Friday, May 29, 2015

Israel Doubles Down on Palestine: "It's All Ours"

US rebukes Israel while showering it with arms and favors

by Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

Only a few weeks into Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government, the intense strain of trying to square its members’ zealotry with Israel’s need to improve its international standing is already starkly evident.

The conundrum was laid out clearly by Tzipi Hotovely, a young political ally of Netanyahu’s recently appointed to oversee the foreign ministry on his behalf.

She called together the country’s chief diplomats last week to cite rabbinical justifications for taking Palestinian land. Her broader message was that Israeli embassies abroad needed to stop worrying about being “smart” and concentrate instead on being “right”. Urging the country’s envoys into a headlong confrontation with the world community, she told them the “basic truth” was: “All the land is ours.”

Netanyahu is too experienced a politician to take Hotovely’s advice fully to heart himself. Having briefly spoken his mind to ensure he won the recent general election, he has now walked back a comment much criticised by the White House that he would never permit a Palestinian state.

Damage control was also the reason he quickly cancelled defence minister Moshe Yaalon’s plan to create separate buses for Jewish settlers and Palestinian labourers as they return to the occupied territories at the end of a day in Israel.

Unlike most in his cabinet, Netanyahu understood that, denied by his military of even the flimsiest security pretext, the historical antecedents of bus segregation were too uncomfortable, especially for Israel’s patron, the United States.

The graver danger for Netanyahu is that, stuck with a cabinet of the like-minded – of ultranationalists, settlers and religious extremists – he lacks a solitary fig leaf to soften his image with the international community.

In his two previous governments, he relied on such sops: Ehud Barak, his defence minister, followed by Tzipi Livni as justice minister became the sympathetic address in the Israeli cabinet craved by Washington and Europe. Both spoke grandly about Palestinian statehood, even while they did nothing to achieve it.

With no veteran of the peace-process to hand, the west now faces an Israeli foreign ministry led jointly by Hotovely and Dore Gold, appointed director-general this week. Gold, a long-time hawkish adviser to the prime minister, is deeply opposed to Palestinian statehood, and even floated two years ago the idea of annexing the West Bank.

The minister in charge of talks with the Palestinians – hypothetical though such a role is at the moment – is Silvan Shalom, another Netanyahu intimate who publicly rejects the idea of two states and supports aggressive settlement building.

Other key ministries affecting Palestinian life are similarly burdened with righteous – and outspoken – extremists.

Shortly before announcing his bus segregation plan, Yaalon suggested that Israel, in dealing with Iran, might ultimately follow the example set at the end of the Second World War by the US, as it dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Yaalon’s deputy, Eli Ben Dahan, a leading settler rabbi, refers to Palestinians as “sub-human”.

Ayelet Shaked, who spoke in genocidal terms against Palestinians in Gaza last summer, calling them “snakes”, now oversees Israel’s justice system, the sole – and already feeble – form of redress for Palestinians struggling against the occupation’s worst excesses.

Other ministers are no less dogmatic in their fanatical opposition both to Israel signing an agreement with the Palestinians and to the US signing one with Iran. The self-evident absurdity of diplomacy in these circumstances may be one reason why Tony Blair, the already deeply ineffective Middle East peace envoy, threw in the towel this week.

Similarly, Barack Obama is certain to find the new Israeli government an even bigger headache than Netanyahu’s previous two.

While the US tries to reach a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme and revive peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel – however futile such a process may be – Israeli ministers will be in a contest to see who can make most mischief.

Netanyahu, already an unloved figure at the White House, will now find no one across the Israeli cabinet table helping him to apply the brakes.

The irony is that, just as the White House gears up for another 18 months of humiliation and sabotage from Netanyahu and his government, Obama is showering Israel with gifts, as part of its long-standing “security” doctrine.

Last week, it was reported, the US agreed to provide Israel with $2 billion worth of arms, including bunker-buster bombs and thousands of missiles, to replenish stockpiles depleted by Israel’s sustained attack on Gaza last summer that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians.

The news broke just as United Nations officials reported that unexploded ordnance was still claiming lives in Gaza nearly a year later.

According to the Israeli media, the US is also preparing to “compensate” Israel with other goodies, including possibly more fighter planes, if Netanyahu agrees to restrain his criticisms over an expected deal with Iran in June.

And Washington averted last week a threat to Israel’s large, undeclared nuclear arsenal by blocking the efforts of Arab states to convene a conference to make the Middle East free of nuclear weapons by next year.

The lesson drawn by Netanyahu should be clear. Obama may signal verbally his disquiet with the current Israeli government, but he is not about to exact any real price from Israel, even as it shifts ever further to the fanatical right.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net http://www.jonathan-cook.net/.



A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Calling the Tune: Whose Money Put Stephen Harper in Power?

Who funded Harper's rise to power? And other questions about election financing

by Linda McQuaig - Rabble.ca

 

May 20, 2015

As the renowned Republican backroom operator Mark Hanna noted back in the late 19th century, "There are two things that matter in politics. One is money, and I can't remember the other."

Indeed, the fantastically wealthy Koch brothers proved in the recent U.S. congressional vote that organizing billionaires to buy elections is a lot easier than herding cats.

The Kochs raised $290 million from America's mega-rich to win control of Congress, and are now raising a further $889 million in a bid to buy the Oval Office.

Here in Canada, we have tougher rules restricting the role of money in politics. But the Boy Scout aura surrounding our election financing laws appears to have lulled us into a bit of a coma.

With a federal election looming, two pressing questions involving the role of money in Canadian politics are attracting surprisingly little media attention.

The first: who owns Stephen Harper?

This isn't a philosophical enquiry. It's a straightforward question about the identity of the secret donors who paid the bill for Harper's rise to power, first as leader of the Canadian Alliance and then the Conservative party.

Donors contributed more than $2 million to the prime minister's two leadership bids, but the identities of some of the major donors have never been publicly disclosed, according to Ottawa-based corporate responsibility advocacy group Democracy Watch.

The group notes that there was nothing illegal about the donations under the election laws of the time. But anyone who believes that those secret donors don't have a favoured place in Harper's heart (such as it is) probably also believes that Mike Duffy has always lived in a little cottage in P.E.I.

In the 2002 Canadian Alliance leadership race, Harper disclosed some of his donors but kept secret 10 of the major ones. A list of donors to Harper's Conservative party leadership race two years later was at one point posted on the party's website but has since been removed.

At the time of those races, it was legal for leadership contenders to receive unlimited donations from corporations, including foreign-owned businesses operating in Canada.

"Big business and [its] executives could have given Harper hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations," says Democracy Watch co-founder Duff Conacher, who is currently a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa's School of Political Studies.

Although there's no legal requirement for disclosure, Conacher argues that Harper should divulge the names of his donors for the same reasons of ethics and transparency that he so loudly trumpeted in his first election campaign.

Shouldn't Canadians know, for instance, if Harper's early leadership bids were significantly bankrolled by, say, the Koch brothers, who are among the largest lease-holders of Alberta's tar sands and therefore have a huge financial stake in preventing Canada from limiting greenhouse gas emissions?

Have Harper's radical policy departures in areas like energy, the environment and the Middle East been unduly influenced by large donors? And if not, why the secrecy?

On another election financing front, there's been little outrage over the fact that the Harper government just eliminated a key law that was aimed at countering the power of Big Money in Canadian politics.

The law -- under which Ottawa paid political parties a small $2 subsidy for every vote they received -- was widely recognized as by far the most democratic aspect of our election financing framework, since it ensured that every vote cast in a federal election had some impact. Even if someone voted for a party that didn't win, that voter managed to direct a small government subsidy to his or her chosen party. These subsidies added up to millions of dollars and were a key source of political funding, having the effect of giving equal weight to every vote no matter how rich or poor the person casting it.

So, naturally, Harper scrapped it. The next federal election (expected in the spring or fall) will be the first in which this quintessentially democratic aspect of our election financing laws no longer applies.

Of course, poorer folks still have the full legal right to take advantage of other government subsidies in our election financing system -- except that they lack the money necessary to do so.

Individuals making contributions to political parties receive generous government subsidies through the tax system. An individual donating $400, for example, gets $300 back in tax savings. But you have to have a spare $400 in order to play this game.

That's why only 2 per cent of Canadians make political donations. Not surprisingly, most of these contributors are in the upper-income brackets.

So the bulk of the tax subsidies -- which totalled $20 million in the 2009 election -- go to this wealthier group, which enables them to increase their influence over our elections.

In fact, all aspects of our election financing system involve government subsidies. But only one -- the now-removed pay-per-vote subsidy -- distributed the subsidy in a way that didn't favour the wealthy.

And Harper has also just increased the subsidy for wealthier Canadians by raising the limit on political donations from $2,400 to $3,000 a year ($4,500 in an election year). The new rules also hike the amount candidates can donate to their own campaigns from $1,200 to $5,000, and allow leadership candidates to donate $25,000 to their own campaigns.

Of course, the wealthy are able to influence the political process in other ways, too, most notably by shaping the public debate through their ownership of the media and by threatening to withdraw their capital from the economy if laws they don't like are enacted.

In the recent U.S. congressional elections, the Koch brothers helped secure the victory of an unlikely band of far-right extremists who control both the House and Senate.

Among some 3 million political ads for both parties, there wasn't a single mention of the issue of income inequality -- either for it or against it, says Sam Pizzigati, editor of a newsletter on inequality at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies.

The rich have effectively declared that subject -- and the implication that they should face higher taxes -- out of bounds. Given the extraordinary grip of the wealthy on so many aspects of society, why on earth wouldn't we want to hold onto a law that, at least in one small way, gave a homeless person the same political power as a billionaire?

