Saturday, September 29, 2012

Needed, Now! A United Anti-Fascist Opposition Front -- No Wimps Need Apply

September 28, 2012 at 07:29:23

By Dan Mage

Cut the crap, quit the bickering and pay attention.

Never in my lifetime has the reality of a one-party state, under the control of the global corporate elite shown itself so openly, so blatantly, and so seemingly without significant resistance. This absorption of civilian government by the shadow state, The Security State/War State, in the service of international capital, faces only a fractured resistance. Useless left vs. right-wing finger pointing and name calling, all in the name of anachronistic ideologies, further aggravated by sectarian bickering among seekers of ideological purity, creates an image of futility and impotence.

Public opposition to the state becomes increasingly dangerous with each passing day, for anyone outside of the mainstream media, or the party discipline of elected office. The ability of the state to initiate force against perceived threats with impunity is now the law of the land. The office of the president, now may detain, torture, and execute commoners at will. The president is a mighty monarch to the peasants, and a powerless puppet to the corporate overlords. The power retained by the presidency is the prerogative of kings, and the "sport of the elected" (murder).(1)

It's easy to point out how disgusting the Republican Party is; Romney, Ryan, and their legion of lesser local tyrants deliver their message with blatant and ugly fascist-theocratic words and images, bloated white male faces contorted with hatred, delivering messages of misogyny and unabashed hatred for all who do not fit their vision for "Saving America;" they are making Obama look good by default. In this age of intensive marketing research and information control, such contrasts and altered perceptions are rarely accidental.

It's a bit more of a challenge to the mind of the bourgeois liberal to picture Barack Obama as a bloodthirsty fascist despot, warmonger, corporate puppet, and traitor to his own constituency. Obama's superior intellect, his articulate if not particularly brilliant or original speeches, and carefully arranged poses of warmth and compassion towards the poor and the struggling middle class, obscure the ugly realities of his presidency.

Particularly shocking was the administration's betrayal of medical cannabis patients and providers. For political gain, jobs and lives were destroyed, good people were imprisoned, and the quality of life of cancer patients, persons living with MS, and all manner of chronic illnesses was sacrificed. In Obama's first term in office, the DEA raided more medical cannabis dispensaries than during the entire 8 year reign of George W. Bush.

I've heard the "legalizing weed is not important" argument, and also Obama's statement that the disastrous "War on Drugs," an ongoing crime against humanity that has resulted in an immense prison population, disproportionately affecting the poor of all colors, and people of color most of all, will not end "on his watch." The president could have supported real change, and given some hope to the most hopeless and despised members of American society. Instead, he turned his back on the powerless yet again.

Obama's supporters defend this conduct; comments appear in online threads using terms like "Dr Feelgoods" issuing recommendations to "turd stoners," (much as the president himself was during his formative years) and "why shouldn't the president lock up those who break the law?" His prosecutors use bizarre authoritarian leftist reasoning about people "making a whole lot of money" from "drugs" (as yet no prosecutions have resulted from the wholesale manufacture and distribution of narcotics by pharmaceutical companies, in spite of the fact that the DEA knows that large amount of the drugs are destined for the underground market, and actually calculates this market's needs when deciding what quantity of a given drug, such as oxy-contin, will be manufactured with DEA approval) and seem to be terribly worried that people without a "legitimate medical need" will be able to procure cannabis products without dealing with a law-breaker.

Liberal tolerance often stops dead in its tracks when it comes to the issue of "drugs." A woman on NPR starts to condemn Rush Limbaugh's misogynistic hate speech, but quickly digresses to hate speech of her own. "He's a drug addict!" she proclaims, over and over, each time with more venom in her voice, when the term "drug addict" leaves her mouth. Liberal hate speech is perhaps the worst of all.

The mantra of "It's about JOBS, JOBS, JOBS," is repeated as some magical formula that will somehow erase all the bloodshed and restore the lives lost to the American Gulag. I've even seen comments indicating belief in the ultimate idiocy, that "If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about." Tell that to the couple whose door was kicked in while the cops shot their dog, terrified their children and made them lie face down in handcuffs while they ransacked the house after an informant gave a wrong address. They can be counted among the lucky ones; people who have committed no crime whatsoever are ending up dead on a regular basis from official bullets and beatings. In highly public cases, where impossible to ignore videotaped evidence becomes public, criminal charges against police officers sometimes result, however acquittals are common and the absence of any legal repercussions for official violence is the norm.

Most of Obama's campaign promises with regard to civil liberties, human rights, and efficient use of federal resources proved empty and false. The few crumbs he throws to liberal causes, such as same sex marriage and reproductive rights are not to be trusted, and the future of the Supreme Court, would best be regarded in light of Obama's actual behavior while in office.

The forgiveness and endorsement of the war crimes of the Bush Administration, and his refusal to repeal the PATRIOT act, or veto the NDAA, define who Obama is, not his image, his words, or his overwhelmingly worthless promises. Those championing LGBTQ causes, reproductive rights and women's equality should take a long hard look at the promises made to the medical cannabis movement.

Even if he publicly expresses support for some cause close to your heart, Obama is a fascist. If Romney wins and goes on a rampage of war, looting, and crushing the most defenseless members of society under the weight of The War State and ruling class greed, he will do so using powers Obama signed into law. If Obama gets another four years, we can expect more of the same. Perhaps some of the Republican targets groups will be spared within the borders of the US. However, that is a matter of little concern to the global elite, as the depredations and trampling of innocents on the frontiers of the empire will continue unabated. That is where the largest profits and opportunities for population control by war, famine and pestilence are. Can you honestly say that even being spared the humiliation of begging and digging through trash is worth the torture and death inflicted on subjects of any dictator or democracy whose time has run out?

Get it through your head: America is gone; if historical precedent is any indicator, time is running out. All who care about civil liberties, human rights, privacy, the property rights of persons outside of the ruling class and the lives of innocents caught in the crossfire of endless wars, must set aside their differences and take a stand. Recognize a government that exists only as an overseer on the global corporate plantation, for what it is. This government can only be regarded as a very dangerous man-made disaster in progress.

The Federal Government is not something to be provoked, protested, or controlled through elections from which candidates presenting real alternatives are systematically excluded. It is to be watched closely, and each lie, each murder, each theft, and each desecration and betrayal of the once-mighty US Constitution made known to all. Pay attention, appeal to the international community of artists, intellectuals, and activists for peace to come to our aid now; now we are the ones who need to appeal to the civilized world to come to our aid against a totalitarian regime. As the underclass grows, swelled by the ranks of displaced and bewildered formerly middle class citizens, the extent of the betrayal will be known. Maybe then reason and sanity can still prevail.

Only when even the soldiers and police will no longer take part in this headlong rush to self annihilation, and when the lives of children are valued more than the pride and power-addiction of the elite will we be able to rest. What we are up against can be defined, on the basis of its documented behavior and measurable results --body counts speak for themselves- as a planetary torture and death cult. Only when this cult is identified, isolated, and denied all forms of compliance, cooperation and assistance, only then can this disaster, this massive factory churning out corpses and poisons be closed, crushed, and buried, with a few relics stored as a reminder in museum of historical horrors and deviance.

The electoral process, subverted in part by laws allowed to stand by this incarnation of the Obama Supreme Court, leaves only the direct confrontation of power and money, by direct political and economic means as the only non-violent avenue of resistance left open. General strikes, universal rent strikes, and mortgage and interest payment refusals en-masse, gasoline boycotts and massive defections from the major banking and credit institutions might get the point across. "Taking it to the streets," is now a potential felony, and already, people identified with sensitive causes are singled out and pulled from crowds by police, and detained without charge or explanation. Public demonstrations can be defined as terrorism whenever the secret service feels the need to be present. Don't take it to the streets, just stay home, don't drive your car, and deliver nothing of value to "the 1%" at any price. Cancel the agreement that their imaginary money exists.

