being understood that the Syrian people elected President al-Assad at the last constitutional referendum).

The United Nations Supervision Mission went to Damascus at the request of the Syrian government. It was received by the opposition who control this zone, and was able to establish various observations to be used in writing its status report.

At an internal press briefing, the President of the Syrian investigation Commission into the massacre read a brief statement revealing the initial elements of the current investigation. According to him, the massacre was carried out by the opposition as part of an FSA military operation in the area.

Aware that the findings of the UN Supervision Mission report may backfire on them, the Western countries requested that the Human Rights Council in Geneva (which is under their control) set up another investigation Commission. A report from this body could be produced quickly in order to impose a version of events before the Supervision Mission is able to draw its own conclusions.

How can we know what happened in Houla?

Two main factors are impeding the work of investigators. The Syrian government lost control of Houla many weeks ago. Syrian magistrates are therefore unable to go to Houla, and even if some journalists are able to do so, this is only with the permission of and under close surveillance by the FSA.

There is however one exception: a team from Rossiya 24, the 24-hour Russian news channel was able to move around the area without an escort, and produce an exceptionally detailed report.

The official Syrian Commission claims to have collected several witness statements, but has declared that these shall only be presented to the press once the final report has been established. At present, the identity of these witnesses remains protected by investigation secrecy. However, several of the accounts were broadcast on public television on 1st June.

The investigators are also in possession of videos provided exclusively by the FSA.

Lastly, since the FSA amassed the bodies in a mosque and began burying them the very next day, it was not possible for UN observers to carry out forensic assessments on many of the dead.

Voltaire Network ’s conclusions

Houla is not a town, but an administrative area made up of three villages, each with about 25,000 residents but which today lie largely abandoned. The Sunni market town of Tal Daw has been under rebel control for many weeks. The Free “Syrian” Army had imposed its rule there. The national Army was securing transport routes by maintaining several posts on roads within the area, but did not venture beyond these roads.

Certain individuals kidnapped children and attempted unsuccessfully to extort ransoms. [5] In the end, these children were killed a few days before the Houla massacre, but their bodies were brought by the Free “Syrian” Army to be laid out amongst the others.

In the evening of 24 May, the Free “Syrian” Army launched a very large-scale operation to reinforce its control over the region, and to make Tal Daw its new base.

In order to do this, 600-800 combatants from various districts gathered in Rastan and Saan and proceeded to launch simultaneous attacks on the military bases. At the same time, a team was fortifying Tal Daw by installing five anti-tank missile batteries, and purging the town of some of its inhabitants.

The first victims in Tel Daw were a dozen people related to Abd al-Muty Mashlab – a legislator of the recently elected Baas party who was appointed Secretary of the National Assembly; following this, the family of a senior official – Mouawyya al-Sayyed – was killed. Subsequent targets were families of Sunni origin who had converted to Shiite Islam.

Other victims included the family of two journalists for Top News and New Orient News, press agencies associated with Voltaire Network. Many people, including children, were raped before being killed.

With only one of the Army’s bases having fallen, the assailants changed strategy. They transformed a military defeat into a communication operation, attacking the al-Watani hospital and setting fire to it. They took corpses from the hospital morgue and transported them along with those of other victims to the mosque, where the bodies were filmed.

The theory of a single massacre perpetrated by pro-government militia does not stand up to the facts. There were battles which took place between loyalists and rebels, as well as several massacres of pro-government civilians at the hands of the rebels.

Then, a scenario was staged by the Free “Syrian” Army where corpses originating from these various earlier situations were mixed together.

Indeed, the existence of the “Shabbihas” is a myth. Whilst there are certainly individuals in favour of the government who are armed and capable of committing acts of revenge, there is no structure or organized group that could be termed as a pro-government militia.

Political and diplomatic implications

The expulsion of Syrian ambassadors by Western countries is a measure that was planned well in advance and therefore well-coordinated. Westerners were waiting for a massacre of this type before carrying out this action. They ignored numerous previous massacres that they knew had been perpetrated by the Free “Syrian” Army, and seized on this one believing that it had been committed by pro-government militia.

The idea of a coordinated expulsion did not emanate from Paris, rather from Washington. Paris in principle gave its agreement, without having examined the legal implications. For in practice, Lamia Chakkour is also the Syrian Ambassador to UNESCO, and cannot therefore (according to the terms of the accord de siège) be expelled from French territory. Further to this, even if she were not accredited to UNESCO, her French-Syrian dual nationality means that she cannot be expelled from French territory.

These expulsions were coordinated by Washington to create the illusion of a general movement in order to put pressure on Russia. Indeed, the US is looking to test the new international balance of power, to size up Russia’s reactions and to find out how far they will go.

The choice of the Houla affair, however, has been a tactical error. Washington seized upon the affair without checking the details, thinking that nobody would be able to verify it. This was forgetting that Russia has moved into the country – with over 100,000 Russians currently residing in Syria.

Of course, they did not deploy a high-tech anti-aircraft defense system just to discourage NATO from bombarding Syria; they also set up information bases including troops that are able to move around rebel controlled areas.

In this way, Moscow was able to shed light on the facts within a few days. Their specialists succeeded in identifying the 13 members of the FSA guilty of these killings and gave their names to the Syrian authorities. With this, not only did Moscow not waver, it has hardened its stance.

For Vladimir Putin, the fact that the West wanted to make the Houla massacre into their symbol shows that they are out of touch with the reality on the ground. Having withdrawn the officers in charge of the Free “Syrian” Army, the only information available to the West comes from their drones and satellites observing what is happening. They have become vulnerable to the lies and vaunting of the mercenaries they have deployed on the terrain.

For Moscow, this massacre is just another tragedy like many others that Syrians have been enduring for the last year. But hasty instrumentation on the part of the West shows that they have failed to develop a new collective strategy since the fall of the Islamic district of Baba Amr. In essence, they are but acting on guesswork, which is allowing others to gain the upper-hand.

Translated from French by Katy Stone.

[1] Voltaire Network has chosen to write FSA with ’Syrian’ in inverted commas to indicate that this militia is largely composed of foreigners, and that it’s commander is not Syrian.

[2] “Irreversible divisons in Syria,” VoxClamantis, 26 May 2012.

[3] Global Research translated to English the transcript of extracts from this programme, see “Opposition Terrorists “Killed Families Loyal to the Government”“, Voltaire Network 1 June 2012.

[4] “Syria: What the Security Council Said”, by Thierry Meyssan,Voltaire Network, 6 June 2012.

[5] This is currently a security problem in the country. Many of the thugs that had been recruited to swell the ranks of the Free “Syrian” Army were demobilized due to lack of funding. Remaining in the possession of arms provided by the West, they are turning to crime – mainly kidnappings for ransom.

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Israeli president supports armed groups in Syria

Press TV

Israeli President Shimon Peres has put his weight behind armed groups in Syria despite Damascus efforts to bring calm to the crisis-hit country.

Peres said in an interview with Israeli public radio on Sunday that he respected the armed gangs, who “expose themselves to live fire and I hope that they will win.”…

Illusions of growth: Empty talk from the G8

by Dave Brown

by VIJAY PRASHAD, source

WHEN the Group of Seven (G7) was formed in 1974, its charge was to provide confidence to a global population uncertain about the major structural features in the world. The members of the G7 were Canada, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and West Germany. They came together at a time of grave economic trouble, with unemployment rates skyrocketing, labour unions becoming restive and economic policies unable to control haemorrhaged growth and inflation. The then U.S. President, Gerald Ford, told a private meeting of the heads of government in Rambouillet (France) that they must “ensure that the current world economic situation is not seen as a crisis in the democratic or capitalist system”. A British Foreign Office report on that first summit noted: “The participants were conscious that they had to make a convincing and demonstrative gesture of solidarity.” Little has changed since 1974.

President Barack Obama left the May 18-19 Camp David conclave of the G8 to say that things were “so far so good”. He underlined the “emerging consensus that more must be done to promote economic growth and job creation, right now”. Behind him was the newly elected French President, Francois Hollande, who had run on a platform of growth over austerity. With Hollande was Britain’s David Cameron, who hoped, as Financial Times put it, “to repair strained relations with Mr Hollande by supporting his growth plan”. On the surface, it looked as if the growth wing had won out over the austerity wing. But this was an illusion.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared isolated, but she did not bend from her commitments. “Budget discipline” in deficit countries remained high on her agenda. There was to be no public deal with Greece before its second election. Before the G8 meeting, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso had placed high odds that Greece would leave the eurozone, and the Fitch Ratings agency had reduced Greece to the level of junk (CCC grade). Talk of growth in the public forums and in the first line of the Camp David Declaration (“Our imperative is to promote growth and jobs”) seemed hemmed in by more fleshed out obligations. A few lines down, the G8 took the Merkel or neoliberal view that governments had to push for “reforms to raise productivity, growth and demand within a sustainable, credible and non-inflationary macroeconomic framework”. The declaration mentioned the importance of “confidence” and “fiscal responsibility” to strengthen economic recovery. All this verbiage (sustainable, credible, confidence) masked the policy of austerity. What it means is that the financial markets must have confidence that their investments will be protected and bailed out and that the governments must balance their budgets responsibly.