Linda McQuaig is an author and journalist. She is the NDP candidate for Toronto Centre in the 2015 federal election. This column was first published in NOW Magazine.

Genocide by Omission: Rohingya Adrift

Beyond the Middle East: The Rohingya Genocide

by Ramzy Baroud - PalestineChronicle.com

Nope, nope, nope,” was Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott’s answer to the question whether his country will take in any of the nearly 8,000 Rohingya refugees stranded at sea.

Abbott’s logic is as pitiless as his decision to abandon the world’s most persecuted minority in their darkest hour. “Don’t think that getting on a leaky boat at the behest of a people smuggler is going to do you or your family any good,” he said.

But Abbott is hardly the main party in the ongoing suffering of Rohingyas, a Muslim ethnic group living in Myanmar, or Burma. The whole Southeast Asian region is culpable. They have ignored the plight of the Rohingya for years. While tens of thousands of Rohingya are being ethnically cleansed, having their villages torched, forced into concentration camps and some into slavery, Burma is being celebrated by various western and Asian powers as a success story of a military junta-turned democracy.


“After Myanmar moved from dictatorship toward democracy in 2011, newfound freedoms of expression gave voice to Buddhist extremists who spewed hatred against the religious minority and said Muslims were taking over the country,” reported the Associated Press from the Burmese capital, Yangon.

That “newfound freedom of expression” has cost hundreds of people their lives, thousands their properties, and “another 140,000 Rohingya were driven from their homes and are now living under apartheid-like conditions in crowded displacement camps”.

While one may accept that freedom of expression sometimes invites hate speech, the idea that Burma’s supposed democracy has resulted in the victimisation of the Rohingya is as far from the truth as it gets. Their endless suffering goes back decades and is considered one of the darkest chapters in Southeast Asia’s modern history. When they were denied citizenship in 1982 - despite the fact that it is believed that they descended from Muslim traders who settled in Arakan and other Burmese regions over 1,000 years ago - their persecution became almost an official policy.

Even those who take to the sea to escape hardship in Burma find the coveted salvation hard to achieve. “In Myanmar, they are subjected to forced labor, have no land rights, and are heavily restricted. In Bangladesh many are also desperately poor, with no documents or job prospects,” reported the BBC.

And since many parties are interested in the promotion of the illusion of the rising Burmese democracy - a rare meeting point for the United States, China and ASEAN countries, all seeking economic exploits - few governments care about the Rohingya.

Despite recent grandstanding by Malaysia and Indonesia about the willingness to conditionally host the surviving Rohingya who have been stranded at sea for many days, the region as a whole has been “extremely unwelcoming,” according to Chris Lewa of the Rohingya activist group Arakan Project.

“Unlike European countries - who at least make an effort to stop North African migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean - Myanmar's neighbors are reluctant to provide any assistance,” he said.

Sure, the ongoing genocide of the Rohingya may have helped expose false democracy idols like Noble Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi - who has been shamelessly silent, if not even complicit in the government racist and violent polices against the Rohingya – but what good will that do?

The stories of those who survive are as harrowing as those that die while floating at sea, with no food or water, or, sometimes even a clear destination. In a documentary aired late last year, Aljazeera reported on some of these stories.

“Muhibullah spent 17 days on a smuggler's boat where he saw a man thrown overboard. On reaching Thai shores, he was bundled into a truck and delivered to a jungle camp packed with hundreds of refugees and armed men, where his nightmare intensified. Bound to shafts of bamboo, he says he was tortured for two months to extract a $2,000 ransom from his family.

“Despite the regular beatings, he felt worse for women who were dragged into the bush and raped. Some were sold into debt bondage, prostitution and forced marriage.”

Human rights groups report on such horror daily, but much of it fails to make it to media coverage simply because the plight of the Rohingya doesn’t constitute a “pressing matter”. Yes, human rights only matter when they are tied into an issue of significant political or economic weight.

Yet, somehow the Rohingyas seep into our news occasionally as they did in June 2012 and later months, when Rakhine Buddists went into violent rampages, burning villages and setting people ablaze under the watchful eye of the Burmese police. Then Burma was being elevated to a non-pariah state status, with the support and backing of the US and European countries.

It is not easy to sell Burma as a democracy while its people are hunted down like animals, forced into deplorable camps, trapped between the army and the sea where thousands have no other escape but “leaky boats” and the Andaman Sea. Abbott might want to do some research before blaming the Rohingyas for their own misery.

So far, the democracy gambit is working, and many companies are now setting offices in Yangon and preparing for massive profits. This is all while hundreds of thousands of innocent children, women and men are being caged like animals in their own country, stranded at sea, or held for ransom in some neighbouring jungle.

ASEAN countries must understand that good neighborly relations cannot fully rely on trade, and that human rights violators must be held accountable and punished for their crimes.

No efforts should be spared to help fleeing Rohingyas, and real international pressure must be enforced so that Yangon abandons its infuriating arrogance. Even if we are to accept that Rohingyas are not a distinct minority - as the Burmese government argues - that doesn’t justify the unbearable persecution they have been enduring for years, and the occasional acts of ethnic cleaning and genocide. A minority or not, they are human, deserving of full protection under national and international law.

While one is not asking the US and its allies for war or sanctions, the least one should expect is that Burma must not be rewarded for its fraudulent democracy as it brutalizes its minorities. Failure to do so should compel civil society organizations to stage boycott campaigns of companies that conduct business with the Burmese government.

As for Aung San Suu Kyi, her failure as a moral authority can neither be understood nor forgiven. One thing is sure, she doesn’t deserve her Noble Prize, for her current legacy is at complete odds with the spirit of that award.

Ramzy Baroud – www.ramzybaroud.net - is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. He is currently completing his PhD studies at the University of Exeter. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Protocols Of The Elders Of ‘Anti’ Zion and Alison Weir

The Protocols Of The Elders Of ‘Anti’ Zion: JVP vs. Alison Weir

by Gilad Atzmon


May 27, 2015


The following is an announcement of a Jewish Herem (excommunication) signed by Jewish Voice For Peace (JVP) targeting one of America’s leading human rights activists, Alison Weir. The letter was leaked to me by three different JVP Chapter Leaders who, apparently, are experiencing fatigue with JVP’s thought policing.

Target: Alison Weir

According to my informers, the letter was written by Rebecca Vilkomerson, JVP’s Executive Director. It was sent to the 40 chapter leaders of JVP. My JVP sources told me that the letter wasn’t intended to be publicized. After all, The Protocols Of The Elders of ‘Anti’ Zion are better communicated in a clandestine manner.

May 5, 2015

Dear Ms. Weir,

Jewish Voice for Peace has chosen not to work with you because our central tenet is opposition to racism in all its forms, and you have chosen repeatedly to associate yourself with people who advocate for racism.

You have been a repeat guest of white supremacist Clay Douglas on his hate radio show, the Free American. Clay Douglas is concerned primarily with the survival of the White race and sees malign Jewish influence everywhere. His racist, anti-Jewish, and anti-gay rhetoric can be found across the front pages of his multiple websites.

In the course of your appearance with Clay Douglas on August 25, 2010, for example, you were silent when Douglas invoked the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and engaged in a racist diatribe against Jews. Your repeated appearance on this show (April 23 and August 25, 2010; February 9 and May 18, 2011) show that you knew his extremist views and chose to continue the association.

Your troubling associations and choices further include giving interviews to a range of far-right outlets including The American Free Press, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group, and the anti-gay, anti-Jewish pastor Mark Dankof. One of your articles appeared in an anthology that was promoted by the infamous Holocaust-denial organization, the Institute for Historical Review. We see no evidence that you have disavowed any of these outlets or institutions.

Our movement must be built on a foundation of love, justice and equality for all people. It should not and cannot win by fueling or endorsing any form of hate, whether against People of Color, gays, Jews, Muslims or anyone else.

At Jewish Voice for Peace, we are particularly sensitive to the long history of anti-Jewish oppression as well as the ways that Palestinian liberation work is frequently tarred with false charges of anti-Semitism. Just as we call out the hateful associations of those who seek to perpetuate injustice against Palestinians, as a movement we must also hold the line against those who promote the false notion that Palestinian liberation can be won at the expense of others.
JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE

If anti Semitism is best understood as the Goyim’s reaction to Jewish bad behavior, JVP shouldn’t be surprised by the tidal wave of resentment it provokes amongst peace lovers and dissident voices across the political spectrum. The Jewish organization has been behaving badly for some time. It has engaged in an orchestrated and systematic attempt to derail the Palestinian discourse. As if this were not enough, JVP has also been chasing, smearing and harassing the most dedicated voices and activists in the solidarity movement, people such as Greta Berlin, George Galloway, Ken O’Keefe, yours truly and many others. Alison Weir, the legendary activist and founder of If Americans Knew has become another victim of this disgraceful tribal campaign.

Herem (excommunication) is deeply rooted in Jewish culture. The great Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza was subject to herem. The story of Uriel Da Costa is a devastating chronicle of Rabbinical collective vindictiveness. Seemingly the ‘good’ and ‘liberal’ Jews at JVP have extended the herem culture far beyond the ghetto walls. Our Jewish ‘allies’, as they occasionally label themselves, are now attempting to excommunicate gentiles. They must be convinced that they have succeeded in reducing the Palestinian solidarity discourse into an ‘internal Jewish affair.’

But what was Weir’s crime exactly? Guilt by association. The elders of ‘anti Zion’ at JVP accuse Weir of being interviewed by people whom the ultra Zionist Southern Poverty Law Centre tags as ‘hate’ figures and ‘white supremacists’. Yet, they do not accuse Weir herself of racism or bigotry.

