Saturday, November 15, 2014

Diplomacy's End: Russia Speaking Washington's Tongue

Russia Uses Language Washington Understands

by Finian Cunningham - PressTV

Has Russia reached the limit of its diplomatic tolerance of the US and its NATO allies? The announcement this week that Moscow is to begin deploying long-range bombers in the Gulf of Mexico - America's own backyard - suggests so.

The move may seem like a reckless ratcheting up of tensions between the old Cold War rivals. The Tupolev Russian strategic bombers in question are nuclear-capable, and as expected the decision to patrol the Caribbean seas sparked a stern response from Washington, warning Moscow of risks.

But the first point to note is that Russia is not doing anything illegal. It has a legal right to fly its warplanes in any international airspace it chooses, as do all nations, to perform training maneuvers.

Even Washington officials have begrudgingly acknowledged Russia's legal right to do so. The Christian Science Monitor quoted Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren as saying, "Russia has a right to fly in international airspace".

However, we can be sure that the hawks in Washington will be fuming at what they see as Vladimir Putin's "audacity" to order warplanes within striking distance of the US. For the de facto American War Party of Republicans and Democrats, the latest Russian move confirms their accusations that President Putin is trying to flex "Soviet-era muscles". Or, as American NATO commander General Philip Breedlove put it, Russia "is messaging us that they are a great power".

That's typical arrogant mis-reading by Washington of the situation. This is not Putin trying to be provocative or flaunting expansionist ambitions. It is simply Russia giving a taste of American medicine back and in language that the arrogant warmongers in Washington will understand.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US-led NATO military alliance has embarked on a relentless campaign of encircling Russia. In complete defiance of binding agreements, such as the 1997 Founding Act between NATO and Russia, the American military alliance has encroached on Russian borders with warplanes, warships, missiles and troops. It is Washington that is on an expansionist threatening drive, not Russia.

The destabilization earlier this year of former Soviet republic Ukraine to install an illegal, anti-Russian regime that is massacring the ethnic Russian population in the east of that country - in spite of a putative ceasefire - is seen by Moscow as a red line.

Washington has sent military aid to the regime in Kiev and is to step up its training of neo-Nazi brigades that have been involved in crimes against humanity on the people of Donetsk and Luhansk; simply because these people refuse to recognize the illegal regime-change operation in their country.

Latest reports this week say that the Kiev regime is preparing to escalate its military assault on the eastern regions in violation of a ceasefire it signed up to on September 5. Last week, its forces deliberately shelled a school in Donetsk city killing two teenage students. This was just the latest in a long list of such crimes committed by the Western-backed regime since it launched its offensive back in April.

That offensive followed days after CIA director John Brennan secretly visited Kiev and had behind-closed-door meetings with the regime's leadership, including the so-called Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Yatsenyuk has referred to the Russian-speaking population in the eastern regions as "sub-humans" who need to be "cleansed". After nearly seven months of Western-backed state terrorism by Kiev forces, more than 4,000 people have been killed and up to one million turned into refugees.

Yet in the face of this aggression, Washington and its NATO allies in Europe continually turn reality on its head and accuse Russia of fueling the conflict, slapping on punitive trade sanctions to boot.

With the servile help of the Western corporate news media, Washington, its European lackeys and their stooge regime in Kiev shamelessly invent stories of Russian military forces invading Ukraine. Images of army convoys are played over and over again without verifiable dates or locations. Based on NATO say-so and outrageous double think, Russia has allegedly violated Ukrainian sovereignty.

This week, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich again reiterated Moscow's denial that it has sent troops or military equipment into eastern Ukraine. He said of the latest NATO claims: "Instead of giving the facts, all they have to present is unfounded accusations. It would be far better to ask the [Western] officials who make such statements in order to fan tensions and justify their actions."

Russian ministry of defence spokesman Igor Konashenkov was even more blunt. He said: "We have already stopped paying attention to unfounded statements by NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General Philip Breedlove about his 'seeing' Russian military columns that are allegedly invading Ukraine."

It seems as if Moscow has finally got tired of dealing with idiotic Americans and their European puppets through normal diplomatic discourse. Putin may have met Obama briefly at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit last week and during the G20 gathering this weekend in Australia, but it has been reported that the Russian leader no longer takes phone calls from his counterpart in the White House - much to Obama's chagrin.

When up against an irrational, arrogant bully, the only language he understands is in-your-face force.

Russia is right to put warplanes on patrol near US airspace. After all, American warplanes have been doing just the same towards Russia or years. Only the arrogant, exceptional nation thinks it has the right to do so without consequences. And no amount of diplomatic reasoning will ever prevail on such an arrogant monster.

Put it another way, to keep pandering with futile diplomacy and to not reciprocate the show of force with Washington and its minions would be the really reckless option. You don't encourage a bully. Instead, you have to square up and push back.

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is now located in East Africa as a freelance journalist, where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring, based on eyewitness experience working in the Persian Gulf as an editor of a business magazine and subsequently as a freelance news correspondent. The author was deported from Bahrain in June 2011 because of his critical journalism in which he highlighted systematic human rights violations by regime forces. He is now a columnist on international politics for Press TV and the Strategic Culture Foundation.  

Canada Acknowledges Power to Enforce Mining Corporate Social Responsibility - But Won't Act

Canada’s CSR Strategy for Extractives 2.0 – Government Acknowledges Power to Act, Declines to Do So

by MiningWatch Canada

Ottawa - Today the Government of Canada released its revised Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy for extractive companies operating overseas, finally recognising its power to withdraw the substantial support that it provides such companies in order to make them accountable, but declining to apply that power in any meaningful way.

Coming five years after the 2009 launch of the Government’s initial CSR strategy, the updated policy leans heavily on a revised role for the CSR Counsellor, a failed institution under the original plan, and on enhanced involvement of Canada’s missions abroad.

While a more substantive review of the updated strategy will depend on specifics that have yet to be released, for example regarding the CSR Counsellor’s mandate, a few things jump out.

The Government of Canada still says that it “expects” Canadian companies operating overseas to respect human rights, all applicable laws and recognized international standards for responsible business practices, as well as “Canadian values.” But it notes that if this is not possible, “companies may wish to reconsider their investment.” This is important guidance for Canadian companies operating in places such as Eritrea or Tibet where it is flatly impossible for them to meet these requirements.

The Government also recognizes that it provides, and has the power to withhold, significant services to Canadian extractives companies operating overseas through “economic diplomacy,” as well as through financial support by, for example, “financing by Government of Canada crown corporations, like Export Development Canada (EDC) and the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC).”

The revised CSR Strategy claims to make these services contingent on Canadian companies demonstrating their alignment with the CSR strategy, but the only specific threat is that these services will be withdrawn if companies do not participate “in the dialogue facilitation processes of Canada’s NCP and Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor.” (The “NCP” is the National Contact Point for the implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.) Both of these institutions have consistently failed to make a meaningful contribution to resolving conflicts instigated by Canadian companies, and merely ensuring that companies at least participate in their processes is unlikely to change this.

MiningWatch Canada and the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability have called for the creation of an extractive sector Ombudsman with the power to respond to complaints by actually conducting an independent investigation of a company’s behaviour overseas and reporting on the findings. The Ombudsman would also have the power to recommend remedy in cases where it has been found that companies have breached established guidelines and caused harm to complainants, as well as recommending that Canadian government financial and political support be withheld.

