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Obama’s war model

by Guy Billout

“U.S. decision-making [on Syria] will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States.”

by B.J. Sabri, source

In the American culture of permanent war, time and circumstance change but never the method — pretext as an alibi for war. Obama’s plan to strike Syria under the pretext that its government used chemical weapons against civilians is in line with that culture. Pertinently, it follows the precedent set by his predecessor when he invaded Iraq under the pretext that it was hiding weapons of mass destruction. This emulated three precedents set by Bill Clinton. When he bombed Serbia over Kosovo, when he bombed Iraq under the pretext that it was not cooperating with weapons inspectors, and when he bombed Iraq before that under the pretext that Saddam Hussein tried to assassinate President George H.W. Bush. And so on.

Currently, America’s global agenda is specific and has for a target the imperialistic control of all Arab states still outside of its domain. Up to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, arming Israel with advanced weapons to keep its regional military superiority was the prominent aspect of the agenda. The Carter Doctrine consequent to that invasion expanded on the agenda when it declared the Persian Gulf a zone of vital interests to the United States. Three consecutive world events: the Iran-Iraq war, the crumbling of Soviet and Eastern European socialist systems, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, allowed the United States, using it self-serving “vital interests”, to deeply entrench itself in heart of the Arab world.

Phased control of strong Arab states opposing Israel is the keyword to understand the American strategy of imperialist conquest. First, it was Iraq, then Libya, then the partition of Sudan, and now it’s the turn of Syria. As for Egypt, the last among the strongest Arab states, voices are still circulating about its eventual partition. With Palestine taken by Zionists, with Iraq taken by the U.S., with Libya under Euro-American control, with Jordan and the Gulf countries already under soft military occupation, the U.S. is materially controlling most Arab nations except Algeria, Sudan, and Syria.

Of interest is Obama’s White House statement that U.S. decision-making on Syria, “Will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States.”1This is a trite stratagem that most American presidents repeatedly used to justify actions already deliberated and decided. Is the “best interest” idea a political philosophy or pragmatic model of action? Whatever the answer may be, debiting to it the referee role for going to war is a handy mechanism to facilitate the adoption of war decisions without explaining their validity or necessity.

American interventionist premises and subtexts are unequivocal: War is a function of our self-interest; we can wage it at any time by choice or by pretext. Antony Blinken, national security advisor to Joseph Biden simplifies the interventionist model with his arrogant “maxim”: “A Superpower does not bluff.” American pretexts for war, therefore, belie U.S. pretension that wars are imposed on them to defend humanity from “evildoers”. Yet, when confronted on rigorous debating grounds, ideological models aiming at rationalizing war through convoluted conceptualization instantly lose their purported definiteness and expose their raw essence: procedures to implement agendas.

What is preposterous about the U.S. war-making mentality is that every time the U.S. attacks a nation, it declares morality as a guiding principle. Take for example the current “morality” model for possible war with Syria — should the Congress approve, but it would certainly approve with the Israeli lobby working around the clock to make it happen. Who established that such model is the exclusive responsibility of the U.S. Britain, and France? How ludicrous it is that three colonialist-imperialist states, whose long history of genocidal atrocities is a permanent stigma on the conscious of humanity, act as moral speakers for the world? Is Sweden, Malta, Nicaragua, Spain, Russia, Belize, Belarus, Vietnam, Greece, Venezuela, South Africa, China, Ghana, or any other country lacking morality so the United States volunteers to be the standard-bearer for all? Who decides on the meaning, degree, and substance of morality: American ideologues of empire, British colonialists, French megalomaniacs, or Israeli Zionists?

Pointedly, it is one thing that the U.S. has succeeded through intimidations and aggressions at obliterating accepted international norms; it is another when it goes around sermonizing on its exceptionalism in morality and values. What a sham without compare: the U.S. cries against death by chemical weapons but not for death by terrifying conventional weapons. On the hypocrisy side, the U.S. has no rivals: the news of over 100,000 killed by bullets, knives, explosions, artillery, and jets did not make the U.S. cringe; but a few hundreds die by an alleged gas attack whose perpetrators are still unknown, and the U.S. readies its fleets and Tomahawk missiles to a hit an entire country. Since violent death is one and the same, why the obscene hypocrisy differentiating between types and methods of death?

Caveat! There is a difference: death by unconventional weapons offers alibis for military interventions based on conventions that the imperialist West created to safeguard their monopoly of these weapons and to punish those who attempt possessing or making them. The American use of radioactive uranium (which the U.S. cynically calls “depleted” to conceal its lethal consequences of slow death by thyroid, prostate, and cervical cancers, not to mention genetic mutation) proves this point.

Besides, who consistently rejected a political solution to the Syrian situation if not the United States with the hope that the armed rebellion and defections could finish off the Assad regime? Who could be the principal organizer of the death and destruction that has been enveloping Syria for the past two and a half years if not the United States through its regional lackeys? Does morality motivate the U.S. Syrian policy? Based on history, the answer is no. Where was U.S. morality hiding when it destroyed millions of human beings during 235 years of its existence as an independent state? (In a solidly argued article, “What Is America’s Code of Morality?,” Canadian writer Kim Petersen eloquently answers the question from multiple perspectives.2

Moreover, with suspicion of the attack involving many entities, why accuse only the Syrian regime for perpetrating it? Why the determination to strike Syria for alleged but not verified chemical attack by its government? What is the nonsense that the U.S. wants to punish the regime but not Syria? Much more insidious is the British posturing. In its 6 September issue, the Economistpublishes the photo of Bashar Assad on the cover with the caption: Hit him hard. How could the U.S. (and its British poodle) punish a regime — assuming it is responsible — or a man by destroying the country first? Did not the U.S. invasion of Iraq prove the utter mendacity of such punishment?

To drive home the point on U.S. claimed “morality”, it suffices to cite just one example: Iraq. The U.S. invasion of Iraq and the use of radioactive “depleted” uranium, vacuum bombs, electronic bombs, suspected neutron bombs, and igniting confessional fights among Iraqis resulted in over two million Iraqis dead.3 Up to now, Iraqis are still dying at the hands of America’s appointed Iraqi government, American security companies, and other mercenaries at the payroll of the United States. Based on this fact alone, the U.S. is NOT AUTHORIZED to give any lecture on morality and use it as a rationale for its new wars. While Obama justifies his planned attack not on “humanitarian grounds”, but as enforcement of the Chemical Weapons Convention, media commentators of the empire jump to his aid by citing U.S. war against Serbia to “save” Kosovo. How odd though, a U.S. war of aggression in the recent past becomes a “rationalized” prototype for a new aggression in the present.

Here is one effective way to test the best interest paradigm: Was it in the best interest of the Syrian regime, which was fighting with teeth and nails to fend off a long-standing arbitrary accusation that it used chemical weapons in the ongoing civil war, to launch a chemical attack on the same day weapon inspectors were scheduled to arrive? Since the answer is no, then who framed Syria? To speculate in a logical manner, there are only three possible culprits each of which benefits from accusing the Syrian regime: Either the American “al-Qaida” in Syria — this leads back to the United States; or Israeli Syrian agents — which leads back to Israel —, or Israelis or Americans themselves since Syria’s borders are open to all. About the American “al-Qaida”: isn’t it curious that U.S. drones are roaming the skies from Pakistan to Yemen and to Somalia killing any one suspected for being Qaida-ist, while no drone has ever attacked all these black banners of “al-Qaida” flying, in broad daylight, over many parts of Syria?

Now to the unavoidable question: In whose best interest is it that the United States attacks Syria? Mali? No. Portugal? Slovenia? No. Argentina? No. China? No. Cambodia? No. Finland? No. Israel? Yes. With a U.S. attack on Syria, Israel would finally achieve its long-standing objective of defeating all Arab states combined through the American power. Besides Israel, U.S. imperialism is the other primary beneficiary. Geological research indicates that Syria is sitting on sea of oil.

Is Israel complicit in the planned attack against Syria? Here are two pieces of news:

“Over the weekend, telephone calls to coordinate a possible attack were made between the U.S. and Israel, including a call by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Israeli counterpart Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.”4

“Senior Israeli team in Washington as U.S. prepares for possible Syria attack: High-level Israeli delegation prepares for scenarios in wake of chemical attack; talks with U.S. officials will also focus on Iran’s nuclear program, Hezbollah and Iran’s role in the Syria crisis.”5

It is a public knowledge that Israel provided ample intelligence on targets to be hit by the U.S. in its wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003. It can be deduced from the two sources I just cited, and based on the history of U.S-Israeli relations, that Israel, in 2013, is providing intelligence about the targets it wants the U.S. to destroy in Syria — mainly missile and jetfighter depots. Nonetheless, while Israel, through its supporters in Congress and control of the White House, is the planner of the U.S. Arab policy and an instigator of its military interventions, it constantly plays the card of innocent victim. Fearing potential Syrian retaliatory strikes because of Israel’s involvement in the U.S. decision-making, American Zionist groups such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center went as far as asking the United States to declare that any attack against Israel is attack against the United States.6

It has been said that Obama is uncertain whether to strike Syria or not because of potential consequences that could go out of hand, and that his seeking of Congressional authorization is meant to share the blame if something goes wrong. This is rubbish. Decisions coming from higher quarters had been already made for Obama. He is only waiting for the go-ahead — should it come.

  1. “US to act in its ‘best interests’ over Syria crisis,” BBC, August 30, 2013 []
  2. Kim Petersen, “What Is America’s Code of Morality?” Dissident Voice, August 29, 2013. []
  3. “Baghdad’s Neutron Bomb and America’s Nuclear Obama,” Veterans Today, Kim Petersen and B.J. Sabri Interview Captain Eric H. May, Ghost Troop CO. []
  4. “Report: U.S. To Warn Israel in Advance of Syria Attack,” Algemeiner, August 25, 2013. []
  5. “Senior Israeli team in Washington as U.S. prepares for possible Syria attack,” Barak Ravid. Haaretz, August 26, 20013. Subscription required. []
  6. “Jewish Leaders: ‘US should say, Attack on Israel is Attack on US’,” Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Jewish Press, August 3o, 2013. []
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Bush administration wanted 9/11 attacks to happen: Former US official

Al Manar

Even though questions and doubts about the truth behind the 11th of September attacks emerged as soon as back then US President George Bush came out to accuse Al-Qaeda, it took years for Western media to begin circulating alternative answers.

