Wednesday, April 16, 2014

National Energy Board Decisions on Kinder Morgan Scheme Draws Fire

BC citizens unite to fight 'disturbingly dismantled' NEB Kinder Morgan process


by ForestEthics Advocacy

VANCOUVER - A group of concerned BC citizens, with the support of ForestEthics Advocacy, have retained legal counsel to explore options regarding the recently dismantled National Energy Board (NEB) consultation process for the Kinder Morgan pipeline project and its lack of review of climate and environmental impacts.

The co-plaintiffs include residents of Vancouver, the North Shore and the Fraser Valley who were denied intervenor status in the Kinder Morgan NEB hearings. Of the over 2000 applicants who sought a voice in the NEB hearings, over 40 per cent were either rejected altogether or sought intervenor status and were granted less access to the process. Four hundred and fifty-two people requested intervenor status and have been granted commenter status, while 468 people were denied altogether.

“I’m frustrated to not be able to be an intervenor on this project when clearly my family is directly affected,” said co-plaintiff John Vissers, whose property on Sumas Mountain in Abbotsford is near an existing Kinder Morgan crude oil storage facility that has had oil spills in recent years.

“One morning in 2010 we woke up to crude oil odours so heavy some neighbors went to hospital emergency wards with nausea and headaches, and the local elementary school kept children inside rather than risk exposing them to the toxic air,” Vissers explained. 

Despite his proximity to Kinder Morgan’s facilities, Vissers, who is active in the community as chair of the local Environmental Advisory Committee, was denied intervener status in the NEB hearings.

Bradley Shende, a local entrepreneur and CEO, called the limitations on the NEB process “shortsighted and misinformed,” noting that the technology sector, which now eclipses oil, gas and forestry, benefits from Vancouver’s reputation for environmental sustainability.

“The NEB process has been gutted and is ill-equipped to review the more complex long term issues behind this pipeline.”

Lynne Quarmby, a Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University, studied the NEB process and decided not to apply to be an intervenor.

“I’m concerned that my freedom of expression has been violated by the restrictions on the issues that the NEB will hear in its review,” Quarmby explained. 

Climate impacts of the pipeline will not considering in the NEB process.

“Scientific evidence indicates that there is no feasible scenario for Canada that includes both expansion of the tar sands and meeting our greenhouse gas emissions goals. We can't expand our fossil fuel infrastructure without consideration of the effects on climate change.”
"It's truly disturbing to see how the public participation at NEB pipeline hearings has been dismantled by our current Prime Minister,” said Ben West, a Campaign Director at ForestEthics Advocacy.
“We are proud to support these courageous citizens fighting for their rights. Stephen Harper is not going to get away with muzzling the people of BC to push his dangerous pipelines on a province that is opposed to his schemes.”

—30—

For more information contact:

Ben West, Tar Sands Campaign Director, ForestEthics Advocacy

John Vissers

Lynne Quarmby

Bradley Shende

Clark Admin. Commits Another Major Misstep in Trust Building for Fracking Native Lands

BC LNG Faces Growing First Nations Opposition

by Damien Gillis - Common Sense Canadian

One of the biggest myths pervading BC’s energy dialogue goes something like this: While First Nations stand united against the proposed Enbridge pipeline, they overwhelmingly embrace Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

Sure, Premier Christy Clark can tick off a list of aboriginal allies in her effort to build at least five among a dozen terminals proposed for Kitimat and Prince Rupert. Just last week, she announced with great fanfare LNG revenue sharing agreements with two coastal nations - Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams.

But a growing group of hereditary leaders, grassroots members and their allies, even some elected governments, are rising up in opposition – from the fracking fields of northeast BC that would supply the industry, to the various proposed pipeline routes across the province, to the coastal communities that would house the hulking terminals.

LNG is designed to achieve higher prices for BC’s gas in Asia, by cooling it to -160 degrees celsius, thus liquefying it so it can be loaded onto tankers bound for China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and India. But it may be investors who are getting cold feet amid the myriad challenges facing the industry.

In a little-reported but highly significant development a few weeks ago, a group of Gitxsan hereditary chiefs in the Kispiox Valley, near Hazelton, ordered TransCanada to cease and desist test drilling relating to the pipeline it plans to construct to Prince Rupert on behalf of Malaysian, Japanese and Indian LNG partners.

The issue adds more uncertainty to the province’s nascent LNG industry, on top of the unified opposition of all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation to the south; mounting concerns from Treaty 8 and Fort Nelson First Nation in the heart of northeast BC’s fracking country; and increasing scrutiny of the proposed Woodfibre LNG Plant in Squamish territory, near Vancouver.

A brief survey of the geography and indigenous territorial boundaries of BC, juxtaposed with these respective challenges, reveals a far more perilous landscape for this industry to traverse than the rosy picture being painted in Victoria and on press junkets to Asia.

Whether you’re a BC taxpayer about to commit massive public subsidies to this industry, or a board member or shareholder of a company contemplating investing the tens of billions of dollars required to build LNG infrastructure, it may be useful to know the real odds before laying a bet on BC LNG.
A tale of two nations: Hereditary vs. Elected

Understanding the discrepancy between the official story on First Nations’ support for LNG and the emerging, contrary reality requires some sense of the different – often competing – systems of governance amongst BC’s aboriginal communities.

Broadly speaking, there are two main forms of aboriginal government: elected and hereditary. The former is a product of the Indian Act – elected band councils which govern reserves created by the Crown. The latter is an ancestral system of leadership made up of houses and clans – the specific makeup varying from nation to nation.

Canada’s courts – in formative cases like Delgamuuk vs. British Columbia - have often acknowledged the jurisdiction of hereditary chiefs over their nations’ often vast, resource-rich traditional territories, where such systems still exist. Elected band councils, on the other hand, generally administer the much smaller reserves which many First Nations inhabit today – again, broadly speaking. It remains a contentious legal issue, often specific to individual nations. That said, a number of deals involving pipelines and energy terminals have been signed by elected councils, which is sewing conflict in some communities.

Gitxsan: Home of Delgamuukw


In Gitxsan territory – which covers some 53,000 square kilometers surrounding the mighty Skeena River in northwest BC – a rogue chief and head of the nation’s treaty society (another entity which can hold considerable sway in aboriginal communities), Elmer Derrick, stoked a firestorm when he signed an unauthorized deal with Enbridge in 2011. Derrick and his cohorts were promptly evicted from the treaty office and the deal was torn up - by the very hereditary chiefs whose support he had erroneously claimed.

The hereditary system is deeply rooted – and legally protected – in Gitxsan culture, as it is with their neighbours to the south, the Wet’suwet’en. These two nations together won the landmark Delgamuukw case at the Supreme Court of Canada. Some of the same 48 hereditary chiefs who initiated the case in 1984 are still alive today, standing in the path of myriad proposed pipelines.

As this federal government summary of the case explains, Delgamuukw legally entrenched aboriginal title and rights established in the country’s constituion:

Delgamuukw confirmed that common law Aboriginal title, recognized as a common law Aboriginal right prior to 1982, was “constitutionalized … in its full form” by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (par. 133)

The ruling itself noted: “[A]boriginal title confers more than the right to engage in site-specific activities which are aspects of the practices, customs and traditions of distinctive aboriginal cultures…What aboriginal title confers is the right to the land itself.”

The ripple effects of this decision continue to be felt today and weigh heavily upon the LNG issue.

Gixtsan chiefs evict TransCanada




BC map of First Nations, highlighting Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en lands

Take a look at the BC Government’s map of First Nations territories. Now, draw a line around the neighbouring Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en nations (pictured to the right). Note how they form a 500 km-long vertical wall, smack in the middle of every major pipeline route proposed across northern BC. Now you have a glimpse of the trouble awaiting these projects, were both nations to block their path.

And that is precisely what’s taking root on the ground right now, though you wouldn’t know it from Christy Clark’s endless stream of LNG photo-ops touting First Nations’ embrace of the industry.

In late March, Gitxsan Hereditary Chief Wa’a (Samson Muldoe) delivered a letter to TransCanada workers conducting test drilling in the Kispiox Valley, related to one of the two major pipelines being eyed to take fracked natural gas from northeast BC to Prince Rupert (see video below).