Knee-jerk libertarian-bashing by what passes for "the left" in this country is another example of "rebels" with "causes" advancing the division and conquest of the people. Reach out to those on the right who believe in your basic civil liberties. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson may not be perfectly P.C. according to the liberal Democratic Party line; however, along with Ron Paul, he is perceived as a genuine threat by the Republican Party, to the point where republican operatives attempted through legal actions to exclude him from the ballot in multiple states. Gary Johnson cares about you more than Obama does.

Green party nominee Jill Stein also is worthy of your vote, although in my opinion, she labors under the illusion that the power of the state can still be returned to the people, and that the government can fix the problems it creates.This is open to debate;we can argue about what makes a perfect society after we restore the right to have such arguments without fear of indefinite detention.

The time for a united anti-fascist opposition front is now; tomorrow, next week or next month may be too late. The ammunition, the detention camps, and the necessary equipment for quick and efficient mass burials are already in the hands of our wise and benevolent overlords; so is the ability to shut down internet and phone communications en masse, at will.

If we do not make a stand now, we might as well shut down our brains, watch our TVs, go to corporate shrinks, take our government approved medications, and pretend that we don't notice when our neighbors disappear. Arguments about how "the republicans are so much worse" have the sad logic of slaves trying to figure out which overseer will be more generous with the food rations, and more sparing with the whip.

What all of us forever dismissed as "crazy, hippie types," "conspiracy theorists," anarchists, communists, and acidhead mystics have been warning of since Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young released the song "Ohio"(2) has arrived. "...gotta get down to it, soldiers are gunning us down, should have been done long ago".*

Cut the crap, quit the bickering and pay attention. Time is running out.

*References: 1. "Murder by Numbers" by Sting and Andy Summers
Album: Synchronicity A&M Records 1983

2. "Ohio" by Neil Young, Atlantic Records 1970

An Interview With Noam Chomsky » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

An Interview With Noam Chomsky » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Rare Look at Why the Government Won't Fight Wall Street

by Matt Taibi from his Rolling Stone blog

POSTED: September 18, 10:28 AM ET

The great mystery story in American politics these days is why, over the course of two presidential administrations (one from each party), there’s been no serious federal criminal investigation of Wall Street during a period of what appears to be epic corruption. People on the outside have speculated and come up with dozens of possible reasons, some plausible, some tending toward the conspiratorial – but there have been very few who've come at the issue from the inside.

We get one of those rare inside accounts in The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins, a new book by Jeff Connaughton, the former aide to Senators Ted Kaufman and Joe Biden. Jeff is well known to reporters like me; during a period when most government officials double-talked or downplayed the Wall Street corruption problem, Jeff was one of the few voices on the Hill who always talked about the subject with appropriate alarm. He shared this quality with his boss Kaufman, the Delaware Senator who took over Biden's seat and instantly became an irritating (to Wall Street) political force by announcing he wasn’t going to run for re-election. "I later learned from reporters that Wall Street was frustrated that they couldn’t find a way to harness Ted or pull in his reins," Jeff writes. "There was no obvious way to pressure Ted because he wasn’t running for re-election."

Kaufman for some time was a go-to guy in the Senate for reform activists and reporters who wanted to find out what was really going on with corruption issues. He was a leader in a number of areas, attempting to push through (often simple) fixes to issues like high-frequency trading (his advocacy here looked prescient after the "flash crash" of 2010), naked short-selling, and, perhaps most importantly, the Too-Big-To-Fail issue. What’s fascinating about Connaughton’s book is that we now get to hear a behind-the-scenes account of who exactly was knocking down simple reform ideas, how they were knocked down, and in some cases we even find out why good ideas were rejected, although some element of mystery certainly remains here.

There are some damning revelations in this book, and overall it’s not a flattering portrait of key Obama administration officials like SEC enforcement chief Robert Khuzami, Department of Justice honchos Eric Holder (who once worked at the same law firm, Covington and Burling, as Connaughton) and Lanny Breuer, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Most damningly, Connaughton writes about something he calls "The Blob," a kind of catchall term describing an oozy pile of Hill insiders who are all incestuously interconnected, sometimes by financial or political ties, sometimes by marriage, sometimes by all three. And what Connaughton and Kaufman found is that taking on Wall Street even with the aim of imposing simple, logical fixes often inspired immediate hostile responses from The Blob; you’d never know where it was coming from.

In one amazing example described in the book, Kaufman decided he wanted to try to re-instate the so-called "uptick rule," which had existed for seventy years before being rescinded by the SEC in 2007. The rule prevents investors from shorting a stock until the stock had ticked up in price. "Forcing short sellers to wait for the price to tick up before they sell more shares gives a breather to a stock in decline and helps prevent bear raids," Connaughton writes.

The uptick rule is controversial on Wall Street – I’ve had some people literally scream at me that it doesn’t do anything, while others have told me that it does help prevent bear attacks of the sort that appeared to help finally topple already-mortally-wounded companies like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers – but what’s inarguable is that Wall Street hates the rule. Hedge fund types or employees of really any company that engages in short-selling will tend to be most venomous in their opinions of the uptick rule.

Anyway, Connaughton and Kaufman were under the impression that new SEC chief Mary Schapiro would re-instate the uptick rule after taking office. When she didn’t, Kaufman wrote her a letter, asking her to take action. When that didn't do the trick, he co-sponsored (with Republican Johnny Isakson) a bill that would have required the SEC to take action.

Nothing happened, and months later, Kaufman gave a grumbling interview to Politico about the issue. One June 30, the paper’s headline read: "Ted Kaufman to SEC; Do Your Job."

The next day, the Blob bit back. Connaughton was in the basement of the Russell building when a Senate staffer whose wife worked for Shapiro shouted at him. From the book:

"Hey, Jeff, you’re in the doghouse." He meant: with his wife.

"Why?" I asked.

"That Politico piece by your boss."

I was taken aback but tried to downplay the matter. "We just want the SEC to get its work done."

"Remember," he said. "We all wear blue jerseys and play for the Blue Team. I just don’t think that helps."

When Connaughton told Kaufman over the phone what the staffer said, Kaufman exploded. "You call him back right now and tell him I said to go fuck himself in his ear," Kaufman said.

Similarly, when Kaufman tried to advocate for rules that would have prevented naked short-selling, Connaughton was warned by a lobbyist that it would be "bad for my career" if he went after the issue and that "Ted and I looked like deranged conspiracy theorists" for asking if naked short-selling had played a role in the final collapse of Lehman Brothers. Naked short-selling is another controversial practice. Essentially, when you short a stock, you're supposed to locate shares of that stock before you go out and sell it short. But what hedge funds and banks have discovered is that the rules provide "leeway" – you can go out and sell shares in a stock without actually having it, provided you have a "reasonable belief" that you can locate the shares.

This leads to the obvious possibility of companies creating false supply in a stock by selling shares they don't have. Without getting too much into the weeds here, there is an obvious solution to the problem, which essentially would be forcing companies to actually locate shares before selling them. In their attempt to change the system, Kaufman and Connaughton discovered that the Depository Trust Clearing Corporation, the massive quasi-private organization that clears most all stock trades in America, had come up with just such a fix on their own. Kaufman recruited some other senators to endorse the idea, and as late as 2009, Connaughton and Kaufman were convinced they were going to get the form. "I said to Ted, 'We’re going to change the way stocks are traded in this country.'"

But before the change could be made, Goldman, Sachs issued "data" showing that there was "no correlation" between naked short selling and price movements. When Connaughton asked an Isakson staffer what the data said, the staffer, intimidated by Goldman, replied, "The data proves we're full of shit." Connaughton looked at the data and realized instantly that it was a bunch of irrelevant gobbledygook, even firing off an angry letter to Goldman telling them the tactic was beneath even them.

But Goldman’s tactic worked. A roundtable to discuss the idea was scheduled by the SEC on September 24, 2009. Of the nine invited participants, "all but one" were for the status quo. Connaughton expected the DTCC representatives to unveil their reform idea, but they didn’t:

Afterwards, I went over to [the DTCC representatives] and asked, "What happened?" Sheepishly, and to their credit, they admitted: "We got pulled back." They meant: by their board, by the Wall Street powers-that-be.

