Saturday, December 07, 2013

Harem Scarem: A Terror Plot Congress Can Get Behind

US congressional intelligence chiefs promote terror scare

By Bill Van Auken - WSWS

6 December 2013

The US is less safe against a ubiquitous threat from global terrorism today than it was even one or two years ago, according to those who chair Congress’s intelligence committees.

Diane Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Senate panel, and Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who chairs the committee in the House, strongly concurred on this question during a television interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” program last Sunday.

CNN’s Candy Crowley asked Feinstein, “Are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago?”
Feinstein responded: “I don’t think so. I think terror is up worldwide, the statistics indicate that, the fatalities are way up.” She added that there were “more groups than ever and there’s huge malevolence out there.”
Rogers enthusiastically concurred: “Oh, I absolutely agree that we’re not safer today for the same reasons.”

With the US now spending twice as much on its intelligence apparatus as it did in 2001—we now know, thanks to the revelations of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, that the “black budget” for these agencies topped $56 billion for 2013—such an assessment raises obvious questions.

Are the two intelligence chairmen lying? Are these vast sums being spent for purposes other than safeguarding the American people against terrorism? The answer to both questions is yes.

The claims about the number of terror attacks and fatalities being “up worldwide” constitute a deliberate and cynical distortion.

In point of fact, for 2012, the total number of terror fatalities in the US was nine. Six of these were inflicted by one neo-Nazi gunman who mowed down worshipers at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, hardly the focus of the US “war on terror.” None was caused by Al Qaeda-linked or inspired suspects.

During the same year, a grand total of nine alleged terror plots were reported, half as many as the year before. Virtually all of them involved undercover FBI agents provocateurs who ensnared unwitting Muslim-Americans in “sting” operations.

So what are the scare statistics invoked by Feinstein and Rogers? They are drawn overwhelmingly from a handful of countries where the US has engaged in neocolonial wars and occupations. Just four countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria—accounted for well over 70 percent of terror-related deaths in 2012, according to the US State Department’s own figures.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the targets of the Obama administration’s so-called AfPak War, the so-called terrorist attacks have taken place in the context of resistance to US occupation and continuous US drone assassinations and massacres. In Iraq, they are the result of a sectarian bloodletting that is the legacy of the US invasion and toppling of the country’s secular regime.

It was Syria that saw the sharpest growth in the number of attacks and by far the largest number of dead and wounded per attack. Here, as in Libya before it, terrorism has been a preferred weapon in a US-backed war for regime change in which Al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters have served as Washington’s main proxy force on the ground.

So, on a global scale, terrorism is largely US imperialism’s own creation—either through directly fomenting it as in Libya and Syria or provoking it through imperialist invasions and drone killings. While thousands have paid the price for these policies, they have for over a decade not been in any significant numbers in the US itself.

Of course none of these points were even hinted at by the CNN’s Crowley, who, like the rest of the media, served merely to facilitate and amplify the terror fear-mongering of the two officials.

It was Rogers who first touched on the main point of this attempt to breathe new life into the terror scare.
“We’re fighting amongst ourselves here in this country about the role of our intelligence community that is having an impact on our ability to stop what is a growing number of threats,” said the Republican congressman. “And so we’ve got to shake ourselves out of this pretty soon and understand that our intelligence services are not the bad guys.”

While the name Edward Snowden did not cross the lips of Crowley, Feinstein or Rogers, it quickly became clear that his revelations of criminal domestic and international surveillance were not only the subtext of the interview, but its principal motivation.

Crowley turned sympathetically to the two legislators and stated: “It seems to me … both of you are saying you haven’t liked this focus on the NSA and the complaints about the NSA in terms of the breadth of what they’re collecting.”

Rogers responded by lamenting the “thousands of man hours” spent in answering the continuing revelations. He insisted that both his and Feinstein’s intelligence committees “take great pride in our real oversight function … to make sure they’re not violating the law.”

He concluded by warning that “all of that work over and over again every time there’s a disclosure” was taking the US intelligence apparatus “away from their focus, which is, what is Al Qaeda’s next event?”

Even lying should make some sense. Snowden’s revelations have clearly established that the congressional committees utterly failed to prevent the NSA and other intelligence agencies from violating the law and abrogating core democratic and constitutional rights. Just as with torture and the other crimes of the Bush administration, they have acted as co-conspirators of the US military and intelligence apparatus, working to conceal these crimes from the American people.

Those like Feinstein and Rogers represent not the American people, but rather the military and the spy agencies that form the core of the American state. Their loyalty is assured not only by ideology, but by definite material interests. It is no accident that the spouses of both legislators have made millions as executives of private security contractors for the US military and the State Department.

These revelations have also made clear that the war on terror is itself a fraud, with the “focus” of these agencies placed not on Al Qaeda, but on the population of the US and the entire planet.

The interview aired just days before the latest revelation that the NSA has been collecting roughly 5 billion records each and every day in order to track the minute-by-minute movements of hundreds of millions of cellphone users around the world, including in the US itself.

This follows the release of multiple documents showing that the agency has spied on the populations and governments of Europe, South America and Southeast Asia, going so far as to tap the office and personal phones of heads of state such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Other material has been made public making it clear that the NSA is engaged in extensive industrial espionage, targeting the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras and other international firms.

Neither Feinstein nor Rogers could even attempt to argue that such activities are part of the NSA’s “focus” on Al Qaeda. It is obvious that they are rather part and parcel of the aggressive drive by US imperialism to offset its economic decline with ever greater reliance on the might of its military and intelligence complex.

The US political system, based on the rule of a thin layer of corporate and financial oligarchs exercised through two capitalist parties and against the interests of working people, the vast majority of the population, cannot tolerate the defense of democratic rights or the exposure of the crimes of the state.

The warning by Rogers that Americans must stop “fighting amongst ourselves” over the massive domestic and international spying operations or, implicitly, face another Al Qaeda attack, must be taken as a threat.

It is well established that virtually every terrorist attack or supposedly foiled plot to take place on US soil, including that of September 11, 2001, has been carried out by individuals who were either acting under the direction of US agents or under their surveillance. The massive US intelligence apparatus clearly has the means to engineer or facilitate another terrorist provocation with the aim of silencing the exposure of its crimes.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Pacific Hyperventilation on China's Declared ADI Zone

Del Rosario Not Afraid to Be Stupid About ADIZ 

by Peter Lee - China Matters

An article in Asia Times Online quoted Philippine Foreign Minister Albert Del Rosario as saying:

"There's this threat that China will control the air space [in the South China Sea] ... It transforms an entire air zone into China's domestic air space," Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario said in response to China's ADIZ announcement. "That is an infringement and compromises the safety of civil aviation ... it also compromises the national security of affected states."
A couple observations:

1) This is unmitigated horseshit.
2) Nobody called him on it.

Remember that Rosario's office also went off half cocked about the PRC Hainan coast guard regulations a year ago:
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said over the weekend that China's reported plan to interdict ships that enter what it considers its territory in the South China Sea is a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Because of these reports, coming mostly from the media, the DFA said it would like China "to immediately clarify its reported plans to interdict ships that enter what it considers its territory in the South China Sea". ...

"[It is also] a direct threat to the entire international community, as it violates not only the maritime domain of coastal states established under Unclos, but also impedes the fundamental freedom of navigation and lawful commerce."

The DFA said this planned action by China is illegal and will validate the continuous and repeated pronouncements by the Philippines that China's claim of indisputable sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea is not only an excessive claim but a threat to all countries.
Anybody remember that? Anybody remember that the Chinese coast guard regs had nothing to do with freedom of navigation, lawful commerce, or sovereignty over the South China Sea? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?

The ADIZ hysterics remind me of the Hainan coast guard regs nothingburger, both for the Del Rosario's inflammatory blathering and the clueless strutting of the Western news outlets in reporting the situation.

As I wrote in my piece for Asia Times:

Reuters for some reason continued to beat the Hainan coast guard regulations dead horse with an analysis posted on December 9 that begins:
Imagine if the U.S. state of Hawaii passed a law allowing harbor police to board and seize foreign boats operating up to 1,000 km (600 miles) from Honolulu.