The letter, signed by a number of high-ranking hereditary chiefs, stated, “As rightful guardians of the territory on which this work is being carried out, this is to instruct TransCanada Pipelines and its contractors and representatives to cease and desist from this work immediately and to remove all their equipment, vehicles and personnel by the end of Tuesday, March 25th, 2014, and to not return thereafter.”

To the point of governance and jurisdiction, the letter continued:

We assert that the persons representing the Gitxsan Nation, with whom TransCanada Pipelines has been dealing to this point, do not have legitimate right to make decisions with regards to [the territory] where the work mentioned is now taking place – and that TransCanada Pipelines has thus failed to properly consult, as required pursuant to the Delgamuukw Supreme Court of Canada 1997 ruling.

The chiefs identified impacts on Skeena River salmon from pipelines, LNG terminals and potential fracking in the region as the prime motives for their action.

Petronas’ magic trick


The issue is of particular sensitivity given pipeline owner Petronas/Progress Energy’s attempt to erase the Skeena River and estuary from its project description maps (a story broken by The Common Sense Canadian last year). The uproar over the issue, combined with concern about the impacts of the proposed LNG plant on vital estuary habitat during the worst year on record for Skeena sockeye, forced a significant extension to the initial public comment period on the project.

The eviction order is a wake-up call for TransCanada and it should come as no surprise if Spectra Energy, the proponent of the other major pipeline to Prince Rupert, met with a similar notice from the chiefs.


Wet’suwet’en chiefs ban all pipelines


Meanhwhile, several hundred kilometers to the south, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs banned all pipelines – including the proposed Enbridge pipeline and two major gas conduits – through their territory last summer.

Hereditary Chief Na’moks, leader of the Tsayu Clan, explained to me on camera last October that the heads of all five Wet’suwet’en clans had voted to ban all pipelines through their 22,000 square kilometer territory – with unmistakable resolve.

Like the Gitxsan chiefs, Na’moks raised fracking – the ultimate source of this gas – as a key concern in reaching their decision:

When you’re talking about fracking and the dangers that come with it – the waste of water, the poisoning of water, the waste of land…when we allow pipelines, we have to take that responsibility that we’re supporting this industry to continue that. As Wet’suwet’en, we can’t do that.

LNG means 50,000 new holes in the ground: geoscientist


Why all the concern about fracking? Because, despite the oxymoronic “Clean LNG” label applied so liberally by the Clark government, the reality is the enormous volume of LNG exports already licenced by the National Energy Board would require the ramping up of environmentally damaging fracking to supply the feedstock – as much as a five-fold increase from present levels in the province.

According to the retired leader of the Geological Survey of Canada’s national shale gas potential review, globally renowned geoscientist David Hughes, BC’s LNG plans would require 50,000 new fracked wells by 2040 – double all the gas wells drilled in the 60-year history of the province’s natural gas industry to date. This would result in the contamination of tens of billions of litres of fresh water every year – while the LNG and fracking program could very well more than double BC’s entire carbon footprint!

So these chiefs are right to be concerned about the implications of LNG plans in terms of increased fracking and environmental impacts.

Unist’ot’en Clan holds the line


At the end of a series of forest service roads west of the sawmill town of Houston, BC, lies a solar-powered cabin on the banks of the Morice River. It may soon become ground zero in the battle over BC’s proposed pipelines.

There, members of one of the five Wet’suwet’en clans, the Unist’ot’en, have been strategically occupying their land – directly in the path of two gas pipelines and the Enbridge pipeline – for several years now. Their position is simple: No pipelines will cross their territory, period. They’ve already evicted contractors doing survey work for one of the proposed pipelines, Chevron and Apache’s Pacific Trails project.

I’ve visited the camp on two occasions – this past winter and in its early days in the summer of 2012 – for my forthcoming film Fractured Land. It’s a beehive of activity, with supporters regularly joining the camp for weeks to assist with various chores, the construction of new facilities, and gathering and preparing food.



The Unist’ot’en camp has raised close to $20,000 for bunk house renos

They work to feed themselves in a traditional manner from hunting, trapping and fishing, though one of the camp’s leaders, who goes by the traditional name of Toghestiy, acknowledged to me on a tour of their trapline this winter that with diminished wildlife following years of logging in the region, they are forced to supplement their traditional diet with other food sources.

Though the group runs the risk of being characterized as militant radicals, that would appear, on closer inspection, to be a gross misunderstanding of their motives and philosophy. “We’re not about a fight,” camp regular Mel Bazil explained on our last trip. ”I don’t wake up thinking, ‘Is the fight coming on today?’…We’re prepared to protect ourselves, but we’re more prepared to build with people a shared responsibility that we can really believe in – that will not occur from a board room or a government level.”

Many of the camp’s members are are schooled in both western universities and the traditional ways of their people, having left high-ranking jobs in aboriginal governance, social work and other fields to embrace a different way of life, in reaction to serious challenges facing their land and people.

This planet is in trouble. If we can all agree upon that and not worry about how media and governments are spinning it, we really must all, as a people, take control of ourselves.
Injunction being sought?

Born into another Wet’suwet’en clan, Toghestiy is married to Freda Huson of the Unist’ot’en, the camp’s frequent spokesperson. The pair were in Vancouver last week for an emergency press conference, after they caught wind of an alleged plan by government and industry officials to obtain an injunction against their camp.

When pressed by the Globe and Mail’s Mark Hume, Chevron representative Gillian Robinson-Riddell denied seeking an injunction. She did, however, seem to acknowledge that the company has yet to secure the social licence it requires from First Nations to commit fully to the project financially:

We’re working toward a final investment decision but there are a few factors [that have to be confirmed] yet…We are looking for further First Nation support.
Video by Eric Doherty



Camp building broad support


The Unist’ot’en are currently running a crowd funding campaign to further build up their camp. With several weeks to go, they’ve nearly met their goal of $20,000 – evidence of the broad support their cause is attracting. From the looks of it, the group isn’t going anywhere – certainly not without a Herculean effort on behalf of government, industry and law enforcement that could well backfire under public scrutiny.
Canada: The world is watching you

When I asked Ms. Huson what would happen if authorities tried to serve an injunction, she replied:

“Supporters would walk off their jobs and come join us. People from all over have said busloads would come to our camp.” Others as far away as Ontario “would close highways” in sympathy.
My message is: “Canada, the world is watching you.”

I asked Ms. Huson what she would say to the elected chiefs who have signed LNG deals. “I would ask them, ‘Have you done your homework?’” she replied. “Have you investigated how LNG plants affect the air and water; how you will affect not just your communities, but people upstream and downstream?…And what would your ancestors do?

More First Nations opposition brewing


In northeast BC, First Nations leaders have long worked to balance the natural gas industry’s job benefits to their members with its environmental impacts. But with the shift from conventional gas to riskier fracking, change is in the wind.

Now, as they peer over the horizon at a massive build-up of fracking to feed these proposed LNG terminals, they are increasingly expressing concern for the future. The Fort Nelson First Nation came out swinging in 2012 against 20 proposed long-term water licences for fracking in their territory, forcing the government to pull them off the table – with the exception of one, which is currently being litigated by the band.

In 2013, Chief Sharleen Gale and Lands Manager Lana Lowe co-penned an op-ed in The Globe and Mail, which stopped short of opposing the industry, but raised alarm bells over the implications of LNG for their territory – calling for increased environmental standards and royalty sharing to compensate their community. This sort of agitation could skew the value proposition for companies and scare off investment in LNG. If anything, their estimates of future impacts was highly conservative, in light geoscientist David Hughes’ figures and the Clark government’s bullish outlook for building LNG plants:

Should a modest number of LNG plants be built we anticipate at least 3,000 new wells will be drilled and fracked over the next decade. This will remove millions of tonnes of frack sand from our land, and trillions of litres of water from our rivers, unleashing a race for large-scale industrial frack sand mining and freshwater withdrawals…Industry has already proven unable or unwilling to stay within the generous water allocations provided to them for fracking.

Their Treaty 8 neighbours, in BC’s Peace Valley Region to the south, have also expressed growing concern about the impacts of water withdrawals for fracking on the drought-stricken territory.

