Perverts in Power: The Torture-Lovers Who Rule Us

Written by Chris Floyd 10 April 2012 8172 Hits

I.
The ordeal of Fatima Bouchar, detailed by Ian Cobain in the Guardian, exemplifies the vile essence of the 'Terror War' being conducted by United States and its abject satellite, Great Britain, against large swathes of the world's population (including, increasingly, their own people). It is a case of brutal torture against an innocent, defenseless pregnant woman, whose only "crime" was to be married to a man who belonged to an organization which had long been supported by the US and UK -- until the geopolitics of oil made the group expendable. It is a tale of cowardice and cruelty, of hypocrisy and corruption, of deliberate atrocity that exacerbates the extremism it purports to combat. It is the emblem of an evil system ordered, countenanced, championed and protected at the very highest levels of the two governments -- a system that is very much still in operation today.

Bouchar was married to Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a member of a group seeking to overthrow Moamar Gadafy in Libya. For 10 years, members of the group had been given asylum in Britain and other countries. According to credible reports, they were being supported by British intelligence in their efforts to oust the Libyan dictator. Then Gadafy began negotiating his deal with George W. Bush and Tony Blair to open up Libyan oil fields to the West. Suddenly, his enemies became enemies of the West; as in Afghanistan, stalwart "freedom fighters" were transformed into "terrorists" overnight, when the agenda of the West's corporate overlords demanded it. (The same process would be reversed in 2011, after Gadafy had proved less servile than expected.)

At that point, Bouchar and her husband suddenly became bargaining chips in the backroom deal being greased in Washington, London and Tripoli. As proved by secret files and messages unearthed in Libya after Gadafy's fall, Bouchar and Belhaj were offered to Gadafy as a gift from the British, a sweetener to pave the way for his first meeting with Tony Blair -- and for the oil deals that swiftly followed.

Here is what happened to the couple in 2004 when they were detained in Thailand -- site of one of America's innumerable secret prisons -- as they tried to fly to the "friendly" confines of the UK. They were kidnapped by American agents at the behest of British intelligence. As Cobain writes:

Just when Fatima Bouchar thought it couldn't get any worse, the Americans forced her to lie on a stretcher and began wrapping tape around her feet. They moved upwards, she says, along her legs, winding the tape around and around, binding her to the stretcher. They taped her stomach, her arms and then her chest. She was bound tight, unable to move.

Bouchar says there were three Americans: two tall, thin men and an equally tall woman. Mostly they were silent. She never saw their faces: they dressed in black and always wore black balaclavas. Bouchar was terrified. They didn't stop at her chest – she says they also wound the tape around her head, covering her eyes. Then they put a hood and earmuffs on her. She was unable to move, to hear or to see. "My left eye was closed when the tape was applied," she says, speaking about her ordeal for the first time. "But my right eye was open, and it stayed open throughout the journey. It was agony." The journey would last around 17 hours. ...

Belhaj says he was blindfolded, hooded, forced to wear ear defenders, and hung from hooks in his cell wall for what seemed to be hours. He says he was severely beaten. The ear defenders were removed only for him to be blasted with loud music, he says, or when he was interrogated by his US captors.

Bouchar says that when she was dragged away from her husband she feared he was going to be killed. "I thought: 'This is it.' I thought I would never see my husband again ... They took me into a cell, and they chained my left wrist to the wall and both my ankles to the floor. I could sit down but I couldn't move. There was a camera in the room, and every time I tried to move they rushed in. But there was no real communication. I wasn't questioned." Bouchar found it difficult to comprehend how she could be treated in this way: she was four-and-a-half months pregnant. "They knew I was pregnant," she says. "It was obvious." She says she was given water while chained up, but no food whatsoever. She was chained to the wall for five days. At the end of this period she was taped to the stretcher and put aboard the aircraft, unaware of where she was going or whether her husband was on board. At one point the aircraft landed, remained on the ground for a short period and then took off again. Only when it landed a second time did she hear a man grunting with pain, and realise her husband was nearby. ...

Two weeks after the couple were rendered to Libya, Tony Blair paid his first visit to the country, embracing Gaddafi and declaring that Libya had recognised "a common cause, with us, in the fight against al-Qaida extremism and terrorism". At the same time, in London, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell announced that it had signed a £110 million deal for gas exploration rights off the Libyan coast. ...

As we noted here recently, these torture-renditions are by no means at an end. They thrive under the leadership of Barack Obama and David Cameron just as vigoously as they did under Bush and Blair. As Bill Blum put it last week:

Shortly after Obama's inauguration, both he and Leon Panetta, the new Director of the CIA, explicitly stated that "rendition" was not being ended. As the Los Angeles Times reported: "Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States." ...

After Panetta was questioned by a Senate panel, the New York Times wrote that he had "left open the possibility that the agency could seek permission to use interrogation methods more aggressive than the limited menu that President Obama authorized under new rules ... Mr. Panetta also said the agency would continue the Bush administration practice of 'rendition' — picking terrorism suspects off the street and sending them to a third country."

Here, at least, is a promise that Obama has kept.

II.
But why do these tortures go on? (As noted in that previous post, Obama has in no way "ended torture" by American officials; even the official guidelines he has openly approved allow techniques that are torture in every sense of the word.) What is the point of these atrocities? In the vast majority of cases, "terrorist suspects" are the smallest of small fry, even in the eyes of their captors; they are tortured merely to extract some crumb of information from them, some tidbit that might somehow fit into the "mosaic" -- the conceptual tool used by our  intelligence services to weave gigantic, world-threatening conspiracies which can only be thwarted by ever more vast expenditures and arbitrary power for our  intelligence services. As is well known, this interrogation strategy produces mountains of useless crap, which our intelligence "experts" then mold into whatever shape our politicians (and their paymasters) require. It is worse than useless; it is demonstrably counterproductive. It does not enhance "national security." It doesn't even do anything in particular to advance the agendas of our corporate and political overlords, because it throws up too much dust and chaos to be of practical use in plotting their future moves.

So why does it happen? Why are innocent pregnant women wrapped in tape, why are children abducted, why are innocent people strung up in "stress positions," why are captives beaten, bombarded with brain-scrambling noise, stripped naked and sexually humiliated, drugged, deprived of sleep, threatened with murder -- and sometimes murdered in fact? Why is this being done by official representatives of the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom?

Why? Because -- and let us be absolutely clear about this -- because these people want to torture others. They like it, they enjoy it. There is clearly a zest, a psychosexual rush at work. Like child abusers, they enjoy their full, unchallengeable physical power over the bodies of their defenseless victims. They get off on it. They are the moral equivalent of pedophiles, and in any remotely healthy society, they would be treated as such.

And of course we are not talking solely of those doing the hands-on torture. Their bosses are of exactly the same ilk. I refer here to our great and good, our high and mighty, the minsters of state, the cabinet members, the military chieftains, the lords and legislators, the prime ministers, the presidents. All of them are eager participants in this extreme perversity. They love the fact that they can order human beings to be tortured -- to be beaten, trussed up, stripped and probed, drugged, driven crazy. They love how tough it makes them feel. They love how powerful it makes them feel. There should be no mistake about this. Torture is being carried out because our leaders want it to be, because they like it. There are no reluctant torturers -- neither at highest levels nor among the factotums actually doing the deed.

