Saturday, September 27, 2014

Syria: Obama Jones and the Latest Crusade

Syria, the Latest Crusade

by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch

The West is striking again; it is stabbing the very center, the heart of the Arab World.

This time it is targeting the group – ISIS – which it created itself, and which it had been arming, feeding and pampering until just very recently.

Airplanes and missiles are flying, and bombs are falling. The war has begun.

But is it really a war, or just a brutal game, a gigantic PlayStation operated by thousands of hooked-up maniacs in the Pentagon and all over Washington, Brussels and some servile capitals in the Middle East?

A war is, after all, when two sides are facing each other, when two sides fight, when two sides are risking their lives.

In this surreal and post-modern ‘war’, the only victims will be the people of the Middle East, most likely civilians. Their lives will be risked by those who are sitting, in safety, on their destroyers and in control rooms, hundreds and thousands of miles away, drinking coffee and cracking jokes.

The Übermenschen of the West will not descend from the sky, in order to fight, – man to man – in order to minimize the casualties of a peaceful population. The killing will be done by Tomahawks and F22’s (at least those have real pilots), and by drones.

This is actually not a war but a massacre, a mass murder

Another massacre. This one may last very long and take millions of human lives in the most brutal circumstances.

Western leaders are ready… to sacrifice the lives of the “others”; the regime is ready. You can read it on Obama’s face, and on the face of Cameron.

The Empire began attacks against its own creation – the Islamic State or ISIS as it is known here in the Middle East. Countless ISIS cadres were armed and trained in the NATO-run refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan, right on the Syrian border. And the main purpose of ISIS was to destabilize and destroy Bashar al-Assad’s Government in Damascus.

ISIS did not fall from the sky. Nor is it some sort of spontaneous movement. Like the Mujahedeen forces in Afghanistan, which fought both, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) and later the Soviet Union, ISIS were paid, armed and trained by the United States and its allies.

It is a common tactic used by the West, to identify and groom the most radical forms of Islam, including Wahhabism, which is now choking Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region.

I was told in Istanbul by a leading Turkish documentary filmmaker from Ulusal TV, Serkan Koc, who has produced several ground-breaking works on the subject of the ‘Syrian opposition’:

“Of course you do realize that those people are not really ‘Syrian opposition’. They are modern-day legionnaires collected from various Arab countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, paid by western imperialist powers. Some are members of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Most are militant Sunni Muslims. One could describe them as rogue elements hired to fight the Assad government.”

I have covered those border camps for more than two years, often risking my life, occasionally being harassed and detained by Turkish intelligence.

In 2012 and 2013, I visited the areas around the Turkish city of Hatay, and camps like Apaydin, where various ISIS fighters were being trained by Western and Turkish intelligence. I investigated the situation at the border and also around Incirlik air-force base near Adana, which both the RAF and USAF use. And I worked in Jordan, at the camps that are openly utilized for the training of the ‘Syrian opposition’, a fact that is not concealed, even by the regional press.

I thought that my reports, and the reports by Serkan Koc, Huseyin Guler and others, dispersed the myth of a ‘spontaneous uprising against the President al-Assad’.

But obviously our efforts could not match the tremendous propaganda and brainwashing campaign unleashed by Western corporate media.

In a totally irrational, logically bizarre pirouette, the US accused Syria of not destroying Islamic State, that unsavory offspring of Western imperialist policy.

As reported by Reuters:

“In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power wrote, “The Syrian regime has shown that it cannot and will not confront these safe-havens effectively itself.”

The strikes were needed to eliminate a threat to Iraq, the United States and its allies, she wrote, citing Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which covers an individual or collective right to self-defense against armed attack.”

To interpret what was written above: ‘Bashar al-Assad, we helped to create ISIS in order to overthrow you… Now we hold you responsible for not managing to destroy our offspring… Therefore, we are going to bomb your country, kill thousands of your people, and possibly overthrow you in the process.’

The Western public is fully ignorant; it is indoctrinated and brainwashed, otherwise hundreds of millions of European and North American citizens would be now rolling around all over the streets, many dying of laughter.

The statements made by Obama and Power are so absurd and philosophically foul, that they would make even Orwell and Huxley blush in embarrassment. Even the most brilliant of novelists could not invent such twists of logic!

The Middle East is well informed, it is aware of the game, but people in so many countries here are too scared to protest, or even to speak up. The West overthrew progressive and truly patriotic governments, and upheld the most oppressive tyrannies.

There is some commonsense left, of course. In Lebanon, Hezbollah snapped back, most likely expressing the feelings of a great number of the people living in the Middle East. In its televised address, the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, clearly stated his position:

“The U.S. isn’t qualified morally to lead an anti-terrorist coalition. In our view, America is the mother of terrorism and the cause of terrorism in the world… Everyone knows that Hezbollah is against ISIS and Takfiri groups and is fighting them… However, that doesn’t mean we support U.S military intervention in the region. Hezbollah is against any US-led coalition that uses terrorism as an excuse for a military intervention in Syria and Iraq.”

And one could add: and most likely, one day, in Iran…

It is clear that in this region; almost nobody is fooled by empty clichés and the twisting of language. ISIS is a multi-purpose, flexible stick in the hands of the West. It is also ‘helpful’ when it operates on its own, when it ‘gets out of control’. It served as a weapon against Mr. al-Assad and now it is turning into a perfect scarecrow, a justification for the direct invasion of Syria, for redeployment, or more precisely for an increase of the Western military might in the region, for the creation of a pro-Western puppet Kurdish state, and quite likely, for deposing the government in Damascus.

The trigger-happy Turkish government is already making noises, promising to get involved, militarily, but only if the goal is defined concretely and openly: to overthrow Mr. al-Assad.

To overthrow the government in Damascus is, of course, the main goal of Washington, as well, but Mr. Obama is not as honest and open as his counterpart and ally in Ankara.


All this can be, of course, only the beginning of something truly horrendous

One should never forget that the Empire and its Saudi, Qatari and Israeli allies are always ‘thinking big’.

There is always more to destabilize, to ruin, and to conquer – there is Iran on the horizon, and much more.

To them – to the Empire – places like Syria or Iran do not constitute some of the oldest and greatest cultures on Earth, inhabited by gentle and peaceful people. To the Empire, these places are only booty, consisting of natural resources and strategic locations.

People mean nothing. If one million die, if two or three millions vanish, it makes absolutely no difference. Cultures mean nothing, as they are not Western, as they are not Christian ones, as they are not ‘white’.

Obama and Cameron are building on that grand old tradition of the deranged British colonial empire. It was, after all, only 80 years ago when then British Prime Minister Lloyd George commented on Britain’s success in undermining a disarmament conference— which would have barred the use of air-power against civilians, particularly those in the Middle East. He pointed out that it was a success. His secretary and second wife Frances wrote:

“At Geneva, other countries would have agreed not to use aeroplanes for bombing purposes, but we insisted on reserving the right, as D[avid] puts it, to bomb niggers! Whereupon the whole thing fell through, & we add 5 million to our air armaments expenditure…”

Decades later, the Empire retains this and many other similar ‘rights’.


What is left, how much is left, of the Arab world?

And I don’t mean those few flashy airports, complemented by ‘6-star hotels’, shopping malls for the elites, and European limousines. I don’t only mean those oil wells and artificial islands with palm-tree-shaped villas.

This part of the world used to be a beacon, one of the lighthouses of humanity. This is where the first universities were erected, the first public hospitals, and this is where the very ideas of ‘social’, of ‘egalitarian’ and of ‘compassionate’ values, came to life.

The Arab world and Persia were where the greatest doctors, architects, astronomers, scientists and poets used to reside and create.

This is where many great men like the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria – Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn –defended the world against those brutal European hordes, invading in the name of the cross, while being obsessed with looting and rape.

After centuries of colonial wars, Western cruelty and militarism finally won. They conquered Arabia, as well as the rest of the planet.

