Friday, February 15, 2013
How We Kill: Christopher Dorner and "the burner"
by Peter Lee - China Matters
The tactics employed against Christopher Dorner by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department are attracting an awkward amount of interest since an audiotape surfaced with law enforcement officials referring to a munition as a “burner”.
As in (all quotes from the Feb. 15, 2013 LA Times report titled “As Dorner fired, tactics got toughter”):
“We’re going to go forward with the plan, with the burner,” the unidentified officer said, according to a recording of police radio transmissions reviewed by The Times.…“Seven burners deployed,” another officer responded several seconds later, according to the transmission which has circulated widely among law enforcement officials. “And we have a fire.”
I was interested in this issue because of an incident in Burma where Burmese police cleared an encampment of protesters trying to block expansion of a China-invested copper mine project.
The tear gas munitions fired into the protesters’ tents apparently caused severe burns to some of the protesters for reasons that are apparently not completely understood.
So I corresponded with an expert on police tactics and learned that there is indeed a munition commonly called “incendiary CS [CS standing for the inventors of the tear gas compound, Ben Corson and Roger Stoughton] gas” or, in day-to-day argot, “the burner”.
The tear gas chemical, 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, is actually a solid at room temperature, not a gas, and it doesn’t disperse quickly and thoroughly, as a gas would. To be effective, the CS chemical has to be melted, dissolved in a solvent, or micropulverized and then mechanically dispersed.
In the burner scenario, the shell contains CS solution and an explosive charge which generates intense heat in order to aerosolize the solution and evaporate the solvent, so that the CS instantaneously precipitates in a cloud of solid particles, saturates the target area, and rapidly incapacitates the subject/victim.
Intense heat is a fundamental feature of the incendiary CS gas shell.
If the shell used in the Dorner case was the similar to the munition employed in the disastrous siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco or the MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia, an accurate description of the “burner” would be “thermal grenade with some tear gas added”.
With incendiary CS, fires are considered to be well-nigh inevitable if anything combustible is around. So, the “burner” is only used as a last resort by law enforcement.
Of course, there is considerable skepticism that the circumstances of the Dorner siege—he was alone, barricaded in a cabin, and surrounded by law enforcement officers—demanded that the SBSD fire seven “burners” into the cabin instead of waiting him out.
I don’t think the arguments put forth by defenders of the operation could withstand the scrutiny of a middle school forensics team.
Here they are, courtesy of the LA Times:
“What difference does it make if one of the officers puts a … round in his head, drives the armored vehicle over his body when they are knocking the building down, or he dies in a conflagration?” said David Klinger, a use-of-force expert at the University of Missouri at St. Louis and a former LAPD officer. “If he is trying to surrender you can’t do any of those things … But if he is actively trying to murder people, there’s no doubt that deadly force is appropriate and it doesn’t matter what method is used to deliver it.”Geoffery Alpert, a professor at the University of South Carolina who also specializes in police tactics, agreed.“I don’t understand what the big deal is,” Alpert said. “This man had already shot two officers and was suspected of murdering other people. He wasn’t responding in a rational manner. The actions you take have to remove the threat and if it requires extreme measures, then so be it.”
I might point out that the arguments advanced by these two distinguished scholars both reference rules of war, not policing. I guess we can chalk this up to the further militarization of US security culture post-9/11.
In wartime, any force that is not actively engaged in surrender is fair game. This was the justification for the “turkey shoot” on the “highway of death” —the attack on Iraqi forces as they were withdrawing from the front lines after Saddam Hussein had accepted the UN resolution and a ceasefire had been declared, and the concurrent “Battle of Rumaili”, a five-hour air and artillery bombardment carried out by General McCaffrey’s forces against helpless units of the Iraqi Republican Guard boxed in on the Rumaila Causeway on their way back to Baghdad.
It is different for accused criminals in the United States. Some kind of trial/sentencing/due process thing is supposed to intervene before someone can be killed for not surrendering.
Mr. Alpert, while upholding the proud tradition of South Carolina higher education, is further off base. Despite determined efforts by the United States to stretch the boundaries, under international law a pre-emptive strike is only permitted in the case of an imminent threat, not the past or potential threat represented by a guy barricaded alone in a cabin surrounded by dozens of law enforcement officers with guns.
As to the issue of who was “responding in a rational manner” that day…
The thought processes of the San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department—which had lost one of their own to Dorner—are probably reflected in an alleged transcription from the radio chatter that the LA Times demurely declined to reproduce, but was reported by the no-holds barred NY Post:
“Burn this motherf--ker!” one officer shouted …Amid sounds of gunfire, voices can be heard shouting, “Burn it down!” and “Shoot the gas!”
What the Syrian death tolls really tell us
by Sharmine Narwani - Guardian
Unreliable data can incite and escalate a conflict – the latest UN-sponsored figure of 60,000 should not be reported as fact
Less than two months after the UN announced "shocking" new casualty figures in Syria, its high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay estimates that deaths are "probably now approaching 70,000". But two years into a Syrian conflict marked by daily death tolls, the question arises as to whether these kinds of statistics are helpful in any way? Have they helped save Syrian lives? Have they shamed intransigent foes into seeking a political solution? Or might they have they contributed to the escalation of the crisis by pointing fingers and deepening divisions?
Casualty counts during modern wars have become a highly politicised business. On one hand, they can help alert the outside world to the scale of violence and suffering, and the risks of conflict spreading both within a country's borders and beyond them. On the other, as in Syria, Iraq, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere, death tolls have routinely been manipulated, inflated or downplayed – a tool for the advancement of political interests.
As if to underline the point, Libya's new government recently announced that death tolls had been exaggerated during the 2011 Libyan civil war; that there had been around 5,000 deaths on either side – a long way from the reported tens of thousands of casualties that set the scene for Nato's "humanitarian" intervention, or the 30-50,000 deaths claimed by opponents of this intervention.
While physically present in Iraq, the US and British governments were unable to provide estimates of the numbers of deaths unleashed by their own invasion, yet in Syria, the same governments frequently quote detailed figures, despite lacking essential access.
Syria's death toll leapt from 45,000 to 60,000 earlier this year, a figure gathered by a UN-sponsored project to integrate data from seven separate lists. The new numbers are routinely cited by politicians and media as fact, and used to call for foreign intervention in the conflict.
But Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), whose casualty data are part of this count, calls the UN's effort "political" and the results "propaganda".
Abdulrahman, whose daily death toll releases are widely quoted in the western media, argues that many of the UN's casualties don't exist. "Yesterday in Qahtaniyah, I had a video of 21 people killed, but 19 names only. Other groups said 40 were killed – where are the 40? Tell them to provide me with only 21 names," he demands, frustrated.
When I interviewed the UN spokesman Rupert Colville in January, he conceded: "We can't prove most of these people have died."
And Megan Price, lead author of the UN's casualty analysis project, whose firm, Benetech, is part-funded by the US state department, explained to me: "We were not asked to do verification of whether the casualties are real." Benetech's task was mainly a data collation effort: working from seven separate UN-identified lists, the firm discarded duplicates and victims without names, place and date of death to arrive at the highly-publicised 60,000 number.
But questions about the accuracy of casualty numbers is only part of the story. Dig deeper, and it's clear that this data also offers an insight into the Syrian conflict at odds with the story that this is essentially about a brutal regime killing peaceful civilians.
With the proviso that the data may itself prove unreliable, Benetech's research nevertheless offers some useful clues about the makeup of the recorded death toll. Only 7.5% are female, making the casualties in Syria overwhelmingly male. Second, the largest segment of the 30% of victims whose ages are included in the records are between the ages of 20 and 30 – who might be classified as males of "military age".
The SOHR's statistics confirm this picture. On 27 December, Abdulrahman cited 148 violent deaths in Syria for that day: 49 rebels, 42 soldiers, three defectors, and the remaining 54 likely to be a mix of noncombatant civilians and unidentified rebels: "It isn't easy to count rebels because nobody on the ground says 'this is a rebel'. Everybody hides it."
According to Abdulrahman's conservative estimates, at least two thirds of the dead are armed men – an appreciatively different take on the perception of "civilian slaughter" in Syria created by reporting of the UN's and other unverified casualty numbers. And the UN itself points out that "the analysis was not able to differentiate clearly between combatants and noncombatants".