There are no reluctant torturers. This point is important to remember. No one is forced to carry out torture. This is one of the great absolving myths that societies tell themselves when, at some point, their filthy crimes are belched forth and cannot be denied. (This generally happens when their government collapses, either from military defeat or internal rot.) For example, almost no German soldier was ever punished or prosecuted for refusing to take part in Nazi atrocities. The historical record is filled with instances where individual German soldiers or officers refused to join an "aktion" against civilians. They were not court-martialed, imprisoned or killed; they were simply left out of the operation, assigned other duties or transferred to other units. The idea that the soldiers who carried out atrocities did so on pain of death from their tyrannical overlords is just a myth. They did it because they actively wanted to do it -- or saw no reason not to do it.

Now it is also a fact that very few of those who participated in these atrocities would have done so if their leaders had not created the structure and circumstances for the atrocities to occur. The same is true of the Anglo-American torture system in operation today. Over the past 10 years, US and UK soldiers and operatives have been formed into death squads carrying out secret killings in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. They've kidnapped unarmed people (or often just bought them, like slaves, from profiteering locals), and sent them to secret prisons in the American gulag or to torture chambers in cooperative countries -- including, at various times, Gadafy's Libya and Assad's Syria. They have murdered, beaten, sexually abused and psychologically tortured thousands upon thousands of people, very few of whom ever posed even the slightest threat to the United States or Great Britain.

But again, very few of the low-ranking perpetrators of these atrocities would have carried them out if the bipartisan leadership of their countries -- the world's most "advanced" democracies, the self-proclaimed defenders of law, decency, freedom and human rights -- had not very deliberately created the circumstances and the structure for the commission of these crimes. This does not absolve the individual perpetrator from the responsibility for his or her own actions, of course. They were not forced to do something against their conscience. They were not even conscripted into service; they entered it freely. But once presented with the atrocity-bearing situation created by their leaders, they either embraced or accepted the opportunity, with varying degrees of eagerness or indifference. The taint runs throughout the whole system.

III.
This is the reality of our age. What Americans and Britons once refused to do to Adolf Hitler's minions -- torture, abuse, and deprive them of legal rights -- they now do routinely, continually and without shame to people whom they know to be either completely innocent or -- even in the torturers' own estimation -- to be peripheral, unimportant and unthreatening. They are torturing people because they want to do it, because they like to do it.

And the entire political class of both Britain and the United States acquiesce in this. They accept it. They do not denounce the perpetrators and orchestrators and orderers of torture as evil. They do not condemn them and shun them as they would child abusers and murderers. They thunder and bluster over small straws of difference and policy nuances, but they swallow whole the steaming, blood-soaked viscera of Terror War torture. Instead, they prosecute officials and soldiers who try to tell the truth about torture and other atrocities of the Terror War, as Jesselyn Raddack reports here. War crime is now completely normalized in American politics and American society. It's what we do. It's what we are. And we don't care.

Yet everywhere you look -- even in the oh-so-fervent, "we're the good guys," liberal progressive humanitarian blogosphere -- you will see incessant, obsessive coverage of all the minute ins and outs of the political circus: the primaries, the polls, the money, the momentum, the players. Every day -- every hour -- they read the tea leaves and poke through the entrails, hoping to divine what needs to be done so that "our side" wins. Our torturers. Our renditioners. Our abusers of innocent pregnant women. Our beaters and batterers and chainers and killers. We want our man, not their man, to commit the atrocities.

This obscene dynamic is now the essence of the American political process. It is rotten to the core, rotten at the top, rotten to the roots. As we've noted here many, many times before, Henry David Thoreau gave the only possible response that anyone who aspires to a measure of honor can give to the obscenity that engulfs us:

"How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it."

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The Lawless Roads: America's Ever-Expanding Torture Matrix

Written by Chris Floyd 07 April 2012 7034 Hits

In two brief posts over the past week, Scott Horton at Harper's gives us a harrowing sketch of the entrenchment and ever-spreading expansion of the Torture Matrix that now sits enthroned at the very heart of the American state. This entrenchment and expansion has been carried out -- enthusiastically, energetically, relentlessly -- by the current president of the United States: a progressive Democrat and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Horton notes the uncovering of the Zelikow Memo, written by one of the chief factotums of the Bush Administration, Philip Zelikow. While serving as a State Department lawyer in 2006, Zelikow wrote a legal brief that demolished the written-to-order "torture memos" by White House lawyers, which sanctioned the widespread use of torture techniques that were -- and still are -- clearly war crimes. As Horton points out, the Zelikow  did not even address the most brutal tortures instigated by the Bush administration, but confined itself to the so-called 'torture lite' methods (many of which are still in use today). Yet even here, Zelikow clearly demonstrated "that the use of these techniques would constitute prosecutable felonies — war crimes." The existence of the Zelikow memo proves that there was indeed official recognition throughout the highest reaches of government that war crimes were being committed at the order of the White House and the intelligence agencies. Horton goes on:

In order for a prosecution to succeed, a prosecutor would have to show that the accused understood that what he was doing was a crime. In United States v. Altstoetter, a case in which government lawyers were prosecuted for their role in, among other things, providing a legal pretext for the torture and mistreatment of prisoners, the court fashioned a similar rule, saying that the law requires “proof before conviction that the accused knew or should have known that in matters of international concern he was guilty of participation in a nationally organized system of injustice and persecution shocking to the moral sense of mankind, and that he knew or should have known that he would be subject to punishment if caught.”

The Zelikow memo satisfies both of these elements—it makes clear that the techniques the Justice Department endorsed constituted criminal conduct, and it applied the “shock the conscience” test of American constitutional law to help reach that conclusion. It could therefore be introduced as Exhibit A by prosecutors bringing future charges.

Horton also provides a succinct background to the other "torture memos" that Bush attorneys wrote in support of the criminal operation -- a perpetrators' paper trail that is actually much more extensive than is usually known.

This memo has been in the possession of the Obama Administration since its first day in office. It was in the possession of the special prosecutor that Obama's Justice Department appointed to look into the torture system -- a special prosecutor who found that there was nothing to prosecute. Horton writes:

Spencer Ackerman, whose persistence is to be credited for the publication of Zelikow’s memo, astutely pressed its author to answer this question: Why, in light of Zelikow’s findings, did the special prosecutor appointed by Eric Holder to investigate the legality of CIA interrogation techniques fail to bring charges?

“I don’t know why Mr. Durham came to the conclusions he did,” Zelikow says, referring to the Justice Department special prosecutor for the CIA torture inquiry, John Durham. “I’m not impugning them, I just literally don’t know why, because he never published any details about either the factual analysis or legal analysis that led to those conclusions.”

To reiterate: one of the chief insiders of the right-wing Republican Bush White House believes that the war crimes ordered by the Bush White House deserve prosecution. The chief insiders of the progressive Democratic Obama White House believe these war crimes should not be prosecuted.

Then again, why should Barack Obama want to prosecute torture -- when he is successfully arguing for it to be applied not only to the American population at large? In another post, Horton writes of Obama's great success at the Supreme Court: the ruling that allows all Americans to be strip-searched when taken into custody for even the most minor infractions. The purpose of this, as Horton points out, is clearly to humiliate and "break" the citizen -- who is, you might recall, entirely innocent in the eyes of the law at that point. In fact, as Horton notes, the U.S. military itself recognizes the strip search as a torture technique that American pilots might face if captured by heinous rogue states. Horton:

...the Supreme Court has decided on the claim of Albert Florence, a man apprehended for the well-known offense of traveling in an automobile while being black. Florence was hustled off to jail over a couple of bench warrants involving minor fines that had in fact been paid—evidence of which he produced to unimpressed police officers. He was then twice subjected to humiliating strip searches involving the inspection of body cavities. Florence sued, arguing that this process violated his rights.