The Arab world was reduced to subservient kingdoms and states, ruled by a few outrageously rich and ruthless families.

In Egypt and Iran, the heroic attempts to create egalitarian and socialist societies in the post-WWII era, were brutally crushed by the Western powers. Nihilism, cynicism, corruption and militarism were introduced and upheld.

In modern days, even those relatively socially-oriented states like Iraq and Libya, were annihilated, at the cost of hundreds of thousands, even millions of human lives. Oil had to belong to the international corporations, not to the state, not to the people.

Now what is here, are a few countries in total ruins, including Iraq, Libya and Syria. There are several staunch allies of the West, states like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, governed by secretive and oppressive monarchies that are spreading the most tyrannical form of Islam all over the region, and as far away as Southeast Asia, while enjoying the full support of the West, as well as impunity.

What else can be seen in this devastated part of the world? Egypt where pro-Western elites and the military managed to choke all hopes of what used to be called the ‘Arab Spring’, that strife for social justice and true freedom from foreign diktats.

There is Bahrain, where a Shia majority is immobilized by fear, Yemen once socialist but now repressive, ‘extremist’ and miserable. In places like UAE there are pockets of luxury for the rich and hell on earth plus humiliation for the migrant workers who built the place but are left with almost no rights.

Palestine is bleeding from its wounds, as it has been, for countless decades. Israel and its backers are blocking all solutions for full Palestinian independence. Almost the entire world votes in support of Palestinian state, almost the entire world condemns Israel. But it clearly shows, who are in charge of the planet and the region: the Empire determinedly vetoes all resolutions and blocks anything that could lead to justice for the Palestinian people.

Jordan has become something of a huge refugee camp for Palestinians, Syrians and Iraqis, as well as the service station for Western interests, from the military ones to those of the ‘development agencies’.

Lebanon, once the jewel of the region, is suffering from spillovers of various conflicts, as well as from Israeli incursions. It has basically no functioning government, and the socially-oriented and anti-Western Hezbollah has been placed on the “terrorist list” by the US and that of several European countries. This is of course consistent with the twisted logic of the Western regime: caring for the welfare of one’s people is seen as the worst imaginable crime, punishable by death.


This is all consistent with the legacy of colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism

The Empire has entered its final gaga stage. In the youngest and the mightiest part of it – a nation that came to life through people like Jefferson and Lincoln (not saints, but at least giants), has now ended up by being controlled by the souk, by the market vendors. And it shows.

If one were detached, it all seems so comical, so grotesque.

It is also tremendously vulgar.

One feels like laughing, like cracking sarcastic jokes.

But then, laughter freezes in our thoughts. It does, when we suddenly realize that all this is actually for real! Missiles are flying towards Syria, and so are the bombers.

And children are howling in horror. And bodies are torn to pieces. Millions of refugees are on the move. Millions of men, women and children have lost their homes. Women are being raped. Entire communities have ceased to exist.

There used to be countries like Iraq, like Libya, like Syria. True, Iraq was shaped by British colonialism, and so was Kuwait, but it was there for decades. It is no more. Now Western imperialism is reshaping the region again, at a horrendous cost to the local population.

The Empire is ‘experimenting’. It uses ‘trial and error’ tactics. ‘We created the Syrian opposition and now let us see what will happen. The ‘opposition’ mutates into a militant regional force, which dares to cross our interests? Let’s bomb it and let’s also arm the Kurds so they can form their own, pro-Western state, in the middle of the region. Let’s see how it goes… Once we are on the move, we can also, perhaps, overthrow al-Assad… And who knows, maybe we can also find a reason to invade Iran.’

The Empire is using people as if they were guinea pigs. There is no consideration for the well being of the Arab population, there is no respect for human lives. All basic human rights chapters are being violated; most of the Geneva Convention clauses are spat on.

The world is so conditioned, so shackled, that this latest attack is being accepted without any major protests or debates.

If questions are being asked, publicly, then there are no essential questions. Entire debate is twisted. It is presumed that the West is doing right thing, that it is defending the world against terrorism.

It is also accepted by a great majority of people and countries, that the Empire enjoys absolute impunity, that it is above the law, that there is no international body that can challenge it, or to make it reverse its devastating and destructive course.

The West has finally reached the highest level of ‘freedom’. It is a freedom for itself – a terrible freedom to play with the world as if it were a ball, a cheap and insignificant thing.


As al-Qaeda is derived from the US-backed Mujahedin fighters in Afghanistan, so ISIS was a part of the anti-Assad ‘opposition’ supported by the West and its regional allies. The West played masterfully on local intolerances: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is generally secular, but belongs to the Alawite sect, which is considered to be heretical in some Sunni Muslim circles, especially in the most radical ones. That helped to mobilize and recruit extreme religious cadres. And religious cadres historically, are very determined fighters.

The Empire groomed both al-Qaeda (or more precisely, its predecessors) and ISIS as true ‘multi-purpose’ groups. One helped to destroy the Soviet Union and the other mortally wounded Syria and then, they became the justification for the ‘Global War on Terror’ and in the latest case, for an attack against Syria.

Both could be described as the 5th columns of the West in the Arab world. Just like the West, they care nothing about the welfare of the people in this region. The true socially-oriented groups here, like Hezbollah, are actually fighting against ISIS, but are designated by the West as ‘terrorist organizations’.

And so the Kafkaesque destruction of the region by Western lunatics continues.

Of course all this is nothing new. This is how, for centuries, the European and later North American colonial terror functioned: divide and rule, destroy all that stands on your way. Sacrifice millions of people for your economic and geopolitical goals, even if you are not yet fully certain exactly what your goals are.

Without the Western gaga/racist/PlayStation/genocidal realm, there would be no al-Qaedas and no ISISs. There would be, however, several authoritarian but rich and socially-balanced countries like Iraq and Libya, as well as well-educated and secular Syria. If the West had not battered the region with its invasions and coup d’états after WWII, there would have been at least two powerful and socialist countries here: Egypt and Iran. In fact, most likely, entire region would be by now socialist.

ISIS is an implant, which is now serving as the justification for an invasion.

It is so obvious. Not to see it requires great discipline. But the world, or at least both Europe and the United States, appears to be increasingly disciplined, obedient, even submissive.

And so the Western crusaders are again, as they had for centuries, riding their horses, spreading devastation and fear wherever they pass.

But now, there is no brave, enlightened and compassionate Sultan – no modern-day Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn – to stop them: in the name of life itself, in the name of justice and of our entire humanity.

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. The result is his latest book: “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. ‘Pluto’ published his discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. His feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” is about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pension Funds Hedge Carbon with Clean Energy Investments

A Big Pension Fund Is Investing Heavily In Clean Energy. What Should You Do?

by Executive Report with ISA Intel -

Earlier this week, one of the largest pension funds in America, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) made an announcement that was of particular interest to energy investors. They announced that they would be nearly tripling the amount they have invested, bringing it to around $3.7 Billion. Obviously, that a fund of that size is to step up investment in that sector is good news, but investors should be careful not to read too much into the announcement.

First, let’s look at what they didn’t say. They didn’t, as some coverage of the news has suggested, say that they are divesting themselves of more traditional energy investments. Indeed, Fund CEO Jack Ehnes, in a subsequent interview with NPR ( , pointed out that two of the fund’s top ten holdings were Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) and laid out no plan to sell or even reduce those holdings. I have said before that successful energy investing, like successful investing in general, calls for some diversification. You may feel that renewable energy is the future, but should always keep in mind that that future could be some way away.

Searching through the published holdings of the fund I found that their total invested in the two big oil companies is around $2 Billion. Now obviously that is a substantial sum, but considering that XOM and CVX have a combined market cap of around $650 Billion even if they did divest themselves it would probably have little effect on the share price of either.

That is especially true when you consider that the proposed investment in alternative energy and any necessary adjustments will take place over the next five years, not immediately. That also suggests caution on the other side of this; investing even a couple of billion dollars spread between companies and over five years is not going to cause anything to pop immediately.