The Government’s revised CSR Strategy does not address the need many complainants have expressed for independent investigations to substantiate the facts of the complaints and report on those findings and potential remedies.

Finally, the revised CSR Strategy posits the CSR Counsellor as an initial or “front-end” office for complainants to bring concerns. Complainants would only be referred to the NCP if the Counsellor’s efforts to resolve concerns “have not succeeded or are not appropriate, or if the CSR Counsellor determines that a situation would benefit from formal mediation.” While the NCP’s track record is almost as bad as the Counsellor’s, complainants should in no way be obliged to go through the Counsellor prior to lodging a complaint or seeking mediation through the NCP.

Press Release
Contact: Catherine Coumans,

The Government of Canada has finally recognised its power to withdraw the substantial support that it provides such companies in order to make them accountable, but declining to apply that power in any meaningful way.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Laying the Bricks and Mortar for a Permanent War Infrastructure

The Bases of War in the Middle East: From Carter to the Islamic State, 35 Years of Building Bases and Sowing Disaster

by David Vine - TomDispatch

With the launch of a new U.S.-led war in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State (IS), the United States has engaged in aggressive military action in at least 13 countries in the Greater Middle East since 1980. In that time, every American president has invaded, occupied, bombed, or gone to war in at least one country in the region. The total number of invasions, occupations, bombing operations, drone assassination campaigns, and cruise missile attacks easily runs into the dozens.

As in prior military operations in the Greater Middle East, U.S. forces fighting IS have been aided by access to and the use of an unprecedented collection of military bases. They occupy a region sitting atop the world’s largest concentration of oil and natural gas reserves and has long been considered the most geopolitically important place on the planet. Indeed, since 1980, the U.S. military has gradually garrisoned the Greater Middle East in a fashion only rivaled by the Cold War garrisoning of Western Europe or, in terms of concentration, by the bases built to wage past wars in Korea and Vietnam.

In the Persian Gulf alone, the U.S. has major bases in every country save Iran. There is an increasingly important, increasingly large base in Djibouti, just miles across the Red Sea from the Arabian Peninsula. There are bases in Pakistan on one end of the region and in the Balkans on the other, as well as on the strategically located Indian Ocean islands of Diego Garcia and the Seychelles. In Afghanistan and Iraq, there were once as many as 800 and 505 bases, respectively. Recently, the Obama administration inked an agreement with new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to maintain around 10,000 troops and at least nine major bases in his country beyond the official end of combat operations later this year. U.S. forces, which never fully departed Iraq after 2011, are now returning to a growing number of bases there in ever larger numbers.
Tomgram: David Vine, A Permanent Infrastructure for Permanent War
In a September address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Barack Obama spoke forcefully about the “cycle of conflict” in the Middle East, about “violence within Muslim communities that has become the source of so much human misery.” The president was adamant: “It is time to acknowledge the destruction wrought by proxy wars and terror campaigns between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East.” Then with hardly a pause, he went on to promote his own proxy wars (including the backing of Syrian rebels and Iraqi forces against the Islamic State), as though Washington’s military escapades in the region hadn’t stoked sectarian tensions and been high-performance engines for “human misery.”

Not surprisingly, the president left a lot out of his regional wrap-up. On the subject of proxies, Iraqi troops and small numbers of Syrian rebels have hardly been alone in receiving American military support. Yet few in our world have paid much attention to everything Washington has done to keep the region awash in weaponry.

Since mid-year, for example, the State Department and the Pentagon have helped pave the way for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to buy hundreds of millions of dollars worth of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) launchers and associated equipment and to spend billions more on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles; for Lebanon to purchase nearly $200 million in Huey helicopters and supporting gear; for Turkey to buy hundreds of millions of dollars of AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM (Air-to-Air) missiles; and for Israel to stock up on half a billion dollars worth of AIM-9X Sidewinder (air-to-air) missiles; not to mention other deals to aid the militaries of Egypt, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

For all the news coverage of the Middle East, you rarely see significant journalistic attention given to any of this or to agreements like the almost $70 million contract, signed in September, that will send Hellfire missiles to Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, or the $48 million Navy deal inked that same month for construction projects in Bahrain and the UAE.

The latter agreement sheds light on another shadowy, little-mentioned, but critically important subject that’s absent from Obama’s scolding speeches and just about all news coverage here: American bases. Even if you take into account the abandonment of its outposts in Iraq -- which hosted 505 U.S. bases at the height of America’s last war there -- and the marked downsizing of its presence in Afghanistan -- which once had at least 800 bases (depending on how you count them) -- the U.S. continues to garrison the Greater Middle East in a major way. As TomDispatch regular David Vine, author of the much-needed, forthcoming book Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Overseas Harm America and the World, points out in his latest article, the region is still dotted with U.S. bases, large and small, in a historically unprecedented way, the result of a 35-year-long strategy that has been, he writes, “one of the great disasters in the history of American foreign policy.” That’s saying a lot for a nation that’s experienced no shortage of foreign policy debacles in its history, but it’s awfully difficult to argue with all the dictators, death, and devastation that have flowed from America’s Middle Eastern machinations. Nick Turse 
The Bases of War in the Middle East: From Carter to the Islamic State, 35 Years of Building Bases and Sowing Disaster

by David Vine

In short, there is almost no way to overemphasize how thoroughly the U.S. military now covers the region with bases and troops. This infrastructure of war has been in place for so long and is so taken for granted that Americans rarely think about it and journalists almost never report on the subject. Members of Congress spend billions of dollars on base construction and maintenance every year in the region, but ask few questions about where the money is going, why there are so many bases, and what role they really serve. By one estimate, the United States has spent $10 trillion protecting Persian Gulf oil supplies over the past four decades.

Approaching its 35th anniversary, the strategy of maintaining such a structure of garrisons, troops, planes, and ships in the Middle East has been one of the great disasters in the history of American foreign policy. The rapid disappearance of debate about our newest, possibly illegal war should remind us of just how easy this huge infrastructure of bases has made it for anyone in the Oval Office to launch a war that seems guaranteed, like its predecessors, to set off new cycles of blowback and yet more war.

On their own, the existence of these bases has helped generate radicalism and anti-American sentiment. As was famously the case with Osama bin Laden and U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, bases have fueled militancy, as well as attacks on the United States and its citizens. They have cost taxpayers billions of dollars, even though they are not, in fact, necessary to ensure the free flow of oil globally. They have diverted tax dollars from the possible development of alternative energy sources and meeting other critical domestic needs. And they have supported dictators and repressive, undemocratic regimes, helping to block the spread of democracy in a region long controlled by colonial rulers and autocrats.

After 35 years of base-building in the region, it’s long past time to look carefully at the effects Washington’s garrisoning of the Greater Middle East has had on the region, the U.S., and the world.

“Vast Oil Reserves”

While the Middle Eastern base buildup began in earnest in 1980, Washington had long attempted to use military force to control this swath of resource-rich Eurasia and, with it, the global economy. Since World War II, as the late Chalmers Johnson, an expert on U.S. basing strategy, explained back in 2004, “the United States has been inexorably acquiring permanent military enclaves whose sole purpose appears to be the domination of one of the most strategically important areas of the world.”