On Tuesday, Former US governer of Minnesota Jesse Ventura wondered how the US administration knew so quickly who was behind the 9/11 attacks, indicating that the (George) Bush administration “ignored the intelligence” because “they wanted it (9/11 attack) to happen”.

In an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, Ventura asked: “If the people who did it where identified then why haven’t we stopped them before hand?” rejecting the “intelligence failure” claim.

The US official assured that if he was president then, he would have immediatly done a “legitiate investigation” to know what exactly happened on 9/11.

In parallel, Ventura pointed out that “big businesses” have high interefernce in all wars that are taking place.

“Wars are very profitable for certain big businesses,” he said, emphasizing that “ofcourse, big business should be in the Middle East, so that we (the US) could get the oil out of the Middle East, so that we could get the lithium out of Afghanistan.”

The US official further pointed out that “they have discovered a vein of lithium there, they say is worth a trillion dollars… What is lithium used for, every cellphone, computer, and soon to be electric cars.”

“Let’s talk about why we are really there,” Ventura, who is also a former Navy SEAL, stressed, asking: “How does any of these wars affect our freedom in any way?”

About the uprisings in the Middle East, Ventura considered that “most of these uprisings are orchestrated”.

“I truely believe that nothing just happens, everything is planned,” he said.

“… and so the uprisings that are happening now, we don’t know who is really behind them, they could be our own CIA,” the US official added.

On the Iranian file, Ventura considered that Iran is supposed to have nuclear energy.

“Iran has to do this, because if you notice, the United States doesn’t mess with any country that has nuclear capabilities. They only mess with countries that don’t, so all the countries that don’t have it, strive to get it, because it is a safety mechanism to have it,” he said.

21st Century robotic wars

(File photo)

by Jamal Kanj, source

On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a new ‘sanitized war’ is reshaping the future of America’s military industrial complex.

The drones, or the new robotic war, is operated by a galaxy of military bases stretching from the Creech Air Force Base in the desert of Nevada, traversing through CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, before landing on new desert airstrips in the Middle East.

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ main mission is tracking and targeted killing of alleged terrorists.

Earlier this month, a drone using the newly introduced, more accurate Small Smart Weapon or Scorpion missile, delivered a direct hit, by mistake, killing 13 family members near the town of Rada, Yemen.

Following the raid, Yemeni activist Nasr Abdulla said: “I would not be surprised if a hundred tribesmen joined the lines of Al Qaeda… This part of Yemen takes revenge very seriously.”
Last May, a Yemeni official told The Washington Post: “There is a psychological acceptance of Al Qaeda because of US strikes.”

In modern history, no military power was able to unequivocally win a guerilla war.

The hardest fought battle is for the hearts and minds of the average person; the US is squarely losing this war. The drone killings of innocent bystanders, by mistake or utter recklessness, breeds resentments and new Al Qaeda recruits.

The latest was not an isolated incident. A 2009 study by Daniel Byman at the Brookings Institute concluded that drone strikes have killed “10 or so civilians” for “every mid- and high-ranking (terrorist) leader”.

US officials continue to downplay the loss of civilians while publicly asserting their best efforts to avoid “collateral damage”.

But this claim is disputed by Micah Zenko of the Council of Foreign Relations, who recently wrote: “The claim that the 3,000+ people killed in roughly 375 non-battlefield targeted killings were all engaged in actual operational plots against the US defies any understanding of the scope of what America has been doing for the past 10 years.”

Another major blunder was last November’s killing of more than 24 Pakistani soldiers in what became known as the Salata incident, prompting the government to close the border for Nato supplies into Afghanistan.

Last June, 18 civilians were killed at a wedding in the village of Logar, forcing the Afghan president to demand a halt to drone strikes.

Eleven years after 9/11, every branch of the US military, including the CIA, has its robotic drones operating throughout the world.

US Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Georgetown University professor Gary Solis warned that allowing CIA civilian agents to engage in armed conflict would directly contravene US laws.

The drone franchise business has branched into a new extension of the military industrial complex, with its parallel lobbying arm backing the new, permanent war economy manifested by more than 60 new cross-functional military bases around the globe.

Late last year, online magazine Salon referred to a Congressional Budget Office report saying the “Department of Defence plans to purchase 730 new medium-sized and large unmanned aircraft systems” in the next decade.

Like the intercontinental missiles in the sixties, and Star Wars technology in the 1980s, robotic drone warfare is reinventing the military industrial complex of the 21st century.

The only victor in this longest of US foreign wars is a coalition of single-issue think tanks, political leaders and business hucksters driven by mutual interest fostered by a culture of killing, vengeance and profit.

The ‘evil’ of our interventionist wars Iraq, Libya, Syria: We have no right to play ‘God’

by Guy Billout

by Jonathan Cook, source

In a traditional cowboy movie, we know what to do: we look for the guy wearing the white hat to be sure who to cheer, and for the one wearing the black hat to know who deserves to die, preferably gruesomely, before the credits roll. If Hollywood learnt early to play on these most tribal of emotions, do we doubt that Washington’s political script-writers are any less sophisticated?

Since 9/11, the United States and its allies in Europe have persuaded us that they are waging a series of “white hat” wars against “black hat” regimes in the Middle East. Each has been sold to us misleadingly as a “humanitarian intervention”. The cycle of such wars is still far from complete.

But over the course of the past decade, the presentation of these wars has necessarily changed. As Hollywood well understands, audiences quickly tire of the same contrived plot. Invention, creativity and ever greater complexity are needed to sustain our emotional engagement.

Declarations by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu aside, there are only so many times we can be convinced that there is a new Hitler in the Middle East, and that the moment is rapidly approaching when this evil mastermind will succeed in developing a doomsday weapon designed to wipe out Israel, the US, or maybe the planet.

In 1950s Hollywood, the solution for audience ennui was simple: High Noon put the noble sheriff, Gary Cooper, in a black hat, and the evil gunslinger in a white one. It offered a veneer of complexity, but in reality the same good guy-bad guy formula played out along familiar lines.

If Washington required a new storyline after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, it did not have to work hard to write one. It was assisted by the rapid changes taking place in the political environment of the Middle East: the so-called Arab Spring. Washington could hardly have overlooked the emotionally satisfying twists and turns presented by the awakening of popular forces against the deadening hand of autocratic regimes, many of them installed decades ago by the West.

The reality, of course, is that the US and its allies are pursuing the same agenda as before the Arab Spring: that is, they are looking to preserve their own geo-political interests. In that regard, they are trying to contain and reverse dangerous manifestations of the awakening, especially in Egypt, the most populous and influential of the Arab states, and in the Gulf, our pipeline to the world’s most abundant oil reserves.

But for Washington, the Arab Spring presented opportunities as well as threats, and these are being keenly exploited.

Both Afghanistan and Iraq followed a model of “intervention” that is now widely discredited and probably no longer viable for a West struggling with economic decline. It is not an easy sell to Western publics that our armies should single-handedly invade, occupy and “fix” Middle Eastern states, especially given how ungrateful the recipients of our largesse have proven to be.

Humanitarian wars might have run into the sand at this point had the Arab Spring not opened up new possibilities for “intervening”.

The Arab awakening created a fresh set of dynamics in the Middle East that countered the dominance of the traditional military and political elites: democratic and Islamist forces were buoyed with new confidence; business elites spied domestic economic opportunities through collaboration with the West; and oppressed ethnic, religious and tribal groups saw a chance to settle old scores.

Not surprisingly, Washington has shown more interest in cultivating the latter two groups than the first.

In Libya, the US and its allies in Nato took off the white hat and handed it to the so-called rebels, comprising mostly tribes out of favour with Gadaffi. The West took a visible role, especially in its bombing sorties, but one that made sure the local actors were presented as in the driving seat. The West was only too happy to appear as if relegated to a minor role: enabling the good guys.

After Libya’s outlaw, Muammar Gadaffi, was beaten to death by the rebels last year, the credits rolled. The movie was over for Western audiences. But for Libyans a new film began, in a language foreign to our ears and with no subtitles. What little information has seeped out since suggests that Libya is now mired in lawlessness, no better than the political waste lands we ourselves created in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds of regional militias run the country, extorting, torturing and slaughtering those who oppose them.

Few can doubt that Syria is next on the West’s hit list. And this time, the script-writers in Washington seem to believe that the task of turning a functioning, if highly repressive, state into a basket case can be achieved without the West’s hand being visible at all. This time the white hat has been assigned to our allies, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, who, according to the latest reports, are stoking an incipient civil war not only by arming some among the rebels but also by preparing to pay them salaries too, in petro-dollars.

The importance to Western governments of developing more “complex” narratives about intervention has been driven by the need to weaken domestic opposition to continuing Middle East wars. The impression that these wars are being inspired and directed exclusively from “inside”, even if by a heterogeneous opposition whose composition remains murky to outsiders, adds a degree of extra legitimacy; and additionally, it suggests to Western publics that that the cost in treasure and casualties will not be born by us.

Whereas there was a wide consensus in favour of attacking Afghanistan, Western opinion split, especially in Europe, over the question of invading Iraq in the same manner. In the post 9/11 world, the villain in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, seemed a more credible threat to Western interests than Saddam Hussein. The critics of Operation Shock and Awe were proven resoundingly right.

The Arab awakenings, however, provided a different storyline for subsequent Western intervention — one that Washington had tried weakly to advance in Iraq too, after Saddam’s WMD could not be located. It was no longer about finding a doomsday person or weapon, but about a civilising mission to bring democracy to oppressed peoples.