Non-BC First Nations take hard line against fracking


Fracking faces increasing opposition from First Nations in other Canadian provinces too. The Council of Yukon First Nations – which represents the majority of aboriginal groups in the territory – imposed a ban of their own last year, on top of the Yukon Government’s own, albeit temporary, moratorium.

Meanwhile, in Mi’kmaq territory last year, test drilling by American fracking company SWN Resources triggered a heated clash between Elsipogtog First Nation protestors and RCMP riot police. The incident sparked a wave of protests in sympathy, as far away as Vancouver. While the issue temporarily cooled off after SWN wrapped up its testing, it is sure to flare up again if and when they return to commence fracking.

As Common Sense Canadian contributor Kevin Logan asked last year, is Elsipogtog the spark that will light the fire of fracking protest amongst other First Nations in places like BC and Alberta? Fort Nelson Chief Gale and Lands Manager Lowe suggested as much in their Globe editorial at the time:

Sadly it has taken the images from New Brunswick over the past two weeks to raise the debate around “shale gas” to the national stage. It has taken Elsipogtog people being arrested, and images of burning vehicles to illuminate how raw the tension is between the indigenous peoples, and the federal and provincial governments around unchecked resource extraction…We feel particularly close to our relatives in New Brunswick. We share a connection through our treaties and our concern for the land, water and air and the future generations in the face of shale gas.

BC LNG a risky bet


The BC Liberal government is banking on support for LNG from First Nations based on the jobs it is dangling before them – as bloated and unrealistic as these claims clearly are. Now-Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman told political pundit Vaughn Palmer in 2012, “One of the greatest outcomes for this would be that every First Nation young person coming through in the next ten years can get a trade or a job…in the LNG business.”

But in order for BC LNG’s ship to set sail, it will require hundreds of billions of dollars in private capital – not to mention huge taxpayer subsidies. And there are already myriad signs that this boat won’t float – from the government’s difficulty in developing a long-delayed export tax regime, to the lack of a single major investment commitment from any proponent in the 8 or so years the industry has been brewing.

At some point, investors will be confronted with the fact that, on top of all the other risks associated with this incredibly costly and volatile industry, they face growing opposition from First Nations.

Even in the best of circumstances, LNG is a gamble. Given the odds facing BC’s attempts to build an industry, I’d think long and hard before laying my chips on the table.


Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.
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Harper's Russia Rant and Other Instances of Canadian Complicity

Harper Rants Against Russia

by Jim Miles

It is aggravating to see our little banty Rooster chicken-hawk Harper strut his stuff while he spouts the false corporatist philosophy about freedom and democracy in the Ukraine.

What it is really about - as I have already mentioned several times - is US hegemonic control of global finances and corporate control of a country’s resources in order to harvest the wealth for the empire’s centre.

Cargill has a deal already signed that would position them to control large tracts of land for agricultural purposes - but you can be assured it is not for the benefit of the Ukrainian people.

Chevron has been awarded a large fracking contract, another step in corporate control of global energy resources and a partial means to counteract Russia’s large share of gas and oil wealth vis a vis Europe. Behind Victoria “F*ck the EU” Nuland as she spoke at the National Press Club in Washington about the Ukraine was a large Chevron logo.

Another aspect is the rejected EU trade deal, that would have placed the Ukraine under the same ‘austerity’ crap that the IMF/EU have demanded of other EU countries, once again extracting wealth, in this case primarily financial. Russia offered a trade deal that did not demand the austerity measures considered normal by the IMF and its coterie of financial predators and, immediately after that was accepted by the Ukrainian government, the US supported neonazi skinheads in Kiev made their coup - against a democratically elected government.

Yeah, yeah, sure sure it would be nice to have a referendum concerning a federated constitutional setup for the Ukraine, but that is not what the corporate west really wants. What is desired is full financial-political control of the Ukraine in order to advance the US/NATO military right up to Russia’s borders and then to start agitating inside Russia in order to tear apart that country.

As for Banty Rooster’s language about “provocateurs sent by the Putin regime” it is essentially propagandistic bullshit. To quote our little Banty strutter even further,

"When a major power acts in a way that is so clearly aggressive, militaristic, and imperialistic, this represents a significant threat to the peace and stability of the world, and it's time we all recognized the depth and the seriousness of that threat." (CBC News, April 14, 2014)

It’s about time is all I can say. Now perhaps we can look at the illegal preemptive US invasion of Iraq; its end-run support of the supposed ‘no fly zone’ in Libya that turned into a bombing campaign; similar to the illegal bombing of Yugoslavia/Serbia on the pretext of ethnic cleansing from which the US declared Kosovo’s independence without a referendum in spite of Obama’s lies to the contrary.

Of course the US has acted as much through the CIA as through direct military force, and with control of the world reserve currency has been able to bribe hundreds of politicians around the world. Most of Central and South America has suffered under brutal regimes established by US overt and covert operations over the decades from the era of Nicaragua and US support for United Fruit against the indigenous population, through the era of Pinochet in Chile, the more recent overthrow of the duly elected Aristide government in Haiti (with Canada’s assistance in his kidnapping and subsequent removal from power), and up to the ongoing interference in Venezuelan democracy.

Much of Asia has suffered similarly. Vietnam is an obvious item, again aided by Canadian complicity as we were one of three countries designated by the UN to hold a vote there on unification, which of course was conveniently delayed so the US could establish their own puppet government in the south and pre-empt a vote. Falling dominos? Communist threat? All propaganda hogwash that resulted in millions of South Asian deaths, and tens of thousands of wasted US/allies deaths.

Iran is another best example, although few are well read enough historically to know that the democratically elected Mossadegh government of Iran was overthrown by a CIA-MI6 coup that installed another US puppet, the Shah of Iran (1953). That led eventually to the Iranian revolution of 1979 because of the Shah’s elitist policies and his use of the brutal SAVAK secret police. Talk about blowback. This continues today with the sanctions illegally imposed on Iran (sanctions are an act of war) which, fortunately and ironically, have forced Iran to trade - successfully - in other currencies (the rupee for India, the yuan for China, barter with the Russians, and gold for any and all comers).

Afghanistan may have been legitimated after the fact by the UN, but its initial inception came from US desires for control of territory (Guess what - gas and Russia/China containment again) rather than a police action to capture bin Laden. The Taliban fight was an after the fact issue that allowed the US to try and gain control of the country. The Pashtun had nowhere to run to and stayed to fight and defeat the US and its allies, leaving Afghanistan essentially in ruins after three decades of fighting, with more war-lordism to come yet.

Enough said as there is plenty of material available for the intelligent inquirer to learn more about the above and many other US “aggressive, militaristic, and imperialistic” actions around the world over the past century or so.

And while it is aggravating to see Harper strut his stuff, it is equally aggravating to see that apparently everyone else is swallowing the wests corporate-militaristic line as well, both Liberals and New Democrats. I wonder whether it has to do with posturing for the Ukrainian vote, or whether it has to do with ignorance of the realities of the situation (seen by most outside of the increasingly smaller sphere of US political-financial influence), or whether some are simply afraid to speak up against the status quo that keeps them in comfort at the expense of most of the rest of the world.

Truly Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” is being applied in full force in the Ukraine, as the corporate state is lined up ready to take its treasure from yet another country devastated by the caprices of the Washington consensus (WTO/World Bank/IMF/NATO et al).

Mr. Harper, cut the bullshit. Get yourself your commander in chief uniform and then you can directly lead the Canadian military into action in the Ukraine against Putin and his provocateurs. You have bragged about the abilities of the Canadian military before, now is time to put it into action.

Your wimpy little sanctions will only speed up the demise of the current financial house of cards built on hugely over leveraged debt, backed by the US military and its revolving door of corporate interests. Quit clucking and let’s see some real action, some real leadership - enough false bravado. Then you can stand on your pedestal, hand in lapel, laurel wreath upon your head, and be proud to be a part of the corporate-military elite that rule the world.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

US Senate Report a Threat to War Criminals Blair, Straw?

UK Moves to Block US Senate Report to Protect Blair, Straw and Dearlove

by Craig Murray

From a British diplomatic source I learn that Britain has lobbied the United States against the publication of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture and extraordinary rendition.