What it does do, though, is provide a likely long term backstop for those holding the companies on whom CalSTRS decide to bestow their largesse. For clues as to who that may be, I once again turned to their current holdings. In general the fund looks to be somewhat under-invested in the clean energy space, and that, combined with the political message this announcement sends, may have something to do with why it was made. They do, however, have a significant holding in one well known clean energy related stock, First Solar (FSLR).

I first suggested FSLR as a decent value long term holding in the space back in May. It is up over 10 percent since then which, considering the general late summer slump in U.S. markets and in the energy sector in particular is not too bad. This news, however, would prompt me to add to that position. It would be a logical way for CalSTRS to invest part of that money dedicated to the sector as they are familiar with the company and have already presumably done their due diligence.

Again, I am not looking for a sudden pop here, but the possible presence of a large buyer looking to take advantage of any drop should put a floor on any such move. Rarely for me, would this be a situation where I would not have any pre-set stop loss going into the trade. There is no way of knowing at what level CalSTRS would be a buyer if they are, but just the possibility should be enough to slow any losses. If they do emerge as a buyer, then whatever level that comes at would form a very solid point of support.

In general I am wary of paying too much attention when a fund of any kind publicly declares their intentions. Often they are talking about an investment that is already underway or are making noises for some other reason. In this case, though, the transparency of the fund’s holdings allows for some research and it is obvious that they will be buyers in the clean energy sector in the coming months. That much we do know.

That doesn’t mean that investors should sell out of big oil, but it does mean that some of the risk will be removed from a traditionally volatile sector. That alone is reason enough to buy into a stock that the fund already likes.

Guinea Pirates and Western Pigs: Africom and the Dark Continent's New Strongmen

Pirates of the Gulf of Guinea: In the Face of Rising Maritime Insecurity, AFRICOM Claims Success and Obama Embraces a Strongman

by Nick Turse  - Tom Dispatch

The Gulf of Guinea is the most insecure waterway, globally,” says Loic Moudouma. And he should know. Trained at the U.S. Naval War College, the lead maritime security expert of the Economic Community of Central African States, and a Gabonese Navy commander, his focus has been piracy and maritime crime in the region for the better part of a decade.

Moudouma is hardly alone in his assessment.

From 2012 to 2013, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence found a 25% jump in incidents, including vessels being fired upon, boarded, and hijacked, in the Gulf of Guinea, a vast maritime zone that curves along the west coast of Africa from Gabon to Liberia. Kidnappings are up, too. Earlier this year, Stephen Starr, writing for the CTC Sentinel, the official publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, asserted that, in 2014, the number of attacks would rise again.

Tomgram: Nick Turse, American "Success" and the Rise of West African Piracy

As American hysteria over events in the Middle East rises, news about whatever grim video the Islamic State (IS) has just released jostles for attention with U.S. bombing runs in Iraq, prospective ones in Syria, and endless confusing statements out of Washington about what the next seat-of-the-pants version of its strategy might be. These days, such things are endlessly on the American radar screen. On the other hand, the U.S. military has been moving into Africa big time for years and just about nobody seems to notice. The Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) now annually engages in one kind of activity or another with 49 of that continent’s 54 countries. Yet Americans know next to nothing about Washington’s “pivot” to a continent significant parts of which seem to be in a slow-motion process of destabilization that may be linked, at least in part, to U.S. military moves there.

Nearly everywhere in Africa, the U.S. military is in action. However, except in rare cases, like the recent announcement of an “Ebola surge” in Liberia, you would never know it. At the moment, for instance, according to the Associated Press, AFRICOM is “preparing to launch a ‘major’ border security program to help Nigeria and its neighbors combat the increasing number and scope of attacks by Islamic extremists.” We’re talking, of course, about the other “caliphate,” the one in northern Nigeria announced by Boko Haram, an outfit that makes the militants of IS look moderate. But that’s news you’re unlikely to read in this country, not at least until, at some future moment, things start to go really, really wrong. Similarly, U.S. drone bases are slowly spreading in Africa, but you’d have to have an eagle eye to notice it. Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that the “Pentagon is preparing to open a drone base in one of the remotest places on Earth.” Tucked away, far from prying eyes, in the middle of the Sahara desert, the U.S. will now be cleared to fly drones out of “the mud-walled desert city of Agadez.”

It was typically incisive coverage of the shadowy doings of AFRICOM by Craig Whitlock, the one mainstream reporter who seems to keep an eye on American military moves there. Other media outlets from Reuters to Air Force Times followed up with versions of the same story, but it all passed like a blip in the night. If it caught your attention, I’d be surprised.

Still, if you’re a TomDispatch reader, Washington’s pivot to Africa and the expansion of U.S. air operations there won’t surprise you greatly. After all, back in April, this site’s managing editor, Nick Turse, who's had his eye on U.S. military operations in Africa for years, reported that, during a meeting for defense contractors, AFRICOM’s Rick Cook spoke about a future U.S. facility in Niger. That country, Cook said, “is in a nice strategic location that allows us to get to many other places reasonably quickly, so we are working very hard with the Nigeriens to come up with, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a base, but a place we can operate out of on a frequent basis.” Cook offered no information on the possible location of the facility, but Turse reported that contracting documents he had examined indicated that “the U.S. Air Force is seeking to purchase large quantities of jet fuel to be delivered to Niger's Mano Dayak International Airport.” And just where is Mano Dayak International Airport located? You guessed it: Agadez, Niger.

By the way, it’s not just boots on the continent and drones over it these days. For the U.S. military, it’s also ships off the coast. But let Nick Turse tell you the rest. Tom 
[This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.] 

Pirates of the Gulf of Guinea: In the Face of Rising Maritime Insecurity, AFRICOM Claims Success and Obama Embraces a Strongman

by Nick Turse

Today, what most Americans know about piracy likely centers on an attraction at Walt Disney World and the Johnny Depp movies it inspired. If the Gulf of Guinea rings any bells at all, it’s probably because of the Ebola outbreak in, and upcoming U.S. military “surge” into, Liberia, the nation on the northern edge of that body of water. But for those in the know, the Gulf itself is an intractable hotspot on a vast continent filled with them and yet another area where U.S. military efforts have fallen short.

A recent investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that “piracy and maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea has escalated” and that “armed robbery at sea, oil theft, and kidnapping is a persistent problem that continues to contribute to instability” there. Not only that, but as Pottengal Mukundan, the director of the International Maritime Bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce, recently noted, piracy in the Gulf has taken on a particularly violent character.

What Benjamin Benson, media chief for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), thinks isn’t quite so clear. As the situation in the Gulf of Guinea was worsening, he touted it as an American “success” story, pure and simple. Then he claimed that he hadn’t done so, after which he clammed up completely. What he thinks today is anyone’s guess. He now refuses to say a word about it.

Loic Moudouma, for his part, claims to see progress in bringing security to a body of water nearly the size of the Gulf of Mexico that is critical to the economies of a dozen nations. He also credits the United States for its support of security efforts there, even if they have paradoxically occurred alongside an increase in both piracy and insecurity. West African states, says Moudouma, have left waterways ungoverned, turning them into breeding grounds for criminal activity. The problem, he insists, is the poor leadership of the African nations in the region, America’s “partners” on the frontlines of the fight. Their lust for power, according to Moudouma, has put the national security of numerous African nations and the economic well-being of the region at risk, yet the Obama administration only recently feted the area’s most corrupt strongman and the U.S. military regularly partners with his armed forces.

The Sweet Smell of Success

“Do not put words in my mouth. I did not say the Gulf of Guinea was a success. I did not say Gulf of Guinea maritime security was a success.” This was AFRICOM spokesman Benson’s response last November when I asked if he wanted to amend his earlier assessment of the Gulf of Guinea shortly after pirates kidnapped two Americans from a U.S.-flagged ship there.

I was taken aback.