In the era before the Arab Spring, this risked looking like just another ploy to promote Western interests. But afterwards, it seemed far more plausible. It mattered little whether the local actors were democratic elements seeking a new kind of politics or feuding ethnic groups seeking control of the old politics for their own, vengeful ends. The goal of the West was to co-opt them, willingly or not, to the new narrative.

This move effectively eroded popular opposition to the next humanitarian war, in Libya, and looks like it is already achieving the same end in Syria.

Certainly, it has fatally undermined effective dissent from the left, which has squabbled and splintered over each of these humanitarian wars. A number of leading leftwing intellectuals lined up behind the project to overthrow Gadaffi, and more of them are already applauding the same fate for Syria’s Bashar Assad. There is now only a rump of critical leftwing opinion steadfast in its opposition to yet another attempt by the West to engineer an Arab state’s implosion.

If this were simply a cowboy movie, none of this would be of more than incidental interest. Gadaffi was, and Assad is, an outlaw. But international politics is far more complex than a Hollywood script, as should be obvious if we paused for a moment to reflect on what kind of sheriffs we have elected and re-elected in the West. George Bush, Tony Blair and Barack Obama probably have more blood on their hands than any Arab autocrat.

Many on the left are struggling to analyse the new Middle East with anything approaching the sophistication of Washington’s military planners. This failure derives in large part from a willingness to allow the war-merchants to blur the meaningful issues — on the regimes, the opposition groups and the media coverage — related to each “humanitarian intervention”.

Yes, the regimes selected for destruction are uniformly brutal and ugly towards their own people. Yes, the nature of their rule should be denounced. Yes, the world would be better off without them. But this is no reason for the West to wage wars against them, at least not so long as the world continues to be configured the way it is into competing and self-interested nation states.

Nearly all states in the Middle East have appalling human rights records, some of them with even fewer redeeming features than Gadaffi’s Libya or Assad’s Syria. But then those states, such as Saudi Arabia, are close allies of the West. Only the terminally naïve or dishonest argue that the states targeted by the West have been selected for the benefit of their long-suffering citizens. Rather, they have been chosen because they are seen as implacably opposed to American and Israeli interests in the region.

Even in the case of Libya, where Gadaffi’s threat to the West was far from clear to many observers, Western geo-political interests were, in fact, dominant. Dan Glazebrook, a journalist specialising in Western foreign policy, has noted that shortly before the West turned its sights on Libya Gadaffi had begun galvanising African opposition to Africom, the Africa command established by the US military in 2008.

Africom’s role is to organise and direct African troops to fight to ensure, in the words of a US Vice-Admiral, “the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market”. In overthrowing Gadaffi, Africom both removed the main challenger to its plan and put into effect its mission statement: not a single US or European soldier died in the operation to unseat Gadaffi.

Highlighting the hypocrisy at the heart of the interventionist agenda should not be dismissed as simple whataboutery. The West’s mendacity fatally undermines the rationale for intervention, stripping it of any semblance of legitimacy. It also ensures that those who are our allies in these military adventures, such as Saudi Arabia, are the ones who will ultimately get to shape the regimes that emerge out of the rubble.

And yes too, the peoples of the Arab world have the right to live in freedom and dignity. Yes, they are entitled to rise up against their dictators. Yes, they have the right to our moral sympathy, to our advice and to our best efforts at diplomacy in their cause. But they have no right to expect us to go to war on their behalf, or to arm them, or to bring their governments down for them.

This principle should hold because, as the world is currently configured, humanitarian intervention guarantees not a new moral order but rather the law of the jungle. Even if the West could be trusted to wage just wars, rather than ones to promote the interests of its elites, how could we ever divine what action was needed to achieve a just outcome – all the more so in the still deeply divided societies of the Middle East?

Is the average Libyan safer because we pulverised his or her country with bombs, because we crushed its institutions, good and bad alike, because we left it politically and socially adrift, and because we then handed arms and power to tribal groups so that they could wreak revenge on their predecessors? It is doubtful. But even if the answer is unclear, in the absence of certainty we are obliged to follow the medical maxim: “First, do no harm”.

It is the height of arrogance – no, more a God complex – to be as sure as some of our politicians and pundits that we deserve the gratitude of Iraqis for overthrowing Saddam Hussein at the likely cost of more than a million Iraqi lives and millions more forced into exile.

Societies cannot have democracy imposed from without, as though it were an item to be ordered from a lunch menu. The West’s democracies, imperfect as they are, were fought for by their peoples over centuries at great cost, including horrific wars. Each state developed its own checks and balances to cope with the unique political, social and economic conditions that prevailed there. Those hard-won freedoms are under constant threat, not least from the very same political and economic elites that so vociferously campaign for humanitarian interventions abroad.

The reality is that greater freedoms are not awarded by outside benefactors; they are struggled for and won by the people themselves. No modern society achieved democracy except through a gradual, painful struggle, where lessons were learnt, often through error, where reverses and setbacks were plentiful, and where lasting success came with the realisation by all sides that legitimacy could not be secured through violence. If we owe other societies struggling for freedom anything, it is our solidarity, not access to our government’s arsenals.

In fact, the West’s duty is not to intervene more but to intervene far less. We already massively arm tyrannies such as those in the Gulf so that they can protect the oil that we consider our birthright; we offer military, financial and diplomatic cover for Israel’s continuing oppression of millions of Palestinians, a major cause of political instability in the Middle East; and we quietly support the Egyptian military, which is currently trying to reverse last year’s revolutionary gains.

Popular support for humanitarian wars could not be maintained without the spread of propaganda masquerading as news by our corporate-owned media. Over the past decade they have faithfully marketed the Middle East agendas of our war-making governments. As the fanciful pretext for each war is exposed, the armchair generals assure us that the lessons have been learnt for next time. But when the script is given a makeover – and the white hat passed to a new lawman – the same discredited media pundits justify war yet again from the safety of their studios.

This is another reason to tread cautiously. In the case of Syria, the source of the certainty expressed by our newsrooms is often no more than a one-man outfit in the British town of Coventry known as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. If Rami Abdulrahman did not exist, our interventionist governments and their courtiers in the media would have had to invent him. The Observatory produces the anti-regime news needed to justify another war.

This is not to argue that Assad’s regime has not committed war crimes. Rather, it is that, even were “humanitarian interventions” a legitimate undertaking, we have no comsistently reliable information to make an assessment of how best we can intervene, based on the “news” placed in our media by partisan groups to the conflict. All that is clear is that we are once again being manipulated, and to a known end.

These are grounds enough to oppose another humanitarian war. But there is an additional reason why it is foolhardy in the extreme for those on the left to play along with West’s current agenda in Syria, even if they genuinely believe that ordinary Syrians will be the beneficiaries.

If the West succeeds in its slow-motion, proxy intervention in Syria and disables yet another Arab state for refusing to toe its line, the stage will be set for the next war against the next target: Iran.

That is not an argument condoning Assad’s continuing rule. Syrians should be left to make that decision.

But it is an admonition to those who justify endless meddling in the Middle East in the service of a Western agenda. It is a caution against waging wars whose destructive power is directed chiefly at civilians. It is a warning that none of these humanitarian wars is a solution to a problem; they are only a prelude to yet more war. And it is a reminder that we have no right to play God.

Anti-NATO protests in Chicago rap US spending on wars

Al Manar

Thousands of anti-NATO protesters have flooded the streets in Chicago, condemning the spending of taxpayer dollars on US-led wars around the world.

Scuffles broke out late Sunday between police and anti-NATO protesters who demanded an end to US-led wars and the spending of tax-payer money on them, which they blamed for cuts in social programs.

Several demonstrators were detained as NATO’s 25th summit, which hosts more than 50 world leaders, went on in Chicago.

One protester carrying a poster which read “fly kites not drones”, said that he thinks NATO must be disbanded and taxpayer money spent on wars would be better off funding education and health care.

“I’m against the war,” Jean Anderson, another anti-NATO protester noted, adding, “There are powers that I need to fight back against and I need to represent people who can’t speak out because they’re in oppressed nations.”

“They’re spending money on wars instead of school so we can’t get into college because it’s too expensive,” said high school student Isabel Olivia, who carried a cardboard gun reading “NO NATO.”

The two-day NATO summit opened on Sunday with the slogan of “peace” and a minute of silence for all those who have been killed in the organization’s military operations around the world.

US reduces expenses by using depleted uranium in wars

Press TV

The United States is using depleted uranium in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because the deadly weapons are inexpensive and abundant, a professor tells Press TV.

“It’s cheap. It’s cheap and plentiful. Depleted uranium is a by-product of uranium enrichment after a certain percent,” Lawrence Davidson, professor at West Chester University, told Press TV.

The US government has used depleted uranium arms on humans in its two recent wars, at least 1,000 tons in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and 2,400 tons in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Human rights commissions have prohibited the use of depleted uranium on humans — including during military conflicts — because it causes congenital deformities and cancer.

Davidson explained that the weapons have certain qualities that make Washington use them for military purposes.

“For instance the projectiles that you can make out of this depleted uranium have a very high density and when you fire it from a canon or a machine gun or an airplane, its penetrating capacity is very great,” he said.

“You can design the projectile so that upon penetration it disintegrates and bursts into flames. So, let’s say it penetrates an armored vehicle, it sets the inside of the vehicle on fire,” Davidson said.

“And this then creates a powdery residue. And the powdery residue can be airborne and it can sit around for a very long time. And when it’s disturbed it goes airborne again and you can inhale it. The typical result is if you get enough of it is fatal kidney damage,” the professor noted.

The World War on Democracy

by John Pilger, source

Lisette Talate died the other day. I remember a wiry, fiercely intelligent woman who masked her grief with a determination that was a presence. She was the embodiment of people’s resistance to the war on democracy. I first glimpsed her in a 1950s Colonial Office film about the Chagos islanders, a tiny creole nation living midway between Africa and Asia in the Indian Ocean. The camera panned across thriving villages, a church, a school, a hospital, set in a phenomenon of natural beauty and peace. Lisette remembers the producer saying to her and her teenage friends, “Keep smiling girls!”

