2013/11/04

By Tina Dupuy: Iraq Makes Request For Weapons:

No, this is not The Onion. No, this is not a rip-off of The Onion. This is not satire. This is the plea from Iraq’s Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior, Minister of Defense and the Minister of National Security Affairs. All of whom happen to be the same person: Nouri al-Maliki.
Iraq is what he describes as a “vibrant democracy” in a New York Times op-ed in anticipation of a visit to the U.S. and a meeting with President Obama this week.
Maliki says he’s fighting terrorism. Al Qaeda is in Iraq killing the Iraqi people, he explains. “It has been almost two years since American troops withdrew from Iraq. And despite the terrorist threats we face, we are not asking for American boots on the ground,” he writes. “Rather, we urgently want to equip our own forces with the weapons they need to fight terrorism, including helicopters and other military aircraft so that we can secure our borders and protect our people. Hard as it is to believe, Iraq doesn’t have a single fighter jet to protect its airspace.”
Now if arming a Middle Eastern country with a solid history of sectarian violence sounds vaguely familiar and like an acutely bad idea—it’s because we’ve done it before. In Afghanistan in the ‘80s, we armed the Mujahedeen to aid their fight against the Soviets. And when we invaded the country a decade later, we were met with our own weapons. Poetic.
Maliki’s op-ed starts off by mentioning terrorism and then goes into the civil war in Syria. “These mutual interests include combating terrorism and resolving the conflict in Syria. The war in Syria has become a magnet that attracts sectarian extremists and terrorists from various parts of the world and gathers them in our neighborhood, with many slipping across our all-too-porous borders. We do not want Syria or Iraq to become bases for Al Qaeda operations, and neither does the United States.”
In March, Secretary of State John Kerry went to Baghdad and discussed with Maliki the daily flights (presumed to be arms) from Iran, across Iraq, into Syria. These daily deliveries being a lifeline to Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is most noted for gassing thousands of Sunnis (including children), and then blaming it on Sunni rebels.
According to reports, Maliki refuses to stop the flights to Syria, regardless of the request by Kerry.
When Maliki says, “resolving the conflict in Syria,” that warrants a follow-up question: whose side are you on? His government has had a history of helping Iran evade sanctions beyond just the use of their airspace. David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a written statement given to The New York Times last year said Iran “may seek to escape the force of our financial sanctions through Iraqi financial institutions.”
If you’ve caught yourself confusing Iran and Iraq, it’s not just because they’re one letter different. It’s because there’s every indication they’re in a storied bromance.
We dropped a trillion dollars to replace an Iraqi dictator with this Prime Minister/Minister of the Interior/Minister of Defense/Minister of National Security Affairs guy. A man who spent the ‘80s in exile in Syria and then in Iran under the protection of the infamous Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.
Often in cognitive dissonance, after disconfirmation or the failure of prediction (greeted as liberators, anyone?) there is a doubling-down phenomenon as described by psychologist Leon Festinger. Meaning when the evidence doesn’t match up with our hopes, we often just hope harder. “Rationalization can reduce dissonance somewhat,” wrote Festinger. We’ve spent the last decade nation-building in what we’d hoped would at least be a friend in the region.
It’s not panning out.
It appears Maliki is at the very least complicit in arming Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in a civil war that has claimed 115,000 lives. This September, 52 Iranian dissidents were slaughtered at Camp Ashraf; it was carried out by Iraqi forces—armed with American weapons. There are still seven Iranian exile hostages the European Parliament has demanded be released, going so far as to threaten ending trade with Baghdad.
You know what could make this worse? Some WMDs.
What’s a jet fighter or two among frenemies?

By Shamus Cooke: Is Obama Fundamentally Shifting His Middle East Strategy?

Global Research, November 03, 2013
The Saudis and Israelis are fuming. Obama’s talks with Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani point to a possible new direction in U.S.-Middle East policy. Iran is the regional arch-rival of the Saudis and Israelis, who for decades have shared the mantle as the main U.S. allies in the Middle East. 
The Arab Spring has — along with the ascendance of Russia and China — shifted the geo-political ground of the region, and the U.S. is trying to maintain a dominant position with a new strategy. This shift, if successful, has the potential to create a political crisis within the U.S. government as well as abroad. Israel and Saudi Arabia, for example, won’t quietly accept a diminished role in the Middle East.
Israel gave a thunderous response to Obama’s Iranian talks last week by committing its fourth war crime against Syria in the last year, by launching a bombing raid against a Syrian military installation. Since Obama is currently pursuing “Geneva II” peace talks with Syria and Russia, the timing of the Israeli bombing suggests that Israel is intent on not being ignored.

The Saudis, too, have fired missiles, though of the diplomatic type, aimed at the U.S. by refusing a seat at the UN Security Council. The Saudis have also threatened a fundamental break from their long-standing U.S. ally, which in reality means a shift towards Russia and China. 

There are three main factors that appear to be pushing Obama in a new Middle East direction: Obama’s political defeat in the Syrian conflict, the United States’ new ocean of natural (shale) gas, and the new Egyptian government’s shift away from a long-standing U.S. alliance. The Middle East is changing fast.
The Syrian conflict exposed the United States’ Middle East strategy as bankrupt; Obama planned a Bush-like bombing campaign to terrorize Syria into submission, but backed down at the last minute, due to immense domestic and international opposition, not to mention the fact that Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaeda were certain to come to power if Obama opened the gates of hell with U.S. missiles. Obama’s last minute retreat was a historic blow to U.S. foreign policy, along the lines of the U.S. defeat in Vietnam.
By agreeing to the Russian plan of eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons, Obama admitted humiliating defeat and signaled that the U.S. was abandoning the proxy war against the Syrian government, the war now completely dominated by Islamic extremists and foreign jihad fighters; those who maintain that a legitimate mass “revolution” is still in play fool only themselves. Furthermore, those who claim that “the Israeli tail wags the American dog” were again proved wrong when the full force of Israeli/AIPAC lobbying — to attack Syria — was ultimately ignored.
Obama’s Syria shift also left Saudi Arabia in the lurch, which went “all in” against Syria by shipping huge amounts of money, arms, and Saudi nationals to destroy Assad’s Syria, no doubt with immense initial encouragement from Obama. If a Syrian peace deal is hatched at “Geneva II” (if in fact it ever happens), it’s certain that any outcome will make explicit Saudi Arabia’s waning influence in Syria.
Obama is also finally using the new U.S. flood of shale gas as a political weapon in his Middle East approach. The “natural gas revolution” threatens to change the face of the global oil/gas industry, and has energy giants Saudi Arabia and Russia shaking in their boots. This influx of American gas simply makes the Middle East less important.
An interesting Reuters article reports:
“…surging North American energy production [shale gas] has brought the United States closer to a long-dreamed “energy independence” that is reshaping its goals and role in the Middle East.”
Henry Kissinger, arch-war criminal and modern architect of the oil-focused U.S. foreign policy, was quoted in the Reuters article:
“You could not make plans in the Middle East or involving Middle East crises, without keeping in mind the considerations of the oil market…but that is now changing substantially with the, I wouldn’t say ‘self sufficiency’ but narrowing the gap between supply and demand in North America [shale gas], that is now of huge strategic consequence.”
Of course, the U.S. is simply not going to leave the Middle East for the foreseeable future, but Kissinger’s comments make clear that the U.S. now has more strategic flexibility than it had before, and the blunt Bush Jr. policy of bombings and invasions has had to give way at some point to some actual strategy (bombings will of course remain as “leverage” in peace talks and be re-introduced if talks fail).
Finally, the long-standing strategic U.S. partnership with Egypt is crumbling before Obama’s eyes. The revolutionary mobilizations against U.S. ally Muhammad Morsi brought forth a military government that, according to its public statements and state media, is taking a staunchly anti-U.S. position. The many analysts who called Morsi’s ouster a “U.S. coup” should be re-thinking their position, as Morsi was profoundly more pro-U.S. than his replacement.
The New York Times reports:
“Relations between the United States and Egypt, once-close allies, have grown increasingly strained…Since the military takeover, Egypt’s generals and their backers have lashed out at the United States, accusing it of showing favoritism toward Mr. Morsi and his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood by, among other things, criticizing the military government’s withering crackdown on Islamists.”
Egypt is also at the center of the U.S.-Saudi Arabia divorce, since Saudi Arabia is a huge backer of the new Egyptian military regime, displacing the Qatar-U.S. backed Muslim Brotherhood.
Again from The New York Times:
“Saudi Arabia, which strongly backs Egypt’s generals, has also rebuked the United States over its Egypt policy.”
Of course Obama still has time to give sufficient military aid and other bribes to bring Egypt back into the U.S.’ diplomatic orbit, but for now relations are spoiled.
Why would Obama potentially risk long-standing regional alliances to make peace with Iran? For one, Iran’s new president is a “reformer,” which in Iran means that he wants to completely “open up” Iran’s economy to foreign investors, and Obama sees an ocean of oil that could result in a sea of cash for U.S corporations and investors.
Iran’s former president, Ahmadinejad, went on a privatization frenzy that U.S. corporations and investors watched with forlorn eyes, as U.S. sanctions limited U.S. investments, while corporations from other nations enriched themselves off Iran’s formerly public assets. But Ahmadinejad viewed Iranian oil as a sacred cow, which, as the Economist explains, is set to be butchered and sold by Rouhani to the highest bidder (or at potentially reduced rates to U.S corporations as part of a peace deal).
If Obama can get his hands on Iranian oil — without having to physically destroy Iran — he’ll have little problem reducing the sanctions that have been economically destroying the country.
A peace with Iran will also have other profound regional implications.  Doing business with the United States will push Russia and China out of the Iranian picture, amounting to a diplomatic coup for the United States, while Iran will likely be “urged” to cut off support for the Syrian government and Hezbollah, while making Shia-led Iraq more amenable to U.S. regional interests.
But achieving this major diplomatic shift will be incredibly difficult, and maybe impossible. Many U.S. congressmen from both parties want to maintain the status quo. As Obama initially announced his warming relations with Iran, Congressmen were preparing to increase the already-criminal sanctions, no doubt in an attempt to prevent any peace deal, causing tension between Obama and Congress.
Israel, too, is just crazy enough to ruin the whole enterprise by unleashing a reign of terror; the recent attack on Syria may have been just a warning shot. An Israeli attack on Iran — ostensibly to destroy its “nuclear capabilities” — would be enough to annihilate any U.S. diplomatic effort.
Whatever happens ultimately will reflect the power shift occurring across the Middle East and the re-alignment that has occurred since the Arab Spring, as well as the rise of China and Russia in the region. For now the U.S. is attempting to use diplomacy to gain a strategic advantage in the Middle East, which can very quickly revert to military actions if its goals of economic dominance aren’t peacefully achieved.
Shamus Cooke is a social worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