In 1945, after Germany’s defeat, the secretaries of War, State, and the Navy tellingly pushed for the completion of a partially built base in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, despite the military’s determination that it was unnecessary for the war against Japan. “Immediate construction of this [air] field,” they argued, “would be a strong showing of American interest in Saudi Arabia and thus tend to strengthen the political integrity of that country where vast oil reserves now are in American hands.”

By 1949, the Pentagon had established a small, permanent Middle East naval force (MIDEASTFOR) in Bahrain. In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy’s administration began the first buildup of naval forces in the Indian Ocean just off the Persian Gulf. Within a decade, the Navy had created the foundations for what would become the first major U.S. base in the region -- on the British-controlled island of Diego Garcia.

In these early Cold War years, though, Washington generally sought to increase its influence in the Middle East by backing and arming regional powers like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iran under the Shah, and Israel. However, within months of the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and Iran’s 1979 revolution overthrowing the Shah, this relatively hands-off approach was no more.

Base Buildup

In January 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced a fateful transformation of U.S. policy. It would become known as the Carter Doctrine. In his State of the Union address, he warned of the potential loss of a region “containing more than two-thirds of the world’s exportable oil” and “now threatened by Soviet troops” in Afghanistan who posed “a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.”

Carter warned that “an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America.” And he added pointedly, “Such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

With these words, Carter launched one of the greatest base construction efforts in history. He and his successor Ronald Reagan presided over the expansion of bases in Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the region to host a “Rapid Deployment Force,” which was to stand permanent guard over Middle Eastern petroleum supplies. The air and naval base on Diego Garcia, in particular, was expanded at a quicker rate than any base since the war in Vietnam. By 1986, more than $500 million had been invested. Before long, the total ran into the billions.

Soon enough, that Rapid Deployment Force grew into the U.S. Central Command, which has now overseen three wars in Iraq (1991-2003, 2003-2011, 2014-); the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan (2001-); intervention in Lebanon (1982-1984); a series of smaller-scale attacks on Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011); Afghanistan (1998) and Sudan (1998); and the "tanker war" with Iran (1987-1988), which led to the accidental downing of an Iranian civilian airliner, killing 290 passengers. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan during the 1980s, the CIA helped fund and orchestrate a major covert war against the Soviet Union by backing Osama Bin Laden and other extremist mujahidin. The command has also played a role in the drone war in Yemen (2002-) and both overt and covert warfare in Somalia (1992-1994, 2001-).

During and after the first Gulf War of 1991, the Pentagon dramatically expanded its presence in the region. Hundreds of thousands of troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia in preparation for the war against Iraqi autocrat and former ally Saddam Hussein. In that war’s aftermath, thousands of troops and a significantly expanded base infrastructure were left in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Elsewhere in the Gulf, the military expanded its naval presence at a former British base in Bahrain, housing its Fifth Fleet there. Major air power installations were built in Qatar, and U.S. operations were expanded in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003, and the subsequent occupations of both countries, led to a more dramatic expansion of bases in the region. By the height of the wars, there were well over 1,000 U.S. checkpoints, outposts, and major bases in the two countries alone. The military also built new bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan (since closed), explored the possibility of doing so in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, and, at the very least, continues to use several Central Asian countries as logistical pipelines to supply troops in Afghanistan and orchestrate the current partial withdrawal.

While the Obama administration failed to keep 58 “enduring” bases in Iraq after the 2011 U.S. withdrawal, it has signed an agreement with Afghanistan permitting U.S. troops to stay in the country until 2024 and maintain access to Bagram Air Base and at least eight more major installations.

An Infrastructure for War

Even without a large permanent infrastructure of bases in Iraq, the U.S. military has had plenty of options when it comes to waging its new war against IS. In that country alone, a significant U.S. presence remained after the 2011 withdrawal in the form of base-like State Department installations, as well as the largest embassy on the planet in Baghdad, and a large contingent of private military contractors. Since the start of the new war, at least 1,600 troops have returned and are operating from a Joint Operations Center in Baghdad and a base in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, Erbil. Last week, the White House announced that it would request $5.6 billion from Congress to send an additional 1,500 advisers and other personnel to at least two new bases in Baghdad and Anbar Province. Special operations and other forces are almost certainly operating from yet more undisclosed locations.

At least as important are major installations like the Combined Air Operations Center at Qatar’s al-Udeid Air Base. Before 2003, the Central Command’s air operations center for the entire Middle East was in Saudi Arabia. That year, the Pentagon moved the center to Qatar and officially withdrew combat forces from Saudi Arabia. That was in response to the 1996 bombing of the military’s Khobar Towers complex in the kingdom, other al-Qaeda attacks in the region, and mounting anger exploited by al-Qaeda over the presence of non-Muslim troops in the Muslim holy land. Al-Udeid now hosts a 15,000-foot runway, large munitions stocks, and around 9,000 troops and contractors who are coordinating much of the new war in Iraq and Syria.

Kuwait has been an equally important hub for Washington’s operations since U.S. troops occupied the country during the first Gulf War. Kuwait served as the main staging area and logistical center for ground troops in the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. There are still an estimated 15,000 troops in Kuwait, and the U.S. military is reportedly bombing Islamic State positions using aircraft from Kuwait’s Ali al-Salem Air Base.

As a transparently promotional article in the Washington Post confirmed this week, al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates has launched more attack aircraft in the present bombing campaign than any other base in the region. That country hosts about 3,500 troops at al-Dhafra alone, as well as the Navy's busiest overseas port. B-1, B-2, and B-52 long-range bombers stationed on Diego Garcia helped launch both Gulf Wars and the war in Afghanistan. That island base is likely playing a role in the new war as well. Near the Iraqi border, around 1,000 U.S. troops and F-16 fighter jets are operating from at least one Jordanian base. According to the Pentagon’s latest count, the U.S. military has 17 bases in Turkey. While the Turkish government has placed restrictions on their use, at the very least some are being used to launch surveillance drones over Syria and Iraq. Up to seven bases in Oman may also be in use.

Bahrain is now the headquarters for the Navy’s entire Middle Eastern operations, including the Fifth Fleet, generally assigned to ensure the free flow of oil and other resources though the Persian Gulf and surrounding waterways. There is always at least one aircraft carrier strike group -- effectively, a massive floating base -- in the Persian Gulf. At the moment, the U.S.S. Carl Vinson is stationed there, a critical launch pad for the air campaign against the Islamic State. Other naval vessels operating in the Gulf and the Red Sea have launched cruise missiles into Iraq and Syria. The Navy even has access to an “afloat forward-staging base” that serves as a “lilypad” base for helicopters and patrol craft in the region.

In Israel, there are as many as six secret U.S. bases that can be used to preposition weaponry and equipment for quick use anywhere in the area. There’s also a “de facto U.S. base” for the Navy’s Mediterranean fleet. And it’s suspected that there are two other secretive sites in use as well. In Egypt, U.S. troops have maintained at least two installations and occupied at least two bases on the Sinai Peninsula since 1982 as part of a Camp David Accords peacekeeping operation.