Essentially the same thing happened in Kaufman’s biggest reform attempt, the amendment to the Dodd-Frank bill he co-sponsored with Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, which would have broken up the Too-Big-To-Fail banks. But the Brown-Kaufman amendment, which was really the meatiest thing in the original Dodd-Frank bill, the one reform that really would have made a difference if it had passed, just died in the suffocating mass of the Blob. The key Democrats one after another failed to line up behind it, and in the end it was defeated soundly, with Dick Durbin, the number two man in the Democratic leadership, giving it this epitaph: "a bridge too far."

Again, those interested in understanding the mindset of the people who should be leading the anti-corruption charge ought to read this book. It's the weird lack of concern that shines through, like Khuzami’s comment that he’s "not losing sleep" over judges reprimanding his soft-touch settlements with banks, or then Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Ray Lohier’s comment that the thing that most concerned him – this is the period of 2008-2009, the middle of a historic crimewave on Wall Street – was "cyber crime."

On the outside we can only deduce the mindset from actions and non-actions, but Connaughton’s actually seen it, and with the book you get to see it too. It’s scary and definitely worth a read.

Read more:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

No Red Line for Israel

No "Red Line" for Israel

By Gilad Atzmon

Israeli news outlets reported today that President Obama rejected an appeal by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to set a specific "red line" to stop any further Iranian uranium enrichment.

According to reports, in an hour-long conversation on Tuesday, Obama deflected Netanyahu's proposal to make the size of Iran's stockpile of close-to-bomb-grade uranium the threshold, the crossing of which would trigger a US military strike on the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities.

But it seems that, this time at least, President Obama has decided against launching a world war on behalf of the Jewish State and its powerful lobby.

"We need some ability for the President to have decision-making room," said an American official. "We have a red line, which is a nuclear weapon. We're committed to that red line." The meaning of this is simple: America just doesn't buy the Israeli intelligence reports regarding Iranian intentions.

Israel is not happy. Apparently, the Israelis want to see Iran wiped out -- and soon -- and its officials have already confirmed that such an American guarantee falls far short of the Jewish state's security needs.

Ynet reported today that prime minister Netanyahu told reporters this week that "the Obama administration had no 'moral right' to restrain Israel from taking military action on its own if it refused to put limits on Iran." Ynet adds that "...the remarks were followed by reports claiming that Obama snubbed Netanyahu's request to meet during the United Nations General Assembly session in New York this month."

So it seems that for now, the Obama administration has come to its senses -- it has said NO to Jewish pressure.

Of course, this decision is far more likely to be political than ethically or morally driven. Amid the presidential election, Obama has been quick to perceive a window of opportunity that may prove to be a game winner. Obama lets the Republican party and their presidential candidate Mitt Romney operate as Netanyahu's Sabbath Goyim. Obama clears the stage for Romney who foolishly and voluntarily pushes for another Israeli war; he lets Romney be a Zionist mouthpiece, the one who scarifies America and American soldiers for Israel. Consequently, Obama presents himself as a reasonable, sensible and responsible leader -- all in all, a "real American patriot."

But, by now, one thing should be clear. Israel, as we now have long known, lacks the military capacity to destroy Iran's nuclear project and needs America to take care of it. Netanyahu and the Jewish Lobby were convinced they could, ahead of the election, pressure Obama into such a suicidal mission. They were wrong.

But still, the take-home message is plainly written on the wall: Israel and its lobby are the gravest danger to world peace and they are not going to hold back.

We've long known that the arrival of Obama did not bring peace. Like those before him, he has surrounded himself with rabid Zionist warmongers. But we can only hope that the penny has now dropped -- even if we also know that the penny isn't worth all that much anymore.

Glen Greenwald on Arab world's "ingratitude"

US media angrily marvels at the lack of Muslim gratitude

NBC News, along with a leading US newspaper, insist that Egyptians should be grateful to the US for having 'freed' them

Glenn Greenwald, Friday 14 September 2012 11.51 EDT

One prominent strain shaping American reaction to the protests in the Muslim world is bafflement, and even anger, that those Muslims are not more grateful to the US. After all, goes this thinking, the US bestowed them with the gifts of freedom and democracy – the very rights they are now exercising – so how could they possibly be anything other than thankful? Under this worldview, it is especially confounding that the US, their savior and freedom-provider, would be the target of their rage.

On Wednesday, USA Today published an article with the headline "After attacks in Egypt and Libya, USA Today asks: Why?" The paper appeared to tell its readers that it was the US that freed the Egyptian people from tyranny:

"Attacks in Libya that left four US diplomats dead – including Ambassador Christopher Stevens – and a mob invasion of the US Embassy in Cairo, in which the US flag was torn to shreds, have left many to wonder: How can people the USA helped free from murderous dictators treat it in such a way?"

Did you know that the "USA helped free" Egyptians from their murderous dictator? On Thursday night, NBC News published a nine-minute report on Brian Williams' "Rock Center" program featuring its foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, reporting on the demonstrations in Cairo, which sounded exactly the same theme. Standing in front of protesting Egyptians in Tahrir Square, Engel informed viewers that this was all so very baffling because it was taking place "in Cairo, where the US turned its back on its old friend Hosni Mubarak", and then added:

"It is somewhat ironic with American diplomats inside the embassy who helped to give these demonstrators, these protesters, a voice, and allowed them to actually carry out these anti-American clashes that we're seeing right now."

That it was the US who freed Egyptians and "allowed them" the right to protest would undoubtedly come as a great surprise to many Egyptians. That is the case even beyond the decades of arming, funding and general support from the US for their hated dictator (to his credit, Engel including a snippet of an interview with Tariq Ramadan pointing out that the US long supported the region's dictators).

Beyond the long-term US support for Mubarak, Egyptians would likely find it difficult to reconcile Engel's claim that the US freed them with the "made in USA" logos on the tear gas cannisters used against them by Mubarak's security forces; or with Hillary Clinton's touching 2009 declaration that "I really consider President and Mrs Mubarak to be friends of my family"; or with Obama's support for Mubarak up until the very last minute when his downfall became inevitable; or with the fact that the Obama administration plan was to engineer the ascension of the loathed, US-loyal torturer Omar Suleiman as Mubarak's replacement in the name of "stability".

Given the history of the US in Egypt, both long-term and very recent, it takes an extraordinary degree of self-delusion and propaganda to depict Egyptian anger toward the US as "ironic" on the ground that it was the US who freed them and "allowed" them the right to protest. But that is precisely the theme being propagated by most US media outlets.

Even in Libya, where it's certainly true that many Libyans are happy about the Nato intervention, this bafflement is misplaced. It's always the case that some portion of the populace of an invaded nation will be happy about even the most unjustified invasions: that the Kurds are thrilled by the Iraq war is a fact still cited by Iraq war advocates as proof of the war's justness and wisdom.

But it's also the case that such invasions produce extreme anger, as well: among the families of those killed by the invading forces, or who suffer from the resulting lawlessness and instability. Combine that with the fact that it was repeatedly noted that US involvement in Libya meant that anti-US extremists, including al-Qaida, were being armed and empowered by the US, it is far from mystifying, as Secretary Clinton insisted, that some people in Libya are deeply hostile to the US and want to do it harm.

In the same report, Engel also spent several moments explaining that the primary reason these Muslims have such animosity toward the US is because their heads have been filled for years with crazy conspiracy theories about how the US and Israel are responsible for their woes. These conspiracies, he said, were fed to them by their dictators to distract attention from their own corruption.

Let's leave aside the irony of the American media decrying crazy "conspiracy theories" in other countries, when it is the US that attacked another country based on nonexistent weapons and fabricated secret alliances with al-Qaida. One should acknowledge that there is some truth to Engel's claim that the region's tyrants fueled citizen rage toward the US and Israel as a means of distracting from their own failings and corruption.