The lobbying has been carried out “at all levels” – White House, State Department and CIA. The British have argued that at the very least the report must be emasculated before publication.

The British argument is that in a number of court cases including the Belhadj case, the British government has successfully blocked legal action by victims on the grounds that this would weaken the US/UK intelligence relationship and thus vitally damage national security, by revealing facts the American intelligence service wish hidden. [We will leave aside for the moment the utter shame of our servile, groveling judges accepting such an argument].

The British Government are now pointing out to the Americans that this argument could be fatally weakened if major detail of the full horror and scope of torture and extraordinary rendition is revealed by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The argument runs that this could in turn lead to further revelations in the courts and block the major defence against prosecutions of Blair, Straw and Dearlove, among others, potentially unleashing a transatlantic wave of judicial activism.

The unabashed collusion of two torturing security states in concealing the truth of their despicable acts – including complicity in the torture of women and minors – and blocking criminal prosecution of the guilty is a sign of how low public ethics have sunk.

Fortunately there are still a few people in the British Foreign Office disgusted enough to leak it.


Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.

Luring Putin: Ukraine's Role in America's Eurasia Conquest

Is Putin Being Lured Into a Trap?

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

“Russia … is now recognized as the center of the global ‘mutiny’ against global dictatorship of the US and EU. Its generally peaceful .. approach is in direct contrast to brutal and destabilizing methods used by the US and EU…. The world is waking up to reality that there actually is, suddenly, some strong and determined resistance to Western imperialism. After decades of darkness, hope is emerging.” – Andre Vltchek, Ukraine: Lies and Realities, CounterPunch
Russia is not responsible for the crisis in Ukraine. The US State Department engineered the fascist-backed coup that toppled Ukraine’s democratically-elected president Viktor Yanukovych and replaced him with the American puppet Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former banker. Hacked phone calls reveal the critical role that Washington played in orchestrating the putsch and selecting the coup’s leaders. Moscow was not involved in any of these activities. Vladimir Putin, whatever one may think of him, has not done anything to fuel the violence and chaos that has spread across the country.

Putin’s main interest in Ukraine is commercial. 66 percent of the natural gas that Russia exports to the EU transits Ukraine. The money that Russia makes from gas sales helps to strengthen the Russian economy and raise standards of living. It also helps to make Russian oligarchs richer, the same as it does in the West. The people in Europe like the arrangement because they are able to heat their homes and businesses market-based prices. In other words, it is a good deal for both parties, buyer and seller. This is how the free market is supposed to work. The reason it doesn’t work that way presently is because the United States threw a spanner in the gears when it deposed Yanukovych. Now no one knows when things will return to normal.

Check out this chart at Business Insider and you’ll see why Ukraine matters to Russia.

The overriding goal of US policy in Ukraine is to stop the further economic integration of Asia and Europe. That’s what the fracas is really all about. The United States wants to control the flow of energy from East to West, it wants to establish a de facto tollbooth between the continents, it wants to ensure that those deals are transacted in US dollars and recycled into US Treasuries, and it wants to situate itself between the two most prosperous markets of the next century. Anyone who has even the sketchiest knowledge of US foreign policy– particularly as it relates to Washington’s “pivot to Asia”– knows this is so. The US is determined to play a dominant role in Eurasia in the years ahead. Wreaking havoc in Ukraine is a central part of that plan.

Retired German Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jochen Scholz summed up US policy in an open letter which appeared on the Neue Rheinilche Zeitung news-site last week. Scholz said the Washington’s objective was:

 “to deny Ukraine a role as a bridge between Eurasian Union and European Union….They want to bring Ukraine under the NATO control” and sabotage the prospects for “a common economic zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok.”

Bingo. That’s US policy in a nutshell. It has nothing to do with democracy, sovereignty, or human rights. It’s about money and power. Who are the big players going to be in the world’s biggest growth center, that’s all that matters. Unfortunately for Obama and Co., the US has fallen behind Russia in acquiring the essential resources and pipeline infrastructure to succeed in such a competition. They’ve been beaten by Putin and Gazprom at every turn. While Putin has strengthened diplomatic and economic relations, expanded vital pipeline corridors and transit lines, and hurtled the many obstacles laid out for him by American-stooges in the EC; the US has dragged itself from one quagmire to the next laying entire countries to waste while achieving none of its economic objectives.

So now the US has jettisoned its business strategy altogether and moved on to Plan B, regime change. Washington couldn’t beat Putin in a fair fight, so now they’ve taken off the gloves. Isn’t that what’s really going on? Isn’t that why the US NGOs, and the Intel agencies, and the State Dept were deployed to launch their sloppily-engineered Nazi-coup that’s left the country in chaos?

Once again, Putin played no part in any of this. All he did was honor the will of the people in Crimea who voted overwhelmingly (97%) to reunite with the Russian Federation. From a purely pragmatic point of view, what other choice did they have? After all, who in their right mind would want to align themselves with the most economically mismanaged confederation of all time (The EU) while facing the real possibility that their nation could be reduced to Iraq-type rubble and destitution in a matter of years? Who wouldn’t opt-out of such an arrangement?

As we noted earlier, Putin’s main objective is to make money. In contrast, the US wants to dominate the Eurasian landmass, break Russia up into smaller, non-threatening units, and control China’s growth. That’s the basic gameplan. Also, the US does not want any competitors, which we can see from this statement by Paul Wolfowitz which evolved into the US National Defense Strategy:

“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”

This is the prevailing doctrine that Washington lives by. No rivals. No competition. We’re the boss. What we say, goes. The US is Numero Uno, le grande fromage. Who doesn’t know this already? Here’s more from Wolfowitz:

“The U.S. must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests. In non-defense areas, we must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order. We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.”

In other words, “don’t even think about getting more powerful or we’ll swat you like a fly.” That’s the message, isn’t it? The reason we draw attention to these quotes is not to pick on Wolfowitz, but to show how things haven’t changed under Obama, in fact, they’ve gotten worse. The so-called Bush Doctrine is more in effect today than ever which is why we need to be reminded of its central tenets.

  • The US military is the de facto enforcer of neoliberal capitalism or what Wolfowitz calls “the established political and economic order”. 

Right. The statement provides a blanket justification for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine. The US can do whatever it deems necessary to protect the interests of its constituents, the multi-national corporations and big finance. The US owns the world and everyone else is just a visitor. So shut the hell up, and do what you’re told. That’s the message. Here’s Wolfowitz one more time:

“We continue to recognize that collectively the conventional forces of the states formerly comprising the Soviet Union retain the most military potential in all of Eurasia; and we do not dismiss the risks to stability in Europe from a nationalist backlash in Russia or efforts to reincorporate into Russia the newly independent republics of Ukraine, Belarus, and possibly others.”

Wolfowitz figured the moment would come when the US would have to square off with Moscow in order to pursue it’s imperial strategy in Asia. Putin doesn’t seem to grasp that yet. He still clings to the misguided notion that rational people will find rational solutions to end the crisis. But he’s mistaken. Washington does not want a peaceful solution. Washington wants a confrontation. Washington wants to draw Moscow into a long-term conflict in Ukraine that will recreate Afghanistan in the 1990s. That’s the goal, to lure Putin into a military quagmire that will discredit him in the eyes of the world, isolate Russia from its allies, put strains on new alliances, undermine the Russian economy, pit Russian troops against US-backed armed mercenaries and Special Ops, destroy Russian relations with business partners in the EU, and create a justification for NATO intervention followed by the deployment of nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory. That’s the gameplan. Why doesn’t Putin see that?

Putin has agreed to a meeting this week with foreign Ministers from The United States, the European Union, and Ukraine. This is another mistake. Originally, Putin refused to acknowledge the coup-government as legitimate. Now he’s changed his mind. Now he’s agreed to meet with their representatives. This is a victory for Washington and a defeat for Russia. The Obama team will see this as a sign of weakness, which it is.
According to Al Jazeera:

“The meeting will involve US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia, the EU said on Tuesday. A spokesman for Ashton said the talks were aimed at “de-escalating” the crisis in Ukraine.”