I remembered him touting the region as a triumph when we talked in the spring of 2013, so I went back to a recording of our conversation. “I’m wondering what you think the big success stories are,” I had asked about AFRICOM’s work on the continent. “There’s actually two success stories,” he replied, telling me first about American efforts in Somalia. “Another area that’s definitely a success is the Gulf of Guinea,” he added. “We’ve been working with a number of different states developing... maritime security capabilities.”

I listened to that passage several times. It sure sounded like he was calling the Gulf of Guinea a success.

For almost a year since then, Benson has failed to amend, clarify, or defend his statement. He has ignored repeated requests for further information, refusing even to issue a pro forma “no comment.” He may still claim that he never uttered those words or he may still believe the Gulf has been an American success story, but even his boss, AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year, said “maritime criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea remain at concerning levels.”

Click here to see a larger version

Analysis of Office of Naval Intelligence data by the Government Accountability Office from “Ongoing U.S. Counter-piracy Efforts Would Benefit From Agency Assessments” (GAO 14-422).

America’s Battle Against Pirates

The United States has been fighting African pirates since the early days of the republic -- battles so formative that, among other things, they established a long-standing pattern of dealing with foreign policy problems through armed interventions and also inspired the iconic phrase “the shores of Tripoli” in the Marine Corps hymn. By the late 2000s, American ships were once again under attack off an African coastline and the U.S. military had again been dispatched to kill pirates. This time around, the conflict centered on the Horn of Africa -- not North Africa -- specifically the waters off the coast of Somalia.

In the 1990s, Somalia descended into a maelstrom of violence, which has abated somewhat in recent years but continues to plague that nation and has since spread beyond its borders. In 1993, when American troops infamously arrived in its capital, Mogadishu, in support of a United Nations humanitarian mission, they suffered 18 killed and two helicopters shot out of the sky in the “Black Hawk Down” disaster. Somalia was then repeatedly battered as Islamic militants struggled for control against U.S.-backed militias and various African armed forces. During those years, neighboring nations began illegally fishing in Somali waters, prompting local fishermen to arm themselves and collect “taxes” from foreign vessels. Some of these proto-pirates soon began hijacking relief food shipments, while others moved on to attacking merchant vessels and oil tankers. By 2008, Somali swashbucklers were, by some estimates, raking in as much as $150 million annually.

That same year, the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) developed a document it called “Countering Piracy off the Horn of Africa: Partnership and Action Plan.” Its focus was the prevention and disruption of maritime crime off the coast of Somalia. Despite this, the number of reported attacks in the region nearly doubled between 2008 and 2009, and the next year the GAO weighed in with recommendations for the NSC to “reassess and update its Action Plan; identify metrics; assess the costs, benefits, and effectiveness of U.S. counter-piracy activities; and clarify agency roles and responsibilities.” For the next four years, however, the NSC failed to respond.

In those years, the United Nations also passed numerous resolutions related to maritime crime in the Horn of Africa, authorizing international militaries to conduct counter-piracy efforts. Naval patrols and other missions by NATO and the European Union as well as Australia, Bahrain, Canada, France, Jordan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, China, Russia, Japan, India, and the U.S. -- in addition to the use of armed mercenaries to protect ships and a slew of new policies designed to thwart attacks -- have had a demonstrable effect. According to the International Maritime Bureau, piracy incidents in the Horn of Africa declined from 219 in 2010 to just 15 in 2013.

“At the peak point of operations, up to 30 vessels from as many as 22 nations were engaged in counter-piracy operations in the region,” Rear Admiral Joseph Kuzmick told Congress last year. “International naval forces have thwarted pirate attacks in progress, engaged pirate skiffs, and successfully taken back hijacked ships during opposed boardings.” While a truly international effort, the battle against the Somali pirates ranks as one of the few true bright spots for the U.S. military in Africa.

Over these same years, the U.S. has also been pouring money and effort into maritime security activities on the other side of the continent with drastically different results.

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GULF OF GUINEA (April 2, 2014) - U.S. Sailors, U.S. Coast 
Guardsmen, and Ghanaian maritime specialists, ride in a 
rigid-hull inflatable boat as part of a U.S.-Ghana combined 
maritime law enforcement operation under the African Maritime
Law Enforcement Partnership program. (U.S. Navy photo by 
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeff Atherton)

From 2007 to 2011, the U.S. provided $35 million to West and Central African countries for coastal radar, boats, equipment, and maritime security training. These efforts included the African Partnership Station (APS) -- a shipboard effort designed to “provide quality military training to sailors and leaders of [partner] nations.” Under the auspices of the APS, the United States annually hosts four regional security exercises around the African continent: Cutlass Express, Phoenix Express, Saharan Express, and Obangame Express, the latter based in the waters off West Africa.

By 2012, five years after it was launched, APS activities involved more than 30 African, European, and North and South American countries. In last year’s iteration of Obangame Express, some 16 nations participated in exercises in the Gulf of Guinea, including Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, São Tomé and Príncipe, Togo, and the United States. This year, 20 nations were involved, including 11 which took part in boarding exercises conducted aboard 36 different vessels in the gulf.

AFRICOM and the U.S. Coast Guard also provide counter-piracy training as well as instruction in search and seizure skills through the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership program. In addition, the U.S. has held seminars, symposiums, and conferences devoted to maritime security; it has donated spare parts and even entire ships to West African allies, provided hands-on maintenance instruction, advised personnel from regional navies and coast guards, and offered aid for maritime counter-narcotics and law-enforcement projects.

Despite all these efforts, maritime insecurity has been markedly on the rise in the waters off West Africa. When I spoke last year with AFRICOM’s Benson about signs of U.S. “success” in the Gulf of Guinea, he cited U.S. efforts that culminated in a conference where West and Central African leaders would hammer out a comprehensive strategy to improve maritime security, with a formal code of conduct for states to follow. At the time, however, the conference -- organized by the Economic Community of Central African States, the Economic Community of West African States, and the Commission of the Gulf of Guinea -- had yet to take place.

How could that count as a success, I wondered, especially when signs of regional failure were all too evident? According to the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, incidents of piracy and maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea jumped more than 80% from 2010 to 2013. Last year, according to Oceans Beyond Piracy, an advocacy group focusing on maritime security issues, West African pirates attacked at least 1,871 “seafarers” and 279 were known to have been taken hostage. Additionally, 1,209 vessels were boarded by pirates. Experts now estimate that $2 billion is lost each year in port revenue, insurance premiums, and security costs due to maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea.

Getting Cozy With Africa’s Most Corrupt Strongman

It was at a conference hosted by the Department of Defense’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies, held on the periphery of the White House’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in August, that Loic Moudouma spoke positively about U.S. assistance in the region while also asserting that the Gulf of Guinea was the most insecure and violent waterway in the entire world. When I questioned him about this apparent paradox -- asking why maritime insecurity has escalated during years of increased U.S. assistance -- he pointed to the slow pace in implementing plans and the relentlessness of the region’s pirates. He also put the blame squarely on America’s allies in Africa. “The state is still absent from the sea,” he said, drawing attention to the inability of nations to police their territorial waters. Moudouma also called out the region’s heads of state. “Over the last decade, our political leaders have been investing in how to stay in power as long as possible,” he said.

Moudouma sees systemic problems at the ministerial and presidential levels in African governments and called for more action aimed at heads of state. This type of pressure, however, didn’t seem to be on the table at that recent White House summit when President Obama hosted -- and stood for a smiling portrait with -- Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang.

Since he first seized power in a coup 35 years ago (just before Obama began his freshman year in college), Obiang has ruled that tiny, oil-rich nation on the Gulf of Guinea with an iron fist. A perennial pariah state, his country is noted for its utter lack of press freedom and political opposition, and a profusion of corruption, oppression, and human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and the imprisonment and torture of opposition figures. While most of Equatorial Guinea lives on about $2 per day, the Obiang family lives the high life, complete with a fleet of flashy cars -- including Ferraris, Rolls-Royces, and Lamborghinis -- not to mention private jets.