Even the civilian death toll is nuanced. There are civilians targeted by the regime through shelling and air strikes, civilians targeted by rebels via mortars, IEDs and urban bombings, and civilians caught in crossfire (not targeted). Further to that, there have been reports of sectarian and political killings by supporters of both sides.
While bald casualty numbers taken out of context have clearly failed to explain what now looks closer to a parity in violence inside Syria, the UN is not wrong that body counts can be valuable indicators in a crisis.
The problem is that, increasingly, death tolls are used as political tools to scene-set for western-backed "humanitarian interventions" in the Middle East and north Africa and – more broadly – against the kinds of negotiated political settlements that could actually reduce or stop the killing.
It's time to stop headlining unreliable and easily politicised casualty counts, and use them only as one of several background measures of a conflict. It's essential too that the media help us avoid such manipulation by asking questions about reported deaths: how were these deaths verified? Are they combatants? Who killed them? How do we know this? Who benefits from these deaths? Was this a violent death or one caused by displacement? How is it even possible to count all these dead in the midst of raging conflict?
Numbers without context or solid foundations can incite and escalate a conflict, leading to even more carnage. Contemporary casualty data have been inaccurate in so many recent conflicts that it's time to retire these numbers from the telling of the story.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
"HONDURAS: THE WAR ON PEASANTS"
by Eric Holt Gimenez, with Tanya Kerssen - Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy
Two more peasants were assassinated by paramilitary units last week in Honduras. This brings the murder of subsistence farmers and indigenous leaders to over 60 since the Honduran coup d'etat in 2009. Juan Peres and Williams Alvarado were members of the Peasant Movement for the Recovery of the Aguán (MOCRA), an organization that seeks to protect peasant cooperatives from the rash of land grabs being carried out in Honduras.
In a country where a quarter of the arable land -- the best land -- is already monopolized by less than 1% of the farmers, the Honduran "agro-oligarchs" want to acquire the 10% of Honduran land still owned by its peasantry (who make up 70% of the country's farmers).
It is easy to understand their voracity. The global demand for palm oil has tripled from two million to over eight million tons over the last decade. Thanks to renewable fuel targets in the U.S. and Europe (that neither can fill with their own stock) lucrative markets are opening for agrofuels. Financial investors view agricultural land as an $8.4 trillion market. The planet's land rush is heating up and Honduran elites are not going to be left behind in their own backyard. The Aguán Valley -- where the two peasant activists were murdered -- is the theater for relentless grabs of peasant land.
Women have also been threatened -- a form of intimidating whole families. On October 23, 2012, Karla Yadira Zelaya, spokesperson of the Unified Peasant Movement of Aguàn (MUCA) was kidnapped at 6:30 am in a bus stop in the area of El Carrizal. Karla was blindfolded while her captors interrogated her for three hours about whereabouts of MUCA's leadership, before she was thrown out of the car.
The Afro-Indigenous communities in the Moskitia region are also being affected. A letter (http://hankjohnson.house.gov/press-release/rep-johnson-57-colleagues-call-investigation-dea-related-killings-honduras) sent by Hon. Hank Johnson (GA) and 57 other Congresspersons to the Department of State and the Department of Justice on January 25, called for a credible investigation into the DEA-instigated killings of civilians in Ahuas, including a youth and one pregnant woman. They also mention that Miriam Miranda, the Afro-Indigenous/Garifuna leader who has denounced collusion between government and narco traffickers in land seizures, has received death threats.
Indigenous and peasant people are caught between the land grabbers and the War on Drugs. On May 11, 2012, four indigenous villagers, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed during the course of a drug interdiction raid in Ahuas (Moskitia), Honduras. Three others were seriously wounded. At least ten U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents participated in the mission as members of a Foreign-Deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST), a DEA unit first created in 2005 in Afghanistan. According to the New York Times, Honduran police agents that were part of the May 11 operation told government investigators that they took their orders from the D.E.A.
How did the poor people living on Honduras' vast extensions of land become so "expendable?"
This did not just happen overnight. The country has been militarized for over half a century, allowing the country's infamous "10 families" to carry out national business with impunity since the Cold War. During Ronald Reagan's war against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s, vast areas of the border zone were occupied by U.S. trained "contras" that violently displaced thousands of subsistence farmers.
There are three new elements at play today, however, that have reset the stakes and increased the human rights abuses in Honduras: The global pressure for agricultural land, the drug wars and the Honduran coup of 2009.
The coup that deposed democratically-elected Manuel Zelaya in June, 2009 was angrily denounced by Latin American governments. The United States temporarily suspended aid to the coup government. An election largely recognized as fraudulent was held in November, thus allowing the Obama Administration to resume aid to the country. President Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo was in Washington D.C. for a photo-op in October 2011, in an effort to let the world know that Honduras was open for business.
He quickly pushed legislation to favor investment in agrofuels, tourism, forestry and mining. This turned up the pressure on Honduran land.
Honduras is one more case in the epidemic of global land grabs (what the World Bank likes to call "large scale land acquisitions") sweeping the planet. Hundreds of thousands of peasants and indigenous people are being violently displaced to make way for massive agrofuel projects, hydroelectric dams, paper mills, gold mines and tourist resorts. In many cases buying up land is simply a hedge for investors. Estimates vary, but somewhere between 50 million and 227 million hectares have been grabbed, globally.
The difference in Honduras is that its land is being grabbed primarily by Hondurans... The agro-oligarchy set their sights on peasant's land back in the 1990s. The peasant organizations fought back through legal means, and were making progress towards reclaiming grabbed land and resolving disputes under the administration of Manuel Zelaya (All of this was reversed under Porfirio Lobo, suggesting that crushing the peasant movements trying to reclaim their lands was a driving motivation behind the 2009 coup).
The Honduran congress has found novel way to open up land to foreigners through its new "Charter Cities" law. Large areas of privatized territories governed autonomously and bolstered by foreign investments. In what many are calling a "mini coup", the second version of this law was passed after firing the four judges who ruled the first attempt unconstitutional. The "uninhabited" lands targeted by Charter Cities are, as it happens, the ancestral territories of Honduras' Afro-Indigenous peoples.
One Canadian investor, known as the Porn King (http://hondurashumanrights.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/garifuna-communities-of-trujillo-take-legal-action-against-canadian-porn-king/) because of how he made his fortune, has driven Garifuna inhabitants from their lands around the once pristine bay of Trujillo, in order to build a jetty for tourism cruise ships.
The rulers of Honduras are able to carry out these land and power grabs, largely thanks to the country's renewed militarization with the War on Drugs. For over a decade, the Atlantic Coast of Honduras has been a drug superhighway, whose traffic, economy and cartel control were only gingerly disputed by the DEA and the Honduran military. With the coup, the Soto Cano U.S. airbase near Tegucigalpa was given a $25 million facelift and two Atlantic naval bases were expanded.
In 2011 the Pentagon increased its contract spending in Honduras by 71% to $55 million dollars. Five more military bases have since been upgraded -- spreading the U.S. military presence to the entire country (General John F. Kelly, head U.S. Southern Command just paid a visit to Honduras in January).
The remilitarization of Honduras has ushered in a thriving cottage industry of paramilitary units available to the highest bidder. Just imagine who has the inkling -- and the money, to buy them.
The result has been called "The War on Peasants". (See: http://www.foodfirst.org/en/Grabbing+Power) Land that was distributed to peasants in the 60s and 70s is now violently up for grabs. Often organized in cooperatives, peasant farmers are desperately trying to fend off the grabbers. They have formed intra-regional federations and "observatories" in an attempt to protect themselves legally and politically from dispossession. The leaders of these peasant organizations are targeted by paramilitary groups and mercenaries hired by large oil palm growers.
The silence on the part of the Obama administration is possible, in part because Honduras is the "unknown country" off the radar for most North Americans. Sanitizing the violence of land grabs with terms like "large scale land acquisitions" and suggesting that they are "forms of investment" in agriculture only serves to distort the issue. The drumbeat of the War on Drugs further drowns out the reality of human rights abuses on the ground. Even the media's exclusive attention to the War on Terrorism diverts our attention from the terror being visited upon Honduran peasants.
With all the high talk these days of saving the world from hunger, how is it no one steps forward to protect farmers when they are gunned off their land?