But to act as though Muslim anger toward the US and Israel is primarily the by-product of crazy conspiracy theories is itself a crazy conspiracy theory. It's in the world of reality, not conspiracy, where the US and Israel have continuously brought extreme amounts of violence to the Muslim world, routinely killing their innocent men, women and children. Listening to Engel, one would never know about tiny little matters like the bombing of Gaza and Lebanon, the almost five-decade long oppression of Palestinians, the widely hated, child-killing drone campaign, or the attack on Iraq.

And it's in the world of reality, not conspiracy, where the US really has continuously interfered in their countries' governance by propping up and supporting their dictators. Intense Muslim animosity toward the US, including in Egypt, long pre-dates this film, and the reasons aren't hard to discern. That's precisely why the US supported tyranny in these countries for so long: to ensure that the citizens' views, so contrary to US policy, would be suppressed and rendered irrelevant.

It doesn't take a propagandized populace to be angry at the US for such actions. It takes a propagandized populace to be shocked at that anger and to view it with bafflement and resentment on the ground that they should, instead, be grateful because we "freed" them.

But to see why exactly such a propagandized populace exists in the US and has been led to believe such myth and conspiracies, simply read that USA Today article or watch the NBC News report on these protests as they convince Americans that gratitude, rather than resentment, should be the sentiment people in that region feel toward the US.

Robert Fisk The Forgotten Massacre

The forgotten massacre
The Independent

Thirty years after 1,700 Palestinians were killed at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps, Robert Fisk revisits the killing fields

Saturday 15 September 2012

The memories remain, of course. The man who lost his family in an earlier massacre, only to watch the young men of Chatila lined up after the new killings and marched off to death. But – like the muck piled on the garbage tip amid the concrete hovels – the stench of injustice still pervades the camps where 1,700 Palestinians were butchered 30 years ago next week. No-one was tried and sentenced for a slaughter, which even an Israeli writer at the time compared to the killing of Yugoslavs by Nazi sympathisers in the Second World War. Sabra and Chatila are a memorial to criminals who evaded responsibility, who got away with it.

Khaled Abu Noor was in his teens, a would-be militiaman who had left the camp for the mountains before Israel's Phalangist allies entered Sabra and Chatila. Did this give him a guilty conscience, that he was not there to fight the rapists and murderers? "What we all feel today is depression," he said. "We demanded justice, international trials – but there was nothing. Not a single person was held responsible. No-one was put before justice. And so we had to suffer in the 1986 camps war (at the hands of Shia Lebanese) and so the Israelis could slaughter so many Palestinians in the 2008-9 Gaza war. If there had been trials for what happened here 30 years ago, the Gaza killings would not have happened."

He has a point, of course. While presidents and prime ministers have lined up in Manhattan to mourn the dead of the 2001 international crimes against humanity at the World Trade Centre, not a single Western leader has dared to visit the dank and grubby Sabra and Chatila mass graves, shaded by a few scruffy trees and faded photographs of the dead. Nor, let it be said – in 30 years – has a single Arab leader bothered to visit the last resting place of at least 600 of the 1,700 victims. Arab potentates bleed in their hearts for the Palestinians but an airfare to Beirut might be a bit much these days – and which of them would want to offend the Israelis or the Americans?

It is an irony – but an important one, nonetheless – that the only nation to hold a serious official enquiry into the massacre, albeit flawed, was Israel. The Israeli army sent the killers into the camps and then watched – and did nothing – while the atrocity took place. A certain Israeli Lieutenant Avi Grabowsky gave the most telling evidence of this. The Kahan Commission held the then defence minister Ariel Sharon personally responsible, since he sent the ruthless anti-Palestinian Phalangists into the camps to "flush out terrorists" – "terrorists" who turned out to be as non-existent as Iraq's weapons of mass destruction 21 years later.

Sharon lost his job but later became prime minister, until broken by a stroke which he survived – but which took from him even the power of speech. Elie Hobeika, the Lebanese Christian militia leader who led his murderers into the camp – after Sharon had told the Phalange that Palestinians had just assassinated their leader, Bashir Gemayel – was murdered years later in east Beirut. His enemies claimed the Syrians killed him, his friends blamed the Israelis; Hobeika, who had "gone across" to the Syrians, had just announced he would "tell all" about the Sabra and Chatila atrocity at a Belgian court, which wished to try Sharon.

Of course, those of us who entered the camps on the third and final day of the massacre – 18 September, 1982 – have our own memories. I recall the old man in pyjamas lying on his back on the main street with his innocent walking stick beside him, the two women and a baby shot next to a dead horse, the private house in which I sheltered from the killers with my colleague Loren Jenkins of The Washington Post – only to find a dead young woman lying in the courtyard beside us. Some of the women had been raped before their killing. The armies of flies, the smell of decomposition. These things one remembers.

Abu Maher is 65 – like Khaled Abu Noor, his family originally fled their homes in Safad in present-day Israel – and stayed in the camp throughout the massacre, at first disbelieving the women and children who urged him to run from his home. "A woman neighbour started screaming and I looked out and saw her shot dead and her daughter tried to run away and the killers chased her, saying "Kill her, kill her, don't let her go!" She shouted to me and I could do nothing. But she escaped."

Repeated trips back to the camp, year after year, have built up a narrative of astonishing detail. Investigations by Karsten Tveit of Norwegian radio and myself proved that many men, seen by Abu Maher being marched away alive after the initial massacre, were later handed by the Israelis back to the Phalangist killers – who held them prisoner for days in eastern Beirut and then, when they could not swap them for Christian hostages, executed them at mass graves.

And the arguments in favour of forgetfulness have been cruelly deployed. Why remember a few hundred Palestinians slaughtered when 25,000 have been killed in Syria in 19 months?

Supporters of Israel and critics of the Muslim world have written to me in the last couple of years, abusing me for referring repeatedly to the Sabra and Chatila massacre, as if my own eye-witness account of this atrocity has – like a war criminal – a statute of limitations. Given these reports of mine (compared to my accounts of Turkish oppression) one reader has written to me that "I would conclude that, in this case (Sabra and Chatila), you have an anti-Israeli bias. This is based solely on the disproportionate number of references you make to this atrocity…"

But can one make too many? Dr Bayan al-Hout, widow of the PLO's former ambassador to Beirut, has written the most authoritative and detailed account of the Sabra and Chatila war crimes – for that is what they were – and concludes that in the years that followed, people feared to recall the event. "Then international groups started talking and enquiring. We must remember that all of us are responsible for what happened. And the victims are still scarred by these events – even those who are unborn will be scarred – and they need love." In the conclusion to her book, Dr al-Hout asks some difficult – indeed, dangerous – questions: "Were the perpetrators the only ones responsible? Were the people who committed the crimes the only criminals? Were even those who issued the orders solely responsible? Who in truth is responsible?"

In other words, doesn't Lebanon bear responsibility with the Phalangist Lebanese, Israel with the Israeli army, the West with its Israeli ally, the Arabs with their American ally? Dr al-Hout ends her investigation with a quotation from Rabbi Abraham Heschel who raged against the Vietnam war. "In a free society," the Rabbi said, "some are guilty, but all are responsible."

Timeline: Sabra and Chatila

14 September 1982

Lebanon's Christian President-elect, Bashir Gemayel, is assassinated by a pro-Syrian militant but his loyalists blame the Palestinians.

16 September 1982

Lebanese Christian militiamen enter camps at Sabra and Chatila to carry out revenge attacks on Palestinian refugees, with occupying Israeli forces guarding the camps and firing flares to aid the attacks at night.

18 September 1982

After three days of rape, fighting and brutal executions, militias finally leave the camps with 1,700 dead.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Kurt Eighenwald interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! Eichenwald finds "smoking gun" proving that Bush administration new details of 9/11 attack, but chose not to stop it, but to let it happen and use it to justify military crusade and police state measures

Newly disclosed documents provide further evidence the administration of George W. Bush ignored repeated warnings about Osama bin Laden’s plans to attack the United States. In "500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars,” author and journalist Kurt Eichenwald fleshes out how the Bush administration dismissed a number of warnings of an al-Qaeda attack against the United States beginning in the spring of 2001, instead focusing on alleged threats from Saddam Hussein in Iraq. [includes rush transcript]


Kurt Eichenwald, award-winning journalist and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. His latest book is called 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars. He is also author of The Informant.