The main difference between the forces of growth (Obama, Hollande) and austerity (Merkel) are not strategic but tactical. Obama had the U.S. economy in mind, not the Greek people, when he promoted growth in Europe. The U.S. was worried that a second collapse of the European banking system would adversely threaten U.S. banking institutions. U.S. banks have already reduced their exposure to the Greek financial system by 40 per cent. A Greek exit from the eurozone might infect the rest of southern Europe (Italy and Spain), in whose financial markets the U.S. banks are more heavily leveraged both directly and indirectly. A Europe-wide collapse would devastate the U.S. financial firms. In order to prevent this outcome, Obama was insistent that the European Central Bank create a cushion for a credit crunch and provide “confidence” to investors not to abandon the Euro. This is less about a growth agenda for Europe than a firewall to prevent a financial tsunami that mimics the one that took hold after Lehman Brothers closed down in 2008.

The Camp David Declaration dwelt at length on the importance of intellectual property rights and on hunger in Africa. Nothing was said of the major social crisis that had overtaken much of the world. The question of intellectual property rights is a parochial one for the interests of the Atlantic world, which has converted its intellectual property into one of its major sources of revenue. “Africa”, on the other hand, has become a symbolic way for the G8 to appear concerned about poverty. At the 2005 Gleneagles (Scotland) summit, the group launched the Make Poverty History campaign, which was a celebrity- and non-governmental-organisation-driven circus tagged onto the Millennium Development Goals. There was little about it that was serious. If the G8 was serious about some of the trials of Africa, it would suspend its insistence upon intellectual property rights and allow pharmaceutical companies to produce off-patent drugs. These drugs would be able to enter countries in Africa where their current patent-driven prices make them unaffordable. But “Africa” in the G8 is not about the real people of the continent. It stands as a proxy to show that the G8 is not heartless.

THE JOBS PROBLEM

Everyday life has become difficult, something that seemed off the G8 radar. The urgent situation is for the youth. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) released a report on May 22 entitled “Global Employment Trends for Youth 2012”. The findings are stark. Seventy-five million young people cannot find jobs, four million more than in 2007. These numbers do not tell the full story, as the ILO concedes. “Discouraged by high youth unemployment rates,” the ILO notes, “many young people have given up the job search altogether, or decided to postpone it and continue their stay in the education system.” More than six million young people withdraw from the labour force every year. Where they have been able to find jobs is in the temporary labour market. One in three youth surveyed said that having been unable to find a permanent job, they had to take temporary work and internships.

Such “precarious” work leads to exploitation of the workers and at the same time wariness about joining a union. “A young person who enters a company with a precarious contract and hopes to be taken on permanently one day does not naturally think of joining a union,” says Thiébaut Weber, a youth leader in the European Trade Union Confederation. These young people are not reassured by the G8 Declaration, which soothingly notes, “The global economic recovery shows signs of promise.” There is little indication of that in the unemployment centres.

The jobs problem is acute in the G8 and in the wider G20. A study finds that the G20 countries will need to conjure up 42 million jobs a year to absorb their youth. Unemployment is not a symptom of the financial crisis. It is a major crisis in itself. There is no plan on the table that will directly address this question of jobs. Neither Hollande’s commitment to growth nor Angela Merkel’s pledge to austerity has anything that speaks to those young people who will be systemically set outside the circuits of accumulation.

There is no public stimulus on offer that could underwrite an employment programme along the grain of the ILO’s Global Jobs Pact. The declaration was hesitant on commitments of public money for jobs. “Investment initiatives can be financed using a range of mechanisms,” the G8 noted, “including leveraging the private sector.” Public money will once more be used as insurance for private investment, rather than put to work by itself to create jobs.

A few days before the G8 summit opened, the France-based market research firm IPSOS released its Economic Pulse of the World. The firm conducted surveys in 24 countries, asking people how they saw their economy and how they anticipated its future. Only 14 per cent of those surveyed felt that their economy would be stronger six months hence. Southern Europe was gloomy, with Spain and Italy leading the pack. Britain was not far from the despondency. Elections in France, the Netherlands, Greece and Serbia and in the German provinces delivered a mandate against austerity in the run-up to the G8 meeting. Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the left-wing Syriza coalition in Greece, told CNN that if his country followed the bailout agreement “we are going directly to hell. To save Europe we need to change direction.” The pressure from below could not be clearer.

Gloom about the future did not translate into voter apathy and malaise. Electoral contests continued to bring out the voters, so that the French presidential election saw 73 per cent of voters at the polls, while 66 per cent of the Greek electorate came to deliver an anti-austerity mandate. The lines outside polling booths were matched by large anti-austerity demonstrations across Europe. The Greek anti-austerity protests began in 2010 and continue to date, with the Indignant Citizens Movement (Kínima Aganaktisménon Politón) as the spur. They echoed the Spanish indignados, whose protest began on May 15, 2011 (from which they took the name 15M) and then spiralled into manifestations in the centres of Spanish cities and a people’s march in the summer of 2011. The dynamic for the protests spread outward from southern Europe. The Occupy movement in the U.S. took inspiration not only from Tahrir Square but also from the Spanish.

When the powers that be announced that they would hold the G8 and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit in Chicago in mid-May 2012, a massive protest was forecast against both austerity and warfare. Hastily, the Obama administration moved the G8 to the more secluded site of Camp David. They feared the protest, which brought tens of thousands of people nonetheless to march against NATO and austerity in Chicago on May 20. The anarchist slogan defined the atmosphere, “A….Anti….Anticapitalista”.

In Quebec, over a hundred thousand people took to the streets against a pig-headed policy over protests and against the implications of austerity. In Frankfurt, despite the police’s attempt to constrain the demonstrations, 20,000 people gathered for the Blockupy protests. The organisers said that Blockupy sent a “clear and visible signal of international solidarity against the authoritarian crisis management and the poverty inducing policies of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund”. The message could even be simpler: those in charge had no idea what they were doing. Their attempt to appear united and confident seemed illusiory. If it worked in 1974, it was not working in 2012.

Bahraini forces raid protester homes in Sitra, arrest dozens

by Dave Brown

Press TV

Saudi-backed Bahraini security forces have raided the houses of anti-regime protesters in the northeastern town of Sitra, making dozens of arrests, Press TV reports.

On Monday, Bahrain riot police raided several houses in the besieged island of Sitra, taking away dozens of protesters, who have been taking part in anti-government rallies.

Sitra has long been the center of protests against the Al Khalifa regime and the opposition calls it the “Capital of Revolution.”…

Our men in Iran?

by Guy Billout

by Seymour M. Hersh, source

From the air, the terrain of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site, with its arid high plains and remote mountain peaks, has the look of northwest Iran. The site, some sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas, was once used for nuclear testing, and now includes a counterintelligence training facility and a private airport capable of handling Boeing 737 aircraft. It’s a restricted area, and inhospitable—in certain sections, the curious are warned that the site’s security personnel are authorized to use deadly force, if necessary, against intruders.

It was here that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K. The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the nineteen-seventies, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens. It was initially part of the broad-based revolution that led to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran. But, within a few years, the group was waging a bloody internal war with the ruling clerics, and, in 1997, it was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. In 2002, the M.E.K. earned some international credibility by publicly revealing—accurately—that Iran had begun enriching uranium at a secret underground location. Mohamed ElBaradei, who at the time was the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency, told me later that he had been informed that the information was supplied by the Mossad. The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations. Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants.

Despite the growing ties, and a much-intensified lobbying effort organized by its advocates, M.E.K. has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training. “We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official told me. “We were deploying them over long distances in the desert and mountains, and building their capacity in communications—coördinating commo is a big deal.” (A spokesman for J.S.O.C. said that “U.S. Special Operations Forces were neither aware of nor involved in the training of M.E.K. members.”)