2013/11/03

Obama, NSA Spying and the Dangers of Secretive, Authoritarian Government By John W. Whitehead

“The perception here is of a United States where security has trumped liberty, intelligence agencies run amok (vacuuming up data of friend and foe alike), and the once-admired “checks and balances” built into American governance and studied by European schoolchildren have become, at best, secret reviews of secret activities where opposing arguments get no hearing.” – New York Times columnist Roger Cohen
Recent reports indicating that President Obama was aware of and personally approved an NSA program that involved spying on the personal communications of various international leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have once again highlighted the deception and intransigence of the Obama administration in dealing with the revelations that the National Security Agency has been acting outside the bounds of the law, sucking up electronic communications the world over.

While this may come as a shock to most Americans, I’ve been writing about the NSA’s illegal surveillance tactics since the 1980s, which features prominently in my new book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. However, this latest development in the spying saga—that the NSA has been aiming its surveillance activities at the citizens of allied countries, including France and Germany—has thrown a kink into the Obama administration’s attempts at maintaining a cozy relationship with its foreign allies.

Specifically, according to comments by an anonymous “high-level” NSA official to a German newspaper, President Barack Obama personally approved spying on the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. These comments come despite claims made by the White House last week that Obama had no idea that the NSA had tapped her phone. The NSA has denied the reports that Obama was personally briefed on the Merkel spying operation in 2010, but did not indicate whether he may have learned about it via other means.

According to a report by German newspaper Der Spiegel, the NSA had been spying on Merkel since 2002, before she was Chancellor and acting as an opposition leader. The NSA had also allegedly been spying on French and German citizens, an accusation which prompted both countries to demand an explanation from the United States about the purpose and reasoning behind the spying programs. The US spying on German communications was apparently conducted from the American embassy in Berlin.

According to another anonymous US official, the United States was engaged in espionage on 35 world leaders, but most of these programs have been terminated or are set to be terminated. This official also claims that Obama was unaware of the program, and that the NSA had chosen not to brief him on all their various spying operations, saying, “These decisions are made at the NSA. The president doesn’t sign off on this stuff.”

Whatever the exact truth of the matter, there are two possible scenarios. Either the President was fully aware of the extent of the NSA’s criminal activities, which violate both domestic and international law, and was willing to go along with them or the NSA has amassed so much power in Washington that it literally operates outside the chain of command and above the rule of law. In either case, we face a tyrannical force the likes of which have never been seen in the United States before.

In just one month (January 2013), the NSA spied on some 125 billion phone calls worldwide, 3 billion of which originated in the United States. In addition to German and French citizens, the NSA has targeted Spain as well, sweeping up some 60 million communications in the span of one month.

Of course, this global surveillance program should come as no surprise. Since September 11, 2001, the United States has spent over $500 billion on an intelligence community that, according to the Washington Post, constitutes an “espionage empire with resources and a reach beyond those of any adversary, sustained even now by spending that rivals or exceeds the levels at the height of the Cold War.” The CIA and NSA have both begun to engage in so-called “offensive cyber operations,” which involves hacking into foreign computer networks in order to either steal information or sabotage the network itself.

In fact, the NSA has been conducting worldwide surveillance for quite some time. Echelon, a global electronic surveillance network that allows security agencies of Great Britain and the United States, as well as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, to collect and exploit intelligence collected worldwide, was developed by the NSA. Created in the heat of the Cold War, Echelon intercepts and analyzes virtually every phone call, fax and email message sent anywhere in the world. It does so by positioning “listening stations” (including land bases, satellites and ships sailing the seven seas) all over the globe to capture data, satellite, microwave, cellular and fiber-optic communications traffic.

Although Echelon was originally established as an international spy system, suspicions arose at the dawn of the new millennium that its intelligence ambitions might have turned inward. A Congressional investigation determined that Echelon had not only turned inward, targeting such peaceful political groups as Amnesty International, Greenpeace and several Christian groups, but had actually broadened the scope of its mission to include political espionage. It also became a means of benefiting big business and advancing personal political agendas. For example, in March 2003, the British Observer asserted that the Bush Administration had used its Echelon satellite station in New Zealand to spy on council members from Angola, Bulgaria, Camaroon, Chile, Guinea and Pakistan in its effort to garner support for the impending war against Iraq.

The other main object of Echelon seems to be corporate espionage. In 1993, President Bill Clinton directed the NSA to use Echelon facilities to spy on Japanese car manufacturers developing zero-emission cars and to pass on critical information to the three largest American car manufacturers, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. In the 1990s, German firm Enercon, a wind generator manufacturer, developed innovative wind related technology. However, by the time it was ready to sell the technology to the US, the US rival company had already patented a similar project. Later, an NSA employee admitted to stealing the technology through phone taps and computer link line spying.

Given the NSA’s history, there is nothing innocent about a worldwide program of surveillance. Rather, this is the dawning of a new era, an expansion of the Cold War mentality of tracking an unknown enemy which only exists in the imagination of those who seek more power. Al-Qaeda’s capability to penetrate the American homeland is nil. The chances of dying in a terrorist attack are miniscule. There is no justification for these programs, which is why they have been conducted and approved in secret. Any public scrutiny would demonstrate their ineffectiveness and uselessness.

Unfortunately, our so-called representatives in Congress are doing very little to combat the menace of unlawful surveillance, going out of their way to justify these programs and give them the trappings of legitimacy. For example, Rep. Mike Rogers, head of the House Intelligence Committee, made the bizarre claim that the rise of fascism in Europe in the early 20th century could be attributed to the United States failing to spy on its allies: “We said: ‘We’re not going to do any kinds of those things, that would not be appropriate’ Look what happened in the 30s: the rise of fascism, the rise of communism, the rise of imperialism. We didn’t see any of it. And it resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people.”

Battles are being waged between civil liberties-minded representatives and law-and-order types such as Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who is drafting a bill that would codify the NSA’s program of collecting the metadata of American communications. She supports her position by making nonsensical statements such as, “People believe it’s surveillance, but it’s not.”

Contrary to Feinstein’s claims, the NSA is collecting personal information on every single person in the United States who uses a computer or phone. The NSA is able to crack the security of all major smartphones, including iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices, which gives agents access to information such as contacts, SMS messages, and location data. The NSA is also suspected to be engaging in so-called “man in the middle” attacks, which involve NSA agents pretending to be legitimate web services (in this case search engine Google) in order to obtain private information. These and other programs, such as PRISM and XKEYSCORE, open our private lives to government agents who are only a computer click away from knowing what we do on a daily basis.

Ultimately, it comes down to whether you want an open, transparent and therefore free government or a closed, secretive, authoritarian regime. For those who claim to want open and free government, it’s time to restore the rightful balance in government and make it clear to our leaders that these spying programs are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Remember, a true patriot is one who upholds the principles upon which his country was founded, not the power of those who have hijacked the nation.

John Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization.

By David Swanson: Doughboys and Dumb Things Humans have Done!

This November 11th at 11 a.m. will mark 95 years since World War I ended. Next July 28th will mark 100 years since it started. The world war, the great war, the war for no  good reason, the war of poison gas, the war to end all wars, the war for mass stupidity, the war that went on for days after the Germans agreed to end it, the war that continued until 11 a.m. as that time had been set to end it, the war whose last man killed in action was a suicidal American who ran at the Germansat 10:59.the war that in fact was intentionally not ended but extended into mass-punishment of the German people until World War II could be commenced, this century-old piece of historical stupidity that shames our species is about to be commemorated on a serious scale, so dust off your gas masks and get ready. A hundred years. A hundred years. A hundred ever-loving years, and we've neither learned that wars don't end wars nor ever really ended World War II, ever brought the troops home from Japan and Germany, ever scaled back the taxation and military spending and foreign basing and war profiteering. The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten War by Richard Rubin is 500 pages of excellent history of World War I but without the appropriate rejection of the decision to go to war or the embarrassment one should feel for those who thought they could find glory or goodness by joining in this mass murdering madness. We tend to look down on all sorts of aspects of early 20th century morality. Colonialism, sexism, racism, corporal punishment in schools, creationism you name it, we've moved on. Yet writers still recount wars as if the decision to take part in them were neutral or admirable. In a way this makes sense, given what we're all taught about history. The Khan Academy is a wonderful website for kids, or anyone to use in learning math. But if you click over to the section on history its literally nothing but wars. Perhaps they plan to add in a few unimportant things that happened during the pauses in between wars, but they haven't done so yet. Its' nothing but war after war. That's history. President Kennedy supposedly said Lincoln would have been nothing without the Civil War, it takes war to make greatness. It takes war to be in the history books. Richard Rubin found and interviewed the last remaining U.S. veterans of World War I before they died. As he spoke with them their average age was 107. Everything he learned and recorded is of great interest, but much of it is simply about what it's like to become 107. Everything he learned and recorded is of great interest, but much of it is simply about what it's like to become 107. Everything he learned and recorded is of great interest, but much of it is simply about what it's like to become 107. Such a study could have been done of non-veterans. A comparison could hsve been done of non-veterans. A comparison could have been made of veterans and non-veterans. Or a study like this one could have looked at World War I resisters. That there's not a similar book about them, and now can never be, says little about them and a great deal about all of us. A comparison of the lifespan of veterans and refuseniks would have been an interesting test of the author's theory that going along to get along increases your life.