"The Deafness Before the Storm." By Kurt Eichenwald. (New York Times Op-Ed, Sept. 10, 2012)
"500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars." By Kurt Eichenwald (Simon Schuster, 2012)
Kurt Eichenwald’s Website
The 9/11 Decade: Timeline of Voices of Dissent on Democracy Now!

Rush Transcript

This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.Donate >

NERMEEN SHAIKH: One day after the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, we begin the show by talking about newly disclosed documents that provide further evidence the Bush administration ignored repeated warnings about Osama bin Laden’s plans to attack the United States. Writing in the New York Times, journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald reports the Bush administration dismissed a number of warnings of an al-Qaeda attack in the United States beginning in the spring of 2001, instead focusing on Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Eichenwald writes, quote, "the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to [this] theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat," end-quote.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, to talk about the significance of these findings, we’re joined by the author himself, Kurt Eichenwald, an award-winning journalist, contributing editor at Vanity Fair. His op-ed in the New York Times yesterday is called, "The Deafness Before the Storm." His latest book, 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, also author of the book The Informant.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!

KURT EICHENWALD: Thanks for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Kurt, lay out the chronology for us. A lot of people know August 6, 2001, right before the September 11th attacks. Explain then that memo and then how you went back.

KURT EICHENWALD: Well, actually, that is the way to look at this, is sort of backwards. In 2004, the 9/11 Commission hearings were coming down and saying, "We want to see these presidential daily briefs." And the Bush administration fought releasing them. They finally released the August 6th one, which had the now-infamous headline, "Bin Laden determined to strike U.S." And in her testimony, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser at the time, said this was merely a historical document. It was a review of, you know, bin Laden and al-Qaeda and their intents and what they’ve done. And actually, when you read it, that is what it was. And it was also a red herring, because—I can’t say that’s why they released it, but it certainly was convenient, because that document was the only one of the many that had gone out over the previous few months that was historical. All the others were: "There is an attack coming," "There’s an attack coming that’s going to be devastating. There are going to be mass casualties," "There is a terrorist cell in the United States that is plotting to strike," I mean, with a great deal of table pounding. And there was—and I don’t want to keep picking on Secretary Rice, but she did—in that, she did testify, "If we had been made aware that there was an attack coming, we would have done something." Well, they were made aware. And, you know, in the end, what these documents show is that the Bush administration was not at that point prepared to consider al-Qaeda and these kind of non-state terrorist organizations as being a significant threat.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: But who are the neoconservative leaders that you point to who were more interested in Iraq than in listening to what’s happening with al-Qaeda, what was happening?

KURT EICHENWALD: Well, the lead fellow was Paul Wolfowitz, who was the number two at the Pentagon. And, you know, one of—since this piece came out, there was members of the Bush administration—Ari Fleischer last night was saying, "Oh, Paul was kicking this idea around, but people said no, and that was it." Well, that’s a lie, you know, because when you look at the presidential daily briefs, the CIA actually had to go back and put together an entire brief saying, "No, we’re not being fooled. This is real. Let’s have to deal" — and it’s going to the president of the United States. There’s a debate playing out to the president of the United States, in June of—June 29th of 2001, about whether these warnings are even worth listening to. So, you know, it’s a very serious, serious circumstance.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Who else is privy to the briefs, apart from the president? Who else heard the briefings from the CIA?

KURT EICHENWALD: Well, it would have gone to the vice president. It would have—there are two levels of briefings. There are the presidential daily briefs, and then there’s a second level down called the SEIB. And that gets around a broader roof of people. Now, elements of what are in the presidential daily briefs are also in the SEIB. And those—so I can say that some elements of what I’m saying were wide—were among the whole national security senior advisory group within the Bush administration.

AMY GOODMAN: This is a clip from April 8th, 2004, of the secretary of state then, Condoleezza Rice, testifying in a hearing before the 9/11 Commission about the attacks.

SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: There was no silver bullet that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. In hindsight, if anything might have helped stop 9/11, it would have been better information about threats inside the United States, something made very difficult by structural and legal impediments that prevented the collection and sharing of information by our law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

AMY GOODMAN: That was then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who actually spoke at the Republican National Convention this summer. Kurt Eichenwald, talk about what she said, and then talk about what you describe as the obsession, not with Osama bin Laden, but with Saddam Hussein, and how they felt this was sidetracking that targeting.

KURT EICHENWALD: OK. Well, that quote from Secretary Rice was something that, actually, to me, sort of goes to the heart of what’s so offensive here, because, you know, we can say, "Well, here are the warnings." We cannot say, "Well, if they had done x, y and z, 9/11 would have been stopped." All we can say is they had this information.

But what we also know is, now that these documents are out, the CIA did a spectacular job in developing the evidence and bringing it to the White House, and the White House didn’t listen. And so, what you had from almost the get-go was the White House and members of the administration saying, "Well, the intelligence wasn’t good enough," and "Oh, if we had only had something else." And they get to the point of saying, "Well, we weren’t given a place and a time," as if, you know, we’re talking about an invitation to a birthday party. I mean, the way intelligence works, you don’t say, "On Tuesday, March—you know, September 11th, there will be an attack here." If you have that much information, it would simply be: "We’ve arrested these people."

And the thing to bear in mind—I’ll throw one more little fact out. The only other time you had a series of threat alerts on the scale of what you had on the summer of 2001 was in December of 1999. And it was: bin Laden is about to strike. I mean, same thing, very, very similar. And the entire government went on high alert. You had, you know, the Counterterrorism Center in their terrace—Counterterrorist Center at the CIA was told, "Don’t worry about your budget." And they blew through their first nine months of the year budget in 15 days. And, you know, this—yes, I mean, it’s—this was a full-court-press "we’re going to stop them." And they picked up terrorists around the world. You know, the one people know about is the fellow who was planning to bomb Los Angeles International Airport. But there were people picked up in Indonesia, there were people picked up in Pakistan, who were going to attack American interests there. And so, that was very, very successful. And it was successful because the government has the ability and the capacity to go on high alert. What the Bush administration did was say, "This is very concerning. Let’s have a meeting, you know, and let’s put out notices to our embassies and put out notices to our military: you know, be particularly careful." But it’s not the same thing.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about Saddam Hussein here, the significance of the problem of it being Osama bin Laden for the neocons in the White House, because they wanted to get Saddam Hussein?

KURT EICHENWALD: Well, there, you just sort of have to understand the shift that took place in that period. The Republicans had been out of the White House since '92. When they left, the nation state was the enemy—you know, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, whoever you wanted to pick. And Saddam was, you know, the center of the war. They leave. And during the time from ’92 through 2000, the detached threat, the non-nation-state threat, develops. Al-Qaeda develops. We hadn't heard of al-Qaeda before that time. And so, when they get—when the Republicans get back into office, they have spent the last year on the outside, you know, rattling the "We have to take down Iraq, and Clinton isn’t taking down Iraq" saber. And they get back in, and the Clinton people tell them, "The most important thing you’re going to deal with over the next few years is bin Laden." But they haven’t adapted to that. This is a new world. And it’s, "No, Iraq is the most important." So they’re still in that old mindset. And unfortunately, facts started being shoved into that mindset. If you had a piece of information come up, "Well, how does that relate to Iraq? What did bin Laden say? Well, how does that relate to Iraq? What’s for breakfast today? Well, how does that relate to Iraq?"

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Kurt Eichenwald, I want to turn to your appearance on MSNBC yesterday, where you were joined by Republican governor of New York, George Pataki, who challenged the premise of your book and much of what you’re saying now, your book 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars.

GEORGE PATAKI: I just think this is incredibly unfortunate, to be perfectly honest, because, first of all, having been there on September 11th and for weeks, months thereafter, President Bush provided inspired, effective leadership. And September 11th, everything changed. And to look 11 years later and say, "Aha! This was happening before September 11th in the summer," and to go through and selectively take out quotes and say, "You should have done that, you should of done that," I think it’s incredibly unfair and a disservice to history. And, by the way, you know, if you look back, there are those who could have said, "President Roosevelt was at fault for Pearl Harbor. Look at all the intelligence."

