Saturday, October 18, 2014

Posthumous Slander: Washington Post Killing the Messenger Again

WPost’s Slimy Assault on Gary Webb

by Robert Parry - Consortium News

Jeff Leen, the Washington Post’s assistant managing editor for investigations, begins his renewed attack on the late Gary Webb’s Contra-cocaine reporting with a falsehood. Leen insists that there is a journalism dictum that “an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.”

Journalist Gary Webb

 But Leen must know that it is not true. Many extraordinary claims, such as assertions in 2002-03 that Iraq was hiding arsenals of WMDs, were published as flat-fact without “extraordinary proof” or any real evidence at all, including by Leen’s colleagues at the Washington Post.

A different rule actually governs American journalism – that journalists need “extraordinary proof” if a story puts the U.S. government or an “ally” in a negative light but pretty much anything goes when criticizing an “enemy.”

If, for instance, the Post wanted to accuse the Syrian government of killing civilians with Sarin gas or blame Russian-backed rebels for the shoot-down of a civilian airliner over Ukraine, any scraps of proof – no matter how dubious – would be good enough (as was the actual case in 2013 and 2014, respectively).

However, if new evidence undercut those suspicions and shifted the blame to people on “the U.S. side” – say, the Syrian rebels and the Ukrainian government – then the standards of proof suddenly skyrocket beyond reach. So what you get is not “responsible” journalism – as Leen tries to suggest – but hypocrisy and propaganda. One set of rules for the goose and another set for the gander.

The Contra-Cocaine Case

Or to go back to the Contra-cocaine scandal that Brian Barger and I first exposed for the Associated Press in 1985: If we were writing that the leftist Nicaraguan Sandinista government – the then U.S. “enemy” – was shipping cocaine to the United States, any flimsy claim would have sufficed. But the standard of proof ratcheted up when the subject of our story was cocaine smuggling by President Ronald Reagan’s beloved Contras.

In other words, the real dictum is that there are two standards, double standards, something that a careerist like Leen knows in his gut but doesn’t want you to know. All the better to suggest that Gary Webb was guilty of violating some noble principle of journalism.

But Leen is wrong in another way – because there was “extraordinary proof” establishing that the Contras were implicated in drug trafficking and that the Reagan administration was looking the other way.

When Barger and I wrote the first story about Contra-cocaine trafficking almost three decades ago, we already had “extraordinary proof,” including documents from Costa Rica, statements by Contras and Contra backers, and admissions from officials in the Drug Enforcement Administration and Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council staff.

However, Leen seems to dismiss our work as nothing but getting “tips” about Contra-cocaine trafficking as if Barger and I were like the hacks at the Washington Post and the New York Times who wait around for authorized handouts from the U.S. government.

Following the Money

Barger and I actually were looking for something different when we encountered the evidence on Contra-cocaine trafficking. We were trying to figure out how the Contras were sustaining themselves in the field after Congress cut off the CIA’s financing for their war.

We were, in the old-fashioned journalistic parlance, “following the money.” The problem was the money led, in part, to the reality that all the major Contra organizations were collaborating with drug traffickers.

Besides our work in the mid-1980s, Sen. John Kerry’s follow-on Contra-cocaine investigation added substantially more evidence. Yet Leen and his cohorts apparently felt no need to pursue the case any further or even give respectful attention to Kerry’s official findings.

Indeed, when Kerry’s report was issued in April 1989, the Washington Post ran a dismissive story by Michael Isikoff buried deep inside the paper. Newsweek dubbed Kerry “a randy conspiracy buff.” In his new article attacking Gary Webb, Leen just says:

“After an exhaustive three-year investigation, the committee’s report concluded that CIA officials were aware of the smuggling activities of some of their charges who supported the contras, but it stopped short of implicating the agency directly in drug dealing. That seemed to be the final word on the matter.”

But why was it the “final word”? Why didn’t Leen and others who had missed the scandal as it was unfolding earlier in the decade at least try to build on Kerry’s findings. After all, these were now official U.S. government records. Wasn’t that “extraordinary” enough?

In this context, Leen paints himself as the true investigative journalist who knew the inside story of the Contra-cocaine tale from the beginning. He wrote: “As an investigative reporter covering the drug trade for the Miami Herald, … I wrote about the explosion of cocaine in America in the 1980s and 1990s, and the role of Colombia’s Medellin Cartel in fueling it.

“Beginning in 1985, journalists started pursuing tips about the CIA’s role in the drug trade. Was the agency allowing cocaine to flow into the United States as a means to fund its secret war supporting the contra rebels in Nicaragua? Many journalists, including me, chased that story from different angles, but the extraordinary proof was always lacking.”

Again, what Leen says is not true. Leen makes no reference to the groundbreaking AP story in 1985 or other disclosures in the ensuing years. He just insists that “the extraordinary proof” was lacking — which it may have been for him given his lackluster abilities. He then calls the final report of Kerry’s investigation the “final word.”

But Leen doesn’t explain why he and his fellow mainstream journalists were so incurious about this major scandal that they would remain passive even in the wake of a Senate investigation. It’s also not true that Kerry’s report was the “final word” prior to Webb reviving the scandal in 1996.

Government Witnesses

In 1991, during the narcotics trafficking trial of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, the U.S. government itself presented witnesses who connected the Contras to the Medellin cartel.

Indeed, after testimony by Medellin cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder about his $10 million contribution to the Contras, the Washington Post wrote in a Nov. 27, 1991 editorial that “The Kerry hearings didn’t get the attention they deserved at the time” and that “The Noriega trial brings this sordid aspect of the Nicaraguan engagement to fresh public attention.”

But the Post offered its readers no explanation for why Kerry’s hearings had been largely ignored, with the Post itself a leading culprit in this journalistic misfeasance. Nor did the Post and the other leading newspapers use the opening created by the Noriega trial to do anything to rectify their past neglect.

In other words, it didn’t seem to matter how much “extraordinary proof” the Washington Post or Jeff Leen had. Nothing would be sufficient to report seriously on the Contra-cocaine scandal, not even when the U.S. government vouched for the evidence.

So, Leen is trying to fool you when he presents himself as a “responsible journalist” weighing the difficult evidentiary choices. He’s just the latest hack to go after Gary Webb, which has become urgent again for the mainstream media in the face of “Kill the Messenger,” a new movie about Webb’s ordeal.

What Leen won’t face up to is that the tag-team destruction of Gary Webb in 1996-97 – by the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times – represented one of the most shameful episodes in the history of American journalism.

The Big Papers tore down an honest journalist to cover up their own cowardly failure to investigate and expose a grave national security crime, the Reagan administration’s tolerance for and protection of drug trafficking into the United States by the CIA’s client Contra army.

This journalistic failure occurred even though the Associated Press – far from a radical news outlet – and a Senate investigation (not to mention the Noriega trial) had charted the way.

Leen’s Assault

Contrary to Leen’s column, “Kill the Messenger” is actually a fairly honest portrayal of what happened when Webb exposed the consequences of the Contra cocaine smuggling after the drugs reached the United States. One channel fed into an important Los Angeles supply chain that produced crack.

But Leen tells you that “The Hollywood version of [Webb's] story — a truth-teller persecuted by the cowardly and craven mainstream media — is pure fiction.”

He then lauds the collaboration of the Big Three newspapers in destroying Webb and creating such enormous pressure on Webb’s newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, that the executive editor Jerry Ceppos threw his own reporter under the bus. To Leen, this disgraceful behavior represented the best of American journalism.

Leen wrote: “The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, in a rare show of unanimity, all wrote major pieces knocking the story down for its overblown claims and undernourished reporting.

“Gradually, the Mercury News backed away from Webb’s scoop. The paper transferred him to its Cupertino bureau and did an internal review of his facts and his methods. Jerry Ceppos, the Mercury News’s executive editor, wrote a piece concluding that the story did not meet the newspaper’s standards — a courageous stance, I thought.”

“Courageous”? What an astounding characterization of Ceppos’s act of career cowardice.

But Leen continues by explaining his role in the Webb takedown. After all, Leen was then the drug expert at the Miami Herald, which like the San Jose Mercury News was a Knight Ridder newspaper. Leen says his editors sought his opinion about Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series.

Though acknowledging that he was “envious” of Webb’s story when it appeared in 1996, Leen writes that he examined it and found it wanting, supposedly because of alleged overstatements. He proudly asserts that because of his critical analysis, the Miami Herald never published Webb’s series.