Honduras As The Murder Capital Of The World:
- McClatchy Newspapers, January 20, 2012: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/01/20/136474/crime-booms-as-central-americans.html
- NACLA, January 21, 2012: http://nacla.org/news/graft-greed-mayhem-turn-honduras-murder-capital-world
- New York Times, January 27, 2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/27/opinion/in-honduras-a-mess-helped-by-the-us.html?_r=2
- NPR Radio, February 11, 2012: http://www.npr.org/2012/02/11/146668852/in-honduras-police-accused-of-corruption-killings
Journalist Killing Capital:
- Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, U.S. Congress, Testimony of Rev. Ismael Moreno Coto, July 26, 2012: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2012/moreno260712.html
LGBT Killing Capital:
- Miami Herald, January 17, 2012: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/17/2593984/honduras-is-test-of-new-us-policy.html
Inmate Killing Capital:
- BBC World News, February 15, 2012: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-17038259?print=true
- The Real News, February 24, 2012: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=7979
Lawyer Killing Capital:
- United Nations, April 11, 2012: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41745&Cr=latin+america&Cr1
HONDURAN PEOPLE UNDER A PERMANENT COUP D'ETAT
- The Nation, October 12, 2012, "How Low Can Honduras Go?": http://www.thenation.com/article/170543/how-low-can-honduras-go
- OFRANEH (Garifuna People's Organization), December 13, 2012, "Honduran People Under A Permanent Coup D'etat": http://rightsaction.org/action-content/honduran-people-under-permanent-coup-detat
- CBS News, December 31, 2012, "Inside The World's Deadliest Country: Honduras": http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57561301/inside-the-worlds-deadliest-country-honduras/
WHAT TO DO?
Please send - and keep on sending - copies of this information, and your own letters, to your own elected politicians (MPs, Congress members and Senators) and to your own media.
Since the June 2009 military coup, that ousted the democratically elected government of President Zelaya, Honduras has become the 'Murder Capital of the world'. State repression has again reached levels similar to the worst years of the 1980s.
Since the coup, the U.S. and Canadian governments have 'legitimized the illegitimate' post-coup regime. North American companies and investors have increased their business activities in Honduras since the coup. In no small part, this regime remains in power due to its political, economic and military relations with the U.S. and Canada.
GET INFORMED / GET INVOLVED
- SPEAKERS: Contact us to plan educational presentations in your community
- JOIN A DELEGATION: Form your own group or join one of our delegation seminars to Guatemala and Honduras to learn first hand about community development, human rights and environmental struggles
- BALANCED DAILY NEWS SOURCES: www.democracynow.org / www.therealnews.com / www.upsidedownworld.org / www.dominionpaper.ca / www.rabble.ca / www.fsrn.org /
- GOOD READING: Eduardo Galeano "Open Veins of Latin America" / Howard Zinn "A People's History of the United States" / James Loewen "Lies My Teacher Told Me" / Ronald Wright "Stolen Continents" / Naomi Klein "The Shock Doctrine" / Dr Seuss's "Horton Hears A Who" /
TO MAKE TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS (in Canada and the U.S.)
In support of pro-democracy, community based organizations in Honduras, make check payable to "Rights Action" and mail to:
UNITED STATES: Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887
CANADA: (Box 552) 351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8
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VIDEO Report: Guest Chris Kitze on Chris Dorner, LAPD ‘Waco’ Kill and CNN
by Patrick Henningsen - 21st Century WireHost Patrick Henningsen interviews Chris Kitze, Founder of Before Its News website to discuss alleged LA cop-killer Chris Dorner’s contact on Facebook with him, and some striking parallels between Dorner’s execution by arson at the hands of the LAPD in the Big Bear cabin and the siege at Waco, Texas - as well as a discussing the institutional corruption that still plague the LAPD.
Kitze also explains how Before Its News has gone from strength to strength since it was launch 3 years ago…
INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ASK PREMIER MAROIS TO MEND THEIR BROKEN HEARTS
by Concordia Graduate Students' AssociationStudents Surround Concordia University in “One Giant Hug” to Ask for Support and Inclusion.
Broken-hearted foreign students will address the media on Valentine’s Day at 12:15pm in front of Concordia University’s administration building on the corner of Guy and DeMaisonneuve while their friends and families dressed in heart costumes will unite hand-in-hand in “One Giant Hug” to demand an end to unrelenting international tuition hikes that leave these students unable to meet their basic needs.
In view of the upcoming Summit on Higher Education and cuts to university budgets, students at the “One Giant Hug” will send giant envelopes with hundreds of Valentine’s cards from students to Premier Pauline Marois, Higher Education Minister Pierre Duchesne, and Concordia Senior Management. The cards will ask them to have a heart and mend the broken hearts of international students by stopping the differential treatment of international students, increasing their financial support, and asking Concordia to rescind financial penalties for students impacted by money transfer delays due to sanctions against their home country.
Engineering graduate student Payam Mehregan from Iran, Geography graduate student Xiaojuan Li from China, and Political Science undergraduate student Mario Nouel from Dominican Republic will speak to the media about their personal experiences and those of their friends and families. “We are asking for fairness,” says Nouel. “Don’t exclude us from the Summit, don’t shut us out of Quebec society, we also have rights here to a decent quality of life.”
Real and chocolate hugs as well as free samosas will abound to alleviate the intense emotional and physical costs that 40% of international students pay as they struggle to meet their basic subsistence needs, amidst deregulated and unexpected fee increases that often occur with no warning from either the government or the university.
For Immediate Release: February 14, 2013
More about the Concordia Graduate Students' Association (http://gsaconcordia.ca):
Established in 1970, the Concordia Graduate Students' Association (GSA) represents over 6,000 graduate students at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The GSA is committed to defending the interests of its members at the local, provincial, and national level through a variety of campaigns and participation on University governance bodies. The GSA firmly supports the right to accessible education through active participation in education and mobilization campaigns, and seeks to increase graduate students' influence on decision-making bodies and encourage involvement of its members in political processes, both internal and external to the University.
Jousting with Toothpicks: The Case for Challenging Corporate Journalism
by David Edwards - Media LensA critic responding to a recent alert, objected to our use of the term 'corporate journalist':
'The problem is it has no clear meaning. Chomsky regularly writes for "corporate media", as does Pilger, Klein, and Michael Moore. Pilger has had his documentaries aired by "corporate media". Klein promotes her books through the "corporate media". I could go on...'
Worse still: 'Not only is this phrase intended as a passive aggressive pejorative, it is meant to dehumanise those it is aimed at, to group them, and then discredit en masse.' (Dom, Media Lens message board, January 24, 2013)
In fact the meaning of 'corporate journalist' could hardly be clearer: it describes someone paid to write for a corporation.
Certainly anyone familiar with our work will not imagine we are using the term as a form of flattery. After all, the key principle of corporate law was established in the 19th century by England's Lord Bowen:
'The law does not say that there are to be no cakes and ale, but there are to be no cakes and ale except such as are required for the benefit of the company... charity has no business to sit at boards of directors qua charity.' (Lord Bowen, cited, Joel Bakan, The Corporation, Constable, 2004, pp.38-39)
This quite literally outlawed authentic corporate compassion. More recently, the American Bar Association observed:
'While allowing directors to give consideration to the interests of others, [the law] compels them to find some reasonable relationship to the long-term interests of shareholders when so doing.' (p.39)
Put more bluntly, the rule that corporations exist solely to maximise returns to their shareholders is 'the law of the land', business journalist Marjorie Kelly comments, 'universally accepted as a kind of divine, unchallengeable truth'. (p.39)
Canadian lawyer Joel Bakan asks us to imagine how we would regard an individual who refused to help the sick and dying unless it made solid financial sense. He argues that such a person would be deemed a psychopath. If readers find the description extreme, they might like to consider the barely believable response of the fossil fuel industry to the catastrophic threat of climate change.
Journalists working for the corporate media are choosing to work for just such an employer guided by the same cold-blooded priorities. So what should our reaction be?
Well how would we have responded to a journalist taking big salaries from Pravda in Stalinist Russia or from Der Stürmer in Nazi Germany during the 1930s? The question might seem outrageous, but is a global psychopathic corporate system more or less destructive than a national Stalinist or fascist system?
Part of the difficulty in considering the question rationally lies in the very nature of the problem being addressed. The corporate media are as skilled at promoting their non-existent virtues as they are at marginalising critics. They also have an astonishing ability to make even the most appalling state crimes ('mistakes') seem somehow trivial, unimportant, 'not that bad'. So the very deceptiveness of the system makes the comparison with totalitarian media seem far more outrageous than it really is.
