Written by Chris Floyd
Wednesday, 08 July 2009 16:25
We all know about the vaunted -- not to mention shameless -- "continuity" between the Bush and Obama administrations in foreign policy and "national security," with Bush's generals, and even Bush's Pentagon honcho, still running -- and expanding -- the Terror War under Barack Obama's orders, while he also wages legal war in the courts to uphold Bush's authoritarian perversions of the Constitution, and defend the war criminals in Bush's gulag -- some of whom Obama has elevated to even greater heights of power.
But surely there is some real "change" going on elsewhere in government, isn't there? How about at the throughly rotted Justice Department, where Bush cronies turned federal law into a partisan weapon, even jailing opposition political figures on trumped-up charges, like the worst kind of third-rate, tinpot tyranny? Surely Obama and his highly progressive Attorney General, Eric Holder, are going to clean out the fetid swamp of lawlessness at Justice, aren't they?
As Scott Horton notes at Harper's, the Obama Justice Department has just fired a courageous federal attorney who had sent a letter to the highly progressive Holder detailing more of the unbelievably brazen machinations of Karl Rove's cronies who put former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman in prison on specious charges after a trial before a highly partisan, interest-conflicted judge. As Horton reports:
In a nine-page June 1, 2009 letter to her boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, Tamarah Grimes, a member of the Justice Department team that prosecuted former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, itemized an astonishing list of acts of misconduct by her colleagues as they developed what they called “the Big Case.”
- [These included]: Two key witnesses were cajoled, coached, and pressured to change their testimony to better support the charges. This specifically included the key evidence given by one witness on which Siegelman was convicted. But, as Grimes notes, the witness in fact had no recollection of the events–he was pressured to recount them in a way that suited the prosecutors....
- Members of the prosecution team communicated directly with a pro-prosecution juror while the case was pending and afterwards...
- Every aspect of the case was overseen by U.S. Attorney Canary. She had nominally recused herself from the case because her husband, a friend of Karl Rove and the most prominent G.O.P. elections advisor in Alabama, was advising a campaign against Siegelman for which the prosecution provided essential grist.
Eight days after submitting these meticulously documented complaints, many of which echo concerns stated by others in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Montgomery, Grimes received a reply of sorts. She was fired. Grimes notes in a press release that she was informed of her dismissal in a letter from Terry Derden of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys.
Read the whole post for more dirty details. Horton goes on to note that just as Obama has promoted top Bush officials intimately involved in CIA torture, he has also retained "the clever consigliere of the Bush Justice Department, who amazingly continue to control all aspects of the case involving Siegelman five months into a new Democratic administration (including Leura Canary, who is still on the job in Montgomery)." As Horton puts it: "The Justice Department’s conduct looks increasingly like a Sicilian mob group: you commit the crimes the bosses order and you keep quiet about it, or the consequences will be fearsome."
That's very true; but it doesn't just apply to the Justice Department. The whole imperial court is run more and more like a crime syndicate, with periodic battles to determine which faction will be in charge of divvying up the loot. The Chicago gang has temporarily supplanted the Texas boys, but both pay obesiance to the big bosses back East, with the Bush-Obama "bailout" plans funneling trillions of dollars of public money to the mob kings of Wall Street. And of course, in classic gangster fashion, our bipartisan foreign policy elite use murder, violence -- and the constant threat of murder and violence -- to impose their will on the global neighborhood.
In any case, Don Siegelman remains a political prisoner of the United States of America -- unlike former Republican senator Ted Stevens, whom the Obama Justice Department swiftly released due to prosecutorial misconduct that comes nowhere near the brazen fixing of Canary and her crew.
As it (almost) saith in the Scriptures: They cry 'change, change,' but there is no change.
Written by Chris Floyd
Tuesday, 07 July 2009 11:28
To paraphrase our question from the other day, when is a withdrawal not a withdrawal? When it is a continued occupation. The indispensible Dahr Jamail reports on the reality behind the media hoopla over the putative pullout of American troops from Iraq's cities [see original for links]:
We have passed the June 30 deadline that, according to a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on November 17, 2008, was the date all US forces were to have been withdrawn from all of Iraq's cities. Today, however, there are at least 134,000 US soldiers in Iraq - a number barely lower than the number that were there in 2003. In addition, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified on June 9 that the United States would maintain an average of at least 100,000 troops in Iraq through fiscal year 2010.