There is very little doubt under the law about the right of prison authorities to subject a person convicted or suspected of a serious crime to conduct a strip search before introducing someone to the general prison population. But does the right to conduct a strip search outweigh the right to dignity and bodily integrity of a person who committed no crime whatsoever, who is apprehended based on a false suspicion that he hadn’t discharged a petty fine—for walking a dog without a leash, say, or turning a car from the wrong lane? Yes. In a 5–4 decision, the Court backed the position advocated by President Obama’s Justice Department, upholding the power of jailers against the interests of innocent citizens. As Justice Anthony Kennedy reasons in his majority opinion (in terms that would be familiar to anyone who has lived in a police state), who is to say that innocent citizens are really innocent? “[P]eople detained for minor offenses,” he writes, “can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals.” ....

The decision reflects the elevation of the prison industry’s interest in maintaining order in its facilities above the interests of individuals. And it does so by systematically misunderstanding the reasons behind strip searches. Kennedy insists that they are all done for the aim of fostering order, and he backs up this position with exemplary bits of pretzel logic. For instance, he suggests that a person stopped for failing to yield at an intersection may well have heroin taped to his scrotum, and may attempt to bring it into the prison to which he is taken. In advancing such rationales, the Court ignores the darker truth about strip searches: they are employed for the conscious humiliation and psychological preparation of prisoners, as part of a practice designed to break them down and render them submissive.

Just as the Florence decision was being prepared, the Department of Defense released a previously classified training manual used to prepare American pilots for resistance to foreign governments that might use illegal and immoral techniques to render them cooperative. Key in this manual are the precise practices highlighted in Florence. Body-cavity searches are performed, it explains, to make the prisoner “feel uncomfortable and degraded.” Forced nudity and invasion of the body make the prisoner feel helpless, by removing all items that provide the prisoner with psychological support. In other words, the strip search is an essential step in efforts to destroy an individual’s sense of self-confidence, well-being, and even his or her identity. The value of this tool has been recognized by authoritarian governments around the world, and now, thanks to the Roberts Court, it will belong to the standard jailhouse repertoire in the United States.

To reiterate: the Obama Administration vigorously defended the introduction of this authoritarian practice into every place of incarceration in the United States. The fact that this draconian stricture will fall most heavily on African-Americans cut no ice with the historic, epoch-shaking first minority president in American history. (But why should it? By almost every measure -- employment, housing, wealth, poverty programs, community support, voting rights, civil rights, etc. -- African-Americans have been sent reeling backwards by the policies of the Obama Administration.)

Obama has adamantly refused to prosecute clear, credible and copious allegations of war crimes by his predecessor. He is now applying acknowledged torture techniques to the general American population. And as William Blum reminds us in his latest "Anti-Empire Report," Obama is still carrying out torture on a massive, systematic scale in the gulag he commands -- despite the pervasive progressive myth that he has formally ended "torture" in the American system. Blum:

...the executive order concerning torture, issued January 22, 2009 — "Executive Order 13491 — Ensuring Lawful Interrogations" — leaves loopholes, such as being applicable only "in any armed conflict". Thus, torture by Americans outside environments of "armed conflict", which is where much torture in the world happens anyway, is not prohibited. And what about torture in a "counter-terrorism" environment?

One of Mr. Obama's orders required the CIA to use only the interrogation methods outlined in a revised Army Field Manual. However, using the Army Field Manual as a guide to prisoner treatment and interrogation still allows solitary confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, the induction of fear and hopelessness, mind-altering drugs, environmental manipulation such as temperature and perhaps noise, and possibly stress positions and sensory overload. ...

Just as no one in the Bush and Obama administrations has been punished in any way for war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other countries they waged illegal war against, no one has been punished for torture. And, it could be added, no American bankster has been punished for their indispensable role in the world-wide financial torture. What a marvelously forgiving land is America. This, however, does not apply to Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. ...

I'd like at this point to remind my dear readers of the words of the "Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment", which was drafted by the United Nations in 1984, came into force in 1987, and ratified by the United States in 1994. Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

Such marvelously clear, unequivocal, and principled language, to set a single standard for a world that makes it increasingly difficult for one to feel proud of humanity. We cannot slide back.

No exceptions whatsoever -- not even an eternal "War on Terror." This is indeed clear language -- and it is indisputably the law of the land, as the constitutional law professor in the White House well knows. But this no longer means anything. As we noted here a couple of years ago, in an excerpt from a "conversation during Civil War":

"But in days past, I was a lawyer. Yes, a lawyer, can you believe it? It seems … ridiculous now, doesn't it? An orderly system meant to govern human society, to establish justice, to advance the progress and enlightenment of the human race. Yet that system, that civil cosmos – to which I was so passionately committed – embraced and protected the most wretched evils, entrenched the powerful in their unjust privilege, oppressed the poor and weak most relentlessly and wickedly, yet at every step – at every step – sang hosannas to itself as some kind of divinity. The "Law" – oh, what a hush of reverence surrounded that word, how deeply that reverence and respect penetrated the heart. Well, my heart, anyway. But in these last few years we have seen – in intense, concentrated, microscopic view – the truth about the law, a truth which too often escaped us in the slow unrolling of peacetime. The truth that there is no law, no Platonic Form out there to which we give paltry representation. There is only power: power in conflict with power, power seeking to drive out power, to establish its dominance, maintain its privilege. Power…acquiesces to law – sometimes – but it never, never bows to it. Power goes along with the law when it is convenient to do so, when it is not too restrictive, when it demands little more than the occasional sacrifice – for the powerful are certainly not above throwing one of their own to the mob when circumstances require. But when it comes to the crisis, power shreds the law like a filthy rag and has its own way. And then you see that the law is nothing but a rag, to be torn and patched and fitted to power's aims. The worst atrocities I have seen or heard of in this war have been committed wholly and completely under the law. This thing I held in such reverence was, is, nothing but a scrap soaked with blood and shit."

Or, pertaining more directly to the case at hand, and undergirding some of Blum's points, including his insights on rendition, is a piece I wrote in 2011:

There is of course a myth that Barack Obama has "ended" the practice of torture. This is not even remotely true. For one thing, as we have often noted here, the Army Field Manual that Obama has adopted as his interrogation standard permits many practices that any rational person would consider torture. For another, we have no way of verifying what techniques are actually being used by the government's innumerable "security" and intelligence agencies, by the covert units of the military -- and by other entities whose very existence is still unknown. These agencies are almost entirely self-policed; they investigate themselves, they report on themselves to the toothless Congressional "oversight" committees; we simply have to take these organizations -- whose entire raison d'etre is deceit, deception, lawlessness and subterfuge -- at their word. And of course, we have no way of knowing what is being done in the torture chambers of foreign lands where the United States often "outsources" its captives, including American citizens.

Finally, even if the comforting bedtime story of Obama's ban of torture techniques in interrogation were true, there remains his ardent championing of the right to seize anyone on earth -- without a warrant, without producing any evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing -- and hold them indefinitely, often for years on end, in a legal limbo, with no inherent rights whatsoever, beyond whatever narrowly constricted, ever-changing, legally baseless and often farcical "hearings" and tribunals the captors deign to allow them. Incarceration under these conditions is itself an horrendous act of torture, no matter what else might happen to the captive. Yet Obama has actively, avidly applied this torture, and has gone to court numerous times to defend this torture, and to expand the use of this torture ... 

....Murder, cowardice, torture, dishonor: these are fruits -- and the distinguishing characteristics -- of the militarized society. What Americans once would not do even to Nazis with the blood of millions on their hands, they now do routinely to weak and wretched captives seized on little or no evidence of wrongdoing at all. We are deep in the darkness, and hurtling deeper, headlong, all the time.