The country seems to be the archetypal example of the sort of corruption Moudouma denounced. It ranked 163 out of 175 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2013. Yet year after year, U.S. forces have partnered with those of Equatorial Guinea for military exercises, training missions, and even, according to a 2009 Navy press release, “a flight deck reception for distinguished Equatorial Guinean visitors in order to develop relationships and promote regional cooperation between Equatorial Guinea and the United States.”

Succeeding at Failure

On June 19th, the Government Accountability Office published a new report, “Ongoing U.S. Counter-Piracy Efforts Would Benefit From Agency Assessments.” It contrasted the much-improved situation off Somalia’s coast with the “persistent problem” of piracy and maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea. It also drew attention to recommendations -- like systematically tracking costs and identifying which agencies will lead or support various counter-piracy efforts -- that, after four years, had yet to be implemented.

A day later, the National Security Council unveiled its 2014 “United States Counter Piracy and Maritime Security Action Plan.” According to a statement provided to TomDispatch by NSC spokesman Ned Price, it “provides guidance to the Federal government focusing on three core areas including: prevention of attacks, response to acts of maritime crime, and enhancing maritime security and governance.”

The new plan contains an annex devoted to the Gulf of Guinea (which went unmentioned in the 2008 report) and, according to the NSC, “effectively addresses the recommendations raised in the [June 2014 GAO] report.” That isn’t quite the case according to Stephen Caldwell, one of that report’s authors. “Our recommendations from the earlier report were only partially fulfilled,” he told me. “Some of the more specific issues were not addressed.”

While acknowledging that the National Security Council has a lot on its plate beyond piracy, Caldwell drew attention to the ways in which a continuing failure to track costs, identify resource constraints, and define specific roles for the agencies involved in maritime security efforts can lead to a lack of accountability and the inability to fix ineffective efforts. “Although the United States has interagency and international efforts underway with African states to strengthen maritime security, it has not assessed its efforts or the need for a collective plan to address the evolving problem in the region,” says the GAO report. “The U.S. role in addressing piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has focused on prevention, disruption, and prosecution, through training and assistance to African coastal states. However, according to U.S. agencies working in the region, the National Security Council Staff (NSCS) has not directed them to collectively assess their efforts to address piracy and maritime crime.”

U.S. failures when it comes to the Gulf of Guinea are many: a failure to address the longstanding concerns of a government watchdog agency, a failure to effectively combat piracy despite an outlay of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, and a failure to confront corrupt African leaders who enable piracy in the first place. In fact, the rolling out of a red carpet in Washington for an astoundingly corrupt West African strongman, precisely the type of leader even a Pentagon-approved analyst cites as the source of regional instability, mirrors other U.S. efforts in Africa, from Libya to Mali to South Sudan, which have crumbled, collapsed, crashed, and burned.

For the better part of a year, following his email outburst about putting words in his mouth, U.S. Africa Command spokesman Benjamin Benson has ignored my repeated requests for comment or clarification when it comes to the Gulf of Guinea. And it’s little wonder. After all, as the U.S. military has shown repeatedly in its “pivot” to Africa over these last years, it’s so much easier to claim success than to achieve it.

Nick Turse is the managing editor of and a fellow at the Nation Institute. A 2014 Izzy Award winner, he has reported from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa and his pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. His New York Times bestseller Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam just received an American Book Award. This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.

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Copyright 2014 Nick Turse

Running the Conveyor Belt of Death and Destruction

The Conquest of Europe

by John Chuckman  - Chuckman Blog

Russia’s President Putin is reported to have said in a conversation a while back that he could be in Kiev in two weeks. In our press, this was reported as yet more evidence of aggressive intentions, but, given even a moment’s thought, that is a patently false interpretation. It is also further evidence, as if more were needed, of the level of desperation American propaganda around events in Ukraine has reached. It is almost as though America’s intelligence/news media alliance started mimicking the almost forgotten Soviet apparatchiks of decades ago.

Yes, undoubtedly, the Russian military could be in Kiev in a couple of weeks. The very fact that they are not only shows what nonsense we hear from America and the coup-installed government in Ukraine. Clearly, Putin’s words were to the effect, “I wouldn’t have to tolerate the mess on our borders in Ukraine if I truly had aggressive intentions. For goodness sakes, use your brains, I could be in Kiev in two weeks.”

This deliberate misinterpretation of a casual statement stands out for me as one of the most pathetic of many pathetic things coming from Western politicians and media. And it is deliberate, for if it were the truth that the intelligence service of a superpower could only interpret statements with such feeble understanding, the world would have entered a new era of extreme danger, with idiots advising the commander who has his finger on the launch button. But I know there’s no genuine danger of that. The interpretation is intended only to shape American public opinion, never very well informed at the best of times. It’s a sound bite not intended to provide real information, just a momentary association of something very negative with the name of Russia’s president, indeed one of a stream of sound bites broadcast recently as though they meant something, as though they were news.

It is a classic method of propaganda, closely related to the technique in advertising of repeating a phrase or slogan or jingle over and over, no matter how silly its actual content is on analysis, and like all the best propaganda, it starts with a truth no matter how insignificant, incompletely reported, and removed from context. But there are two deeply concerning aspects to what otherwise would just be garbage.

First, it flows from the writers and editors of what is supposed to be a free and open press, not advertising agencies trying to sell personal hygiene products, and thus demonstrates once more how meaningless is the term, “free and open press.” When the American government has a point to make, even a point that is dishonest or silly, in supporting some ill-conceived and dangerous policy, the entire press instantly enlists to echo it across the land, offering saturation access to the public that could not be bought for millions of dollars. At least in matters of foreign affairs, American journalism does not exist outside the childish fantasies of young journalism students thinking they are going to dig for the truth and serve the right to know once they graduate. You know, the bilge about the press being the fourth branch of government, the tribune of the people, and keeping citizens informed.

But more worrying is why the government or the press in America wishes now to cast aspersions on one of the world’s most important leaders? It has been more than three decades since Russia and the United States were commonly understood as enemies, each capable of obliterating the other. Why would anyone want to look backward to that? And why would anyone deliberately attack a man who has proved himself a sophisticated statesman, one whose words and behaviors show more consistency than those of any of our Western leaders, and especially president Obama who has not spent a day of his time in the White House without killing someone somewhere and surely has matched George Bush for lack of character.

Such cheap propaganda is symptomatic of aggressive intent. I believe the United States’ establishment is starting to feel a new sense of its relative decline in the world, and it is desperate to shore things up by hurting new competitors. The so-called pivot towards China is one of its tactics, and the expansion of NATO right against the face of Russia is another. Both are provocative and risky. And I only wish the world could understand that the United States is not that far from being a de facto bankrupt. It has no money for anything except by the unsound and unethical practice of printing more of it, knowing its special position as a world reserve currency allows it to cheat holders of dollars around the entire planet with their devaluation. And devalue it will, sooner or later, effectively leaving most of the bill for its stupid wars to be paid by others.

Geography and many other factors, such as the distribution of energy and other natural resources, say that Russia and Europe are over the long term destined to be strong, natural economic partners. But the United States has been Europe’s partner – indeed, a good deal more than a mere partner since WWII - and it does not like the prospect of Russia in any way displacing it. It is utterly backward thinking, but we are discussing brains driven by hormones here, not by logic or good will. I recall at an energy conference I attended during the Reagan era meeting a representative from the American State Department whose main message was that we had to stop Russian gas pipelines into Europe. As a believer in people freely buying what they need from others freely selling what they have, I didn’t agree with him and said so, and the people of Europe clearly weren’t convinced because many pipelines exist and many billions of cubic feet of gas flow.