That, in effect, is what happened in China about a week ago.
It’s not what happened in China a week ago, either actually or "in effect", as I think can be concluded by reading my ATOl piece. Even if ATOl is not on Reuters’ radar, Dr. Fravel of MIT (and his commentary at The Diplomat, which is quoted and footnoted below) should be. ..

And it is a dismal fail as a piece of snark. The jurisdiction of the state of Hawaii extends 1380 miles from Honolulu to the outermost Northwestern Hawaiian Island, the Kure Atoll.

For the mathematically challenged Reuters scribe, that’s more than twice as far as 600 miles that supposedly symbolizes the irresponsible overreach of the Hainan provincial government.
We live in interesting times, at least as far as the PRC is concerned. Entire articles are spun out of threat perceptions, assumptions, inferences, assertions, and indignation.
The stirring call to arms is the "threat" that "raised concerns". There is "alarm".

Facts don't matter. To quote the song, It's feelings...nothing more than feelings..."

That, by the way, is why my current twitter handle is "Facts are stupid things".

Facts might be confirmed or rebutted by the focus of scrutiny and concern. But feelings are a subjective matter for the observer.

The only suitable recourse is "confidence-building"; and in some situations that oppressive sense of threat in the Western bosom is never relieved, no matter what the anxiety-provoking other does.

People with long memories (only me I guess) remember the run-up to the Iraq War, when everything that Saddam Hussein did or didn't do in his efforts to forestall the invasion were insufficient to allay the dreaded concerns. Until recently, the same tactic was used to declare that Iran was unable to allay the concerns of the international community about its nuclear program. Now the U.S. is reassured...but Israel isn't. What's a mullah to do?

The media variation is to blame the victim, i.e. blame the PRC for its disinterest or clumsiness in getting its message across to "allay the concerns" and "build confidence".

The whole concern/confidence-building dynamic is fundamentally flawed. Make that "logically unsound". Maybe "intellectually dishonest".

And I think it's deployed when the "concerned party" is unwilling to say what is genuinely on its mind.

For China, the ultimate confidence-building gesture for the West would be "Could the Chinese Communist Party please collapse under a wave of popular democratic unrest, the Chinese economy undergo a painful free market restructuring, and the PLA footprint get shrunk by a combination of budget reductions, mission modification, demoralization, and conciliation by a new pro-Western liberal democratic government?"

Don't be afraid. Ask for it!

And if you can't get it, start wondering if you're asking for the wrong thing.

We're probably headed in the opposite direction. Instead of less anxiety/confidence rhetoric, we'll get more of it.

From the same article:

Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are drafting a joint statement to express concern over any "threat" to international civilian aviation. The draft statement, which reaffirms the common positions of Southeast Asian nations and Japan on "maritime security" and "freedom of navigation" in international waters, will be presented at the upcoming Japan-ASEAN summit in Tokyo.

I don't mind government officials playing the "feelings" card. It's a negotiating ploy, a way to deflect demands or decline offers that don't pass muster. (Having said that, I really don't know what endgame Del Rosario has in mind, now that he's taken another step to up the confrontation with the PRC. I get a feeling the rest of ASEAN doesn't really know, either.)

I really do wonder why the media plays along. Maybe anxiety genuinely overcomes analytics. Maybe resentment over the PRC's churlish treatment of Western journalists means that the Chinese position is doomed to short shrift until conditions improve. Maybe overall loyalty to Western values elicits support for empty Western rhetoric. Probably, it's realized that the PRC is doing a careful and responsible job of slicing the diplomatic and security salami, but we don't like them and don't want to give them the credit.

That's my feeling, anyway.

Another View of Mandela's Legacy

The Legacy of Nelson Mandela: A Dissenting Opinion

by Jonathan Cook

Offering a dissenting opinion at this moment of a general outpouring of grief at Nelson Mandela’s death is not likely to court popularity. It is also likely to be misunderstood.

So let me start by recognising Mandela’s huge achievement in helping to bring down South African apartheid, and make clear my enormous respect for the great personal sacrifices he made, including spending so many years caged up for his part in the struggle to liberate his people. These are things impossible to forget or ignore when assessing someone’s life.

Nonetheless, it is important to pause during the widespread acclamation of his legacy, mostly by people who have never demonstrated a fraction of his integrity, to consider a lesson that most observers want to overlook. Perhaps the best way to make my point is to highlight a mock memo written in 2001 by Arjan el-Fassed, from Nelson Mandela to the NYT’s columnist Thomas Friedman. It is a wonderful, humane denunciation of Friedman’s hypocrisy and a demand for justice for the Palestinians that Mandela should have written. []

Soon afterwards, the memo spread online, stripped of el-Fassed’s closing byline. Many people, including a few senior journalists, assumed it was written by Mandela and published it as such. It seemed they wanted to believe that Mandela had written something as morally clear-sighted as this about another apartheid system, an Israeli one that is at least the equal of that imposed for decades on black South Africans. However, the reality is that it was not written by Mandela, and his staff even went so far as to threaten legal action against the author. Mandela spent most his adult life treated as a “terrorist”.

There was a price to be paid for his long walk to freedom, and the end of South Africa’s system of racial apartheid. Mandela was rehabilitated into an “elder statesman” in return for South Africa being rapidly transformed into an outpost of neoliberalism, prioritising the kind of economic apartheid most of us in the west are getting a strong dose of now. In my view, Mandela suffered a double tragedy in his post-prison years. First, he was reinvented as a bloodless icon, one that other leaders could appropriate to legitimise their own claims, as the figureheads of the “democratic west”, to integrity and moral superiority. After finally being allowed to join the western “club”, he could be regularly paraded as proof of the club’s democratic credentials and its ethical sensibility.

Second, and even more tragically, this very status as icon became a trap in which he was required to act the “responsible” elder statesman, careful in what he said and which causes he was seen to espouse. He was forced to become a kind of Princess Diana, someone we could be allowed to love because he rarely said anything too threatening to the interests of the corporate elite who run the planet. It is an indication of what Mandela was up against that the man who fought so hard and long against a brutal apartheid regime was so completely defeated when he took power in South Africa.

That was because he was no longer struggling against a rogue regime but against the existing order, a global corporate system of power that he had no hope of challenging alone. It is for that reason, rather simply to be contrarian, that I raise these failings. Or rather, they were not Mandela’s failings, but ours. Because, as I suspect Mandela realised only too well, one cannot lead a revolution when there are no followers. For too long we have slumbered through the theft and pillage of our planet and the erosion of our democratic rights, preferring to wake only for the release of the next iPad or smart phone. The very outpouring of grief from our leaders for Mandela’s loss helps to feed our slumber.

Our willingness to suspend our anger this week, to listen respectfully to those watery-eyed leaders who forced Mandela to reform from a fighter into a notable, keeps us in our slumber.

Next week there will be another reason not to struggle for our rights and our grandchildren’s rights to a decent life and a sustainable planet. There will always be a reason to worship at the feet of those who have no real power but are there to distract us from what truly matters. No one, not even a Mandela, can change things by him or herself. There are no Messiahs on their way, but there are many false gods designed to keep us pacified, divided and weak.

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

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Battle Royale: Journalism vs BIG Brother

Real Journalism v. Big Brother

by Norman Solomon - Consortium News

In theory, pretty much everyone claims to like investigative journalism, even government officials. But the reaction is different when reporters expose troubling facts, especially if they make a favored country or politician look bad. Yet, that is what’s needed, says Norman Solomon.

Every new revelation about the global reach of the National Security Agency underscores that the extremism of the surveillance state has reached gargantuan proportions. The Washington Post just reported that the NSA “is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.”

Documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden have forced top officials in Washington to admit the indefensible while defending it. One of the main obstacles to further expansion of their Orwellian empire is real journalism.

U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister 
David Cameron trade bottles of beer to settle a bet they 
made on the U.S. vs. England World Cup Soccer game 
(which ended in a tie), during a bilateral meeting at the 
G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, June 26, 2010. 
(White House photo by Pete Souza)

Real journalism is “subversive” of deception that can’t stand the light of day. This is a huge problem for the Obama administration and the many surveillance-state flunkies of both parties in Congress. What they want is fake journalism, deferring to government storylines and respectful of authority even when it is illegitimate.