2013/11/02

Making Sport of Veterans for Profit and Ratings By William Rivers Pitt

The Boston Red Sox are on the verge of winning the World Series for the third time since 2004, which, for fans of the team, is the sports equivalent of seeing Halley's Comet three times in one decade. The last two times the Sox won the title, they were on the road in St. Louis and Denver respectively. Tonight, if they win, they will have secured the championship at home in Fenway Park for the first time since 1918.
I am a Red Sox fan, a sports fan in general, and I make no apologies for it. Quite a lot of people in my neck of the political woods look down on sports, and on sports fans, with considerable disdain. This is, to no small degree, completely understandable; Howard Zinn once noted that America would be a far better place if the people followed the news and policy with the same detail-driven zeal they follow sports. The guy who calls a talk radio show demanding that the government keep its damn hands off his Medicare can turn on a dime, call a sports talk show, and remember the batting average of the guy who played shortstop for the Knobville Derptastics in 1947. The ability is there. The disconnect is astonishing.
That having been said, I am an avid sports fan for a couple of reasons: 1. The drama that can unfold during a really good game leaves even very good fiction and film in deep shade; and, 2. I'm allowed to have a diversion. Frankly, I need one. People who hate sports and call it frivolous would have me spend 24/7/365 tearing my guts out over all the ills of the world, but you know what? I give at the office, every day and twice on Sunday. Sports, for me, are a vitally necessary escape. Without them, I would have started firebombing years ago.
Even when sports gives the best it has to offer, however, it cannot completely seal me off from the grim realities of life in America. The wildly popular war-weapon fly-overs that take place at virtually every major sporting event serve as a constant reminder that America's business is war, and for the war-makers, business is good. That militarization has filtered all the way down to street level, literally; tonight, at the corner of Landsdowne Street and Brookline Avenue in the shadow of Fenway's Green Monster, hundreds of police officers in full military-style body armor will be standing post, armed to the teeth.
I know this, because I've seen it more than once from my stool at the Cask & Flagon, which sits right on that corner across from the park, during previous championship runs. The police will assemble in phalanxes around the 5th inning, and God help anyone who so much as sneezes wrong, because no one else will.
In 2004, 90 minutes after the Red Sox defeated the Yankees for the American League championship, a 21-year-old college student named Victoria Snelgrove was shot in the face by a Boston cop named Rochefort Milien with a "non-lethal" projectile for the crime of sitting on a girder attached to Fenway Park. She died the next day, eight days before her 22nd birthday. Six days later, the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years, and Victoria Snelgrove was all but forgotten.
So I will watch tonight. All the horror and sorrow and rage and woe is always waiting for me when the last out is recorded and the last second ticks off the clock. If sports do not make me entirely forget these things, they allow me to at least put them down for a little while. The fact that I choose to make a small space in time for a game helps me pick it all back up again. It is, in its own small way, a balm.
At least, that was the case until this particular World Series began. You see, the series is being broadcast on Fox. Beyond the fact that listening to the game commentators Joe Buck and Tim McCarver is the broadcasting equivalent of scraping fingernails across the chalkboard of my soul, beyond the terrible camera work and ghastly graphics, is what they have been doing to war veterans during the seventh-inning stretch of every game.
Fox, along with mega-sponsor Bank of America, has been "honoring" the veterans.
Fox, which did more than all the other networks combined to pour American soldiers into the meat-grinder of war by ginning up support for the invasion of Iraq [2], which coddled every lie-spewing Bush administration official to make damn sure that war happened, which spread every piece of propaganda they could find to make sure that war kept going and going and going, and which now works hammer and tong to promote politicians whose life's work involves stripping service members of benefits duly earned in blood and pain, is "honoring" the veterans during every game.
Don't try to tell me the sports division is different than the news division, by the way. Fox is Fox is Fox, period. They all get their paychecks from the same place, and are therefore party to the galling hypocrisy of it all.
Fox's sidekick in this gruesome charade: Bank of America, which, along with a handful of other monster banks, illegally foreclosed on the homes of thousands of American service members [3] while they were fighting and dying overseas. In 2011, Bank of America paid out tens of millions of dollars in a settlement with the soldiers whose homes they stole, and now, they are "honoring" those same soldiers during the games.
Retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Michael Zacchea [4] served in Iraq. He was awarded the Bronze Star, and later the Purple Heart for wounds he suffered in Fallujah. Upon returning home, his life very nearly collapsed in a frenzy of aggression, violence and madness, and he was later diagnosed with severe PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
Lt. Colonel Zacchea knows everything there is to know about that war and its horrific aftermath, and today sits on the Board of Directors of the advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense [5]. I asked him what he thought of Fox "honoring" veterans during the World Series.
Ever the Marine, he did not mince words. I quote in full:
The Fox Network remained the unrepentant cheerleader for war in Iraq for more than a decade of war, yet Fox reports little when the overwhelming facts show Veterans Affairs (VA) continues stumbling when it comes to caring for our disabled veterans and the shattered American families created by the war.
Fox seriously harms our veterans by their unreasonable insistence on tax cuts for the richest Americans. The two Bush Administration tax cuts for the top 1% effectively isolated America's richest 1% from the real costs of the war, which is several trillion dollars and rising. The policies of Fox - abandoning responsibility to all 300 million Americans and our veterans - are a sharp contrast to the common-sense progressive tax policy during World War II.
The current fights in Congress are over who is going to pay for the tax cuts and the wars. Right now, Fox and the richest 1% are avoiding their responsibility as citizens to our wounded veterans. Yes, there have been recent substantial increases in VA spending under President Obama. But it isn't enough.
Today, with Fox leading the charge, the 1% continue sticking a knife in the back of middle-class America, Main Street, and our veterans by not providing enough to VA so that our wounded, injured, ill, and disabled veterans get high quality and prompt medical care and disability benefits.
Fox should be covering the stories of our veterans who died waiting for VA treatment or benefits. Fox should be showing America that VA needs more funds so our veterans are not left twisting in the wind. If Fox had any moral responsibility, they would be insisting that no American be left behind, be it one of our veterans or any other equally deserving American. The morally and fiscally responsible position would insist no veteran be left behind by regressive economic policies.
I have a better idea for how Fox can honor the veterans tonight. Send Rupert Murdoch, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and all of Murdoch's other henchmen out to home plate during the seventh-inning stretch. Have them get on their knees and beg forgiveness from the thousands of American soldiers they helped kill, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians they helped kill, the tens of thousands of American soldiers they helped to maim and permanently damage, the families and friends of all the fallen and the wounded, the soldiers who have come home and taken their own lives [6] because the damage done to them was too much to bear, the veterans who lost and are in danger of losing the benefits they desperately need, have the whole Fox family beg for forgiveness for everything they have done to the people they are "honoring," on their own network just before the bottom of the seventh starts, and an infinitesimal measure of justice will be served.
It won't happen like that, of course.
But it God damned well should.
Go Sox.

AlterNet: By Jodie Gummow: Will Dick Cheney be Arrested For War Crimes in Canada?

The international group, Lawyers Against War, has urged Canadian authorities to arrest former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney for war crimes when he arrives at the Toronto Global Forum this week, Huffington Post reported. The anti-war group wrote a letter to the Attorney General John Gerretsen and Police Chief Bill Blair saying it was their duty to arrest Cheney, "as a person suspected on reasonable grounds of authorizing, counseling, aiding, abetting and failing to prevent torture."Once Richard Dick Cheney enters Canada, Canada must ensure that Dick Cheney is either investigated and prosecuted for the indictable offense of torture in Canada or extradited to another country willing and able to do so," Lawyers Against the War's Gail Davidson wrote. Cheney was a "big supporter" of waterboarding and other unlawful interrogation techniques during his vice presidency, in which thousands of people were tortured, kidnapped and assassinated based on his instruction. Last year, the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal convicted Chaney, as well as former U.S. President George W. Bush and six other Bush administration officials in absentia of war crimes including torture and cruelty. Cheney's visit is likely to spark large protests. In September 2011, he was barricaded during large protests on a visit to Vancouver, where demonstrators blocked him from leaving an exclusive hotel for several hours before police were able to evacuate him. Subsequently, he cancelled a trip to Toronto in March 2010 citing safety concern, which led to large protests.