Weir reacted to JVP’s accusation by stating that her “goal is to reach every single person possible with essential facts to counter the misinformation so often being disseminated to Americans.” Weir also tried to explain to the ‘Jews in the movement’ that being invited to a radio show doesn’t imply an endorsement of its host’s views. Otherwise, every person interviewed by Fox News might be tagged a Neocon, which would be totally absurd.

JVP’s Herem announcement declares: “our movement must be built on a foundation of love, justice and equality for all people.” This is a beautiful sentiment but unfortunately, it contradicts the purpose of the letter that states in precise terms who should be excluded from ‘love’, ‘justice’ and ‘equality.’ It is astonishing that the ‘anti’ Zionists who lead JVP practice segregation and exceptionalism on a daily basis. Sometimes I wonder what it is about Israel or Zionism that they oppose. Vilkomerson’s rant reveals a deep morbid fear of Whiteness that resembles Bennett and Liebermann’s resentment towards Arabs and Muslims.

For years I have argued that the continuum between Zionism and the so-called Jewish ‘anti’ is undeniable. In its actions, JVP has foolishly confirmed again and again that my observation is correct. The original Protocol OF The Elders Of Zion is considered to be a Tsarist forgery, but the call for a herem was composed by Vilkomerson in the name of her ‘Jews only party’ and is an authentic protocol. It is a revealing glimpse into the racist morbidity that is embedded in the Jewish Left and it sheds light on the corrosive impact of JVP in its current form.

If Americans knew how so-called liberal Jews treat Weir, a leading American patriot, they might react angrily and they should. I will use this opportunity to once again remind the ‘good’ Jews that we can proceed without their moral supervision, no one asked for their tribal thought policing. What we need is for our so-called Jewish ‘allies’ to cleanse themselves of their tribal biases and instead adopt a universal ethical mindset. When this happens, they may drift away from the JVP klan. Truth may set them free.

A Pincer Strategy for Latin America

Washington’s Two Track Policy to Latin America: Marines to Central America and Diplomats to Cuba

by James Petras


Everyone, from political pundits in Washington to the Pope in Rome, including most journalists in the mass media and in the alternative press, have focused on the US moves toward ending the economic blockade of Cuba and gradually opening diplomatic relations. Talk is rife of a ‘major shift’ in US policy toward Latin America with the emphasis on diplomacy and reconciliation. Even most progressive writers and journals have ceased writing about US imperialism.

However, there is mounting evidence that Washington’s negotiations with Cuba are merely one part of a two-track policy. There is clearly a major US build-up in Latin America, with increasing reliance on ‘military platforms’, designed to launch direct military interventions in strategic countries.

Moreover, US policymakers are actively involved in promoting ‘client’ opposition parties, movements and personalities to destabilize independent governments and are intent on re-imposing US domination.

In this essay we will start our discussion with the origins and unfolding of this ‘two track’ policy, its current manifestations, and projections into the future. We will conclude by evaluating the possibilities of re-establishing US imperial domination in the region.

Origins of the Two Track Policy


Washington’s pursuit of a ‘two-track policy’, based on combining ‘reformist policies’ toward some political formations, while working to overthrow other regimes and movements by force and military intervention, was practiced by the early Kennedy Administration following the Cuban revolution. Kennedy announced a vast new economic program of aid, loans and investments – dubbed the ‘Alliance for Progress’ – to promote development and social reform in Latin American countries willing to align with the US. At the same time the Kennedy regime escalated US military aid and joint exercises in the region. Kennedy sponsored a large contingent of Special Forces – ‘Green Berets’ - to engage in counter-insurgency warfare. The ‘Alliance for Progress’ was designed to counter the mass appeal of the social-revolutionary changes underway in Cuba with its own program of ‘social reform’. While Kennedy promoted watered-down reforms in Latin America, he launched the ‘secret’ CIA (‘Bay of Pigs’) invasion of Cuba in 1961and naval blockade in 1962 (the so-called ‘missile crises’). The two-track policy ended up sacrificing social reforms and strengthening military repression. By the mid-1970’s the ‘two-tracks’ became one - force. The US invaded the Dominican Republic in 1965. It backed a series of military coups throughout the region, effectively isolating Cuba. As a result, Latin America’s labor force experienced nearly a quarter century of declining living standards.

By the 1980’s US client-dictators had lost their usefulness and Washington once again took up a dual strategy: On one track, the White House wholeheartedly backed their military-client rulers’ neo-liberal agenda and sponsored them as junior partners in Washington’s regional hegemony. On the other track, they promoted a shift to highly controlled electoral politics, which they described as a ‘democratic transition’, in order to ‘decompress’ mass social pressures against its military clients. Washington secured the introduction of elections and promoted client politicians willing to continue the neo-liberal socio-economic framework established by the military regimes.

By the turn of the new century, the cumulative grievances of thirty years of repressive rule, regressive neo-liberal socio-economic policies and the denationalization and privatization of the national patrimony had caused an explosion of mass social discontent. This led to the overthrow and electoral defeat of Washington’s neo-liberal client regimes.

Throughout most of Latin America, mass movements were demanding a break with US-centered ‘integration’ programs. Overt anti-imperialism grew and intensified. The period saw the emergence of numerous center-left governments in Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Honduras and Nicaragua. Beyond the regime changes , world economic forces had altered: growing Asian markets, their demand for Latin American raw materials and the global rise of commodity prices helped to stimulate the development of Latin American-centered regional organizations – outside of Washington’s control.

Washington was still embedded in its 25 year ‘single-track’ policy of backing civil-military authoritarian and imposing neo-liberal policies and was unable to respond and present a reform alternative to the anti-imperialist, center-left challenge to its dominance. Instead, Washington worked to reverse the new party- power configuration. Its overseas agencies, the Agency for International Development (AID), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and embassies worked to destabilize the new governments in Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Paraguay and Honduras. The US ‘single-track’ of intervention and destabilization failed throughout the first decade of the new century (with the exception of Honduras and Paraguay.

In the end Washington remained politically isolated. Its integration schemes were rejected. Its market shares in Latin America declined. Washington not only lost its automatic majority in the Organization of American States (OAS), but it became a distinct minority.

Washington’s ‘single track’ policy of relying on the ‘stick’ and holding back on the ‘carrot’ was based on several considerations: The Bush and Obama regimes were deeply influenced by the US’s twenty-five year domination of the region (1975-2000) and the notion that the uprisings and political changes in Latin America in the subsequent decade were ephemeral, vulnerable and easily reversed. Moreover, Washington, accustomed to over a century of economic domination of markets, resources and labor, took for granted that its hegemony was unalterable. The White House failed to recognize the power of China’s growing share of the Latin American market. The State Department ignored the capacity of Latin American governments to integrate their markets and exclude the US.

US State Department officials never moved beyond the discredited neo-liberal doctrine that they had successfully promoted in the 1990’s. The White House failed to adopt a ‘reformist’ turn to counter the appeal of radical reformers like Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President. This was most evident in the Caribbean and the Andean countries where President Chavez launched his two ‘alliances for progress’: ‘Petro-Caribe’ (Venezuela’s program of supplying cheap, heavily subsidized, fuel to poor Central American and Caribbean countries and heating oil to poor neighborhoods in the US) and ‘ALBA’ (Chavez’ political-economic union of Andean states, plus Cuba and Nicaragua, designed to promote regional political solidarity and economic ties.) Both programs were heavily financed by Caracas. Washington failed to come up with a successful alternative plan.

Unable to win diplomatically or in the ‘battle of ideas’, Washington resorted to the ‘big stick’ and sought to disrupt Venezuela’s regional economic program rather than compete with Chavez’ generous and beneficial aid packages. The US’ ‘spoiler tactics’ backfired: In 2009, the Obama regime backed a military coup in Honduras, ousting the elected liberal reformist President Zelaya and installed a bloody tyrant, a throwback to the 1970s when the US backed Chilean coup brought General Pinochet to power. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, in an act of pure political buffoonery, refused to call Zelaya’s violent ouster a coup and moved swiftly to recognize the dictatorship. No other government backed the US in its Honduras policy. There was universal condemnation of the coup, highlighting Washington’s isolation.

Repeatedly, Washington tried to use its ‘hegemonic card’ but it was roundly outvoted at regional meetings. At the Summit of the Americas in 2010, Latin American countries overrode US objections and voted to invite Cuba to its next meeting, defying a 50-year old US veto. The US was left alone in its opposition.

The position of Washington was further weakened by the decade-long commodity boom (spurred by China’s voracious demand for agro-mineral products). The ‘mega-cycle’ undermined US Treasury and State Department’s anticipation of a price collapse. In previous cycles, commodity ‘busts’ had forced center-left governments to run to the US controlled International Monetary Fund (IMF) for highly conditioned balance of payment loans, which the White House used to impose its neo-liberal policies and political dominance. The ‘mega-cycle’ generated rising revenues and incomes. This gave the center-left governments enormous leverage to avoid the ‘debt traps’ and to marginalize the IMF. This virtually eliminated US-imposed conditionality and allowed Latin governments to pursue populist-nationalist policies. These policies decreased poverty and unemployment. Washington played the ‘crisis card’ and lost. Nevertheless Washington continued working with extreme rightwing opposition groups to destabilize the progressive governments, in the hope that ‘come the crash’, Washington’s proxies would ‘waltz right in’ and take over.

The Re-Introduction of the ‘Two Track’ Policy


After a decade and a half of hard knocks, repeated failures of its ‘big stick’ policies, rejection of US-centered integration schemes and multiple resounding defeats of its client-politicians at the ballot box, Washington finally began to ‘rethink’ its ‘one track’ policy and tentatively explore a limited ‘two track’ approach.