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Fools Rush In: April Prank Launches Next American War

Written by Chris Floyd 02 April 2012 6381 Hits

Not that anyone cares, but the United States committed itself to yet another war on Sunday -- yes, April Fool's Day -- as the ever-bellicose Hillary Clinton teamed up with the extremist tyrants in Saudi Arabia and other international humanitarians to supply moolah and military materiel to the rebels in Syria.

The self-proclaimed "Friends of Syria" group has now undertaken to pay the salaries of the "Free Syrian Army" and supply the rebel forces, led largely by Islamist factions -- although Western leaders and their parrot-like media still pretend (at least in public) that the armed uprising is aimed at establishing a groovy secular showcase of pluralistic democracy. The fact that sectarian Sunni factions have seized control of the initially unarmed (and largely secular) protests and are now set on a course of "ethnic cleansing" of the Alawite minority, from which much of the regime's ruling class is drawn is, of course, ignored or downplayed by the ubiquitous cheerleaders for Permanent War in our militarist media-political class. To be sure, Alawites are not the only targets; all other "minorities" -- i.e., anyone, including fellow Sunnis, who do not agree with the sectarians' narrow notions -- are also in the cross-hairs of the sectarians as well.

Just before Hillary and the other April Fools played their deadly prank -- a move absolutely guaranteed to lead to more violence and bloodshed -- one of the leading lights of the initial peaceful protests spoke out against the militarization of the resistance to the odious state regime. As AFP reports:

Fadwa Suleiman, an actress who became an icon of Syria's revolution, is furious that her country's peaceful protest movement has been drawn into armed conflict with the regime.She said she is saddened to see that "the revolution is not going in the right direction, that it is becoming armed, that the opposition which wanted to resist peacefully is playing the game of the regime and that the country is heading for sectarian war".

…Suleiman became a high-profile member of the opposition movement last November when she appeared in footage from the rebel city of Homs that was broadcast on the Al-Jazeera television news network.

The 39-year-old actress, well known in her homeland for her work in theatre, films and television, belongs to the same Alawite religious minority as President Bashar al-Assad. She says that a major reason for her participation in the protests was to do her bit to stop any slide into a sectarian war between factions of the Sunni Muslim majority, Alawites or Christians.

…And that is why she is furious that those "who are arming the Syrian street are willing to do anything to take power in the same way that Bashar Al-Aaasad is ready to do anything to stay in power."

But Ms Suleiman will mourn in vain for the peaceful revolution that was lost. The rampant militarization of the conflict suits our imperial managers (and their various satraps, clients and dependents around the world) very well. Secretary Clinton and her boss, the war-waging Peace Laureate -- along with the crocodile tear-shedders in Congress, aching to "liberate" the Syrian people by inflicting mass death upon them -- are not very interested in the relative merits or demerits of the forces involved in the Syrian conflict. They don't care if the rebels are "playing the game of the regime" by helping foment sectarian war. They don't care if more and more innocent people, on both sides, are being killed and dispossessed and tormented by the war. They don't care if the repressive Asad family regime is replaced by a repressive sectarian regime or, as in Libya, by a gaggle of warring factions, as a result of the war.

All they care about, in the end, is the war itself -- or rather, war itself. Wherever they find incipient conflict, they are eager to exacerbate it, sustain it -- and feed upon it. We have seen this over and over in the past decades, from the Iran-Iraq War, to Guatemala, to El Salvador, to Nicaragua, to Kosovo, to Somalia, to Yemen, to the Philippines, to Afghanistan (in 1980 and 2001, both cases being an intervention on one side of an ongoing civil war), to Pakistan, to Libya and now to Syria. Almost invariably, the policies adopted by the imperial managers (of both parties) make the conflicts worse, fomenting extremist resistance and ever-more violent repression: a deadly cycle that benefits no one -- except the "masters of war."

For as Paul Craig Roberts notes, our Potomac Poobahs now preside over a new kind of empire. It doesn't conquer and settle territories, doesn't seek fame and glory -- hell, it doesn't even win most of the wars it fights. But it gets the job done: and the job is "extracting resources" from its own subjects to fill the coffers and expand the perks of the rulers. As Roberts writes:

[In a new book, historian Timothy Parsons] wonders whether America’s empire is really an empire as the Americans don’t seem to get any extractive benefits from it.  After eight years of war and attempted occupation of Iraq, all Washington has for its efforts is several trillion dollars of additional debt and no Iraqi oil.  After ten years of trillion dollar struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Washington has nothing to show for it except possibly some part of the drug trade that can be used to fund covert CIA operations.

America’s wars are very expensive.  Bush and Obama have doubled the national debt, and the American people have no benefits from it. No riches, no bread and circuses flow to Americans from Washington’s wars.  So what is it all about?

The answer is that Washington’s empire extracts resources from the American people for the benefit of the few powerful interest groups that rule America … The US Constitution has been extracted in the interests of the Security State, and Americans’ incomes have been redirected to the pockets of the 1 percent. ...

In the New Empire success at war no longer matters.  The extraction takes place by being at war.  Huge sums of American taxpayers’ money have flowed into the American armaments industries and huge amounts of power into Homeland Security. The American empire works by stripping Americans of wealth and liberty.

This is why the wars cannot end, or if one does end another starts … This truth doesn’t mean that the objects of American military aggression have escaped without cost.  Large numbers of Muslims have been bombed and murdered and their economies and infrastructure ruined, but not in order to extract resources from them.

It is ironic that under the New Empire the citizens of the empire are extracted of their wealth and liberty in order to extract lives from the targeted foreign populations.

And yet another iteration of this sinister process is gearing up in Syria. It has nothing to do with the murderously repressive nature of the Syrian regime. America's chief ally in the Syrian intervention is Saudi Arabia -- a theocratic-autocratic regime that is, by every measure, far, far more repressive than Syria. The Saudi royals ruthlessly -- and violently -- suppress any peaceful protest against their stifling, draconian rule. They have sent troops and weapons and money to murderously repress peaceful protests in neighbouring Bahrain. Yet Secretary Clinton stood proudly with these murderous repressive tyrants this weekend as she outlined their joint plan to ensure the death and suffering of more people in Syria.

Supplying -- much less paying the salaries! -- of an army on one side in a conflict is generally regarded as an act of war. At least, this was the line taken by the United States government when it was dealing with its own armed uprising awhile back and continually threatened massive retaliation against any nation intervening on the side of the rebels. (A story well told in Amanda Foreman's A World on Fire.)

So mark April Fool's Day 2012 in your calendar as the day the United States officially and openly initiated its latest war. Will it succeed in driving the Assad family from its authoritarian perch in Damascus? Will it liberate the Syrian people into a new life of liberty and prosperity? Will it enthrone radical extremists "willing to do anything to take power" and open the door to sectarian slaughter (as in Iraq)? Who cares? The intervention will set cash registers ringing, and that, my fellow subjects, is, as always, the bottom line.

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Gulag Without End, Amen: Obama's Warm Embrace of Rank Injustice

Written by Chris Floyd 23 March 2012 5830 Hits

This week brings another excellent article from Andy Worthington outlining the continuing atrocity of injustice that is the essence of America's "Terror War" gulag. This time, he details the plight of several forgotten captives from Afghanistan condemned to an apparently eternal limbo in the apparently eternal gulag camp at Guantanamo -- despite the fact that great high warlords of the Potomac Empire have actually dropped the (highly specious) charges against some of the men.