The SOFA is a sieve, and the number of US military personnel in Iraq is remaining largely intact for now. Add to the 134,000 US soldiers almost the exact number of military contractors (132,610 and increasing), 36,061 of which, according to a recent Department of Defense report, are US citizens.
While the military and most corporate media would like you to believe that from now on no US soldiers will step foot in Iraqi cities, US military patrols in them are ongoing and will continue. In addition, there has been an assumption that all US military bases within Iraqi city limits would be moved. For example, US Army Forward Operating Base Falcon, home to 3,000 US troops, is clearly within the city limits of Baghdad. But US military officials, working with Iraqis in the US-supported Iraqi government, have other ideas. "We and the Iraqis decided it wasn't in the city," a military official told the Christian Science Monitor. Thus, city lines are redrawn, to the convenience of the US military, to render certain bases and forward operating bases "outside" of Iraqi cities.
While military commanders claim to have handed over 142 military outposts around Iraq to the Iraqis, US troops will continue to occupy 320 other outposts around Iraq. Meanwhile, the Democratically controlled Congress just passed a war-spending bill that allocated over $100 billion more for the ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the military (and military contractors) in Iraq is busily expanding and augmenting new bases in rural areas of Iraq. In fact, they are even building new bases in Iraq.
To recap: Invasion-level numbers of U.S. troops still in Iraq, along with an almost equal number of mercenaries -- who are not covered in the SOFA. U.S operations continuing in the cities; thousands of U.S. troops still stationed there. Hundreds of U.S. bases still covering the conquered land -- with plans and appropriations to build even more. Yes, that's the kind of "withdrawal" that only a militarist could love.
Jamail makes a further important point: the policies now being pushed by the Obama Administration and the American-backed Maliki regime are pointing in one direction: the balkanization of Iraq:
Regardless of the outcome, it is clear that Iraq is further down the road of Balkanization, a plan that Biden has supported for years -to have Iraq split into three rump states. There is already evidence for this - for as Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan have been forced to return home due to funding to support them having been cut due to the Maliki regime pressuring hosting countries, as well as the UN, to have them return. Those returning have been unable to return to their homes. Instead, they are being forced to relocate to either Sunni or Shia areas. Moreover, the Iraqi government has been making no effort to help them return to their original homes, which indicates the Maliki regime is interested in supporting the Balkanization of Iraq.
He rightly notes the long-term yearning of Vice Putz Joe Biden to shatter Iraq into pieces. In this, Joe is merely putting himself squarely in the mainstream of our progressive liberal interventionists. We wrote about these humanitarians back in 2007, in the middle of the sacred "surge":
And so the strategy behind the "surge" becomes clear: A united, independent Iraq cannot be allowed to exist, because such a state would not permit a permanent American military presence nor sign away the nation's oil wealth. Therefore, Iraq must be torn apart -- by sectarian strife, ethnic cleansing, terrorism and "counterinsurgency" warfare. And violence must continue until this shake-out is completed, in order to justify the continuing American presence.
While Bush pursues ethnic cleansing by stealth in Iraq -- or rather, pursues it quite openly, but just doesn't call it ethnic cleansing -- the Democrats and their outriders, the "liberal hawks" (or "humanitarian interventionists" or "Wilsonian idealists" or whatever tag they're wearing these days) are championing the policy in the public sphere. The idea of a three-way split of Iraq between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds has long been mooted in some quarters -- Joe Biden and "liberal" intellectuals like Leslie Gelb and Peter Galbraith were early enthusiasts -- and it is now gaining force within the foreign policy "clerisy" that Glenn Greenwald and Arthur Silber have been dissecting in recent days. Firedoglake points us to the incisive commentaries of Reidar Visser, "an actual expert on the regional aspects of Iraq and its history," who has lately been debunking the deeply ignorant and murderously arrogant "partition" proposals of Galbraith and others.