Dick Cheney Calls for War on Iran. By William Boardman:

Over a decade of warmongering and only a couple of wars to show for it. "Let's go make war on Iran!" said Republican Dick Cheney in somewhat different words on one of those silly Sunday shows October 26th. This wasn't the first time Cheney had advocated for war on Iran. Or for torture. Or for assassination by drone. Or for any other war crime for which he is unlikely ever to be held accountable. But in all fairness to the former president, this time he really only implied that war on Iran was inevitable. Looking at the record, however, it's hard to find any war Cheney hasn't found "inevitable," even if he had to lie to get it started, as he did with Iraq. And Cheney's fondness for "inevitable" wars relies not merely on dishonesty, but more importantly, on personal detachment. Cheney has wanted all these wars to be inevitable for other people, not for anyone in his circle. That's the way it's been for Cheney since he copped out on the war of his generation, getting five deferments from Vietnam because he had "other priorities" that included cheering on the the warmakers who were sending more and more of other people's children to suffer and die in Southeast Asia. On the other hand, Cheney didn't call for attacking Iran with nuclear weapons the way Republican billionaire Sheldon Adelson did a few days earlier at Yeshiva University. Cheney did not object to nuking Iran either. And he hasn't publicly disagreed with the octogenarian gambling mogul, so one suspects Cheney would be happy enough  to see this particular smoking gun turn into a mushroom cloud. Is nuking the Iranian desert really a smart move? In fairness to Adelson, who heavily backed Newt Gingrich for president, he didn't call for nuking Tehran right off. He said the U.S. should drop a demo nuke in an Iranian desert and then say: if you don't drop your nuclear weapons development program, then we'll nuke Tehran. Either strike would be a war crime. But it's far from certain that Iran actually has a nuclear weapons development program. Those who say it is certain are lying, for whatever political purpose they think their lies may serve. The same might be said about those who claim it's certain that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons development program, people who have included the government of Iran and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as well as Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, at least according to the New York Times and Ha'aretz). The reality is that, outside of Iran, no one has any certainty what Iran's long term intentions are, never mind what they might be doing about those intentions at the moment. Too many people, especially people in assorted governments, have a vested interest in not believing that, even if it's true. They'd rather tale a chance on creating an untenable Catch-22 demand for Iran to drop a program it doesn't have, even if it means
another war. Iran is the right's favorite straw man, scapegoat, and imagined existential threat. And Iran, perversely, seems to delight in baiting its declared enemies to make those fears demonstrably real. This is like deja vu all over again, a replay of Saddam Hussein's self-defeating posturing in defense of his own nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. A whole history matters, not just one side of it.

2013/11/01

By Sam Muho: The Iranian "Smoke and Mirrors Threat" and Washington's "Human Rights Card"

Global Research, October 27, 2013
In a cycle of habit borne out repeatedly in the mainstream western media, demonization and fear mongering against Iran is picking up pace again in the face of attempts by the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to rebuild relations with the west and work toward international cooperation. The techniques and methodologies used by the west in perpetuating the geopolitically-motivated, neo-imperialist, agenda against Iran often come across in the media as clumsy and awkward in their reasoning. Before delving into the hard geopolitical reality, a much needed word on the disingenuous leveraging of human-rights against countries such as Iran is critical.
 Iran and the Western “Human Rights Card”
 In a recent Fox News report, Iran’s human rights record is criticized by Benjamin Weinthal, a Berlin-based fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). His arguments are employed to argue against the feasibility of pragmatic negotiations with Iran as according to his logic, Iran is not a regime “worthy” of practical negotiation with. To use the reported human right violations against religious minorities and Christians and particular as geopolitical leverage to argue against diplomacy and negotiation with Iran wreaks of compromised, corporate-financier motivation, especially when juxtaposed with the intimate collaboration of the United States and its allies with one of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East (and the world), Saudi Arabia.
  While Iran is often berated for its short-comings, these short-comings pale in comparison to the atrocities perpetuated by the Saudis. In Saudi Arabia, no Jewish or Christian worship is allowed and possession of a Bible could warrant you various brutal punishments. Saudi Arabia has been notorious for rigid campaigns against Bible possession and religious symbols, especially in airport customs searches including the shredding of any Bibles found and in one case, harassing a nun who was passing through Jeddah on a transit flight.
Saudi Arabia, in cooperation with the United States, is currently promoting a sectarian-extremist-driven destabilization campaign in Syria whose byproduct has resulted in nightmarish lives for people across religious lines which can be described as nothing less than premeditated genocide with former CIA official Robert Baer predicting campaigns against Christians in Syria and Lebanon during an interview with Seymour Hersh for his excellent 2007 article, “The Redirection.”
What is rather ironic in light of western focus on Iran is that Baer stated that joint US-Saudi-Israeli machinations in Lebanon, which were generating radical Islamist groups, would necessitate the protection of Christians which would be done by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah and the Shiites as opposed to the US and France. Iran is predominantly Shiite and while conservative Islam is the norm, this conservatism is distinct from the twisted inventions and atrocities of radical Wahabism in Saudi Arabia which serve as the hotbed of global Al Qaeda activity.
Let it not be forgotten that Saudi Arabia is the primary underwriter of Al Qaeda’s proliferation throughout Eurasia, done admittedly and particularly in line with western imperialist designs of isolating Iran and serving as geopolitical pawns. It is noted that the Taliban and the Wahabi fundamentalists that constitute its ranks and the ranks of extremists from Nigeria to the Philippines would not exist without Saudi financing done purposefully to create a twisted brand of Islam and produce a “Swiss-Army knife” to be used against the targets of western foreign policy such as Syria today and previously against Afghanistan during the 1980s; it has since formed the cornerstone of the fake “war on terror” driven by western neo-imperialist interests. The largest arms sale in U.S. history has been to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia regularly conducts brutal executions through the means of hooded swordsmen including on religious charges of being accused of “sorcery and witchcraft” in the grimly-dubbed “Chop-Chop Square.” Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and foreign women cannot visit the country without being accompanied by a male guardian.  In addition to toeing the line of western corporate-financier geopolitical agendas in cooperation with Israel such as in Syria, the Saudi establishment interlocks with these interests as noted in points “6” and “7” in the article “Introducing the Gulf State Despots” by Tony Cartalucci.
Iran, which may have its shortcoming, has an unprecedented standard when compared to Saudi Arabia. Iranian Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians are guaranteed their own seats on the Iranian parliament in proportion to their population. Iranian Jews, roughly 30,000 in population, enjoy relatively peaceful lives in Iran with a Jewish hospital, two kosher restaurants in Tehran, 11 synagogues, many with Hebrew schools, and a Jewish library including 20,000 titles. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued edits in the 1980s stating that Iran’s Jewish and Christian populations be “protected.” Many of these points are noted by Benjamin Schett’s article “Debunking Anti-Iran Propaganda” which conflict with the gravely austere picture painted by western media. This short documentary by Journeyman Pictures gives a candid picture of Jewish life in Iran.
It is often claimed that Iran promotes institutionalized anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial but Benjamin Schett explains why this is not true. Ahmadinejad has made accusations against the reliability of the Holocaust but this does NOT represent the position of the Iranian state or people whose state-media even broadcasted a popular, Hollywood-quality film commemorating the suffering of the Jews and featuring the story of Abdol Hossein Sardari, an Iranian diplomat who helped save Jews from the Holocaust by giving them false passports to flee Nazi-occupied France. Iran’s former Jewish Member of Parliament, Moris Motamed, has criticized Ahmadinejad for his statements on the Holocaust and even held a press conference to denounce those statements. However, such sentiments must not be seen as reflecting the entirety of the Iranian society as clearly is not the case.
Criticism against Israel is mainstream and expected but not because of any religious animosity towards the Jews, as Ahmadinejad himself stated in a speech in Esfahan cited by Schett, but rather because of the complicated political issues surrounding the Palestinian plight.
Benjamin Schett notes that it is impossible to give 100% insight of life as a religious minority in a religiously conservative country without being in that position oneself but unlike in Saudi Arabia, at least such minorities openly exist. Of course, such minorities must not settle for the bare minimum and as a westerner, I’m in the tradition of the equality for all. If and where any cases of rights violations exist, such as those noted in the original Fox News article by Benjamin Weinthal, they must be openly addressed but done so in a manner unlike the western media’s purpose which is to highlight certain facts, at the expense of others, and use any incident they can as propaganda fodder for the sake of western geopolitical objectives aimed at stifling peace and diplomacy, substituting it with war-mongering, and covering up the west and its assets’ own serial crimes against humanity.
 Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD): Is it Really About Democracy?
Of particular interest in the Fox News article is that the author, Benjamin Weinthal, is listed as a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), an organization with a vested interest in promoting western corporate- financier objectives around the world with human rights simply employed as an easily-leveraged cloak for naked imperialism. I will assume good faith on the part of Benjamin Wienthal as many people drawn into organizations and NGOs that served western subversion are drawn it by honest intentions which is something that imperialist systems exploit as they have in history. Nevertheless, the overall bulk and existence of the FDD cannot be casually excused when one gets an insight into the interests and networks propping it up. Tony Cartalucci in his excellent article, “The War on Terror is a Fraud”, explains the FDD:
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is a corporate and US State Department-funded policy institute that claims to be dedicated to promoting “pluralism, defending democratic values, and fighting the ideologies that threaten democracy.” It is decidedly “Neo-Conservative” and focuses almost exclusively on starting and maintaining wars at America’s expense.
FDD’s “executive team” includes James Woolsey and Clifford May, while its “leadership council” includes Bill Kristol – all signatories of a recent Foreign Policy Initiative letter addressed to House Republicans asking them to discard the UN mandate for NATO’s Libyan intervention and commit more support specifically for regime change. Acting Senator Joseph Lieberman also can be found on FDD’s “leadership council” and has been a chief proponent of war with Libya, as well as Syria and Iran, alongside John McCain. FDD has a myriad of publications expressing the elation of the “Neo-Conservative” establishment over current operations against Libya and the possible springboard the Libyan war serves toward US intervention in Syria and Iran. FDD’s only criticism of Obama is that more should be done, faster, and at a greater expense to America. Michael Ledeen, a “freedom scholar,” expresses this well in his article titled, “Lessons of Libya (and Syria, and, Some Day, Iran),” where he throws in his organization’s collective desire to intervene in both Syria and Iran, for good measure.
The Atlantic article, “Al-Qaeda Is Winning,” written by FDD “senior fellow” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, expresses the true contempt these individuals have toward their audience. In this piece reflecting on the last 10 years of the “War on Terror,” Gartenstein-Ross claims that Al Qaeda’s ability to use cheap means to provoke the United States into a multi-billion dollar defense is rendering an Al Qaeda victory through a “strategy of a thousand cuts.” Of course, the x-ray machines and other security apparatuses being installed across the United States and the tremendous amount of money being used to sustain combat operations around the world “hunting terrorists,” doesn’t go into a black hole. Instead, it goes into the pockets of the very people funding the work of Mr. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and his peers throughout his and other US and British think-tanks.