But Leen goes further. He falsely characterizes the U.S. government’s later admissions contained in inspector general reports by the CIA and Justice Department. If Leen had bothered to read the reports thoroughly, he would have realized that the reports actually establish that Webb – and indeed Kerry, Barger and I – grossly understated the seriousness of the Contra-cocaine problem which began at the start of the Contra movement in the early 1980s and lasted through the decade until the end of the war.

Leen apparently assumes that few Americans will take the trouble to study and understand what the reports said. That is why I published a lengthy account of the U.S. government’s admissions – both after the reports were published in 1998 and as “Kill the Messenger” was hitting the theaters in October. [See’s “The Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga.”]

Playing It Safe

Instead of diving into the reeds of the CIA and DOJ reports, Leen does what he and his mainstream colleagues have done for the past three decades, try to minimize the seriousness of the Reagan administration tolerating cocaine trafficking by its Contra clients and even obstructing official investigations that threatened to expose this crime of state.

Instead, to Leen, the only important issue is whether Gary Webb’s story was perfect. But no journalistic product is perfect. There are always more details that a reporter would like to have, not to mention compromises with editors over how a story is presented. And, on a complex story, there are always some nuances that could have been explained better. That is simply the reality of journalism, the so-called first draft of history.

But Leen pretends that it is the righteous thing to destroy a reporter who is not perfect in his execution of a difficult story – and that Gary Webb thus deserved to be banished from his profession for life, a cruel punishment that impoverished Webb and ultimately drove him to suicide in 2004.

But if Leen is correct – that a reporter who takes on a very tough story and doesn’t get every detail precisely correct should be ruined and disgraced – what does he tell his Washington Post colleague Bob Woodward, whose heroic Watergate reporting included an error about whether a claim regarding who controlled the White House slush fund was made before a grand jury.

While Woodward and his colleague Carl Bernstein were right about the substance, they were wrong about its presentation to a grand jury. Does Leen really believe that Woodward and Bernstein should have been drummed out of journalism for that mistake? Instead, they were lionized as heroes of investigative journalism despite the error – as they should have been.

Yet, when Webb exposed what was arguably an even worse crime of state – the Reagan administration turning a blind eye to the importation of tons of cocaine into the United States – Leen thinks any abuse of Webb is justified because his story wasn’t perfect.

Those two divergent judgments – on how Woodward’s mistake was understandably excused and how Webb’s imperfections were never forgiven – speak volumes about what has happened to the modern profession of journalism at least in the mainstream U.S. media. In reality, Leen’s insistence on perfection and “extraordinary proof” is just a dodge to rationalize letting well-connected criminals and their powerful accomplices off the hook.

In the old days, the journalistic goal was to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” but the new rule appears to be: “any standard of proof works when condemning the weak or the despised but you need unachievable ‘extraordinary evidence’ if you’re writing about the strong and the politically popular.”

Who Is Unfit?

Leen adds a personal reflection on Webb as somehow not having the proper temperament to be an investigative reporter. Leen wrote:

“After Webb was transferred to Cupertino [in disgrace], I debated him at a conference of the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization in Phoenix in June 1997. He was preternaturally calm. While investigative journalists are usually bundles of insecurities and questions and skepticism, he brushed off any criticism and admitted no error. When asked how I felt about it all, I said I felt sorry for him. I still feel that way.”

It’s interesting – and sadly typical – that while Leen chastises Webb for not admitting error, Leen offers no self-criticism of himself for missing what even the CIA has now admitted, that the Contras were tied up in the cocaine trade. Doesn’t an institutional confession by the CIA’s inspector general constitute “extraordinary evidence”?

Also, since the CIA’s inspector general’s report included substantial evidence of Contra-cocaine trafficking running through Miami, shouldn’t Leen offer some mea culpa about missing these serious crimes that were going on right under his nose – in his city and on his beat? What sort of reporter is “preternaturally calm” about failing to do his job right and letting the public suffer as Leen did?

Perhaps all one needs to know about the sorry state of today’s mainstream journalism is that Jeff Leen is the Washington Post’s assistant managing editor for investigations and Gary Webb is no longer with us. [To learn how you can hear a December 1996 joint appearance at which Robert Parry and Gary Webb discuss their reporting, click here.]

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

Tuc-ing In: "Briton's Need a Pay Rise!"

Photos: “Britain Needs A Pay Rise,” The TUC-Led Protest in London, October 18, 2014

by Andy Worthington

On Saturday October 18, 2014, I was one of around 90,000 people who took part in “Britain Needs A Pay Rise,” a march and rally in London organised by the TUC (Trades Union Congress) to highlight the growing inequality in the UK, and to call for an increase in pay for those who are not in the top 10% of earners, who, it was recently revealed, now control 54.1% of the country’s wealth.

See my photos of “Britain Needs A Pay Rise” on Flickr.

The London march began on Victoria Embankment and proceeded to Hyde Park, where there was a rally. Other protests took place in Glasgow and Belfast.

I was pleased that 90,000 people turned up, from all over the country, and there was a great atmosphere on the march, which was reassuring, as it is often easy to be despondent, so successful are the efforts by the Tories and the right-wing media to discredit unions and the solidarity of the people. I had many pleasant exchanges with people from Yorkshire, Lancashire and across London, and I hope another event takes place in spring, before the general election.

As I explained in an article before the protest, I was “extremely glad to see the TUC putting together a major protest, as it is exactly two years since the last major TUC-organised protest, ‘A Future That Works’ (see here and here for my photo sets on Flickr) Prior to that, there was the ‘March for the Alternative’ in March 2011,” which I wrote about here.

As I also explained, “I must admit to being extremely disappointed that the unions have not organised massive anti-austerity protests every six months against the butchers of the Tory-led coalition government, who continue with their efforts to destroy almost every aspect of the British state, privatising almost everything that was not privatised by Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and to hand it all over to unaccountable profiteers — with the exception of their own jobs, and their lavish expenses, and, presumably, parts of the judiciary, the military and the intelligence services.”

As Frances O’Grady, the General Secretary of the TUC, told the rally in Hyde Park:

"After the longest and deepest pay squeeze in recorded history, it’s time to end the lock-out that has kept the vast majority from sharing in the economic recovery. The average worker is £50 a week worse off than in 2007 and five million earn less than the living wage. Meanwhile, top directors now earn 175 times more than the average worker.

"If politicians wonder why so many feel excluded from the democratic process, they should start with bread and butter living standards. An economy that finds money for tax cuts for the rich and boardroom greed, while the rest face a pay squeeze and big cuts to the welfare system — that any of us might need — is no longer working for the many."

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting a second set of photos from the march and rally, but for now I hope you like these photos, and will share them if you do.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).

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

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

Drones Don't Kill People, People Do

What Happens When You Talk With Americans About Drone Murders

by Joy First  - World Beyond War

Mount Horeb, Wisc. - Bonnie Block, Jim Murphy, Lars and Patty Prip, Mary Beth Schlagheck, and I were at Rest Area 10 along I- 90/94, about 5 miles south of Mauston, from 10:00 am – noon on Thursday October 9, 2014. We had a model drone and a stack of flyers “6 Things You Should Know About Drones” to help us in reaching the public and so they can learn more about what is going on just up the road at Volk Field Air National Guard Base.

We were there in solidarity with others around the country as part of “Keep Space for Peace Week” and global days of actions against drones sponsored by Code Pink, Know Drones, and other groups.

We chose to leaflet at this particular rest area because it is the closest one to Volk Field Air National Guard Base, about 20 miles south of the base. We, as Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, have been vigiling outside the gates of Volk Field for almost three years, protesting the training there of pilots who operate the Shadow Drones. We are at the base with our signs every 4th Tuesday of the month from 3:30-4:30. At 4:00 pm around 100 cars leave the base and drive right past us and so we have a lot of exposure.

Jim has been urging us to try leafleting at the rest area for a couple of years and it turned out to be an excellent opportunity for public education. We were able to connect with a real cross-section of middle America and we had a chance to hand out our leaflets and talk to people about what is going on at Volk Field, as well as in the drone wars overseas. A fair number of people were very supportive and engaged with us. Quite a few seemed like they did not have a lot of feelings about drone warfare one way or the other. There were a small number of people who were very unhappy to see us there and let loose with some pretty unfriendly language.

Shortly after we arrived at the rest area and began setting up the drone, the manager of the rest area came out and told us we would have to pack up and leave. We said we were on public property and that we planned to stay there until noon. We also told her that we would not block anyone or act threatening, and we gave her a flyer. She became upset and angry when we told her this and she said that if we didn’t leave she would have to call the State Patrol and she didn’t think that we would want it to go that far. We responded that we would like her to call the State Patrol because we knew we had the right to be there. She left in a huff.