Visser takes aim at one of the most hideous of these proposals: "The Case for Soft Partition in Iraq," by respected "scholars" Michael O'Hanlon and Edward Joseph. When I first read of these gentlemen's work, I thought it must surely be a parody, a take-off on the deadly serious, genocidal fantasies of Philip Atkinson, who, on a website hardwired to the rightwing power grid of Frank Gaffney, James Woolsey and Dick Cheney, called for Bush to nuke Iraq, repopulate it with Americans and declare himself President-for-Life. The O-Hanlon-Joseph piece for the highly respectable Brookings Institution partakes of that same kind of murderous fantasy. As Visser notes:
...using cool academic language, the authors review the nuts and bolts of relocating somewhere between 2 and 5 million Iraqis in order to create new ethnic federal entities. Snippets from this part of the report probably speak best for themselves: “we advocate where possible dividing major cities along natural boundaries” (p. 16); “on the actual day of the relocation operation, Iraqi and US-led coalition forces would deploy in sufficient numbers to look for snipers, cover the flanks of the civilian convoys, inspect suspicious vehicles for explosives and conduct similar tasks” (p. 17); and finally, on p. 24, “this [internal border] control system would place some burdens on Iraq’s internal trade and other aspects of its economy. It would complicate the efforts of individuals to cross from one region to another to visit family and friends. For the most part these burdens would be bearable. For individuals or businesses that need to make frequent crossings across Iraq’s new internal borders, or those willing to pay for the privilege, an EZ pass system [sic] might be developed to expedite movements for those with important and regular business to conduct.”
"On the actual day of the relocation operation...." Try to imagine such a day, when millions of Iraqis are uprooted and forced to move to other areas, all under guard by "Iraqi and US-led coalition forces." Actually it's not that hard to imagine, for we have seen it before: in faded photographs and newsreel footage and films like "The Sorrow and the Pity," "Shoah," and "Schindler's List." Less familiar in the popular imagination but perhaps even more apposite are the "relocations" of ethnic populations carried out by Josef Stalin, when whole peoples, such as the Chechens, were uprooted and transported by force to other regions. Or we could of course look closer to home, at the "Trail of Tears," the deadly removal of the Cherokee from their homelands to concentration camps in Oklahoma.
These kinds of scenes are precisely what the clean-limbed O'Hanlon and his partner envisage for Iraq, followed by a life ensnared by checkpoints and passes and internal border controls. It may sound harsh, brutal and inhuman, but not to worry: "For the most part these burdens would be bearable."
I have a suggestion for Mr. O'Hanlon. I propose that he subject himself to such a regimen, then come back and tell just us how "bearable" it is. He doesn't even have to move five million Iraqis under armed guard to participate in this experiment: he can go to Palestine right now, where the people already live under his kind of "soft partition." Let him try it on for himself, just for a few months -- not the lifelong sentence he proposes for the Iraqis. We can even give him an "EZ Pass" to expedite any "important business" he needs to do.
This is the brutal, arrogant, oblivious mindset that Barack Obama very deliberately brought into the inner circles of his White House, choosing Joe Biden as his vice president and giving him great influence in foreign policy. When it comes to the enduring bipartisan consensus in support of violent imperial domination, the only "change" Obama has wrought is the new decor in the Oval Office.
Written by Chris Floyd
Thursday, 07 March 2013 23:54
As'ad AbuKhalil points us to this rather eye-boggling -- and revealing -- passage from AP's obituary of Hugo Chavez:
Chavez invested Venezuela's oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world's tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi.
My god, to think such evil once walked this earth!