Those who have read my recent article on Libya will note the entirely illegitimate nature of the NATO campaign against Libya and the intellectually bankrupt mentality of those who shamefully perpetuate its talking-points. The FDD, at the top of the organization, is not merely concerned with human rights themselves but rather leveraging such concerns for their own sake, something the US government and the corporate-financier interests it represents have clearly done before with regards to China. It should be noted that the FDD is just one element in the neo-imperialist racket. Other corporate-financier, “globalist” think-tanks, who are the true underwriters of western policy, includes the Council on Foreign Relations, Chatham House, the International Crisis Group, and the Brookings Institute. In “Naming Names: Your Real Government”, Tony Cartalucci points out who truly controls the United States/NATO and lists the prominent individuals and corporations financing and directing them.
 Iran and the Western Geopolitical Struggle
The Brookings Institution is of particular concern among these think-tanks as it has been the primary facilitator in the drive for war against Iran founded on distortion and geopolitically-motivated propaganda. Contrary to media reports portraying Iran as an immediate, existential threat to US and Israeli security, the Brookings Institute released a policy report that was basically a handbook for overthrowing nations titled Which Path to Persia? (.PDF). It was written by six prominent analysts within establishment circles, including Kenneth Pollack, admitting that Iran poses not a threat to the survival of the United States and Israel’s security but their collective regional and geopolitical hegemony and interests across the region. It was noted that Iran was playing a strategy of firmness and even aggressiveness but not recklessness in combating western hegemony and imperialism as can be seen in its recent economic endeavors in the pipeline and gas politics of the region. It was also noted that Iran was deliberately avoiding a conflagration with the west and that any possible nuclear weapons capability for Iran (which is noted as unconfirmed and nonexistent in other reports) would be used as a deterrence for attack and protecting regional ambitions Iran has for the region (pg. 24-25).
 This is reconfirmed by the recent 2013 RAND Corporation report Iran After the Bomb which while noting that no evidence exists that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons according to the US intelligence community, envisions a post-nuclear scenario of Iran. RAND is another “globalist” think-tank that hosts compromised interests but manages to give an honest synopsis of the Iranian reality. It is also noted that Iran’s “supreme leader” Ayatollah Khamenei has issued religious decrees labeling nuclear weapons as “against Islamic principles.” Contrary to recent reports circulation by MEMRI TV and mainstream media, these fatwas are not fake and actually do exist. And contrary to some critics, they are not an example of taqiyya (deception) as Juan Cole notes. One thing that is very revealing is the following statement by RAND which sums up their insightful report:
The Islamic Republic [of Iran] is a revisionist state that seeks to undermine what it perceives to be the American-dominated order in the Middle East. However, it does not have territorial ambitions and does not seek to invade, conquer, or occupy other nations. Its chief military aim is to deter a U.S. and/or Israeli military attack while it undermines American allies in the Middle East [which includes the economic interests of the totalitarian kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Qatar whose atrocities in human rights dwarfs anything Iran is guilty of]… Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons will lead to greater tension between the Shi’a theocracy and the conservative Sunni monarchies [Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc.] However, Iran is unlikely to use nuclear weapons against other Muslim countries…The Islamic Republic views Israel in ideological terms. However, it is very unlikely that Iran would use nuclear weapons against Israel, given the latter’s overwhelming conventional and nuclear military superiority. (pg. vii)
The Brookings Institution not only enumerates transparently the similar points that Iran is not an existential threat but goes further to enumerate a list of strategies for US provocations against Iran to initiate a war that, according to the report, Iran does not want. It is even noted that an Iranian retaliation in the case of American airstrikes would not be inevitable and that Iran may deliberately refrain from retaliation in order to strategically “play the victim” (pg. 84-85, 95) Let it not be forgotten how the US and Britain staged the CIA “Operation Ajax” in 1953 to oust the democratically-elected Iranian president Mohammad Mosaddegh, who nationalized the country’s oil, in favor of the pro-American Shah who ruled as a brutal dictator. Similar plans for regime change are enumerated in the Brookings Institute report where it is admitted that the opposition “Green Movement” in 2009 was orchestrated by the US government through “civil society and NGOs” in order to provoke Iranian belligerence through regime change operations, capitalizing on internal dissent. This is not to deny any legitimate aspirations and calls for reform in Iran which are prevalent among student groups but merely to point out how such ambitions are co-opted and used by western interests for their own agenda (103-105, 109-110). See this excellent summary of all these critical points.
Other means proposed included playing upon sectarian and ethnic divisions inside Iran to destabilize the country and even funding radical Sunni militant groups, specifically the MEK, which has killed Americans in the past and is labeled by the U.S. state department as a “foreign terrorist organization”. Its ideology is described by analysts as radical “left-wing” Islamic-Marxism which makes it interesting to consider the US plans to fully employ this group as political assets. MEK has also collaborated with Saddam Hussein’s forces in guerilla warfare against Iran in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s (113, 117-118). The group is against the dominant Iranian establishment and it is noted that the US has worked covertly with them in the past and that in order to work overtly with them, the group had to be removed from the terrorist list (118).  Regarding the MEK on pages 117-118, Brookings states:
“Perhaps the most prominent (and certainly the most controversial) opposition group that has attracted attention as a potential U.S. proxy is the NCRI (National Council of Resistance of Iran), the political movement established by the MEK (Mujahedin-e Khalq). Critics believe the group to be undemocratic and unpopular, and indeed anti-American.
In contrast, the group’s champions contend that the movement’s long-standing opposition to the Iranian regime and record of successful attacks on and intelligence-gathering operations against the regime make it worthy of U.S. support. They also argue that the group is no longer anti-American and question the merit of earlier accusations. Raymond Tanter, one of the group’s supporters in the United States, contends that the MEK and the NCRI are allies for regime change in Tehran and also act as a useful proxy for gathering intelligence. The MEK’s greatest intelligence coup was the provision of intelligence in 2002 that led to the discovery of a secret site in Iran for enriching uranium.
Despite its defenders’ claims, the MEK remains on the U.S. government list of foreign terrorist organizations. In the 1970s, the group killed three U.S. officers and three civilian contractors in Iran. During the 1979-1980 hostage crisis, the group praised the decision to take America hostages and Elaine Sciolino reported that while group leaders publicly condemned the 9/11 attacks, within the group celebrations were widespread.
 Undeniably, the group has conducted terrorist attacks—often excused by the MEK’s advocates because they are directed against the Iranian government. For example, in 1981, the group bombed the headquarters of the Islamic Republic Party, which was then the clerical leadership’s main political organization, killing an estimated 70 senior officials. More recently, the group has claimed credit for over a dozen mortar attacks, assassinations, and other assaults on Iranian civilian and military targets between 1998 and 2001. At the very least, to work more closely with the group (at least in an overt manner), Washington would need to remove it from the list of foreign terrorist organizations.”
 The compounded criminality of western and Israeli collaboration with MEK is emphasized here. It should be noted that the MEK has recently been removed from the US list of terrorist organizations as part of the next phase of using them as a proxy. MEK claims to have killed 40,000 Iranians in the past and has been trained on U.S. soil in a secret base in Nevada, published on the Huffington Post and cited here by Kurt Nimmo in an excellent and well-sourced article emphasizing the coordinated western agenda against Iran.
In culminating these abhorrent proposals, Brookings further notes the option of a military invasion and conventional war against Iran if the above proposals failed to accomplish western interests. This is the most alarming option especially in context to the following admission:
If the United States were to decide that to garner greater international support, galvanize U.S. domestic support, and/or provide a legal justification for an invasion, it would be best to wait for an Iranian provocation, then the time frame for an invasion might stretch out indefinitely. ..However, since it would be up to Iran to make the provocative move, which Iran has been wary of doing most times in the past, the United States would never know for sure when it would get the requisite Iranian provocation. In fact, it might never come at all (65)… it would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes [as a catalyst for an invasion] before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it (85).
In all this certified criminality, which has obviously been at play even as the report was being published in 2009, it must not be forgotten that the Brookings Institution is of, for, and by big business and their collective agenda of integrating Iran into their international consensus and exploiting its 76 million population for their unipolar order. This is opposed to Iran’s attempts to foster national self-sufficiency and develop ties with nations strategic to western interests including India, Thailand, China, and Russia. Brookings Institution is funded by the likes of the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, The Carnegie Foundation, Goldman Sachs, and the Carlyle Group among others; their report even includes a special acknowledgement of financial support from the Smith Richardson Foundation upon which Zbigniew Brzezinski sits as an active governor as pointed out by Tony Cartalucci and easily verifiable in the report’s preface.
Such international criminality is magnified when Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh revealed in his article “Preparing the Battlefield” that the U.S. is cooperating with their anti-Iranian terrorist asset, Saudi Arabia, in order to fund radical, Al Qaeda-linked, Sunni-groups like the Jundallah to destabilize and destroy Iran as a viable geopolitical opponent. Al Qaeda, directed by the Saudis in cooperation with western geopolitical objectives, has been leveraged as a “Swiss army knife of destabilization” across the Middle East in the fake “war on terror” as Seymour Hersh exposed in another report  titled “The Redirection”  published in 2007. In that report, Hersh reveals that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been working since 2007 to destabilize Syria and Lebanon with a wave of sectarian-extremists currently being marketed in the media as a “political uprising” and a “revolution”. This is different from the legitimate internal political opposition in Syria that has collaborated with the Syrian government in a reform initiative and maintains distinctiveness from the extremist and terrorist elements that clearly constitute the bulk of the “Syrian rebels” supported by the west. In his report, Seymour Hersh states:
 To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coƶperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda…[Saudi Arabia's Prince] Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis [Al Qaeda] to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.
 There is no doubt that there is an anti-Iranian proxy conflict being waged in Syria by a joint US-Saudi-Israeli effort to further the Wall Street-London geopolitical consensus. Undermining and destabilizing Syria would further isolate Iran and perpetuate the united geopolitical front against Iran that has been the objective of western politicians and think-tanks. Iran would ultimately serve as a vital door into central Asia and a springboard against Russia and China who are the ultimate target for absorption within the western design of a unipolar world order. Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who is an active agent in the networks of these machinations, makes it no secret in his book The Grand Chessboard that U.S. “global pre-eminence” (a euphemism for Wall Street/London geopolitical domination and a unipolar world order) is the agenda along with American influence in central Asia to which Iran is a doorway. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also spoken of hegemonic ambitions on the part of the west to establish a unipolar order at a 2007 Munich conference.
 In addition to this evidence of open subversion, it must be noted that Clinton Bastin, former director of US nuclear weapons production programs, has sent an open letter to President Obama in December 2011 claiming that there is no nuclear weapons threat from Iran, stating the following on Iran’s nuclear weapons program:
 The ultimate product of Iran’s gas centrifuge facilities would be highly enriched uranium hexafluoride, a gas that cannot be used to make a weapon. Converting the gas to metal, fabricating components and assembling them with high explosives using  dangerous and difficult technology that has never been used in Iran would take many years after a diversion of three tons of low enriched uranium gas from fully safeguarded inventories. The resulting weapon, if intended for delivery by missile, would have a yield equivalent to that of a kiloton of conventional high explosives.
As warmongering against Iran is expected to drastically pick up pace as western designs for domination across the Middle East show increasing signs of faltering, it is absolutely critical to be educated on these matters in order to undermine and extinguish the effects of the media propaganda echo-chamber. This is not to deny any human rights accusations against Iran altogether but one must guard themselves from being misguided and swayed by disingenuous corporate-financier, globalist interests seeking to expand their empire. It is imperative for people around the world to recognize the corporations and institutions perpetuating systematic atrocities and genocide across the planet and realize that once they eliminate the sovereignty of other countries, they will then turn their attention fully to the people within their own borders in the west.
A real revolution will come by boycotting the degenerate corporations and financier interests seeking to enslave humanity and building up our own communities to create a world order in our own image and not in the image of Wall Street and London.
Sam Muhho is a student of history and an advocate for anti-imperialism and anti-globalism. He can be reached at smuhho1@gmail.com and runs the Facebook page “Globalist Watch” at facebook.com/gwatch1776 in order to explain the reality at play in global affairs.