It was 15 minutes or so before a plain clothes officer dressed in a suit with a neat crew cut and a badge around his neck approached us. He said that he had been told there was a disturbance, and he asked us if there was a disturbance. Jim responded by asking if it looked like there was a disturbance. The officer angrily replied that he would be asking the questions and we would answer.

We explained to him what we were doing, that we were on public property and it was our constitutional right to be there. We told him we were not blocking anyone and if they didn’t want a flyer we didn’t push it.

At that point a uniformed State Patrol officer arrived at the scene. The officer we were talking to said that the uniformed officer would be taking over. After the two of them talked for several minutes, the uniformed officer came over and we told him what we were doing. He told us that some people might not appreciate our position, and he said that if they started saying things we didn’t like we should turn the other cheek. We told him we practice nonviolence and are good at de-escalating those kinds of situations. He told us to have a good day and walked away. It felt like this was a small win for us. It is not often that the police are called and they end up telling us to go ahead and keep doing what we are doing.

Several minutes later a Juneau County Sheriff car pulled into the rest area and parked. He didn’t talk to us, but spent several minutes talking to someone in an unmarked police car before they both drove away. Citizen activism seemed to have won out for the day.

I want to relate a story about one man I talked to. As I handed him a leaflet, he said he was supportive of what we are doing. But, he said, his grandson was in the military and operated a camera for the drones and he didn’t kill children. (One of our signs said “Drones Kill Children”.) I replied that there are many innocent people, including many children, who are being killed by drone attacks in countries overseas. He said again that his grandson didn’t kill children. I told him that we had a list of names of many of the children who have been killed. He said again that his grandson was a family man with four children and he wouldn’t kill children. He added that he had been a nurse assisting in surgery with children for many years and he knew what it was like for traumatized children and his grandson would not kill children.

This story really illustrates the disconnect and denial going on in our society, about how much we want to believe that we are the good guys, that we wouldn’t hurt others. Yet, people are dying all around the world as a result of our government’s policies. It seems like there are not enough people speaking out against what is going on because so many people refuse to really look at the death and destruction our military is leaving all around the globe. It is so much easier to close our eyes. I think this was a genuinely good man that I talked to, and there are so many good people like him. How do we get these good people to wake up and join the fight, to be able to admit to and take responsibility for the horrors that our government, and we, are perpetrating around the world?

All six of us who were there felt like it was a successful venture and we all agreed that we need to go back to the rest area where we can reach people who would otherwise not be reached. It is impossible to know what kind of impact we may have had, but we are hopeful that we touched a few people.

Please consider rest areas near you as a possible place for demonstrations. We no longer have town squares. It is illegal, at least in Wisconsin, to protest at shopping malls because they are privately owned. It is not always easy to find a public space where there are a lot people, but this was a good test today and we discovered that the police will not try to prevent us from demonstrating at a rest area in Wisconsin. But then again, who knows what may happen the next time. All I know for sure is that we will be back.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Is the Fusion Energy Dream Nearing?

How Fusion Energy Could One Day Disrupt Energy Markets

by - Inside Intelligence with Southern Pulse

The Fusion is thirty years away…and always will be. That is an oft-repeated cliché concerning one of the world’s most coveted – and so far unreachable – sources of energy. However, some recent developments in fusion energy technology could one day make that phrase obsolete.

Fusion energy is the phenomenon that powers the stars. Unlike conventional nuclear fission, where a uranium atom is split, giving off enormous volumes of energy, nuclear fusion is the process by which two hydrogen atoms are slammed together. This also gives off a vast quantity of energy, and with it, the promise that man can harness the most ideal source of energy.

That is because fusion would be nearly limitless. Hydrogen would be the principle source of fuel, an element found commonly around the world. But it would also be a clean source of energy since fusion would not emit greenhouse gases. And unlike the nuclear reactors of today, it would not present problems of weapons proliferation or meltdowns, since fusion reactors simply shut down if they encounter a problem.

That is the vision, anyway. The problem is that fusion has been a tough nut to crack. There have been enormous advances in the science and engineering, yet technical challenges remain. In short, the problem has been the inability to generate more power out than is required to be put in.

Research into fusion has been ongoing since the 1950’s. It even became a cause for peace between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. eager to deescalate the threat of nuclear war. In the 1980’s the two superpowers, along with several other countries, agreed to cooperate on one of the world’s most difficult science and engineering projects. They agreed to jointly build a magnetic fusion pilot power plant – called ITER ( – which is now under construction in France.

There are two main approaches to fusion: one using magnets and one using lasers. Magnetic fusion involves capturing and holding plasma gas in a donut shaped device called a tokamak. The plasma is heated to around 90 million degrees Celsius ( – or five times hotter than the surface of the sun – creating the conditions for hydrogen atoms to fuse together. The leading magnetic fusion facility in the world is the Joint European Torus (JET), a European project based in the United Kingdom. And when it is completed sometime in the 2020’s, the ITER project will be the most advanced magnetic fusion demonstration to date.

The laser fusion approach uses giant lasers to shoot a fuel pellet, which is made up of hydrogen atoms. The shot forces the hydrogen atoms together. The National Ignition Facility (NIF), which houses the world’s largest and most energetic laser, is the leading laser fusion institution. Located in California, the NIF achieved a long-sought milestone in early 2014 – it generated net positive energy for the first time ( ever, a tremendous achievement and a stepping stone for further development of fusion energy.

It is too early to tell which approach will prove to be the most viable for energy generation, but both magnetic and laser fusion hope to capture the heat left over from fusion reactions, and use it to generate electricity just like a normal power plant.

Fusion research has been almost entirely under the purview of big research institutions and government agencies. But as the dream of developing fusion energy has become a bit more realistic in recent years, private companies are beginning to jump into the mix.

Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT) announced on October 15 ( that it has made a major breakthrough in fusion energy. Lockheed Martin has been working on a compact fusion reactor (CFR), and a secret division within the company has spent the past four years conducting research and drawing up plans. In its announcement, the major defense contractor said that due to technological breakthroughs, it could begin selling commercialized fusion reactors within a decade. Lockheed Martin hopes to have a test reactor constructed within the next year and a full prototype in five years.

“Our compact fusion concept combines several alternative magnetic confinement approaches, taking the best parts of each, and offers a 90 percent size reduction over previous concepts,” Tom McGuire, the lead on fusion energy for the Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works’ Revolutionary Technology Programs, said in a statement ( . “The smaller size will allow us to design, build and test the CFR in less than a year.”

The reactors would be 100 megawatts in size, and could be transported by truck. The company is seeking private sector and government partners to help develop its design, and it has several patents pending.

By going small, Lockheed Martin believes it has advantages over the larger facilities at the NIF, JET, and ITER.

A team of researchers at the University of Washington ( are also pursuing a small design. Instead of a tokamak, which uses a lot of superconducting coils, the UW researchers designed a simpler fusion reactor known as a spheromak. The UW team estimates that when the design is perfected, a new fusion reactor with an electrical power capacity of 1 gigawatt would cost $2.7 billion. By way of comparison, they argue a new coal plant costs $2.8 billion.

Yet another approach is underway by a wildly different entity. General Fusion ( is a small startup company backed by venture capital, seeking to develop fusion energy at a fraction of the cost of the bigger government-backed research institutions. General Fusion’s design uses elements of both magnetic and laser fusion, in that it crushes a donut-shaped plasma. It raised $50 million in funding in 2011 ( from Cenovus Energy (TSE: CVE), a Canadian oil company, and from Bezos Expeditions, which is a venture capital company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

General Fusion has not cracked the equation yet, but it is planning to build a full-sized prototype within the next three years. The company is under the gun – venture capitalists won’t wait 30 years to see a return on their investment. Put in a more positive light, the ability to attract investment from venture capital is a remarkable vote of confidence.

It is unclear which, if any, of these campaigns will achieve the ultimate goal of harnessing fusion energy for the practical application of commercial electricity. If and when fusion energy is commercialized, it has the potential to totally disrupt energy markets the world over.

A limitless supply of electricity that could be used by any nation could solve multiple problems at once. It could provide energy access to hundreds of millions of people that currently do not have it; it could ultimately reduce pollution and resolve climate change; it could reduce global conflict by making fights over energy supplies unnecessary; and it could kick start a new period of global economic growth by reducing costs to energy supplies.