The ‘two-tracks’, however, encompass polarities clearly marked by the recent past. While the Obama regime opened negotiations and moved toward establishing relations with Cuba, it escalated the military threats toward Venezuela by absurdly labeling Caracas as a ‘national security threat to the US.’

Washington had woken up to the fact that its bellicose policy toward Cuba had been universally rejected and had left the US isolated from Latin America. The Obama regime decided to claim some ‘reformist credentials’ by showcasing its opening to Cuba. The ‘opening to Cuba’ is really part of a wider policy of a more active political intervention in Latin America. Washington will take full advantage of the increased vulnerability of the center-left governments as the commodity mega-cycle comes to an end and prices collapse. Washington applauds the fiscal austerity program pursued by Dilma Rousseff’s regime in Brazil. It wholeheartedly backs newly elected Tabaré Vázquez’s “Broad Front” regime in Uruguay with its free market policies and structural adjustment. It publicly supports Chilean President Bachelet’s recent appointment of center-right, Christian Democrats to Cabinet posts to accommodate big business.

These changes within Latin America provide an ‘opening’ for Washington to pursue a ‘dual track’ policy: On the one hand Washington is increasing political and economic pressure and intensifying its propaganda campaign against ‘state interventionist’ policies and regimes in the immediate period. On the other hand, the Pentagon is intensifying and escalating its presence in Central America and its immediate vicinity. The goal is ultimately to regain leverage over the military command in the rest of the South American continent.

The Miami Herald (5/10/15) reported that the Obama Administration had sent 280 US marines to Central America without any specific mission or pretext. Coming so soon after the Summit of the Americas in Panama (April 10 -11, 2015), this action has great symbolic importance. While the presence of Cuba at the Summit may have been hailed as a diplomatic victory for reconciliation within the Americas, the dispatch of hundreds of US marines to Central America suggests another scenario in the making.

Ironically, at the Summit meeting, the Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), former Colombian president (1994-98) Ernesto Samper, called for the US to remove all its military bases from Latin America, including Guantanamo: “A good point in the new agenda of relations in Latin America would be the elimination of the US military bases”.

The point of the US ‘opening’ to Cuba is precisely to signal its greater involvement in Latin America, one that includes a return to more robust US military intervention. The strategic intent is to restore neo-liberal client regimes, by ballots or bullets.

Conclusion


Washington’s current adoption of a two-track policy is a ‘cheap version’ of the John F. Kennedy policy of combining the ‘Alliance for Progress’ with the ‘Green Berets’. However, Obama offers little in the way of financial support for modernization and reform to complement his drive to restore neo-liberal dominance.

After a decade and a half of political retreat, diplomatic isolation and relative loss of military leverage, the Obama regime has taken over six years to recognize the depth of its isolation. When Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson, claimed she was ‘surprised and disappointed’ when every Latin American country opposed Obama’s claim that Venezuela represented a ‘national security threat to the United States’, she exposed just how ignorant and out-of-touch the State Department has become with regard to Washington’s capacity to influence Latin America in support of its imperial agenda of intervention.

With the decline and retreat of the center-left, the Obama regime has been eager to exploit the two-track strategy. As long as the FARC-President Santos peace talks in Colombia advance, Washington is likely to recalibrate its military presence in Colombia to emphasize its destabilization campaign against Venezuela. The State Department will increase diplomatic overtures to Bolivia. The National Endowment for Democracy will intensify its intervention in this year’s Argentine elections.

Varied and changing circumstances dictate flexible tactics. Hovering over Washington’s tactical shifts is an ominous strategic outlook directed toward increasing military leverage. As the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas advance toward an accord, the pretext for maintaining seven US military bases and several thousand US military and Special Forces troops diminishes. However, Colombian President Santos has given no indication that a ‘peace agreement’ would be conditioned on the withdrawal of US troops or closing of its bases. In other words, the US Southern Command would retain a vital military platform and infrastructure capable of launching attacks against Venezuela, Ecuador, Central America and the Caribbean. With military bases throughout the region, in Colombia, Cuba (Guantanamo), Honduras (Soto Cano in Palmerola), Curacao, Aruba and Peru, Washington can quickly mobilize interventionary forces. Military ties with the armed forces of Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile ensure continued joint exercises and close co-ordination of so-called ‘security’ policies in the ‘Southern Cone’ of Latin America. This strategy is specifically designed to prepare for internal repression against popular movements, whenever and wherever class struggle intensifies in Latin America. The two-track policy, in force today, plays out through political-diplomatic and military strategies.

In the immediate period throughout most of the region, Washington pursues a policy of political, diplomatic and economic intervention and pressure. The White House is counting on the ‘rightwing swing’ of former center-left governments to facilitate the return to power of unabashedly neo-liberal client-regimes in future elections. This is especially true with regard to Brazil and Argentina.

The ‘political-diplomatic track’ is evident in Washington’s moves to re-establish relations with Bolivia and to strengthen allies elsewhere in order to leverage favorable policies in Ecuador, Nicaragua and Cuba. Washington proposes to offer diplomatic and trade agreements in exchange for a ‘toning down’ of anti-imperialist criticism and weakening the ‘Chavez-era’ programs of regional integration.

The ‘two-track approach’, as applied to Venezuela, has a more overt military component than elsewhere. Washington will continue to subsidize violent paramilitary border crossings from Colombia. It will continue to encourage domestic terrorist sabotage of the power grid and food distribution system. The strategic goal is to erode the electoral base of the Maduro government, in preparation for the legislative elections in the fall of 2015. When it comes to Venezuela, Washington is pursuing a ‘four step’ strategy:

(1) Indirect violent intervention to erode the electoral support of the government

(2) Large-scale financing of the electoral campaign of the legislative opposition to secure a majority in Congress

(3) A massive media campaign in favor of a Congressional vote for a referendum impeaching the President

(4) A large-scale financial, political and media campaign to secure a majority vote for impeachment by referendum.

In the likelihood of a close vote, the Pentagon would prepare a rapid military intervention with its domestic collaborators – seeking a ‘Honduras-style’ overthrow of Maduro.

The strategic and tactical weakness of the two-track policy is the absence of any sustained and comprehensive economic aid, trade and investment program that would attract and hold middle class voters. Washington is counting more on the negative effects of the crisis to restore its neo-liberal clients. The problem with this approach is that the pro-US forces can only promise a return to orthodox austerity programs, reversing social and public welfare programs , while making large-scale economic concessions to major foreign investors and bankers. The implementation of such regressive programs are going to ignite and intensify class, community-based and ethnic conflicts.

The ‘electoral transition’ strategy of the US is a temporary expedient, in light of the highly unpopular economic policies, which it would surely implement. The complete absence of any substantial US socio-economic aid to cushion the adverse effects on working families means that the US client-electoral victories will not last long. That is why and where the US strategic military build-up comes into play: The success of track-one, the pursuit of political-diplomatic tactics, will inevitably polarize Latin American society and heighten prospects for class struggle. Washington hopes that it will have its political-military client-allies ready to respond with violent repression. Direct intervention and heightened domestic repression will come into play to secure US dominance.

The ‘two-track strategy’ will, once again, evolve into a ‘one-track strategy’ designed to return Latin America as a satellite region, ripe for pillage by extractive multi-nationals and financial speculators.

As we have seen over the past decade and a half, ‘one-track policies’ lead to social upheavals. And the next time around the results may go far beyond progressive center-left regimes toward truly social-revolutionary governments!

Epilogue


US empire-builders have clearly demonstrated throughout the world their inability to intervene and produce stable, prosperous and productive client states (Iraq and Libya are prime examples). There is no reason to believe, even if the US ‘two-track policy’ leads to temporary electoral victories, that Washington’s efforts to restore dominance will succeed in Latin America, least of all because its strategy lacks any mechanism for economic aid and social reforms that could maintain a pro-US elite in power. For example, how could the US possibly offset China’s $50 billion aid package to Brazil – except through violence and repression.

It is important to analyze how the rise of China, Russia, strong regional markets and new centers of finance have severely weakened the efforts by client regimes to realign with the US. Military coups and free markets are no longer guaranteed formulas for success in Latin America: Their past failures are too recent to forget. Finally the ‘financialization’ of the US economy, what even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) describes as the negative impact of ‘too much finance’ (Financial Times 5/13/15, p 4), means that the US cannot allocate capital resources to develop productive activity in Latin America. The imperial state can only serve as a violent debt collector for its banks in the context of large-scale unemployment. Financial and extractive imperialism is a politico-economic cocktail for detonating social revolution on a continent-wide basis - far beyond the capacity of the US marines to prevent or suppress.

Useful Enemies: US-Led Coalition Commitment to Eradicating ISIS Questioned

To Beat ISIS, Kick Out US-Led Coalition

by Sharmine Narwani - RT

It’s been a bad time for foes of ISIS. Islamic State scored a neat hat-trick by invading strategic Ramadi in Iraq’s mainly Sunni Anbar province, occupying Syria’s historic gem Palmyra, and taking over Al-Tanf, the last remaining border crossing with Iraq.

The multinational, American-led ‘Coalition’ launched last August to thwart Islamic State’s (IS, formerly ISIS) march across Syria and Iraq…did nothing.

And so Baghdad and Washington are pointing fingers, each accusing the other of being asleep on the job.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter struck a low blow on Sunday in a CNN interview: “What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. They vastly outnumbered the opposing force. That says to me… that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight and defend themselves.”