The meeting has nothing to do with “de-escalating” the crisis.” It’s a public relations stunt. These talks have all the credibility of the Israel-Palestine peace talks, which is to say, none at all.

There’s no sense talking to people who don’t want peace. It just makes them look like they are being sincere, when they’re not. Obama and Co. don’t want peace. They want regime change. They want to weaken and dismember Russia. They want to reduce Moscow’s influence over energy-dependent states in Europe by disrupting the flow of gas through Ukraine. And they want to create a justification for carrying out their imperial agenda, which means they need to make Putin look like a dangerous aggressor. The coup government’s crackdown on ethnic Russians in Donetsk and Kharkiv could lead to a Russian intervention which would provide the justification that Washington is looking for. However painful it is for Putin to watch Russian speaking Ukrainians get beaten and perhaps killed by Nazi thugs and foreign mercenaries dressed up as Ukrainian Security Forces, he should avoid sending in the troops. It’s a trap.

At present, Ukraine’s currency plummeting, its debts and deficits are growing, and its economy is broken and near default. The IMF has promised to provide a $27 billion loan package that will be used to repay wealthy banks and bondholders in Berlin and Salzburg, but will do nothing to lift the economy out of the doldrums. None of the money from the IMF loans will be used to repay the $2.2 billion in unpaid gas bills to Gazprom or to compensate Russia for the more than $34.4 billion in subsidies Moscow has provided for its ailing neighbor in the last few years. Bondholders come first.

According to the World Socialist Web Site:

“The “tough” measures required by the IMF in return for a $27 billion loan is already being spelt out by a 120 percent hike in gas and heating prices, the cutting of social benefits, including free medical assistance, and the closure of several hospitals.”

Naturally, the IMF’s conditions will involve more privatizing of public assets and services, more pension and wage cuts, more easing (“flexibility”) of labor protections, and more cannibalizing of the economy. Ukraine’s economy will undoubtedly slip into the same severe depression experienced everywhere that these failed policies have been implemented. At the same time, voracious investment banks and private equity speculators will make out like bandits skimming billions of dollars in plunder off the distressed and vulnerable country.

The US media has made a big deal out of the fact that Putin “has threatened to turn off the gas to Ukraine”. While the allegation is certainly true, we’ve seen no similar headlines about energy producers in the US cutting off the fuel for American families who are too broke to pay their gas bill and who’ve been “left to freeze to death in the dark.” Nor have we seen similar coverage of the 7 million Americans who were booted from their homes as part of a mortgage laundering scam that was concocted by crooked Wall Street bankers. Putin is actually looking for a way to avoid turning off the gas and has asked for help on the matter from leaders of the US and EU. Here’s what he said just last week:

“Russia is prepared to participate in the effort to stabilize and restore Ukraine’s economy. However, not in a unilateral way, but on equal conditions with our European partners. It is also essential to take into account the actual investments, contributions and expenditures that Russia has shouldered by itself alone for such a long time in supporting Ukraine. As we see it, only such an approach would be fair and balanced, and only such an approach can lead to success.”

Clearly, Putin doesn’t want to continue shouldering the burden by himself, which is why he made the statement to begin with. The new coup government has repeatedly missed deadlines for payment on its gas supplies. Some believe they have deliberately stopped paying so Putin will cut off the gas thus opening himself up to harsh criticism the western media. Whether it’s true or not is impossible to know, but so far, Washington has had little success selling the idea that Putin is “the new Hitler”.

The US is still viewed as the country that poses the greatest threat to world peace, while the Russian president is widely admired as a sober and restrained leader. However, that could change quickly if Putin sends troops to defend protestors in Donetsk and Lugansk. Even so, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday that if the coup government uses force on the protestors who have seized government buildings then Russia will not participate in the upcoming four-party talks on the crisis. Lavrov added that:

 “the acute political crisis in Ukraine in general and in its south-eastern regions in particular was caused by the present Kiev authorities’ failure to take into account the legitimate needs and interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population.”

On Sunday, Ukrainian imposter-President Oleksandr Turchynov announced a plan to launch a “large-scale anti-terrorist operation” in Donetsk and Lugansk to avoid a “repeat the Crimean scenario in Ukraine’s east.” The operation will involve “military forces, anti-terrorist forces and law enforcement of Ukraine” and is scheduled to begin at 9 AM yesterday morning.

It’s clear, that Turchynov is trying to lure Russia into a fight, just as it’s clear that the president would not have approved the crackdown without a green light from Washington.

Putin will not allow Russian-speaking people to be killed in Ukraine, that’s the red line the junta government must not cross if they want to avoid a confrontation with Russia. Unfortunately, Washington wants Russia to invade so it can put its “proxy war” plan into motion.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

The Libya Model: How Not To Do Foreign Policy


Washington Fights Fire With Fire in Libya: How Not to End Violence in a War-Torn Land

by Nick Turse  - TomDispatch

Is the U.S. secretly training Libyan militiamen in the Canary Islands? And if not, are they planning to?

That’s what I asked a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). “I am surprised by your mentioning the Canary Islands,” he responded by email. “I have not heard this before, and wonder where you heard this.”

As it happens, mention of this shadowy mission on the Spanish archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa was revealed in an official briefing prepared for AFRICOM chief General David Rodriguez in the fall of 2013. In the months since, the plan may have been permanently shelved in favor of a training mission carried out entirely in Bulgaria. The document nonetheless highlights the U.S. military’s penchant for simple solutions to complex problems -- with a well-documented potential for blowback in Africa and beyond. It also raises serious questions about the recurring methods employed by the U.S. to stop the violence its actions helped spark in the first place.

Ever since the U.S. helped oust dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with air and missile strikes against regime targets and major logistical and surveillance support to coalition partners, Libya has been sliding into increasing chaos. Militias, some of them jihadist, have sprung up across the country, carving out fiefdoms while carrying out increasing numbers of assassinations and other types of attacks. The solution seized upon by the U.S. and its allies in response to the devolving situation there: introduce yet another armed group into a country already rife with them.

Tomgram: Nick Turse, The Pentagon, Libya, and Tomorrow's Blowback Today

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: A small reminder that personalized, signed copies of Astra Taylor’s cutting-edge book, The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age, first offered to the TD crowd last Thursday, are still available for a limited period. It’s a great way to get your hands on a truly smart book about the Internet world we’ve all plunged into and at the same time to support TomDispatch (which, unlike Google, Facebook, and the rest of the crew, always needs it)! Check out the details at our donation page. Tom]

Be careful what you wish for. In 2011, a Libyan rebellion began against autocrat Muammar Gaddafi. It undoubtedly reflected the wish of many Libyans for a new world of their own without his heavy hand or that of his secret police and secret prisons. Wishing to be rid of a ruler long seen as a nemesis, Washington, in tandem with its NATO allies, joined the fray at a moment when it looked like the rebels might otherwise be going down. Without consulting Congress, and so of course without a declaration of war, President Obama brought in the planes, drones, and Tomahawk missiles. Air power certainly helped turned the tide and then hasten the fall of the autocrat. Only one problem: what came next.

The aftermath proved to be a slowly devolving Libyan nightmare filled with militias of every sort, including jihadist ones. The results have been grim, including of course the death of a U.S. ambassador. In the meantime, weaponry from Gaddafi’s looted arsenals, ranging from modern assault rifles to antitank weapons and even shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, soon began spreading to Mali, elsewhere in North Africa, and later as far as Egypt and Syria, as well as into the hands of “extremists and criminals.” The result has been a regional boost for exactly the jihadist forces the U.S. opposes most fervently, while for Libyans, it was the saddest story of all. A recent poll indicates that, with a desperately weak central government and marauding militias, “more than one-third of Libyans report feeling unsafe going to the market, school, or work,” while 40% of women feel that way simply leaving their houses heading anywhere. In response, Libya has been transformed into a gun-toting society, with firearms in nearly 30% of Libyan homes (though, according to that same poll, most Libyans “would happily give up their arms in an environment of a well functioning military and police and with an improvement in general security”).