KURT EICHENWALD: And there are a lot of people who do say that.

GEORGE PATAKI: But the government didn’t look back and say, "Let’s blame the president." It came together to fight an important war. We came together to fight an important war. Wait, you could also look back, Kurt, and say that you got intelligence we were going to be attacked. Of course, we had already been attacked. The towers were blown up in '93. And I don't think it serves us any point to say that then the Clinton administration treated it as a criminal act as opposed to a terrorist act.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was George Pataki, who was governor of New York when the 9/11 attacks happened. Your response?

KURT EICHENWALD: There has been, over the last 24 hours, a quite a disturbing response from the Republicans, which is actually surprising, because what I’m doing is I am writing a history. This is what happened. I don’t come in and say something horrific about, well, this is what, you know, should be done, and they should have acted in this way, and they could have stopped 9/11. I never say any of that. I have said, this is what they did in '99, and it worked, and they could have done that. But, you know, what is sort of the conceit of what Governor Pataki is saying is, "Well, we don't want to hear the history, because George Bush did a great job after 9/11, and whatever happened beforehand is irrelevant." His comment about Roosevelt, I mean, this would be as if we were saying, in 1956, we couldn’t talk about the history of what happened before the bombing, before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Well, it’s 11 years before. It’s history. And unfortunately, so much in this country now gets seen through this partisan prism, that when you’re dealing with "here’s what happened," people don’t want—you know, people don’t want to hear it if it doesn’t fit the talking points of the day.

AMY GOODMAN: The people who threatened to quit within the CIA, I mean, this wasn’t just a minor issue. You had a whole group of people who—we remember when Cheney went repeatedly to the CIA, saying, "You’re not giving me the information I want to attack Saddam Hussein." The White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke, September 12th, Bush comes up to him and says, "I need information on Saddam Hussein." But the CIA folks who were talking about it being Osama bin Laden when the rest were pushing them to say Saddam Hussein?

KURT EICHENWALD: Well, I think what you’re talking about is the July 9th meeting at the CIA, where the counterterrorism people all got together. And again, this goes to exactly what Governor Pataki was saying. It’s like, "We get these warnings all the time. And there was something in ’93," you know, as if—as if there’s no purpose for counterterrorism, because, oh, we all know they’re going to come at us all the time. Well, the people who put together the intelligence, the people who were there, day in, day out, the people who were the ones listening in on the phone calls, the people who are protecting American citizens were sitting in a conference room saying, "We need to put in for a mass transfer, because this is coming, and it’s going to be really bad." And—

AMY GOODMAN: And they’re going to be blamed for it.

KURT EICHENWALD: And they’re going to be blamed for it. And the senior fellow in the room says — this is a scene in 500 Days — senior fellow in the room says, "There’s nobody more qualified than us to ride this thing down. They’re not going to be able to get people in here who are qualified, and we are going to be the ones here holding the bag," and, you know, which is exactly what happened. They’re sitting there saying, not, you know, "Oh, what’s the next thing we can do?" They’re saying, "We’ve done everything we can do. They won’t act. It’s going to happen. It’s going to be bad. We’re going to be blamed." And all the—the only thing they failed to do was to get the White House off the dime, and that wasn’t their responsibility.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: One of the most interesting accounts in your book is of President Bush trying to persuade—then-President Bush trying to persuade French President Jacques Chirac to support U.S. military action in Iraq. You write that Bush said to Chirac, quote, "Jacques, you and I share a common faith. You’re Roman Catholic, I’m Methodist, but we are both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible. We share one common Lord." Bush goes on to say, quote, "Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East. Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase His people’s enemies before a new age begins," end-quote. Can you elaborate on that exchange?

KURT EICHENWALD: That was a very interesting day when I heard that. This was a phone call—at that point, Chirac had been expressing a great deal of doubt about the intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. His doubts obviously were well placed. And Bush was trying to get a unified—you know, unified effort behind getting a resolution from the U.N. and then for military action. And Chirac was not being particularly cooperative, for the very reason he didn’t trust the intelligence. And so there’s this phone call, and Bush is, you know, giving many reasons why France should become part of a—why Chirac should be joining in. And he’s not having a lot of success. And suddenly you shift into this religious conversation.

And Chirac’s response to this was, you know, he gets off the phone—and other people had been—you know, had been in on the call, and he looks at his staff and says, "Does anyone know what he was talking about?" And they—his administration, someone there reaches out to an expert on the Bible in Switzerland, and this person—because it’s like, what is Gog and Magog? And this person writes up a report for—I mean, I just say this, and it’s surreal. He writes a report for the French president explaining these biblical terms that were cited by the president of the United States in this national security conversation. And Gog and Magog are two—are from two the books of the Bible, one the Book of Ezekiel and one the Book of Revelation. And it is central elements in, you know, the apocalyptic—you know, the Armageddon concept. And so, Chirac’s response when he reads this is, "I’m dealing with a fanatic, and I’m not going to make, you know, national security decisions for France based on someone—you know, the president’s interpretation of the Bible."

AMY GOODMAN: Kurt Eichenwald, we have to end this conversation, but the book is fascinating, 500 Days. We’d like to ask you to stay after the show so we can do part two and then broadcast it on Democracy Now! and put it online at Kurt Eichenwald is a contributing writer at Vanity Fair. His latest book, 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Don't Call It 'Raising the Retirement Age,' Because That's Not What They're Doing By Jim Naureckas

September 09, 2012 "FAIR" -- As Dean Baker noted (Beat the Press, 9/7/12), corporate media mostly missed one of the major pieces of news in President Barack Obama's speech to the Democratic National Convention.

Talking about the federal budget deficit, Obama said, "Now, I’m still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission." Then, as he talked about what he would and wouldn't do to reduce the deficit, he included this line: "And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it–not by turning it over to Wall Street."

"Responsible steps to strengthen it"–what does that mean? Dean Baker helpfully paraphrases:

President Obama implicitly called for cutting Social Security by 3 percent and phasing in an increase in the normal retirement age to 69 when he again endorsed the deficit reduction plan put forward by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairs of his deficit commission.

This would be a good thing for voters to know about, wouldn't it?

Baker's blog post explains the 3 percent thing–the result of proposed games with the cost of living adjustment. As for raising the retirement age, that requires further discussion–because that's one of the big lies of the Social Security discussion.

The thing is, nobody who proposes raising the retirement age is really proposing raising the retirement age. If you were just raising the retirement age, you'd have to wait until you were (say) 69 to stop working, but when you did, you get the same benefits that you would now if you retired at age 69.

But no one's proposing that–because that would save hardly any money. The way Social Security works is that you can retire whenever you want starting at age 62–but the longer you wait, the more money you get. The government tries to calculate it based on life expectancy so that whatever date you pick, you end getting (on average) about the same amount of money.

So when they "raised the retirement age"–as they've been in the process of doing for decades now–they didn't say that you couldn't retire at 62 anymore. They said that if you retired at 62, you'd get less money. And you'd get less money if you retired at 63, or 64, or 65, or….

There's a more accurate way than "raising the retirement age" to describe this policy of lowering the amount of money someone at any given age receives when they retire. It's "cutting Social Security benefits."

Obama, in lock-step with Dick Cheney's policies, goes for endless war to keep the USA on top

5 Countries the U.S. Is Royally Screwing Over

From the drug war to the war on terror, the United States is wreaking havoc around the globe.

By Alex Kane

September 08, 2012 "Information Clearing House" - American history is littered with examples of military intervention and political meddling in the affairs of foreign countries. There was the US-backed overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected leader in 1953; the 1954 coup in Guatemala engineered by the Central Intelligence Agency; US funding of brutal “dirty wars” against leftists throughout Latin America in the 1970s; and much more.