Meanwhile, Worthington notes, Washington has been working hard on a deal that would release five top Taliban figures from Guantanamo -- men who in some cases have been credibly accused of atrocities themselves -- as part of a wider effort to negotiate some kind of face-saving exit from the "graveyard of empires." These initiatives have been put on hold for the moment, after the "unfortunate incident" where 17 innocent Afghan civilians were gunned down in cold blood by an American soldier (or, according to some eyewitness accounts, by a group of American soldiers). Once the ritual of pious posturing on both sides is over, the backroom hardball will no doubt begin again. But the innocent small fry in the Guantanamo gulag will remain in darkness.

Worthington writes (see original for links):

What is also of interest, however, as an example of the many distortions engendered by Guantánamo, is the fact that there are 12 other Afghans at Guantánamo — none of whom is regarded as being as significant as the men mentioned above — but who will continue to be held, possibly forever, even if successful negotiations involving their more-significant compatriots resume.

This, sad to say, is a disgrace, as the reasons for the continued detention of the 12 men … are far from compelling. It is clear that, if they had been held in Bagram instead of having been transferred to Guantánamo, they would have been released by now. They include three men who … have lost their habeas corpus petitions — although none of the three can seriously be regarded as a threat.

… The first of the three, Shawali Khan, whose habeas petition was denied in September 2010, was a shopkeeper who seems, quite clearly, to have been falsely portrayed as an insurgent by an informant who received payment for doing so. To add further shame to the ruling, the right-wing judges of the D.C. Circuit Court refused his appeal last September, apparently consigning him to Guantánamo forever.

Next up was Obaydullah (aka Obaidullah), who faces allegations that he “stored and concealed anti-tank mines, other explosive devices, and related equipment”; that he “concealed on his person a notebook describing how to wire and detonate explosive devices”; and that he “knew or intended” that his “material support and resources were to be used in preparation for and in carrying out a terrorist attack.” Despite there being no actual evidence against him, he lost his habeas petition in October 2010.

The third man, Karim Bostan, a preacher and a shopkeeper, was seized on a bus that traveled regularly between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was reported to have been “apprehended because he matched the description of an al-Qaeda bomb cell leader and had a [satellite] phone,” which he had apparently been asked to hold by a fellow passenger, Abdullah Wazir (who was released from Guantánamo in December 2007). Other allegations were made by Obaydullah, who said in Guantánamo that he had made false allegations (and had also falsely incriminated Bostan) while he was being severely abused by U.S. soldiers in Khost and Bagram. Despite that, Bostan’s habeas petition was denied in October 2011.

Those are not the only insignificant prisoners still held. Another poor man, Abdul Ghani, who scavenged for scrap metal, was put forward for a trial by military commission under George W. Bush in 2008. The authorities claimed that he had played a part in attacks and planned attacks as part of the insurgency against U.S. forces, although his lawyers have disputed his supposed involvement. The charges against him were dropped before Bush left office and have not been reinstated, but he remains held, with no end to his detention in sight.

Similar — and still held — is Mohammed Kamin, accused of spying and planting mines, who was put forward for a trial by military commission in March 2008, although that also never materialized; the charges against him were dropped in December 2009.

Regarding those abandoned Afghan prisoners, the most significant development recently was that the case of one of them, Obaydullah, was discussed in an article in the New York Times, in which Charlie Savage realized, as mentioned above,

It is an accident of timing that Mr. Obaydullah is at Guantánamo. One American official who was formerly involved in decisions about Afghanistan detainees said that such a “run of the mill” suspect would not have been moved to Cuba had he been captured a few years later; he probably would have been turned over to the Afghan justice system, or released if village elders took responsibility for him.

Despite that, the Justice Department is still maintaining that he “was plainly a member of an al-Qaeda bomb cell” and is determined to continue holding him, possibly forever. What that gains the United States, at a cost of nearly $800,000 a year, is unclear, unless it is simply to save face. Certainly, anyone with knowledge of the detention situation in Afghanistan and Guantánamo would agree with the U.S. official mentioned above, who explained that, had he been seized at a later date, Obaydullah would have been held in Bagram, and would, by now, have been a free man. Moreover, it is clear that this also applies to most of the other “run of the mill” Afghan prisoners still held.

Apologists for the current manager of this evil system will say, "Oh, Obama tried to close Guantanamo, but those mean old Republicans wouldn't let him." The truth, of course, is that Obama completely and wholeheartedly embraced the gulag system set up by Bush, extending its reach in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and defending it ferociously against all legal challenges. His plan called only for the transfer of Guantanamo's illegally held captives to other facilities, while shutting down the Cuban camp as a meaningless PR gesture.

To the degree that he actually was "thwarted" in this empty plan by the Republicans (and the many Democrats who joined them in opposing it), this was precisely because he wanted to retain and strengthen the gulag principles established by Bush. He wanted to keep these prisoners -- and many others -- in the limbo of "indefinite detention," and perpetuate the arbitrary power to plunge countless others into the system. Thus in many ways, the opponents were correct: if you are going to continue the system of indefinite detention, why not just leave them where they are? Closing one gulag hole doesn't mean anything if you are simply going to transfer prisoners -- many of whom had literally been sold into captivity -- to another hole.

There were several other alternatives; Obama chose -- presumably deliberately -- the one most likely to be blocked. But the Guantanamo captives are military prisoners, held by the military, under military rules. Obama is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces; he could have declared that the system itself was unjust and freed every prisoner who could not be tried for an actual crime in an actual court. (There would have been very few if any of these, of course, as the systematic use of torture, over the course of a long, illegal detention, would have tainted almost all the "evidence" that could be used in court, and rightly so.) Any captive legitimately considered an actual military prisoner under the actual laws of war could have been placed in any one of the hundreds upon hundreds of military bases around the world.

All of this could have been done within the bounds of the existing imperial system itself. It would not have required any kind of unimaginable radical break. It would not have required Obama to be some kind of utopian hero of progressive ideals. It would not have required him to end the Terror War, or stop drone bombing innocent people around the world, or quell the relentless, inexorable spread of the militarized security state into every facet of life. He could have gone on doing all the things that he and his morally lobotomized champions believe make him look "tough." It simply would have been one action that he could have taken within the existing political system which would have mitigated, to some degree, a vast, evil injustice that serves no "security" purpose whatsoever but has demonstrably worsened the security of people all over the world by supplying an endless grist of atrocity to feed the mills of anger that produce violent radicalization.

Of course, Obama would have to have been an entirely different person to pursue even this small degree of mitigation. So it was never going to happen; after all, a man willing to kill his own citizens outside any pretense of the law certainly doesn't care what happens to some unimportant foreigners languishing in his gulag. But the fact remains that it was -- and is -- entirely within his power to resolve these injustices, even within the existing system and the existing political context -- if he wanted to. The story endlessly repeated by his partisans -- that only Republican intransigence prevents him from doing anything about it -- is just a lie.

 

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From Hell to High Water: Drowning the Echoes of the Fight

Written by Chris Floyd 17 March 2012 7457 Hits

Of the personality as a mask;
of character as self-founded, self-founding;
and of the sacredness of the person.

Of license and exorbitance, of scheme
and fidelity; of custom and want of custom;
of dissimulation; of envy

and detraction. Of bare preservation,
of obligation to mutual love;
and of our covenants with language

contra tyrannos.

-- Geoffrey Hill, Scenes From Comus

Just for the hell of it -- in the midst of the clanging, tearing, brutal hell lashing out on every side, in Panjwai, in Kapisa, in Abyan, in Gaza, and countless other places across the earth -- here's a rough sketch of someone hankering to get beyond it all, to a place, somewhere out there, where the 'ragged, chiming voices drown the echoes of the fight....'