By Sam Muhho: The Iranian "Smoke and Mirrors Threat" and Washington's "Human Rights Card".

In a cycle of habit borne out repeatedly in the mainstream western media, demonization and fear mongering against Iran is picking up pace again in the face of attempts by the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to rebuild relations with the west and work toward international cooperation. The techniques and methodologies used by the west in perpetuating the geopolitically-motivated, neo-imperialist, agenda against Iran often come across in the media as clumsy and awkward in their reasoning. Before delving into the hard geopolitical reality, a much needed word on the disingenuous leveraging of human-rights against countries such as Iran is critical. Iran and the Western "Human Rights Card". In a recent Fox News report,  Iran's human rights record is criticized by Benjamin Weinthal, a Berlin-based fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). His arguments are employed to argue against the feasibility of pragmatic negotiations with Iran as according to his logic, Iran is not a regime "worthy" of practical negotiation with. To use the reported human right violations against religious minorities and Christians and particular as geopolitical leverage to argue against diplomacy and negotiation with Iran wreaks of compromised, corporate- financier motivation, especially when juxtaposed with the intimate collaboration of the United States and its allies with the intimate collaboration of the United States and its allies with one of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East and the world, Saudi Arabia. While Iran is often berated for its short-comings, these short-comings pale in comparison to the atrocities perpetuated by the Saudis. In Saudi Arabia, no Jewish or Christian worship is allowed and possession of a Bible could warrant you various brutal punishments. Saudi Arabia has been notorious for rigid campaigns against religious symbols, especially in airport customs searches including the shredding of any Bibles found and in one case, harassing a nun who was passing through Jeddah on a transit flight. Saudi Arabia, in cooperation with the United States, is currently promoting a sectarian-extremist driven destabilization campaign in Syria whose byproduct has resulted in nightmarish lives for people across religious lines which can be described as nothing less than premeditated genocide with former CIA official Robert Baer predicting campaigns against Christians in Syria and Lebanon during an interview with Seymour Hersh for his excellent 2007 article, "The Redirection." What is rather ironic in light of western focus on Iran is that Baer stated that joint US-Saudi-Israeli machinations in Lebanon, which were gathering radical Islamist groups, would necessitate the protection of Christians which would be done by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah and the Shiites as opposed to the Us and France. Iran is predominantly Shiite and while conservative Islam is the norm, this conservatism is distinct from the twisted inventions and atrocities of Wahabism in Saudi Arabia which serve as the hotbed of global Al Qaeda activity.

By Bill Van Auken: Two Years Since the End of the US-NATO War in Libya!

Today, October 31, 2013, marks two years since the official end of the US-NATO war for regime change in Libya. It is unlikely that this second anniversary will be marked with any fanfare in Washington, the capitals  of Western Europe or Libya itself. The nearly eight-month-long war achieved its goal of toppling the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, whose murder by a mob of NATO-backed "rebels" prompted President Barack Obama to proclaim from the White House Rose Garden that this grisly event signaled the event of "a new and democratic Libya." Two years later, there is no sign of any such Libya. The country bombarded by the US military and its European allies is in an advanced state of disintegration. It was reported Monday that oil production, which is responsible for virtually all of the country's export earnings and over half of its gross domestic product, has fallen to 90,000 barrels per day, less than a tenth of the pre-war level. Major installations
have been seized by armed militias. In eastern Libya, these militias advocate the country's partition into the three regional governorates-Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan, maintained under the colonial regime of fascist Italy. According to best estimates, there are nearly one-quarter of a million militiamen who are armed and paid by the Libyan government but operate with complete impunity under the direction of Islamist and regional warlords. The warlords constitute the principle power in the country. Clashes between these militias, attacks on the government, and assassinations of its officials are routine. Earlier this month, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was himself abducted by an Islamist militia that acted in protest over the October 5 abduction of alleged Al Qaeda operative Abu Anas al-Liby by US Special Operations troops. Thousands of Libyans as well as sub-Saharan African migrant workers are being held incommunicado in makeshift prisons controlled by the militias, subjected to torture and killings. Conditions for the masses of the oil-rich nation remain abysmal, with a real unemployment rate estimated at over 30 percent. One million people, many of them supporters of the former regime, remain internally displaced. The continuation of this chaos two years after the end of the war reflects the character of the war itself. The US and its principal NATO allies, Britain and France, launched the war on the pretense that it was a humanitarian intervention, designed only to protect innocent lives. Based on unsubstantiated claims that a government massacre of a rebellious population in the eastern city of Benghazi was imminent without immediate intervention, the NATO powers pushed Resolution 1973 through the United Nations Security Council, authorizing them to impose a no-fly zone and "take all necessary measures" toprotect civilians. This served as the pseudo-legal fig leaf for an imperialist war of aggression that killed an estimated 50,000 Libyan civilians and wounded at least that number. This war was patently not about saving lives.. Rather, it was a war of neocolonial plunder, its principal objective being to topple the Gaddafi regime and impose a more pliant puppet in its place.  