The post-9/11 era is no different, though the methods of warfare have changed. US military intervention in countries like Yemen have destabilized nations and killed innocent civilians in the name of the “war on terror.” The current crop of undeclared wars the US is waging is having a deleterious impact around the world. And there’s also the so-called war on drugs, which the US continues to wage despite devastating consequences on the ground.

Here is a look at some of the specific countries where US intervention is doing immense damage.

1. Yemen

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., the Bush administration intensfied partnerships with a host of countries ruled by unsavory regimes. Yemen is one such country.

After 9/11, the US government ramped up its support for the Yemeni government, which was ruled by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a strongman who had been in power for over three decades. Under the Bush administration, this support mostly took the form of security assistance, as the US gave Yemen “advanced tactical training, weapons and surveillance equipment as well as armored vehicles, airplanes, helicopters and sea vessels,” according to a Middle East Policy Council journal article. [3]

But the destabilization of Yemen has intensified amidst the Obama administration’s stepped-up campaign of drone strikes. The Bush administration launched one drone strike [4] on Yemen in 2002. By contrast, the Obama administration has expanded the drone war immensely, and has launched scores of drone strikes on Yemen [5]. The Saleh government has claimed at times that its own air force carries out the strikes. But WikiLeaks cables show [6] that Saleh welcomed the US drone strikes while assuring the US that his regime would take credit for the strikes in a bid to quell any dissent against US meddling.

The intensification of a militarized approach to Yemen carried out by the US military and CIA came as drone strikes reportedly decimated Al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan. Concurrently, US officials turned their attention to Yemen, warning of the threat emanating from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Al Qaeda spin-off group based in Yemen.

But if the Obama administration hoped drone strikes would pacify Yemen’s most radical anti-American forces, they were dead wrong.

Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute, has done the best on-the-ground investigation of how Washington’s war on Yemen has backfired. Scahill’s February 2012 dispatch from Yemen [7] reported on the takeover of a Yemeni town, Zinjibar, by radical militants who declared themselves part of Ansar al-Sharia, a group that espouses an extreme Islamist ideology. The Yemeni government claims that Ansar al-Sharia is linked to AQAP. It’s unclear whether the Yemeni government’s claims are true, but what is certain is that “the group’s significance...extend[s] well beyond Al Qaeda’s historically limited spheres of influence in Yemen while simultaneously popularizing some of AQAP’s core tenets,” as Scahill writes.

The takeover of Zinjibar was no fluke. What gave radical Islamists the fuel to beat back the Yemeni government for a time was “its message of a Sharia-based system of law and order.” This message, Scahill writes, was “welcomed by many in Abyan [a region in Yemen where Zinjibar is located] who viewed the Saleh regime as a US puppet. The US missile strikes, the civilian casualties, an almost total lack of government services and a deepening poverty all contributed.” In the years preceding the 2012 takeover of Zinjibar, “cruise missile and drone attacks” have killed civilians throughout Abyan--including a 2009 drone strike that killed 40 people, many of them women and children.

The US strategy of funneling cash and military equipment to Saleh and bombing Yemen with unmanned drones has caused the varied tribes in Yemen, which hold a lot of power in the country, to brim with anger at the US. Scahill reports:

“US policy has enraged tribal leaders who could potentially keep AQAP in check and has, over the past three years of regular bombings, taken away the motivation for many leaders to do so. Several southern leaders angrily told me stories of US and Yemeni attacks in their areas that killed civilians and livestock and destroyed or damaged scores of homes. If anything, the US airstrikes and support for Saleh-family-run counterterrorism units has increased tribal sympathy for Al Qaeda.”

The cycle of violence has continued. In May, the Yemeni government launched a military campaign to retake Zinjibar. As part of that campaign, “Central Security forces opened fire with assault rifles in a crowded market in Zinjibar, killing six merchants and shoppers and wounding three dozen others,” according to Human Rights Watch [8].

And those Central Security Forces were armed, trained and funded by the U.S. to combat terrorism. But the CSF has also turned its guns on pro-democracy protesters who, inspired by the Tunisian revolution, led an uprising seeking to bring Saleh’s regime down. Central Security has been “implicated in deadly attacks on protesters during last year’s unrest” and “in abuses including unlawful detention and torture of opposition protesters during the uprising,” according to Human Rights Watch. [9]

2. Somalia

In the popular American imagination, Somalia, a country beset by corruption, poverty and famine, was left behind in the early 1990s after the Battle of Mogadishu, made famous by the movie Black Hawk Down. But recent history shows that the US continues to intervene in Somalia, making a bad situation even worse.

Predictably, U.S. policy towards Somalia is now formulated by viewing the war-torn country through the prism of the “war on terrorism.” The US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006 is one prominent example.

As the Union of Islamic Courts gained power and territory and challenged Somalia’s government, Ethiopia’s military invaded and started a three-year-war. According to Foreign Policy in Focus [10], WikiLeaks cables show that “the Bush Administration pushed Ethiopia to invade Somalia with an eye on crushing the Union of Islamic Courts.” The consequences were devastating: “It resulted in 20,000 deaths and according to some reports, left up to 2 million Somalis homeless. The 50,000-strong Ethiopian invasion force, which had expected a cake walk, instead ran into a buzz saw of Somali resistance, got bogged down and soon withdrew with its tail between its legs.” And the end result was that the more moderate Islamist forces that were defeated were replaced by “more radical and militant Islamic groups with a more openly anti-American agenda.”

Scahill’s recent on-the-ground reports from Somalia [11] add more to the picture. Despite the fact that a full-blown war was waged to defeat Islamist forces in Somalia, the most radical faction, Al Shabaab, which is linked to Al Qaeda, was “in control of a greater swath of Somalia” than the central government in 2010. Just as in Yemen, US-backed forces’ brutality had turned many Somalis away from the US, allowing radical, anti-government forces to step into the void, which led to more conflict with the central government.

Drone strikes, too, have had a similar effect. Scahill explains the Obama administration’s actions on Somalia: “When President Obama took office in 2009, the United States increased its covert military involvement in and around Somalia, as the CIA and JSOC intensified air and drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen... But as the United States began striking in Somalia, the Shabab’s influence was spreading.”

Scahill reports that US government action against Somalia emanates from Camp Lemonier, in Djibouti. This camp “serves as a command center for covert US action in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and as the launch pad for operations by the CIA and the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to strike Al Qaeda targets outside the declared battlefield of Afghanistan.”

But as anti-drone activist Nick Mottern noted on Truthout [12], “the drone experiment is not working...Factional fighting has also increased in Yemen and Somalia, where drone strikes are creating rage against the United States.”

3. Honduras

Manuel Zeyala’s election as president of Honduras in 2006 was cut short by a coup d'├ętat three years later. Zeyala’s alliance with other Latin American leftist leaders, and his moves to provide free education to children and to lessen income inequality, angered the conservative elite. In 2009, Zeyala was awoken at gunpoint by the military, whisked onto a waiting plane and flown to Costa Rica.

Initially, the United States condemned the coup. But the Obama administration’s tune quickly changed. As Dana Frank, professor of history and an expert on Honduras, writes in the Nation [13], “After almost all the opposition candidates (as well as international observers) boycotted the post-coup election that brought Lobo to power, heads of state throughout the region refused to recognize his presidency; but the United States hailed him for 'restoring democracy' and promoting 'national reconciliation.'” The US now firmly backs the presidency of Porfirio Lobo. The regime has systematically violated the human rights of many Hondurans. “The coup has unleashed a wave of violence against political opposition, journalists, small farmers and others, with impunity for the security forces that have been implicated in these killings,” as Mark Weisbrot noted in the Guardian. [14]

But instead of threatening the regime with aid cutoffs, the Obama administration has instead asked for more money to help Honduras fight the “war on drugs.”

The drug war remains the primary prism for how the US views Latin America, and in Honduras it has led to disastrous consequences. DEA agents have set up shop in the country, and the US government has helped train Honduran police in an effort to militarize aspects of the police. (It’s important to note, though, that the US government recently announced it was cutting off aid to units supervised by the new national police chief, who is suspected of human rights violations dating back to 1998.)