Earlier, AbuKhalil had this take on Chavez's death:
I have never been a fan of Chavez but I am much less of a fan of his enemies and critics in the West or in the East. ... Chavez allowed opposition media (many of which were funded or supported by the US government no doubt) but the New York Times commented (in its most silly obituary of the man) that he compelled opposition media to carry his speeches. Wow. That is something that is not done in the various dictatorships that US supports and cuddles, which don't allow any vestiges of opposition media. Chavez was certainly more democratic in his rule than China, Russia, and all the Arab dictatorships and Central Asian dictatorships that the US supports, funds, and arms. but he was turned in the media as a twin of the North Korean dictator. This comes to show you that the standards of Western governments and media have nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with 1) defiance against US will; 2) with the extent to which [a] regime allows multinational corporations to exploit and steal in a particular nation. Chavez's championing of the poor was certainly offensive to Western governments and media. That we know.
We do indeed. I recall the NY Times' first story on the death (since updated), which told us that Chavez -- elected four times against full-throttled opposition in democratic elections vetted by international observers -- won his power by "tapping into the resentments of his country's poor."
Their "resentments." Obviously, the poor of Venezuela -- a vast majority when Chavez was first elected -- were full of "resentment" at their subjugation at the hands of a monied elite. They didn't feel justified anger at their plight, they were not motivated by common human aspirations to secure a better life for themselves and their children; no, it was only "resentment" at their more deserving masters that drove them to support a man who -- dast one even say it? -- did not worship at the altar of America's imperial greatness. There could no other reason for such uppity behavior.
There were also rich pickings in the NYT's many other bashings of the dead man -- such as William Neuman's declaration that Chavez left behind "a bitterly divided nation in the grip of a political crisis" or Rory Carroll's crocodile-teared lament for "the decay, dysfunction and blight that afflict the economy and every state institution" in Venezuela. One can only say that these New York sages should perhaps take a gander southward toward the Potomac if they want to see political crisis, dysfunction and blight writ far larger -- and deeper and more destructive -- than anything Chavez could have wrought in his country.
Oh well. The incessant denigration of the majority of humankind by rulers and their sniveling sycophants has been going on since the first whips were laid across the backs of slaves building dolmens and gathering flints. Maybe one day our idiotic race will get tired of it.
Or does that sound -- OMG! -- resentful?
Written by Chris Floyd
Thursday, 07 March 2013 00:36
The truth-telling of the imprisoned Bradley Manning continues to bear rich fruit, even as he faces a lifetime in prison for acting on principle to save innocent lives and prevent his country from staining itself further with war crimes. This week, the Guardian released a special investigation into the hideous regime of torture that the United States imposed and empowered during its years-long rape of Iraq.
The Guardian report draws on the trove of documents that Manning gave to Wikileaks (and the now diplomatically "sequestered" Julian Assange) to provide new details on the direct links of America's highest officials -- including the bipartisanly adored and now much mourned retired apparatchik David Petraeus -- to the torture of tens of thousands of Iraqis.
In many ways, of course, it's hardly a revelation that American forces were deeply involved in torture during the "extraordinary achievement" (B. Obama) in Iraq. Some cranks have been writing about it since the earliest days of the invasion -- as in this piece, from August 2003:
Here's a headline you don't see every day: "War Criminals Hire War Criminals to Hunt Down War Criminals."
Perhaps that's not the precise wording used by the Washington Post this week, but it is the absolute essence of its story about the Bush Regime's new campaign to put Saddam's murderous security forces on America's payroll.
Yes, the sahibs in Bush's Iraqi Raj are now doling out American tax dollars to hire the murderers of the infamous Mukhabarat and other agents of the Baathist Gestapo – perhaps hundreds of them. The logic, if that's the word, seems to be that these bloodstained "insiders" will lead their new imperial masters to other bloodstained "insiders" responsible for bombing the UN headquarters in Baghdad – and killing another dozen American soldiers while Little George was playing with his putts during his month-long Texas siesta.
Naturally, the Iraqi people – even the Bush-appointed leaders of the Potemkin "Governing Council" – aren't exactly overjoyed at seeing Saddam's goons return, flush with American money and firepower. And they're certainly not reassured by the fact that the Bushists have also re-opened Saddam's most notorious prison, the dread Abu Ghraib, and are now, Mukhabarat-like, filling it with Iraqis – men, women and children as young as 11 – seized from their homes or plucked off the street to be held incommunicado, indefinitely, without due process, just like the old days. As The Times reports, weeping relatives who dare approach the gleaming American razor-wire in search of their "disappeared" loved ones are referred to a crude, hand-written sign pinned to a spike: "No visits are allowed, no information will be given and you must leave." Perhaps an Iraqi Akhmatova will do justice to these scenes one day.