The training ended sometime before President Obama took office, the former official said. In a separate interview, a retired four-star general, who has advised the Bush and Obama Administrations on national-security issues, said that he had been privately briefed in 2005 about the training of Iranians associated with the M.E.K. in Nevada by an American involved in the program. They got “the standard training,” he said, “in commo, crypto [cryptography], small-unit tactics, and weaponry—that went on for six months,” the retired general said. “They were kept in little pods.” He also was told, he said, that the men doing the training were from JSOC, which, by 2005, had become a major instrument in the Bush Administration’s global war on terror. “The JSOC trainers were not front-line guys who had been in the field, but second- and third-tier guys—trainers and the like—and they started going off the reservation. ‘If we’re going to teach you tactics, let me show you some really sexy stuff…’ ”

It was the ad-hoc training that provoked the worried telephone calls to him, the former general said. “I told one of the guys who called me that they were all in over their heads, and all of them could end up trouble unless they got something in writing. The Iranians are very, very good at counterintelligence, and stuff like this is just too hard to contain.” The site in Nevada was being utilized at the same time, he said, for advanced training of élite Iraqi combat units. (The retired general said he only knew of the one M.E.K.-affiliated group that went though the training course; the former senior intelligence official said that he was aware of training that went on through 2007.)

Allan Gerson, a Washington attorney for the M.E.K., notes that the M.E.K. has publicly and repeatedly renounced terror. Gerson said he would not comment on the alleged training in Nevada. But such training, if true, he said, would be “especially incongruent with the State Department’s decision to continue to maintain the M.E.K. on the terrorist list. How can the U.S. train those on State’s foreign terrorist list, when others face criminal penalties for providing a nickel to the same organization?”

Robert Baer, a retired C.I.A. agent who is fluent in Arabic and had worked under cover in Kurdistan and throughout the Middle East in his career, initially had told me in early 2004 of being recruited by a private American company—working, so he believed, on behalf of the Bush Administration—to return to Iraq. “They wanted me to help the M.E.K. collect intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program,” Baer recalled. “They thought I knew Farsi, which I did not. I said I’d get back to them, but never did.” Baer, now living in California, recalled that it was made clear to him at the time that the operation was “a long-term thing—not just a one-shot deal.”

Massoud Khodabandeh, an I.T. expert now living in England who consults for the Iraqi government, was an official with the M.E.K. before defecting in 1996. In a telephone interview, he acknowledged that he is an avowed enemy of the M.E.K., and has advocated against the group. Khodabandeh said that he had been with the group since before the fall of the Shah and, as a computer expert, was deeply involved in intelligence activities as well as providing security for the M.E.K. leadership. For the past decade, he and his English wife have run a support program for other defectors. Khodabandeh told me that he had heard from more recent defectors about the training in Nevada. He was told that the communications training in Nevada involved more than teaching how to keep in contact during attacks—it also involved communication intercepts. The United States, he said, at one point found a way to penetrate some major Iranian communications systems. At the time, he said, the U.S. provided M.E.K. operatives with the ability to intercept telephone calls and text messages inside Iran—which M.E.K. operatives translated and shared with American signals intelligence experts. He does not know whether this activity is ongoing.

Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. NBC further quoted the Administration officials as denying any American involvement in the M.E.K. activities. The former senior intelligence official I spoke with seconded the NBC report that the Israelis were working with the M.E.K., adding that the operations benefitted from American intelligence. He said that the targets were not “Einsteins”; “The goal is to affect Iranian psychology and morale,” he said, and to “demoralize the whole system—nuclear delivery vehicles, nuclear enrichment facilities, power plants.” Attacks have also been carried out on pipelines. He added that the operations are “primarily being done by M.E.K. through liaison with the Israelis, but the United States is now providing the intelligence.” An adviser to the special-operations community told me that the links between the United States and M.E.K. activities inside Iran had been long-standing. “Everything being done inside Iran now is being done with surrogates,” he said.

The sources I spoke to were unable to say whether the people trained in Nevada were now involved in operations in Iran or elsewhere. But they pointed to the general benefit of American support. “The M.E.K. was a total joke,” the senior Pentagon consultant said, “and now it’s a real network inside Iran. How did the M.E.K. get so much more efficient?” he asked rhetorically. “Part of it is the training in Nevada. Part of it is logistical support in Kurdistan, and part of it is inside Iran. M.E.K. now has a capacity for efficient operations that it never had before.”

In mid-January, a few days after an assassination by car bomb of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, at a town-hall meeting of soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, acknowledged that the U.S. government has “some ideas as to who might be involved, but we don’t know exactly who was involved.” He added, “But I can tell you one thing: the United States was not involved in that kind of effort. That’s not what the United States does.”

Rape and Murder in Afghanistan

by Tom Janssen

Rape and Murder in Afghanistan

by Stephen Lendman

On March 11, up to 20 US forces murdered 16 Afghan men, women, and nine children, aged two to 12. Children were massacred while they slept. Two women were also raped before soldiers killed them.

Major media scoundrels whitewashed the crimes by shamelessly blaming one soldier to absolve others, and most of all, higher-ups responsible for permitting a culture that condones and encourages them.

A transparent March 11 Pentagon Secretary of Defense Panetta statement said the following:

“Today I spoke to President Karzai to offer my deepest condolences and profound regret for the tragic incident in Kandahar province that resulted in the loss of life and injuries to innocent Afghan civilians, including women and children.”

“A full investigation is already underway. A suspect is in custody, and I gave President Karzai my assurances that we will bring those responsible to justice. We will spare no effort in getting the facts as quickly as possible, and we will hold any perpetrator who is responsible for this violence fully accountable under the law.”

“I condemn such violence and am shocked and saddened that a U.S. service member is alleged to be involved, clearly acting outside his chain of command. I told President Karzai that the American people share the outrage felt by President Karzai and his fellow citizens. This tragic incident does not reflect the commitment of the U.S. military to protect the Afghan people and help build a strong and stable Afghanistan.”

“As we mourn today with the Afghan people, we are steadfast in our resolve to work hand in hand with our Afghan partners to accomplish the missions and goals on which we have been working together for so long.”

“This terrible incident does not reflect our shared values or the progress we have made together. As I told President Karzai, I am fully committed to ensuring that our cooperation continues. It is essential to forging a more peaceful future for the citizens of both our nations.”

Like similar Pentagon, White House, and other official statements, Panetta’s words ring hollow. They also reflected damage control cover-up, not only of a crime too grave to ignore, but just the latest in a systematic ongoing pattern wherever America shows up.

Like others, this one included rape and murder. According toPajhwok Afghan News:

“A parliamentary probe team on Thursday said up to 20 American troops were involved in Sunday’s killing of 16 civilians in southern Kandahar province.”

It spent two days interviewing surviving family members, witnesses, and tribal elders. They also gathered evidence where killings took place.

Two groups of US soldiers were involved. Attacks occurred in separate villages one and a half kilometers apart.

“We are convinced that one soldier cannot kill so many people in two villages within one hour at the same time.”

Most victims were women and children. Parliamentarian Hamidzai Lali demanded that the UN and international community ensure those responsible are prosecuted in Afghanistan.

Lali said the Wolesi Jirga, Afghanistan’s lower House of the People, won’t stay silent until prosecutions occur, adding:

“If the international community does not play its role in punishing the perpetrators, the Wolesi Jirga would declare foreign troops as occupying forces, like the Russians.”

Soldiers Committed Rape and Murder

On March 18, India’s Siasat Daily headlined, “US Forces raped two Afghan women,” saying:

The Afghan probe team said US soldiers systematically went from house to house in two villages, raped two women before murdering them, and at least 14 others.

Some victim bodies were then set ablaze.

On March 17, Russia Today called the Kandahar massacre “preplanned” murder, according to Afghan Army Chief of Staff Lt. General Sher Mohammad Karimi.

He and President Karzai said multiple assailants were involved. They also stressed that US commanders stonewalled Afghan demands to interrogate those responsible and hold them accountable locally.

Surviving family members and witnesses said assailants had air support. Helicopters brought them in and remained overhead during the carnage.

Kandahar Massacre Reflects Earlier Ones

Analyst Rick Rozoff called the incident “particularly egregious” because of its “cold-blooded, calculated” nature. It evoked echoes of past ones like Vietnam’s My Lai, Iraq’s Haditha, and two Fallujah slaughter incidents in April/May 2004, then in genocidal numbers in November/December.

Survivors and witnesses confirmed industrial scale mass murder. Children saw parents shot. Adults lost spouses and children. Homes and stores were looted.

Thousands of others were destroyed. A government committee found 26,000 houses damaged and another 3,000 completely demolished. They included 70 mosques, 50 schools, and Fallujah’s power plant. The city depended on it for electricity, 50% of its drinking water distribution, and 70% of its sewer system.

Overall, indiscriminate slaughter, destruction, and environmental contamination occurred. It was followed by looting, mass arrests, torture, and deaths from ill treatment and disease. A cancer epidemic followed and numerous previously unknown or rarely seen illnesses, severe congenital malformations, and more.

Since 2001, millions of Afghans and Iraqis died. Libya’s enduring its own nightmare. Syria and Iran are next. American wars show no mercy.