In motion now, on both sides of the Atlantic, are top-down efforts to quash real journalism when and how it matters most. In the two English-speaking countries that have done the most preaching to the world about “Western values” like freedom of the press, the governments led by U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are overseeing assaults on real journalism.

They’re striving to further normalize fake journalism — largely confined to stenographic services for corporate power, war industries and surveillance agencies. A parallel goal is to harass, intimidate and destroy real journalism. The quest is to maximize the uninformed consent of the governed.

In direct contrast, those willing to fight for truly independent journalism — including whistleblowers, political activists and journalists themselves — are struggling to provide our world with vital light, fueled by comprehension that real journalism must be willing to challenge entrenched power.

From incessant war and arming the world, to climate change and coddling fossil fuel industries, to anti-democratic governance and enabling vast NSA surveillance, the U.S. power structure — with epicenters along Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue — continues to dominate. That power structure is a clear, present and horrendous threat to human survival, the natural world of this planet and the possibilities for authentic democracy.

Against such dire, highly institutionalized assaults on the present and the future, we desperately need a wide range of nonviolent, principled and unrelenting insurgencies. In that context, government efforts to crush real journalism can be understood as methodical counterinsurgency.

Smashing Guardian hard drives and hauling the newspaper’s editor in front of an inquisitional parliamentary committee are aspects of the British government’s counterinsurgency program against real journalism. In the United States, the counterinsurgency includes numerous prosecutions of whistleblowers and wide-ranging surveillance of journalists’ workaday communications. These assaults aren’t episodic. They’ve become routine.

Journalism is at a momentous crossroads. The alternative to unrelenting independence is sheepism, and that’s not journalism; it’s a professionalized baseline of bowing to government and corporate pressure even before it has been overtly exerted.

For journalists, and for the rest of us, silence is not neutrality; it ends up as acceptance of autocratic rule, a present festooned with pretty-sounding names like “anti-terrorism” and “national security.”

As the most powerful institutions run amuck, their main functionaries are “leaders” who keep leading us farther and farther away from a world we could possibly be proud of leaving for the next generations.

Pushing back against the ominous momentum will require fighting for real journalism. No one can plausibly say that reversing course will be easy or probable — only imperative.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Information about the documentary based on the book is at

Harper Isolates Canada on Iran, while Seeking Arms Deal with Saudis

Canada Stands Firm Against Iran Nuke Deal, Cozies Up to Israel & Saudi Arabia 


Canada defies international consensus on Iran as PM Harper seeks to increase weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

Yves Engler is a Canadian commentator and author. His most recent book is The Ugly Canadian - Stephen Harper's Foreign Policy, and previously he published The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy and Canada in Haiti: Waging War on The Poor Majority

The Bourne Bungle: Privatizing a Post-Modern CIA

Hollywood Without the Happy Ending: How the CIA Bungled the War on Terror

Call it the Jason Bourne strategy.

Think of it as the CIA’s plunge into Hollywood -- or into the absurd. As recent revelations have made clear, that Agency’s moves couldn’t be have been more far-fetched or more real. In its post-9/11 global shadow war, it has employed both private contractors and some of the world’s most notorious prisoners in ways that leave the latest episode of the Bourne films in the dust: hired gunmen trained to kill as well as former inmates who cashed in on the notoriety of having worn an orange jumpsuit in the world's most infamous jail.

The first group of undercover agents were recruited by private companies from the Army Special Forces and the Navy SEALs and then repurposed to the CIA at handsome salaries averaging around $140,000 a year; the second crew was recruited from the prison cells at Guantanamo Bay and paid out of a secret multimillion dollar slush fund called “the Pledge.”

Last month, the Associated Press revealed that the CIA had selected a few dozen men from among the hundreds of terror suspects being held at Guantanamo and trained them to be double agents at a cluster of eight cottages in a program dubbed "Penny Lane." (Yes, indeed, the name was taken from the Beatles song, as was "Strawberry Fields," a Guantanamo program that involved torturing “high-value” detainees.) These men were then returned to what the Bush administration liked to call the “global battlefield,” where their mission was to befriend members of al-Qaeda and supply targeting information for the Agency’s drone assassination program.

Such a secret double-agent program, while colorful and remarkably unsuccessful, should have surprised no one. After all, plea bargaining or persuading criminals to snitch on their associates -- a tactic frowned upon by international legal experts -- is widely used in the U.S. police and legal system. Over the last year or so, however, a trickle of information about the other secret program has come to light and it opens an astonishing new window into the privatization of U.S. intelligence.
Tomgram: Pratap Chatterjee, The Jason Bourne Strategy

[Note from Tom: A death can feel like an archive closing forever on some aspect of your life. Such is the case for me with the death of Andre Schiffrin. If you’ll all excuse me, I want to note his passing briefly here:

This won’t mean much to most of you, but Andre, publisher of Pantheon Books and my boss for 15 years, the person who, in 1976, hired me when there was really no obvious reason to do so and, more than anyone else, let me become what I am today, died last weekend. It’s a moment of genuine sadness for me, an indication that an era -- my own in many ways, though he was nine years older than me -- has ended. The world of books is unimaginable (to me) without him. Without him, Studs Terkel might never have done his oral histories and Art Spiegelman’s Maus, the “first graphic novel,” might never have been published. (He let me do Spiegelman’s masterpiece when, in embryonic form, it had been turned down by every major publishing house in New York.)

I first spent time with Andre in 1971 after I had published an essay, “Ambush at Kamikaze Pass,” in the single most obscure journal on the planet, The Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. He nonetheless read it and invited me to lunch to urge me to turn it into a book, something I couldn’t faintly imagine doing at the time. I did, however, finally come to agree with him and wrote that book, which was published in 1995 as The End of Victory Culture. In other words, with my project as with so much else in the world of books, he was a man almost 25 years ahead of his time.

Ariel Dorfman, a writer whose work I published early on in my tenure at Pantheon, wrote me this after Andre’s death: “His existence changed our lives, just by giving you free rein at Pantheon to believe in a young exiled writer.” He couldn’t have been more on the mark. 
Andre’s New York Times obituary offered the gist of his life and the sense that he was a great one. It missed, however, his risk-taking nature and his radical view of what might matter to our world. It also provided a less than satisfactory account of how the right-wing owner of the conglomerate that housed Pantheon made use of a politically inauspicious time for a small left-wing publishing outfit to push him out of his job (after which we, his loyal editors and employees, quit in protest). Still, no complaints here. The world and the man that made me are both history. What more is there to say at the moment?]

Someone should launch a feature somewhere on American foreign and war policy under the rubric: How could anything possibly go wrong? Here are just two recent examples.

The Obama administration intervenes militarily in Libya, plays a significant role in overthrowing the autocrat who runs the country as a police state, and helps unleash chaos in its wake. The streets of Libyan cities fill with militias as the new government’s control of the situation fades to next to nil. Which brings us to our present moment, when a panicky Washington decides that what’s needed is yet another, different kind of intervention. The plan seems to be to compete with various local and Islamic militias by creating a government militia as the core of a new “national army.” Its members are to be drawn from already existing militias and they'll be trained somewhere outside of Libya. What an idea! Honestly, what could possibly go wrong?

Or consider this: Washington begins to panic about heightening tensions between Japan and China over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. The problem, reports David Sanger of the New York Times, based on what Obama administration officials have told him, is that the conflict could escalate and so “derail their complex plan to manage China’s rise without overtly trying to contain it.” Now, let’s get this straight: before things began to run off the rails in the East China Sea, the Obama administration was confidently planning to “manage” the rise of the next superpower on a planet already in such tumult that what being a new great power might even mean is open to question. And keep in mind that we’re talking about an administration that couldn’t manage the rollout of a website. What could possibly go wrong?