Carter must have forgotten that Iraqis staved off an ISIS occupation of Ramadi for almost 18 months. He also forgot that it was Iraqis who defended and/or recovered Amerli, Suleiman Beg, Tuz Khurmatu, Jurf al-Sakhar, Jalula, Saadiyah, Khanaqin, Muqdadiyah, Baquba, Udhaim Dam, Tharthar Dam, Habbaniyah, Haditha, Al-Baghdadi, Mosul Dam, Mount Sinjar, Zumar, Erbil, Gwer, Makhmur, dozens of Christian villages in the Nineveh Plains, Tikrit, Samarra, Balad, Dhuluiya, Dujail, Ishaqi, Al-Alam, Al-Dour, Albu Ajil, Awja, Al-Mutassim, Mukayshifa, Ajil and Alas oilfields, Hamrin mountains, Baiji oil refinery, scores of villages in the provinces of Salaheddine, Diyala, Kirkuk, Anbar, and Babil – and the capital city, Baghdad.

The Iraqis have shot back. Key MP Hakim al-Zamili blames Ramadi’s collapse on the US’s failure to provide “good equipment, weapons and aerial support” to troops.

Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq, himself a Sunni from Anbar Province, concluded that the Americans were coming up short in all areas. "The Coalition airstrikes are not enough to eliminate IS." Furthermore, the US policy of recruiting Sunni tribes for the fight, he added, was “too late” – it is "important but not enough."

If ever there was an understatement, this is it.

Washington’s long-stated objective of rallying together a vetted Sunni fighting force - or its equivalent in the form of a National Guard – has always served as a placeholder to avoid facing realities.

One thing we have learned from IS gains in small and large Sunni towns alike, is that the extremist group prides itself on sleeper cells and alliances inside of these areas. Sunni tribes and families, both, are divided on their support of IS. And the militants ensure that everyone else falls in line through a brutal campaign of inflicting fear and pain indiscriminately. So the likelihood of a significant, anti-IS, well-trained and equipped Sunni fighting force emerging anytime soon is just about nil.

So too is the idea of a US-led Coalition air force that can cripple Islamic State. Washington has run fewer sorties over Syria and Iraq in the nine months since inception of its air campaign, than Israel ran in its entire three-week Gaza blitz in 2008-09.

Where were the American bombers when Ramadi and Palmyra were being taken? And why does the US Air Force only seem to engage in earnest when their Kurdish allies are being threatened – as in Kobani (Ain al-Arab), Syria, and Erbil in Iraq?

US calculations for Syria & Iraq


If actions speak louder than words, then Washington’s moves in the Mideast have been deafening.

Forget talk of a ‘unified Iraq’ with a ‘strong central government’. And definitely forget loudly-proclaimed objectives of ‘training moderate forces’ to ‘fight off IS’ across the Jordanian and Turkish borders in Syria. That’s just talk.

An objective look at US interests in the region paint an entirely different picture. The Americans seek to maintain absolute hegemony in the Mideast, even as they exit costly military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Their primary interests are 1) access to low cost oil and gas, 2) propping up Israel, and more recently, 3) undermining Russian (and Chinese) influence in the region.

Clinging on to hegemony would be a whole lot easier without the presence of a powerful, independent Islamic Republic of Iran, which continues to throw a wrench in many of Washington’s regional projects.

So hegemony is somewhat dependent on weakening Iran – and its supportive alliances.

With the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the US inadvertently extended Iran’s arc of influence in a direct geographic line to Palestine, leaving the Israeli colonial project vulnerable. Former President George W. Bush immediately took on the task of destroying this Resistance Axis by attempting to neuter Iranian allies Hezbollah, Syria and Hamas – and failed.

The Arab Spring presented a fresh opportunity to regroup: the US and its Turkish and Persian Gulf allies swung into action to create conditions for regime-change in Syria. The goal? To break this geographic line from Iran - through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon - to Palestine.

When regime-change failed, the goalpost moved to the next best plan: dividing Syria into several competing chunks, which would weaken the central state and create a pro-US ‘buffer’ along the border with Israel.

Weakening the central government in Iraq by dividing the state along Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite lines has also been a priority for the Americans.

You only have to look at recent US actions in Iraq to see this unspoken plan in action. Washington’s most intensive airstrikes to date were when Kurdish Erbil and its environs came under threat by ISIS. Congress has breached all international norms by ushering through legislation to directly arm Sunni and Kurdish militias and bypass the central government in Baghdad. And despite endless promises and commitments, the Americans have failed at every hurdle to train and equip the Iraqi Army and security forces to do anything useful.

A weak, divided Iraq can never become a regional powerhouse allied with Iran and the Resistance Axis. Likewise a weak, divided Syria. But without US control over these central governments, the only way to achieve this is 1) through the creation of sectarian and ethnic strife that could carve out pro-US buffers inside the ‘Resistance states’ and/or 2) through the creation of a hostile ‘Sunni buffer’ to break this line from Iran to Palestine.

Today, America’s ‘Sunni buffer’ is Islamic State 


General Walid Sukariyya, a Sunni, pro-resistance member of Lebanon’s parliament, agrees. “ISIS will be better for the US and Israel than having a strong Iran, Iraq and Syria…If they succeed at this, the Sunni state in Iraq will split the resistance from Palestine.”

While Washington has long sought to create a buffer in Iraq on the Syrian border, it has literally spent years trying – and failing – to find, then mold, representative Sunni Iraqi leaders who will comfortably toe a pro-American line.

An example of this is the Anbar delegation US General John Allen handpicked last December for a DC tour, which excluded representatives of the two most prominent Sunni tribes fighting IS in Iraq – the Albu Alwan and Albu Nimr. A spokesman for the tribes, speaking to Al-Jarida newspaper, objected at the time: "We are fighting ISIL and getting slaughtered, while suffering from a shortage of weapons. In the meantime, others are going to Washington to get funds and will later be assigned as our leaders."

But why ignore Sunni groups who are unreservedly opposed to IS? Aren’t they America’s natural constituents inside Iraq?

The Takfiri extremist groups serve a purpose for Washington. IS has had the ability - where competing Sunni factions, with their ever-growing lists of demands from Baghdad, have not – to transform the US’ ‘buffer’ project into a physical reality. And Washington has not needed to expend blood, treasure or manpower to get the job done.

Last week, the government watchdog group Judicial Watch published a secret (now declassified) 2012 US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document that sheds light on American calculations in Syria.

Written just 16 months into the 50-month-long Syrian conflict, the highly-redacted DIA document discloses the following key revelations:

"The Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (Al-Qaeda in Iraq) are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria."

"The West, Gulf countries and Turkey support the opposition."

The Syrian government has focused its priorities on securing pro-government areas and major transportation routes, which means "the regime decreased its concentration in areas adjacent to the Iraqi borders (al Hasaka and Der Zor).”

"Opposition forces are trying to control the eastern areas (Hasaka and Der Zor) adjacent to the western Iraqi borders (Mosul and Anbar)…Western countries, the Gulf and Turkey are supporting these efforts."

"The deterioration of the situation…creates the ideal atmosphere for AQI to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi…"

"If the situation unravels there is the opportunity of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria, and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran)."

The DIA brief makes clear that the escalation of conflict in Syria will create further sectarianism and radicalization, which will increase the likelihood of an ‘Islamic State’ on the Syrian-Iraqi border, one that would likely be manned by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).

So what did Washington do when it received this information? It lied.

Less than one month after the DIA report was published, US Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this about the Syrian opposition: "I just don't agree that a majority are Al-Qaeda and the bad guys. That's not true. There are about 70,000 to 100,000 oppositionists ... Maybe 15 percent to 25 percent might be in one group or another who are what we would deem to be bad guys…There is a real moderate opposition that exists.”

Using the fabricated storyline of ‘moderate rebels’ who need assistance to fight a ‘criminal Syrian regime’, the US government kept the Syrian conflict buzzing, knowing full well the outcome would mean the establishment of a Sunni extremist entity spanning the Syrian-Iraqi border…which could cripple, what the Americans call, “the strategic depth of the Shia expansion.”

As US Council on Foreign Relations member and terrorism analyst Max Abrahms conceded on Twitter: "The August 5, 2012 DIA report confirms much of what Assad has been saying all along about his opponents both inside & outside Syria."

How to fight this American “Frankenstein”


Since last year, numerous Iraqi officials have complained about the US airdropping weapons to IS - whether deliberately or inadvertently remains disputed. Military sources, on the other hand, have made clear that the US-led Coalition ignores many of the Iraqi requests for air cover during ground operations.

If the US isn't willing to play ball in Iraq's existential fight against IS, then why bother with the Americans at all?

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is viewed as a ‘weak’ head of state - a relatively pro-American official who will work diligently to keep a balance between US interests and those of Iraq's powerful neighbor, Iran.

But after the disastrous fall of Ramadi, and more bad news from inside Syria, Abadi has little choice but to mitigate these losses, and rapidly. The prime minister has now ordered the engagement of thousands of Hashd al-Shaabi (Shiite paramilitary groups, commonly known as the Popular Mobilization Forces) troops in the Anbar to wrest back control of Ramadi. And this - unusually - comes with the blessings of Anbar's Sunni tribes who voted overwhelmingly to appeal to the Hashd for military assistance.

Joining the Hashd are a few thousand Sunni fighters, making this a politically palatable response. If the Ramadi operation goes well, this joint Sunni-Shiite effort (which also proved successful in Tikrit) could provide Iraq with a model to emulate far and wide.

The recent losses in Syria and Iraq have galvanized IS' opponents from Lebanon to Iran to Russia, with commitments pouring in for weapons, manpower and funds. If Ramadi is recovered, this grouping is unlikely to halt its march, and will make a push to the Syrian border through IS-heavy territory. There is good reason for this: the militants who took Ramadi came across the Syrian border - in full sight of US reconnaissance capabilities.