Given the unsettling results of the 2011 intervention thus far, you might imagine that Washington and the Pentagon would think twice about what in the world to do next and perhaps adjust their approach. As events of the twenty-first century have made all too clear, however, there is no genuine learning curve in Washington when it comes to such things. The only response is always, in some fashion, more of the similar, if not the same. Today, Nick Turse explores a new Pentagon scheme to train up a force whose Libyan recruits will be drawn from already existing and often notorious militias as a supposed future bulwark for the weak central government. It’s one of those plans that may sound sensible in Pentagon briefings but has “cockamamie” written all over it. It practically comes with a bound-to-fail guarantee stamped on it and an assurance that it will increase the misery of Libyans. Writ small, it seems to go to the heart of the distinctly underreported U.S. pivot to Africa which, as Turse has so vividly and repeatedly shown, is proving to be largely a machine for destabilizing the continent, stoking extremism, and creating the conditions for blowback. Of course, given the way Washington thinks, those results offer a guarantee of their own: a self-perpetuating employment program for the U.S. military into the distant future. Tom

 

Washington Fights Fire With Fire in Libya: How Not to End Violence in a War-Torn Land

by Nick Turse

 

The Rise of the Militias

After Gaddafi’s fall in 2011, a wide range of militias came to dominate Libya’s largest cities, filling a security vacuum left by the collapse of the old regime and providing a challenge to the new central government. In Benghazi alone, an array of these armed groups arose. And on September 11, 2012, that city, considered the cradle of the Libyan revolution, experienced attacks by members of the anti-Western Ansar al-Sharia, as well as other militias on the American mission and a nearby CIA facility. During those assaults, which killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, local armed groups called on for help or which might have intervened to save lives reportedly stood aside.

Over the year that followed, the influence of the militias only continued to grow nationwide, as did the chaos that accompanied them. In late 2013, following deadly attacks on civilians, some of these forces were chased from Libyan cities by protesters and armed bands, ceding power to what the New York Times called “an even more fractious collection of armed groups, including militias representing tribal and clan allegiances that tear at the tenuous [Libyan] sense of common citizenship.” With the situation deteriorating, the humanitarian group Human Rights Watch documented dozens of assassinations of judges, prosecutors, and members of the state’s already weakened security forces by unidentified assailants.

The American solution to all of this violence: more armed men.

Fighting Fire with Fire


In November 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command chief Admiral William McRaven told an audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library that the United States would aid Libya by training 5,000 to 7,000 conventional troops as well as counterterrorism forces there. “As we go forward to try and find a good way to build up the Libyan security forces so they are not run by militias, we are going to have to assume some risks,” he said.

Not long after, the Washington Post reported a request by recently ousted Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan that the U.S. train his country’s security forces. In January, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which coordinates sales and transfers of military equipment abroad, formally notified Congress of a Libyan request for a $600 million training package. Its goal: to create a 6,000 to 8,000-man “general purpose force,” or GPF.

The deal would, according to an official statement, involve “services for up to 8 years for training, facilities sustainment and improvements, personnel training and training equipment, 637 M4A4 carbines and small arms ammunition, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics support services, Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment (OCIE), and other related elements of logistical and program support.”

In addition to the GPF effort, thousands of Libya troops are to be trained by the militaries of Morocco, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Italy. The Libyan Army also hopes to graduate 10,000 new troops at home annually.

While Admiral McRaven has emphasized the importance of building up “the Libyan security forces so they are not run by militias,” many recruits for the GPF will, in fact, be drawn from these very groups. It has also been widely reported that the new force will be trained at Novo Selo, a recently refurbished facility in Bulgaria.

The U.S. has said little else of substance on the future force. “We are coordinating this training mission closely with our European partners and the U.N. Support Mission in Libya, who have also offered substantial security sector assistance to the Government of Libya,” a State Department official told TomDispatch by email. “We expect this training will begin in 2014 in Bulgaria and continue over a number of years.”

There have been no reports or confirmation of the plan to also train Libyan militiamen at a facility in Spain’s Canary Islands mentioned along with Novo Selo in that Fall 2013 briefing document prepared for AFRICOM chief Rodriguez, which was obtained by TomDispatch.

Click here to see a larger version

Official briefing slide mentioning a U.S. military training effort in the Canary Islands.

Officials at the State Department say that they know nothing about this part of the program. “I'm still looking into this, but my colleagues are not familiar with a Canary Islands component to this issue,” I was told by a State Department press officer. AFRICOM spokesman Benjamin Benson said much the same. “[W]e have no information regarding training of Libyan troops to be provided in the Canary Islands,” he emailed me. After I sent him the briefing slide that mentioned the mission, however, he had a different response. The Canary Islands training mission was, he wrote, part of an “initial concept” never actually shared with General Rodriguez, but instead “briefed to a few senior leaders in the Pentagon.”

“The information has been changed, numerous times, since the slide was drafted, and is expected to change further before any training commences,” he added, and warned me against relying on it. He did not, however, rule out the possibility that further changes might revive the Canary Islands option and demurred from answering further questions on the subject. A separate U.S. Army Africa document does mention that “recon” of a second training site was slated to begin last December.

Neither the State Department nor AFRICOM explained why plans to conduct training in the Canary Islands were shelved or when that decision was made or by whom. Benson also failed to facilitate interviews with personnel involved in the Libyan GPF training effort or with top AFRICOM commanders. “Given the continuing developing nature of this effort, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time, and we have not been giving interviews on the topic,” he told me. Multiple requests to the Libyan government for information on the locations of training sites also went unanswered.

Training Day


Wherever the training takes place, the U.S. has developed a four-phase process to “build a complete Libya security sector.” The Army’s 1st Infantry Division will serve as the “mission command element for the Libyan GPF training effort” as part of a State Department-led collaboration with the Department of Defense, according to official documents obtained by TomDispatch.

Agreements with partner nations are to be finalized and Libyans selected for leadership positions as part of an initial stage of the process. Then the U.S. military will begin training not only the GPF troops, but a border security force and specialized counter-terror troops. (Recently, AFRICOM Commander David Rodriguez told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the U.S. was also helping to build up what he termed Libyan “Special Operations Forces.”) A third phase of the program will involve developing the capacities of the Libyan ministries of justice, defense, and the interior, and strengthening Libya’s homegrown security training apparatus, before pulling back during a fourth phase that will focus on monitoring and sustaining the forces the U.S. and its allies have trained.

Click here to see a larger version

U.S. Army Africa document details four-phase plan for U.S. training of Libyan forces.

Despite reports that training at Novo Selo will begin this spring, a State Department official told TomDispatch that detailed plans are still being finalized. After inspecting a briefing slide titled “Libya Security Sector Phasing,” AFRICOM’S Benson told me, “I do not see us in any phase as indicated on the slide… the planning and coordination is still ongoing.” Since then, Lolita Baldor of the Associated Press reported that, according to an unnamed Army official, a small team of U.S. soldiers has now headed for Libya to make preparations for the Bulgarian portion of the training.

A timeline produced by U.S. Army Africa as part of a December 2013 briefing indicates that the Novo Selo site would be ready for trainers sometime last month. After communications systems and security sensors are set up, that training range will be ready to accept its first Libyan recruits. The timeline suggests that this could occur by early May.

While this may have been an early version of the schedule, there’s little doubt the program will begin soon. Baldor notes that formal Libyan approval for the training may come this month, although AFRICOM Commander David Rodriguez pointed out at a Pentagon press briefing that the Libyan government still has to ante up the funds for the program, and a Libyan official confirmed to TomDispatch that the training had yet to commence.

Click here to see a larger version

U.S. Army Africa timeline of U.S. training of Libyan "General Purpose Force”.

Experts have, however, already expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the program. In late 2013, for instance, Benjamin Nickels, the academic chair for transnational threats and counterterrorism at the Department of Defense’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies, raised a number of problematic issues. These included the challenge of screening and vetting applicants from existing Libyan militias, the difficulty of incorporating various regional and tribal groups into such a force without politicizing the trainee pool; and the daunting task of then devising a way to integrate the GPF into Libya’s existing military in a situation already verging on the chaotic.

“For all their seriousness,” wrote Nickels, “these implementation difficulties pale in comparison to more serious pitfalls haunting the GPF at a conceptual level. So far, plans for the GPF appear virtually unrelated to projects of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) and security sector reform (SSR) that are vital to Libya’s future.”