Both examples highlight the strange combination of hubris and panic that, as TomDispatch regular Pratap Chatterjee points out today, seems to be the essence of so many of Washington's plans and actions at the moment. The urge to “manage” is invariably followed by shock at the unmanageability of this roiling globe of ours, followed by panic over plans gone desperately awry when things begin, utterly predictably, to happen unpredictably, followed of course by the next set of managerial plans. Is there no learning curve in Washington? Tom


Hollywood Without the Happy Ending: How the CIA Bungled the War on Terror

by Pratap Chatterjee


Hollywood in Langley

In July 2010, at his confirmation hearings for the post of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper explained the use of private contractors in the intelligence community: "In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War... we were under a congressional mandate to reduce the community by on the order of 20%... Then 9/11 occurred... With the gusher... of funding that has accrued particularly from supplemental or overseas contingency operations funding, which, of course, is one year at a time, it is very difficult to hire government employees one year at a time. So the obvious outlet for that has been the growth of contractors."

Thousands of "Green Badges" were hired via companies like Booz Allen Hamilton and Qinetiq to work at CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) offices around the world, among the regular staff who wore blue badges. Many of them -- like Edward Snowden -- performed specialist tasks in information technology meant to augment the effectiveness of government employees.

Then the CIA decided that there was no aspect of secret war which couldn’t be corporatized. So they set up a unit of private contractors as covert agents, green-lighting them to carry guns and be sent into U.S. war zones at a moment's notice. This elite James Bond-like unit of armed bodyguards and super-fixers was given the anodyne name Global Response Staff (GRS).

Among the 125 employees of this unit, from the Army Special Forces via private contractors came Raymond Davis and Dane Paresi; from the Navy SEALs Glen Doherty, Jeremy Wise, and Tyrone Woods. All five would soon be in the anything-but-covert headlines of newspapers across the world. These men -- no women have yet been named -- were deployed on three- to four-month missions accompanying CIA analysts into the field.

Davis was assigned to Lahore, Pakistan; Doherty and Woods to Benghazi, Libya; Paresi and Wise to Khost, Afghanistan. As GRS expanded, other contractors went to Djibouti, Lebanon, and Yemen, among other countries, according to a Washington Post profile of the unit.

From early on, its work wasn’t exactly a paragon of secrecy. By 2005, for instance, former Special Forces personnel had already begun openly discussing jobs in the unit at online forums. Their descriptions sounded like something directly out of a Hollywood thriller. The Post portrayed the focus of GRS personnel more mundanely as "designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts."

"They don't learn languages, they're not meeting foreign nationals, and they're not writing up intelligence reports," a former U.S. intelligence official told that paper. "Their main tasks are to map escape routes from meeting places, pat down informants, and provide an ‘envelope’ of security... if push comes to shove, you're going to have to shoot."

In the ensuing years, GRS embedded itself in the Agency, becoming essential to its work. Today, new CIA agents and analysts going into danger zones are trained to work with such bodyguards. In addition, GRS teams are now loaned out to other outfits like the NSA for tasks like installing spy equipment in war zones.

The CIA’s Private Contractors (Don’t) Save the Day

Recently these men, the spearhead of the CIA’s post-9/11 contractor war, have been making it into the news with startling regularity. Unlike their Hollywood cousins, however, the news they have made has all been bad. Those weapons they’re packing and the derring-do that is supposed to go with them have repeatedly led not to breathtaking getaways and shootouts, but to disaster. Jason Bourne, of course, wins the day; they don’t.

Take Dane Paresi and Jeremy Wise. In 2009, not long after Paresi left the Army Special Forces and Wise the Navy SEALs, they were hired by Xe Services (the former Blackwater) to work for GRS and assigned to Camp Chapman, a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan. On December 30, 2009, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor who had been recruited by the CIA to infiltrate al-Qaeda, was invited to a meeting at the base after spending several months in Pakistan's tribal borderlands. Invited as well were several senior CIA staff members from Kabul who hoped Balawi might help them target Ayman al-Zawahiri, then al-Qaeda’s number two man, who also hailed from Jordan.

Details of what happened are still sketchy, but the GRS men clearly failed to fulfill their security mission. Somehow Balawi, who turned out to be not a double but a triple agent, made it onto the closed base with a bomb and blew himself up, killing not just Paresi and Wise but also seven CIA staff officers, including Jennifer Matthews, the base chief.

Thirteen months later, in January 2011, another GRS contractor, Raymond Davis, decided to shoot his way out of what he considered a difficult situation in Lahore, Pakistan. The Army Special Forces veteran had also worked for Blackwater, although at the time of the shootings he was employed by Hyperion Protective Services, LLC.

Assigned to work at a CIA safe house in Lahore to support agents tracking al-Qaeda in Pakistan, Davis had apparently spent days photographing local military installations like the headquarters of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. On January 27th, his car was stopped and he claims that he was confronted by two young men, Faizan Haider and Faheem Shamshad. Davis proceeded to shoot both of them dead, and then take pictures of their bodies, before radioing back to the safe house for help. When a backup vehicle arrived, it compounded the disaster by driving at high speed the wrong way down a street and killing a passing motorcyclist.

Davis was later caught by two traffic wardens, taken to a police station, and jailed. A furor ensued, involving both countries and an indignant Pakistani media. The U.S. embassy, which initially claimed he was a consular official before the Guardian broke the news that he was a CIA contractor, finally pressured the Pakistani government into releasing him, but only after agreeing to pay out $2.34 million in compensation to the families of those he killed.

A year and a half later, two more GRS contractors made front-page news under the worst of circumstances. Former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods had been assigned to a CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, where the Agency was attempting to track a developing North African al-Qaeda movement and recover heavy weapons, including Stinger missiles, that had been looted from state arsenals in the wake of an U.S.-NATO intervention which led to the fall of the autocrat Muammar Qaddafi.

On September 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was staying at a nearby diplomatic compound when it came under attack. Militants entered the buildings and set them on fire. A CIA team, including Doherty, rushed to the rescue, although ultimately, unlike Hollywood’s action teams, they did not save Stevens or the day. In fact, several hours later, the militants raided the CIA base, killing both Doherty and Woods.

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

The disastrous denouements to these three incidents, as well as the deaths of four GRS contractors -- more than a quarter of CIA casualties since the War on Terror was launched -- raise a series of questions: Is this yet another example of the way the privatization of war and intelligence doesn’t work? And is the answer to bring such jobs back in-house? Or does the Hollywood-style skullduggery (gone repeatedly wrong) hint at a larger problem? Is the present intelligence system, in fact, out of control and, despite a combined budget of $52.6 billion a year, simply incapable of delivering anything like the “security” promised, leaving the various spy agencies, including the CIA, increasingly desperate to prove that they can "defeat" terrorism?

Take, for example, the slew of documents Edward Snowden -- another private contractor who at one point worked for the CIA -- released about secret NSA programs attempting to suck up global communications at previously unimaginable rates. There have been howls of outrage across the planet, including from spied-upon heads of state. Those denouncing such blatant invasions of privacy have regularly raised the fear that we might be witnessing the rise of a secret-police-like urge to clamp down on dissent everywhere.

But as with the CIA, there may be another explanation: desperation. Top intelligence officials, fearing that they will be seen as having done a poor job, are possessed by an ever greater urge to prove their self-worth by driving the intelligence community to ever more (rather than less) of the same.

As Jeremy Bash, chief of staff to Leon Panetta, the former CIA director and defense secretary, told MSNBC: "If you're looking for a needle in the haystack, you need a haystack." It’s true that, while the various intelligence agencies and the CIA may not succeed when it comes to the needles, they have proven effective indeed when it comes to creating haystacks.

In the case of the NSA, the Obama administration’s efforts to prove that its humongous data haul had any effect on foiling terrorist plots -- at one point, they claimed 54 such plots foiled -- has had a quality of genuine pathos to it. The claims have proven so thin that administration and intelligence officials have struggled to convince even those in Congress who support the programs, let alone the rest of the world, that it has done much more than gather and store staggering reams of information on almost everyone to no particular purpose whatsoever. Similarly, the FBI has made a point of trumpeting every “terrorist” arrest it has made, most of which, on closer scrutiny, turn out to be of gullible Muslims, framed by planted evidence in plots often essentially engineered by FBI informants.

Despite stunning investments of funds and the copious hiring of private contractors, when it comes to ineptitude the CIA is giving the FBI and NSA a run for their money. In fact, both of its recently revealed high-profile programs -- GRS and the Guantanamo double agents -- have proven dismal failures, yielding little if anything of value. The Associated Press account of Penny Lane, the only description of that program thus far, notes, for instance, that al-Qaeda never trusted the former Guantanamo Bay detainees released into their midst and that, after millions of dollars were fruitlessly spent, the program was canceled as a failure in 2006.