Elsewhere in the region, the military has established a collection of at least five drone bases in Pakistan; expanded a critical base in Djibouti at the strategic chokepoint between the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean; created or gained access to bases in Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Seychelles; and set up new bases in Bulgaria and Romania to go with a Clinton administration-era base in Kosovo along the western edge of the gas-rich Black Sea.

Even in Saudi Arabia, despite the public withdrawal, a small U.S. military contingent has remained to train Saudi personnel and keep bases “warm” as potential backups for unexpected conflagrations in the region or, assumedly, in the kingdom itself. In recent years, the military has even established a secret drone base in the country, despite the blowback Washington has experienced from its previous Saudi basing ventures.

Dictators, Death, and Disaster

The ongoing U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, however modest, should remind us of the dangers of maintaining bases in the region. The garrisoning of the Muslim holy land was a major recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and part of Osama bin Laden’s professed motivation for the 9/11 attacks. (He called the presence of U.S. troops, “the greatest of these aggressions incurred by the Muslims since the death of the prophet.”) Indeed, U.S. bases and troops in the Middle East have been a “major catalyst for anti-Americanism and radicalization” since a suicide bombing killed 241 marines in Lebanon in 1983. Other attacks have come in Saudi Arabia in 1996, Yemen in 2000 against the U.S.S. Cole, and during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Research has shown a strong correlation between a U.S. basing presence and al-Qaeda recruitment.

Part of the anti-American anger has stemmed from the support U.S. bases offer to repressive, undemocratic regimes. Few of the countries in the Greater Middle East are fully democratic, and some are among the world’s worst human rights abusers. Most notably, the U.S. government has offered only tepid criticism of the Bahraini government as it has violently cracked down on pro-democracy protestors with the help of the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Beyond Bahrain, U.S. bases are found in a string of what the Economist Democracy Index calls “authoritarian regimes,” including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Yemen. Maintaining bases in such countries props up autocrats and other repressive governments, makes the United States complicit in their crimes, and seriously undermines efforts to spread democracy and improve the wellbeing of people around the world.

Of course, using bases to launch wars and other kinds of interventions does much the same, generating anger, antagonism, and anti-American attacks. A recent U.N. report suggests that Washington’s air campaign against the Islamic State had led foreign militants to join the movement on “an unprecedented scale.”

And so the cycle of warfare that started in 1980 is likely to continue. “Even if U.S. and allied forces succeed in routing this militant group,” retired Army colonel and political scientist Andrew Bacevich writes of the Islamic State, “there is little reason to expect” a positive outcome in the region. As Bin Laden and the Afghan mujahidin morphed into al-Qaeda and the Taliban and as former Iraqi Baathists and al-Qaeda followers in Iraq morphed into IS, “there is,” as Bacevich says, “always another Islamic State waiting in the wings.”

The Carter Doctrine’s bases and military buildup strategy and its belief that “the skillful application of U.S. military might” can secure oil supplies and solve the region’s problems was, he adds, “flawed from the outset.” Rather than providing security, the infrastructure of bases in the Greater Middle East has made it ever easier to go to war far from home. It has enabled wars of choice and an interventionist foreign policy that has resulted in repeated disasters for the region, the United States, and the world. Since 2001 alone, U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen have minimally caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and possibly more than one million deaths in Iraq alone.

The sad irony is that any legitimate desire to maintain the free flow of regional oil to the global economy could be sustained through other far less expensive and deadly means. Maintaining scores of bases costing billions of dollars a year is unnecessary to protect oil supplies and ensure regional peace -- especially in an era in which the United States gets only around 10% of its net oil and natural gas from the region. In addition to the direct damage our military spending has caused, it has diverted money and attention from developing the kinds of alternative energy sources that could free the United States and the world from a dependence on Middle Eastern oil -- and from the cycle of war that our military bases have fed.

David Vine, a TomDispatch regular, is associate professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia. He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other publications. His new book, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, will appear in 2015 as part of the American Empire Project (Metropolitan Books). For more of his writing, visit

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2014 David Vine

Laughing to Death: Arab Comedy Tightrope

The Age of TV Jokers: Arab Media on the Brink

by Ramzy Baroud - Middle East Eye

As I was finalizing my research for this article, I found myself browsing through a heap of hilarious videos by mostly Egyptian TV show hosts Tawfiq Okasha and Amr Adeeb.

In one of his numerous videos on youtube, Okasha, the star and host of the Cairo-based privately funded al-Faraeen channel, tries to explain the differences between the brains of humans and water buffalos. Along with Adeeb, they occupy a large space of Egyptian media discourse, wreaking so much havoc with their mostly unsubstantiated claims, frequent incite and outrageous claims.

Their demagogic discourse presented through daily campaigns of misinformation and vilification of those perceived to be enemies of the state is dangerous, especially when there is little room to counter these claims through critical thinking and sensible discussions. But what is interesting is that neither Okasha, nor Adeeb - and many others like them – were never meant to be entertainers per se, however entertaining they inadvertently may be.

In the last year or so in Egypt, much of what has been achieved in terms of carving space for alternative voices in the Egyptian media was quickly and decisively reversed. No matter how hard Bassem Youssef tried to tone down his satirical political message, he failed. His show, Al-Bernameg – The Program – came to an abrupt conclusion last June. “The current atmosphere isn’t fitting for a comedy show or any other show,” Youssef said last June.

“The current atmosphere” is damaging the freedom of expression in other Arab societies as well, more so in the last four years when popular upheavals took over several Arab countries, igniting unprecedented regional rivalries. Since then, the polarization of Arab media has reached extreme points. There is little room for opposing views and regimes are fighting an epic battle for survival by using every possible tactic to win, even if by deception, intimidation, or sheer lies.

It is not that media in Arab countries has been an example of transparency, equality and democracy - far from it. But, to an extent, there was a media evolution underway, dictated partly by the advent of the Internet and subsequent rise of social media, let alone the heated competition by pan-Arab satellite channels.

That evolution, if it were not violently interrupted by a brutal media war should have had some positive contributions. These are the rise of sociopolitical consciousness, affirmation of collective Arab identity, and, more importantly, the creation of a space where the Arab citizen, any citizen, could find room for self-expression free from the confines of government censorship and retribution of the state.

But now that the state, desperate to survive burgeoning popular pressures and massive mobilizations, began to appreciate the adverse repercussions from free media platforms, and began cracking down. It seems that the only space that remains open in the state-sanctioned media are those of the likes of Okasha and Adeeb.

At this critical stage of popular transformation, the stunting of critical Arab media will register its negative impact for years to come. To save themselves, some Arab regimes have chosen to sacrifice the intellect of their societies.

But the issue has its roots in a context that came much earlier than the Arab Spring.

In the post-colonial Middle East, Arab countries - especially those who suffered greatly under the reigns of western powers - were eager to knit separate identities for themselves that were neither French, Italian nor English. They sought regional allies among their own brethren, building cultural bridges where Arab radio stations and newspapers served as the medium of political and cultural unity.

Of course, that discourse too was manipulated to fit fantastic political ambitions, whether they were genuine – as ones fairly expressive of the will of Arab masses – or fabricated, as self-serving agendas by dictators or ruling classes.

The early attempts at pan-Arab media, however, were often used as platforms for regional Arab conflicts. In time, Arab rulers began understanding the immense value of owning and manipulating media to their advantage. And whenever possible, they censored, controlled and punished those who couldn’t be bought or refused to be censored.