Berny Sebe, an expert on North and West Africa at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, noted that, while incorporating militiamen into a “mainstream security system” could help diminish the power of existing militias, it posed serious dangers as well. “The drawback is, of course, that it can infiltrate factious elements into the very heart of the Libyan state apparatus, which could further undermine its power,” he told TomDispatch by email. “The use of force is unavoidable to enforce the rule of law, which is regularly under threat in Libya. However, all efforts placed in the development of a security force should go hand in hand with a clear political vision. Failure to do so might solve the problem temporarily, but will not bring long-term peace and stability.”

In November 2013, Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and an expert on Libya, pointed out that the project seemed reasonable in the abstract, but that reality might be another matter entirely: “[T]he force’s composition, the details of its training, the extent to which Libyan civilians will oversee it, and its ability to deal with the range of threats that the country faces are all unclear.” He suggested that an underreported 2013 mission to train one Libyan unit that ended in abject failure should be viewed as a cautionary tale.

Last summer, a small contingent of U.S. Special Operations Forces set up a training camp outside of Libya’s capital, Tripoli, for an elite 100-man Libyan counter-terror force whose recruits were personally chosen by former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. While the Americans were holed up in their nighttime safe house, unidentified militia or “terrorist” forces twice raided the camp, guarded by the Libyan military, and looted large quantities of high-tech American equipment. Their haul included hundreds of weapons, Glock pistols and M4 rifles among them, as well as night-vision devices and specialized lasers that can only be seen with such equipment. As a result, the training effort was shut down and the abandoned camp was reportedly taken over by a militia.

This represented only the latest in a series of troubled U.S. assistance and training efforts in the Greater Middle East and Africa. These include scandal-plagued endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a program that produced an officer who led the coup that overthrew Mali’s elected government, and an eight-month training effort in the Democratic Republic of Congo by U.S. Special Operations forces that yielded an elite commando battalion that took part in mass rapes and other atrocities, according to a United Nations report. And these are just the tip of the iceberg among many other sordid examples from around the world.

The Answer?


The U.S. may never train a single Libyan militiaman in the Canary Islands, but the plan to create yet one more armed group to inject into Libya’s already fractious sea of competing militias is going forward -- and is fraught with peril.

For more than half a year, a militia controlled the three largest ports in Libya. Other militiamen have killed unarmed protesters. Some have emptied whole towns of their residents. Others work with criminal gangs, smuggling drugs, carrying out kidnappings for ransom, and engaging in human trafficking. Still others have carried out arbitrary arrests, conducted torture, and been responsible for deaths in detention. Armed men have also murdered foreigners, targeted Christian migrants, and fought pro-government forces. Many have attacked other nascent state institutions. Last month, for instance, militiamen stormed the country's national assembly, forcing its relocation to a hotel. (That assault was apparently triggered by a separate unidentified group, which attacked an anti-parliament sit-in, kidnapping some of the protesters.)

Some militias have quasi-official status or are beholden to individual parliamentarians. Others are paid by and support the rickety Libyan government. That government is also reportedly engaging in widespread abuses, including detentions without due process and prosecutions to stifle free speech, while failing to repeal Gaddafi-era laws that, as Human Rights Watch has noted, “prescribe corporal punishment, including lashing for extramarital intercourse and slander, and amputation of limbs.”

Most experts agree that Libya needs assistance in strengthening its central government and the rule of law. “Unless the international community focuses on the need for urgent assistance to the justice and security systems, Libya risks the collapse of its already weak state institutions and further deterioration of human rights in the country,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said recently. How to go about this remains, however, at best unclear.

“Our Defense Department colleagues plan to train 5,000 to 8,000 general purpose forces,” Anne Patterson, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year, noting that the U.S. would “conduct an unprecedented vetting and screening of trainees that participate in the program.” But Admiral William McRaven, her "Defense Department colleague," has already admitted that some of the troops to be trained will likely not have “the most clean record.”

In the wake of failed full-scale conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has embraced a light-footprint model of warfare, emphasizing drone technology, Special Operations forces, and above all the training of proxy troops to fight battles for America’s national security interests from Mali to Syria -- and soon enough, Libya as well.

There are, of course, no easy answers. As Berny Sebe notes, the United States “is among the few countries in the world which have the resources necessary to undertake such a gigantic task as training the new security force of a country on the brink of civil war like Libya.” Yet the U.S. has repeatedly suffered from poor intelligence, an inability to deal effectively with the local and regional dynamics involved in operations in the Middle East and North Africa, and massive doses of wishful thinking and poor planning. “It is indeed a dangerous decision,” Sebe observes, “which may add further confusion to an already volatile situation.”

A failure to imagine the consequences of the last major U.S. intervention in Libya has, perhaps irreparably, fractured the country and sent it into a spiral of violence leading to the deaths of Americans, among others, while helping to destabilize neighboring nations, enhance the reach of local terror groups, and aid in the proliferation of weapons that have fueled existing regional conflicts. Even Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Amanda Dory admitted at a recent Pentagon press briefing that the fallout from ousting Gaddafi has been “worse than would have been anticipated at the time.” Perhaps it should be sobering as well that the initial smaller scale effort to help strengthen Libyan security forces was an abject failure that ended up enhancing, not diminishing, the power of the militias.

There may be no nation that can get things entirely right when it comes to Libya but one nation has shown an unnerving ability to get things wrong. Whether outside of Tripoli, in Bulgaria, the Canary Islands, or elsewhere, should that country really be the one in charge of the delicate process of building a cohesive security force to combat violent, fractious armed groups? Should it really be creating a separate force, trained far from home by foreigners, and drawn from the very militias that have destabilized Libya in the first place?

Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch and a fellow at the Nation Institute. A 2014 Izzy Award winner, his pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Nation, at the BBC, and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author most recently of the New York Times bestseller Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (now in paperback).

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook and Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Ann Jones’s They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story.

Copyright 2014 Nick Turse

Monday, April 14, 2014

Passing: Bartcop - Death of a Liberal Blogger

“Bart Is Dead: Long Live The Liberal Bloggers”

by Mike Palecek

He asked, “What makes a man a writer?”

“Well,”
I said, “it’s simple. “You either get it down on paper, or jump off a bridge.”  ― Charles Bukowski

You never know what you’ll do until you do what you do when it’s cold.

So I’m sitting in the parking lot in the afternoon.

The Skyline Bowl parking lot.

I was going to kill myself, but then I didn’t.

And so now I’ve got some extra time on my hands.

Like when The Cold War ended and you’re thinking, oops, I should have studied … something.

Parking lots are peaceful places sometimes, if it’s warm, or you have enough gas to keep the car running, or the FedEx guy doesn’t pull up next to you on his break and wake you up. That happened to me once. True story.

Sometimes I sleep in parking lots, in my car, put the seat way back and fuhgeddaboutit, as they say in western Nebraska.

This particular day I was reading “Lies My Teacher Told Me”, and two books containing the newspaper columns of Jimmy Breslin and Mike Royko.

This parking lot is across from Anytime Fitness, where I go ride a bike that goes nowhere. Also across Highway 53 is the federal prison and the Air Force Base.

Every afternoon fighter jets and bombers take off and circle around on training runs I guess, looking for Alvin Queda and The Taliban and Mother Goose, costing ten thousand dollars a minute and ensuring that poor people in Duluth will need nine jobs to pay for surviving one more day. Protecting us all from the terror of not knowing what to do with our time.

There was an anti-war prisoner from my home state of Nebraska there at the Duluth federal prison camp already twice since we have lived here and I didn’t go to see him either time.

People do not read.

Well, back up. It was a long winter. Record cold and snow going back to the time of the millionaires and sea captains in Duluth.

This is Duluth I’m talking about here.

And so because it is cold and people do not read and I look out my window and there are no Bigfoots bringing us house-warming gifts and we moved to these goddamn woods to see Bigfoot, I figure what’s the use.

But I held on by the neck of a hundred quart bottles and now it’s Opening Day and sunshine in Minneapolis and also here.

People do not read and I have been trying for twenty years and more to learn how to write. I am a guy who just learned a little bit about how to be a blacksmith and there goes a Model A fishtailing down the road throwing up dust.