If you could find a phrase that was the polar opposite of “more bang for your buck,” all of these efforts would qualify. In the case of the CIA, keep in mind as well that you’re talking about an agency which has for years conducted drone assassination campaigns in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Hundreds of innocent men, women, and children have been killed along with numerous al-Qaeda types and “suspected militants,” and yet -- many experts believe -- these campaigns have functioned not as an air war on, but for, terror. In Yemen, as an example, the tiny al-Qaeda outfit that existed when the drone campaign began in 2002 has grown exponentially.

So what about the Jason Bourne-like contractors working for GRS who turned out to be the gang that couldn’t shoot straight? How successful have they been in helping the CIA sniff out al-Qaeda globally? It’s a good guess, based on what we already know, that their record would be no better than that of the rest of the CIA.

One hint, when it comes to GRS-assisted operations, may be found in documents revealed in 2010 by WikiLeaks about joint CIA-Special Operations hunter-killer programs in Afghanistan like Task Force 373. We don’t actually know if any GRS employees were involved with those operations, but it’s notable that one of Task Force 373's principal bases was in Khost, where Paresi and Wise were assisting the CIA in drone-targeting operations. The evidence from the WikiLeaks documents suggests that, as with GRS missions, those hunter-killer teams regularly botched their jobs by killing civilians and stoking local unrest.

At the time, Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Department contractor who often worked with Task Force 373 as well as other Special Operations Forces "capture/kill" programs in Afghanistan and Iraq, told me: "We are killing the wrong people, the mid-level Taliban who are only fighting us because we are in their valleys. If we were not there, they would not be fighting the U.S."

As details of programs like Penny Lane and GRS tumble out into the open, shedding light on how the CIA has fought its secret war, it is becoming clearer that the full story of the Agency's failures, and the larger failures of U.S. intelligence and its paramilitarized, privatized sidekicks has yet to be told.

Pratap Chatterjee, a TomDispatch regular, is executive director of CorpWatch and a board member of Amnesty International USA. He is the author of Halliburton's Army and Iraq, Inc.

Copyright 2013 Pratap Chatterjee

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Bears, Bulls, and Lemmings: Understanding Greenspan's Epiphany

Animal Spirits and Environmentalism

by Ray Grigg - Shades of Green

The economy is one of the single most vivid images of humanity's collective character. The material expression of most of what we are doing and what we profess to be doing can be measured in economic terms. Because this empirical evidence is difficult to dismiss or deny, the comments made by the former Chair of the US Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, are particularly illuminating.

Greenspan — known as the “Maestro” because of his insightful skills in managing the US economy — oversaw the conditions leading to the Great Recession of 2008, an economic crisis of seemingly unstoppable circumstances that nearly wrecked the world's financial structure. This inevitability created an epiphany and a paradigm shift in his understanding of the relationship between economics and human nature.

Greenspan had been a strong believer in individualism. As a kind of libertarian philosopher, he subscribed to the notion that the random distribution of decisions throughout a large number of people would create balanced and healthy economic conditions. The necessary regulating controls, he believed, were inherent elements in a society, so banking and financial rules could be minimized to allow the economic process to govern itself.

The Maestro realized that the 2008 crisis exposed two basic flaws in his logic and strategy (Globe and Mail, Oct. 29/13). He discovered that “a certain kind of rugged individualistic society” was “causing a lot of problems.” And, also, that fundamental market decisions were not being made by the random distribution of individual decisions but by tides of emotional forces — the “animal spirits” of large numbers of individuals were following the dynamics of group behaviour. Economic activity was being guided more by human psychology than mathematical formulas. “Animal spirits”, he concluded, “are not random events, but actually replicate in-bred qualities of human nature”. Greenspan's new perspectives, as outlined in his recent book, The Map and the Territory, are radically different from his old ones.

He now believes that behavioural psychology plays an important role in market activity, no longer subscribing to the notion that bankers, if left to act in the own self-interest, will avoid doing harm to others. He always knew that the “irrational exuberance” of “animal spirits” in the human character did have unpredictable market effects but he vastly underestimated their pervasive influence in actual economic activity.

But Greenspan's most important realization was that Individual people are not inclined to make rational decisions based on their self-interest. Neither are they inclined to make rational decisions based on society's collective best interest. In reality, the economy is a very human system governed by a feeling species that thinks, rather than a thinking species that feels.

The difference is immense. It reverses the equation explaining economic activity and provides an entirely different understanding of who we are and what we are likely to do. More importantly, it explains what we are unlikely to do. In Greenspan's words, this “raises questions about whether or not [a] rational long-term self-interest actually describes the way people behave.” When this insight is applied to environmental issues, the ramifications are the both insightful and sobering.

If we are not inclined to act rationally in our self and long-term interest, then we are unlikely to respond to the threats of continuing greenhouse gas emissions, desertification, ocean acidification, species loss, pesticide toxicity, systemic pollution, population increases or any of the litany of serious environmental crises unfolding around us. Not only do these future events seem remotely unreal but — if Greenspan is correct about our economic behaviour —not even knowing about them helps us to act in our own interests. Scientists can warn us to the point of frantic desperation about environmental threats but we are unlikely to respond to their reasoned arguments. The emotional satisfaction provided by our present materialism is sufficient to overcome the consideration of a future ecological apocalypse. The momentum of rampant consumerism — just like the rush to buy in a surging stock market that will inevitably crash — is too enticing to cause worry about prudence and sustainability. Our inclination is to join the crowd, take the risks and hope for the best.

Of course, we do respond when a crisis confront us. If climate change initiates an extreme weather event, we are heroic, diligent and resourceful in rescuing the victims and repairing the damage. Caring and compassion are two of our laudable attributes. But our inclination is to confront the tangible and immediate rather than avoid the abstract and inevitable. We are far better at dramatizing and mythologizing the tragedies of our own making than exercising the foresight to avoid them. If Greenspan's assessment of our human character is correct, we invite these self-inflicted tragedies because it's not in our character to do otherwise. Our “animal spirits” keep dominating the precautionary warnings that are often so glaringly obvious. We are programmed to respond to feelings rather than evidence.

If any optimism resides in Greenspan's insight, it's to be found in awareness. If we know of this failing in our character then we can make conscious efforts to avoid being victimized by it. In economics, we can institute stringent controls to regulate markets. In ecosystems — where damage is rarely repairable — we can stop defying the laws of nature and limits. We can harken to the dramatic signs of environmental deterioration, imagine the results of them being progressively dismantled, then take the pre-emptive measures to avoid the inescapable consequences.

Yemen's Yawning Political Gulf

Impossible Dialogue: The Choice in Yemen

by Ramzy Baroud -

Chances are dim that elections will be held in Yemen next February. Yet without elections, the push for reforms and change that were inspired by the Yemeni revolution would become devoid of any real value. Yemenis might find themselves back on the street, repeating the original demands that echoed in the country’s many impoverished cities, streets and at every corner.

It is not easy to navigate the convoluted circumstances that govern Yemeni politics, which seem to be in a perpetual state of crisis. When millions of Yemenis started taking to the streets on January 27, 2011, a sense of hope prevailed that Yemen would be transferred from a country ruled by elites, and mostly beholden to outside regional and international powers, to a country of a different type: one that responds to the collective aspirations of its own people.

Instead, after a long stalemate that pinned most of the country and its political representatives against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his supporters, Gulf countries brokered a power transfer deal. The deal however sidelined Saleh, but not his family and their proponents.

It is of little help that interim President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was elected to guide the transition for a two-year period in 2012, is no revolutionary. True, he seemed sincere in his attempt to curb Saleh’s still prevailing influence over many of the country’s institutions, but that is hardly enough. Saleh’s supporters are still powerful and the former ruling class is fighting back for relevance and influence. This results from a combination of deepening poverty and a failure to translate any of the revolution’s demands into any tangible solution that could be felt by the country’s poor and marginalized classes.