A senior resistance state official told me earlier this year: “We will not allow the establishment of a big (extremist) demographic and geographic area between Syria and Iraq. We will work to push Syrian ISIS inside Syria and Iraqi ISIS inside Iraq.”

Right now, the key to pushing back Takfiri gains inside Syria's eastern and northwestern theaters lies in the strengthening of the Iraqi military landscape. And an absolute priority will be in clearing the IS ‘buffer’ between the two states.

Eighteen months ago, in an analysis about how to fight jihadist militants from the Levant to the Persian Gulf, I wrote that the solution for this battle will be found only within the region, specifically from within those states whose security is most compromised or under threat: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

I argued that these four states would be forced to increase their military cooperation as the battles intensified, and that they would provide the only 'boots on the ground' in this fight.

And they will. But air cover is a necessary component of successful offensive operations, even in situations of unconventional warfare. If the US and its flimsy Coalition are unable or unwilling to provide the required reconnaissance assistance and the desired aerial coverage, as guided by a central Iraqi military command, then Iraq should look elsewhere for help.

Iran and Russia come to mind - and we may yet get there.

Iraq and Syria need to merge their military strategies more effectively - again, an area where the Iranians and Russians can provide valuable expertise. Both states have hit a dangerous wall in the past few weeks, and the motivation for immediate and decisive action is high today.

Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah is coming into play increasingly as well - its Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has recently promised that Hezbollah will no longer limit itself geographically, and will go where necessary to thwart this Takfiri enemy. The non-state actors that make up the jihadist and Takfiri core cannot be beaten by conventional armies, which is why local militias accustomed to asymmetric warfare are best suited for these battles.

Criticizing the US's utterly nonexistent response to the Ramadi debacle yesterday, Iran's elite Quds Force Commander Qassem Suleimani points out: "Today, there is nobody in confrontation with [IS] except the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as nations who are next to Iran or supported by Iran.” The Iranians have become central figures in the fight against terror, and are right next door to it - as opposed to Washington, over 6,000 miles away.

If the US has any real commitment to the War on Terror, it should focus on non-combat priorities that are also essential to undermine extremism: 1) securing the Turkish and Jordanian borders to prevent any further infiltration of jihadists into Syria and Iraq, 2) sanctioning countries and individuals who fund and weaponize the Takfiris, most of whom are staunch US allies, now ironically part of the ‘Coalition’ to fight IS, and 3) sharing critical intelligence about jihadist movements with those countries engaged in the battle.

It is time to cut these losses and bring some heavyweights into this battle against extremism. If the US-directed Coalition will not deliver airstrikes under the explicit command of sovereign states engaged at great risk in this fight, it may be time to clear Iraqi and Syrian airspace of coalition jets, and fill those skies with committed partners instead.

Guantánamo: Colossal Injustice of Torture Victim Abu Zubaydah’s Ongoing Imprisonment

Incommunicado Forever: The Colossal Injustice of Torture Victim Abu Zubaydah’s Ongoing Imprisonment Without Charge or Trial at Guantánamo

by Andy Worthington


 25.5.15

Abu Zubaydah, photographed before his capture in Pakistan on March 28, 2002. Subsequently held in secret CIA prisons for four and a half years, he has been held at Guantanamo, without charge or trial, since September 2006. It’s been some time since I wrote about Abu Zubaydah (Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn), one of 14 “high-value detainees” transferred from secret CIA prisons to Guantánamo in September 2006, beyond discussions of his important case against the Polish government, where he was held in a secret CIA torture prison in 2002 and 2003.

This led to a ruling in his favor in the European Court of Human Rights last July, and a decision in February this year to award him — and another Guantánamo prisoner and torture victim, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri — $262,000 in damages, for which, just last week, a deadline for payment was set for May 16, even though, as the Guardian noted, “neither Polish officials nor the US embassy in Warsaw would say where the money is going or how it was being used.”

I wrote extensively about Abu Zubaydah from 2008 to 2010, when there was generally little interest in his case, and I have also followed his attempts to seek justice in Poland since the investigation by a prosecutor began in 2010, leading to his recognition as a “victim” in January 2011, just before I visited Poland for a brief tour of the film I co-directed, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” with Moazzam Begg.

I have continued to follow Abu Zubaydah’s story in the years since, as other developments took place — when Jason Leopold, then at Al-Jazeera America, got hold of his diaries, which the US authorities had refused to release, and last December, when the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into the CIA’s torture program was released, and one of Abu Zubaydah’s lawyers, Helen Duffy, wrote an article for the Guardian, entitled, “The CIA tortured Abu Zubaydah, my client. Now charge him or let him go.” following the revelations in the report that, if he survived his torture, his interrogators wanted assurances that he would “remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life,” and senior officials stated that he “will never be placed in a situation where he has any significant contact with others and/or has the opportunity to be released.”

Abu Zubaydah has always been one of the most significant prisoners in the “war on terror”, not because of what he did, but because of what was done to him. The torture program was developed for him, leading to him being waterboarded 83 times, and it evidently severely damaged him physically and mentally, from the hints dropped by his lawyers over the years. In addition, the Bush administration publicly claimed that he was a significant member of al-Qaeda, when that was untrue — and, it seems, both the torture and the lies told about him means that he will probably never be charged, although there is no prospect of him being released either.

As the executive summary of the torture report revealed, his interrogators wanted assurances that, if he survived his torture, he would “remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life,” and senior officials responded by stating that he “will never be placed in a situation where he has any significant contact with others and/or has the opportunity to be released.”

The fact that we know anything at all about Abu Zubaydah is in many ways remarkable. Although documents have been leaked (like his diaries, and, years before, the account of his imprisonment and torture by the CIA that he gave to the International Committee of the Red Cross), and other accounts have, eventually, been made publicly available (like the executive summary of the CIA torture report), every word that he has uttered to his lawyer since he arrived at Guantánamo nearly nine years ago remains classified — as does every word uttered to their lawyers by any of the “high-value detainees.”

This secrecy — designed, cynically, to prevent the men’s torture being publicized — is disgraceful, and it is, I think, no less disgraceful that this blanket censorship of the CIA’s torture victims has been so shamefully under-reported in the mainstream media.

As a remedy, I recommend — and am cross-posting below — a detailed and revealing report about Abu Zubaydah by Raymond Bonner, a former reporter for the New York Times, which he wrote for ProPublica and Politico, and which was published two weeks ago, looking particularly at the obstructions to his habeas corpus petition over the last seven years.

I hope you find it useful, and will share it if you do.

‘Incommunicado’ Forever: Gitmo Detainee’s Case Stalled For 2,477 Days And Counting

By Raymond Bonner, Special to ProPublica, May 12, 2015


The Senate torture report chronicled the CIA’s interrogation of high-profile detainee Abu Zubaydah, but the justice system’s treatment of his habeas corpus petition has largely escaped notice.

Since being seized in a raid in Pakistan in 2002, Abu Zubaydah has had his life controlled by American officials, first at secret sites, where he was tortured, and since 2006 in a small cell in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. And, thanks to one of the strangest, and perhaps most troubling, legal cases to grow out of the War on Terror, it appears he’s not going to be leaving anytime soon — which was exactly the plan the CIA always wanted. Not even his lawyers understand what’s transpired behind closed doors in a Washington, D.C., courtroom.

In June of 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that detainees at Guantánamo had the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal court and that their cases should be handled “promptly” by the judicial system. The next month, lawyers for Abu Zubaydah, a detainee whose torture and waterboarding in secret prisons was among the most notorious of the Bush years, filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging his detention.

The progress of that case has been anything but prompt. While more than 100 Guantánamo detainees have been released since then, and the military tribunals of even more high-profile detainees like 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are moving forward in Guantánamo’s courtrooms, the federal judge hearing Zubaydah’s case has failed to rule on even the preliminary motions.

The seemingly intentional inaction has left even experienced court observers baffled. Richard W. Roberts, the U.S. District court judge handling the suit, is not a particularly slow-moving judge. His median time for resolving entire cases is slightly over two years; Zubaydah’s initial plea has already been pending 6 years 9 months and 12 days.

Because the entire file has been kept secret, it’s not possible to know why Roberts, who is the chief judge of the D.C. circuit, has let Zubaydah’s case languish. But this much is clear: Keeping Zubaydah from telling his story is exactly what the CIA wanted from the moment it began to torture him. And it’s exactly what they promised they’d do in 2002 during one of the darkest chapters of the War on Terror. (He was one of the first al-Qaeda suspects to face the harsh new regime implemented by the CIA following 9/11 — a regime that FBI agents at the scene tried to prevent.)

Soon after the agency’s contractors began their program of “enhanced interrogation’’ at the secret black site in Thailand — placing him in a coffin-size box; slamming him against wall; depriving him of sleep; bombarding him with loud music; as well as waterboarding — they sent an encrypted cable to Washington.

The CIA interrogators said that if Zubaydah died during questioning, his body would be cremated. But if he survived the ordeal, the interrogators wanted assurances that he would “remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life.”

Senior officials gave the assurances. Zubaydah, a Saudi citizen, “will never be placed in a situation where he has any significant contact with others and/or has the opportunity to be released,” the head of the CIA’s ALEC Station, the code name of the Washington-based unit hunting Osama bin Laden, replied. “All major players are in concurrence,” the cable said, that he “should remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life.”

The decision to hold Zubaydah “incommunicado” was disclosed by the Senate report on torture, which was released last December. But the judicial inaction on his case has received virtually no public attention.