The United States has taken every effort to get some return for its costly investment in a half-failed scheme to destabilize Ukraine, and with each deft move of Russia, it has played the old “look out for the commies” theme, just tarted up a bit so it doesn’t seem laughably out of date. The combination of the expansion of NATO plus scare-mongering about Russia buys some time against what I believe is inevitable. And minds driven only by the hormonal impulse of being dominant – full-spectrum dominance is the grotesque Washington insider expression - are incapable of clearly analyzing a situation, regardless of their intelligence and technology and information resources. And they are certainly not capable of acting on behalf of the great basic principles of rights and freedoms with which they sloppily wallpaper their every public statement. They are blind to the chances they take, to the risks they expose all of us to, and to the damage they create for the happiness and prosperity of millions of people.

America’s elaborate dirty tricks in Ukraine were intended to make Russia considerably less secure. You can almost imagine the buzz-cut thugs at Langley having a good laugh over expense-account steaks and martinis when they first thought they had succeeded, the laughter one expects from sociopathic American frat-boys who’ve just played a very dirty joke on someone, as by drugging some poor girl’s drink at a party and raping her. Perhaps the intentions included a plan ultimately to base missiles in Ukraine near Russia’s border, which would be a tremendously provocative act. Certainly it was hoped that gradually Ukraine would become more western-oriented, although the prospect for a poor country like Ukraine, one with shaky democratic credentials and not a good record in human rights, becoming in our lifetime full members of Europe is simply not in the cards. After all, the U.S. keeps pushing for Israel to become part of major European organizations, but that is too much even for some of America’s yes-men in Europe to accept.

Accusing Russia of looking out for what’s happening on her borders isn’t an accusation, it’s what all states do everywhere. Goodness knows the case of Cuba should provide perspective and food for thought. The United States has needlessly hurt that country for half a century with its embargo, many of the chief traditional products of Cuba having been things to satisfy the American markets, such as sugar and tobacco. But an embargo alone was never enough to secure the desired dominance. The United States invaded Cuba with a proxy army of Cuban refugees it trained, supplied, and paid. It tried to assassinate Cuba’s leader, many, many times, and it periodically sent terrorist forces to blow or shoot up things in Cuba. Ships in ports were shot up, hotels were attacked, and an airliner full of people was bombed. When Cuba asked for the return of America’s base at Guantanamo, a base only leased from Cuba originally under duress, the United States simply refused and still illegally occupies the land half a century later.

Of course, America was quite ready to hurl the world into nuclear war when it discovered that the Soviet Union had placed missiles in Cuba as a way both of protecting its ally against new invasions and as increased leverage in dealing with an often inflexible and aggressive United States. The missiles were provocative, but most thinking people felt they were not adequate cause for nuclear war. Fortunately, President Kennedy was able to stand up against the terrible pressures of the military-intelligence establishment and reach a negotiated settlement with Premier Khrushchev, an act which many believe, including this author, later cost him his life in Dallas. Well, all that gives you just some idea of how America responds to what it considers trouble or meddling, even a hundred miles from its border.

We hear the accusation that Russia arms the rebels in Ukraine, as well as the Assad government in Syria. My answer is that America, which spends as much on its military as all others on the planet combined, is also the world’s largest arms dealer as well as a ready covert supplier to groups anywhere it deems as serving its interests, whether extremist groups, including ISIS, set up to destroy Syria or the Nazi-like groups affiliated with Ukraine’s new government and employed in its coup. America runs a virtual conveyor belt of death machines and munitions to Israel to keep it well supplied in upsetting peace throughout the Mideast and suppressing millions of people it took prisoner half a century ago, a situation which has ranked in my view as the world’s most dangerous until now. A great deal of the aggression and repression of Israel have to do with the fact that their best minds recognize the unfavorable situation into which they are locked: no population growth versus high population growth for Arabs, the most highly subsidized national economy in the world affording poorer prospects for most residents than their native places would, an interminable series of wars and repressions and acts which the world sees as atrocities, early dreams all soured by a sense of no way out, and perhaps a sense of having committed a colossal blunder in starting it all.

So in a very real sense, both America and Israel, unwilling or unable to deal with their tremendous problems in a statesmanlike, realistic, and enduring way, dance a hideous danse macabre, with the entire world forced to watch in fear and horror.

When you compare Europe today to, say, Europe of fifty years ago, something more than a little disturbing becomes apparent. Then, despite the height of the Cold War presumably giving reason for greater solidarity with America, there were many independent voices in Europe. France had a consistently strong and decisive voice, and it was determined not to be subservient to NATO. Britain, today perhaps the worst example of subservience

Off With Their Heads: Executing War Propaganda

ISIS and the USA: Expansion and Resistance by Decapitation

by James Petras

In order to overcome massive US and world public opposition to new wars in the Middle East, Obama relied on the horrific internet broadcasts of ISIS slaughtering two American hostages, the journalists James Foley and Steve Sotloff, by decapitation. These brutal murders were Obama’s main propaganda tool to set a new Middle East war agenda – his own casus belli bonanza! This explains the US Administration’s threats of criminal prosecution against the families of Foley and Stoloff when they sought to ransom their captive sons from ISIS.

With the American mass media repeatedly showing the severed heads of these two helpless men, public indignation and disgust were aroused with calls for US military involvement to stop the terror. US and EU political leaders presented the decapitations of Western hostages by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) as a direct and mortal threat to the safety of civilians in the US and Europe. The imagery evoked was of black-clad faceless terrorists, armed to the teeth, invading Europe and the US and executing innocent families as they begged for rescue and mercy.

The problem with this propaganda ploy is not the villainy and brutal crimes celebrated by ISIS, but the fact that Obama’s closest ally in his seventh war in six years is Saudi Arabia, a repugnant kingdom which routinely decapitates its prisoners in public without any judicial process recognizable as fair by civilized standards – unless tortured ‘confessions’ are now a Western norm. During August 2014, when ISIS decapitated two American captives, Riyadh beheaded fourteen prisoners.

Since the beginning of the year the Saudi monarchy has decapitated more than 46 prisoners and chopped off the arms and limbs of many more. During Obama and Kerry’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, horrendous decapitations were displayed in public. These atrocities did not dim the bright smile on Barak Obama’s face as he strolled with his genial royal Saudi executioners, in stark contrast to the US President’s stern and angry countenance as he presented the ISIS killing of two Americans as his pretext for bombing Syria.

The Western mass media are silent in the face of the Saudi Kingdom’s common practice of public decapitation. Not one among the major news corporations, the BBC, the Financial Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC, CBS and NPR, have questioned the moral authority of a US President who engages in selective condemnation of ISIS while ignoring the official Saudi state beheadings and the amputations.

Decapitation and Dismemberment: By Dagger and Drones

The ISIS internet videos showing gaunt, orange-suited Western prisoners and their lopped-off heads have evoked widespread dismay and fear. We are repeatedly told: ‘ISIS is coming to get us!’ But ISIS is open and public about their criminal acts against helpless hostages. We cannot say the same about the decapitations and dismemberments of the hundreds of victims of US drone attacks.

When a drone fires its missiles on a home, a school, wedding party or vehicle, the bodies of living people are dismembered, macerated, decapitated and burned beyond recognition – all by remote control. The carnage is not videoed or displayed for mass consumption by Obama’s high command. Indeed, civilian deaths, if even acknowledged, are brushed off as ‘collateral damage’ while the vaporized remnants of men, women and children have been described by US troops as ‘pink foam’.

If the brutal decapitation and dismemberment of innocent civilians is a capital crime that should be punished, as I believe it is, then both ISIS and the Obama regime with his allied leaders should face a people’s war crimes tribunal in the countries where the crimes occurred.

There are good reasons to view Washington’s close relation with the Saudi royal beheaders as part of a much broader alliance with terror-evoking brutality. For decades, the US drug agencies and banks have worked closely with criminal drug cartels in Mexico while glossing over their notorious practice of decapitating, dismembering and displaying their victims, be they local civilians, courageous journalists, captured police or migrants fleeing the terror of Central America.