Sitting in her kitchen in Mauritius many years later, she said, “I didn’t have to be told to smile. I was a happy child, because my roots were deep in the islands, my paradise. My great-grandmother was born there; I made six children there. That’s why they couldn’t legally throw us out of our own homes; they had to terrify us into leaving or force us out. At first, they tried to starve us. The food ships stopped arriving [then] they spread rumors we would be bombed, then they turned on our dogs.”

In the early 1960s, the Labor government of Harold Wilson secretly agreed to a demand from Washington that the Chagos archipelago, a British colony, be “swept” and “sanitized” of its 2,500 inhabitants so that a military base could be built on the principal island, Diego Garcia. “They knew we were inseparable from our pets,” said Lisette, “When the American soldiers arrived to build the base, they backed their big trucks against the brick shed where we prepared the coconuts; hundreds of our dogs had been rounded up and imprisoned there. Then they gassed them through tubes from the trucks’ exhausts. You could hear them crying.”

Lisette and her family and hundreds of islanders were forced on to a rusting steamer bound for Mauritius, a distance of 2,500 miles. They were made to sleep in the hold on a cargo of fertilizer: bird shit. The weather was rough; everyone was ill; two women miscarried. Dumped on the docks at Port Louis, Lisette’s youngest children, Jollice, and Regis, died within a week of each other. “They died of sadness,” she said. “They had heard all the talk and seen the horror of what had happened to the dogs. They knew they were leaving their home forever. The doctor in Mauritius said he could not treat sadness.”

This act of mass kidnapping was carried out in high secrecy. In one official file, under the heading, “Maintaining the fiction,” the Foreign Office legal adviser exhorts his colleagues to cover their actions by “re-classifying” the population as “floating” and to “make up the rules as we go along.” Article 7 of the statute of the International Criminal Court says the “deportation or forcible transfer of population” is a crime against humanity. That Britain had committed such a crime — in exchange for a $14 million discount off an American Polaris nuclear submarine — was not on the agenda of a group of British “defense” correspondents flown to the Chagos by the Ministry of Defense when the US base was completed. “There is nothing in our files,” said a ministry official, “about inhabitants or an evacuation.”

Today, Diego Garcia is crucial to America’s and Britain’s war on democracy. The heaviest bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan was launched from its vast airstrips, beyond which the islanders’ abandoned cemetery and church stand like archaeological ruins. The terraced garden where Lisette laughed for the camera is now a fortress housing the “bunker-busting” bombs carried by bat-shaped B-2 aircraft to targets in two continents; an attack on Iran will start here. As if to complete the emblem of rampant, criminal power, the CIA added a Guantánamo-style prison for its “rendition” victims and called it Camp Justice.

What was done to Lisette’s paradise has an urgent and universal meaning, for it represents the violent, ruthless nature of a whole system behind its democratic façade, and the scale of our own indoctrination to its messianic assumptions, described by Harold Pinter as a “brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.” Longer and bloodier than any war since 1945, waged with demonic weapons and a gangsterism dressed as economic policy and sometimes known as globalization, the war on democracy is unmentionable in western elite circles. As Pinter wrote, “it never happened even while it was happening.” Last July, American historian William Blum published his “updated summary of the record of US foreign policy.” Since the Second World War, the US has:

1.Attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, most of them democratically-elected.
2.Attempted to suppress a populist or national movement in 20 countries.
3.Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
4.Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
5.Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.
In total, the United States has carried out one or more of these actions in 69 countries. In almost all cases, Britain has been a collaborator. The “enemy” changes in name – from communism to Islamism — but mostly it is the rise of democracy independent of western power or a society occupying strategically useful territory, deemed expendable, like the Chagos Islands.

The sheer scale of suffering, let alone criminality, is little known in the west, despite the presence of the world’s most advanced communications, nominally freest journalism, and most admired academy. That the most numerous victims of terrorism – western terrorism – are Muslims is unsayable, if it is known. That half a million Iraqi infants died in the 1990s as a result of the embargo imposed by Britain and America is of no interest. That extreme jihadism, which led to 9/11, was nurtured as a weapon of western policy (“Operation Cyclone”) is known to specialists but otherwise suppressed.

While popular culture in Britain and America immerses the Second World War in an ethical bath for the victors, the holocausts arising from Anglo-American dominance of resource-rich regions are consigned to oblivion. Under the Indonesian tyrant Suharto, anointed “our man” by Thatcher, more than a million people were slaughtered. Described by the CIA as “the worst mass murder of the second half of the 20th century,” the estimate does not include a third of the population of East Timor who were starved or murdered with western connivance, British fighter-bombers, and machine guns.

These true stories are told in declassified files in the Public Record Office, yet represent an entire dimension of politics and the exercise of power excluded from public consideration. This has been achieved by a regime of un-coercive information control, from the evangelical mantra of consumer advertising to sound-bites on BBC news and now the ephemera of social media.

It is as if writers as watchdogs are extinct, or in thrall to a sociopathic zeitgeist, convinced they are too clever to be duped. Witness the stampede of sycophants eager to deify Christopher Hitchens, a war lover who longed to be allowed to justify the crimes of rapacious power. “For almost the first time in two centuries,” wrote Terry Eagleton, “there is no eminent British poet, playwright, or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life.” No Orwell warns that we do not need to live in a totalitarian society to be corrupted by totalitarianism. No Shelley speaks for the poor, no Blake proffers a vision, no Wilde reminds us that “disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue.” And grievously no Pinter rages at the war machine, as in American Football:

Hallelujah.

Praise the Lord for all good things …

We blew their b**** into shards of dust,

Into shards of f***** dust …

Into shards of f***** dust go all the lives blown there by Barack Obama, the Hopey Changey of western violence. Whenever one of Obama’s drones wipes out an entire family in a faraway tribal region of Pakistan, or Somalia, or Yemen, the American controllers in front of their computer-game screens type in “Bugsplat.” Obama likes drones and has joked about them with journalists. One of his first actions as president was to order a wave of Predator drone attacks on Pakistan that killed 74 people. He has since killed thousands, mostly civilians; drones fire Hellfire missiles that suck the air out of the lungs of children and leave body parts festooned across scrubland.

Remember the tear-stained headlines when Brand Obama was elected: “momentous, spine-tingling”: the Guardian. “The American future,” wrote Simon Schama, “is all vision, numinous, unformed, light-headed …” The San Francisco Chronicle‘s columnist saw a spiritual “lightworker [who can] usher in a new way of being on the planet.” Beyond the drivel, as the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg had predicted, a military coup was taking place in Washington, and Obama was their man. Having seduced the antiwar movement into virtual silence, he has given America’s corrupt military officer class unprecedented powers of state and engagement. These include the prospect of wars in Africa and opportunities for provocations against China, America’s largest creditor and new “enemy” in Asia. Under Obama, the old source of official paranoia Russia, has been encircled with ballistic missiles and the Russian opposition infiltrated. Military and CIA assassination teams have been assigned to 120 countries; long planned attacks on Syria and Iran beckon a world war. Israel, the exemplar of US violence and lawlessness by proxy, has just received its annual pocket money of $3bn together with Obama’s permission to steal more Palestinian land.

Obama’s most “historic” achievement is to bring the war on democracy home to America. On New Year’s Eve, he signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a law that grants the Pentagon the legal right to kidnap both foreigners and US citizens and indefinitely detain, interrogate and torture, or even kill them. They need only “associate” with those “belligerent” to the United States. There will be no protection of law, no trial, no legal representation. This is the first explicit legislation to abolish habeas corpus (the right to due process of law) and effectively repeal the Bill of Rights of 1789.

On 5 January, in an extraordinary speech at the Pentagon, Obama said the military would not only be ready to “secure territory and populations” overseas but to fight in the “homeland” and provide “support to the civil authorities.” In other words, US troops will be deployed on the streets of American cities when the inevitable civil unrest takes hold.

America is now a land of epidemic poverty and barbaric prisons: the consequence of a “market” extremism which, under Obama, has prompted the transfer of $14 trillion in public money to criminal enterprises in Wall Street. The victims are mostly young jobless, homeless, incarcerated African-Americans, betrayed by the first black president. The historic corollary of a perpetual war state, this is not fascism, not yet, but neither is it democracy in any recognizable form, regardless of the placebo politics that will consume the news until November. The presidential campaign, says the Washington Post, will “feature a clash of philosophies rooted in distinctly different views of the economy.” This is patently false. The circumscribed task of journalism on both sides of the Atlantic is to create the pretence of political choice where there is none.

The same shadow is across Britain and much of Europe where social democracy, an article of faith two generations ago, has fallen to the central bank dictators. In David Cameron’s “big society,” the theft of 84bn pounds in jobs and services even exceeds the amount of tax “legally” avoided by piratical corporations. Blame rests not with the far right, but a cowardly liberal political culture that has allowed this to happen, which, wrote Hywel Williams in the wake of the attacks on 9/11, “can itself be a form of self righteous fanaticism.” Tony Blair is one such fanatic. In its managerial indifference to the freedoms that it claims to hold dear, bourgeois Blairite Britain has created a surveillance state with 3,000 new criminal offences and laws: more than for the whole of the previous century. The police clearly believe they have an impunity to kill. At the demand of the CIA, cases like that of Binyam Mohamed, an innocent British resident tortured and then held for five years in Guantanamo Bay, will be dealt with in secret courts in Britain “in order to protect the intelligence agencies” – the torturers.

This invisible state allowed the Blair government to fight the Chagos islanders as they rose from their despair in exile and demanded justice in the streets of Port Louis and London. “Only when you take direct action, face to face, even break laws, are you ever noticed,” said Lisette. “And the smaller you are, the greater your example to others.” Such an eloquent answer to those who still ask, “What can I do?”

I last saw Lisette’s tiny figure standing in driving rain alongside her comrades outside the Houses of Parliament. What struck me was the enduring courage of their resistance. It is this refusal to give up that rotten power fears, above all, knowing it is the seed beneath the snow.

US city council opposes war with Iran

Press TV

The Charlottesville City Council in Virginia has approved a resolution that calls on Congress and the White House to refrain from launching any military action against Iran.