By Dr. Ali Kadri: Downward Development Spiral in the Arab World:

Imperialist Hegemony and the Return of Merchant Capital. Capital in the Arab World (AW), viewed in its dimension of consuming and allocating resources, has edged close to a mercantilist mode of accumulation whose principal characteristic is the near absence of positive intermediation between private and public wealth, literally it leaves behind the progressive side of capitalism. The merchant mode of accumulation revolves around quick private gains and does not require productive reinvestment in society, the usurpation of value by financial means is a subsidiary outcome. The practice of merchant capital mimics that of financial capital, in the sense that money is transmuted into money without much involvement in production processes: M-M', Rentier or rent-grab maybe too general a categorisation, it is transmuted into money without much involvement in production processes: M-M'. Rentier or rent-grab maybe too general a categorisation, it is also something of a misnomer, meant to support an ad hominem and faux-nationalist argument which conceals the fact that value transfers away from the working classes in the AW are conducted by national as well as by US-led international financial capital. The resurrected merchant mode of accumulation is a reincarnation of medieval merchantilism in a modern guise and, as was pointed out quite early in the industrial age, 'wherever merchant capital still predominates we find backward conditions, (Marx, vol. III, p. 327). The degeneration in social and political rights, including the status of women, is a vivid manifestation of the social retrogression driven by the ebbing of industrial culture in much of the AW. The broader context from which this condemnation stems is as follows: The independent development of merchant's capital there fore stands in inverse proportion to the general economic development of society (Marx, Capital Vol. III, p327). A qualification is in order to allow for the juxtaposition. Save slavery, imperialist aggression, and colonial genocide, the evolution from the merchant mode as Venetian traders began to control and own upstream cottage-scale or small manufacturing undertakings represented progress and a turning point in the organization of social production around labour (Engels, 1891). Integrating the merchant mode with an industrial one designated a cultural step forward-culture here meaning the universal store of humanity's knowledge.
The AW has de-industrialized under the combined effects of war and neoliberalism. What has occurred in the AW is the gradual disengagement of national industrial capital from commercial capital, after which commerce bereft of industrialization became the dominant mode. Value usurpation policies, inherently uneven development, blocking the homogenisation of labour, and value grab by imperialist conquest are some of the processes that have underpinned the resurrection of merchant capital in this instance. Here I am relying on Meszaros' notion that capital as a social relationship regulates its metabolic rate of reproduction in relation to value destruction /grab and value creation, albeit within a context of class struggle and its associated power structure. (Mezaros, 1995).

By Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey: Fukushima: The Ticking Nuclear Bomb.

Over 800 Tons of Radioactive Material Pouring into the Pacific Ocean. In August this column ran a piece claiming that the Pacific Ocean was being poisoned by radioactive material escaping from Fukushima, two years after the devastating tsunami and meltdown at the Japanese nuclear facility. Three \months later, shocking evidence points towards a calamity situation. Silence from the corporate media. There is growing evidence coming from numerous reports aired on social networks and the so-called social media, among which is the article "Radioactive Water From Fukushima Is Systematically Poisoning The Entire Pacific Ocean", which claimed that every day and for 750 days, now over 800 tonnes of toxic materials have been pouring into the Entire Pacific Ocean. The toxic substances were identified as Tritium, Cesium and Strontium, being carried far and wide by winds, rain and ocean currents, entering the food chain through seaweed and seafood, building up high levels of toxicity in the fish, and humans, at the top end of the consumption chain. TEPCO, or Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the plant, admitted in August that between twenty and forty trillion becquerels of radioactive material have entered the Pacific Ocean after a security barrier had been breached. The same operator admitted that in just one week, in August, levels of Caesium134 rose by 90 times and Caesium-137 rose by 86 times. Fresh research provides a chilling reminder that this situation is serious, will not go away, is getting worse and cannot be swept under the carpet. This research points to "massive numbers" of sea creatures dying across the Pacific, and that high levels of Cesium-137 are present in "a very high percentage of fish" caught in this ocean "and sold in North America." The research then moves on to specific and unexplained incidents. For example, the unexplained death of starfish off Puget Sound off Canada. The animals seem to be melting, a phenomenon observed elsewhere in Canadian waters. Divers spoke of live creatures literally disintegrating in front of them, in "massive numbers." On to British Columbia, where abnormal behavior and an unusually high death rate has been observed among killer whales. The vocal communication among the animals has ceased, and in the last two years, seven matriarchs have died. An Australian traveler sailing from Japan to California, USA, referred that it appeared the entire ocean was dead. Al he saw was a whale rolling helplessly in the sea with a tumour on its head, and and "for 3,000 nautical miles there was nothing to be seen". No turtles, no sea birds, no dolphins, no sharks. On to Alaska, where polar bears seals and walruses have loss of fur and suffer from open sores on their skin. On to Southern California, where 45 per cent of sea lion pups have died, described by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as "an unusually mortality event. Back up to Canada, where the sockeye salmon faces record low numbers, up across the entire west coast of Canada, where fish are dying from bleeding eyes, gills and bellies. Back across the Ocean, where extremely high levels of Cesium-137 have been found between Hawaii and California.