The notorious Zetas and the Knights Templar have penetrated the highest reaches of the Mexican federal and local governments, turning state officials and institutions into submissive and obedient clients. Over 100,000 Mexicans have lost their lives because of this ‘state within a state’, an ‘ISIS’ in Mexico – just ‘South of the Border’. And just like ISIS in the Middle East, the cartels get their weapons from the US imported right across the Texas and Arizona borders. Despite this gruesome terror on the US southern flank, the nation’s principle banks, including Bank of America, CitiBank, Wells Fargo and many others have laundered billions of dollars of drug profits for the cartels.

For example, the discovery of 49 decapitated bodies in one mass in May 2014 did not prompt Washington to form a world-wide coalition to bomb Mexico, nor was it moved to arrest the Wall Street bankers laundering the ‘beheaders bloody booty’.


Obama’s hysterical and very selective presentation of ISIS crimes forms the pretext for launching another war against a predominantly Muslim country, Syria, while shielding his close ally, the royal Saudi decapitator from US public outrage. ISIS crimes have become another excuse to launch a campaign of ‘mass decapitation by drones and bombers’. The mass propaganda campaign over one crime against humanity becomes the basis for perpetrating even worse crimes against humanity.

Many hundreds of innocent civilians in Syria and Iraq will be dismembered by ‘anti-terrorist’ bombs and drones unleashed by another of Obama’s ‘coalition’. The localized savagery of ISIS will be multiplied, amplified and spread by the US-directed ‘coalition of the willing decapitators’.

The terror of hooded beheaders on the ground will be answered and expanded by their faceless counterparts in the air, while delicately hiding the heads rolling through the public squares of Riyadh or the headless bodies displayed along the highways of Mexico … and especially ignoring the hidden victims of US-Saudi aggression in the towns and villages of Syria.

Crowded Terrorist Market Competes for Dwindling

Da’ish (IS), FSA and al Nursa Compete for Dwindling Support

by Franklin Lamb  - Al-Manar

Changes are underway in Damascus’s suburban neighborhoods. In some of these neighborhoods there are few families’ left—only fighters. But in others, residents are trickling back in (or in some cases never even left) despite the danger.

Here in these areas, those who have chosen the armed opposition route fall are grouped roughly in the following percentiles: 70% FSA, 25% Al Nursa, and, as of now, relatively few, Da’ish (IS).

During meetings with young men from the Barzeh neighborhood, an area maybe five blocks by eight blocks, this observer learned of approximately 700 FSA fighters in the neighborhood, 110 from al Nursa, compared with only 7 or 8 Da’ish fighters. The latter do not appear very active in community matters, but reportedly keep their eyes peeled watching what the other militia are up to. Even so, Dai’sh still recruits and sends applicants to other locations for military training, this while promising that within two months the Islamic State will attack central Damascus.

At the same time, desertions among the rebels are reportedly on the upswing in these areas, and some of the FSA and al-Nusra fighters are splitting off to join Da’ish. It seems that some of these young militia members—pretty much like youngsters everywhere—simply want to play for a ‘winning team’ or in the ‘big leagues,’ and Da’ish is still a strong magnet for ‘tryouts.’ Al-Nusra and Da’ish fighters both claim they are eager to fight Hezbollah—and Western forces—who they believe will show up sooner or later. And many of them exhibit an attitude similar to that of a European jihadist who recently remarked to this observer, “Let’s get it on. And the world will itself judge who are the best fighters, we who believe in Allah or the kuffers (disbelievers).”

Another disturbing attitude, all too frequently expressed in Damascene neighborhoods, is the desire of many of these young men, many of them from “good” families, to sacrifice themselves and become martyrs to their various causes. Residents report that some of the most promising students—majoring in subjects like medicine, law, engineering, computer science, business and other professions—are disaffected and see no future for themselves. And while many are deeply religious, a surprising number appear not to be.

Overwhelmingly the rebels come from areas where outsiders are few. This observer’s friend of more than three years, whose name I withhold for his security, has lived most of his life in Barzeh and knows many of the militia guys. He reports that currently there are only two foreign fighters in Barzeh, one from Algeria and the other from Saudi Arabia. And he expressed shock to me that a friend of his from childhood—who joined al-Nusra 18 months ago and had since become one of its local leaders—had suddenly disappeared. A few days later, my friend got a ‘what’s up’ message from Turkey and learned that his friend had shaved his beard, changed his style of clothing, and left Barzeh without telling anyone. Now he reports that he wears shorts and swims during the day on the Turkish coast and no longer has any desire to fight anyone.

Many among al Nusra and other rebel groups, it seems, are trying to leave Syria and go somewhere, anywhere, that might offer them a positive future of some sort—because they see the war in Syria as being a long one. And in this respect they are no different from the war-weary, exhausted, traumatized Syrian population in general. With very few jobs and nearly ten million displaced from their homes—and with some 3 million living as refugees in neighboring countries—what one finds here on the one hand is a growing desire to get out, to establish, sadly, a new life elsewhere, in a land other than the one they most love. Yet on the other, significant numbers of fairly hard-core al-Nusra fighters, as noted above, are quitting that militia in order to join the winning team—Da’ish. It is a combination of social factors pointing to what the Iranians have already made note of: that Obama’s strategy of trying to fight Da’ish and the Syrian government at the same time is probably doomed to failure.

Some Syrian analysts, whose views this observer credits, identify two trends that appear to be developing in Syrian neighborhoods controlled by violent militia. One is the growing resistance by the local population to being intimidated and abused by the occupying gunmen—while another is the role the Syrian government is playing in engaging in dialog, usually privately, with the rebels, and offering what some locals here refer to as “contracts.” These are proposals of ceasefires of varying scope in order to help give some hope and help to the increasingly besieged population.

Also, neighborhood attitudes toward militia in areas around Damascus are dramatically changing. This observer is advised by fighters from Barzeh that as recently as 12-18 months ago, maybe 80% of the citizens supported the FSA, while some backed al Nusra or other groups. Today militia support is estimated at less than 40%—and dwindling. Even those who still back the armed gangs are weaker in their support and no longer respect the militia or defer to them as before. Increasingly neighborhood residents are confronting the rebels on neighborhood streets via ‘citizen committees.’ They are showing up at rebel checkpoints or headquarters to complain or demand respect and an end to arbitrary street “justice.” Reasons for this include abhorrence of brutality, exhaustion, disillusionment, as well as demonstrable efforts by the Syrian government to increase and maintain services while trying to make important and long overdue changes. Even many rebels are said to credit the government for its willingness to be flexible and to make “contracts” with them to improve the lives of the besieged population.

For example, when families return to their homes after having fled, nearly all find that their flats have been broken into and personal property stolen, and they sometimes discover some of their stolen items being sold in neighborhood ‘jihadist souks.’ According to one resident of Barzeh, computers and plasma TV’s are among the most commonly stolen property. By contrast, “neighborhood watch” citizen groups seek the return of stolen goods and demand that the militias stop the thievery.

Also people are increasingly calling for a return to Syrian secularism, and they may actually be making some progress on this point. Unlike Da’ish, al Nursa does not insist that people attend a mosque for prayers—while the FSA is relatively secular. Nursa does require that women wear hijabs in neighborhoods under its control, and the first two times a woman is caught without one she is issued a warning. The third time she risks a public whipping. This observer is advised that many younger women, despite the risks, will remove their head scarves the moment they cross out of rebel-held areas, sometimes in plain view of those manning the checkpoints, leaving the neighborhood at this point, traveling to downtown Damascus for work or other purposes. It’s not dissimilar actually to what one finds among many Iranian women, particularly students at Tehran University, who openly admit, often with grins, to giving the local “morality police” a hard time when demands—for instance to adjust their headscarves so as to reduce the amount of hair visible—are made by roving “purists.”