The resolution approved on Tuesday also urges Congress to end all current ground wars engaged in by the United States and to significantly reduce military spending.

The document argues that the US high military spending has drained funds from its domestic priorities, including education, health care, energy and tax relief.

“The City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, calls on the US Congress and the US President to end foreign ground and drone wars, refrain from entering new military ventures in Iran, and reduce base military spending in order to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, re-train and re-employ those losing jobs in the process of conversion to non-military industries, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy,” the document stated.

The declaration was promoted by anti-war activist David Swanson, and was supported by four of five councilors of Charlottesville, Virginia, home of Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and the University of Virginia.

“You and I are threatening Iran, unless we say otherwise … Let’s begin to end the institution of war,” Sawnson said at the Council meeting.

Councilor Kathy Galvin, the only member who was opposed to the resolution, abstained from vote after her proposed changes were disregarded by other councilors. Galvin suggested that the resolution should not specifically name Iran.

However, Councilor Dave Norris, who pushed for the inclusion of the Iran wording said “That’s where the warmongering is happening now, I think for us not to name it, we’d be shirking our responsibility.”

Earlier this week, the US sent a second aircraft carrier vessel into the Persian Gulf, after high-ranking civil and military officials in Tehran threatened the West with the possible closure of the strategic Strait of Hormuz through which one-fifth of the world’s oil shipments pass.

Iran threats were issued in response to the aggressive military build-up, covert war operations and proposed sanctions against Iran’s oil sector, coming from the US and its allies.

The US, Israel and their allies accuse Tehran of pursuing a military nuclear program and have used this allegation as a pretext to sway the UNSC to impose four rounds of sanctions on Iran.

Based on these accusations, they have also repeatedly threatened Tehran with the “option” of a military strike.

“Why do they hate us?”

by DAVE LINDORFF, source

Even as President Obama and War Secretary Leon Panetta announce the “end” of the Iraq War, a US “covert war” against Iran, as the National Journal put it in a December 4 article, has already begun.

This secret war–at least secret from the American people–is being conducted in part directly by the US, as evidenced by the advanced American RQ-170 Sentinel stealth surveillance drone just recently downed–apparently by sophisticated electronic countermeasures that allowed the taking control of, and landing of the vehicle–by Iran. Also conducted in part of proxies, including the Iranian anti-government terrorist organization MEK (for Mujahideen-e Khalq), and of course Israel’s Mossad, this dirty covert war has led to an escalating string of acts of terror inside Iran, including a campaign of assassination against Iranian nuclear scientists, and bombings of Iranian military installations.

Not content to simply engage in such illegal hostilities against a sovereign nation that has not threatened the U.S., and that in fact has not invaded another country in some 200 years, President Obama had the effrontery to demand that the Iranians return the spy drone that they had captured!

Imagine for a moment if an Iranian, or some other nation’s, robot spy plane had been captured or shot down over U.S. territory. Imagine the official response if the nation that owned that plane were to demand its return! First of all, Congressmembers, probably almost unanimously, would be clamoring for the US to launch an attack on whatever company launched the spy plane. But the reaction to a demand to return such a device would be truly explosive! The audacity!

Actually, you don’t need to imagine. Look at the right-wing media and the official US government response to the arrest of two men in New York accused of the hard-to-believe conspiracy of planning, allegedly at the direction of Iranian
government sources, to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Forget about proving that this far-fetched alleged plot was real at all, and not just another creation of some FBI informant/provocateur, or whether Iran was really behind it even if it was. There were open calls for bombing Iran immediately!

President Obama, meanwhile, keeps saying that “all options are on the table” for dealing with what the US government alleges is an Iranian campaign to develop nuclear weapons — itself a very dubious claim. And to back up that threat, the US has actually delivered huge non-nuclear “bunker busting” bombs to Israel, a country which has openly been discussing plans to attack Iran.

These are all war crimes under the UN charter and actual acts of war.

But that’s just Iran.

The US is already at war with Pakistan, too, this country’s nominal ally in the war against Afghanistan’s Taliban. Two weeks ago, American planes, ground forces and helicopters attacked two Pakistani border posts, killing several dozen Pakistani troops. There is considerable evidence that these attacks were deliberate, though the US is claiming lamely that its forces had “incorrect coordinates” that led to the fatal attacks.

Sure.

These days the US doesn’t just rely on Garman GPS devices for its attacks. It sends in drones with high-rez cameras and knows exactly what and who it is killing before it pulls the trigger.

Meanwhile, we’ve been killing people in Yemen for years with planes sent from offshore aircraft carriers, and using missile-firing Predator drones.

In Latin America, American military “trainers” are fighting a war against leftist forces in Columbia, the CIA is supporting opposition groups seeking to oust the elected governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and other countries, and the US Justice Department is shipping weapons into drug-war-torn Mexico and helping to launder Mexican drug money back in the US.

There are credible charges that the US has also been supporting the latest protests against the Vladimir Putin government in Russia (even as our own Homeland Security and “Justice” Departments coordinate violent police crackdowns on the Occupy protests here at home against our own government’s craven support of the corrupt banks that have been wrecking the US and global economies).

And we Americans wonder: “Why do they hate us?”

If real people around the world weren’t dying from all this criminal US behavior, and if real people here in America weren’t suffering because of all the trillions of dollars being wasted over the years on military spending, spying, covert destabilization campaigns and overt war-making, it would all be laughable.

But real people are dying and are suffering and there is nothing to laugh about.

Someday there will come a reckoning for the US, as there came a reckoning for Rome, for the British Empire, for the German Reich and for the USSR. A hollowed-out country like the this one, which is under-funding education, health care, infrastructure investment, research, and environmental protection, while its governing class steadily disenfranchises, disempowers, and impoverishes the public while systematically taking away their right to protest, is ultimately doomed.

It’s just a question of time, and of course a matter of how it happens.

If we’re lucky, the dramatic awakening that began with the Occupy Movement in September will continue to spread and grow until an enraged public rises up en masse and evicts the entire corrupt gang from Washington, replacing them with genuine representatives of the people and a new commitment to true democratic governance.

If we’re not so lucky, this nation is likely to slide into global irrelevance — a backward relic of faded glory, a place where Chinese, Brazilian and European firms will invest to take advantage of our cheap, uneducated labor to produce goods to sell back in their own countries. Such an economic slide would of course not occur without violent conflicts and struggles over ever diminishing wealth and resources.

By then off course, if our government continues on its present course of militarily meddling in other nations, the US will be almost universally loathed and, in stead of being manipulated into fears of nonexistent threats to our “safety,” we Americans will finally have reason to genuinely fear the actions of other, more powerful, nations, which will find the temptation to compete in meddling in the affairs of what remains of the United States irresistible.

Why They Hate Us in Iraq

Reading the New York Times, an American might have been excused for wondering why Iraqis, and especially the people of Fallujah, would be so happy to see American occupying troops leaving the country at the end of this month and of nine years of war against their country that they were actually celebrating.

The Times made it sound as though Fallujah deserved what happened to it. As the article published Dec. 15 notes dryly, American forces in 2004 twice attacked this largest city in Anbar Province to “pacify” it (there’s a political euphemism for you!) after insurgents there in March of 2004 captured four US “contractors” driving through the city, burned their bodies, and strung them up on a bridge over the Euphrates River.

First of all, let’s also dispense with the euphemistic term “contractors,” which is meant to bring to mind the image of a couple of overweight construction workers. In Iraq, and especially in lawless areas like Anbar at that time, “contractor” means “mercenary,” and we now know that mercenaries in Iraq (and in Afghanistan) were and are a lawless, bloodthirsty, group of former US military personnel and vicious thugs from various foreign fascist states like Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, apartheid South Africa and elsewhere, who have killed countless numbers of civilians in Iraq and elsewhere, operating outside of any government monitoring or legal constraints for “security firms” like Blackwater (now Xe) and DynCorp.

What actually happened in Fallujah though, was that because of Pentagon and US media-stoked domestic public outrage at the treatment of the four captured mercenaries, 20,000 US Marines were sent in to the city to level it and to slaughter its male inhabitants in an example of the kind of massive war crime tactic once popular with the Nazi Wehrmacht in World War II, where it was known as “collective punishment.” The Nazis used to burn down villages, particularly in Eastern Europe and the USSR, if even one shot was fired at them. But taking things much further in Iraq, US forces encircled Fallujah, a city of 300,000, in November, 2004, and ordered all non-combatants out of the area. Women and children were allowed to leave through checkpoints, but no males of “combat age”–which was illegally set, according to reports, at the age of 11, or by some accounts, at 14. In either case, the whole thing was criminal. Under Geneva Conventions signed by the US, first of all all civilians are required to be granted free passage to escape from any field of battle or impending battle, and secondly, under those same Conventions, all children under the age of 18 are to be protected from war, not considered combatants. Even those who are found armed or captured while fighting are to be treated not as combatants, but as victims.
Instead of obeying the laws of war (which once approved by the Senate have the force of law under the US Constitution), US forces trapped all males in the city, including old men and young boys, and then went in with assault rifles, cannons, ground attack planes, helicopter and fixed-wing gunships, and with illegal weapons and weapons that cause mass deaths such as white phosphorus bombs, napalm, anti-personnel shells and depleted uranium shells. US forces basically killed everything that moved in numbers ranging upward of 6000 (In contrast the UN is expressing horror that the government in Syria has killed 5000 people in its crackdown on a democracy movement there). There were accounts of people being shot in the river as they tried to swim away from the city, of hospitals being raided and ambulances bombed, and there were even videos of seriously wounded and unarmed Iraqi fighters being coldly executed by Marines. What was done to Fallujah was as vile, evil and criminal a campaign of retribution and vengeance, exercised against enemy fighters and trapped civilians alike, as anything Hitler’s SS ever engaged in.

The Times article made no mention about any of this — an exercise in censorship and propaganda made all the more outrageous because the atrocity was well reported at the time it happened by the paper’s own excellent war reporter, Dexter Filkins.