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Intervention Blues: The Dangers of Sipping at Militarism's Cup

Written by Chris Floyd 15 March 2012 5551 Hits

I'm so old that I can remember when Juan Cole was a powerful opponent of warmongering Western elites who  pushed "intervention" to bring about "regime change" in Muslim lands. Who can forget his stinging rebuke to that now-departed beater of war drums, Christopher Hitchens, way, way back in the last decade (emphasis Cole's):

All the warmongers in Washington, including Hitchens, if he falls into that camp, should get this through their heads. Americans are not fighting any more wars in the Middle East against toothless third rate powers. So sit down and shut up.

One, two, three, four! We don’t want your stinking war!

Cole goes on, with admirable anger, to provide chapter and verse -- and pictures -- of the horrific consequences and monstrous corruption of the "regime change" operations already in progress in those long-ago days. But now it seems that he has changed his tune on fighting more wars in the Middle East against toothless third rate powers. In a recent post, he mocks those who have resisted launching a "regime change" intervention in Syria:

The world community has failed Syria, just as it failed Rwanda and the Congo, though the human toll in Syria is a fraction of those killed in the African events. Russia and China have used their veto to block any effective United Nations Security Council resolution that might lead to regime change….

Those on the left and in the libertarian movement who stridently condemned Arab League and NATO intervention in Libya (which forestalled massacres like the one we just saw in the Baba Amr district of Homs) have been silent about al-Assad’s predations and clueless as to what to do practically. Perhaps they do not care if indigenous dictators massacre indigenous protesters, as long as there is no *gasp* international intervention.

Here Cole reverts to the standard "Kosovo Gambit" habitually employed by those seeking to justify the machinations of militarism. As we all recall, NATO bombed the hell out of Serbia in order, we were told, to forestall a massacre in Kosovo which hadn't happened yet -- but which NATO leaders knew likely would happen if they … bombed Serbia. So they bombed. And there was a massacre; or rather, two massacres: the predicted one by Serb forces after the NATO bombing -- and the NATO bombing itself, which killed countless civilians and wreaked vast suffering and destruction on civilian areas and infrastructure. [Oddly enough, the worst damage was visited upon the regions in Serbia that were most opposed to rule of Slobodan Milosevic; the NATO bombing essentially destroyed democratic opposition to his authoritarian rule. For a good overview, see Chomsky's The New Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo.]

Likewise, the NATO intervention in Libya, launched, we were told, to forestall widespread civilian deaths, resulted in ... widespread civilian deaths, and a now multi-sided conflict between armed groups who continue to torture and kill civilians, while imposing ever-harsher militarized rule and sectarian strictures.

It is always easy -- dead easy, in fact -- to justify armed "intervention" to prevent massacres that might (or might not) occur. For example, why don't we intervene right now in Iran to forestall those indigenous dictators from massacring indigenous protestors sometime in the near future (as, after all, they have done in the past)? Or to forestall them from massacring Kurdish enclaves if armed conflict erupts in those regions again? Or even to forestall them from massacring Israelis with those atom bombs we hear they could have one day? Why not? Is Cole content to see the deadly repression by Iran's tyrannical regime continue day after day? Should we conclude from this that he does not care if Iran's people are stifled and imprisoned and murdered by the regime, as long as there is no *gasp* international intervention?

But here's a funny thing. Cole has long been -- and still remains -- one of the most passionate voices against "intervening" in Iran to effect "regime change" against a repressive government that has killed its own people and quelled peaceful protests with brutal violence. In Iran's case -- as with his earlier opposition to the "regime change" intervention against the even more odious government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq -- Cole recognizes that letting slip the dogs of war would lead to even more suffering, more death, more chaos and ruin for multitudes of innocent people.

So could it not be that those who *gasp* oppose a death-dealing "regime change" intervention in Syria oppose it for the same reasons that Professor Cole opposes a death-dealing "regime change" intervention in Iran? Is their opposition in this case so dishonorable, while his in the other is so noble? Should their opposition -- which mirrors his in every respect -- be imputed to base motives, to the slanderous implication that they "do not care" about people being killed? After all, I might care deeply about the children being beaten by their bullying father across the street; but that doesn't mean I'd want the police to blow up the entire city block and everyone in it, while arming various factions in the neighborhood to pursue their own conflicts after the bully is gone. (Or install a foster father who also beats the children, but gets along better with the cops.) Yet this is precisely the model of "intervention" to effect "regime change" that we have seen over and over and over again.

Perhaps Cole believes that Syria is a special case for some reason. Fine; he can make that case, and one can agree or not. But why the demonizing rhetoric aimed at those who simply follow the logic of recent history and -- using Cole's own excellent arguments against regime change intervention in Iran and Iraq -- disagree with him about Syria? Why are they cast as unfeeling monsters happy to see people die?  Is not possible that they are decent, caring people with reasonable arguments (his own arguments!) against such operations?

I think we can see here how powerful the poison of militarism is. Take even a small sip -- "just this one time, in this one case; well, maybe that one too, but that's all, really" -- and the taint begins to seep in: the coarsening, the blind spots, the dehumanization of those who don't agree. Cole has been on the receiving end of this -- as shown in the post about Hitchens noted above. Now he dishes it out in his turn. Although it's unlikely he'll drain the poisoned chalice to the dregs as his old enemy Hitchens did, it's still a disheartening development. We can only hope it won't go any further. Perhaps his friends could stage -- what else? -- an intervention.

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Doctor King and the Obama Doctrine: Undoing the Dream of Justice

Written by Chris Floyd 10 March 2012 5628 Hits

An alternative scenario rooted in ghastly reality:

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama today bestowed posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom awards on the "Deep Six" team of national security operatives who carried out the extrajudicial killing of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

"For too long, these heroes have gone unsung," the president said in a Rose Garden ceremony with the surviving widows and children of the six men -- a super-secret team comprised of agents of the FBI, CIA, and Secret Service, along with two Green Berets -- who staged the successful operation at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, more than four decades ago.

"They executed their assignment with professionalism and patriotism, setting a standard that our special ops still follow today in similar actions all over the world," said President Obama. "They were shadow warriors, whose noble mission could not be acknowledged in those tense and turbulent times. But today, we have a better understanding of the hard choices and tough actions that are required to preserve our national security. Today we can openly praise what once was kept hidden. This is the kind of progress that makes America great."

The existence of the Deep Six team only came to light two months ago, after the discovery of a set of mislabeled archival material at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas. The material included tapes and transcripts of the Oval Office meetings of a hitherto unknown "Special Committee on National Security." The members of the Committee were: President Johnson; FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover; CIA Director Richard Helms; National Security Advisor Walter Rostow; Defense Secretary Clark Clifford and his deputy, Paul Nitze; and Deputy Attorney General Warren Christopher, whose boss, Attorney General Ramsey Clark, was considered "a loose cannon" and kept out of the loop of the Committee's deliberations.

On the tapes, members of the Special Committee discuss the "serious national security threat' posed by Dr. King's increasingly strident denunciations of the American war effort in Vietnam and his description of the United States as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

In one meeting, Helms is heard to remark: "This agitator is blatantly and directly giving aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war. He can bring millions of Negroes and misguided whites out onto the streets at any time. He can set our cities on fire, shut down our economy. How long can we live with such an imminent threat to our way of life?" In another, Hoover says that King's organization is "rotten with Communists from top to bottom. There is little doubt he's getting money from Moscow to sponsor all these race riots. We are nursing a viper in our bosom."