As for the Free Syrian Army, now dubbed by some in the Obama Administration as the “National Coalition—kind of like the National Guard”—it is viewed by many here as corrupt, manned to a large extent by lowlifes and thieves. The “Free Syrian Army,” as one pithy adage has it, is neither free, nor Syrian, nor an army. And at least in Barzeh, at any rate, it is also viewed as being for sale to the highest bidder. Moreover, the residents here, though increasingly vocal about jihadist militias, seem to hold actually more respect for al-Nusra, despite its Islamist extremism, than for the Western-backed FSA.

Late word just received by this observer from his friend, the aforementioned son of Barzeh: yesterday he, too, snuck across the Syrian-Turkey border in search of a new life-somewhere until peace returns to his beloved Syria.

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Oh Bullshit! Obama: Channelling W. for Second Term

Obama’s Propagandistic UN Address

by Robert Parry - Consortium News

During President Barack Obama’s first term, he generally was careful in making comments about world affairs – not that he was always completely honest but he was circumspect about outright lying. Over the past two years, however, he appears to have lost any such inhibitions.

President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2014. (Screenshot from White House video of speech) 

 That’s the case even when he is engaged in something as serious as addressing the United Nations General Assembly on issues of war or peace as occurred both last year and this year. In September 2013, Obama made what he knew was a deceptive comment about the mysterious Sarin gas attack in Syria a month earlier. He did something similar on Wednesday in describing the Ukraine crisis.

Regarding the Sarin case, Obama knew before his 2013 speech that many of his own intelligence analysts believed Syrian rebels were behind the Aug. 21 attack that killed several hundred people outside Damascus. These analysts suspected the incident was part of a scheme to blame the government of President Bashar al-Assad and get the U.S. military to attack Assad’s forces. [See’s “Fixing Intel Around Syria Policy” and “Was Turkey Behind Syria-Sarin Attack?’]

Despite this knowledge, Obama delivered a formal address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2013, declaring: “It’s an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.”

Similarly, Obama knew the complex reality in Ukraine when he took to the podium on Wednesday. He knew that the crisis was instigated not by Russia but by the European Union and the United States. He knew that the elected President Viktor Yanukovych had been targeted for “regime change” by officials within the U.S. State Department, led by neoconservative Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who literally hand-picked the new leadership with the aid of U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt who described the need to “midwife this thing.”

Obama knew that Nuland had told Ukrainian business leaders that the U.S. government had invested $5 billion in support of their “European aspirations” and that the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy had subsidized scores of “non-governmental organizations” to help destabilize the Yanukovych government. He also knew the key role played by Ukraine’s neo-Nazi militias in seizing presidential buildings on Feb. 22 and forcing Yanukovych’s officials to flee for their lives.

Obama was aware, too, that the ethnic Russians of eastern Ukraine had rejected this coup regime and rose up in resistance to the imposition of what many saw as illegitimate authority. He knew that the people of Crimea – faced with this coup regime in Kiev – voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, a move the Russian government supported and accepted.

Obama knew that the Kiev regime brutalized southern and eastern Ukraine, with the regime’s activists burning alive dozens of ethnic Russian protesters in Odessa and its military killing thousands with heavy weaponry fired into towns and cities of eastern Ukraine. The coup regime in Kiev even dispatched Nazi militias, such as the Azov battalion, to engage in bloody street fighting – the first time since World War II that any government had deployed armed Nazi forces to attack a European population. Obama knew that, too. [See’s “Ukraine’s ‘Romantic’ Nazi Storm Troopers.”]

Obama also knew that some of his own intelligence analysts had concluded that extremist elements within the Ukrainian government were probably responsible for the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, possibly using anti-aircraft missiles deployed close to rebel-controlled territory and aided by one or more Ukrainian fighter planes in the air. Obama knew, too, that the Ukrainian military attacked the crash site, driving investigators away and apparently setting fire to a wheat field containing remnants of the plane.
[See’s “Flight 17 Shoot-down Scenario Shifts.”]

Obama’s Ukraine Tale

Yet, this is how Obama presented the Ukrainian crisis to the world:

“Recently, Russia’s actions in Ukraine challenge this post-[World War II] order. Here are the facts. After the people of Ukraine mobilized popular protests and calls for reform, their corrupt president fled. Against the will of the government in Kyiv, Crimea was annexed. Russia poured arms into eastern Ukraine, fueling violent separatists and a conflict that has killed thousands.
“When a civilian airliner was shot down from areas that these proxies controlled, they refused to allow access to the crash for days. When Ukraine started to reassert control over its territory, Russia gave up the pretense of merely supporting the separatists, and moved troops across the border.

“This is a vision of the world in which might makes right — a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another, and civilized people are not allowed to recover the remains of their loved ones because of the truth that might be revealed.
“America stands for something different. We believe that right makes might — that bigger nations should not be able to bully smaller ones, and that people should be able to choose their own future. And these are simple truths, but they must be defended. America and our allies will support the people of Ukraine as they develop their democracy and economy.
“We will reinforce our NATO Allies and uphold our commitment to collective self-defense. We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression, and we will counter falsehoods with the truth. And we call upon others to join us on the right side of history – for while small gains can be won at the barrel of a gun, they will ultimately be turned back if enough voices support the freedom of nations and peoples to make their own decisions.”

Becoming Bush

An honest person would have described all these events very differently, including what “America stands for.” There could have been at least some acknowledgement of how the United States in the post-World War II era has often relied on “the barrel of a gun” – or cruise missiles and smart bombs – to impose its will on other countries, including “regime change” in Iraq in 2003 and in Libya in 2011.

Obama could have acknowledged, too, that the United States has often used coups d’etat to unseat governments not to its liking, even when the leaders have been popularly elected. A partial list would include Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, Allende in Chile in 1973, Aristide in Haiti twice, Chavez in Venezuela briefly in 2002, Zelaya in Honduras in 2009, Morsi in Egypt in 2013, and now Yanukovych in Ukraine in 2014.

But instead Obama chose to present a simplistic, propagandistic version of what has transpired in Ukraine. Essentially he’s saying: It’s all Russia’s fault and everyone on the U.S. side is a good guy, on “the right side of history.”

It is interesting, however, that Obama did not come out directly and implicate Russia and the eastern Ukrainian rebels in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Given his access to detailed U.S. intelligence on the topic, he should have been able to point the finger directly, if indeed that’s what the facts showed. Instead, he played word games to create the impression that the rebels and Russia were to blame without actually spelling out any evidence against them.

This was similar to how President George W. Bush gave speeches in 2002 and 2003 juxtaposing the names Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden to create the perception among Americans that the two were joined at the hip when they were, in fact, bitter enemies. Now, President Obama has come to replicate these Bush-like deceptions.

There is also new evidence of how the supposedly “popular” government in Kiev has been developing its democracy — by incarcerating people who dare to protest against its policies. As the New York Times’ Andrew E. Kramer reported on Thursday, the Kiev regime has been padding its prisoner exchanges by throwing in political dissidents arrested far from any battlefield.

Kramer wrote:

“The Ukrainians, … widely understood to be lacking enough prisoners of their own to effect a one-for-one exchange, set free a motley group of men, women and teenagers wearing tracksuits or dirty jeans, and taken, they said, from jails as far away as Kiev. “Soon enough, many of them were objecting to anybody who would listen there on the highway that they had never fought for pro-Russian separatists, and in fact had no idea how they ended up in a prisoner exchange in eastern Ukraine. … 
“In interviews at their point of release and in a dormitory where former detainees are housed in Donetsk, a dozen men freed in exchanges over the weekend by the Ukrainian Army gave similar accounts. Some said they were arrested months ago in other parts of Ukraine for pro-Russian political actions, such as joining protests calling for autonomy in eastern Ukraine or for distributing leaflets.” 

In other words, the Kiev regime does not only send Nazi storm troopers to attack people in eastern Ukraine but it jails citizens elsewhere who pass out leaflets. Recognizing some of these darker truths – rather than simply reciting a litany of shiny propaganda – could have given President Obama’s UN address more credibility. Perhaps the old Obama would have made a stab at greater intellectual honesty but the new one has taken on the personality of his predecessor, who famously didn’t do nuance.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.