In fact the question is reasonable. If we look around us today - at the devastating Western wars of aggression, at the mass killings fuelled by corporate militarism, at the truly awesome, perhaps terminal, exploitation of people and planet – we are looking at a world being devastated by psychopathic greed. Former New York Times journalist, Chris Hedges, comments of 'the liberal class', the 'quality' corporate media included:
'The liberal class has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power... as [it] pollutes and poisons the ecosystem and propels us into a world where there will be only masters and serfs.' (Hedges, Death Of The Liberal Class, Nation Books, 2011, p.12)
Journalists are participants in this system. But mere willingness to cooperate says nothing about the motives of the individuals involved. Some are indeed cynically serving greed and power. But others are sincere, attempting to improve and even reform the system from within. Although we don't agree with their strategy, we accept that it is a reasonable position to take, one that may even offer the best hope of spreading progressive views to a mass audience (we are certainly open to the possibility that we are wrong).
Our real interest and effort has never been to stand in judgement but to highlight what even the best journalists are unable to say about the system that employs them. For example, corporate journalists can almost never answer questions of this kind honestly:
'What impact does your newspaper's dependence on advertising for 75 per cent of its revenues have on the contents of the paper?'
Noam Chomsky can answer the question honestly, as can Edward Herman. Their book, Manufacturing Consent, published 25 years ago this year, is the most rational analysis of structural media bias we have seen. Both authors are still alive, Chomsky is a ground-breaking linguist and one of the world's most-read political analysts. And yet the book has been ignored by the great and the good of corporate journalism. It has been mentioned eight times in the last five years in all national UK newspapers, all of them mentions in passing (one or two sentences) with zero serious analysis of the contents. The words 'Noam Chomsky' and 'propaganda model' (the central theme of the book) have appeared in a total of two national UK press articles over the last 20 years.
In our experience, a corporate journalist is unlikely to respond to the question at all. He or she might make a vague gesture in the direction of truth from the safe confines of a book in the style of the BBC's former political editor Andrew Marr:
'But the biggest question is whether advertising limits and reshapes the news agenda. It does, of course. It's hard to make the sums add up when you are kicking the people who write the cheques.' (Marr, My Trade, Macmillan, 2004, p.112)
But, as in this case, there will be no attempt to explore the implications of what is an obviously crucial problem, no attempt to offer key examples from experience, to discuss alternatives, and absolutely no attempt to call the public to action.
Another question might be posed, perhaps to a journalist at the Independent:
'What impact does the goal of profit-maximisation under its billionaire owner have on your newspaper's capacity to report honestly?'
One really has to be wilfully blind, or perhaps not have worked for a corporation, to fail to understand that criticising the company, the product, the owner - suggesting that the product is harmful and that customers should look elsewhere - is incompatible with the corporate profit drive. It cannot be tolerated because, from the perspective of profit, it is self-destructive and absurd. It is like deciding to play a game of football in which one of the teams tries to score own goals. What would be the point? Why bother at all?
The problem goes much deeper, because the de facto ban on structural self-criticism extends beyond journalists discussing their own media company to the contradictions afflicting the 'corporate free press' generally. Whistle-blowers who speak out honestly become 'radioactive', unemployable and are not welcome anywhere.
Walking Through Media Walls
None of the above should be taken to imply that independent commentators like Chomsky and Herman are able to persuade senior press managers to publish honest material about their newspapers in those newspapers. Chomsky, for example, has never published a structural analysis of the Guardian in the Guardian. Comparative freedom does not empower dissidents to walk through media walls.
Our analysis should also not be taken to suggest that answers to these taboo questions never appear. The Guardian did offer some quite candid analysis on the problem of advertising in an age of climate change. But this was really an editorial sop to a high-profile journalist under pressure from media activists to demonstrate that he was as uncompromisingly honest as claimed. Point made, the fig leaf of concern has since been discarded, leaving Guardian advertising policy and practice unaffected.
Critics like to personalise our arguments, responding that this, for example, is a 'nasty' and 'ungrateful' response to the Guardian's well-intentioned efforts. We do not at all intend it 'nastily'. Also, we do not consider rare glimpses of honest commentary from the corporate media something to be received with gratitude. We perceive this, and very much more, as a human right.
Ironically, leftists are often our fiercest opponents. Corporate dissidents are viewed, sometimes with good reason, as heroic figures doing battle in the belly of the corporate beast. Leftists argue that they should be 'supported' to the utmost – by which they mean they should be spared the ordeal of receiving rational challenges. Our criticism is sometimes viewed as a kind of personal betrayal, as dangerously morale-sapping. Perhaps these (often quite fierce) political commentators will lose heart and give up! The argument – in response to a tiny dissident outfit on the margins of debate - shows real contempt for open discussion and free speech.
There is also a concern that corporate gatekeepers should not be provoked in a way that might cause them to eject left infiltrators. The corporate Moloch should be placated, persuaded to see reason, converted to a more benevolent path.
This last argument carried considerable weight for a very long time, not least with us. But a change has taken place in recent years that cannot be ignored and which demands that left and green activists take a long hard look at their assumptions. That change is climate change.
Despite a quarter of a century of growing, now undeniable, evidence of looming climate catastrophe, media coverage is a fraction of what it was when we, for example, began campaigning in the late 1980s. The last decade, in particular, has seen green movements more or less routed on climate change by corporate interests, with the media very much leading the assault. The argument that progressives should continue placating these media, supporting corporate leftists, and not declaring obvious truth, is more vulnerable now than it has ever been.
The lack of comment from corporate dissidents like Robert Fisk, Naomi Klein, Mark Weisbrot, Owen Jones and Glenn Greenwald gives the impression that structural media analysis is a take it or leave it issue: one might find it interesting and discuss it, or not, almost as a matter of taste. But in fact public information relating to everything these writers do find interesting - civil rights, war, climate change, economic injustice, mass consumerism – passes through structural media filters, which are undeniably a key issue for all of these discussions. The unspoken assumption that they are not is one of the propaganda system's required illusions.
Trying To Move A Ten-Ton Truck With A Toothpick
Criticism of our analysis also overlooks our attempt to address a crucial imbalance built into the media system. Just as journalists have plenty to lose from criticising their own and other media, they stand to gain from hyping their virtues. Twitter is chock full of journalists praising their colleagues, editors, potential allies and future employers, with points also scored for lambasting recognised 'bad guys' like Chomsky, Julian Assange and Hugo Chavez. As Chomsky has noted, the political classes are 'the masters of self-adulation'. It hardly needs us to point out that broadcast and print journalists are often feted as national treasures.
Our obvious point is that there is little or no opinion challenging the media's presentation of itself as fundamentally benign, marred only by a few Murdochian gremlins. It is hard to imagine how anyone could think that our offering a tiny counter to this self-adulation is in some way 'unkind' or 'unfair'. As Chomsky once wrote to us:
'Am really impressed with what you are doing, though it's like trying to move a ten-ton truck with a toothpick. They're not going to allow themselves to be exposed.' (Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 14, 2005)
This refusal to be exposed facilitates criminality on an awesome scale.
In the face of the disaster that has overtaken Iraq in the ten years since the 2003 invasion, a number of journalists have quietly lamented their own performance. The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson writes in his book Live From Downing Street:
'The build-up to the invasion of Iraq is the point in my career when I have most regretted not pushing harder and not asking more questions...' (Robinson, Live from Downing Street, Transworld, 2012, p.332)
The BBC's Jeremy Paxman has admitted of US-UK claims:
'I'm perfectly open to the accusation that we were hoodwinked. Yes, clearly we were.'
The fiercely pro-Iraq war (then) Independent columnist Johann Hari offered a mea culpa under the title: 'I was wrong, terribly wrong - and the evidence should have been clear all along.'
But the fact is that even the most cynical, hard-right media propagandists complicit in this horrendous crime have not paid any kind of price - they continue, unaffected, with their lucrative, high-profile careers. This facilitation of the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians abroad is a function of the media's power without responsibility.
In an attempt to break the spell and challenge the silence, we do deliberately use provocative language. We believe the media is far more toxic than most people imagine. From our perspective, the truth about the corporate media's mass deception can only be communicated honestly by language that many media consumers will find outrageous.