The target of Saleh’s supporters is the Conference of National Reconciliation (CNR). It convened on March 18 to explore common ground between all strands of Yemeni society, draw-up a new constitution and organize national elections. The 565 members of the conference found out that their differences were too many to overcome. Exploiting Yemen’s political woes, tribal and sectarian divisions, the old regime used its own representatives at CNR, and sway over the media to derail the process.

In remarks before the Security Council, Jamal Benomar, the United Nations envoy to Yemen, sounded the alarm to the staged comeback. A statement of his remarks was made available to the media on Nov 28. It said that there was a “well-funded, relentless and malicious media campaign” to undermine Hadi, so that he either prolongs his mandate or leaves offices. “Some elements of the former regime believe they can turn back the clock,” the envoy said. These elements have become a “persistent source of instability.”

The dialogue itself has been extended, with little evidence that anything concrete is on the way. What is even worse is that 85 delegates representing south Yemen, which until 1990 was a state of its own, decided to permanently leave the conference. The separatist movement in south Yemen has grown massively in recent months. The country is more vulnerable than ever before.

If Hadi leaves, a political vacuum could spark another power struggle. If he stays by extending his term in office, the dialogue is likely to falter even more. There can be no win-win situation, at least for now.

Considering that Benomar himself played a key role in shaping the current transitional period, his gloomy reading of the situation in Yemen is hardly encouraging.

As talks are derailed and the prospects of a compromise are at an all-time low, the Southern separatist movement Al-Hirak continues to gather steam. The movement grew increasingly more relevant following the Oct 12 rallies, when tens of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets of Eden, mostly demanding secession from the north.

What is happening in Yemen these days is in complete contrast to the collective spirit that occupied the streets of the country nearly three years ago. In Jan 2011, a large protest took place in the Yemeni capital Sana’a demanding immediate reforms in the country’s corrupt family and clan-based politics. Within a week the rest of the country joined the initial cry for reforms. On Feb 3, both Sana’a and Eden stood united under one banner. It was a momentous day because both cities once served as capitals of two warring countries. The youth of Yemen were able to fleetingly bridge a gap that neither politicians nor army generals managed to close despite several agreements and years of bloody conflicts. However, that collective triumph of the Yemeni people was only felt on the streets of the country, overwhelmed by poverty and destitution, but also compelled by hope. That sentiment was never truly translated into a clear political victory, even after Saleh was deposed in Feb 2012.

The Gulf-brokered agreement under the auspices of the UN and other international players stripped the revolution of its euphoria. It merely diverted from the massive popular movement that gripped the streets for many months, allowing politicians, representatives of tribes and other powerful elites to use the NDC to simply achieve its own interests, be it to maintain a handle on power – as is the case of the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC), or to ignite old hopes of secession. The party that was closest to the collective demands of ordinary Yemenis was the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), representing the opposition. However, conflict soon ensued between members of the JMP themselves, especially between the Islamic-leaning Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Islah) whose core supporters are based in the North, and the secularist Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), based in the South.

Considering the mistrust in the very process that is meant to lead the country towards permanent reforms and democracy, and in the very representatives guiding the transition, it is no wonder that Yemen is once more at the brink of tumult. The country’s unity, achieved in May 1990, after bitter struggle and war between a Marxist-Leninist South Yemen, and North Yemen, is now at risk. Equally as dangerous is that the south, although represented by the all-encompassing Al-Hirak, hardly speaks in one voice.

Al-Hirak itself is divided and at times seems incapable of taking one solid political stance. Following a statement in which Al-Hirak announced that they “completely withdraw from the conference (holding) all the parties that placed obstacles in our path responsible for this decision,” another statement surfaced on Nov 28, also attributed to Al-Hirak “denying the walkout and affirming that the Southern movement remains committed to the national dialogue,” reported Asharq Al-Awsat.

Yemen’s divisions are copious and growing, allowing the old regime to find ways to once more dominate the country. It could easily rebrand itself as the party capable of uniting all Yemenis and saving Yemen from complete economic collapse and disintegration.

Still empowered by the spirit of their revolution that underscored the resilience and discipline of one of the world’s poorest nations, Yemenis might find themselves back on the streets demanding freedom, democracy, transparency and more, demands of which nothing has been accomplished, nearly three years on.

Ramzy Baroud ( is a media consultant, an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press).

The Ahistorical Now: Getting Less than Half the Story

The Anti-Empire Report #123

by William Blum – Killing Hope

December 3rd, 2013

“If nature were a bank, they would have already rescued it.” – Eduardo Galeano
What do you think of this as an argument to use when speaking to those who don’t accept the idea that extreme weather phenomena are man-made?

Well, we can proceed in one of two ways:
  • We can do our best to limit the greenhouse effect by curtailing greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere, and if it turns out that these emissions were not in fact the cause of all the extreme weather phenomena, then we’ve wasted a lot of time, effort and money (although other benefits to the ecosystem would still accrue).

  • We can do nothing at all to curtail the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and if it turns out that these emissions were in fact the cause of all the extreme weather phenomena (not simply extreme, but getting downright freaky), then we’ve lost the earth and life as we know it.
So, are you a gambler?

Whatever we do on a purely personal level to try and curtail greenhouse gas emissions cannot of course compare to what corporations could do; but it’s inevitable that the process will impinge upon the bottom line of one corporation or another, who can be relied upon to put optimization of profit before societal good; corporate “personhood” before human personhood. This is a barrier faced by any environmentalist or social movement, and is the reason why I don’t subscribe to the frequently-voiced idea that “Left vs. Right” is an obsolete concept; that we’re all together in a common movement against corporate and government abuse regardless of where we fall on the ideological spectrum.

It’s only the Left that maintains as a bedrock principle: People before Profit, which can serve as a very concise definition of socialism, an ideology anathema to the Right and libertarians, who fervently believe, against all evidence, in the rationality of a free market. I personally favor the idea of a centralized, planned economy.

Holy Lenin, Batman! This guy’s a Damn Commie!

Is it the terminology that bothers you? Because Americans are raised to be dedicated anti-communists and anti-socialists, and to equate a “planned economy” with the worst excesses of Stalinism? Okay, forget the scary labels; let’s describe it as people sitting down and discussing what the most serious problems facing society are; and which institutions and forces in the society have the best access, experience, and resources to offer a solution to those problems. So, the idea is to enable these institutions and forces to deal with the problems in a highly organized and efficient manner. All this is usually called “planning”, and if the organization of it all generally stems from the government it can be called “centralized”. The alternative to this is called either anarchy or free enterprise.

I don’t place much weight on the idea of “libertarian socialism”. That to me is an oxymoron. The key questions to be considered are: Who will make the decisions on a daily basis to run the society? For whose benefit will those decisions be made. It’s easy to speak of “economic democracy” that comes from “the people”, and is “locally controlled”, not by the government. But is every town and village going to manufacture automobiles, trains and airplanes? Will every city of any size have an airport? Will each one oversee its own food and drug inspections? Maintain all the roads passing through? Protect the environment within the city boundary only? Such questions are obviously without limit. I’m just suggesting that we shouldn’t have stars in our eyes about local control or be paranoid about central planning.

“We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause.” – William James (1842-1910)

So, George W. Bush is now a painter. He tells his art teacher that “there’s a Rembrandt trapped inside this body”. 1 Ah, so Georgie is more than just a painter. He’s an artiste.

And we all know that artistes are very special people. They’re never to be confused with mass murderers, war criminals, merciless torturers or inveterate liars. Neither are they ever to be accused of dullness of wit or incoherence of thought.

Artistes are not the only special people. Devout people are also special: Josef Stalin studied for the priesthood. Osama bin Laden prayed five times a day.

And animal lovers: Herman Goering, while his Luftwaffe rained death upon Europe, kept a sign in his office that read: “He who tortures animals wounds the feelings of the German people.” Adolf Hitler was also an animal lover and had long periods of being a vegetarian and anti-smoking. Charles Manson was a staunch anti-vivisectionist.

And cultured people: This fact Elie Wiesel called the greatest discovery of the war: that Adolf Eichmann was cultured, read deeply, played the violin. Mussolini also played the violin. Some Nazi concentration camp commanders listened to Mozart to drown out the cries of the inmates.