Clifford's suggestion of arresting King and trying him for treason was shot down by Rostow: "The Constitution is not a suicide note. Legal niceties must give way to higher priorities. You cannot give an extremist an international platform to spread his poison. And what if he calls on the Negroes to attack the courtroom? There could be a bloodbath." Johnson gave the final order to initiate the operation in February 1968.

During the award ceremony, Obama praised Johnson for making the "gutsy" call. "I can see him now. I've been there myself," Obama said. "He's all alone. This is his decision. Nobody is standing there with him."

"Some people might disagree with that call today," Obama added. "But I'm not here to pass judgement. We must look forward, not back. The President has all the facts, and it is his responsibility to make the necessary decisions to protect national security. The elimination of this credible threat in 1968 was lawful and met the constitutional requirement for due process. As we recognize today, 'due process' and 'judicial' process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.

"And so President Johnson was well within his rights to order the assassination of Martin Luther King -- and the Deep Six team are worthy of these honors for carrying out the president's tough decision with such exemplary dispatch. All that mattered that day was the mission. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example."

After the ceremony, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would be seeking to vacate, posthumously, the convictions of German officials at the Nuremberg Trials after World War II. "As the president wisely said, we have a better understanding of these issues today," said Holder. "We now know that national leaders alone have the power to determine the proper way to confront threats to their nation's security, even if this means the elimination of these threats by extrajudicial methods. Thus any order of a leader pertaining to national security must be deemed legal, and no subordinate should be punished for carrying it out. It is our hope we can restore some measure of justice, however belated, to those who were only acting on the noble principles that guide our policies today."

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The Crime of Truth: Obama's Persecution of the Peacemaker

Written by Chris Floyd 08 March 2012 7021 Hits

If any one person can be said to have ended the direct involvement of the United States military in Iraq, it is not the man whose champions claim this deed as one of his glorious accomplishments: Barack Obama. As we all know (and 99 percent of us have forgotten), Obama fought doggedly to extend the murderous occupation of Iraq into the indefinite future.

No, if you had to choose one person whose actions were the most instrumental in ending the overt phase of the war, it would not the commander-in-chief of the most powerful war machine in world history, but a lowly foot-soldier -- mocked, shackled, tortured, defenseless: Bradley Manning

William Blum points this out in his latest "Anti-Empire Report," as he recaps the impact of the revelations made by Manning and Wikileaks. He begins by noting a painful irony: Manning's own defense team is playing down the heroic nature of this act and instead insisting that such a "sexually troubled" young man should never have been sent to the homophobic environment of the American occupation force in the first place. He was under too much stress, acting irrationally, they say, and thus should not be held accountable for his actions. As Blum notes, this defense -- though doubtless well-intentioned, a desperate bid to keep Obama's massive war machine from crushing Manning completely under its wheels -- partakes of the same deceitful twisting of reality that has characterized the entire war crime from the beginning. Blum:

It's unfortunate and disturbing that Bradley Manning's attorneys have chosen to consistently base his legal defense upon the premise that personal problems and shortcomings are what motivated the young man to turn over hundreds of thousands of classified government files to Wikileaks. They should not be presenting him that way any more than Bradley should be tried as a criminal or traitor. He should be hailed as a national hero. Yes, even when the lawyers are talking to the military mind. May as well try to penetrate that mind and find the freest and best person living there. Bradley also wears a military uniform.

Here are Manning's own words from an online chat: "If you had free reign over classified networks ... and you saw incredible things, awful things ... things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC ... what would you do? ... God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. ... I want people to see the truth ... because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public."

Is the world to believe that these are the words of a disturbed and irrational person? Do not the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Geneva Conventions speak of a higher duty than blind loyalty to one's government, a duty to report the war crimes of that government?

Every scrap of evidence presented about Manning's alleged crimes makes it clear that he was acting from rational, well-considered motives, based on the highest ideals. Indeed, wasn't Manning simply following the words of Jesus Christ -- words carved in stone, with the most bitter irony, in the entranceway of the original headquarters of the CIA: "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

In any case, as Blum points out, the effects of Manning's actions were far-reaching:

It was after seeing American war crimes such as those depicted in the video "Collateral Murder" and documented in the "Iraq War Logs," made public by Manning and Wikileaks, that the Iraqis refused to exempt US forces from prosecution for future crimes. The video depicts an American helicopter indiscriminately murdering several non-combatants in addition to two Reuters journalists, and the wounding of two little children, while the helicopter pilots cheer the attacks in a Baghdad suburb like it was the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.

The insistence of the Iraqi government on legal jurisdiction over American soldiers for violations of Iraqi law — something the United States rarely, if ever, accepts in any of the many countries where its military is stationed — forced the Obama administration to pull the remaining American troops from the country.

If Manning had committed war crimes in Iraq instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today ...

But he is not a free man, of course. It is very likely that he will never be free again. He will spend the rest of his life in a federal prison for the unforgiveable crime of telling the truth to people who don't want to hear it.

NOTE: A tribute to Bradley and his fellow truth-tellers can be found here: The Good Corporal: To the Exposers of Power and the Troublers of Dreams.

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Blue Key, Black Clue: A Truth That Leaves No Trace

Written by Chris Floyd 05 March 2012 4935 Hits

In "honor" of the Russian "elections," here's a song that was born in Moscow. It's a little something of the other side of that history-battered land, something drawn from the strangely compelling spiritual depths that have supercharged and transformed the lives of so many seekers, native-born and alien wanderers: the "immortal communion" of mortal souls as they pass, and touch, in the brief strands of light. Something far away from the blood-soaked, iron-gutted ravagings of power.....

 

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Other People's Blood: New Ground for the Great Oil Game

Written by Chris Floyd 27 February 2012 6231 Hits

A few days ago, UK Prime Minister David Cameron hosted a high-profile international conference on the fate of war-torn Somalia. It seemed a bit incongruous at first. Dave -- the Old Etonian toff turned PR apparatchik turned Slasher-in-Chief of Austerity Britain -- is not exactly renowned for his abiding commitment to the betterment of the kind of folks his illustrious predecessor, Winston Churchill, liked to call the "recalcitrant tribes" who burden the earth with their wearisome presence.

Yet here was Dave -- and yes, one calls him Dave, in token of the hearty, plain-man persona he affects (about as successfully as Mitt Romney) -- emoting his patrician heart out over the need to build a stable future for the people of Somalia. Now is the time for decisive action, Dave declared, to a crowd that included heavy hitters like Hillary Clinton and Bai Ki-Moon: "For two decades politicians in the west have too often dismissed the problems in Somalia as simply too difficult and too remote to deal with. Engagement has been sporadic and half-hearted."

Some Somalis might take issue with that statement. For who can forget (except everybody, that is) the decisive "engagement" that "politicians in the west" inflicted on Somalia just a few short years ago? This would be the Ethiopian invasion and lengthy occupation that was armed, financed, green-lighted and directly assisted by the United States government. The invasion and occupation that killed thousands of innocent Somalis, drove hundreds of thousands into exile, gave rise to vast destruction, social ruin and famine, utterly destroyed the first stable government the country had known for 15 years and fuelled the spread of religious extremism, violent crime and piracy. The invasion and occupation that was accompanied by U.S. bombing raids on fleeing refugees, of U.S. death squads operating in the country, of U.S. agents snatching refugees and "rendering" them back to torture chambers in Ethiopia. The invasion and occupation that was followed -- when the Ethiopians finally tired of their role as imperial proxies -- by further bombing, droning, death-squadding and arms dealing by the Nobel Peace Laureate who took over from his greenlighting predecessor. [For more of this glorious history, see here and here.]