There were many, many more where that came from, from many sources, as the mosaic of horror built up, fragment by fragment. Unfortunately, America's multifarious war crime in Iraq is news that stays news -- because awareness of the depth of evil we wrought there has scarcely penetrated the American public consciousness. And of course, the Wikileaks documents give more form and substance to the piecemeal parceling of earlier truth fragments.
The Guardian pieces focus on the long lineage of the American way of torture, as represented by the figure of James Steele, a Special Forces offer who made his bones in the torture racket during the murderous American-backed, American-trained, American-funded "counterinsurgency" campaigns in Latin America during the 1980s. Steele has a little pal back in those days by the name of Davy Petraeus; later, the two worked cheek-by-jowl in Iraq to foment a hell on earth of sectarian violence and state terror.
In June 2004 Petraeus arrived in Baghdad with the brief to train a new Iraqi police force with an emphasis on counterinsurgency. Steele and serving US colonel James Coffman introduced Petraeus to a small hardened group of police commandos, many of them among the toughest survivors of the old regime, including General Adnan Thabit …With Steele and Coffman as his point men, Petraeus began pouring money from a multi-million dollar fund into what would become the Special Police Commandos. According to the US Government Accounts Office, they received a share of an $8.2bn (£5.4bn) fund paid for by the US tax payer. The exact amount they received is classified. With Petraeus' almost unlimited access to money and weapons, and Steele's field expertise in counterinsurgency the stage was set for the commandos to emerge as a terrifying force.
One more element would complete the picture. The US had barred members of the violent Shia militias like the Badr Brigade and the Mahdi Army from joining the security forces, but by the summer of 2004 they had lifted the ban. Shia militia members from all over the country arrived in Baghdad "by the lorry-load" to join the new commandos. These men were eager to fight the Sunnis: many sought revenge for decades of Sunni-supported, brutal Saddam rule, and a chance to hit back at the violent insurgents and the indiscriminate terror of al-Qaida.
Petraeus and Steele would unleash this local force on the Sunni population as well as the insurgents and their supporters and anyone else who was unlucky enough to get in the way. It was classic counterinsurgency. It was also letting a lethal, sectarian genie out of the bottle. The consequences for Iraqi society would be catastrophic. At the height of the civil war two years later, 3,000 bodies a month were turning up on the streets of Iraq — many of them innocent civilians of sectarian war that ignited on both side.
Again, it's been known for years -- to anyone who wants to know -- that the vicious sectarian civil war in Iraq was deliberately seeded and pushed by the Pentagon brass and their White House bosses. [For an in-depth look, see Ulster on the Eurphrates: The Anglo-American Dirty War in Iraq.] As the Guardian investigation confirms, Petraeus was hip-deep in the process. The aim of this deeply evil program, one supposes, was to achieve the "creative destruction" so beloved of the neocon savants who provided the "intellectual" framework for the Hitlerian act of aggression. True to their Trotskyist roots, they longed for the cleansing fire of war and ruin to clear the ground for their fanatical, world-shaping dreams. (Unlike Trotsky, of course, they never led troops in the field or put their own lives on the line.) Or as that deep thinker Glenn Reynolds once put it, gleefully: "More rubble, less trouble."
What happened, of course, was the opposite: more rubble meant more trouble, and the shallow fools and blithering incompetents who comprise the American leadership class lost control of the situation. The carnage was so horrific that it threatened to damage the whole war-profiteering enterprise; why, there were even a few timorous calls among some quadrants of the elite suggesting that maybe it was time to begin thinking about considering the idea of mulling over at some unspecified point in the future the vague possibility of maybe thinking about considering the possibility of ending the war sometime, maybe, somewhere down the line. This tinkling trickle of potential opposition was quickly quelled, however, with the great googily-moogily "Surge": another invasion with thousands of American troops, more bribes for Sunni extremists, plus months of maniacal, American-backed "ethnic cleansing" to help Shiite collaborators eke out a victory in the civil war.