If nothing else, we are a rare voice. Most political commentators dream of a contracted, regular column in the Guardian or Independent, of becoming a TV 'name'. We have watched as younger writers on the left – some of them enthusiastic contributors to our message board – have carefully tailored their words and tone to achieve corporate media inclusion. The moment inclusion becomes possible or actual, they stop posting on our site, stop mentioning our work, and join the shaking mainstream heads denouncing us as 'irresponsible' and 'extreme'.
In 2001, we decided, almost for the fun of it, as a kind of experiment, that we would no longer abide by the media's 'gentleman's agreement' on what should and should not be written. Amazingly, thanks to the tremendous generosity of our readers, we are able to feed ourselves and write honestly. Unlike so many commentators, we really do have nothing to lose.
This does not make us saints, or even right. But it does challenge the claim that we – tragicomically charging the media's ten-ton truck with a toothpick - are doing more harm than good.
Write to Media Lens: email@example.com
360 Detainees To Hold Solidarity Hunger Strike
by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies
The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) reported Wednesday that 360 Palestinian detainees will be holding a one-day hunger strike in solidarity with the hunger striking detainees. The strike will be conducted on Thursday by returning the meals in an initial step towards further measures in protest to the escalating Israeli violations.
The PPS said that 360 detainees at the Ramon Israeli prison, and detained Islamic Jihad leaders in all Israeli prisons and detention facilities, will be holding the one-day hunger strike this Thursday.
The strike will likely escalate to include all detainees in Israel’s detention centers due to the ongoing Israeli violations and in solidarity with detainee Samer Al-Eesawy.
Al-Eesawy has been on hunger strike for close to six and a half months, demanding his release as he is being illegally held without charges or trial.
He is currently in a very bad, and continuously deteriorating, health condition; his internal organs are starting to shut down, he is vomiting blood, can barely talk and when he does it is very difficult to understand what he is saying.
Two days ago, the PPS reported that Al-Eesawy, in addition to hunger striking detainees Jafar Ez Ed-Deen, and Tareq Qa’dan, are also facing life-threatening health complications.
Israel is currently holding captive more than 4600 Palestinians, including 182 children and 11 women, in addition to 1200 detainees who are ill, including 20 who are continuously held at prison clinic
There are 1200 detainees who suffering from different diseases and health conditions, including cancer, and are not receiving the adequate and specialized medical care they require.
20 of them are continuously staying at the Ramla Prison Clinic that lacks specialists, basic equipment and supplies, 18 detainees suffer from cancer, liver failure, or heart conditions, and 85 detainees who suffer from physical or mental conditions.
AP and Amnesty International: Are You Just Waiting for Him to Die?
by Alison Weir - If Americans KnewSamer Issawi has lived for 33 years, 1 month, and 27 days. I hope he lives another day.
He has been on a hunger strike now for six and a half months. Gandhis’ longest hunger strike was 21 days.
The IRA’s Bobby Sands and nine other Irish hunger strikers died in 1981 after strikes lasting from 46 to 73 days.
Issawi’s internal organs are starting to shut down, he can no longer walk, he is reportedly suffering loss of vision and vomiting blood, it is difficult for him talk, and he is increasingly near death. He has lost half his body weight.
One of the main ideas behind such nonviolent resistance is that world awareness will bring pressure on behalf of the sufferer.
Yet, U.S. news outlets are not covering Issawi’s hunger strike. It appears that the Associated Press has not run a single news story on Issawi’s strike and refuses to answer queries on the subject.
AP’s lack of reporting on the situation is even more inexplicable given that there has been an international campaign on Issawi’s behalf.
There have been banner drops in Washington, D.C, Chicago, Cleveland, Austin, and other parts of the world; demonstrations and vigils in numerous cities; and Issawi’s plight has made it onto Twitter’s world-trending list at least four times this month.
The alleged “crime” for which Issawi is being imprisoned and may die – there has been no trial – is for having allegedly traveled outside Jerusalem. Issawi is one of the Palestinian prisoners released in a prisoner exchange in 2011, and such movement, Israel says, violated the terms of that release. (It is unclear whether Israel has formally charged Issawi.)
However, Issawi supporters point out that Issawi’s “travel” was to an area near Hizma, and Israel does not appear to dispute this, bringing into question Israel’s claimed reason for incarcerating him: Hizma is within Jerusalem’s municipal borders.
Israeli is holding Issawi under “administrative detention,” a system by which Israel holds Palestinian men, women, and even children for as long as the Israeli government wishes without trials or charges; sometimes for decades. Since 2000 Israel has reportedly issued 20,000 such detention orders.
In response to Issawi’s hunger strike, Israel has begun punishing his family. Israel arrested his sister for a period and reportedly cut off water to her house. In early July the Israeli army demolished his brother’s home.
It is difficult to think that if an Israeli soldier were held by Palestinians that the Associated Press would not run a single story about it. (AP ran many dozens of stories on Israeli tank gunner Gilad Shalit when he was held in Gaza.)
It is even more difficult to imagine that if an Israeli held by Palestinians (none are) had been on a hunger strike – let alone one that had lasted months and put him near death – the person would not have been the subject of a single AP report.
Moreover, Issawi is just one of a multitude of Palestinian hunger strikers, almost all ignored by U.S. media. Another, Ayman Sharawna, whose fast was interrupted for a short period, has been on a strike that, in total, is even longer that Issawi’s.
Amnesty International has also been inexplicably negligent.
I have just been informed that Amnesty International plans to issue an announcement about Issawi today. If it does so, this will be its first one on Issawi. In fact, during a hunger strike that lasted over six months, queries to Amnesty and searches of both the American and British websites, have turned up only one mention of him – in the last paragraph of an alert about other prisoners posted on the British site. It is not on the U.S. site.
Phone calls and emails over the past week to Amnesty’s Washington DC, New York, and London offices failed to elicit any information on Issawi or Amnesty’s decision not to alert the public to his situation. (Finally, unable to obtain a response from Amnesty, a few days ago I posted their lack of coverage on Facebook.)
While pro-Israel groups constantly attack Amnesty for insufficiently taking the Israeli line, in reality Amnesty’s record on the Middle East, North Africa, and Afghanistan is often significantly at odds with the organization’s work on behalf of prisoners and human rights in other areas.
There have been analyses and objections to Amnesty actions that appeared to, in the words of one article, “shill for Mideast Wars.” Its executive director Suzanne Nossel spoke in favor of what she termed “hard force,” e.g. wars.
Nossel emphasized that at the top of Amnesty’s list was “defense of Israel,” despite Israel’s long list of violent aggression, ethnic cleansing, and human rights violations. Nossel blasted the UN report on Gaza’s 2008-9 massacre in Gaza as “not supported by facts,” despite massive evidence both in that report and and many others that its statements about Israel were quite accurate, if not slightly tilted toward Israel.
A lengthy article in CounterPunch examined Amnesty’s emphasis (and inaccurate coverage) on the Pussy Riot issue, and compared this to Amnesty’s lack of coverage on the incarceration of whistle blower Julian Assange and on other significant cases.
A 1988 analysis on human rights organizations’ work on Israel-Palestine found a number of shortcomings in Amnesty’s work, and in January 2012 Dutch-English writer Paul de Rooij complained of Amnesty’s “double standards” on Palestinian human rights.
In an email exchange with Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, de Rooij wrote that Amnesty’s “unwillingness to publish lists” of Palestinian Prisoners of Conscience and the extreme rarity of applying this designation to Palestinian prisoners “indicate that Palestinians can't expect much from Amnesty International.”
De Rooij continued: “The brutal treatment and dispossession of Palestinians has been going on for decades; the situation is chronic and it has been systematic. But check for yourself in Amnesty's reports or press releases: when was the last time that AI unambiguously indicated that Israeli actions amounted to crimes against humanity?”
De Rooij answered his own question: “You can count such instances with less than half the fingers on your hand.”
Susanne Nossel left Amnesty in January of this year and her replacement has not yet been chosen, so it is possible that its actions will change.
In the meantime, Samer Issawi’s life seems to be hanging by a thread.
Since Americans give Israel over $8 million per day, our tax money is helping to fund Israel’s actions. Those who wish to prevent at least one tragic death may wish to make their opinion known to the U.S. State Department (202-663-1848) and http://www.ap.org/company/contact-us Associated Press (212.621.1500).