In all, Roberts has failed to rule on 16 motions, 13 of which have been filed by Zubaydah’s lawyers. Several of those allege misconduct by the government.

Roberts’ judicial inaction runs the gamut: Zubaydah’s motion for an un-redacted copy of his own diary, which the government seized, has sat for six years without any ruling by the judge. His habeas corpus petition was sealed at the request of the government. Zubaydah’s lawyers filed to have it declassified. It remains classified.

A lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has been at the forefront of lawsuits to gain the release of Guantánamo detainees, says he has been baffled by the judge’s inaction. “It appears to be highly unusual,” says the lawyer, J. Wells Dixon, who has represented several Guantánamo detainees, but is not involved in the Zubaydah case. In contrast to Zubaydah’s case, Dixon said that 64 Guantánamo detainees who filed habeas petitions have seen their cases adjudicated.

Rooted in English common law, the principle of habeas corpus is a cornerstone of the American legal system. In England, it served as a check on the king’s power to lock someone in the dungeon and throw away the key. Dixon noted that the Supreme Court has said habeas was designed to be a “swift and imperative remedy.”

Yet Judge Roberts appears content to let Zubaydah’s case languish. Compared to his handling of other cases, the jurist has been anything but “swift” in Zubaydah’s case. For cases he closed in 2014, the median time from filing was 751 days, according to data assembled for ProPublica by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonprofit organization at Syracuse University. The longest any closed case had been on his docket was 1,651 days, according to TRAC. Zubaydah’s case has been pending for some 2,400 days, and it will be years before it goes to trial, if it ever does.

There are few answers for why Zubaydah’s case has gone so far off track — and there’s nothing in Roberts’ background or recent behavior on the bench that would make him seem incapable of ruling if he desired. He was appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton in 1998 and has a fairly typical background for a federal judge: A Columbia law school grad, he rose through the ranks of the Department of Justice, working as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York and as principal assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. He later spent three years as the chief of the criminal section at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Absent the apparently intentional aberration of the Zubaydah case, his court docket proceeds as normal in Courtroom 9 on the fourth floor of the U.S. District Courthouse on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

A spokeswoman for the federal district court declined to comment on the case.

One possible clue about the judge’s failure to act may be found in a motion Zubaydah’s lawyers filed in 2010. They asked Roberts for access to any “ex parte filings,” which is evidence the government shows the court outside the presence of the other side’s lawyers.

In other cases involving detainees, secret prisons, watch lists and challenges to domestic spying, the Justice Department has attempted to win dismissals by presenting classified evidence to judges in the secrecy of their chambers.

A rare insight into how that tactic is deployed was made public by a federal judge in San Francisco in a lawsuit by a Malaysian woman who challenged her placement on the no-fly list. The government sought to dismiss the case on the grounds of national security. In a ruling on the motion, the judge, William H. Alsup, described what happened next: “A telephone call came into the court staff saying that a federal agent was on the way from Washington to San Francisco to show the judge confidential records about this case, all to be relied upon by the government in support of its motion to dismiss (but not to be disclosed to the other side). The officer would take back the records after the judge reviewed them and would leave no record behind of what he had shown the judge.”

In that case, Alsup declined to receive the officials, although he did receive other ex parte filings in the case.

It’s not clear whether Judge Roberts has received a comparable offer, and if so, how he reacted. But it’s unlikely that if such a meeting or meetings happened, the public would ever know — and likely that not even Zubaydah’s own lawyers would know about it, unless Roberts came forward as Alsup did.

Although the case is an infamous one, it’s worth recalling the details of Abu Zubaydah’s custody in U.S. hands.

He was captured in a joint Pakistani-CIA-FBI operation in Lahore, Pakistan, in March 2002, during which he was shot in the groin, leg and stomach. Severely wounded, Zubaydah lingered near death as the CIA, which wanted him alive for interrogation, flew in a top surgeon from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Later, Zubaydah was handcuffed, hooded, drugged and flown to Thailand, where the CIA was in the process of creating one of its first “black sites.” Initially interviewed by the FBI, Zubaydah cooperated. FBI Special Agents Ali Soufan and Steve Gaudin even held ice to his lips so he could receive fluids. Zubaydah told the agents that Khalid Sheik Mohammad was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and gave them further detailed information about him, including his alias — the news ricocheted across Washington and Zubaydah became a pawn in the capital’s power tussle between the FBI and the CIA.

CIA Director George Tenet wasn’t satisfied with the progress on the interrogation. The agency was convinced that Zubaydah knew more, that he was a high-level al-Qaeda operative, and that he was withholding information about pending terrorist plots. Thus, Zubaydah became the guinea pig for what the Bush Administration called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The FBI pulled its agents out of Thailand as the CIA’s plans for the prisoner became clear — but not before the agents got one final useful tip: Zubaydah pointed them to a name “Abu Abdullah al Mujahir” that eventually led agents to José Padilla, a would-be jihadist who was arrested in Chicago on May 8, 2002.

Meanwhile, the CIA started in on Zubaydah. For 47 days, he was held in complete isolation, with only a towel. Then, shortly before noon on August 4, 2002, hooded security personnel entered his cell, shackled and hooded him, and removed his towel, leaving him naked. “So it begins,” a medical officer in Thailand cabled CIA headquarters about the first day’s session.

Interrogators placed a towel around his neck, as a collar, and slammed him against a concrete wall. They removed his hood and had him watch while a coffin-like box was brought into the cell. The waterboarding started, “after large box, walling, and small box periods,” the medical officer reported. “NO useful information so far.” He added, “I am head[ing] back for a waterboard session.” During the waterboarding Zubaydah frequently vomited, made “hysterical pleas,” and experienced “involuntary leg, chest and arm spasms.”

After a few days, some of the individuals involved in Zubaydah’s interrogation were deeply disturbed, to the “point of tears and choking up,” the team cabled Washington.

Over the course of the interrogations, Zubaydah “cried,” he “begged,” he “pleaded,” he “whimpered,” the team in Thailand reported to headquarters in various cables. But he never gave the CIA information about plans for attacks in the United States. And in the end, the CIA “concluded that Abu Zubaydah had been truthful and that he did not possess any new terrorist threat information,” the Senate torture report says. He was not even a member of al-Qaeda.

Yet even though the torture was over, Zubaydah’s ordeal was just beginning. For nearly a decade, he’s been shuttled around the world and held in legal limbo — even as hundreds of detainees have been transferred or released and court cases have moved forward for other suspected terrorists at Guantánamo.

After the first media reports appeared about a CIA secret prison in Thailand, Zubaydah was moved to a secret site in Poland. A year ago, the European court of human rights ruled that Poland had been complicit with the United States in subjecting Zubaydah to “inhuman and degrading treatment,” and ordered Poland to pay him reparations. After losing an appeal, Poland paid Zubaydah 100,000 Euros, which Zubaydah has said he will give to victims of torture.

Zubaydah, who was transferred from Poland to Guantánamo Bay in 2006, has not fared well with the American judicial system even as his lawyers have attempted to nudge the case forward to a conclusion.

Much of the case remains wrapped in secrecy, meaning that his lawyers are unable to discuss or elaborate upon much of their work or knowledge of the case. Glimpses into it, though, are possible through the languishing court filings. Zubaydah’s lawyers have filed two motions that raise questions about the government’s conduct in the case. In 2010, they sought an “order prohibiting the government from obstructing petitioner’s investigation.” The court hasn’t ruled, and we don’t know what might have prompted this request because the documents are sealed. Similarly, three years ago, Zubaydah’s lawyers asked for sanctions against the government because of what they said was “the improper seizure” of documents “subject to the attorney-client privilege.” Again, Judge Roberts has yet to rule.

Frustrated by the inaction in the case, Zubaydah’s lawyers filed a motion in January asking the judge to recuse himself for “nonfeasance.” It is an unusual motion. Judges are occasionally asked to recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest or bias, but not for simply failing to act. The government has filed its response, which is sealed, and the judge — perhaps not surprisingly, given the track record thus far — has not yet ruled.

“We don’t take this step lightly,” said Joseph Margulies, one of Zubaydah’s lawyers. Margulies, an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has represented several Guantánamo detainees and is a professor at Cornell University School of Law, added, “I have never seen a case in which there has been this much judicial inaction. There has to be a remedy.”

But there may not be. If Judge Roberts “ignores Abu Zubaydah’s case, there is very little we can do,” said Margulies. “The net effect is that the CIA wins.”


Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers). He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the co-director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

Necklacing Jeffrey Sterling: Racism, Lies, and Treachery at the CIA

Jeffrey Sterling vs. the CIA: An Untold Story of Race and Retribution

by Norman Solomon - Expose Facts


May 27, 2015  

A dozen years before his recent sentencing to a 42-month prison term based on a jury’s conclusion that he gave classified information to a New York Times journalist, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was in the midst of a protracted and fruitless effort to find someone in Congress willing to look into his accusations about racial discrimination at the agency.

ExposeFacts.org has obtained letters from Sterling to prominent members of Congress, beseeching them in 2003 and 2006 to hear him out about racial bias at the CIA. Sterling, who is expected to enter prison soon, provided the letters last week. They indicate that he believed the CIA was retaliating against him for daring to become the first-ever black case officer to sue the agency for racial discrimination.

As early as 2000, Sterling was reaching out toward Capitol Hill about his concerns. He received a positive response from House member Julian Dixon (D-Calif.), a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who expressed interest in pursuing the matter of racial discrimination at the CIA and contacted the agency about his case, Sterling says. But the 20-year member of Congress died from a heart attack on Dec. 8, 2000.