It would also cause significant economic disruption – profitable fusion energy would destroy a lot of value in the oil, natural gas, coal, and conventional nuclear power sectors while enriching the companies and investors that pave the way.

It remains a distant dream, but one that is getting closer by the day.

Agents of Chaos: Return of the Neocons

The Neocons — Masters of Chaos

by Robert Parry - Consortium News

If you’re nervously watching the stock market gyrations and worrying about your declining portfolio or pension fund, part of the blame should go to America’s neocons who continue to be masters of chaos, endangering the world’s economy by instigating geopolitical confrontations in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian 
Affairs Victoria Nuland during a press conference at the 
U.S. Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, on Feb. 7, 2014. 
(U.S. State Department photo)

Of course, there are other factors pushing Europe’s economy to the brink of a triple-dip recession and threatening to stop America’s fragile recovery, too. But the neocons’ “regime change” strategies, which have unleashed violence and confrontations across Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran and most recently Ukraine, have added to the economic uncertainty.

This neocon destabilization of the world economy began with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 under President George W. Bush who squandered some $1 trillion on the bloody folly. But the neocons’ strategies have continued through their still-pervasive influence in Official Washington during President Barack Obama’s administration.

The neocons and their “liberal interventionist” junior partners have kept the “regime change” pot boiling with the Western-orchestrated overthrow and killing of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the proxy civil war in Syria to oust Bashar al-Assad, the costly economic embargoes against Iran, and the U.S.-backed coup that ousted Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February.

All these targeted governments were first ostracized by the neocons and the major U.S. news organizations, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, which have become what amounts to neocon mouthpieces. Whenever the neocons decide that it’s time for another “regime change,” the mainstream U.S. media enlists in the propaganda wars.

The consequence of this cascading disorder has been damaging and cumulative. The costs of the Iraq War strapped the U.S. Treasury and left less government maneuvering room when Wall Street crashed in 2008. If Bush still had the surplus that he inherited from President Bill Clinton – rather than a yawning deficit – there might have been enough public money to stimulate a much-faster recovery.

President Obama also wouldn’t have been left to cope with the living hell that the U.S. occupation brought to the people of Iraq, violent chaos that gave birth to what was then called “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” and has since rebranded itself “the Islamic State.”

But Obama didn’t do himself (or the world) any favors when he put much of his foreign policy in the hands of Democratic neocon-lites, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Bush holdovers, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus. At State, Clinton promoted the likes of neocon Victoria Nuland, the wife of arch-neocon Robert Kagan, and Obama brought in “liberal interventionists” like Samantha Power, now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In recent years, the neocons and “liberal interventionists” have become almost indistinguishable, so much so that Robert Kagan has opted to discard the discredited neocon label and call himself a “liberal interventionist.” [See’s “Obama’s True Foreign Policy ‘Weakness.’”]

Manipulating Obama

Obama, in his nearly six years as president, also has shied away from imposing his more “realistic” views about world affairs on the neocon/liberal-interventionist ideologues inside the U.S. pundit class and his own administration. He has been outmaneuvered by clever insiders (as happened in 2009 on the Afghan “surge”) or overwhelmed by some Official Washington “group think” (as was the case in Libya, Syria, Iran and Ukraine).

Once all the “smart people” reach some collective decision that a foreign leader “must go,” Obama usually joins the chorus and has shown only rare moments of toughness in standing up to misguided conventional wisdoms.

The one notable case was his decision in summer 2013 to resist pressure to destroy Syria’s military after a Sarin gas attack outside Damascus sparked a dubious rush to judgment blaming Assad’s regime. Since then, more evidence has pointed to a provocation by anti-Assad extremists who may have thought that the incident would draw in the U.S. military on their side. [See’s “Was Turkey Behind Syrian Sarin Attack?”]

It’s now clear that if Obama had ordered a major bombing campaign against Assad’s military in early September 2013, he might have opened the gates of Damascus to a hellish victory by al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists or the even more brutal Islamic State, since these terrorist groups have emerged as the only effective fighters against Assad.

But the neocons and the “liberal interventionists” seemed oblivious to that danger. They had their hearts set on Syrian “regime change,” so were furious when their dreams were dashed by Obama’s supposed “weakness,” i.e. his failure to do what they wanted. They also blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin who brokered a compromise with Assad in which he agreed to surrender all of Syria’s chemical weapons while still denying a role in the Sarin attack.

By late September 2013, the disappointed neocons were acting out their anger by taking aim at Putin. They recognized that a particular vulnerability for the Russian president was Ukraine and the possibility that it could be pulled out of Russia’s sphere of influence and into the West’s orbit.

So, Carl Gershman, the neocon president of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy, took to the op-ed page of the neocon-flagship Washington Post to sound the trumpet about Ukraine, which he called “the biggest prize.”

But Gershman added that Ukraine was really only an interim step to an even bigger prize, the removal of the strong-willed and independent-minded Putin, who, Gershman added, “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad [i.e. Ukraine] but within Russia itself.” In other words, the new neocon hope was for “regime change” in Kiev and Moscow. [See’s “Neocons’ Ukraine/Syria/Iran Gambit.”]

Destabilizing the World

Beyond the recklessness of plotting to destabilize nuclear-armed Russia, the neocon strategy threatened to shake Europe’s fragile economic recovery from a painful recession, six years of jobless stress that had strained the cohesion of the European Union and the euro zone.

Across the Continent, populist parties from the Right and Left have been challenging establishment politicians over their inability to reverse the widespread unemployment and the growing poverty. Important to Europe’s economy was its relationship with Russia, a major market for agriculture and manufactured goods and a key source of natural gas to keep Europe’s industries humming and its houses warm.

The last thing Europe needed was more chaos, but that’s what the neocons do best and they were determined to punish Putin for disrupting their plans for Syrian “regime change,” an item long near the top of their agenda along with their desire to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

Putin also had sidetracked that possible war with Iran by helping to forge an interim agreement constraining but not eliminating Iran’s nuclear program. So, he became the latest target of neocon demonization, a process in which the New York Times and the Washington Post eagerly took the lead.

To get at Putin, however, the first step was Ukraine where Gershman’s NED was funding scores of programs for political activists and media operatives. These efforts fed into mass protests against Ukrainian President Yanukovych for balking at an EU association agreement that included a harsh austerity plan designed by the International Monetary Fund. Yanukovych opted instead for a more generous $15 billion loan deal from Putin.

As the political violence in Kiev escalated – with the uprising’s muscle supplied by neo-Nazi militias from western Ukraine – neocons within the Obama administration discussed how to “midwife” a coup against Yanukovych. Central to this planning was Victoria Nuland, who had been promoted to assistant secretary of state for European affairs and was urging on the protesters, even passing out cookies to protesters at Kiev’s Maidan square.

According to an intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland didn’t think EU officials were being aggressive enough. “Fuck the EU,” she said as she brainstormed how “to help glue this thing.” She literally handpicked who should be in the post-coup government – “Yats is the guy,” a reference to Arseniy Yatsenyuk who would indeed become prime minister.

When the coup went down on Feb. 22 – spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias who seized government buildings and forced Yanukovych and his officials to flee for their lives – the U.S. State Department quickly deemed the new regime “legitimate” and the mainstream U.S. media dutifully stepped up the demonization of Yanukovych and Putin.

Although Putin’s position had been in support of Ukraine’s status quo – i.e., retaining the elected president and the country’s constitutional process – the crisis was pitched to the American people as a case of “Russian aggression” with dire comparisons made between Putin and Hitler, especially after ethnic Russians in the east and south resisted the coup regime in Kiev and Crimea seceded to rejoin Russia.

Starting a Trade War

Pressured by the Obama administration, the EU agreed to sanction Russia for its “aggression,” touching off a tit-for-tat trade war with Moscow which reduced Europe’s sale of farming and manufacturing goods to Russia and threatened to disrupt Russia’s natural gas supplies to Europe.

While the most serious consequences were to Ukraine’s economy which went into freefall because of the civil war, some of Europe’s most endangered economies in the south also were hit hard by the lost trade with Russia. Europe began to stagger toward the third dip in a triple-dip recession with European markets experiencing major stock sell-offs.

The dominoes soon toppled across the Atlantic as major U.S. stock indices dropped, creating anguish among many Americans just when it seemed the hangover from Bush’s 2008 market crash was finally wearing off.

Obviously, there are other reasons for the recent stock market declines, including fears about the Islamic State’s victories in Syria and Iraq, continued chaos in Libya, and exclusion of Iran from the global economic system – all partly the result of neocon ideology. There have been unrelated troubles, too, such as the Ebola epidemic in western Africa and various weather disasters.