Former Bosnian Serb politician Radovan Karadzic, on trial now before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, charged with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, was a psychiatrist, specializing in depression; a practitioner of alternative medicine; published a book of poetry and books for children.

Al Qaeda and other suicide bombers are genuinely and sincerely convinced that they are doing the right thing. That doesn’t make them less evil; in fact it makes them more terrifying, since they force us to face the scary reality of a world in which sincerity and morality do not necessarily have anything to do with each other.

Getting your history from Hollywood

Imagine a documentary film about the Holocaust which makes no mention of Nazi Germany.

Imagine a documentary film about the 1965-66 slaughter of as many as a million “communists” in Indonesia which makes no mention of the key role in the killing played by the United States.

But there’s no need to imagine it. It’s been made, and was released this past summer. It’s called “The Act of Killing” and makes no mention of the American role. Two articles in the Washington Post about the film made no such mention either. The Indonesian massacre, along with the jailing without trial of about a million others and the widespread use of torture and rape, ranks as one of the great crimes of the twentieth century and is certainly well known amongst those with at least a modest interest in modern history.

Here’s an email I sent to the Washington Post writer who reviewed the film:

“The fact that you can write about this historical event and not mention a word about the US government role is a sad commentary on your intellect and social conscience. If the film itself omits any serious mention of the US role, that is a condemnation of the filmmaker, and of you for not pointing this out. So the ignorance and brainwashing of the American people about their country’s foreign policy (i.e., holocaust) continues decade after decade, thanks to media people like Mr. Oppenheimer [one of the filmmakers] and yourself.”

The Post reviewer, rather than being offended by my intemperate language, was actually taken with what I said and she asked me to send her an article outlining the US role in Indonesia, which she would try to get published in the Post as an op-ed. I did so and she wrote me that she very much appreciated what I had sent her. But – as I was pretty sure would happen – the Post did not print what I wrote. So this incident may have had the sole saving grace of enlightening a Washington Post writer about the journalistic standards and politics of her own newspaper.

And now, just out, we have the film “Long Walk to Freedom” based on Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography of the same name. The heroic Mandela spent close to 28 years in prison at the hands of the apartheid South African government. His arrest and imprisonment were the direct result of a CIA operation. But the film makes no mention of the role played by the CIA or any other agency of the United States.

In fairness to the makers of the film, Mandela himself, in his book, declined to accuse the CIA for his imprisonment, writing: “The story has never been confirmed and I have never seen any reliable evidence as to the truth of it.”

Well, Mr. Mandela and the filmmaker should read what I wrote and documented on the subject some years after Mandela’s book came out, in my own book: Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (2000). It’s not quite a “smoking gun”, but I think it convinces almost all readers that what happened in South Africa in 1962 was another of the CIA operations we’ve all come to know and love. And almost all my sources were available to Mandela at the time he wrote his autobiography. There has been speculation about what finally led to Mandela’s release from prison; perhaps a deal was made concerning his post-prison behavior.

From a purely educational point of view, seeing films such as the two discussed here may well be worse than not exposing your mind at all to any pop culture treatment of American history or foreign policy.
Getting your history from the American daily press

During the US federal government shutdown in October over a budgetary dispute, Washington Post columnist Max Fisher wondered if there had ever been anything like this in another country. He decided that “there actually is one foreign precedent: Australia did this once. In 1975, the Australian government shut down because the legislature had failed to fund it, deadlocked by a budgetary squabble. It looked a lot like the U.S. shutdown of today, or the 17 previous U.S. shutdowns.” 2

Except for what Fisher fails to tell us: that it strongly appears that the CIA used the occasion to force a regime change in Australia, whereby the Governor General, John Kerr – a man who had been intimately involved with CIA fronts for a number of years – discharged Edward Gough Whitlam, the democratically-elected prime minister whose various policies had been a thorn in the side of the United States, and the CIA in particular.

I must again cite my own writing, for the story of the CIA coup in Australia – as far as I know – is not described in any kind of detail anywhere other than in my book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II (2004).

Americans are living in an Orwellian police state. Either that, or the greatest democracy ever.

There are those in the United States and Germany these days who insist that the National Security Agency is no match for the East German Ministry for State Security, or Stasi, which, during the Cold War, employed an estimated 190,000 part-time secret informants, and an additional 90,000 officers full time, in a spying operation that permeated both East and West Germany. Since the end of the Cold War, revelations from the Stasi files have led to thousands of collaborators being chased from public life. Even now, new accusations of a Stasi association can hound politicians and celebrities in Germany. 3

All that of course stems from an era before almost all information and secrets became electronic. It was largely labor intensive. In the digital age, the NSA has very little need for individuals to spy on their friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. (In any event, the FBI takes care of that department very well.)

Can we ever expect that NSA employees will suffer public disgrace as numerous Stasi employees and informants have? No more than war criminals Bush and Cheney have been punished in any way. Only those who have exposed NSA crimes have been punished, like Edward Snowden and several other whistleblowers.

Washington Post, November 21, 2013
Washington Post, October 1, 2013
Washington Post, November 18, 2013

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

← Issue #122

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Turning Out Gaza's Lights

Closure of Lone Power Plant Cripples Already Besieged Gaza Strip


Al-Helou: The international community has failed the nearly 2 million residents of the Gaza as Israel and Egypt tighten the siege.

Yousef Al-Helou is a Palestinian freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Gaza-Palestine. His work has been featured in a variety of media outlets including BBC, GRN, CBC Radio Canada, TV New Zealand, UN Observer, Reuters Institute, Middle East Monitor, Press TV, Al-Etejah TV, Maan News Network, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, PNN among many others. Yousef is a Reuters journalist fellow and a UN fellow as well and took part in many speaking tours in the UK/Ireland about his work experience, reporting in a war zone. Yousef covered the infighting between Fatah and Hamas as well as the two Israeli wars on Gaza in late 2008/early 2009 and late 2012, arrival of siege-breaking boats and many other major events since 2006. Yousef runs Gaza TV News page on Facebook that has more than 49,000 followers. Currently he is working on his research about the rise of citizen journalists in Gaza and their impact of public perception of Palestine in the West.

Barriere Lake Algonquin Halt Logging Operations in Territory

Algonquins of Barriere Lake stop unauthorized forestry operations on their territory until Agreements respected


For photos: click here
Barriere Lake, Quebec - Today the Algonquins of Barriere Lake non-violently stopped forestry operations that are devastating their lands in Western Quebec.

On November 24 the Chief and Council of the community sent a letter to the Quebec government demanding they respect a signed agreements with Barriere Lake that are supposed to prevent logging on ecological and culturally sensitive areas.

"We are trying to protect and steward the land and water for future generations of native and non-native society, " says Norman Matchewan, a Barriere Lake councillor. 

A spokesperson from the community will be speaking in Montreal today at 6pm at Concordia's School of Community and Public Affairs, 2149 Mackay Street.

In 1991, Barriere Lake signed a historic Trilateral agreement with Quebec and Canada. Its aim was to establish an unprecedented system of sustainable development and eco-management over 10,000 square kilometres of their unceded traditional territory.

In 1998, Barriere Lake and Quebec signed a related Agreement to negotiate co-management of the territory and resource revenue sharing among other issues.

The Quebec and Canadian governments have refused to honour the 1991 and 1998 Agreements, allowing Eacom (formally Domtar,) Louisiana Pacific, and Resolute Forest Products (formerly AbitbiBowater) to clear-cut huge areas without consultation of the community.

Three weekends ago, Quebec police visited Barriere Lake's Chief Casey Ratt at home on a Saturday morning.

In a letter to the Quebec government, Barriere Lake's Chief and Council writes: "While we try with our very modest means to protect our resources from unfair exploitation, you make sure the Surete du Quebec are there to intimidate us, which means court appearances and often jail."
"We will use all our means, limited as they are, to protect our territory and our cultural sites. If it again means the [Quebec Police's] strong arm tactics, so be it, and we are ready to once again face the consequences," the letter adds.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Media contact:

Norman Matchewan 819-441-8006


Guantánamo's Torture Medicos

The Torture Doctors

by Scott Horton - No Comment

An expert panel concludes that the Pentagon and the CIA ordered physicians to violate the Hippocratic Oath

The Hippocratic corpus, which requires that a physician “first do no harm” to his patient, lies at the heart of medical ethics. Now, an important independent study of the conduct of doctors engaged by the CIA and Defense Department at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility has concluded that the U.S. government forced these doctors to systematically violate their oaths by aiding in the torture and abuse of patients in their care.