Rape as a Weapon of War

In all US war theaters, slaughter, sadism, and other atrocities are institutionalized. Rape becomes a weapon of war. On June 19, 2008, the Security Council agreed, adopting Resolution 1820.

It demanded an “immediate and complete halt to acts of sexual violence against civilians in conflict zones.” It said:

“women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.”

These offenses also “constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.”

Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manifred Nowak said rape constitutes torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment used as a weapon of war to inflict greater pain and suffering.

Author Slavenka Drakulic described it as “slow murder.” The Nuremberg Tribunal called it a crime against humanity.

Nothing, however, stops it, and UN resolutions fall woefully short. The latest Afghan rape and multiple murder atrocity reflects countless others. It’s because US soldiers are trained to be violent in war theaters and show no mercy. Anything goes and does. Women and young girls are especially vulnerable.

In May 2009, Britain’s Daily Telegraph said former US General Antonio Taguba said the Obama administration sought to suppress images of US soldiers raping and sodomizing Iraqi prisoners.

He called photos he saw explosive, saying they “show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency. The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough. Take my word for it.”

These and similar incidents aren’t isolated. Nor are a few “bad apples” alone involved. They’re widespread, tolerated, and sanctioned up to the highest government, military, and intelligence levels in all US war theaters.

Victims are helpless targets, including young girls and boys sodomized with phosphorescent tubes, clubs, wire, and other implements to inflict pain.

Instead of holding those responsible accountable, Obama suppressed their crimes. As a result, they continue. The latest Afghan victims represent a drop in the ocean. International and US law principles are ignored. Atrocities follow others repeatedly.

Wars reflect more than hell. They manifest generations of condoned US barbarity. It’s been institutionalized to permit wanton rape, sodomy, torture, sadism, murder, and virtually all other imaginable atrocities with impunity.

America the beautiful is an illusion only young children and fools believe. Ugly war theater wickedness reveals its true dark side. Its victims attest to how monstrous.

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No one bothered to ask their names

Al Manar

In the days following the rogue US soldier’s shooting spree in Kandahar, most of the media, us included, focused on the “backlash” and how it might further strain the relations with the US.

Many mainstream media outlets channeled a significant amount of energy into uncovering the slightest detail about the accused soldier – now identified as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. We even know where his wife wanted to go for vacation, or what she said on her personal blog.

But the victims became a footnote, an anonymous footnote. Just the number 16. No one bothered to ask their ages, their hobbies, their aspirations. Worst of all, no one bothered to ask their names.

In honoring their memory, I write their names below, and the little we know about them: that nine of them were children, three were women.

The dead:

Mohamed Dawood son of Abdullah
Khudaydad son of Mohamed Juma
Nazar Mohamed
Payendo
Robeena
Shatarina daughter of Sultan Mohamed
Zahra daughter of Abdul Hamid
Nazia daughter of Dost Mohamed
Masooma daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Farida daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Palwasha daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Nabia daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Esmatullah daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Faizullah son of Mohamed Wazir
Essa Mohamed son of Mohamed Hussain
Akhtar Mohamed son of Murrad Ali

The wounded:

Haji Mohamed Naim son of Haji Sakhawat
Mohamed Sediq son of Mohamed Naim
Parween
Rafiullah
Zardana
Zulheja

Ignoring intelligence reports: ‘Let’s Make War’

by Khalil Bendib

by Stuart Littlewood, source

Is this what we voted for?

Is this what Western diplomacy has come to in the 21st century?

Thank heaven for Dr David Morrison’s very timely briefing document entitled “Iran hasn’t got an active nuclear weapons program, says US intelligence”. Morrison is the noted political researcher from Northern Ireland. He sets out the position in easy-reading form so that even our dimmest politicians can understand.

As he points out in a covering note, US Intelligence believes Iran hasn’t got an active nuclear weapons program and Israeli Intelligence agrees. “When this became the view of US intelligence in 2007, President Bush had to abandon any thought of taking military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. As he wrote in his memoir Decision Points: ‘How could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?’

“Today, President Obama should be asking himself the same question, since US intelligence is still saying that Iran has no active nuclear weapons program.”

So too should Cameron, Hague and the entire EU.

Dr Morrison’s report boils down to this:

• According to the US intelligence community Iran hasn’t got an active nuclear weapons program and Israeli intelligence agrees.

• The US intelligence community set out this view in a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in November 2007 and it remains their opinion today. Their assessment was that Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. “We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007 …” (NIEs express the consensus view of the 16 US intelligence agencies).

• The November 2011 IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear activities did not say that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program despite the impression given by the media and ministerial ranting.

• Iran has declared to the IAEA 15 nuclear facilities (including its uranium enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow) and 9 other locations. These are all being monitored by the IAEA. In its February 2012 report, the IAEA confirmed yet again there was no diversion of nuclear material from these facilities.

• The IAEA on 4 December 2007 noted that the NIE tallied with the Agency’s statements over the last few years that, although Iran still needs to clarify aspects of its nuclear activities, the Agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities.

• On 16 February this year, the present Director of the National Intelligence Agency, James Clapper, reported to the Senate Armed Services Committee: “We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons… We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons… That is the intelligence community’s assessment …”

• On the same day US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, gave the same assessment to another Congressional committee, saying that Iran has not made a decision on whether to proceed with development of an atomic bomb. A month earlier, when asked about Iran’s nuclear programme on Face the Nation on CBS, he replied: “Are they [the Iranians] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.”

So why the mis-match between intelligence and the loud clamour for war – economic and military? The answer, presumably, is because war is good.. good for business. Hence war can be highly beneficial to a senior politician’s post-political career.

A Middle East Nuke-free Zone… Really?

The international community, including the US and the EU, says it is committed to a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East. The only impediment, of course, is Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons, which menace the whole region and perhaps beyond. Some experts believe that Israel has around 400 nuclear warheads and, naturally, various means of delivering them.

Iran has none.

Iran’s nuclear facilities are open to IAEA inspection; Israel’s are not.

Furthermore, UN Security Council resolution 487, in 1981, called on Israel “urgently to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards”. Israel has ignored it for over 30 years.

Yet the US and the EU choose to impose vicious economic sanctions on Iran, and threaten military action, while taking no such measures against Israel… not even uttering a word of criticism.

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in December at the Conservative Friends of Israel Annual Business Lunch said: “I think Israel is right to identify this [Iran’s nuclear programme] as one of the greatest threats to peace and human life in the world at the moment… Any excuse that Iran had that there was a peaceful purpose for what they were doing has been blown out of the water. There was a report recently from the IAEA which made that clear.”

Did it? Has Osborne actually read the IAEA report or is he mouthing off some Tel Aviv script?

He said he recently authorized the imposition of new sanctions “stronger than any we’ve ever imposed before with a country” cutting off the British financial system from the Iranian banking system.

He added: “David Cameron, myself and other prominent members of the government, as well as the many Conservative MPs who are here are all good friends of Israel.”

And at a dinner of the Community Security Trust in London recently Osborne went so far as to announce his support for the present mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in the coming election, saying that Boris, like him, was a lifelong friend of Israel, and the leader of London should be committed to securing the interests of Israel.

As if any mayor of London should bother himself with the interests of a foreign racist regime! That is not what the people of London elect him to do, nor did the people of Britain elect Osborne to fly the Israeli flag on the roof of the Treasury.

What they say and do make it very clear that prime minister David Cameron, foreign secretary William Hague and Middle East minister Alistair Burt are also Israel’s ardent supporters. Cameron is a self-declared Zionist, Hague a member of the Friends of Israel since he was a juvenile in short trousers, and Burt was not just a member of that fan club but an officer.

Here’s a flavor:

Cameron: “We will not stand by and allow Iran to cast a nuclear shadow over Israel or the wider region” – CST Annual Dinner, 2 March 2011.

Cameron: “I’ve read the reports, and I have had the briefings: they are stockpiling enough uranium to make a nuclear weapon over time. Of course, that’s a huge threat to the world but it’s a particular threat to Israel. Since we came into power we have wasted no time in securing tougher sanctions. We backed tough sanctions in the United Nations – and we championed and led, at meeting after meeting, even tougher sanctions at the European level. Iran needs to know if they continue on this course they will feel international pressure and international isolation”. – CFI Annual Business Lunch, 13 December 2010

Hague: “Iran’s actions not only run counter to the positive change that we are seeing elsewhere in the region; they may threaten to undermine it, bringing about a nuclear arms race in the Middle East or the risk of conflict”. – Middle East Statement, 9 November 2011.