Samer’s last name is also sometimes given as Al-Issawi or Al-Essawy. For a thorough analysis on Amnesty International's activity on Palestine-Israel see Amnesty International & Israel: Say it isn't so! by Paul de Rooij.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Part I: Africa’s New Thirty Years’ War?
by F. William Engdahl - Global Research
Mali at first glance seems a most unlikely place for the NATO powers, led by a neo-colonialist French government of Socialist President Francois Hollande (and quietly backed to the hilt by the Obama Administration), to launch what is being called by some a new Thirty Years’ War Against Terrorism.
Mali, with a population of some 12 million, and a landmass three and a half times the size of Germany, is a land-locked largely Saharan Desert country in the center of western Africa, bordered by Algeria to its north, Mauritania to its west, Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger to its southern part. People I know who have spent time there before the recent US-led efforts at destabilization called it one of the most peaceful and beautiful places on earth, the home of Timbuktu. Its people are some ninety percent Muslim of varying persuasions. It has a rural subsistence agriculture and adult illiteracy of nearly 50%. Yet this country is suddenly the center of a new global “war on terror.”
On January 20 Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron announced his country’s curious resolve to dedicate itself to deal with “the terrorism threat” in Mali and north Africa. Cameron declared, “It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months, and it requires a response that…has an absolutely iron resolve…”  Britain in its colonial heyday never had a stake in Mali. Until it won independence in 1960, Mali was a French colony.
On January 11, after more than a year of behind-the-scenes pressure on the neighboring Algeria to get them entangled in an invasion of its neighbor Mali, Hollande decided to make a direct French military intervention with US backing. His government launched air strikes in the rebel-held north of Mali against a fanatical Salafist band of jihadist cutthroats calling itself Al-Qaeda in the Islamic-Mahgreb (AQIM). The pretext for the seemingly swift French action was a military move by a tiny group of Islamic Jihadists of the Tuareg people, Asnar Dine, affiliated with the larger AQIM. On January 10 Asnar Dine – backed by other Islamist groups – attacked the southern town of Konna. That marked the first time since the Tuareg rebellion in early 2012 that Jihadist rebels moved out of traditional Tuareg territory in the northern desert to spread Islamic law to the south of Mali.
As French journalist Thierry Meyssan noted, French forces were remarkably well prepared: “The transitional President, Dioncounda Traore, declared a state of emergency and called to France for help. Paris intervened within hours to prevent the fall of the capital, Bamako. Far-sightedly, the Elysée had already pre-positioned in Mali troops from the 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (“the Colonials”) and the 13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment, helicopters from the COS (Special Operations Command), three Mirage 2000D’s, two Mirage F-1’s, three C135’s, a C130 Hercules and a C160 Transall.”  What a convenient coincidence.
By January 21 US Air Force transport planes began delivering hundreds of French elite soldiers and military equipment to Mali, ostensibly to roll back what we were told was an out-of-control terrorist advance south towards the Mali capital.  French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told media the number of its ‘boots on the ground’ in Mali had reached 2,000, adding that “around 4,000 troops will be mobilized for this operation,” in Mali and outside bases. 
But there are strong indications the French agenda in Mali is anything but humanitarian. In a France 5 TV interview, Le Drian carelessly admitted, “The goal is the total reconquest of Mali. We will not leave any pockets.” And President Francois Hollande said French troops would remain in the region long enough “to defeat terrorism.” The United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Germany and Denmark have all said they would support the French operation against Mali. 
Mali itself, like much of Africa is rich in raw materials. It has large reserves of gold, uranium and most recently, though western oil companies try to hide it, of oil, lots of oil. The French preferred to ignore Mali’s vast resources, keeping it a poor subsistence agriculture country. Under the deposed democratically-elected President Amadou Toumani Toure, for the first time the government initiated a systematic mapping of the vast wealth under its soil. According to Mamadou Igor Diarra, previous mining minister, Malian soil contains copper, uranium, phosphate, bauxite, gems and in particular, a large percentage of gold in addition to oil and gas. Thus, Mali is one of the countries in the world with the most raw materials. With its gold mining, the country is already one of the leading exploiters directly behind South Africa and Ghana.  Two thirds of France’s electricity is from nuclear power and sources of new uranium are essential. Presently, France draws significant uranium imports from neighboring Niger.
Now the picture gets a little complex.
According to usually reliable former US military experts with direct familiarity with the region, speaking on condition of anonymity, US and NATO Special Forces actually trained the same “terrorist” bands now justifying a neo-colonial US-backed invasion of Mali by France. The major question is why would Washington and Paris train the terrorists they are now acting to destroy in a “war on terror?” Were they really surprised at the lack of NATO loyalty from their trainees? And what is behind AFRICOM’s American-backed French takeover of Mali?
Part II: AFRICOM and ‘Victoria’s Secrets’
The truth about what is really going on in Mali and with AFRICOM and NATO countries, especially France is a little bit like a geopolitical “Victoria’s Secret”—what you think you see is definitely not what you will get.
We are being told repeatedly in recent months that something supposedly calling itself Al Qaeda—the organization officially charged by the US Government as responsible for pulverizing three towers of the World Trade Center and blowing a gaping hole in the side of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001—has regrouped.
According to the popular media account and statements of various NATO member country government officials, the original group of the late Osama bin Laden, holed up we are supposed to believe somewhere in the caves of Tora Bora in Afghanistan, has apparently adopted a modern business model and is handing out Al Qaeda official franchises in a style something like a ‘McDonalds of Terrorism,’ from Al Qaeda in Iraq to Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in Libya and now Al-Qaeda-in-the Islamic-Maghreb.
I’ve even heard reports that a new Al Qaeda “official” franchise has just been given, bizarre as it sounds, to something called DRCCAQ or Democratic Republic of Congo Christian (sic) Al Qaeda.  Now that’s a stretch which reminds one of an equally bizarre sect called Jews for Jesus created back in the hippie days of the Vietnam War era. Can it be that the architects of all these murky groups have so little imagination?
If we are to believe the official story, the group being blamed in Mali for most all the trouble is Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM for short). The murky AQIM itself is actually a product of several behind-the-scenes workings. Originally it was based in Algeria across the border from Mali and called itself the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC according to its French name).
In 2006 Al Qaeda’s head guru in absence of Osama bin Laden, Egyptian jihadist Ayman al-Zawahiri, publicly announced the granting to the Algerian GSPC the Al Qaeda franchise. The name was changed to Al-Qaeda-in-the Islamic-Mahgreb and Algerian counter-terror operations pushed them in the past two years over the desert border into northern Mali. AQIM reportedly is little more than a well-armed criminal band that gets its money from running South American cocaine from Africa into Europe, or from arms dealing and human trafficking. 
A year later, in 2007, the enterprising al-Zawahiri added another building block to his Al Qaeda chain of thugs when he officially announced the merger between the Libyan LIFG and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM).
The LIFG or Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was formed by a Libyan-born jihadist named Abdelhakim Belhaj. Belhaj was trained by the CIA as part of the US-financed Mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s alongside another CIA trainee then named Osama bin Laden. In essence, as the journalist Pepe Escobar notes, “for all practical purposes, since then, LIFG/AQIM have been one and the same – and Belhaj was/is its emir.” 
That becomes even more interesting when we find that Belhaj’s men – who, as Escobar writes, were at the forefront of a militia of Berbers from the mountains southwest of Tripoli, the so-called Tripoli Brigade—were trained in secret for two months by US Special Forces. 
LIFG played a key role in the US and French-backed toppling of Libya’s Qaddafi, turning Libya today into what one observer describes as the “world’s largest open air arms bazaar.” Those arms are reportedly flooding from Benghazi to Mali and other various hotspot targets of destabilization, including, according to what was suggested at the recent US Senate Foreign Relations testimony of outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, by the boatload from Libya to Turkey where they were being channeled into the various foreign terrorist insurgents sent into Syria to fuel the destruction of Syria. 
Now what does this unusual conglomerate globalized terror organization, LIFG-GPSC-AQIM intend in Mali and beyond, and how does that suit AFRICOM and French aims?
Part III: Curious Mali Coup and AQIM terror—exquisite timing
Events in the formerly peaceful, democratic Mali began to get very strange on March 22, 2012 when Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted and driven into exile in a military coup one month before a scheduled presidential election. Toure had earlier instituted a multi-party democratic system. The putsch leader, Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, received military training in the US, at Fort Benning, Georgia and the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia according to AFRICOM’s spokesman.  Sanogo claimed the military coup was necessary because Toure’s government was not doing enough to quell Tuareg unrest in northern Mali.