But the world’s economy usually can withstand some natural and manmade challenges. The real problem comes when a combination of catastrophes pushes the international financial system to a tipping point. Then, even a single event can dump the world into economic chaos, like what happened when Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008.

It’s not clear whether the world is at such a tipping point today, but the stock market volatility suggests that we may be on the verge of another worldwide recession. Meanwhile, the neocon masters of chaos seem determined to keep putting their ideological obsessions ahead of the risks to Americans and people everywhere.

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

Destroying a Country to Save a... Global Village...?

The Islamist State

by William Blum – The Anti-Empire Report #133

You can’t believe a word the United States or its mainstream media say about the current conflict involving The Islamic State (ISIS).

You can’t believe a word France or the United Kingdom say about ISIS.

You can’t believe a word Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, or the United Arab Emirates say about ISIS. Can you say for sure which side of the conflict any of these mideast countries actually finances, arms, or trains, if in fact it’s only one side? Why do they allow their angry young men to join Islamic extremists?

Why has NATO-member Turkey allowed so many Islamic extremists to cross into Syria? Is Turkey more concerned with wiping out the Islamic State or the Kurds under siege by ISIS? Are these countries, or the Western powers, more concerned with overthrowing ISIS or overthrowing the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad?

You can’t believe the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels. You can’t even believe that they are moderate. They have their hands in everything, and everyone has their hands in them.

Iran, Hezbollah and Syria have been fighting ISIS or its precursors for years, but the United States refuses to join forces with any of these entities in the struggle. Nor does Washington impose sanctions on any country for supporting ISIS as it quickly did against Russia for its alleged role in Ukraine.

The groundwork for this awful mess of political and religious horrors sweeping through the Middle East was laid – laid deeply – by the United States during 35 years (1979-2014) of overthrowing the secular governments of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. (Adding to the mess in the same period we should not forget the US endlessly bombing Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.) You cannot destroy modern, relatively developed and educated societies, ripping apart the social, political, economic and legal fabric, torturing thousands, killing millions, and expect civilization and human decency to survive.

Particularly crucial in this groundwork was the US decision to essentially throw 400,000 Iraqis with military training, including a full officer corps, out onto the streets of its cities, jobless. It was a formula for creating an insurgency. Humiliated and embittered, some of those men would later join various resistance groups operating against the American military occupation. It’s safe to say that the majority of armored vehicles, weapons, ammunition, and explosives taking lives every minute in the Middle East are stamped “Made in USA”.

And all of Washington’s horses, all of Washington’s men, cannot put this world back together again. The world now knows these places as “failed states”.

Meanwhile, the United States bombs Syria daily, ostensibly because the US is at war with ISIS, but at the same time seriously damaging the oil capacity of the country (a third of the Syrian government’s budget), the government’s military capabilities, its infrastructure, even its granaries, taking countless innocent lives, destroying ancient sites; all making the recovery of an Assad-led Syria, or any Syria, highly unlikely. Washington is undoubtedly looking for ways to devastate Iran as well under the cover of fighting ISIS.

Nothing good can be said about this whole beastly situation. All the options are awful. All the participants, on all sides, are very suspect, if not criminally insane. It may be the end of the world. To which I say … Good riddance. Nice try, humans; in fact, GREAT TRY … but good riddance. ISIS … Ebola … Climate Change … nuclear radiation … The Empire … Which one will do us in first? … Have a nice day.

Is the world actually so much more evil and scary today than it was in the 1950s of my upbringing, for which I grow more nostalgic with each new horror? Or is it that the horrors of today are so much better reported, as we swim in a sea of news and videos?

After seeing several ISIS videos on the Internet, filled with the most disgusting scenes, particularly against women, my thought is this: Give them their own country; everyone who’s in that place now who wants to leave, will be helped to do so; everyone from all over the world who wants to go there will be helped to get there. Once they’re there, they can all do whatever they want, but they can’t leave without going through a rigorous interview at a neighboring border to ascertain whether they’ve recovered their attachment to humanity. However, since very few women, presumably, would go there, the country would not last very long.

The Berlin Wall – Another Cold War Myth

November 9 will mark the 25th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. The extravagant hoopla began months ago in Berlin. In the United States we can expect all the Cold War clichés about The Free World vs. Communist Tyranny to be trotted out and the simple tale of how the wall came to be will be repeated: In 1961, the East Berlin communists built a wall to keep their oppressed citizens from escaping to West Berlin and freedom. Why? Because commies don’t like people to be free, to learn the “truth”. What other reason could there have been?

First of all, before the wall went up in 1961 thousands of East Germans had been commuting to the West for jobs each day and then returning to the East in the evening; many others went back and forth for shopping or other reasons. So they were clearly not being held in the East against their will. Why then was the wall built?

There were two major reasons:

1) The West was bedeviling the East with a vigorous campaign of recruiting East German professionals and skilled workers, who had been educated at the expense of the Communist government. This eventually led to a serious labor and production crisis in the East. As one indication of this, the New York Times reported in 1963: “West Berlin suffered economically from the wall by the loss of about 60,000 skilled workmen who had commuted daily from their homes in East Berlin to their places of work in West Berlin.”

It should be noted that in 1999, USA Today reported: “When the Berlin Wall crumbled [1989], East Germans imagined a life of freedom where consumer goods were abundant and hardships would fade. Ten years later, a remarkable 51% say they were happier with communism.” Earlier polls would likely have shown even more than 51% expressing such a sentiment, for in the ten years many of those who remembered life in East Germany with some fondness had passed away; although even 10 years later, in 2009, the Washington Post could report: “Westerners [in Berlin] say they are fed up with the tendency of their eastern counterparts to wax nostalgic about communist times.”

It was in the post-unification period that a new Russian and eastern Europe proverb was born: “Everything the Communists said about Communism was a lie, but everything they said about capitalism turned out to be the truth.”

It should be further noted that the division of Germany into two states in 1949 – setting the stage for 40 years of Cold War hostility – was an American decision, not a Soviet one.

2) During the 1950s, American coldwarriors in West Germany instituted a crude campaign of sabotage and subversion against East Germany designed to throw that country’s economic and administrative machinery out of gear. The CIA and other US intelligence and military services recruited, equipped, trained and financed German activist groups and individuals, of West and East, to carry out actions which ran the spectrum from juvenile delinquency to terrorism; anything to make life difficult for the East German people and weaken their support of the government; anything to make the commies look bad.

It was a remarkable undertaking. The United States and its agents used explosives, arson, short circuiting, and other methods to damage power stations, shipyards, canals, docks, public buildings, gas stations, public transportation, bridges, etc; they derailed freight trains, seriously injuring workers; burned 12 cars of a freight train and destroyed air pressure hoses of others; used acids to damage vital factory machinery; put sand in the turbine of a factory, bringing it to a standstill; set fire to a tile-producing factory; promoted work slow-downs in factories; killed 7,000 cows of a co-operative dairy through poisoning; added soap to powdered milk destined for East German schools; were in possession, when arrested, of a large quantity of the poison cantharidin with which it was planned to produce poisoned cigarettes to kill leading East Germans; set off stink bombs to disrupt political meetings; attempted to disrupt the World Youth Festival in East Berlin by sending out forged invitations, false promises of free bed and board, false notices of cancellations, etc.; carried out attacks on participants with explosives, firebombs, and tire-puncturing equipment; forged and distributed large quantities of food ration cards to cause confusion, shortages and resentment; sent out forged tax notices and other government directives and documents to foster disorganization and inefficiency within industry and unions … all this and much more.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, of Washington, DC, conservative coldwarriors, in one of their Cold War International History Project Working Papers (#58, p.9) states: “The open border in Berlin exposed the GDR [East Germany] to massive espionage and subversion and, as the two documents in the appendices show, its closure gave the Communist state greater security.”

Throughout the 1950s, the East Germans and the Soviet Union repeatedly lodged complaints with the Soviets’ erstwhile allies in the West and with the United Nations about specific sabotage and espionage activities and called for the closure of the offices in West Germany they claimed were responsible, and for which they provided names and addresses. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. Inevitably, the East Germans began to tighten up entry into the country from the West, leading eventually to the infamous wall. However, even after the wall was built there was regular, albeit limited, legal emigration from east to west. In 1984, for example, East Germany allowed 40,000 people to leave. In 1985, East German newspapers claimed that more than 20,000 former citizens who had settled in the West wanted to return home after becoming disillusioned with the capitalist system. The West German government said that 14,300 East Germans had gone back over the previous 10 years.