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991, argues Paul Cochrane, was a breaking point between attempts at manipulating and intimidating media, and owning it. The regional breakups that resulted from that war were so severe that they effectively ended the Arab Cooperation Council (ACC), an alliance that united Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and North Yemen. And they further strengthened another: the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The latter had wealth, and that meant media access.

The post war brought a buying frenzy, where some rich Arab countries and wealthy businessmen attempted to consolidate their control over Arab public opinion by using newly founded satellite television stations and uniting various Arab societies around cheap entertainment.

When Al Jazeera was launched in 1996 and despite the fact that it was funded by a country which itself is not an icon of freedom of expression, a new type of competition rose between rival Arab countries. Other media soon sprang up that were also funded by rich Arabs and manned mostly by Arab intellectuals and journalists from poorer countries. In that new media realm, “freedom of expression” existed as long as they offered views, at least politically, matching the political agendas of the funders.

One cannot discount the fact that within that rivalry, independent journalists and intellectuals managed to navigate space for themselves, and by doing so pushed the boundaries of the debate like never before.

Then the Arab Spring started. Its decisive collective agenda (regime change) left no room for political bargaining or compromising. It further mixed up regional agendas, creating new alliances, and once more emphasized the power of the media in its ability to harness and sway public opinions. Even pan Arab news networks with a level of credibility, were soon tainted in their rush to influence the public discourse. The media split between geopolitical allegiances as each camp had its own funders and many propaganda arms.

Social media is harder to control, for it remains a relatively free space. However, it compels a degree of anonymity to its users, which opens up a whole new challenge in attempting to authenticate information through the endless stream of content and decipher genuine voices from that of government propaganda.

Though the media public discourse is severely restricted to some, it is generously open for others such as for those morally flexible intellectuals and media jokers who applauded the Israeli war on Gaza, as the rest of the world protested its devastating carnage. For now, Okasha and Adeeb will continue to take center stage, while thousands of brilliant voices of intellectuals and journalists are muffled and censored.

It is hard to imagine that in this age of awakening, such mockery will continue for too long.

Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People's History at the University of Exeter. He is a consultant at Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

OPEC Stands Firm on Quotas as Marginal Oil Producers Withdraw

Early Signs Of A Pullback In Drilling Activity

by Nick Cunningham -

With oil prices low and showing no sign of an immediate rebound, the industry is beginning to pull back on spending.

Oil prices have dropped around 30 percent since summer highs, raising fears among producers across the globe. Yet, many oil majors are relatively diversified, with large holdings downstream. For example, ExxonMobil and Chevron have been insulated in the third quarter because of their large holdings in refining. Steep declines in oil prices may hurt their production sectors, but with lower priced oil as an input, big oil's refining assets become more profitable.

For the third quarter, ExxonMobil reported a 3 percent rise in earnings compared to quarter three in 2013. That was largely driven by the Texas-based oil giant's refining assets, which saw its profits rise by more than 70 percent from $592 million to $1.02 billion. Chevron's refining program succeeded in quadrupling its profits in the third quarter, more than offsetting the hit the company has taken from the slide in oil prices.

Other companies that are not as large or integrated across various subsectors of the oil industry are not as shielded from the current soft price environment. And there are signs that a slowdown is beginning to take shape.

Oil services firm Baker Hughes reported another drop in the active rig count in early November, with oil rigs declining by 14. With 1,568 rigs in operation, the oil rig count is now at its lowest level since August, and down 49 rigs since a peak in October. Rigs could decline to 1,325 in 2015, according to some projections.

While some companies appear undaunted, vowing to maintain or even increase production, others are beginning to pare back spending plans. Continental Resources, a major oil producer in North Dakota's Bakken play, has stated that it won't deploy more drilling rigs next year. Pioneer Natural Resources, with large holdings in the Eagle Ford and Permian basin, has hinted at more modest plans for 2015 due to lower oil prices.

The companies that service the oil producers are also on the frontlines, often feeling the brunt of a pullback in drilling activity quickly. Transocean, a major offshore oil drilling contractor, reported a nearly $2.8 billion impairment charge during the third quarter, which was "due primarily to the decline in the market valuation of the company's contract drilling services business." In other words, lower oil prices hurt demand for Transocean's drilling rigs.

Transocean's 29 ultra-deepwater drilling rigs had accumulated 296 combined days of being out of service in the third quarter. That was an enormous increase over the previous two quarters - 110 days of out-of-service days in quarter two, and just 98 days in the first quarter. Even worse, the company expects the rigs to be inactive for a total of 435 days in the fourth quarter.

Short sellers are even stepping up their positions against oil field service companies as they sense an opportunity. Reuters reported on several European firms that are starting to come under fire from short sellers.

Nevertheless, the selloff in oil prices could be overdone. OPEC's Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri tried to ease concerns, speaking at a conference in Abu Dhabi on November 10. "Please do not panic, things will fix itself," he said. On its face, that response would seem to suggest that OPEC thinks prices have bottomed out. On the other hand, Kuwait's Oil Minister suggested that OPEC will not cut its production target, and echoing al-Badri's comments, he said that "prices will settle down once surplus oil is absorbed.

No decision has been made yet, and OPEC will meet at the end of November in Vienna to decide its next move. But merely allowing the market to sort itself out while maintaining current production levels will almost certainly spark a negative reaction in the oil markets.

That would put greater pressure on oil producers and oil service companies around the world, potentially forcing further cutbacks in production plans with the weakest players and the highest cost regions feeling the worst of it.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mad Ozzie Leader Demands Apology from Putin for MH17 Downing, Claims Damning "Evidence"

Australian prime minister demands apology from Russia on MH17

by James Cogan - WSWS

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday held a 15-minute private meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, at which the main issue was the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17. Without any conclusive evidence, Abbott has repeatedly accused Russia of being responsible for the tragedy.

The brief discussion, held on the sidelines of the APEC meeting in Beijing, was the first exchange between the two leaders since Abbott last month threatened to “shirtfront” Putin over MH17 at the upcoming G20 Leaders’ Summit in Australia. “Shirtfront” is the term for a particularly violent tackle in Australian Rules football.

The official Australian government statement following the Abbott-Putin encounter underscores the highly provocative role being played by the Abbott government for the US in its confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. Within hours of the crash, Abbott began making the unsubstantiated claim that Russia bore responsibility for the deaths of 38 Australian citizens and residents on MH17.

The Australian statement reported: “The Prime Minister told Mr Putin that Australia was in possession of information suggesting that MH17 was destroyed by a missile from a launcher that had come out of Russia, was fired from inside eastern Ukraine and then returned to Russia.”

Then, according to the statement, Abbott told Putin that Russia should accept responsibility for the crash as the US had done when it “inadvertently shot down” an Iranian airliner in 1988. Washington, Abbott claimed, had “duly apologised and made appropriate restitution” and Russia should follow that precedent.

Abbott’s assertions can only be described as outrageous. No credible investigation has been completed into how and why MH17 was brought down. A preliminary report has found that the aircraft was likely destroyed by a high velocity projectile, but who fired it or even what the projectile was, is the subject of heated contention. Theories abound, but none has been substantiated. For Abbott to therefore demand that the Russian Federation apologise—in other words publicly admit guilt for the mass murder of civilians—is, among other things, a staggering breach of diplomatic norms.