As Meyssan points out, the March 2012 military coup against Toure was suspicious in every regard. A previously unheard-of group called CNRDRE (in English: National Commitee for the Recovery of Democracy and the Restoration of the State) overthrew Touré and declared intention to restore Mali law and order in the north.
“This resulted in great confusion,” Meyssan goes on, “since the putschists were incapable of explaining how their actions would improve the situation. The overthrow of the President was even stranger since a presidential election was to be held five weeks later and the outgoing President was not running for office. The CNRDRE is composed of officers who were trained in the United States. They halted the election process and handed power to one of their candidates, who happened to be the Francophile Dioncounda Traore. This sleight of hand was legalized by the CEDEAO (or in English, ECOWAS—Economic Community of West African States), whose President is none other than Alassane Ouattara, who was placed in power in the Ivory Coast by the French army a year earlier.” 
Alassane Ouattara, educated in economics in the US, is a former senior IMF official who in 2011 forced out his Ivory Coast presidential rival with French military assistance. He owes his job not to “the New York Times,” but to French Special Forces. 
At the time of the military coup, the unrest in question was from an ethnic tribe, Tuareg, a secular, nomadic group of pastoral cattle-herding people who demanded independence from Mali in early 2012.
The Tuareg Rebellion was reportedly armed and financed by France who repatriated Tuaregs who had been fighting in Libya for the purpose of splitting the north of Mali along Algeria’s border, from the rest of the country and declaring Sharia law. It only lasted from January to April 2012, at which time the nomadic Tuareg fighters rode off to their nomad haunts in the central Sahara and borders of the Sahel, a vast borderless desert area between Libya and Algeria, Mali and Niger. That left the Algerian-Libyan LIFG/Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and their associates in the Jihadist Asnar Dine to carry out the dirty work for Paris. 
In their 2012 battle for independence from Mali, the Tuareg had made an unholy alliance with the Jihadist AQIM. Both groups, briefly joined together with Asnar Dine, another islamist organization led by Iyad Ag Ghaly. Asnar Dine is believed to have ties to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which is led by Ag Ghaly’s cousin, Hamada Ag Hama. Ansar Dine wants the imposition of strict Sharia law across Mali.
The three main groups briefly joined forces the moment Mali was plunged into chaos following the March 2012 military coup. The coup leader was Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, who received military training at the Marine Corps camp at Quantico, Virginia and Special Forces training at Fort Benning, Georgia in the US. In a bizarre play of events, despite the claim the coup was driven by the civilian government’s failure to contain the rebellion in the north, the Malian military lost control of the regional capitals of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu within ten days of Sanogo’s assuming office. Reuters describe the farcical coup as “a spectacular own-goal.” 
The violation of Mali’s constitution by the military was used to trigger severe sanctions against the central military government. Mali was suspended from membership in the African Union; the World Bank and African Development Bank have suspended aid. The US has cut half of the $140 million in aid that it sends each year, all of which created chaos in Mali and made it virtually impossible for the government to respond to the growing loss of territory in the north to Salafists.
Part IV: Terror-Anti-Terror
What then ensued is like a page ripped out of the insurgency-counter-insurgency textbook of Britain’s Brigadier Frank E. Kitson during the 1950s British Mau Mau operations in Kenya. The Jihadist insurgency in the North and the simultaneous military coup in the capital led to a situation in which Mali was immediately isolated and massively punished with economic sanctions.
Acting with indecent haste, the US and French-controlled regional 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) demanded the coup leaders restore civilian rule. On March 26, the US cut off all military aid to the impoverished country, ensuring maximum chaos just as the Jihadists made their major push south., Then at a meeting April 2 in Dakar, Senegal, ECOWAS members closed their countries’ borders with land-locked Mali and imposed severe sanctions, including cutting off access to the regional bank, raising the possibility that Mali will soon be unable to pay for essential supplies, including gasoline.
The same military that “trains” the terrorists also trains the “anti-terrorists.” This seems a bizarre contradiction in policy only when we fail to grasp the essence of US and British-developed methods of irregular warfare employed actively since the early 1950’s.
The method was originally termed Low Intensity Warfare by the British Army officer who developed and refined the method for control of subject areas in Malaysia, Kenya during the Mau Mau 1950’s freedom struggles and later for the British Army in Northern Ireland. Low intensity warfare as he termed it in a book by that name,  involves use of deception, of infiltration of double-agents, provocateurs, and use of defectors into legitimate popular movements such as those struggles for colonial independence after 1945.
The method is sometimes referred to as “Gang/Counter-Gang.” The essence is that the orchestrating intelligence agency or military occupying force, whether the British Army in Kenya or the CIA in Afghanistan, de facto controls the actions of both sides in an internal conflict, creating small civil wars or gang wars to the aim of dividing the overall legitimate movement and creating the pretext for outside military force in what the US now has deceptively renamed as “Peace-Keeping Operations” or PKO. 
In his advanced course on American Military Intervention Since Vietnam, Grant Hammond of the US Air War College refers openly to Low Intensity Conflict aka Peace Keeping Operations as “war by another name.” 
We begin to see the bloody footprints of a not-so-well-disguised French recolonisation of former French Africa, this time using Al-Qaeda terror as the springboard to direct military presence for the first time in more than half a century. French troops will likely stay on to help Mali in a “peace keeping operation.” The US is fully backing France as AFRICOM’s “cat’s paw.” And Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its spinoffs make the whole NATO military intervention possible.
Washington claimed to have been caught blind-sided by the military coup. According to press reports, a confidential internal review completed July 2012 by the Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) concluded that the coup had unfolded too fast for American intelligence analysts to detect any clear warning signs. “The coup in Mali progressed very rapidly and with very little warning,” said AFRICOM spokesman, Col. Tom Davis. “The spark that ignited it occurred within their junior military ranks, who ultimately overthrew the government, not at the senior leadership level where warning signs might have been more easily noticed.”  That view is strongly disputed. In an off-the-record interview with The New York Times, one Special Operations Forces officer disagreed, saying, “This has been brewing for five years. The analysts got complacent in their assumptions and did not see the big changes and the impacts of them, like the big weaponry coming out of Libya and the different, more Islamic fighters who came back.” 
More accurate it seems, AFRICOM had been “brewing” the crisis for five years since it began operations in late 2007. Mali for the Pentagon is but the next building block in the militarization of all of Africa by AFRICOM using proxy forces like France to do the dirty work. The Mali intervention using France upfront is but one building block in a project for the total militarization of Africa whose prime goal is not capturing strategic resources like oil, gas, uranium, gold or iron ore. The strategic target is China and the rapidly growing Chinese business presence across Africa over the past decade. The goal of AFRICOM is to push China out of Africa or at least to irreparably cripple her independent access to those African resources. An economically independent China, so goes thinking in various Pentagon offices or Washington neo-conservative think-tanks, can be a politically independent China. God forbid! So they believe.
Part V: AFRICOM Agenda in Mali: Target China
The Mali operation is but the tip of a huge African iceberg. AFRICOM, the Pentagon’s US Africa Command was signed into existence by President George W. Bush in late 2007. Its prime purpose was to counter the dramatically growing Chinese economic and political influence across Africa. Alarm bells went off in Washington in October 2006 when the Chinese President hosted an historic Beijing summit, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which brought nearly fifty African heads of state and ministers to the Chinese capital. In 2008, ahead of a twelve-day eight-nation tour of Africa—the third such journey since he took office in 2003—Chinese President Hu Jintao announced a three-year, $3 billion program in preferential loans and expanded aid for Africa. These funds came on top of the $3 billion in loans and $2 billion in export credits that Hu announced earlier.
Trade between China and African countries exploded in the ensuing four years as French and US influence over the “Dark Continent” waned. China’s trade with Africa reached $166 billion in 2011, according to Chinese statistics, and African exports to China – primarily resources to fuel Chinese industries – rose to $93 billion from $5.6 billion over the past decade. In July 2012 China offered African countries $20 billion in loans over the next three years, double the amount pledged in the previous three-year period. 
For Washington, making AFRICOM operational as soon as possible was an urgent geopolitical priority. It began operation on October 1, 2008 from headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Since the Bush-Cheney Administration signed the directive creating AFRICOM in February 2007, it has been a direct response to China’s successful African economic diplomacy.