Sterling recalls getting special firing treatment in early 2002 from John Brennan, then a high-ranking CIA executive, now the agency’s director and a close adviser to President Obama: “He personally came down to the administrative office to tell me that I was fired. Someone told me that, ‘Well, you pulled on Superman’s cape.’”

Soon after the CIA fired him, the New York Times, People magazine and CNN reported on Sterling’s lawsuit charging the CIA with racial discrimination. But Sterling found no support from civil rights organizations.

In a letter dated Jan. 9, 2003, to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Sterling recalled joining the CIA in 1993 “to serve my country” — “but the clubby and racially exclusive atmosphere in the Agency denied me such an opportunity.”

The letter went on:

“The Agency taught me Farsi and I was trained as an expert against Iranians and terrorists. I proved my abilities as a case officer, however, when the time came for my use in the field or to move up in the ranks of officers, I was ‘too big and too black.’ That and other discriminatory treatment I received during my time at the Agency are the impetus behind my suit.”

In an interview for the new documentary “The Invisible Man: NSA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling” (which I produced on behalf of ExposeFacts), Sterling told the film’s director Judith Ehrlich that CIA leaders quickly focused on him when they learned about a leak of classified information to Times reporter James Risen in the early spring of 2003. (At the emphatic request of the Bush White House, the story was spiked by the Times leadership and did not reach the public until a book by Risen appeared in January 2006.)

“They already had the machine geared up against me,” Sterling says in the film. “The moment that they felt there was a leak, every finger pointed to Jeffrey Sterling.” He added:

“If the word ‘retaliation’ is not thought of when anyone looks at the experience that I’ve had with the agency, then I just think you’re not looking.”

His letters to members of Congress, being reported here for the first time, show that Sterling was anticipating severe retribution as early as mid-2003 — more than seven years before he was indicted on numerous felony counts, including seven under the Espionage Act, for allegedly informing Risen about the CIA’s Operation Merlin. That operation had given flawed design material for a nuclear weapon component to the Iranian government in early 2000. According to Risen’s reporting, Merlin “may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA.”

While the prosecution put on 23 witnesses from the CIA during Sterling’s trial in January this year, negative comments about his actual job performance at the CIA were rare during their testimony. An exception was David Cohen, who headed the CIA’s New York office when Sterling worked there. Cohen — a notably hostile witness who called Sterling’s job performance “extremely sub-par” — booted Sterling from the New York office in 2000.

Shortly after 9/11, Cohen left the CIA to head up a New York Police Department program that drew strong criticism and opposition from civil liberties groups. In 2002, as my colleague Marcy Wheeler wrote, Cohen “got a federal court to relax the Handschu guidelines, which had been set up in 1985 in response to NYPD’s targeting of people for their political speech. … After getting the rules relaxed, Cohen created teams of informants that infiltrated mosques and had officers catalog Muslim-owned restaurants, shops, and even schools.”

The CIA fired Sterling in January 2002 after many months of administrative limbo. His letters the following year reflected escalating disappointment and anger at an absence of interest from members of Congress as well as from civil rights organizations including the Rainbow Push Coalition and the NAACP. Sterling says that none answered his letters.

“It has … become apparent there is a general fear of taking on the CIA,” said a June 26, 2003 letter from Sterling to the then-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

“As a result, I have been engaged in a solitary and completely one-sided battle against the Agency that has left me ruined. There has been no one to stand with me either out of fear or ignorance. At every turn, the Agency has attempted to denigrate me and get rid of my case.” (Sterling’s lawsuit was to continue along a convoluted judicial path for over two more years, until a court finally dismissed it on grounds that a trial would reveal state secrets.)

Sterling says he never got a reply from Rep. Cummings.

“Congressman Cummings does not recall receiving such a letter,” his press secretary Trudy Perkins told me this week.

Sterling’s letter to Cummings came two months after the White House had succeeded at persuading the Times management not to publish Risen’s story on Operation Merlin. Meanwhile, the government was searching for someone to blame for the leak. “Now it seems I am part of a leak investigation being conducted by FBI,” Sterling’s letter said. “Apparently, information related to very sensitive operations I was instrumental in conducting was leaked to the press thereby causing the FBI to launch an investigation.”

The letter added:

“As I have absolutely nothing to hide, I agreed to meet with the FBI to show my veracity and assist in their investigation. During that meeting, it was apparent that CIA has been instrumental in pointing the finger directly at me as a source of this leak. Though the FBI Agents conducting the session emphasized that I was not the target of their investigation, it was more than obvious to me that I will be the one to eventually take the fall.”

The indictment of Jeffrey Sterling came seven and a half years later, at the end of 2010.

Testimony at Sterling’s trial showed that the FBI did little or no investigation of other individuals who had extensive knowledge of Operation Merlin. For instance, the then-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts (R-KS), shielded the committee’s chief of staff by successfully insisting that the FBI not interview him about the leak — even though, or perhaps because, investigators viewed the committee’s chief of staff as a key suspect. Trial testimony showed that the FBI had initially suspected that the leak came from the Senate committee staff.

On July 17, 2003 — four months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq — Sterling sent a letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who had recently been chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and remained its ranking member. “Given the courage you have displayed along with a few other Senators in speaking out about the current intelligence controversy related to Iraqi WMD,” Sterling wrote, “I feel that you would be an appropriate Senator to reach out to. What I have to say is substantially related to the current debate about WMD intelligence.”

At Sterling’s trial four months ago, Judge Leonie Brinkema effectively barred defense efforts to present information related to Sterling’s concerns about such matters. But those concerns are evident in Sterling’s letter to Sen. Levin, which addressed issues of CIA activities related to weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East region.

Sterling’s letter to Levin stated that “since April 2000” — just two months after Operation Merlin gave flawed nuclear weapon design information to Iran — “I have been reaching out to numerous members of Congress including both intelligence committees to bring to their attention my concerns about the CIA’s efforts directed at terrorism (focus on pre 9/11) and dangers of certain operations, particularly involving WMD in the Middle East. My efforts all fell upon deaf ears.”

The letter continued: “Finally, after close to three years of trying, I gained an audience with the Senate Intelligence Committee — more specifically, Committee staffers this past March. I told them my concerns and provided necessary details and specifics. I pointed out though I had extensive experience in Iranian operations, the WMD information had significant impact on intelligence related to Iraq.”

(Sterling had gone through legal channels to meet with Senate Intelligence Committee staffers. A dozen years later, testimony at Sterling’s trial revealed that only negligible action had resulted. A high-ranking committee staff member told of asking the CIA if its Operation Merlin was problematic, and predictably the CIA replied that the operation was just fine.)

Shortly after he met with Senate committee staff, Sterling’s letter to Sen. Levin said,

“in early April the information was evidently leaked to the press. I have no idea what the staffers did with the information, but it is difficult for me to assume that the leak did not somehow originate from the Senate Intelligence Committee. From the frantic way the CIA threatened my attorney with sanctions and threats to send their security folks to pay me a visit, it was clear that CIA automatically assumed I was the source of the leak without even confirming that I had talked with individuals cleared to hear the information. …

“I have been trying to do the right thing, and I found myself in the middle of a firestorm involving the [Bush] Administration and the highest levels of CIA and FBI. Given the current debate on intelligence and the credibility of the President, I can certainly understand the attempts to make me just ‘go away.’ Despite the great personal risk I am undertaking reaching out to you, I feel it my duty to bring to your attention information that is vital to the national security of this country. I feel this especially given the way the President and the administration has skewed the truth with regard to WMD intelligence.”

Sterling’s letter to Levin noted that “as a Senator, you should have the proper clearance for me to discuss intelligence matters with you,” and closed with a one-sentence paragraph: “I do hope to hear from you soon.”

Sterling told me that he never heard from Sen. Levin.

Likewise, Sterling says, he received no reply to the October 2, 2006 letter that he sent to Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC), who then chaired the Congressional Black Caucus. (Watt, like Levin, is no longer in Congress.) That year had begun with publication of Risen’s book “State of War,” followed by an FBI raid on the home near St. Louis that Sterling shared with his then-fiancee and current wife Holly. “Now there is a federal grand jury sitting attempting to come up with something to indict me on,” Sterling wrote. Recalling how his discrimination suit was tossed out of court on “national security” grounds, he added: “I think it is deplorable how I am denied the opportunity to utilize the courts to defend my civil rights, yet they can use the same system to most likely charge me with a supposed crime.”

Like his going through channels to file an internal complaint with the CIA and then a court lawsuit alleging racial discrimination at the agency, Sterling’s going through channels to express concerns to the Senate Intelligence Committee was to be repeatedly used against him during the January 2015 trial that resulted in a prison sentence of three and a half years. Inside the courtroom, in front of the jury, the prosecution often cited his lawsuit and his contact with Senate Intelligence Committee staffers as clear indications of bitterness, vengefulness and motive for taking the actions alleged in the indictment.

At the CIA and the Justice Department, authorities routinely depicted Jeffrey Sterling as a “disgruntled” employee. During interviews for “The Invisible Man,” he addressed how that depiction has played out for him: “I think the label ‘disgruntled’ came from the moment that I complained, in any aspect. I was not being part of the team. … People say that individuals play the race card. What about the other side of that? The race card was certainly being played with me. And you can say it was the white race card because I wasn’t white. They had all those cards. … And if there isn’t going to be a true, real, honest investigation with any veracity, the natural conclusion is going be ‘disgruntled.’ It’s a very easy label to place.”

Norman Solomon’s books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and coordinates its ExposeFacts project. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org, which has encouraged donations to the Sterling Family Fund. Disclosure: After the guilty verdict four months ago, Solomon used his frequent-flyer miles to get plane tickets for Holly and Jeffrey Sterling so they would be able to go home to St. Louis.