Abbott’s confrontational comments are in sharp contrast to those of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak when he met with Putin. Malaysia, which presumably possesses as much “information” as Canberra, lost 43 of its citizens in the crash. Nevertheless Najib declared yesterday in Beijing: “Malaysia has always taken a very objective position. Instead of finger pointing, we would rather wait for the final investigation report to conclude what has really happened to MH17.”

Najib directed his criticisms to both the Ukrainian government and the Russian-speaking separatists in eastern Ukraine for ignoring calls for a cease fire to allow investigation teams secure access to the crash site.

As for Iran Air Flight 655, the circumstances of its downing are completely different from that of MH17. From the day of the incident on July 3, 1988, there was never any doubt that the Iranian aircraft, carrying 290 crew and passengers, was shot down as it flew over the Persian Gulf by missiles fired by the US warship Vincennes. The plane was correctly transmitting codes identifying it as civilian and it was attacked while the American guided-missile cruiser was illegally in Iranian territorial waters.

The US government never formally apologised or admitted guilt for the atrocity, and treated the victims, their families and Iran with utter contempt. Its allies in the UN Security Council combined to block any condemnation of the US and instead blamed the disaster on the tensions produced by the Iran-Iraq war. In 1996—eight years after the event—Washington refused in the International Court of Justice to accept legal liability and agreed only to a statement expressing its “deep regret over the loss of lives”. It paid token ex gratia compensation of $61.8 million.

Abbott was certainly playing to a domestic audience, seeking to use claims he was “confronting” Russia over the death of Australian civilians to channel social tensions outward and garner support for his deeply unpopular government.

At the same time, Abbott’s actions are entirely in line with the confrontational stance being taken against Russia by the Obama administration. During his brief meetings with Putin in Beijing, Obama reportedly issued demands that the Russian government stop supporting Ukrainian separatists as well as the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and the Iranian regime.

That Putin agreed to meet with Abbott and listen to his allegations indicates that Russia is on the defensive amid the impact of US- and European-dictated sanctions and diplomatic isolation. The official Kremlin response to the Abbott meeting was low key. It described the encounter as “proper” and stated that Putin had “stressed [that] from the very beginning Russia consistently demanded that the investigation be unbiased, quick and effective”.

The Dutch government, which is in charge of the international investigation into MH17, reported on November 11 that forensic teams have been able to return to the crash site in eastern Ukraine. With heavy fighting again flaring in the nearby Donetsk region between Ukrainian government forces and separatists, it is likely they will be quickly withdrawn, further delaying any progress in establishing the cause of the disaster.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Rising Promise of More War Dawns for Resurgent Neocons

The Neocon Plan for War and More War

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

Buoyed by the Republican electoral victories, America’s neocons hope to collect their share of the winnings by pushing President Barack Obama into escalating conflicts around the world, from a new Cold War with Russia to hot wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and maybe Iran.

Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, 2009 (Photo: White House)

The new menu of neocon delights was listed by influential neocon theorist Max Boot in a blog post for Commentary magazine, an important outlet for neocon thinking. Boot argued that the Republicans – and thus the neocons – have earned a mandate on national security policy from the electoral repudiation of Obama’s Democratic Party.

“I am convinced [national security policy] was as important a factor in this election as it was in the 2006 midterm when, in the midst of Iraq War debacles, the Republicans lost control of the Senate,” wrote Boot, who then blamed Obama for pretty much everything that has gone wrong:
“The president did himself incalculable damage when he set a ‘red line’ for Syria last year but failed to enforce it. That created an image of weakness and indecision which has only gotten worse with the rise of ISIS and Putin’s expansionism in Ukraine.”

Boot’s recounting of that history is, of course, wrongheaded in several ways. It may have been foolish for Obama to set a “red line” against chemical weapons use in Syria, but there is growing evidence that the Syrian government was not behind the lethal sarin attack of Aug. 21, 2013, and that it was instead a provocation by rebel extremists. [See’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]

Further, Putin’s approach to the Ukraine crisis in February 2014 was reactive, not provocative or expansionistic. It was the European Union and the United States (led by neocons such as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman and Sen. John McCain) that set out to overturn the Ukrainian status quo.

Neocon support for political disturbances in Kiev, including Nuland plotting how to “glue this thing,” contributed to the putsch that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych and touched off a bloody civil war. Putin was supporting the status quo, i.e., maintaining the elected government, not instigating its overthrow. [See’s “The Powerful Group Think on Ukraine” and “Treating Putin Like a Lunatic.”]

And, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria arose not from Obama’s timidity but from the neocon-inspired invasion of Iraq last decade. ISIS emerged from the hyper-violent Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which didn’t exist until President George W. Bush followed neocon advice to invade and occupy Iraq. The terrorist group, rebranding itself as the Islamic State, moved on to Syria where the neocons were seeking another “regime change” in the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad. [See’s “Neocons Revive Syrian ‘Regime Change’ Plan.”]

If Obama had bombed the Syrian military in summer 2013, as Boot and other neocons wanted, not only might Obama have been attacking the wrong people for the sarin attack, he might well have precipitated the collapse of the Syrian government and a victory for either ISIS or al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, the only two effective fighting forces among the anti-government rebels. There would have been a good chance that jihadist banners would be flying over Damascus, creating a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East.

In other words, Boot is working not only from a false narrative but a dangerous fantasy. Nevertheless, it is a narrative that is widely accepted inside Official Washington where one of the favorite sayings is “perception is reality.” So, although Boot’s perception is factually unhinged, it is regarded as “reality” by many “smart people” in the world’s most powerful capital.

Dangerous Prescription

After laying out his false diagnosis – that Obama’s supposed failure to destroy the Syrian military in 2013 led to the crises of Ukraine and ISIS in 2014 – Boot then prescribes what needs to be done.

First, he wants the Republican-controlled Congress to pour more money into the U.S. military or, as he puts it, “Save the defense budget from the mindless cuts of sequestration, which are already hurting readiness and, if left unabated, risk another ‘hollow’ military.”

Second, launch a full-scale economic war against Russia while dispatching the U.S. military to defend the Ukrainian regime now in control of Kiev and to other nations on Russia’s borders. Or, as Boot says: “Impose tougher sanctions on Russia, freezing Russian companies entirely out of dollar-denominated transactions, while sending arms and trainers to Kiev and putting at least a Brigade Combat Team into each of the Baltic republics and Poland to signal that no more aggression from Putin will be tolerated.”

Third, keep the U.S. military fighting in Afghanistan indefinitely. Or, as Boot says, “Repeal the 2016 deadline for pulling troops out of Afghanistan and announce that any drawdown will be conditions based.”

Fourth, recommit a larger U.S. military force to aid the Iraqi military and to invade Syria. Or, as Boot says, “Increase the tempo of airstrikes against ISIS, and send a lot more troops to Iraq and Syria to work with indigenous groups – we need at least 15,000 personnel, not the 1,400 sent so far.” [Emphasis added to point out that sending U.S. troops into Syria would amount to an invasion.]