Knowing what really happened, and what the US military really did in Fallujah, would make much more understandable to Americans why the end of US occupation of Iraq has been greeted with a “festival” atmosphere in the still recovering city of Fallujah.

DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new Project-Censored Award-winning independent online alternative newspaper.

The enemy is Washington: An economy destroyed

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS, source

Recently, the bond rating agencies that gave junk derivatives triple-A ratings threatened to downgrade US Treasury bonds if the White House and Congress did not reach a deficit reduction deal and debt ceiling increase. The downgrade threat is not credible, and neither is the default threat. Both are make-believe crises that are being hyped in order to force cutbacks in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

If the rating agencies downgraded Treasuries, the company executives would be arrested for the fraudulent ratings that they gave to the junk that Wall Street peddled to the rest of the world. The companies would be destroyed and their ratings discredited. The US government will never default on its bonds, because the bonds, unlike those of Greece, Spain, and Ireland, are payable in its own currency. Regardless of whether the debt ceiling is raised, the Federal Reserve will continue to purchase the Treasury’s debt. If Goldman Sachs is too big to fail, then so is the US government.

There is no budget focus on the illegal wars and military occupations that the US government has underway in at least six countries or the 66-year old US occupations of Japan and Germany and the ring of military bases being constructed around Russia.

The total military/security budget is in the vicinity of $1.1-$1.2 trillion, or 70 per cent -75 per cent of the federal budget deficit.

In contrast, Social Security is solvent. Medicare expenditures are coming close to exceeding the 2.3 per cent payroll tax that funds Medicare, but it is dishonest for politicians and pundits to blame the US budget deficit on “entitlement programs.”

Entitlements are funded with a payroll tax. Wars are not funded. The criminal Bush regime lied to Americans and claimed that the Iraq war would only cost $70 billion at the most and would be paid for with Iraq oil revenues. When Bush’s chief economic advisor, Larry Lindsay, said the Iraq invasion would cost $200 billion, Bush fired him. In fact, Lindsay was off by a factor of 20. Economic and budget experts have calculated that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have consumed $4,000 billion in out-of-pocket and already incurred future costs. In other words, the ongoing wars and occupations have already eaten up the $4 trillion by which Obama hopes to cut federal spending over the next ten years. Bomb now, pay later.

As taxing the rich is not part of the political solution, the focus is on rewarding the insurance companies by privatizing Medicare at some future date with government subsidized insurance premiums, by capping Medicaid, and by loading the diminishing middle class with additional Social Security tax.

Washington’s priorities and those of its presstitutes could not be clearer. President Obama, like George W. Bush before him, both parties in Congress, the print and TV media, and National Public Radio have made it clear that war is a far more important priority than health care and old age pensions for Americans.

The American people and their wants and needs are not represented in Washington. Washington serves powerful interest groups, such as the military/security complex, Wall Street and the banksters, agribusiness, the oil companies, the insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, and the mining and timber industries. Washington endows these interests with excess profits by committing war crimes and terrorizing foreign populations with bombs, drones, and invasions, by deregulating the financial sector and bailing it out of its greed-driven mistakes after it has stolen Americans’ pensions, homes, and jobs, by refusing to protect the land, air, water, oceans and wildlife from polluters and despoilers, and by constructing a health care system with the highest costs and highest profits in the world.

The way to reduce health care costs is to take out gobs of costs and profits with a single payer system. A private health care system can continue to operate alongside for those who can afford it.

The way to get the budget under control is to stop the gratuitous hegemonic wars, wars that will end in a nuclear confrontation.

The US economy is in a deepening recession from which recovery is not possible, because American middle class jobs in manufacturing and professional services have been offshored and given to foreigners. US GDP, consumer purchasing power, and tax base have been handed over to China, India, and Indonesia in order that Wall Street, shareholders, and corporate CEOs can earn more.

When the goods and services produced offshore come back into America, they arrive as imports. The trade balance worsens, the US dollar declines further in exchange value, and prices rise for Americans, whose incomes are stagnant or falling.

This is economic destruction. It always occurs when an oligarchy seizes control of a government. The short-run profits of the powerful are maximized at the expense of the viability of the economy.

The US economy is driven by consumer demand, but with 22.3 per cent unemployment, stagnant and declining wages and salaries, and consumer debt burdens so high that consumers cannot borrow to spend, there is nothing to drive the economy.

Washington’s response to this dilemma is to increase the austerity! Cutting back Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, forcing down wages by destroying unions and offshoring jobs (which results in a labor surplus and lower wages), and driving up the prices of food and energy by depreciating the dollar further erodes consumer purchasing power. The Federal Reserve can print money to rescue the crooked financial institutions, but it cannot rescue the American consumer.

As a final point, confront the fact that you are even lied to about “deficit reduction.” Even if Obama gets his $4 trillion “deficit reduction” over the next decade, it does not mean that the current national debt will be $4 trillion less than it currently is. The “reduction” merely means that the growth in the national debt will be $4 trillion less than otherwise. Regardless of any “deficit reduction,” the national debt ten years from now will be much higher than it presently is.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal, and professor of economics in six universities. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, was published by CounterPunch/AK Press.

Numbers Racketeers: The Obama-Gates Scam on Military Spending

by Carlos Latuff

by GARETH PORTER, source

Last week Barack Obama announced that he wants to cut $400 billion in military spending and said he would work with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs on a “fundamental review” of U.S. “military missions, capabilities and our role in a changing world” before making a decision. 

Spokesman Geoff Morrell responded by hinting that Gates was displeased with having to cut that much from his spending plan.  Gates “has been clear that further significant defense cuts cannot be accomplished without future cuts in force structure and military capability,” said Morrell, who volunteered that the Secretary not been informed about the Obama decision until the day before.  

But it is difficult to believe that open display of tension between Obama and Gates was not scripted.  In the background of those moves is a larger political maneuver on which the two of them have been collaborating since last year in which they gave the Pentagon a huge increase in funding for the next decade and then started to take credit for small or nonexistent reductions from that increase.    

The original Obama-Gates base military spending plan – spending excluding the costs of the current wars – for FY 2011 through 2020, called for spending $5.8 trillion, or $580 billion annually, as former Pentagon official Lawrence Korb noted last January.  That would have represented a 25 per cent real increase over the average annual level of military spending, excluding war costs, by the George W. Bush administration.  

Even more dramatic, the Obama-Gates plan was 45 per cent higher than the annual average of military spending level in the 1992-2001 decade, as reflected in official DOD data

The Obama FY 2012 budget submission reduced the total increase only slightly – by $162 billion over the four years from 2017 to 2020, according to the careful research of the Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA).  That left an annual average base military spending level of $564 billion – 23 per cent higher than Bush’s annual average and 40 percent above the level of the 1990s.

Central to last week’s chapter in the larger game was Obama’s assertion that Gates had already saved $400 billion in his administration.  “Over the last two years,” he said, “Secretary Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again.”

The $400 billion figure is based primarily on the $330 billion Gates claimed he had saved by stopping, reducing or otherwise changing plans for 31 weapons programs.  But contrary to the impression left by Obama, that figure does not reflect any cut in projected DOD spending.  All of it was used to increase spending on operations and investment in the military budget. 

The figure was concocted, moreover, by using tricky accounting methods verging on chicanery.  It was based on arbitrary assumptions about how much all 31 programs would have cost over their entire lifetimes stretching decades into the future, assuming they would all reach completion.  That methodology offered endless possibilities for inflated claims of savings.

The PDA points out that yet another $100 billion that Gates announced in January as cost-cutting by the military services was also used to increase spending on operations and new weapons program that the services wanted.  That leaves another $78 billion in cuts over five years also announced by Gates in January, but most of that may have been added to the military budget for “overseas contingency operations” rather than contributed to deficit reduction, according to the PDA. 

Even if the $400 billion in ostensible cuts that Obama is seeking were genuine, the Pentagon would be still be sitting on total projected increase of 14 per cent above the level of military spending of the Bush administration. Last week’s White House fact sheet on deficit reduction acknowledged that Obama has the “goal of holding the growth in base security spending below inflation.”   
The “fundamental review” that Obama says will be carried out with the Pentagon and military bureaucracies will be yet another chapter in this larger maneuver.  It’s safe bet that, in the end, Gates will reach into his bag of accounting tricks again for most of the desired total.

Despite the inherently deceptive character of Obama’s call for the review, it has a positive side: it gives critics of the national security state an opportunity to point out that such a review should be carried out by a panel of independent military budget analysts who have no financial stake in the outcome – unlike the officials of the national security state. 

Such an independent panel could come up with a list of all the military missions and capabilities that don’t make the American people more secure or even make them less secure, as well as those for which funding should be reduced substantially because of technological and other changes.  It could also estimate how much overall projected military spending should be reduced, without regard to what would be acceptable to the Pentagon or a majority in Congress.  

The panel would not require White House or Congressional approval.  It could be convened by a private organization or, better yet, by a group of concerned Members of Congress. They could use its data and conclusions as the basis for creating a legislative alternative to existing U.S. national security policy, perhaps in the form of a joint resolution.  That would give millions of Americans who now feel that nothing can be done about endless U.S. wars and the national security state’s grip on budgetary resources something to rally behind.

Three convergent political forces are contributing to the eventual weakening of the national security state: the growing popular opposition to failed wars, public support for shifting spending priorities from the national security sector to the domestic economy and pressure for deficit and debt reduction.  But in the absence of concerted citizen action, it could take several years to see decisive results.  Seizing the opportunity for an independent review of military missions and spending would certainly speed up that process.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.

Washington’s Long War Against Africa

by Carlos Latuff

by James Petras, source

The US bombing of Libya in support of rebel clients in the spring of 2011 is part and parcel of a sustained policy of military intervention in Africa since at least the mid 1950’s.