Burt: “Israel’s strength is a regional bulwark for good… Iran does not just threaten Israel. It threatens those who would be Israel’s allies in the Gulf, and in the Arab world who need Israel as part of a common cause against a regime dangerously loose… Israel’s strength is not a regional threat, but an anchor of regional stability. And the world needs Israel’s values, of tolerance and justice…”
– speaking to Bar-Ilan University, Israel, 10 January 2012

Burt: “We share Israel’s determination to prevent Iranian proliferation. Israel is not facing the threat of a nuclear Iran alone…” – same Bar-Ilan meeting.

Burt: “I care as someone who has for decades counted himself as an ardent friend of Israel.” – same Bar-Ilan meeting.

These people at the heart of British government claim Iran is pursuing military objectives through its nuclear programme but provide us with not a shred of evidence. In the circumstances their propaganda offensive linked with Washington’s sounds insane and is unraveling fast because no amount of media lies can hide a crude fabrication. Nobody’s buying it.

If our leaders have trouble understanding the NIE and IAEA reports, help is now at hand. I suggest they get themselves a copy of Dr Morrison’s ‘idiot’s guide’ before they land this country – and indeed the whole West – in more trouble than we can handle and bring down the world’s everlasting hatred on our heads.

Postscript

Just as I was signing off I skimmed Obama’s annual speech to AIPAC. It’s a regular occasion where the American President has to account for his commitment to the Zionist Project and plead for his job. “Over the last three years, as president of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel. At every crucial juncture, at every fork in the road, we have been there for Israel. Every single time.”

Bravo.

“When the Goldstone report unfairly singled out Israel for criticism, we challenged it. When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, we supported them… and we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism. When one-sided resolutions are brought up at the Human Rights Council, we oppose them…”

And so forth. As an exercise in groveling it has no equal, and the theme is always the same: Israel’s security. But for “security” read “dominance”, requiring all the other nations in the region to remain vulnerable and unresisting to predatory Israel’s nuclear and military superiority, and its ever expanding borders.

“I’ve made it clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met,” says Obama. “That’s why we continue to press Arab leaders to reach out to Israel… That’s why just as we encourage Israel to be resolute in the pursuit of peace we have continued to insist that any Palestinian partner must recognise Israel’s right to exist and reject violence and adhere to existing agreements.”

If only Israel would do the same.

And who’d have thought Obama would stoop to making mischief with that old Ahmadinejad mis-quote – saying that “no Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that threatens to wipe Israel off the map.”

And what about this gem: “A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the nonproliferation regime that we’ve done so much to build.”

Obama tells AIPAC the only way to truly solve this problem and end the sanctions pain is for the Iranian government to forsake nuclear weapons, although, as he must have been told time and time again, they don’t have any while Israel is bristling with them.

Obama sure does cut a sad figure these days.

The Ghost and the Machine

by Khalil Bendib

by Kathy Kelly – with research by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, source

Fazillah, age 25, lives in Maidan Shar, the central city of Afghanistan’s Wardak province. She married about six years ago, and gave birth to a son, Aymal, who just turned five without a father. Fazillah tells her son, Aymal, that his father was killed by an American bomber plane, remote-controlled by computer.

That July, in 2007, Aymal’s father was sitting in a garden with four other men. A weaponized drone, what we used to call an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV, was flying, unseen, overhead, and fired missiles into the garden, killing all five men.

Now Fazillah and Aymal share a small dwelling with the deceased man’s mother. According to the tradition, a husband’s relatives are responsible to look after a widow with no breadwinner remaining in her immediate family. She and her son have no regular source of bread or income, but Fazillah says that her small family is better off than it might have been: one of the men killed alongside her husband left behind a wife and child but no other living relatives that could provide them with any source of support, at all.

Aymal’s grandmother becomes agitated and distraught speaking about her son’s death, and that of his four friends. “All of us ask, ‘Why?’” she says, raising her voice. “They kill people with computers and they can’t tell us why. When we ask why this happened, they say they had doubts, they had suspicions. But they didn’t take time to ask ‘Who is this person?’ or ‘Who was that person?’ There is no proof, no accountability. Now, there is no reliable person in the home to bring us bread. I am old, and I do not have a peaceful life.”

Listening to them, I recall an earlier conversation I had with a Pakistani social worker and with Safdar Dawar, a journalist, both of whom had survived drone attacks in the area of Miran Shah, in Pakistan’s Waziristan province. Exasperated at the increasingly common experience which they had survived and which too many others have not, they began firing questions at us.

“Who has given the license to kill and in what court? Who has declared that they can hit anyone they like?”

“How many ‘high level targets’ could there possibly be?”

“What kind of democracy is America,” Safdar asks, “where people do not ask these questions?”

One question Fazillah cannot answer for her son is whether anyone asked the question at all of whether to kill his father. Forbes Magazine reports that the Air Force has sixty-five to seventy thousand analysts processing drone video surveillance; A Rand review states they actually need half again that number to properly handle the data. Asked to point to the human who actually made the decision to kill her husband, she can only point to another machine.

In June 2010, Philip G. Alston, then the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, appeared before the UN Human Rights Council and testified that “targeted killings pose a rapidly growing challenge to the international rule of law … In a situation in which there is no disclosure of who has been killed, for what reason, and whether innocent civilians have died, the legal principle of international accountability is, by definition, comprehensively violated.”

“Such an expanded and open-ended interpretation of the right to self defense comes close to destroying the prohibition on the use of armed force contained in the United Nations Charter. If invoked by other states in pursuit of those they deemed to be terrorists and to have attacked them, it would cause chaos.”

This past week, on February 23, the legal action charity” Reprieve” spoke up on behalf of more than a dozen Pakistani families who had lost loved ones in drone strikes, and asked the UN Human Rights Council to condemn the attacks as illegal human rights violations.

“In Pakistan, the CIA is creating desolation and calling it peace,” said Reprieve’s Director Clive Stafford Smith. “The illegal programme of drone strikes has murdered hundreds of civilians in Pakistan. The UN must put a stop to it before any more children are killed. Not only is it causing untold suffering to the people of North West Pakistan – it is also the most effective recruiting sergeant yet for the very ‘militants’ the US claims to be targeting.”

The lawyer representing the families, Shahzad Akbar of Pakistan’s “Foundation for Fundamental Rights”, said:

“If President Obama really believes the drone strikes have ‘pinpoint’ accuracy, it has to be asked where the deaths of kids like Maezol Khan’s eight-year-old son fit into the CIA’s plan. If the US is not prepared to face up to the reality of the suffering the strikes are causing, then the UN must step in. The international community can no longer afford to ignore the human rights catastrophe which is taking place in North West Pakistan in the name of the ‘War on Terror’.”

Drone warfare, ever more widely used from month to month from the Bush through the Obama administrations, has seen very little meaningful public debate. We don’t ask questions – our minds straying no nearer these battlefields than in the coming decades the bodies of our young people will – that is, if the chaos our war making engenders doesn’t bring the battlefields to us. An expanding network of devastatingly lethal covert actions spreading throughout the developing world passes with minimal concern or comment.

So who does Fazillah blame? Who does one blame when confronted with the actions of a machine? Our Pakistani friend asks, “What kind of a democracy is America where people do not ask these questions?” Becoming an actual democracy, with an actual choice at election-time between war and peace rather than between political machines vying for the chance to bring us war, seems to many Americans, if some of the less-reported polls are to be believed, a near-unachievable goal. The U.S. has become a process that churns out war – today Afghanistan and (in any real sense) Iraq; tomorrow Iran and Pakistan, with China securely, however distantly, on the horizon – and for those of us with any concern for peace, a principled opposition to war ultimately requires a determination to make the U.S. at long last into a democracy, striving as Dr. King enjoined us, in “molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.”

It must begin with compassion – powerless compassion perhaps, perhaps only the ghost of dissent, but compassion for people like Fazillah and Aymal, – and with deciding to be human, maybe only the ghost of a human, but alive in some way and alive to what our assent, and perhaps especially our silence are accomplishing in the world. Humanity is the first thing to be won back – and then, if we have the strength, relentlessly defended – against indifference, complacency, and, above all, inaction. If enough of us refuse to be machines, if enough of us refuse enough, can democracy, and even peace, not be at last achieved? But first comes the refusal.

Fazillah wants a peaceful life. She doesn’t want to see any more people killed, any more ghosts like that of her husband. Any more bodies, burned (as she recalls) so charred that they are almost unrecognizable one from another.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone,” says Fazillah. I don’t want any children to be left without parents.”

And,” she adds, “I want the U.S. troops to leave.”

– Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org). The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (www.ourjourneytosmile.com) are based in Kabul.

Human rights group warns: Adnan in a coma

by Doc Jazz

GAZA, (PIC)– The Palestinian center for the defense of prisoners has warned that detained Islamic Jihad leader Sheikh Khader Adnan was in danger of death after he reportedly went into a coma.