Let’s also not forget that while East Germany completely denazified, in West Germany for more than a decade after the war, the highest government positions in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches contained numerous former and “former” Nazis.

Finally, it must be remembered, that Eastern Europe became communist because Hitler, with the approval of the West, used it as a highway to reach the Soviet Union to wipe out Bolshevism forever, and that the Russians in World War I and II, lost about 40 million people because the West had used this highway to invade Russia. It should not be surprising that after World War II the Soviet Union was determined to close down the highway.

For an additional and very interesting view of the Berlin Wall anniversary, see the article “Humpty Dumpty and the Fall of Berlin’s Wall” by Victor Grossman. Grossman (née Steve Wechsler) fled the US Army in Germany under pressure from McCarthy-era threats and became a journalist and author during his years in the (East) German Democratic Republic. He still lives in Berlin and mails out his “Berlin Bulletin” on German developments on an irregular basis. You can subscribe to it at His autobiography: “Crossing the River: a Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War and Life in East Germany” was published by University of Massachusetts Press. He claims to be the only person in the world with diplomas from both Harvard University and Karl Marx University in Leipzig.
Al Franken, the liberal’s darling

I receive a continuous stream of emails from “progressive” organizations asking me to vote for Senator Franken or contribute to his re-election campaign this November, and I don’t even live in Minnesota. Even if I could vote for him, I wouldn’t. No one who was a supporter of the war in Iraq will get my vote unless they unequivocally renounce that support. And I don’t mean renounce it like Hillary Clinton’s nonsense about not having known enough.

Franken, the former Saturday Night Live comedian, would like you to believe that he’s been against the war in Iraq since it began. But he went to Iraq at least four times to entertain the troops. Does that make sense? Why does the military bring entertainers to soldiers? To lift the soldiers’ spirits of course. And why does the military want to lift the soldiers’ spirits? Because a happier soldier does his job better. And what is the soldier’s job? All the charming war crimes and human-rights violations that I and others have documented in great detail for many years. Doesn’t Franken know what American soldiers do for a living?

A year after the US invasion in 2003, Franken criticized the Bush administration because they “failed to send enough troops to do the job right.” What “job” did the man think the troops were sent to do that had not been performed to his standards because of lack of manpower? Did he want them to be more efficient at killing Iraqis who resisted the occupation? The volunteer American troops in Iraq did not even have the defense of having been drafted against their wishes.

Franken has been lifting soldiers’ spirits for a long time. In 2009 he was honored by the United Service Organization (USO) for his ten years of entertaining troops abroad. That includes Kosovo in 1999, as imperialist an occupation as you’ll want to see. He called his USO experience “one of the best things I’ve ever done.” Franken has also spoken at West Point (2005), encouraging the next generation of imperialist warriors. Is this a man to challenge the militarization of America at home and abroad? No more so than Barack Obama.

Tom Hayden wrote this about Franken in 2005 when Franken had a regular program on the Air America radio network:

“Is anyone else disappointed with Al Franken’s daily defense of the continued war in Iraq? Not Bush’s version of the war, because that would undermine Air America’s laudable purpose of rallying an anti-Bush audience. But, well, Kerry’s version of the war, one that can be better managed and won, somehow with better body armor and fewer torture cells.”

While in Iraq to entertain the troops, Franken declared that the Bush administration “blew the diplomacy so we didn’t have a real coalition,” then failed to send enough troops to do the job right. “Out of sheer hubris, they have put the lives of these guys in jeopardy.”

Franken was implying that if the United States had been more successful in bribing and threatening other countries to lend their name to the coalition fighting the war in Iraq the United States would have had a better chance of WINNING the war.

Is this the sentiment of someone opposed to the war? Or in support of it? It is the mind of an American liberal in all its beautiful mushiness.

William Blum’s books in foreign languages available for only the cost of shipping in the United States ($5 each)

Killing Hope

Hidden Hand: A Brief Look at the CIA's Long History

Reviewing The Hidden Hand - A Brief History of the CIA

by Jim Miles - Foreign Policy Journal

This indeed is a brief history of the CIA, a topic that could command volumes of information encompassing much if not all of post World War II history.

Richard Immerman’s The Hidden Hand - A Brief History of the CIA is essentially a political precis of this important U.S. institution.

By necessity to its conciseness, it does not go into depth on the various personalities that influence the CIA, nor does it delve into the details of any historical element. It names names, important dates, important events and keeps them within the well defined context of his frame of reference. That reference is the internal political battles over whether the CIA is - or wants to be - essentially an intelligence gathering, analysis establishment, or a covert operations unit applying physical force of some kind in the field.

From the outset, Immerman indicates that “In a drastic departure from the intent of the CIA’s designers, the growth of the covert operations in frequency and complexity diverted both resources and commitment form the agency’s core mission of collecting, analyzing, and distributing intelligence.” To make matters worse, even with intelligent estimates of whatever degree of accuracy, “correct assessments do not lead to correct predictions of behavior.”

The importance of the latter rises from the predisposed beliefs of the politicians who received the information and who were deciding on whether it was ‘actionable’. While describing Eisenhower’s impact on the CIA, “his perspective and predisposition” were influential in deciding the who and how of operations, choosing John Dulles for director and General James Doolittle for an ad hoc Committee to assist with covert operations. While considering Cuba later, the deputy director, “flushed with the pride and arrogance produced by the success in Iran and Guatemala,” was the “most fundamental cause of the debacle.”

The descriptions of the influence of personal perspectives goes on. Immerman discusses the “predispositions” of those involved, the “bureaucracy” trying to protect conflicting interests, and with ambiguous evidence, “analysts interpreted it to corroborate their assumptions and expectations.” The latter phrase criticized the CIAs work with the 1963 October Cuban missile crisis, under the direction of Dulles McCone, “a conservative, fiercely anti-Soviet Republican” who “relied more on his gut instincts” than on the analysts’ assessments.

Another aspect of personal influences, again referring to McCone, was that “he wanted to tell his “first customer” what he thought Kennedy wanted to hear.” Immerman notes that this was not unusual for Washington, and revisits the idea with George Tenet (under President Clinton) who was “predisposed to currying favor by telling people what they wanted to hear.”

This history of internal conflict - between intelligence gathering and covert actions, assessment and analysis against political predispositions - carries throughout this short history. An aspect not examined by Immerman is the predisposition of anyone working for the CIA having such a strong pro U.S. bias in the first place, quite naturally by the nature of the institution in a country that proclaims its self-righteousness every day. It is understandably not questioned in the book, as the book is vetted by the CIA itself.

The problem arising is simply as expressed by the author in his criticism of “perspectives and predispositions”. The best intelligence officers would be pathologically neutral, without preconceived thoughts, able to gather all intelligence that related to the topic at hand and be able to analyze its various ramifications. As it stands, Immerman is affected by this as well, being a part of the very institution he is criticizing, making it a rather sanitary history, one acceptable to the CIA institution itself, but also to the greater audience that might read the book.

I first wondered about this when he writes about “success in Iran and Guatemala” as noted above. Does he truly believe that these coups were successes, completely or partially? Are they successes within their particular limited time frame and geopolitical constructs without consideration of the long term consequences, which were quite disastrous, especially for the citizens of the countries involved? Or is this a paraphrased comment taken from a citation given at the end of his paragraph?

Immerman’s writing, as the work progresses into Twenty-first Century events, becomes a bit more problematical, perhaps due to the much shorter perspective on events, and again, the old vetting process on what might be acceptable to write. The events of 9/11 are taken for granted, without discussion as to the validity of the official assessment - a complete cover-up from what information I have been exposed to - and that is combined with acceptance of Bin Laden as being the ultimate evil dude in the whole setup. Within hours, bin Laden was the guilty culprit, the evidence was being destroyed, and the government resisted attempts at an investigation.

The CIA became the scapegoat for the incident, deflecting criticism away from the longstanding tenure of the neocons mentioned in the work (Wolfowitz, Pipes, Wohlstetter, Rumsfield, Scowcroft, Cheney, Feith, Nitze, et al) who had operated under Reagan and then been reborn under G. W. Bush., all with their desire for a “new Pearl Harbor”. These are the same people who created the momentum for the invasion of Iraq, an event which highlights the struggle between administrators predispositions and the actual intelligence that had been gathered by the CIA.