But for some reason last week it popped into my head to start a blog and now I’m good.

It’s not a new thing, I understand. Ninety million people here and billions elsewhere have blogs, so it is not an original idea that occurred to me in the snow.

Does anyone watch TV anymore? I’m taking a poll. They do that a lot on the internet, in the social media. It’s a way to drive traffic to your blog. So, do you watch TV news? Really? Why? No, do not let me influence the poll. The poll must be pure. You read newspapers? You do?

Really?

This past week I have been trying to figure out WordPress and I have been trying to decipher how to get people to read your blog, to find your blog in the fog of nine billion blogs. I have been tweeting, scooping it, redditing it, showing my pinterest, do-splashing, buzzing, blaring, tooting, sugaring, virally contenting, in your facebooking, googling, linking in and stumbling along.

Blogging is rough sledding. You must use all your fingers, not only your thumbs. And sometimes people are not nice.

But. Aha.

People do read. They read all freaking day.

I can’t believe people who do this have time for anything else. It would be like you spend your whole day with your nose shoved up against your phone screen and your eyes wide as giant goldfish with a brain the size of the dot on the i’s in idiot and each time around the tank is a brand new adventure.

There are hours that pass.

So, here I am.

And I am sitting in the parking lot.

I am not sleeping.

That used to be my big thing during my days off in Iowa, fill my arms with books I wanted to read and notebooks for writing, go to Sioux Center and the parking lot across from the college, find an empty corner and hours would pass. And when I had read and written and taken a nap I would go to the college and walk the treadmill and go home to drink my quart of beer and have my day off.

I am not sleeping.

I am reading a little and itching to get back home to my computer screen so I can make a difference in the world, with fighter jets and bombers over my head and bowler’s pickup trucks now warming up behind me, the deer in the ditches melting, and the bicycle that will not move within handy reach.

I am still here.

But Bartcop died.

Last week it popped into my head to check in to see how he was doing and found that he died on March 5th.

Last week on the radio show Chuck Gregory remarked about how we had never met, but that we are friends and have known each other for over ten years. That’s true.

I guess I know quite a few people that way.

That’s the way I knew Bartcop, Terry Coppage, from Oklahoma.

He had a website, a blog, that he worked every day since 1996.

That’s a long time. In the world of big-time technology that is in the times of the Duluth millionaires and sea monsters and long wooden bar counters and singing until morning on the waterfront.

He called himself a liberal blogger, loved Bill Clinton and the Democrats.

He promoted some of my work, let me have my own column for a while, called “Is This Heaven? The View From Iowa,” that featured a photo of a pig.

I have found lots of liberal bloggers on the internet talking about Bartcop after his death.

I am not really sure what a liberal blogger is.

William Rivers Pitt credits him for his coming of age, and for the rise of liberal blogging, raging against Rush and Republicans, later Bush being handed the White House, and Iraq, and the mainstream media.

Well, now there is Truthout and Buzzflash, Op-Ed News, and Smirking Chimp, Salon, and a hundred and more such sites.

And before that there were The Nation, The Progressive and a hundred and more alternative news weeklies across the country.

The list goes on about as long as you have time for: Democracy Now, Bill Moyers, National Public Radio, Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, and one is tempted to put in blah-blah-blah’s somewhere, but somehow one resists.

Also, Don Harkins died, a few years ago.

He was enthusiastic. That’s the first thing.

And he was the editor of The Idaho Observer. I met him on the ill-fated second wing of a disastrous around the country book tour a few years ago.

I wrote a book to stop Bush and the war, sent a crossed-out tax form with a note telling them why, and asked my wife for a lot of money to take a driving book tour around the country, east and west, to produce a buzz and stop Bush.

I had an actual reading in New York City, but is it a reading if no one is there?

And in Boston as I dragged by bags and my tired self in the door of the anarchist book shop the guy behind the counter said, “Oh, is that today?”

That’s kind of how it went times a hundred from Omaha to Boston to Dallas to San Francisco to Seattle to Fort Collins back to Iowa.

But in northern Idaho, Don Harkins greeted me with a smile and ENTHUSIASM.

He’s dead.

And Joe Bageant is dead. The author of “Deer Hunting With Jesus.”

I “knew” him, too. He responded to my emails and I wrote back. We wrote back and forth once in a while. That’s enough. We were friends.

Don Harkins was not a liberal, neither was Joe. But even though they might not have been Democrat-huggers there were things they understood that a “liberal” would have to be hit in the nose with before they saw it.

Labels and categories are sometimes not useful.

Recently I asked some of the liberal pundits perhaps spawned by Terry Coppage of Oklahoma — why they do not talk about the truth about 9/11 and Sandy Hook and the Boston bombings, that they must know in their hearts because they are smart liberals.

I used to be a liberal. Not the smart variety. The blood on my shirt pocket variety.

I don’t feel like one now. I just feel like me.

I ran for office as a Democrat (65,000 votes in 2000) and went to prison for protesting. I was in the seminary, met Fr. Dan Berrigan, shook Dorothy Day’s hand, also Phil Berrigan.

I know who Carl Kabat is and Darrell Rupiper, Frank Cordaro. I know who Helen Woodson is and have seen vegetarian lasagna.

But, still.

I don’t quite get it.

Why liberals don’t rage against the hoaxes of 9/11 and these others.

Here I go again.

The conspiracies, the hoaxes of Boston, Sandy Hook, Oklahoma City … the litany is long and can go on for as long as you have time.

And here is the crux, the root, the core — the headquarters, the reason. The bunker to bomb.

Go here to find out finally, really, what our country is about.

“Turn Here For Revolution. (No, really).”

And yet we do not go there.

Stewart, Maddow, Goodman rage against the conspiracy nuts, the kooks. They don’t wanna hear about it. Get outa here!

And I wonder why?

So I sent a note to Chris Hedges, Mark Karlin, David Swanson, Ruth Conniff and asked them why.

I did not hear back.

I did hear back from Jeff Tiedrich of Smirking Chimp, a liberal blog of long standing, who threatened to turn me into Gmail. That’s kind of how it goes. You write, you send it out, somebody complains, you go sit in the parking lot and enjoy the sun in your eyes.

… I am sitting here watching bombers and snow melting, reading Breslin and Royko and James Louwen.

James Louwen has a book called “Lies My Teacher Told Me.” He is a big deal around the country. He also thinks the 9/11 thing was pretty much the way Bush and Cheney said it was. He does not want to join this new book project I’m in to try to tell the truth about 9/11 and other things. He said so. Nope, you can’t force a guy, but you can wonder about things. In the parking lot this is still America.

Time Magazine recently talks about the view from the new One World Trade Center and how it took so many thousands of workers to build over the course of eight years, about how it is the mark of a strong nation, resurgence, all that.

And it’s all based in lies. It’s comic book material, which is all the rage.

There were no attacks by Muslims or Osama bin Laden.

The footings for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and drones are poured in sand.

And yet this young woman editor writes in the first pages about all this in big-time Time Magazine with a straight face as if it actually happened.

And the liberal bloggers and talkers also keep writing and talking as if it all actually happened.

I don’t understand.

I have no idea who they are or what they are doing. I’m certain that they know, but me I have no idea.

Don’t you ever just want to quit like I did this past winter?

Let me save you the trouble of thinking about it.

You can’t really just quit. You sit down and say, that’s it, I’m done.

And then two minutes later you are hungry or you have to pee and you get up. And then there’s something else you want, and it goes on from there.

And you will get up and look at the snow and the paucity of Bigfoots and you will remark to yourself that why don’t I start a blog.

Because writing matters. Reading matters.

Not being idiots matters.

If the American people knew the truth about George and George Bush and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama they would not be able to sit in the stands of the ballgames eating popcorn without handcuffs.

The Revolution begins with knowing, with reading perhaps something some live guy dreamed up flat on his back in a Honda Civic in the parking lot with the window cracked and a FedEx truck sitting two inches away playing Toby Keith.

I miss Bartcop, who I never actually met, also Joe Bageant, and Don Harkins.

They were writers.

They cared, they tried.

They kept going until it killed them.

— Mike Palecek