Now, you can call this continual involvement a lot of things -- a war crime, a murder spree, a sick and sinister folly, a sinkhole of war profiteering, a deliberate attempt to foment the unrest and suffering and extremism that it is the lifeblood of the Terror War imperium, which requires chronic instability and fearmongerable threats to justify its existence -- but what you cannot call it is a "sporadic" or" half-hearted" engagement.

So one perused the stories about Dave's big conference and thought: what's this all about? Why now? It all sounds so altruistic, so concerned and compassionate -- so when is the other shoe going to drop?

Well, that Gucci loafer was not long in falling. Three days after the conference ended -- with the proclamation of a grand, bland plan for a "more representative government" to be achieved, in some unspecified fashion, by the warring factions -- the Observer revealed the real impetus behind all the earnest Etonian emoting: "Britain leads dash to explore for oil in war-torn Somalia."

Oil? Oil driving the ruthless geopolitical strategies of western politicians behind a cynical facade of humanitarian concern? Boy, that's a new one! Yet hard as it is conceive of such a thing, it seems to be the case:

Britain is involved in a secret high-stakes dash for oil in Somalia, with the government offering humanitarian aid and security assistance in the hope of a stake in the beleaguered country's future energy industry.

...David Cameron last week hosted an international conference on Somalia, pledging more aid, financial help and measures to tackle terrorism. The summit followed a surprise visit by the foreign secretary, William Hague, to Mogadishu, the Somali capital, where he talked about "the beginnings of an opportunity'' to rebuild the country.

The Observer can reveal that, away from the public focus of last week's summit, talks are going on between British officials and Somali counterparts over exploiting oil reserves that have been explored in the arid north-eastern region of the country. Abdulkadir Abdi Hashi, minister for international cooperation in Puntland, north-east Somalia – where the first oil is expected to be extracted next month – said: "We have spoken to a number of UK officials, some have offered to help us with the future management of oil revenues. They will help us build our capacity to maximise future earnings from the oil industry."

...Somali prime minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said his government had little choice but to entice western companies to Somalia by offering a slice of the country's natural resources, which include oil, gas and large reserves of uranium. "The only way we can pay [western companies] is to pay them in kind, we can pay with natural resources at the fair market value."

Same as it ever was. The poor give up their resources to the rich, who ... keep the resources and make themselves richer. Sure, they kick back a little gravy to the local satraps, arm and train the satraps' security goons to keep the tribes in line, maybe build up their armies for proxy work; but the wealth and benefits of the natural resources run in one direction -- and it's rarely purchased "at the fair market value."

And the resource robbers believe there is sure enough some oil to be had in Somalia. Especially offshore -- where those pesky pirates make maritime mischief. Which is one reason why the United States and others are taking an increasingly militarized line in "securing" the area. The Observer reports:

Last month oil exploration began in Puntland by the Canadian company Africa Oil, the first drilling in Somalia for 21 years. Hashi, who sealed the Africa Oil deal, said the first oil was expected to be extracted within the next "20 to 30 days".

The company estimates there could be up to 4bn barrels (about $500bn worth at today's prices) in its two drilling plots. Other surveys indicate that Puntland province alone has the potential to yield 10bn barrels, placing it among the top 20 countries holding oil. Chinese and US firms are among those understood to have also voiced interest about the potential for oil now that, for the first time in 20 years, the country is safe enough to drill.

Yet it is the extent of oil deposits beneath the Indian Ocean that is most exciting Somali officials. One said the potential was comparable to that of Kuwait, which has more than 100bn barrels of proven oil reserves. If true, the deposits would eclipse Nigeria's reserves – 37.2bn barrels – and make Somalia the seventh largest oil-rich nation.

The seventh biggest pool of oil in the world? No wonder Hillary and Bai came to Dave's party. For our patricians and peace laureates -- and all the other grubsters atop the world's greasy poles -- that's a prize well worth fighting for. With other people's blood, of course.

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Shock Doctrine Uber Alles: Germany's New Greek Colony

Written by Chris Floyd 21 February 2012 6045 Hits

(UPDATED BELOW)

No Stukas, no stormtroopers, just a few strokes of the pen! Patrick Cockburn reports on the significance of Greece's final surrender to the German-led blitzkrieg of bankers that has ravaged the cradle of democracy:

Greeks [signed a deal] with the Eurozone leaders [on Tuesday] that will cede much of their country’s independence. Greece will become an economic – and to a large extent a political – colony of Germany and its allies. Berlin will have a say in everything from the choice of prime minister to the types of medicines dispensed by pharmacies.

In return for €230bn, made up of €130bn in fresh loans and €100bn in write-downs on privately held Greek government bonds, Greece is relieved from its immediate debt burden. But the money does not go to the Greek government, still less to the Greek people. It simply leaves them to live off the money they earn.

After noting the elements of Greek culpability in the making of this morass, Cockburn goes on (italics added):

But there are clearly other motives behind the radical changes now being imposed on Greece. “It is like undiluted Thatcherism forced on the country in a few years,” said one observer in Athens. For instance, the minimum wage is to be reduced by 22 per cent to €522 a month as part of the latest austerity round. The Troika believes this will increase employment, but Greek economists disagree, saying that Chinese or Bulgarian workers will always be paid less. Greeks will not get jobs for the same reason that the Greek merchant navy employs Filipinos below the level of captain and chief engineer. Cutting the pay of poorly paid state employees will also do little for Greece except reduce consumption and increase misery.

…on the back of the austerity program rides a neo-liberal vision of how the Greek economy and society should be run. It sounds and looks very much like what was applied in Russia under Boris Yeltsin after 1992. There will be widespread privatizations; cuts in social security, pensions and state health provision; and wholesale deregulation. Many on the right welcome these reforms. Vagelis Agapitos, a financial consultant in Athens, looks forward to the day when houses, hotels, wind farms and fish farms can be built without any troubling regulations or permits.

Archaeological surveys would be dropped.

Mistah Pericles -- he dead.

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UPDATE: Cockburn follows up with a report on one of the significant factors behind Greece's huge national debt: the private profits of the masters of war.

While most Greeks are critical of the reforms on which the troika of the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank are insisting, many also feel that Germany and France share some of the blame for Greece’s overspending.

Over much of the past decade, Greece – which has a population of 11 million – has been one of the top five arms importers in the world.

Most of the vastly expensive weapons, including submarines, tanks and combat aircraft, were made in Germany, France and the United States.

The arms purchases were beyond Greece’s capacity to absorb, even before the financial crisis struck in 2009. Several hundred Leopard battle tanks were bought from Germany, but there was no money to pay for ammunition for their guns. Even in 2010, when the extent of the financial disaster was apparent, Greece bought 223 howitzers and a submarine from Germany at a cost of €403 million. …

“It is easily forgotten when Greece is criticized that there has been not very subtle pressure from France to buy six frigates,” says Thanos Dokos, director-general of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy. He adds that Greece was unwise to be the first buyer of new weapons systems, such as German submarines, that still had technical glitches.

… The justification for Greece’s large army – 156,000 men compared with 250,000 in the German army – is the perceived threat from Turkey, which requires the Greeks to keep some form of military parity with a nation with seven times as many people.

There has never been a debate in Parliament about the extent to which a Turkish threat really exists.

There is always a "justification" for war profiteering. There is always an "existential threat" that requires a vastly expensive war machine. (Whether the machinery actually works or not is of little importance -- as long as the cash registers are ringing in good order.) And there is never any "debate" about these "threats"; actual facts would just spoil the chowdown at the trough.

 

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