The book closes with a discussion on terrorism and drones, a valid discussion in reference to the CIA. What is missing from a more modern perspective are discussions of the Arab Spring, the various color revolutions, and the incremental creep towards containing and/or dismantling Russia, all very significant in consideration of today’s current events, all influenced by U.S. CIA covert and overt operations.

That is a bit of an aside to criticizing the book, but it highlights the limitations of such a “brief” history in not being able to explore more ideas and present arguments about what are some common publicly held - and differing - positions on events. It is unfortunately Immerman’s very last statement in the book that for someone living outside the “Empire for Liberty” (1) draws big attention to his own bias and preconception of the U.S. as being the indispensable nation, the world leaders, the “shining light upon a hill”,: a globalized world of fluid boundaries punctuated by continuing and emerging threats and a cacophony of armed insurrectionists about which the United States knows very little, it would be the CIA that best serves the national and, indeed, the world’s interest.

Whoa! This implies that the world’s best interests are those of the U.S.; that the CIA with all its predispositions and preconceptions could actually improve the situation; which ignores the fact that the CIA, among other U.S. institutions, helped create many if not most of these “armed insurrectionists” in the first place. It makes one wonder why they do not know very much about them, as they were convenient at the time, but then allowed to disappear from the radar so that in the future they could become another valuable convenient evil ‘other’ that the U.S. and the CIA had to do battle with.

So what are the continuing and emerging threats? Russia is obviously one of the evil ‘others’ a convenient “continuing” geopolitical threat to arouse the nation towards more global hegemony. ISIS is an “emerging” threat, created by all the other havoc introduced into the Middle East by its covert and overt actions there, more blowback than emerging.

In short, apart from many other examples I could draw on, as many others have, the U.S. and the CIA are decidedly not the people that have the best interests of the world in mind. It is still an empire with empirical demands, decaying and lashing out in its anguish at losing power and influence in the world. Thus a reasonably well written work self destructs in the last paragraph.

Notes (1):

Empire for Liberty. Richard H. Immerman. Princeton University Press, 2010. Review here:

“ From his clearly developed thesis and his strong precis of the important players of his choice, the characterizations that follow provide a lively, entertaining, and informative package on the development of the U.S. empire of liberty.”

But as with the contemporary work, modern history is a problem:

“As with all histories, the writing creates a time lapse that makes interpretation of current events difficult if not impossible. Immerman ends his work castigating the Bush administration as “detention, torture, and rendition were systematic, orchestrated by the [CIA] with the Bush administration’s explicit approval.” Following that he looks forward to the ‘audacity of hope’ and ‘change’ that have proven to be meaningless under Obama’s leadership. While recognizing that Obama has not followed through on his rhetorical promises, he indicates that the future “may well incorporate less empire and more liberty.”

Looks like more empire, more violent empire, and much less liberty, at home and abroad.

The Hidden Hand - A Brief History of the CIA. Richard H. Immerman, Wiley Blackwell, John WIley and Sons, 2014.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Suth Sudan: Another Regime Change Opportunity

The US and Regime Change in South Sudan

by Thomas C. Mountain - CounterPunch

It is no longer a secret that the USA is attempting to carry out regime change in South Sudan. Why? It’s because South Sudanese President Salva Kiir is determined to continue supporting Chinese oil production in his country, China’s only majority owned energy project in Africa.

The USA managed to get the Chinese oil fields shut down a couple years back by promising to provide upwards of $200 million a month in “aid” during the dispute between Sudan and South Sudan over pipeline transit fees if the oil fields were closed.

When the oil shipments were subsequently stopped and the aid money failed to materialize, President Kiir, to avoid complete bankruptcy, for his only independent income is from oil revenue, went hat in hand to Beijing and a $8 billion Chinese rescue package was the result. The Chinese oil fields reopened amidst the gnashing of teeth by Pax Americana and regime change became the USA’s solution to this vexation.

As in all to many crimes committed by Pax Americana in Africa a particularly bloodstained warlord was chosen to do the dirty deed and in close cooperation with its local gendarme, Ethiopia, a coup attempt was launched earlier this year by one Riek Machar, former Vice President of the country.

Riek Machar is no stranger to ethnic cleansing and mass murder going back to at least 1991. At that time he sent his Nuur ethnic militias on a killing spree that saw many thousand’s of the Dinka ethnic group slaughtered. His denials at the time for his responsibility for his crimes mimics his protestations of innocence for the latest round of bloodshed his followers have carried out.

The fact is Riek Machar is the tool of US empire in its war against Chinese penetration of Africa’s energy resources, something so obviously contrary to the USA’s “national interest” that only the most truth challenged in the western media still try to deny.

But deny they do. They continue to try to hide Riek Machar’s links to the Ethiopian regime, who are so completely dependent on aid provided and micro managed by the USA and its western vassals that even if the regime didn’t want to be involved it has no choice (as in its disastrous invasion of Somalia in 2007).

It is no secret that Riek Machar is getting the arms, fuel and funds to continue his rebellion for almost a year now from outside South Sudan. Even the western media has to admit this but from just who is he getting the wherewithal to continue his bloodletting?

The answer to this question is now pretty obvious and its not from Sudan (badly hurt by the Chinese oil field closure), Uganda or Kenya. Only Ethiopia is left, and the regional anger against the regime is now an “open secret”.

Ethiopia’s involvement has led South Sudan to demand the moving of the so called “peace talks” (which have yet to result in any such thing) from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya.

President Kiir’s inner circle are regularly sourced charging Ethiopia with supporting Riek Machar’s death squads. Matters have gotten so bad that recent reports speak of large cash injections being provided to Ethiopian rebel forces operating on the South Sudan/Ethiopian border by the South Sudanese government in an attempt to disrupt the camps being operated there by the Ethiopia regime that are arming and training Mr. Machar’s death squads.

Ethiopia has done a really good job of pissing off its neighbors, with Sudan (whose economy has been badly hurt by the latest oil field closures), Egypt (threatened by the new damn Ethiopia is building on the Nile River that will cut critical amounts of the water it depends on), Uganda (South Sudan’s largest trading partner whose economy was already in dire straits even before the civil war destroyed trade between the two) and even Kenya, which also lost a major trading partner following the USA backed coup growing increasingly estranged from the regime.

Uganda has a significant military force supporting Salva Kiir’s government and it is being reported that Egypt has set up a military base in South Sudan as well.

The UN response has been predictable with the USA’s lapdog Secretary General Ban Ki “slippery eel” Moon having appointed the former head of Ethiopian military intelligence to run the UN “peacekeeping” operation in South Sudan. This is the guy who used to run the genocidal counterinsurgency in the Ethiopian Ogaden and was past commander of the almost 10,000 Ethiopian “peacekeepers” stationed around the Sudanese oil fields (where UN staff held press conferences last year complaining about the Ethiopians providing weapons to local militias, now fighting under Riek Machar leadership).

Ethnic cleansing, mass murder, famine, you name it, the list of crimes being committed against the people of South Sudan in the “national interests” of the good old USA in an attempt to deny China access to African oil should come as no surprise for the history of Pax Americana and its indentured servant Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa is nothing new. Patience with the Ethiopian regime is running short amongst its neighbors and many are hoping that regime change in Ethiopia rather than in South Sudan may soon come to fruit.

Thomas C. Mountain has been living and writing from Eritrea since 2006. He can be reached at thomascmountain at g mail dot com.

Burning Bridges: Mt. Polley Tailings Spill Mining Company Served First Nations Eviction Notice

Warriors burn bridge, demand mining company behind Mount Polley toxic spill leave territory

by  APTN National News

An Indigenous resistance group under the name of Secwepemc Ts’ka7 Warriors burned a bridge connected to a proposed British Columbia zinc and lead mine owned by the mining company now trying to clean up the Mount Polley environmental disaster, APTN National News has independently confirmed.

Ts’ka7 Warriors issued a statement Wednesday taking responsibility for torching a bridge at the Ruddock Creek Mine operation, of which Imperial Metals is the majority owner.

“Ts’ka7 Warriors burn down Imperial Metals Ruddock Creek Mine Bridge,” said the statement.
“With much discussion with Elders councils and around sacred fires and ceremonies, the Secwepemc Ts’ka7 Warriors have acted out their collective responsibility and jurisdiction to and in the Ts’ka7 area by deactivating the Imperial Metals Ruddock Creek mine road.”

APTN National News has independently confirmed the bridge burning, but the extent of the damage remains unclear.

The Rudduck Creek Mine site, which sits about 155 kilometres northeast of Kamloops, B.C., is currently in an exploration and development phase. There are currently no workers at the remote mine site, which is shut for the season.