The study also makes clear that CIA and Defense Department officials were conscious of the ethics guidelines their policies would violate, and took measures to exempt medical professionals in their service from ethics requirements. The DoD and CIA also consistently refused to cooperate with state ethics boards investigating the unethical conduct of physicians at Guantánamo, effectively leaving the boards unable to act.

The two-year study, whose findings were issued in a report called “Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the “War on Terror,” was conducted by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University, and was supervised by a board of nineteen preeminent physicians, lawyers, and health-policy experts. After extensively surveying publicly available information, the report’s authors concluded that health professionals at Guantánamo had “designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees.”

The report acknowledges that the Obama Administration has made changes to the Guantánamo system, but expresses serious concerns about systematic and ongoing ethics lapses in the detention center’s notorious force-feeding program. The Pentagon, it notes, “continues to follow policies that undermine standards of professional conduct” with respect to interrogation, hunger strikes, and the reporting of abuse.

Doctors and nurses at Gitmo are required to participate in the force-feeding of detainees, who are placed in extensive bodily restraints for up to two hours twice a day, which the report’s authors conclude (as the American Medical Association did earlier this year) violates basic ethical rules.

The report leaves little doubt that intelligence services and the Pentagon have offered doctors a sort of pact, amounting to: Leave your professional ethics behind when you come to work with us, and torture your patients if we ask you to. In exchange, we will keep quiet about what you’ve done, and will ensure that the ethics bodies responsible for policing the medical profession won’t get the evidence they need to act against you. 

What this equation leaves out, of course, is the patients — both those who were abused, and the ones these doctors might treat in the future, who have a right to know who is treating them. A doctor who is willing to torture his patients can hardly be counted upon to render the highest standards of professional care, even without the CIA standing over his or her shoulder.

Or, as one of the study’s researchers, Columbia University professor of medicine Gerald Thomson, put it:

"The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve. It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice. We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again."

Reacting to China's No Fly Zone

More Fun With China’s ADIZ

by Peter Lee - China Matters

I am unwilling to join the rest of China pundits on the fainting couch, overcome with dismay and disapproval at the PRC’s unilateral declaration of an ADIZ.

All the big kids have an ADIZ. The PRC has an ADIZ. I don’t think it’s going anywhere and we should get used to it.

To me, the important story is that Japan is using the ADIZ uproar to claim regional military flight rights that only the United States claims—and civilian flight rights that nobody, including the United States enjoys.

This, to me, is part of Prime Minister Abe’s ambitions to make Japan an independent security peer—and not a tractable ally—of the United States in East Asia.

And I doubt that the United States is particularly overjoyed with that, despite the spate of news analyses along the lines of “America happy that PRC is acting like assertive jerk and provoking security backlash by Asian democracies.”

That’s a point I make in my most recent Asia Times Online piece, Has Abe Overreached on China’s ADIZ? and it’s a point I don’t see anybody else making.

Maybe it’s because I’m a clueless dingbat. But maybe it’s because the whole “rising Japan” i.e. the threat to US preeminence from an ambitious ally provokes cognitive dissonance for Western journos and pundits fixated on “rising China” a.k.a. the everreliable and easy to conceptualize alien menace.

Anyway, the ATOl piece has some good info on the US ADIZ from an FAA presentation, pointing out that cooperation with the ADIZ regs is an absolute requirement reinforced by a lengthy set of procedures and measures up to and including the scrambling of fighter jets.

PM Abe’s call on Japanese military aircraft and civilian carriers to ignore the PRC ADIZ is simply irresponsible and, dare I say, “heightens tensions”.

The US-Canada ADIZ dates back to the Cold War, when the ADIZ was a core component of U.S. defense against some Soviet bomber lumbering in and dropping one or more of those gigantic nukes on us. The ADIZ over North America was supplemented by a series of ADIZ zones covering Soviet access to Atlantic airspace (just as we maintained a picket line against Soviet submarines in order to bottle them up in contiguous Russian waters).

Until 2006, the Iceland ADIZ was policed by the 85th Group (the “Guardians of the North” as their motto stated) of the USAF 48th Fighter Wing based in the UK.

Nowadays NATO members patrol the airspace of Iceland, the Baltic republics, and the Balkan states to protect Russia from surprise attack (just kidding!).

Airspace over Greenland is pretty much in the hands of the American airbase at Thule.

Further down, the ELK Area (the area off the coast of Newfoundland between Iceland and the US East Coast) is under the control of the Canadian Maritime Command (CONMARCOM). Nobody flies into that zone without filing a flight plan. (pg. 24).

4. In the interest of flight safety it is essential that CANMARCOM be informed in advance of all flights or proposed flight in or through Area ELK. Aircraft flight level(s), track and approximate times of ELK penetration and exit are required. Military aircraft are encouraged to communicate directly with CANMARCOM. On prior request,frequencies will be assigned on which to report position and obtain ELK clearance. ASW aircraft will be routedclear of all known military and civil traffic.

And, in a heads-up for an overly enthusiastic critic on ATOl comments, the ELK region covers the southerly flightpath between the North American mainland and Iceland, which could be employed by planes entering the ADIZ but flying PARALLEL to the US coast (There has been a lot of misleading chaff about how the Chinese should not be allowed to hassle planes that are flying parallel to their coastline but not on a heading to penetrate PRC airspace. Before you enter the US ADIZ on any heading, you are required to file a flight plan. Inside the ADIZ you are required to turn on your identification and altitude transponders, respond to radio calls, and obey instructions from fighter jets if they scramble to intercept. No exceptions for parallel flight. Especially since my sophisticated aeronautical friends tell me that planes have the ability to turn left and right or, as they say, “port and starboard”. It wouldn’t make much sense to declare an ADIZ to achieve early warning, then let somebody around inside it to fly really close but PARALLEL to the coast without filing a flight plan and hope the guy doesn’t turn right at the last minute and launch a missile.)

To me, the whole parallel flight thing is a canard; more specifically, an attempt by the United States to avoid the completely untenable position of denying the PRC’s right to declare an ADIZ, but at the same time find a way to give some aid and comfort to Japan by trying to carve out an exclusion for Japanese flights along the Chinese coastline and headed to the Senkakus.

With the rise of the ballistic missile, the strategic bomber justification for the US/Canada ADIZ has evaporated. But the U.S. is pretty serious about the ADIZ in order to interdict drug smuggling and deal with terrorism.

Since 9/11, the ADIZ has been supplemented by TFRs--Temporary Flight Restrictions—within the United States, usually in relation to presidential travel. US fighter jets also provide security patrols for matters of tremendous national importance—like the Super Bowl! (Unless, as the FAA illustration implies, we are trying to deter our enemies with the inexpensive alternative of unconvincing Photoshopped images).

In discussing the last component of the US ADIZ, Alaska, a website that is apparently equally devoted to Sarah Palin and opposed to President Obama provided this nugget from 2012:

It is being reported that two Russian Bear bombers were intercepted while flying near the west coast of the United States on the 4th of July, an obvious taunt from the Russians on our nation’s most important day.
This is the second incident in the past two weeks, where Russian nuclear capable bombers have entered, or come near U.S. air space.

This is nothing new, as the Russians are known to violate American air space often. On Sarah Palin’s watch, as Governor of Alaska, and Commander-in-Chief, the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing routinely escorted the Russians out of Alaskan air space. In fact, the 176th received the Air Force’s Outstanding Unit Award for its service to the nation . Part of the citation noted:

The 176th Air Control Squadron maintained North American air sovereignty by detecting, monitoring and escorting 22 Russian bombers from within its area of operations.

As you can see, the 176th Air Control Squadron is an Air National Guard outfit, not a USAF operation. About 90% of US air defense is handled by ANG units. And, yes, on the occasions that George W. Bush flew for the Texas Air National Guard as part of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing , we can assume he was patrolling the US ADIZ.