In one of the many blood-dark ironies of the war, Petraeus was put in charge of the murderous effort to stem the sectarian violence he had been fomenting at Washington's command. When the killing levels were no longer at historically unprecedented levels but were merely the worst anywhere in the world, the "surge" was proclaimed a great triumph, and Petraeus was the bipartisan hero of the hour.
(Speaking of bipartisan, let us not forget the Bush Regime bloodbath in Iraq was preceded by the murder of upwards of a million innocent Iraqis -- including an officially admitted total of 500,000 children -- in the ruthless sanction regime imposed by the good ole Big Dawg himself back in the 90s.)
But while he was showering in accolades on Capitol Hill, this is what the system installed by Petraeus and Steele and their Washington masters was doing back in Iraq:
The commandos set up a network of secret detention centres where insurgents could be brought and information extracted from them. The commandos used the most brutal methods to make detainees talk. There is no evidence that Steele or Coffman took part in these torture sessions, but General Muntadher al Samari, a former general in the Iraqi army, who worked after the invasion with the US to rebuild the police force claims that they knew exactly what was going on and were even supplying the commandos with lists of people they wanted brought in. He says he tried to stop the torture on several occasions, but failed and fled the country.
"We were having lunch. Col Steele, Col Coffman, and the door opened and Captain Jabr was there torturing a prisoner. He [the victim] was hanging upside down and Steele got up and just closed the door, he didn't say anything – it was just normal for him."
He says there were 13 to 14 secret prisons in Baghdad under the control of the Interior Ministry and used by the Special Police Commandos. He alleges that Steele and Coffman had access to all these prisons and that he visited one in Baghdad with both men. "They were secret, never declared. But the American top brass and the Iraqi leadership knew all about these prisons. The things that went on there: drilling, murder, torture. The ugliest sort of torture I've ever seen."
According to one soldier with the 69th Armoured Regiment who was deployed in Samarra in 2005 but who doesn't want to be identified: "It was like the Nazis … like the Gestapo basically. They [the commandos] would essentially torture anybody that they had good reason to suspect, knew something, or was part of the insurgency … or supporting it, and people knew about that."
... Neil Smith, a 20-year-old medic who was based in Samarra, remembers what low ranking US soldiers in the canteen said. "What was pretty widely known in our battalion, definitely in our platoon, was that they were pretty violent with their interrogations. That they would beat people, shock them with electrical shock, stab them, I don't know what else ... it sounds like pretty awful things. If you sent a guy there he was going to get tortured and perhaps raped or whatever, humiliated and brutalised by the special commandos in order for them to get whatever information they wanted."
He now lives in Detroit and is a born-again Christian. He spoke to the Guardian because he said he now considered it his religious duty to speak out about what he saw. "I don't think folks back home in America had any idea what American soldiers were involved in over there, the torture and all kinds of stuff."
Through Facebook, Twitter and social media the Guardian managed to make contact with three soldiers who confirmed they were handing over detainees to be tortured by the special commandos, but none except Smith were prepared to go on camera.
"If somebody gets arrested and we hand them over to MoI they're going to get their balls hooked, electrocuted or they're going to get beaten or raped up the ass with a coke bottle or something like that," one said. He left the army in September 2006. Now 28, he works with refugees from the Arab world in Detroit teaching recent arrivals, including Iraqis, English.
"I suppose it is my way of saying sorry," he said.
But as we have seen in all the recent media hoopla around the 10th anniversary of the invasion, none of criminals in charge of the war crime, or the savants who promoted it, or the media sycophants who "stovepiped" the lies of the warmongers to the public, or any member of the political-media elite who by direct or collateral hand were complicit in this war crime have ever apologized for what they have done -- much less been made to suffer the slightest discomfort or inconvenience for it.
As for Steele himself, he left Iraq after helping set up the torture apparatus and went into -- what else? -- the oil business.