Ismail Al-Thawbta, the director of the center, said in a press release on Tuesday that news reports from inside the Israeli jails indicated that Adnan was in a coma after his health condition greatly deteriorated after 59 days of hunger strike.

Thawabta held the Israeli occupation authority fully responsible for the life of Adnan, adding that the policy of administrative detention, to which Adnan was protesting, was in blatant violation of the international and humanitarian laws.

He urged the Palestinian people to revolt against the Israeli repression of prisoners in general and in solidarity with Adnan in particular.

The director called on all human rights groups to intervene and pressure Israel into releasing Adnan, who is held without any charge, and asked the media to shed light on his case.

Turkey and its neighbours

by Khalil Bendib

by Yusuf Fernandez, Al Manar

The relations between Turkey and its neighbours have entered an uncertain future. When Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party, the AKP, came to power in Turkey, they promoted a “zero problems with the neighbours” policy. However, Turkey´s tensions with these countries appear to have effectively nullified that doctrine.

Actually, Turkey finds itself in a international precarious situation. Firstly, its interests are clearly ignored by Europeans, who have put the country´s bid for membership in the European Union on indefinite hold. The crisis with Cyprus, an EU member, is getting worse. Ankara has recently threatened military action in response to this country´s oil exploration activities in a disputed maritime area. In a recent meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was told that the United States supported Cyprus´ right to explore in the area, which is led by an American company. In January, France passed a law against the so-called “armenian genocide” and Turkey´s protests were treated with disdain.

Ankara always claimed that it had alternatives if the EU closed its doors for Turkey. It was assuming a predominant role among the Muslim nations and using its political and economic power to become a conflict mediator in the region. However, this role could become impossible if Turkey continues to alienate its neighbours. Currently, the deterioration of relations with Syria, Iraq, Russia and Iran appears to be more or less serious and could have far-reaching consequences.

When Erdogan became PM in 2004, Turkey started to court its neighbours, especially Iran, Syria and Iraq. Ankara reconciled with Damascus after decades of mistrust due to the strategic alliance of Turkey with Israel. The Syrians then became the neighbours with whom the Turks developed their closest ties. Their armed forces conducted joint maneuvers, while their foreign and defense ministers set up a “strategic cooperation council.” Both countries signed economic agreements worth billions of dollars. According to the newspaper Hürriyet, Turkey had never cooperated so closely with any other country.

However, the romance did not last. After the unrest in Syria broke out, Turkey embraced the opposition, gave up on Assad´s regime and announced sanctions against its old ally. Later, it started to openly promote a regime change in Damascus and hosted Syrian political and armed opposition groups. It allied itself with Syria´s main Arab enemies, especially the Arab Gulf countries. This policy meant the official “denouement of the Erdogan/Davutoglu investment in Bashar al-Assad” and thus it was the “end of what has been billed as Turkey’s transformative diplomacy,” wrote Steven A Cook in The Atlantic.

“For the first time in the life of the Turkish republic, a Turkish government has adopted a policy of open, unprovoked confrontation with a neighboring country”, wrote Ankara-based writer Jeremy Salt. “Turkey spent years repairing relations with neighbors under the banners of soft power, strength in depth and “zero problems”. At every level, the outcome was very positive. Months ago, however, under the impact of the so-called “Arab spring”, that policy was abandoned virtually overnight. It has been replaced by threats, belligerence and support for an armed group seeking the overthrow of a government with which Turkey had friendly relations until very recently”. While Turkey once threatened to go to war unless Syria expelled Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), it “is now supporting a man, Riad al Assad, whose “Free Syrian Army” is doing exactly the same across the Syrian border”, he added.

There are different reasons for the deterioration of links with Damascus alongside with the “altruistic” goal of “helping Syrian people”. Syria´s strong axis with Iran under Assad’s leadership makes it difficult for Turkey to play a meaningful role in the region. Ankara also sees Syria as a rival that competes for influence in Iraq. Syria´s influence over Palestinian and Lebanese parties and organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah, also limits Turkey´s capacity to become a decisive actor in Palestine and Lebanon.

Although some media has spoken of a possible Turkish military intervention in Syria, there are some factors preventing Turkey from taking such a step. Firstly, Turkey understands the importance of avoiding a miscalculation over Syria. If there was chaos in Syria, it would be Turkey that most suffers the consequences.

Secondly, Russia and China made it clear in their joint declaration issued in Moscow after the recent visit by President Hu Jintao that they will not allow the West to repeat the Libyan scenario in Syria. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has said that it will use veto if the Western countries press for a resolution on Syria at the UN Security Council. “What I will not support is a resolution similar to 1973 on Libya, because I am convinced that a good resolution has been turned into a piece of paper to cover a senseless military operation,” Medvedev said.

Ankara has worked hard in last years to develop its relations with Moscow and shares important economic and energy interests with this country. Turkey has also increased its energy links with Iran and both countries exchange human and technical intelligence on the Kurdish armed organizations operating along their respective frontiers, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News. On the whole, Russia and Iran provide 70% of Turkey´s energy imports.

However, Turkey´s embrace of the bid by NATO to station an anti-missile radar on its territory has already angered both countries, which have also become increasing suspicious of the new Turkish policy towards Syria. In this way, Turkey is not clearly interested in further antagonizing Russia and Iran by starting a military adventure in Syria.

Problems with Iraq

After the serious deterioration of his relations with the Syrian leadership, Erdogan has started another verbal war with his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al Maliki.

Turkey has its own agenda on Iraq, which is widely determinated by the Kurdish issue. Ankara´s main focus is the prevention of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq, the elimination of attacks on its territory by PKK fighters across the border and the protection of the Turkmen minority that resides mainly in Mosul and Kirkuk. To achieve this goal, Turkey does not need too much from Baghdad. Only its aquiescence when it invades northern Iraq to attack PKK bases.

Turkey also wants to increase its leverage over this country. But it cannot influence the Shiite forces and parties that control the Iraqi politics now. This is why the Turkish government worked behind the scenes to help build the Al Iraqiya coalition, which was supported by ex Baathists, Sunni secular nationalists and Turkmen. Turkish support for the coalition prompted protests from the leaders of Shiite and Kurdish organizations, which sent messages of discontent to Ankara.

When the election result was known the Turkish government was taken by surprise. Although Al Iraqiya came first, it did not gain enough seats to form a government. Therefore, Ankara failed to turn their support into a political triumph. Even after the election, Ankara kept on ignoring the Shiite groups and Kurds and instead insisted on strengthening its ties with Al Iraqiya. Finally, the Kurds and Shiites parties sat around a table and found common ground to set up an executive.

According to Cengiz Candar, a prominent Turkish expert on Middle East affairs, Ankara also wanted a Sunni president, especially Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, instead of Kurdish Jalal Talabani. However, both Talabani and the other Iraqi Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, supported the first one´s bid for presidency and Turkish plans failed.

At a point, Erdogan seemed to realize that if Turkey wanted to expand its influence in Iraq, then it needed to reach out to Shiites and Kurds. This is perhaps why Erdogan became the first Turkish PM who visited Najaf, the religious center of the Shiites in Iraq, and Irbil, capital of the Kurdish autonomous region. However, he was unable to overcome widespread suspicion towards Turkey´s intentions.

The relations between Turkey and Iraq reached another lower point when Erdogan publicly supported Iraqi Hashemi, who has been accused of having links with terrorist groups by the Iraqi authorities. On December 19, 2011, an investigative committee within Iraq´s Interior Ministry issued an arrest warrant for Hashemi after three of his bodyguards made confessions of taking orders from him to carry out the terrorist attacks. Hashemi later fled to the Kurdistan region.

On January19, Erdogan warned Maliki that Ankara would not remain silent if he promoted a sectarian conflict in his country. Maliki´s office responded with a statement again criticizing Turkey´s “interference” in Iraq’s affairs. “This is not acceptable in the dealings between officials of different states and especially from heads of state,” Maliki´s office said. “Erdogan has to be more careful in handling the usual protocols in international relations.”

In a posterior interview with al-Hurra television in January, Maliki said: “Turkey is unfortunately playing a role which may lead to disaster and civil war in the region.”

The tension with Iraq could have serious economic consequences for Turkey, which has already lost the Syrian market. It is noteworthy to point out that Iraq is now Turkey´s second biggest export market after Germany, with trade volume between the two reaching nearly 12 billion dollars in 2011. In the political field, the conflict is likely to further diminish Ankara´s influence over its neighbour.

How Maliki and Iran outsmarted the US on troop withdrawal

by Steve Bell

by Gareth Porter, source

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s suggestion that the end of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq is part of a U.S. military success story ignores the fact that the George W. Bush administration and the U.S. military had planned to maintain a semi-permanent military presence in Iraq.