Though the Syrian government has tolerated U.S. airstrikes against ISIS, the idea of sending U.S. soldiers into Syria would be a game-changer and underscores how casually neocons call for committing the U.S. military to war and how disdainful they are of international law. If Boot’s intentions on Syria aren’t already obvious, he further recommends “launching airstrikes on Iran’s proxy, [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad.”

Despite the breathtaking quality of this recommendation, Boot tries to tamp down any alarm by adding: “This isn’t a call for U.S. ground combat troops, but we do need a lot more trainers, Special Operators, and support personnel, and they need to be free to work with forces in the field rather than being limited to working with brigade and division staffs in large bases far from the front lines.”

Apparently Boot foresees a Libya-style operation in which the U.S. military and its allies destroy a government’s armed forces from the air while rebels on the ground ultimately take power. In 2011, the Libya strategy led to the ouster and murder of Muammar Gaddafi followed by the country collapsing into violence and chaos, including the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi and the decision by Western governments to abandon their embassies in Tripoli.

In Syria, such a scenario would likely lead to a victory by Islamic extremists, but it would fit with the Israeli strategy of favoring the ouster of Assad, an Iranian ally, even if the conflict ended with al-Qaeda-related radicals in power.

Boot’s recommendations match closely the strategic interests expressed by Israel’s Likud leadership. As the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post in September 2013, “The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc. …

“We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” Oren added that this was the case even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Bomb, Bomb Iran

And, if instigating a new Cold War with Russia and expanding wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria aren’t enough for you, Boot also advocates what would amount to a military ultimatum to Iran, saying:. “Make clear that any deal with Iran will require the dismantlement of its nuclear facilities – not just a freeze that will leave it just short of nuclear weapons status.”

And what if Iran refuses to dismantle its nuclear facilities or throws out international inspectors? Then, presumably Obama would have to enforce this new “red line” with yet another war, this one against Iran, just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and neocons have long favored. Remember Sen. McCain breaking into a Beach Boy tune to extol the idea to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

Boot makes it clear that what is important for Obama is to realign U.S. foreign policy with the desires of Israel and the Sunni states against Shiite-ruled Iran. He says: “End the rapprochement with Iran that has scared our closest allies in the Middle East, and make clear that the U.S. will continue its traditional, post-1979 role of containing Iranian power and siding with the likes of Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE over Tehran.”

In case you’re wondering, Boot is not just some lonely neocon voice in the wilderness. He is a senior fellow at the powerful Council on Foreign Relations and a close associate of the Kagan family of neocon royalty, which includes Robert Kagan’s wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

Boot is also a friend of retired four-star General and former CIA Director David Petraeus. It was Boot who was moderating a speech by Petraeus on Oct. 30 at New York’s 92nd Street Y when former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was denied entrance and arrested. [See’s “Petraeus Spared Ray McGovern’s Question.”]

So, the neocon thinking is now out in the open. Boot has explained how the neocons view the national security implications of the Republican electoral victory and how Obama should bend to this supposed mandate. But Boot also has left little doubt what will follow if Obama does submit to the neocon agenda – a future of endless warfare across the Middle East and even nuclear brinksmanship with Russia.

There has long been a madness to neocon thinking, matching what the most extreme elements of the Israeli government seem determine to create, a roiling chaos across the Middle East amid fantasies of “regime change” somehow producing Arab leaders compliant with Israeli interests.

Yet, to carry out these schemes, which far exceed the capabilities of even Israel’s highly capable military, the American neocons and Israeli hardliners need the U.S. taxpayers’ money to pay for the wars as well as young American soldiers coming from small towns and large cities across the United States to be dispatched halfway around the world to kill and die.

As President Obama heads into the final quarter of his presidency, he must decide whether he will be led down that bloody path or finally stand up to the neocons (and their allies in Congress and within his own administration) and seek reasonable accommodations for peace with the countries on Max Boot’s hit list. [For more on the neocon agenda, see’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis” and “Why Neocons Seek to Destabilize Russia.”]

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.

The Trews: Busted for Feeding the Poor

Parklife: 90-year-old Arrested For Feeding Homeless 

by Russell Brand - The Trews

Reaction to news that 90-year-old Arnold Abbott was arrested by police in Florida for handing out meals to homeless people in a park.

Subscribe Here Now: and send links to video news items of topical stories that you'd like me to analyse.

Produced directed & edited by Gareth Roy.
Trews Theme by The Rubberbandits
Thanks to Jimi Mackay: @jimimackay
and Urban Nerds: @urban_nerds for our creative services

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Mike G., Janine Bandcroft, White Poppy Crew Nov. 12, 2014

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

Canadians observed Remembrance Day yesterday. This year's event was more poignant than most, following the murder of a Canadian soldier standing post at Ottawa's War Memorial last month, and the targeting of two other soldiers in a Quebec hit-and-run automobile attack leaving one dead and the other grievously injured.

The government here has run a seemingly endless series of television and other ads emphasizing the centennial anniversary of the Great War, or War to End All War, also called World War I. The veritable barrage of messaging aimed at us by the military enthusiast prime minister conflates Canadian identity with the long-past conflict, and subtly suggests true citizenship depends on support for ongoing military involvement overseas.

Listen. Hear.

Perhaps because of the events in Ottawa and Quebec, turnout for yesterday's event was predicted to be higher than usual. I went down to the annual gathering of "white poppies" at the MacKenzie-Papineau Brigade memorial located adjacent to the main event at Victoria's Legislature Buildings.

Remembering war in another way in the first half.

And; British Columbia's new leader of the New Democrat Party, John Horgan published an Op-Ed piece in the Vancouver Sun Monday voicing support for the LNG industry. In the piece, titled, 'B.C. Liberals get it wrong on LNG,' Horgan attempts a bit of linguistic gymnastics to both attack the ecologically vulnerable Liberals, while keeping his party's traditional labour and "green" support on-side.

"LNG" is BC political-speak for fracking, the practice famously chronicled in the documentary film, Gasland, where people living in proximity to fracked wells found their ground water polluted, and kitchen and bathroom faucets explosive. Mr. Horgan's support for the industry, he says, is contingent on it being "done right." But is there a way to do the wrong thing rightly?

Mike G. is a San Franciso-based writer and journalist who may beg to disagree with Mr. Horgan. His recent article, 'Confirmed: California Aquifers Contaminated With Billions Of Gallons of Fracking Wastewater' documents this disturbing situation in America's fruit and vegetable producing heartland, already suffering record-breaking drought. Mike G.'s work appears on the web at DeSmogBlog, Mongabay, Alternet, and Treehugger, among other places. He's also worked on climate and forest issues for Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network, specializing in online organizing and communications.

Mike G. and California fracking done wrong in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of what's good to do in and around our city, and beyond there too. But first, remembering the real reason for remembering Armistice Day.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: And now heard at Simon Fraser University's . He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Party of One: Stephen Harper's Incremental Takeover of Canada

Party of One

by Jim Miles - Axis of Logic

This work, Party of One, should be the political work of the year, and perhaps should stand as the best for this century. It is one of the most powerful books I have read and it should be read by everyone. Anyone entertaining the idea of argument with Harris' solid base of research (through documents and personal interviews) will need to stifle all independent thought and critical analysis abilities. Such however are the very abilities of the Conservative caucus in face of their dear one and only leader, Stephen Harper.