2013/10/31

By: Tom Engelhardt - Why Washington Can't Stop

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Thought I might recommend a new little book series from the Nation magazine (everyone’s publishing these days!) -- classic essays by some of that mag’s best writers and among my own favorites, including Gore Vidal’s State of the Union, [Kurt] Vonnegut by the Dozen, and an upcoming volume by E.L. Doctorow.  Each is a guarantee of pleasure.  And here’s a small reminder: if you are an Amazon customer, travel to that site via any TomDispatch book link (or cover image link), and buy books we recommend or anything else whatsoever, book or not, we get a small cut of your purchase at no cost to you.  It’s a fine, no-pain-all-gain way to contribute to the site. Tom]
Why Washington Can’t Stop
The Coming Era of Tiny Wars and Micro-Conflicts
By Tom Engelhardt
In terms of pure projectable power, there’s never been anything like it.  Its military has divided the world -- the whole planet -- into six “commands.”  Its fleet, with 11 aircraft carrier battle groups, rules the seas and has done so largely unchallenged for almost seven decades.  Its Air Force has ruled the global skies, and despite being almost continuously in action for years, hasn’t faced an enemy plane since 1991 or been seriously challenged anywhere since the early 1970s.  Its fleet of drone aircraft has proven itself capable of targeting and killing suspected enemies in the backlands of the planet from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia with little regard for national boundaries, and none at all for the possibility of being shot down.  It funds and trains proxy armies on several continents and has complex aid and training relationships with militaries across the planet.  On hundreds of bases, some tiny and others the size of American towns, its soldiers garrison the globe from Italy to Australia, Honduras to Afghanistan, and on islands from Okinawa in the Pacific Ocean to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.  Its weapons makers are the most advanced on Earth and dominate the global arms market.  Its nuclear weaponry in silos, on bombers, and on its fleet of submarines would be capable of destroying several planets the size of Earth.  Its system of spy satellites is unsurpassed and unchallenged.  Its intelligence services can listen in on the phone calls or read the emails of almost anyone in the world from top foreign leaders to obscure insurgents.  The CIA and its expanding paramilitary forces are capable of kidnapping people of interest just about anywhere from rural Macedonia to the streets of Rome and Tripoli.  For its many prisoners, it has set up (and dismantled) secret jails across the planet and on its naval vessels.  It spends more on its military than the next most powerful 13 states combined.  Add in the spending for its full national security state and it towers over any conceivable group of other nations.
In terms of advanced and unchallenged military power, there has been nothing like the U.S. armed forces since the Mongols swept across Eurasia.  No wonder American presidents now regularly use phrases like “the finest fighting force the world has ever known” to describe it.  By the logic of the situation, the planet should be a pushover for it.  Lesser nations with far lesser forces have, in the past, controlled vast territories.  And despite much discussion of American decline and the waning of its power in a “multi-polar” world, its ability to pulverize and destroy, kill and maim, blow up and kick down has only grown in this new century.
No other nation's military comes within a country mile of it.  None has more than a handful of foreign bases.  None has more than two aircraft carrier battle groups.  No potential enemy has such a fleet of robotic planes.  None has more than 60,000 special operations forces.  Country by country, it’s a hands-down no-contest. The Russian (once “Red”) army is a shadow of its former self.  The Europeans have not rearmed significantly.  Japan’s “self-defense” forces are powerful and slowly growing, but under the U.S. nuclear “umbrella.”  Although China, regularly identified as the next rising imperial state, is involved in a much-ballyhooed military build-up, with its one aircraft carrier (a retread from the days of the Soviet Union), it still remains only a regional power.
Despite this stunning global power equation, for more than a decade we have been given a lesson in what a military, no matter how overwhelming, can and (mostly) can’t do in the twenty-first century, in what a military, no matter how staggeringly advanced, does and (mostly) does not translate into on the current version of planet Earth.
A Destabilization Machine
Let’s start with what the U.S. can do.  On this, the recent record is clear: it can destroy and destabilize.  In fact, wherever U.S. military power has been applied in recent years, if there has been any lasting effect at all, it has been to destabilize whole regions.
Back in 2004, almost a year and a half after American troops had rolled into a Baghdad looted and in flames, Amr Mussa, the head of the Arab League, commented ominously, “The gates of hell are open in Iraq.”  Although for the Bush administration, the situation in that country was already devolving, to the extent that anyone paid attention to Mussa’s description, it seemed over the top, even outrageous, as applied to American-occupied Iraq.  Today, with the latest scientific estimate of invasion- and war-caused Iraqi deaths at a staggering 461,000, thousands more a year still dying there, and with Syria in flames, it seems something of an understatement.
It’s now clear that George W. Bush and his top officials, fervent fundamentalists when it came to the power of U.S. military to alter, control, and dominate the Greater Middle East (and possibly the planet), did launch the radical transformation of the region.  Their invasion of Iraq punched a hole through the heart of the Middle East, sparking a Sunni-Shiite civil war that has now spread catastrophically to Syria, taking more than 100,000 lives there.  They helped turn the region into a churning sea of refugees, gave life and meaning to a previously nonexistent al-Qaeda in Iraq (and now a Syrian version of the same), and left the country drifting in a sea of roadside bombs and suicide bombers, and threatened, like other countries in the region, with the possibility of splitting apart.
And that’s just a thumbnail sketch.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about destabilization in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have been on the ground for almost 12 years and counting; Pakistan, where a CIA-run drone air campaign in its tribal borderlands has gone on for years as the country grew ever shakier and more violent; Yemen (ditto), as an outfit called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula grew ever stronger; or Somalia, where Washington repeatedly backed proxy armies it had trained and financed, and supported outside incursions as an already destabilized country came apart at the seams and the influence of al-Shabab, an increasingly radical and violent insurgent Islamic group, began to seep across regional borders.  The results have always been the same: destabilization.
Consider Libya where, no longer enamored with boots-on-the-ground interventions, President Obama sent in the Air Force and the drones in 2011 in a bloodless intervention (unless, of course, you were on the ground) that helped topple Muammar Qaddafi, the local autocrat and his secret-police-and-prisons regime, and launched a vigorous young democracy... oh, wait a moment, not quite.  In fact, the result, which, unbelievably enough, came as a surprise to Washington, was an increasingly damaged country with a desperately weak central government, a territory controlled by a range of militias -- some Islamic extremist in nature -- an insurgency and war across the border in neighboring Mali (thanks to an influx of weaponry looted from Qaddafi’s vast arsenals), a dead American ambassador, a country almost incapable of exporting its oil, and so on.
Libya was, in fact, so thoroughly destabilized, so lacking in central authority that Washington recently felt free to dispatch U.S. Special Operations forces onto the streets of its capital in broad daylight in an operation to snatch up a long-sought terrorist suspect, an act which was as “successful” as the toppling of the Qaddafi regime and, in a similar manner, further destabilized a government that Washington still theoretically backed. (Almost immediately afterward, the prime minister found himself briefly kidnapped by a militia unit as part of what might have been a coup attempt.)
Wonders of the Modern World 
If the overwhelming military power at the command of Washington can destabilize whole regions of the planet, what, then, can’t such military power do?  On this, the record is no less clear and just as decisive.  As every significant U.S. military action of this new century has indicated, the application of military force, no matter in what form, has proven incapable of achieving even Washington’s most minimal goals of the moment.
Consider this one of the wonders of the modern world: pile up the military technology, pour money into your armed forces, outpace the rest of the world, and none of it adds up to a pile of beans when it comes to making that world act as you wish.  Yes, in Iraq, to take an example, Saddam Hussein’s regime was quickly “decapitated,” thanks to an overwhelming display of power and muscle by the invading Americans.  His state bureaucracy was dismantled, his army dismissed, an occupying authority established backed by foreign troops, soon ensconced on huge multibillion-dollar military bases meant to be garrisoned for generations, and a suitably “friendly” local government installed.
And that’s where the Bush administration’s dreams ended in the rubble created by a set of poorly armed minority insurgencies, terrorism, and a brutal ethnic/religious civil war.  In the end, almost nine years after the invasion and despite the fact that the Obama administration and the Pentagon were eager to keep U.S. troops stationed there in some capacity, a relatively weak central government refused, and they departed, the last representatives of the greatest power on the planet slipping away in the dead of night.  Left behind among the ruins of historic ziggurats were the “ghost towns” and stripped or looted U.S. bases that were to be our monuments in Iraq.
Today, under even more extraordinary circumstances, a similar process seems to be playing itself out in Afghanistan -- another spectacle of our moment that should amaze us.  After almost 12 years there, finding itself incapable of suppressing a minority insurgency, Washington is slowly withdrawing its combat troops, but wants to leave behind on the giant bases we’ve built perhaps 10,000 “trainers” for the Afghan military and some Special Operations forces to continue the hunt for al-Qaeda and other terror types.
For the planet’s sole superpower, this, of all things, should be a slam dunk.  At least the Iraqi government had a certain strength of its own (and the country’s oil wealth to back it up).  If there is a government on Earth that qualifies for the term “puppet,” it should be the Afghan one of President Hamid Karzai.  After all, at least 80% (and possibly 90%) of that government’s expenses are covered by the U.S. and its allies, and its security forces are considered incapable of carrying on the fight against the Taliban and other insurgent outfits without U.S. support and aid.  If Washington were to withdraw totally (including its financial support), it’s hard to imagine that any successor to the Karzai government would last long.
How, then, to explain the fact that Karzai has refused to sign a future bilateral security pact long in the process of being hammered out?  Instead, he recently denounced U.S. actions in Afghanistan, as he had repeatedly done in the past, claimed that he simply would not ink the agreement, and began bargaining with U.S. officials as if he were the leader of the planet’s other superpower.
A frustrated Washington had to dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry on a sudden mission to Kabul for some top-level face-to-face negotiations.  The result, a reported 24-hour marathon of talks and meetings, was hailed as a success: problem(s) solved.  Oops, all but one.  As it turned out, it was the very same one on which the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq stumbled -- Washington’s demand for legal immunity from local law for its troops.  In the end, Kerry flew out without an assured agreement.
Making Sense of War in the Twenty-First Century
Whether the U.S. military does or doesn’t last a few more years in Afghanistan, the blunt fact is this: the president of one of the poorest and weakest countries on the planet, himself relatively powerless, is essentially dictating terms to Washington -- and who’s to say that, in the end, as in Iraq, U.S. troops won’t be forced to leave there as well?
Once again, military strength has not carried the day.  Yet military power, advanced weaponry, force, and destruction as tools of policy, as ways to create a world in your own image or to your own taste, have worked plenty well in the past.  Ask those Mongols, or the European imperial powers from Spain in the sixteenth century to Britain in the nineteenth century, which took their empires by force and successfully maintained them over long periods.
What planet are we now on?  Why is it that military power, the mightiest imaginable, can’t overcome, pacify, or simply destroy weak powers, less than impressive insurgency movements, or the ragged groups of (often tribal) peoples we label as “terrorists”? Why is such military power no longer transformative or even reasonably effective?  Is it, to reach for an analogy, like antibiotics?  If used for too long in too many situations, does a kind of immunity build up against it?
Let’s be clear here: such a military remains a powerful potential instrument of destruction, death, and destabilization.  For all we know -- it’s not something we’ve seen anything of in these years -- it might also be a powerful instrument for genuine defense.  But if recent history is any guide, what it clearly cannot be in the twenty-first century is a policymaking instrument, a means of altering the world to fit a scheme developed in Washington.  The planet itself and people just about anywhere on it seem increasingly resistant in ways that take the military off the table as an effective superpower instrument of state.
Washington’s military plans and tactics since 9/11 have been a spectacular train wreck.  When you look back, counterinsurgency doctrine, resuscitated from the ashes of America’s defeat in Vietnam, is once again on the scrap heap of history.  (Who today even remembers its key organizing phrase -- “clear, hold, and build” -- which now looks like the punch line for some malign joke?)  “Surges,” once hailed as brilliant military strategy, have already disappeared into the mists.  “Nation-building,” once a term of tradecraft in Washington, is in the doghouse.  “Boots on the ground,” of which the U.S. had enormous numbers and still has 51,000 in Afghanistan, are now a no-no.  The American public is, everyone universally agrees, “exhausted” with war.  Major American armies arriving to fight anywhere on the Eurasian continent in the foreseeable future?  Don’t count on it.
But lessons learned from the collapse of war policy?  Don’t count on that, either.  It’s clear enough that Washington still can’t fully absorb what’s happened.  Its faith in war remains remarkably unbroken in a century in which military power has become the American political equivalent of a state religion.  Our leaders are still high on the counterterrorism wars of the future, even as they drown in their military efforts of the present.  Their urge is still to rejigger and reimagine what a deliverable military solution would be.
Now the message is: skip those boots en masse -- in fact, cut down on their numbers in the age of the sequester -- and go for the counterterrorism package.  No more spilling of (American) blood.  Get the “bad guys,” one or a few at a time, using the president’s private army, the Special Operations forces, or his private air force, the CIA’s drones. Build new barebones micro-bases globally.  Move those aircraft carrier battle groups off the coast of whatever country you want to intimidate.
It’s clear we’re entering a new period in terms of American war making.  Call it the era of tiny wars, or micro-conflicts, especially in the tribal backlands of the planet.
So something is indeed changing in response to military failure, but what’s not changing is Washington's preference for war as the option of choice, often of first resort.  What’s not changing is the thought that, if you can just get your strategy and tactics readjusted correctly, force will work.  (Recently, Washington was only saved from plunging into another predictable military disaster in Syria by an offhand comment of Secretary of State John Kerry and the timely intervention of Russian President Vladimir Putin.)
What our leaders don’t get is the most basic, practical fact of our moment: war simply doesn’t work, not big, not micro -- not for Washington.  A superpower at war in the distant reaches of this planet is no longer a superpower ascendant but one with problems.
The U.S. military may be a destabilization machine.  It may be a blowback machine.  What it’s not is a policymaking or enforcement machine.
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture (now also in a Kindle edition), runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.
[Note: A deep bow of thanks to Nick Turse for his continuing help and, above all, inspiration.]
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Copyright 2013 Tom Engelhardt