AFRICOM defines its mission as follows: “Africa Command has administrative responsibility for US military support to US government policy in Africa, to include military-to-military relationships with 53 African nations.” They admit working closely with US Embassies and State Department across Africa, an unusual admission which also includes with USAID: “US Africa Command provides personnel and logistical support to State Department-funded activities. Command personnel work closely with US embassies in Africa to coordinate training programs to improve African nations’ security capacity.” 
Speaking to the International Peace Operations Association in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 27, 2008 General Kip Ward, Commander of AFRICOM defined the command’s mission as, “in concert with other US government agencies and international partners, [to conduct] sustained security engagements through military-to-military programs, military-sponsored activities, and other military operations as directed to promote a stable and secure African environment in support of US foreign policy.” 
Various Washington sources state openly, AFRICOM was created to counter the growing presence of China in Africa, and China’s increasing success, to secure long-term economic agreements for raw materials from Africa in exchange for Chinese aid and production sharing agreements and royalties. By informed accounts, the Chinese have been far shrewder. Instead of offering savage IMF-dictated austerity and economic chaos as the West has, China is offering large credits, soft loans to build roads and schools in order to create good will.
Dr. J. Peter Pham, a leading Washington insider and an advisor of the US State and Defense Departments, states openly that among the aims of the new AFRICOM, is the objective of, “protecting access to hydrocarbons and other strategic resources which Africa has in abundance … a task which includes ensuring against the vulnerability of those natural riches and ensuring that no other interested third parties, such as China, India, Japan, or Russia, obtain monopolies or preferential treatment.”
In testimony before the US Congress supporting creation of AFRICOM in 2007, Pham, who is closely associated with the neo-conservative think-tank, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, stated:
This natural wealth makes Africa an inviting target for the attentions of the People’s Republic of China, whose dynamic economy, averaging 9 percent growth per annum over the last two decades, has an almost insatiable thirst for oil as well as a need for other natural resources to sustain it. China is currently importing approximately 2.6 million barrels of crude per day, about half of its consumption;…roughly a third of its imports come from African sources…perhaps no other foreign region rivals Africa as the object of Beijing’s sustained strategic interest in recent years…
… many analysts expect that Africa—especially the states along its oil-rich western coastline—will increasingly becoming a theatre for strategic competition between the United States and its only real near-peer competitor on the global stage, China, as both countries seek to expand their influence and secure access to resources. 
To counter the growing Chinese influence across Africa Washington has enlisted the economically weak and politically desperate French with promises of supporting a French revival of its former African colonial empire in one form or another. The strategy, as becomes clear in the wake of the French-US use of Al Qaeda terrorists to bring down Ghaddafi in Libya and now to wreak havoc across the Sahara from Mali, is to foster ethnic wars and sectarian hatred between Berbers, Arabs, and others in North Africa—divide and rule.
It appears they have even co-opted an earlier French blueprint for direct control. In a groundbreaking analysis, Canadian geopolitical analyst and sociologist, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya writes, “The map used by Washington for combating terrorism under the Pan-Sahel Initiative says a lot. The range or area of activity for the terrorists, within the borders of Algeria, Libya, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Mauritania according to Washington’s designation, is very similar to the boundaries or borders of the colonial territorial entity which France attempted to sustain in Africa in 1957. Paris had planned to prop up this African entity in the western central Sahara as a French department (province) directly tied to France, along with coastal Algeria.” 
The French called it the Common Organization of the Saharan Regions (Organisation commune des regions sahariennes, OCRS). It comprised the inner boundaries of the Sahel and Saharan countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Algeria. Paris used it to control the resource-rich countries for French exploitation of such raw materials as oil, gas, and uranium. French map of Sahara in 1958 compared with USAFRICOM Pan-Sahal Initiative map (below) of terror threat in Sahara today.Source: GlobalResearch.ca)
He adds that Washington clearly had this energy-rich and resource-rich area in mind when it drew the areas of Africa that need to be “cleansed” of alleged terrorist cells and gangs. At least now AFRICOM had “a plan” for its new African strategy. The French Institute of Foreign Relations (Institut français des relations internationals, IFRI) openly discussed this tie between the terrorists and energy-rich areas in a March 2011 report. 
The map used by Washington for combating terrorism under the Pentagon Pan-Sahel Initiative shows an area of activity for the terrorists, inside Algeria, Libya, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Mauritania according to Washington’s designation. The Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCTI) was begun by the Pentagon in 2005. Mali, Chad, Mauritania, and Niger were now joined by Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria, and Tunisia in a ring of military cooperation with the Pentagon. The Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative was transferred to the command of AFRICOM on October 1, 2008. 
The Pentagon map is remarkably similar to the boundaries or borders of the colonial territorial entity which France attempted to sustain in Africa in 1957. Paris had planned to prop up this African entity in the western central Sahara as a French department (province) directly tied to France, along with coastal Algeria—the Common Organization of the Saharan Regions (Organisation commune des regions sahariennes, OCRS). It comprised the inner boundaries of the Sahel and Saharan countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Algeria. The plans were foiled during the Cold War by the Algerian and other African countries’ independence wars against French colonial rule, France’s “Vietnam.” France was forced to dissolve the OCRS in 1962, because of Algerian independence and the anti-colonial mood in Africa.  The neo-colonial ambitions in Paris however, did not vanish.
The French make no secret of their alarm over growing Chinese influence in former French Africa. French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici stated in Abidjan last December that French companies must go on the offensive and fight the growing influence of rival China for a stake in Africa’s increasingly competitive markets. “It’s evident that China is more and more present in Africa…(French) companies that have the means must go on the offensive. They must be more present on the ground. They have to fight,” Moscovici stated during a trip to Ivory Coast. 
Clearly Paris had in mind a military offensive to back the economic offensive he foresaw for French companies in Africa.
 James Kirkup, David Cameron: North African terror fight will take decades, The Telegraph, London, 20 January 2013.
 Thierry Meyssan, Mali: One war can hide another, Voltaire Network, 23 January 2013.
 Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon United States Air Forces in Europe/Air Forces Africa Public Affairs, US planes deliver French troops to Mali, AFNS, January 25, 2013.
 S. Alambaigi, French Defense Minister: 2000 boots on ground in Mali, 19 January 2013.
 Freya Petersen,France aiming for ’total reconquest’ of Mali, French foreign minister says, January 20, 2013.
 Christian v. Hiller, Mali’s hidden Treasures, April 12, 2012, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
 Sources include private discussion with retired US military active in Africa.
 William Thornberry and Jaclyn Levy, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, CSIS, September 2011, Case Study No. 4.
 Pepe Escobar, How al-Qaeda got to rule in Tripoli, Asia Times Online, August 30, 2011.
 Jason Howerton, Rand Paul Grills Clinton at Benghazi Hearing: ‘Had I Been President…I Would Have Relieved You of Your Post’,www.theblaze.com, Jan. 23, 2013.
 Craig Whitlock, Leader of Mali military coup trained in U.S., March 24, 2012, The Washington Post.
 Thierry Meyssan, op. cit.
 AFP, [Ivory Coast’s ex-President Gbagbo ‘arrested in Abidjan’ by French forces leading Ouattara troops, April 11th, 2011.
 Thierry Meyssan, op. cit.
 Cheick Dioura and Adama Diarra, Mali Rebels Assault Gao, Northern Garrison“, The Huffington Post, Reuters.
 Frank E. Kitson, Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency and Peacekeeping, London, 1971, Faber and Faber.
 C.M. Olsson and E.P. Guittet, Counter Insurgency, Low Intensity Conflict and Peace Operations: A Genealogy of the Transformations of Warfare, March 5, 2005 paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association.
 Grant T. Hammond, Low-intensity Conflict: War by another name, London, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol.1, Issue 3, December 1990, pp. 226-238.
 Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, US Hands Off Mali An Analysis of the Recent Events in the Republic of Mali,. MRzine, May 2, 2012.
 Adam Nossiter, Eric Schmitt, Mark Mazzetti, French Strikes in Mali Supplant Caution of US, The New York Times, January 13, 2013.
 Joe Bavier, French firms must fight China for stake in Africa—Moscovici,, Reuters, December 1, 2012.
 AFRICOM, US Africa Command Fact Sheet, September 2, 2010.
 F. William Engdahl, NATO’s War on Libya is Directed against China: AFRICOM and the Threat to China’s National Energy Security, September 26, 2011.
 Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya and Julien Teil, America’s Conquest of Africa: The Roles of France and Israel, GlobalResearch, October 06, 2011.
 Joe Bavier, Op. cit.