According to a US Congressional Research Service Study[1] published in November 2010, Washington has dispatched anywhere between hundreds and several thousand combat troops, dozens of fighter planes and warships to buttress client dictatorships or to unseat adversarial regimes in dozens of countries, almost on a yearly bases. The record shows the US armed forces intervened 46 times prior to the current Libyan wars[2]. The countries suffering one or more US military intervention include the Congo, Zaine, Libya, Chad, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Ruanda, Liberia, Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea. The only progressive intervention was in Egypt under Eisenhower who forced the Israeli-French-English forces to withdraw from the Suez in 1956. Between the mid 1950’s to the end of the 1970’s, only 4 overt military operations were recorded, though large scale proxy and clandestine military operations were pervasive. Under Reagan-Bush Sr. (1980-1991) military intervention accelerated, rising to 8, not counting the large scale clandestine ‘special forces’ and proxy wars in Southern Africa. Under the Clinton regime, US militarized imperialism in Africa took off. Between 1992 and 2000, 17 armed incursions took place, including a large scale invasion of Somalia and military backing for the Ruanda genocidal regime.[3] Clinton intervened in Liberia, Gabon, Congo and Sierra Leone to prop up a long standing stooge regime. He bombed the Sudan and dispatched military personnel to Kenya and Ethiopia to back proxy clients assaulting Somalia. Under Bush Jr. 15 US military interventions took place, mainly in Central and East Africa. The Obama regime’s invasion and bombing of Libya is a continuation of a longstanding imperial practice designed to enhance US power via the installation of client regimes, the establishment of military bases and the training and indoctrination of African mercenary forces dubbed “collaborative partners”. There is no question that there is a rising tide of imperial militarism in the US over the past several decades.

Most of the US’ African empire is disproportionally built on military links to client military chiefs. The Pentagon has military ties with 53 African countries (including Libya prior to the current attack). Washington’s efforts to militarize Africa and turn its armies into proxy mercenaries in putting down anti-imperial revolts and regimes were accelerated after 9/11. The Bush Administration announced in 2002 that Africa was a “strategic priority in fighting terrorism”.[4] Henceforth, US imperial strategists, with the backing of liberal and neoconservative congress people, moved to centralize and coordinate a military policy on a continent wide basis forming the African Command (AFRICOM). The latter organizes African armies, euphemistically called “co-operative partnerships,” to conduct neo-colonial wars based on bilateral agreements (Uganda, Burundi, etc.) as well as ‘multi-lateral’ links with the Organization of African Unity.[5]

AFRICOM despite its assigned role as a vehicle for spreading imperial influence, has been more successful in destroying countries rather than in gaining resources and power bases. The war against Somalia, displacing and killing millions and costing hundreds of millions of dollars, enters its twentieth year, with no victory in sight. Apart from the longest standing US neo-colony, Liberia,there is no country willing to allow AFRICOM to set up headquarters. Most significantly AFRICOM was unprepared for the overthrow of key client regimes in Tunisia and Egypt – important “partners” in patrolling the North African Mediterranean, the Arabian coast and the Red Sea. Despite Libya’s collaboration with AFRICOM, especially in “anti-terrorist” intelligence operations, Washington mistakenly believed that an easy victory by its “rebel” clients might lead to a more docile regime, offering more in the way of a military base, headquarters and a cheap source of oil. Today the US depends as much on African petroleum as its suppliers in the Middle East. The continent-wide presence of AFRICOM has been matched by its incapacity to convert “partnerships” into effective proxy conquerors. The attempt to foster “civil-military” programs has failed to secure any popular base for corrupt collaborator regimes, valued for their willingness to provide imperial cannon fodder.

The continuing North African uprising, overthrew the public face of the imperial backed dictatorships. As the popular Arab revolt spreads to the Gulf and deepens its demandsto include socio-economic as well as political demands the Empire struck back. AFRICOM backed the assault on Libya , the crackdown on the prodemocracy movement by the ruling military junta in Egypt and looks to its autocratic “partners” in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula to drown the civil society movements in a blood bath.

The growing militarization of US Imperial policy in North Africa and the Gulf is leading to a historic confrontation between the Arab democratic revolution and the imperial backed satraps; between Libyans fighting for their independence and the Euro-American navel and air forces ravaging the country on behalf of their inept local clients.

——————————————————————————–

[1] Lauren Ploch, Africa Command: US strategic Interests and the Role of the Military in Africa (Congreessional Research Service Nov. 16, 2010.

[2] Richard Grimmett, Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad 1798-2009 (CRS 2010).

[3] Edward Herman “Gilbert Achar’s Defense of Humanitarian Intervention” (ZNET April 8, 2011)

[4] The White House, National Security Strategy of the United States (September 2002).

[5] Lauren Ploch, opcit esp pp19-25.

Obama’s Indecisiveness Defines His Presidency

by Habib Hadad

by Ramzy Baroud, source

He may still possess the poise of a confident leader and an eloquent intellectual, but the presidency of Barack Obama is now suffering its most difficult phase to date.

Certainly, Obama cannot solely be blamed for all the factors that have stifled his country’s chances of recovery from the failures of the Bush era. But the man who promised the moon has now extended the abhorrent and morally unjustifiable tax cuts for America’s wealthiest class. The “sweeping” $858 billion tax bill was signed into law on December 17. It includes an $801 billion package of tax cuts, extending Bush’s tax break for the rich for two more years – at a time when the majority of Americans are reeling under the weight of a failing economy and persistently high unemployment.

Still, the tax bill was presented by the self-assured president as “real money that’s going to make a real difference in people’s lives.” The cuts will help stimulate an ailing economy, he claims, despite it being the rich who gambled with American wealth to increase their own, stimulating a market crash that led to millions losing their small investments and savings. All we know for sure is that the cuts will add a gigantic chunk to an already impossible deficit of $1.3 trillion, another Obama battle that is likely to be lost to the Republicans early next year.

But this concession, and its presentation as a victory for America’s middle classes says more about Obama’s style than the weakening of the Democrats since the midterm elections. Even in his foreign policy management, Obama’s approach seems to teeter between giving face-lifts to ugly realities and postponing urgently needed action. The agent of change has become the quintessential American politician, who is more consumed with his chances of reelection than with bringing about the kind of long-term change that can really benefit his country, and the world at large.

Obama’s handling of the shortly-lived peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s rightwing government is another example of a striking failure followed by whitewash. Although he adamantly demanded a halt to Israel’s construction of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Obama soon began capitulating before an obstinate Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli leader, supported by much of the US Congress and backed by a strong Israel lobby in Washington, finally forced Obama into a humiliating retreat. Even a generous bribe to win a limited Israeli moratorium on settlement construction failed. Obama administration officials finally declared that the US would abandon its efforts to halt Israeli settlement expansion, effectively signaling an American exit from the ‘peace process.’

Instead of laying the blame squarely on Israel, the Obama administration delved into the same long-discredited rhetoric that only Palestinians and Israelis are capable of accomplishing peace without any outside intervention. That was the core message of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who argued that it was up to Israel and the Palestinian leadership to “settle their conflict”. It signaled a complete shift in US foreign policy, which Israel has naturally welcomed, for the US-financed military occupier prefers to be left to its own devices in this very unbalanced conflict.

Afghanistan is another example. The eagerly anticipated strategy assessment of the war in Afghanistan was released on December 16, with illusory talk of “gains” and warnings of al-Qaeda threats. It suggests that the US will continue to fight a pointless war for years to come, with no clear goals or end in sight.

“The unclassified version of the secret review said U.S. military operations have disrupted the Pakistan-based al-Qaida terrorist network over the last year and halted the momentum of the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan,” reported the Kansas City Star.

What the review and much of the media fail to report is that the war on Afghanistan hardly concerns al-Qaeda, which is more widespread and mobile than ever. Its future operation does not hinge on the ongoing battles in Afghanistan either. One must also remain skeptical of the “gains” reportedly made in the south. Taliban is known for avoiding open warfare, a style they have mastered after nine years of practice. The recoil – if that is even the case – of the Taliban is probably temporary, and a spring resurgence is assured by past experiences. But what is most important to note is that the action of NATO and US soldiers, government corruption and the brutality of local militias have allowed the Taliban to extend its presence to northern provinces, including Kunduz and Takhar, which were, until recently, uncharted territories for the strong and resourceful Pashtun fighters.

According to an editorial in the Lebanese Daily Star, “Obama’s long-awaited Afghanistan strategy review amounts to little more than a whitewash of the seemingly intractable problems that have trapped the mighty American military in a quagmire.” Worse, this crisis is likely to be compounded. “The failures of General Stanley McChrystal, who resigned in June, and Richard Holbrooke, who died suddenly this week, are symbolic of the crumbling of the twin pillars, both military and civilian, of Barack Obama’s counterinsurgency strategy. The US has now…entered a violent stalemate,” wrote James Denselow in the British Guardian.

Obama’s response was yet another attempt to distance himself from the looming, if not ongoing failure. US priority, he said, is “not to defeat every last threat to the security of Afghanistan, because, ultimately, it is Afghans who must secure their country. And it’s not nation-building, because it is Afghans who must build their nation.”

One would agree with the president were it not for the fact that the US invasion was what has impeded the security of Afghanistan, destroyed any chance of nation-building and installed a corrupt government. But Obama will not accept responsibility. His cautious assessments are emblematic of his overall political style: avoiding or perpetuating the problem, and distancing himself from it once failure is assured. This is as true of his domestic policy as of his foreign policy.

It is easy to see why Obama’s popularity has plummeted among those who once believed in his ability to bring change to a scarred and traumatized country. And his irresolute leadership has also empowered his political opponents, who will not cease to demand more from a feeble and ever-willing president.

– Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London.

Israeli arms firm to benefit from EU-funded research

by David Cronin, The Electronic Intifada

BRUSSELS (IPS) – Arms traders are seeking to convince the European Union that publicly-funded scientific research grants should help develop weapons for future wars.

In a series of secret discussions, Brussels officials and representatives of the arms industry are examining if the EU’s multi-billion euro “framework program” for research can be used for projects of a military nature.

Since the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States, senior policy-makers in the European Commission, the EU’s executive wing, have been eager to ensure a greater involvement of arms manufacturers in the program. Yet because of the reluctance of some EU governments to give the commission a greater say in military matters, the scope of “security research” has so far been limited to projects that, according to EU officials, can be categorized as “civilian” and “non-lethal.”