The first two chapters, “Sign of the Times” and “The Genesis of Steve”, provide a concise outline of Harper’s political routes (For more depth on this see also: Harperland - The Politics of Control. Lawrence Martin. Penguin, Toronto, 2011. - itself nominated as Finalist for Best Political Book of the Last 25 Years).

There are two main takeaways from these chapters. The first is the obvious, his absolute desire to control all aspects about himself and his goals, to demand full obedience from all his minions and appointees. The second aspect concerns his relationship with the Republican party and Republican elements of the U.S. political and business landscape. These ties were used to help boost Harper into power and to help maintain his control over the centre of power in Ottawa. It is perhaps treasonous in the dictionary sense of “breach of faith, disloyalty” or “to make war in order to change a policy rule” but unfortunately it does not fit within Canada’s criminal code definition of treason being generally harm against the Queen.

The most powerful personage presented here is the Republican Arthur Finkelstein, the “most sought after neoconservative political strategist in the world.” He has worked to unseat opponents with the “strategic use of attack ads” in which “issues don’t matter...perception is reality” and “fear is a political super weapon.” These attributes are supported by the perception that people today are “not wired in, but wired out...knowing more and more about less and less.” Harper has adopted these methods and the truth of the latter statement is unfortunately true for the rather general apathy and ignorance of Canadians.

Finkelstein helped elect Netanyahu and Lieberman in Israel, has worked with the big names of the Moral Majority in the U.S., alongside Dick Cheney, the Koch brothers, and Mitt Romney among others. The work of the neocons is supported by the National Citizens Coalition, a group that Harper has historically strong ties with, a group that is “anti public health insurance, anti-union, anti Wheat Board, and pro-corporate governance and control.”

In sum, Harper is a dictatorial ruler of Canada operating a Republican neocon style of government.

This “incremental” coup d’etat is described over the events of the subsequent chapters. Harris discusses the robo-call scandal, the in-out money laundering affair, the Unfair Election Act, Kevin Page and the F-335 debacle, the elimination of scientific discussion and dissent within the federal bureaucracy. He continues with “Farewell Diplomacy” a critique of the change from friendly global citizen to one in which the economy rules all, creating a “nasty new world of Canadian foreign policy,” another area in which “Evidence never had much weight with the Prime Minister.” The chapter “Bad Boys” discusses four personnel assignments that created problems: Nathan Jacobson, Dr. Arthur Porter, Chuck Strahl, and Bruce Carson. All demonstrated that “Harper talks tough on crime everywhere but in his own office.”

The chapter “Forked Tongue” spoke about the racist colonial mindset that still pervades government, and this one in particular, concerning First Nations. While “The Harper government has bent over backwards to accommodate Big Oil” the First Nations have always known that “standing between a white man and his money has always been a dangerous place to be.” Being “stewards” of the land is “integral to their identity” and many court decisions, mostly generated in B.C. (as land title is unextinguished and exists in most of the province without any treaties signed) have placed road-blocks in the way of Big Oil and Harper’s dictatorial commands.

The Tribal Council (Carrier Sekani) reminded everyone, “The original practice of colonization was to isolate us on reserves n order for the Crown to extract resources. The new version of colonization is to change laws without consulting us in order to extract our resources.”

The next four chapters concern the Senate-Duffy-Wallen-Brazeau-Wright affair. The chapter “Wrecking Ball” provides a revealing back story on Nigel Wright who does not come out to be nearly as “ethical” as some say he is. His financial and corporate connections lead to great concerns about highly probable conflicts of interest as he moved “from the largest private corporation in Canada to the most influential position in the country next to the prime minister.”

Preston Manning was interviewed for the book, and I almost began to like the guy as much as I disagree with his right wing policies. He seems to sincerely believe in the openness, accountability, and transparency that Stephen talks about but blocks as much as possible, saying “Stephen doesn’t think words mean much,” and “I think Canada’s influence internationally has been diminished with Stephen’s approach.”

One of the final chapters, “On the Brink”, discusses the manipulations and muzzling that Harper applied to several well respected senior bureaucrats in Ottawa, Sheila Fraser, Peter Milliken, and Robert Marleau. They provide some very powerful comments on their views of the government.

Sheila Fraser:

...the authoritarian reflex of the Harper government was as unmistakable as the deliberate suppression of public information. “Parliament has become so undermined it is almost unable to do the what people expect of it.”

Peter Milliken:

Parliament can hardly be weakened any more than it already is. Harper can’t go much farther without making the institution dysfunctional. He is trying to control every aspect of House business. In fact, it will have to be returned to its former state by someone if we are to have a democracy.

Robert Marleau:

Canadians are sleepwalking through dramatic, social, economic, and political changes surreptitiously being implemented by a government abusing omnibus bills and stifling public and parliamentary debate….Having attained absolute power, he has absolutely abused that power to the maximum.

The second to last chapter is very interesting, coming as this reading occurs after the military hype following the murder of two Canadian servicemen in Canada. Harper has done his utmost to play up the military aspect, appearing to support and glorify Canada’s new combatative role around the world. In “Delay, Deny, and Die” Harris examines the manner in which the federal government, after looking for all the glory, essentially casts aside the veterans to fend for themselves. I do not support Canada’s military roles, but I do support the idea that if someone volunteers to fight for Canada, misguided as that is, they deserve to receive the pensions they are due and lifetime support if disabled physically and/or through PTSD,

It comes down to the Harper neoConservatives and their intense mismanagement of budgetary matters. More soldiers have died from suicide recently than died in the years that other lives were wasted in Afghanistan (now 70 per cent controlled by the Taliban). Canada led the attack on Libya, with a subsequent military celebration in the now derided Senate, while Libya is wracked with violence between various militant groups. Canada spends more money on celebrating different wars than they do on assisting the veterans who have fought in them. “The party that had courted, lionized, and used the military now turned its back on them when priorities changed.”

The last chapter highlights a Canadian icon, a war veteran from the Second World War who fought through some of the bloodiest campaigns in Italy. Farley Mowat, a prolific Canadian writer, generally known through his works on Canadian history and for his writings and advocacy for environmental protections, said,

Stalin had small balls compared to this guy. Harper is probably the most dangerous human being ever elevated to power in Canada. How the population has acquiesced in following this son of a bitch, and to let him take over their lives, I’ll never know. You have to create warrior nations, they are not born. They have to be made. It is the preliminary step of a tyrant. And this son of a bitch incited Canada into becoming a warrior nation.”

It is unfortunate that the majority of Canadians are apathetic, they want democracy but not necessarily if they have to get out and think and act within it. As Arthur Finkelstein indicated, the Canadian public, through this apathy and ignorance are readily manipulated, “perception is reality...issues don’t matter,” and “fear is a political super weapon.” It works in Canada. And Stephen Harper is taking advantage of it to create a right wing neocon dictatorial militarized state with “one point” control - himself.

Party of One is a necessary read for all interested in political affairs in Canada and its relationship with the world around it. It is powerfully written and gives much information and supporting detail to support the idea that Canada has already suffered a radical makeover under his regime.

Party of One - Stephen Harper and Canada’s Radical Makeover. Michael Harris. VIking/Penguin, Toronto, 2014.