The real story behind the U.S. withdrawal is how a clever strategy of deception and diplomacy adopted by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in cooperation with Iran outmaneuvered Bush and the U.S. military leadership and got the United States to sign the U.S.-Iraq withdrawal agreement.

A central element of the Maliki-Iran strategy was the common interest that Maliki, Iran and anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr shared in ending the U.S. occupation, despite their differences over other issues.

Maliki needed Sadr’s support, which was initially based on Maliki’s commitment to obtain a time schedule for U.S. troops’ withdrawal from Iraq.

In early June 2006, a draft national reconciliation plan that circulated among Iraqi political groups included agreement on “a time schedule to pull out the troops from Iraq” along with the build-up of Iraqi military forces. But after a quick trip to Baghdad, Bush rejected the idea of a withdrawal timetable.

Maliki’s national security adviser Mowaffak Al-Rubaei revealed in a Washington Post op-ed that Maliki wanted foreign troops reduced by more than 30,000 to under 100,000 by the end of 2006 and withdrawal of “most of the remaining troops” by end of the 2007.

When the full text of the reconciliation plan was published Jun. 25, 2006, however, the commitment to a withdrawal timetable was missing.

In June 2007, senior Bush administration officials began leaking to reporters plans for maintaining what The New York Times described as “a near-permanent presence” in Iraq, which would involve control of four major bases.

Maliki immediately sent Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari to Washington to dangle the bait of an agreement on troops before then Vice President Dick Cheney.

As recounted in Linda Robinson’s “Tell Me How This Ends”, Zebari urged Cheney to begin negotiating the U.S. military presence in order to reduce the odds of an abrupt withdrawal that would play into the hands of the Iranians.

In a meeting with then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in September 2007, National Security Adviser Rubaie said Maliki wanted a “Status of Forces Agreement” (SOFA) that would allow U.S. forces to remain but would “eliminate the irritants that are apparent violations of Iraqi sovereignty”, according Bob Woodward’s “The War Within”.

Maliki’s national security adviser was also seeking to protect the Mahdi Army from U.S. military plans to target it for major attacks. Meeting Bush’s coordinator for the Iraq War, Douglas Lute, Rubaie said it was better for Iraqi security forces to take on Sadr’s militias than for U.S. Special Forces to do so.

He explained to the Baker-Hamilton Commission that Sadr’s use of military force was not a problem for Maliki, because Sadr was still part of the government.

Publicly, the Maliki government continued to assure the Bush administration it could count on a long-term military presence. Asked by NBC’s Richard Engel on Jan. 24, 2008 if the agreement would provide long-term U.S. bases in Iraq, Zebari said, “This is an agreement of enduring military support. The soldiers are going to have to stay someplace. They can’t stay in the air.”

Confident that it was going to get a South Korea-style SOFA, the Bush administration gave the Iraqi government a draft on Mar. 7, 2008 that provided for no limit on the number of U.S. troops or the duration of their presence. Nor did it give Iraq any control over U.S. military operations.

But Maliki had a surprise in store for Washington.

A series of dramatic moves by Maliki and Iran over the next few months showed that there had been an explicit understanding between the two governments to prevent the U.S. military from launching major operations against the Mahdi Army and to reach an agreement with Sadr on ending the Mahdi Army’s role in return for assurances that Maliki would demand the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces.

In mid-March 2007, Maliki ignored pressure from a personal visit by Cheney to cooperate in taking down the Mahdi Army and instead abruptly vetoed U.S. military plans for a major operation against the Mahdi Army in Basra. Maliki ordered an Iraqi army assault on the dug-in Sadrist forces.

Predictably, the operation ran into trouble, and within days, Iraqi officials had asked General Suleimani to intervene and negotiate a cease fire with Sadr, who agreed, although his troops were far from defeated.

A few weeks later, Maliki again prevented the United States from launching its biggest campaign yet against the Mahdi Army in Sadr City. And again, Suleimani was brought in to work out a deal with Sadr allowing government troops to patrol in the former Mahdi Army stronghold.

There was subtext to Suleimani’s interventions. Just as Suleimani was negotiating the Basra cease fire with Sadr, a website associated with former IRGC Commander Mohsen Rezai said Iran opposed actions by “hard-line clans” that “only weaken the government and people of Iraq and give a pretext to its occupiers”.

In the days that followed that agreement, Iranian state news media portrayed the Iraqi crackdown in Basra as being against illegal and “criminal” forces.

The timing of each political diplomatic move by Maliki appears to have been determined in discussions between Maliki and top Iranian officials.

Just two days after returning from a visit to Tehran in June 2008, Maliki complained publicly about U.S. demands for indefinite access to military bases, control of Iraqi airspace and immunity from prosecution for U.S. troops and private contractors.

In July, he revealed that his government was demanding the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops on a timetable.

The Bush administration was in a state of shock. From July to October, it pretended that it could simply refuse to accept the withdrawal demand, while trying vainly to pressure Maliki to back down.

In the end, however, Bush administration officials realized that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who was then far ahead of Republican John McCain in polls, would accept the same or an even faster timetable for withdrawal. In October, Bush decided to sign the draft agreement pledging withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of 2011.

The ambitious plans of the U.S. military to use Iraq to dominate the Middle East militarily and politically had been foiled by the very regime the United States had installed, and the officials behind the U.S. scheme, had been clueless about what was happening until it was too late.

The Pentagon-Arab Spring love story

by Mr. Fish

by Pepe Escobar, source

Anyone who hoped the Arab Spring might eventually take over the Persian Gulf and those lands once known as Arabia Felix has enough reason to drown in sadness.

The Arab counter-revolution is stronger than ever – led by the House of Saud and its monarchy minions at the Gulf Counter-revolution Club (GCC), officially known as Gulf Cooperation Council. And their most precious ally is the Pentagon.

The New York Times made it official by relaying related White House/Pentagon spin. Considering the NYT can hardly pose as an icon of credibility since those months in 2002/2003 when its front page peddled outright lies about Iraq’s nukes and/or its carnal ties with al-Qaeda, the spin must be translated.

The further militarization of the counter-revolutionary Persian Gulf – especially via more boots on the ground in Kuwait, and more warships – is being sold as a response to “a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran”.

Note that both are pure wishful thinking. The NYT’s martial sources insist, “the withdrawal [from Iraq] could leave instability”. The fact is the Nuri al-Maliki government in Baghdad effectively booted the Americans out (the Pentagon wanted at least 20,000 US boots on the ground after late 2011).

Thus the necessity of revamped Pentagon Central Command (Centcom) newspeak, as well as a Plan B, a grand new “security architecture” for the Persian Gulf crammed with air and naval hardware and even missile defense sold as a bland “post-Iraq footprint in the region”.

As for “the threat of a belligerent Iran”, very precise interests – sections of the industrial-military complex, the Republican party as a whole, the Israel lobby, the majority of corporate media – have been cheerleading for a strike on Iran for years.

Major General Karl R Horst, Centcom’s chief of staff, is a big fan of “commitment in building partner capability and partner capacity” (translation; what we say, goes). He sold the firepower increase in the Persian Gulf to the NYT as a bland, Hollywoodish “back to the future” strategy, focused on “smaller but highly capable deployments and training partnerships with regional militaries”.

Translation: lots of special forces, lots of weaponized drones and an inflation of those “partnerships” the Pentagon and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are so fond of. This is spun as “more efficient ways to deploy forces and maximize cooperation with regional partners”; or the best way to “expand security relationships”, especially when there will be a “steep decrease in the number of intelligence analysts assigned to the region” (translation; let the towel heads do the footwork).

It also helps that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) proved their unlimited love for NATO in the Libya war (while Bahrain and the UAE have boots on the ground in Afghanistan). That Arab willingness to please the masters goes a step further than the standard mantra, “the United States will not abandon its commitments in the Persian Gulf.”

To sum it all up; think of all this as the GCC as a de facto annex to NATO.

Behind the ‘security architecture’

Out there in Tajikistan – where she was examining the non-proliferation of the Arab Spring in Central Asia – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged what was later leaked to the NYT as “a robust continuing presence” throughout a region that “should be freed from outside interference to continue on a pathway to democracy.”

So this means the further militarization of the Persian Gulf comes as a response for US/Saudi interference preventing democracy? That can’t possibly be; somebody’s got to rewrite the script.

This whole scenario was predictable ever since Washington struck a deal with Riyadh for the consolidation of the Arab counter-revolution; you get us an Arab League vote so we take Muammar Gaddafi out, and we leave you alone to do what you want in the Persian Gulf (see Exposed: The US-Saudi deal Asia Times Online, April 2, 2011).

This led to the House of Saud invading Bahrain; Qatar training Libyan NATO rebels in their own territory while also sending Qatari special forces to Libya; and now a “stronger, multilateral security alliance” between the GCC and the Pentagon.