Imperial Metals owns 50 per cent of the project which is a joint venture with Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co. Ltd. And Itochu Corporation.

An Imperial Metals official told APTN National News that company employees were travelling to the area to determine if the bridge was burned.

APTN National News contacted three area RCMP detachments and none had received any reports of the bridge burning.

The bridge was burned sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning and presents the opening salvo in what is expected to be escalating actions against Imperial Metals’ operations in the area, APTN National News has learned.

The Warrior’s statement referred to the Aug. 4 environmental disaster at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley Mine when the earthen tailings dam failed, spilling 24 million cubic metres of toxic tailings and water into Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake.

The statement also referred to an injunction Imperial Metals obtained against the Klabona Keepers, a group of Tahltan elders, who had been blocking access roads leading to the company’s Red Chris gold and copper mine.

“The absolute destruction and devastation of our Territory has never been answered for. No reparations have been made. Instead Imperial Metals continues to force through another mine in our Territory while criminalizing the Klabona Keepers of the Tahltan Nation also exerting their jurisdictional and withholding consent from the same company,” said the Warriors’ statement. 
“The genocidal displacement of the Secwepemc from their Homelands through starvation, fear and assimilation by the state and industry being acted out by Imperial Metals stops now… This is a warning to Imperial Metals Corporation: Leave our Lands and do not come back.”

Imperial Metals was handed an eviction notice from the Neskonlith Indian Band on Aug. 14. The band demanded Imperial Metals immediately abandon its Rudduck Creek mining operation.

“This claim area is located in the core of Secwepemc territory (Secwepemculecw), which is subject to Secwepemc Aboriginal Title. The Ruddock Creek Mining Operation is trespassing on Secwepemc Territory. It threatens some of the most important watersheds and salmon runs in Secwepemc territory, including the Adams River run, the world’s largest remaining sockeye salmon, which the Secwepemc People and Indigenous Peoples in the larger Fraser River watershed depend on for their livelihoods and economies,” said the eviction notice from Neskonlith. 
“The exploration activities and water discharges from the Ruddock Creek Mining operation have already violated Secwepemc Law and Aboriginal Title and Rights and have proceeded without the consent of the Secwepemc people.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Poroshenko Pirouette

Pirouetting Poroshenko and the Kiev Nutcracker Suite

by Finian Cunningham - SCF

Well, admittedly, Kiev’s president Petro Poroshenko, the former Candy King, is carrying a bit of excess bodyweight, but nevertheless his swivelling statements and actions of late show that his ability for pirouetting is as agile as the finest ballet dancer.

It’s a talent that the entire Western-backed coup regime in Kiev shares too. This troupe of demagogues and rogues is more than capable of executing the most outlandish claims and swirling contradictions, plus explosive spontaneous movements that can take the observer’s breath away.

The regime, together with its chief patron in Washington, claims to be committed to a full ceasefire in the eastern Donbass regions, yet this week again saw more civilian deaths from the indiscriminate shelling of residential areas in the city of Donetsk. One of the targets was a shopping centre.

On Monday, a self-defence militia spokesman for the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic said: «The situation has not seen a substantial change and continues to remain intense. The ceasefire has been violated 17 times by the Ukrainian side [in one 24-hour period]. The neighbourhoods of Zaichenko and Oktyabr came under fire. Four residential buildings and a shop have been destroyed. Three people have died, with seven civilians being injured».

There were other reports of up to eight civilians killed from Kiev military shelling over the past weekend. That amounts to war crimes by the Western-backed regime, but neither Western governments or their media seem to have trouble on their consciences over those crimes.

The pirouetting Poroshenko doesn’t seem to have made his mind up on whether his military forces are at peace or at war, with Donbass separatists or with Moscow. Last weekend he made a televised national address in which he declared that he expected a full ceasefire «within days». This was after telling lawmakers in Washington last month that his country was fending off «Russian aggression» and needed more military equipment.

Recall, too, that Poroshenko promised to end the violence in eastern Ukraine «within a week» in his inauguration speech in June this year after his dubious presidential election.

His erratic behaviour and words raise questions about his integrity, if not his sanity. It was after all Poroshenko who personally appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to help broker a ceasefire at the beginning of last month. That truce officially came into effect on September 5 in a deal cut in Minsk, Belarus, under the auspices of the Contact Group and the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Apart from Kiev’s ragtag military forces of regular troops and fascist paramilitary battalions not implementing the ceasefire, it also does not bode well that Poroshenko appeared to snub a top-level meeting last weekend of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Minsk. Nine heads of states were present at the summit, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin. It would have been an opportune occasion to shake hands in order to bolster the ceasefire in Ukraine, and even to give gratitude to Putin for his peace efforts, but Poroshenko declined.

Meanwhile, the Kiev regime is this week seeking a replacement for its retiring defence minister Valeriy Heletei. Heletei is the third such defence minister to have lost his job since the Western-backed coup took place in Kiev on February 22. Last month, Heletei made the outlandish and reckless claim that Russia was planning to strike Ukraine with tactical nuclear weapons. Heletei’s abrupt departure no doubt marks the level of confusion among senior members in the Kiev regime about how to proceed with its Orwellian-named «anti-terror operation» in the Donbass regions, which it launched in April and which has since caused more than 3,700 deaths, mainly among civilians.

Russia’s Investigative Committee has filed charges of war crimes against Heletei, among other regime figures, for his role in overseeing indiscriminate violence against the Russian ethnic populations of Donetsk and Luhansk. Maybe he is hoping that his retirement will dissuade future prosecution.

Speaking of pirouettes, the CIA-installed Prime Minister in Kiev Arseniy Yatsenyuk is also a dab-hand at spinning with dizzying speed in tight circles. The former investment banker, whose pro-capitalist ideology is driving Ukraine towards IMF indenture, this week says that he expects his country to be salvaged by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Thanks to the Kiev regime’s relentless, criminal warmongering against the civilians of Donbass, Ukraine is teetering on bankruptcy and default. But that’s no problem for Yatsenyuk, whose supposed market principles, don’t prevent him from subsidising his country’s war-making with EBRD loans.

One of the outstanding problems with Kiev’s bankruptcy, caused in part by its belligerence towards Russia, is the impasse over its long overdue payment of gas bills to Russia. Talk about spinning on your toes.

In another pirouetting movement, this week Kiev’s energy minister Yuriy Prodan announced that his regime is not going to make any prepayments for gas deliveries. On September 26, the trilateral group of Russia, European Union and Kiev appeared to strike an agreement that Russia would resume supplies of natural gas to Ukraine on condition that the latter paid up $3.1 billion of its total $5.3 billion gas debt to Russia’s state-owned Gazprom by the end of this year.

Russia and the EU also agreed a payment rate of $385 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas, which is the European average price. All would seem reasonable to any neutral observer.

However, ahead of the next round of trilateral talks scheduled for October 21, the Kiev regime is suddenly saying that no prepayments will be made after all. «Prepayment contradicts the contract,» asserted Kiev minister Prodan. To which somebody should remind him that chronic nonpayment of $5.3 billion for already delivered gas is an even greater and more urgent contradiction of the contract.

Alexei Pushkov, chairman of Russia’s lower parliamentary house’s foreign affairs committee, described Kiev’s latest twist over the gas debacle as «absurd». He said: «Kiev is setting absurd conditions on gas [debt repayment] to us by demanding deliveries without advanced payment. No advanced payment means no payment. We’ve learned it well».

Which makes one wonder where is this arrogant, delusional regime getting its lead from? As Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov noted this week, the European Union has continually indulged «the war party» in Kiev with diplomatic and economic pandering ever since it seized power illegally against the elected Ukrainian government in February.

And, of course, Washington is arguably the main indulgent patron encouraging the worst in Kiev’s irrationality and fecklessness.

Last week, US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was visiting Kiev, in effect reassuring the regime of Washington’s protection no matter what provocative conduct it embarks on.

According to the US State Department, Nuland discussed «the economic prosperity of Ukraine, and issues like their access to gas, and their need to be well-supplied for the winter».

Note that the US is not reminding Kiev of its legal obligation to settle its outrageous gas debts with Russia. Oh no, the emphasis is on «access to gas» and the need «to be well-supplied for winter».

With this kind of fawning, the reactionary Kiev regime can only but continue to be more and more truculent in defiance of international norms and Russian diplomacy.

A rude awakening is indeed needed for pirouetting Poroshenko and his regime troupe of Nutcracker Suite.