About 1.4 billion euros ($1.85 billion) have been allocated to the “security” theme of the current framework program, which runs from 2007 to 2013 and has an overall budget of 53 billion euros ($69.5 billion). With planning already under way for the next phase of the program — from 2014 to 2020 — the arms industry is pushing for projects of a more explicit military nature to be funded.

Many arms industry lobbyists view the research program as an important source of money at a time when military expenditure is being reduced throughout Europe. While the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) advocates that its members should devote at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product to the military, France, Greece and Britain are the only EU countries that have met that target.

The secret talks on how science grants may aid the military are being organized by a network called SANDERA (Security and Defense policies in the European Research Area).

Burkhard Theile, a German arms industry lobbyist who is joining the talks, said he wishes to see EU research grants being used for developing new pilotless drones (also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs). Such weapons were used extensively by Israel to kill and injure civilians in Gaza during 2008 and 2009. They are also being used by the US in carrying out extrajudicial executions — which frequently result in civilian deaths — in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.

“UAVs have both civilian and military uses and they should be funded by the Union,” Theile told IPS. “They can equally be used for border patrol or for missions like the one we have in Afghanistan.” Formerly a vice-president of Rheinmetall, a maker of tanks and warplanes, Theile now runs his own consulting firm for the arms trade.

Andrew James, a lecturer in Manchester Business School and coordinator of Sandera, acknowledged that giving the European Commission a greater say in scientific research may encounter resistance from EU governments. He said: “A number of powerful and influential stakeholders in Brussels and beyond would like to see defense in some form take funding more broadly than it does at the moment, not least because defense spending among [EU] member states is obviously declining. This is politically controversial. Not all member states would be comfortable to see the commission getting involved in defense research.”

Rather than being financed as a “security” project, the work of Sandera is covered by the section of the EU’s research program reserved for social science and humanities.

Academics from the Free University in Berlin have expressed concern that the research program is focusing less on issues of a genuinely social nature. A paper drawn up by Tanja Boerzel, a professor at the university, laments how EU-financed social science projects are often driven by the interests of private companies. Although about half of all academic staff at leading European universities work in social sciences, only two percent of the EU’s research program is allocated to this field, the paper says.

Ben Hayes, a campaigner with the civil liberties organization Statewatch, argued that the research program should concentrate more on social than on military issues. “There is a huge conflict of interest in allowing the military and security lobby to set the research agenda, to be able to define the priorities and then to apply for the funding on offer,” he said. “They are developing their wares with taxpayers’ money and then selling them back to the state. This is a hugely misdirected allocation of taxpayers’ money and scarce resources.”

Mark English, the European Commission’s spokesman on science, said that the EU executive expects to increase the amount of grants given to social research from 84 million euros ($110 million) next year to almost 111 million euros ($145 million) in 2013. He also denied that there are discussions taking place about using EU grants for military purposes.

But a study published in October by the European Parliament, the EU’s only directly-elected institution, concluded that the arms industry is already adept at drawing down funds from the Union’s budget. The report said that it is “mostly large defense companies, the very same who have participated in the definition of EU-sponsored security research which are the main beneficiaries.” The leading recipients of these grants to date include Verint, an Israeli maker of surveillance equipment, and the German and French firms Fraunhofer and Thales.

Although Israel is not formally a member of the European Union, it has been a participant in the EU’s science activities since the 1990s. A recent paper by the Quaker Council on European Affairs noted that Israel “appears to be standing out” in its ability to receive funding earmarked for security research. The Quakers expressed concern about how companies that have supplied weapons used against Palestinians and provided services to illegal settlements in the West Bank are among the recipients of EU research grants. The report said: “Israeli industries that profit from the occupation in Palestine should not be eligible to apply for EU funding.”

Leaks and Leakers

by Mr. Fish

by Philip Giraldi, source

Call me Saul on the road to Damascus.  I have seen the light.  As a former intelligence officer, I was initially appalled at the leak of a quarter of a million classified documents by someone who had responsibility for protecting them.  I was highly skeptical of the entire WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning saga but following the leaks has convinced me that there is a lot of material that deserves a public airing to demonstrate to the American people how Washington is pursuing a senseless policy almost everywhere in the world.  I have been particularly mortified in reading the accounts of meetings of US Ambassadors and Undersecretaries of State with their foreign counterparts, encounters revealing an unbelievable arrogance derived from the Bush Administration dictum “you are either with us or against us.” Persian King of Kings Darius addressing his satraps could not do it any better.

The WikiLeaks plus Manning story has truly revealed that the US government will do anything necessary to silence its critics, legally or illegally.  The way in which it is orchestrating a highly questionable international effort against both WikiLeaks and Julian Assange is despicable.  There exists a sharp divide between those who believe government secrets should always be protected at all costs and those who believe that secrecy in government exists only to conceal official misbehavior.  Obviously there is a middle ground hidden somewhere between the two, but those who favor the narrative that accepts that there is a nefarious government in Washington ruthlessly manipulating a world empire have pretty much gotten it right.  The documents and the Obama Administration behavior together tell the tale.

There is an enormous amount of hypocrisy in those who are defending the government’s right to over-classify and deny access to the information that has been used to justify going to war, among other crimes.  Insiders in government have no qualms about abusing classified information as long as it suits their purposes.  Dick Cheney used insider secret information to “out” CIA officer Valerie Plame to punish her husband.  The White House leaked intelligence that turned out to be bogus to Judith Miller at the New York Times to make the case for going to war against Iraq.  George Tenet, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, wrote a book called In the Eye of the Storm, which earned him in excess of $4 million.  He worked in a SCIF (which stands for sensitive compartmented information facility) run by the defense and intelligence contractor SAIC and had access to all of his classified “papers” to help him write the book.  Bear in mind that he was retired, with no official status at the time, was writing something for profit, and was using freely provided government resources to turn a buck.  There was apparently no problem in his using classified material. 

Unauthorized release of classified information and what becomes of it was also the focus in the trial that was terminated in May 2009 of Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, AIPAC employees who passed sensitive intelligence to Israeli government officials and to Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post.  The very same people at the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard who are now calling on the federal government to declare war on WikiLeaks and to summarily execute Julian Assange were at that time complaining about the fact that Rosen and Weissman had been charged with a crime because “everyone” passes around classified information in Washington.  Particularly to Israel, which is okay because it is an ally (which, in fact, it is not).  Apparently the talking heads at the Wall Street Journal believe it is all right to trust classified information to the kleptocrats in Tel Aviv but not to the American public, which has been footing the outrageous bill for the bloated and ineffective intelligence and diplomatic communities during the past ten years.  Newt Gingrich meanwhile is calling Assange, who has threatened no one, a “terrorist.” By that standard what should he call former officials like Doug Feith and Paul Wolfowitz who started a war that has killed hundreds of thousands?

Specialist Manning is undeniably a whistleblower, though the government will try to portray him as someone engaged in espionage.  Whistleblowers should be encouraged as a check on irresponsible government and should be protected by law when they reveal something that is either illegal or unconstitutional.  Government is intrinsically opposed to such transparency, recently and increasingly using the states secret privilege to deny whistleblowers their day in court.  Daniel Ellsberg did the right thing when he published the Pentagon Papers about Vietnam.  Sibel Edmonds did likewise when she revealed details of foreign espionage and influence buying in the United States.  Stories about CIA torture, renditions, and secret prisons as well as accounts of Army thrill killings and the goings on at Abu Ghraib all originated as leaks and were needed to reveal the war crimes being committed by the US government in its hideous “global war on terror.”

Contrary to the message emanating from the chattering media, WikiLeaks has embarrassed many but it has neither killed nor endangered anyone.  Washington’s relationships with most foreign nations are based on mutual interests and they will continue in spite of concerns expressed by Hillary Clinton and others.  And the positive far outweighs any potential negatives.  When WikiLeaks revealed how US helicopter crews had recklessly targeted and killed civilians in Iraq, a story originating with Manning, it was a good leak, showing just how dirty and amoral the American initiated war in Iraq had become. Likewise, its release of bundles of documents relating to the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan served a good purpose in revealing that the US government was lying about both wars and ignoring its own intelligence analysis to continue to blunder around like a blind elephant in a small room.  As the documents continue to appear they tell a tale of how the American empire is run and how, like an iceberg, most of it is concealed beneath the surface, hidden from public view.  Manning took it upon himself to release the hundreds of thousands of secret papers, reportedly because of his belief that the diplomatic documents expose “almost criminal political back dealings” and explain “how the first world exploits the third, in detail.”  He was right to do so.  The American juggernaut must be stopped and the transparency provided by Manning and other whistleblowers is the best weapon to accomplish that. 

My only remaining concern continues to be the possibility that WikiLeaks itself has an agenda beyond exposing the machinations of an essentially duplicitous government.  If it does that will presumably emerge eventually, but for the present WikiLeaks is providing a necessary service. I do not know if Julian Assange is working for any intelligence service, as has been alleged in some circles.  It does seem to me that the release of documents so far has been selective, but perhaps as more of them surface that impression will vanish.  I have heard that the newly formed US cyber command aided by the Israelis is behind the hacking campaign directed against WikiLeaks and its servers, particularly ironic as President Barack Obama has several times extolled the freedom of the internet. Apparently that is only true if it is hosting criticism of Iran or China. 

The United States should not be mounting a huge international campaign to silence WikiLeaks, nor will it be successful.   Nor should it attempt to “regulate” the internet, which is the inevitable next step.  And the attempts to personally punish Assange, which might succeed, are a measure of how low America and its allies in Europe and Australia have sunk. He has broken no law even in an age of Patriot Acts and Military Commissions and the charges against him in Sweden appear to be a set-up.  Once upon a time there was a rule of law in the United States and a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, but no longer.  Ultimately WikiLeaks will rise and fall based on its credibility and its ability to tell stories that are being suppressed elsewhere and that the public believes should be heard.  WikiLeaks must be allowed to speak.