Lost in space US senators spinning that the US withdrawal from Iraq will be interpreted as a “strategic victory by our enemies in the Middle East”, is business as usual. But it’s another thing to see the NYT being gullible enough – or basically treating its readers as idiots – as it swallows the Saudi propaganda line that Iran is “the most worrisome threat” to all GCC members “as well as to Iraq itself”. It’s as if the paper was edited in Riyadh.

As a matter of fact, the Barack Obama administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East seems to be edited in Riyadh. One just had to follow the US corporate media falling over themselves to kiss the hem of the gown of the new crown prince (the next in line for the throne) at the House of Saud, Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz.
Nayef, 78, supported by the nec plus ultra of medievalism and counter-revolutionary, damn-this-Arab Spring forces, is essentially the House of Saud’s inquisitor-in-chief. Since 1975 he has presided over the security apparatus at the Ministry of Interior, which along with the US-trained National Guard, faithful to frail King Abdullah, 87, are the best weaponized bodies in Saudi Arabia.

Nayef is the Darth Vader of a 130,000-strong paramilitary force, all the national and local police, customs, immigration, the coast guard, the border guard and the dreaded religious police. His ministry’s response to the Arab Spring has been a non-stop crackdown. Anyone who’s even suspected of trying to start a political demonstration, not to mention a movement, is arrested; that includes young people uploading YouTube videos.

There are at least 20,000 political prisoners in Saudi jails. Since April, it’s illegal to “threaten national security” or “insult Islam”; Nayef was responsible for the vagueness of the new law and all that implies. Anyone trying an Occupy Riyadh or Occupy Jeddah would be beheaded.

Yet for his countless Washington fans, who beam at this 36-year counter-terror CV, Nayef is a “conservative pragmatist”. This is his official denomination since revealed by a WikiLeaks 2009 State Department cable.

No wonder they love Nayef in Washington. His Holy Trinity is Washington-Riyadh joined at the hip; his hatred of Iran and Shi’ites in general (even Saudi Shi’ites); and his war on terror commitment against al-Qaeda.

No one talks about his visceral hatred of women’s rights, and his visceral hatred of all things democratic; that’s when the label “social conservative” comes handy. At the start of the Arab Spring, Nayef dismissed Tunisians as “basically French”, and Cairo residents as “louche urbanites”. The only true Arabs were Saudis; democracy, as they see it (or as the House of Saud sees for them) is for sissies.

In internal House of Saud politics, that palace intrigue realm of desert macho men who love to dye their moustaches black, Nayef’s top opponents are not his brothers, the powerful Sudayri seven, who are now five (after the death of King Fahd and recently Prince Sultan), named after the tribe of their mother Hassa, Ibn Saud’s favorite wife.

Still gerontocracy is the name of the game; brothers Bandar, Musaid and Mishaal’s health conditions are appalling. As for brother Salman, the governor of Riyadh, he likes to pose as a journalist, as owner of the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

Nayef’s top opponents are the nephews of Ibn Saud, starting with wily former Washington ambassador Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush; Prince Talal, father of billionaire prince al-Waleed; Vice Minister of Defense Khaled bin Sultan; and Prince Turki al-Faisal, former head of intelligence in the 1980s and former Osama bin Laden pal.

None of these will threaten Nayef; what matters for the House of Saud is the dynasty’s survival. As King Abdullah prepares to meet his maker, the Pentagon could not find a more reliable regional partner: Grand Inquisitor Nayef.

NATO will soon rule over the whole Mediterranean as a NATO lake. Africom is implanting itself deeper and deeper in Africa. Centcom rules the Persian Gulf with the GCC in tow. Democracy is for sissies; there’s no business like the “security architecture” business.

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).

The End of History

by Khalil Bendib

by Paul Craig Roberts, Moqawama

Prisonplanet.com

Now that the CIA’s proxy army has murdered Gadhafi, what next for Libya?

If Washington’s plans succeed, Libya will become another American puppet state. Most of the cities, towns, and infrastructure have been destroyed by air strikes by the air forces of the US and Washington’s NATO puppets.

US and European firms will now get juicy contracts, financed by US taxpayers, to rebuild Libya.

The new real estate will be carefully allocated to lubricate a new ruling class picked by Washington. This will put Libya firmly under Washington’s thumb.

With Libya conquered, AFRICOM will start on the other African countries where China has energy and mineral investments. Obama has already sent US troops to Central Africa under the guise of defeating the Lord’s Resistance Army, a small insurgency against the ruling dictator-for-life.

The Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, welcomed the prospect of yet another war by declaring that sending US troops into Central Africa “furthers US national security interests and foreign policy.” Republican Senator James Inhofe added a gallon of moral verbiage about saving “Ugandan children,” a concern the senator did not have for Libya’s children or Palestine’s, Iraq’s, Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s.

Washington has revived the Great Power Game and is vying with China. Whereas China brings Africa investment and gifts of infrastructure, Washington sends troops, bombs and military bases. Sooner or later Washington’s aggressiveness toward China and Russia is going to explode in our faces.

Where is the money going to come from to finance Washington’s African Empire? Not from Libya’s oil. Big chunks of that have been promised to the French and British for providing cover for Washington’s latest war of naked aggression. Not from tax revenues from a collapsing US economy where unemployment, if measured correctly, is 23 percent.

With Washington’s annual budget deficit as huge as it is, the money can only come from the printing press.

Washington has already run the printing press enough to raise the consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) to 3.9% for the year (as of the end of September), the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W) to 4.4% for the year, and the producer price index (PPI) to 6.9% for the year.

As statistician John Williams (shadowstats.com) has shown, the official inflation measures are rigged in order to hold down cost of living adjustments to Social Security recipients, thus saving money for Washington’s wars. When measured correctly, the current rate of inflation in the US is 11.5%.

What interest rate can savers get without taking massive risks on Greek bonds? US banks pay less than one-half of one percent on FDIC insured savings deposits. Short-term US government bond funds pay essentially zero.

Thus, according to official US government statistics American savers are losing between 3.9% and 4.4% of their capital yearly. According to John Williams’ estimate of the real rate of inflation, US savers are losing 11.5% of their accumulated savings.

As retired Americans receive no interest on their savings, they are having to spend down their capital. The ability of even the most prudent retirees to survive the negative rate of interest they are receiving and the erosion by inflation of any pensions that they receive will come to an end once their accumulated assets are exhausted.

Except for Washington’s favored mega-rich, the one percent that has captured all of the income gains of recent years, the rest of America has been assigned to the trash can. Nothing whatsoever has been done for them since the financial crisis hit in December 2007. Bush and Obama, Republican and Democrat, have focused on saving the 1 percent while giving the finger to the 99 percent.

Finally, some Americans, though not enough, have caught on to the flag-waving rah-rah “patriotism” that has consigned them to the trash bin of history. They are not going down without a fight and are in the streets. Occupy Wall Street has spread. What will be the fate of this movement?

Will the snow and ice of cold weather end the protests, or send them into public buildings? How long will the local authorities, subservient to Washington as they are, tolerate the obvious signal that the population lacks any confidence whatsoever in the government?

If the protests last, especially if they grow and don’t decline, the authorities will infiltrate the protestors with police provocateurs who will fire on the police. This will be the excuse to shoot down the protestors and to arrest the survivors as “terrorists” or “domestic extremists” and to send them to the $385 million dollar camps built under US government contract by Cheney’s Halliburton.

The American Police State will have taken its next step into the American Concentration Camp State.

Meanwhile, lost in their oblivion, conservatives will continue to bemoan the ruination of the country by homosexual marriage, abortion, and “the liberal media.” Liberal organizations committed to civil liberty, such as the ACLU, will continue to rank a woman’s right to an abortion with defense of the US Constitution. Amnesty International will assist Washington in demonizing its next target for military attack while turning a blind eye to the war crimes of President Obama.

When we consider what “Israel” has got away with, being as it is under Washington’s bought protection-the war crimes, the murders of children, the eviction in total disregard of international law of Palestinians from their ancestral homes, the bulldozing of their houses and uprooting of their olive groves in order to move in fanatical “settlers,” the murderous invasions of Lebanon and Gaza, the wholesale slaughter of civilians-we can only conclude that Washington, “Israel’s” enabler, can get away with far more.

In the few opening years of the 21st century, Washington has destroyed the US Constitution, the separation of powers, international law, the accountability of government, and has sacrificed every moral principle to achieving hegemony over the world. This ambitious agenda is being attempted while simultaneously Washington removed all regulation over Wall Street, the home of massive greed, permitting Wall Street’s short-term horizon to wreck the US economy, thus destroying the economic basis for Washington’s assault on the world.

Will the US collapse in economic chaos before it rules the world?