DEA agents were involved in a May 2012, operation that went awry. In an indigenous area of Honduras, the police, working alongside DEA agents, opened fire on a boat thought to be trafficking drugs. But local residents claim that the four villagers who were killed were civilians and had nothing to do with drugs; two of the dead were pregnant women.

The DEA operation drew widespread attention to how the US government is helping to militarize the Ahuas region in Honduras. As Sandra Cuffe and Karen Spring reported for AlterNet [15], “the presence of Honduran and US security forces has dramatically increased over the past several years and even more so since the June 2009 coup, particularly in communities along the Patuca River where recent DEA-led operations have occurred.”

The operations have greatly angered indigenous villagers. “We resolve to declare members of the Honduran and US armed forces persona non grata in the territory of the Moskitia due to their invasion and effect on security, creating situations of intimidation and fear,” one group of indigenous Hondurans wrote in a declaration made at an emergency assembly to address the killings.

4. Mexico

Latin American leaders have increasingly spoken up about the failure of the war on drugs. Despite massive amounts of money spent on prohibition, Latin America and the world is no closer to winning the decades-old “war.” Some leaders have taken to calling for legalization or decriminalization of drugs.

But in Mexico, the US-backed drug-war rolls on--and a horrific death toll keeps rising.

The US has poured money into and helped train Mexican security forces to battle drug cartels in the country. The centerpiece of US policy on Mexico is the Merida Initiative, a US government program that has spent $1.3 billion on “training and equipping Mexican security forces engaged in counterdrug efforts,” according to the Congressional Research Service [16].

Initiated by the Bush administration in 2007, the Obama administration has extended the Merida Initiative indefinitely. This money has gone to federal police and the military, which have been deployed throughout Mexico to crackdown on drug cartels. But these very same Mexican security forces have been accused of massive human rights violations.

“Instead of reducing violence, Mexico’s ‘war on drugs’ has resulted in a dramatic increase in killings, torture, and other appalling abuses by security forces, which only make the climate of lawlessness and fear worse in many parts of the country,” the Americas director of Human Rights Watch stated in 2011. [17]

The militarized effort to root out drugs in Mexico has failed miserably. Drug violence continues to increase; from 2010-2011 there was an 11 percent increase in drug-related murder in Mexico--a number the government touted as a success [18] (the previous year the increase was 70 percent).

The total death toll in Mexico is staggering: an estimated 50,000 people have died from drug war-related violence. And the failed strategy of militarizing the effort to root out drug cartels has arguably increased this violence. For example, as Mexico expert Laura Carslen noted on Democracy Now! [19], from 2007-2008, drug-related deaths went up more than two-fold. “This violence is predictable: when you fight violence with violence, what you get is more violence,” said Carlsen.

5. Pakistan

This country bordering Afghanistan has borne the brunt of US drone strikes. Forty-four strikes occurred during the Bush administration, But the Obama administration has launched over 300. Many of the strikes have taken place in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a semi-autonomous region near Afghanistan that hosts elements of the Pakistani Taliban.

The Obama administration’s strategy has “decimated” the Taliban in Pakistan, according to CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen. [20] But that’s not all the drone strikes have done.

The American drones that regularly pound Pakistan have killed a growing number of civilians, and Pakistanis are furious about the bloodshed. Since 2004, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism [5], which closely tracks drone strikes, between 474 and 881 civilians have been killed by US drone attacks; 176 of the dead were children. Over 1,000 people have been injured. As the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald noted recently [21], US drone strikes have also targeted Pakistanis going to remove the wounded and dead after an initial attack.

Speaking to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism [22], a senior Pakistani diplomat, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, laid out the costs of American drone strikes in Pakistan. The US has “directly or indirectly contributed to destabilizing or undermining the democratic government,” he said. “Because people really make fun of the democratic government – when you pass a resolution against drone attacks in the parliament, and nothing happens. The Americans don’t listen to you, and they continue to violate your territory.” Hasan also said that the drone strikes have increased anti-US sentiment and anti-government sentiment in Pakistan.

“Even those who were supporting us in the border areas have now become our enemies. They say that we are partners in these crimes against the people. So they hate us as well. They hate the Americans more,” Hasan noted.

From the “war on drugs” to the “war on terror,” the US is screwing up a multitude of countries. The military intervention and political meddling that sustains US empire continues to march on unabated—and the world continues to suffer for it.

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and a staff reporter for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane

This article was originally posted at AlterNet

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Jim Crow USA: in sports, from The Nation

Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas Speaks Out, Is Smacked Down
Dave Zirin on August 29, 2012 - 12:02 PM ET

After US gymnast Gabrielle (Gabby) Douglas made history after becoming the first person of African descent to win individual Olympic gold, I wrote that whether willingly or not she had joined the pantheon of political athletes. When it comes to “jocks for justice” there are two broad categories: “the explicit” and “the representative.” “The explicit” are people like Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King and Steve Nash: athletes who explicitly used their cultural capital to make political stands. The “representative” are those who become political symbols because they were trailblazers in their respective sports. Tiger Woods, the Williams sisters and Greg Louganis don’t necessarily have a record of political stands, but by virtue of their talent and ability to break through barriers, they carry the aspirations of countless others. Well, Gabrielle Douglas, is, at age 16, making a transition to being more explicit. She’s also learning that this comes with a price.

In the blush of Olympic Gold, the Washington Post wrote the following: “Douglas genuinely doesn’t see color—it’s not her first thought.”

Now in the Olympics aftermath, she has come forward to say that others have chosen to see it for her.

Ms. Douglas recounted her experiences with bullying and racism at the Excalibur Gym in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Oprah Winfrey. She said, “One of my teammates was like, ‘Can you scrape the bar?’ And they were like, ‘Why doesn’t Gabby do it, she’s our slave?’ I definitely felt isolated, I felt ‘Why am I deserving this? Is it because I’m black?’ I was scared at my old gym to show my potential.… I was just holding back.” She also shared that it was an atmosphere where, “I was just, you know, kind of getting racist jokes, kind of being isolated from the group. So it was definitely hard. I would come home at night and just cry my eyes out.”

Douglas should be praised for speaking out about what she faced. But instead it’s earning an outrageous response.

Randy Stageburg, a world-class gymnast who trained at Excalibur, said, “The accusations that are being made against the gymnasts and coaches are just sickening…. Gabby was never a victim. In fact, many would say she was one of the favorites…. funny how it is just now coming up.”

What gives Stageburg the paranormal ability to account for discussions he didn’t witness, he does not disclose.

Excalibur Gymnastics CEO Gustavo Maure also accused Douglas of being “a liar.” “Is Gabrielle a credible person just because she is an Olympic champion? She is not giving any names or dates, leading us to believe that the accusation is fake.”

Another gymnast, Kristina Coccia, defended Excalibur by saying there was no racism at the gym and then followed up with this whammy: “What Gabby is saying makes me sick. She should stop playing the victim and pay back the money she owes.” (There is no mention of what money Ms. Coccia is referring to or why that would be any of her concern.)

The response by Excalibur Gyms frankly speaks for itself. It also doesn’t pass any kind of a smell test. Generations of black athletes have learned that speaking out about racism is the fastest route to commercial obsolescence. You don’t see Curt Flood on the Wheaties Box.

As Gabrielle Douglas aims to become a massive crossover commercial star, there is no compelling reason for her to speak about these experiences unless they’re true and she hopes to make it easier for the next “outsider” who comes to the gym. As for Excalibur Gym, the I would just say that based on experience of living in the area, the possibility that there could be people with racist ideas in Virginia Beach is like saying Seattle has the possibility of rain.

The people at Excalibur could have and should have said, “We’re aware that racism is a problem in our world and in our state. We aim to provide as nurturing an environment as possible and will continue to work to be better.” Instead, Gabrielle Douglas is “a liar” “playing the victim” and makes people “sick.” To put it mildly, the people defending Excalibur aren’t doing themselves any favors. In fact, they seem intent on proving Ms. Douglas’s point: that Excalibur Gymnasium has more than its share of bullies.
Related Topics: Anti-Racism Activism | Racis