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

Written by Chris Floyd 23 March 2012 6396 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 7912 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 6172 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 6202 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 7655 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 5405 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 6886 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 6596 Hits


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.



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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It's All Right, Ma: It's Life and Life Only

Written by Chris Floyd 19 February 2012 5542 Hits

While washing dishes after the family supper tonight, I was listening, rather idly, to BBC Radio 4, some radio play or dramatization. And suddenly I heard, in passing, what struck me as a very apt description of life itself:

"It felt intimate, surreal and meaningless, all at the same time."

Postscript: Looked it up later; the line came from the dramatization of a story called "The Warrah," by Lucy Catherine.

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Life Lessons From the Afghan Conflict

Written by Chris Floyd 17 February 2012 5949 Hits

This New York Times story provides a clear lesson -- not only for "young Afghans," but for all of us in this increasingly drone-covered world:

Do not, under any circumstances, "move in a tactical fashion."

Or else  the defenders of Western civilization will blast you into bloody goo.

8 Young Afghans Killed in Strike, NATO Acknowledges

... Afghan relatives of those who died and Mohammed Tahir Safi, an adviser to President Hamid Karzai and the leader of the Afghan investigation team, said that those killed were young boys who had taken their sheep and goats to graze outside the village. They were cold and gathered under a rock and lighted a small fire to warm themselves. That was the place where they were struck by bombs. Photographs of the dead shown by Mr. Safi at a news conference this week included some of badly bloodied young boys and a couple of young men who might have been older. The father of one of the boys who was killed said that his son was 12 and that two nephews who were killed were younger. ...

Brig. Gen. Lewis Boone, the NATO spokesman here, said ... [the boys] “appeared to be carrying weapons and heading for nearby mountains. They were moving in open terrain in a tactical fashion and clearly keeping a distance from each other.”

... It is unclear whether NATO pilots were able to see clearly the size of the people they were bombing in the camera footage, and it is also unclear what happened to the weapons the boys were believed to be carrying.

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Fever Dream: The No-Eyed Nightmare of Terror War

Written by Chris Floyd 15 February 2012 6780 Hits

Here's a piece of "imaginative journalism" I published 10 years ago, before the invasion of Iraq. It speaks both to the imagined future of the then-impending war crime -- and to the future of the Terror War era ... a nightmare of history we are still growing into.

The Base

NSA Echelon 33, CentComm: Email monitored 10/22/04. Dispatched DC

Yo, Ed! I’m looking out the window of Watchtower 19 in Force Zone Seven. They’re loading up the dead wagon. Three friendlies, two uncardeds, the usual collateral – and one bug. We zapped the market before the bug got his hard-on – another one of those Czech AK-47 knock-offs that our friendly neighborhood warlord keeps bringing in. He says he doesn’t know how the bugs get hold of them – they drop down from heaven, I guess.

Last night Chrome and Dietrich got clipped by two bugged-up pseudo-friendlies outside the Halliburton whorehouse. They’d just finished three weeks on kryptonite duty, guarding the perimeter where those baby-nuke bunkerbusters went in. It’s still space-suit city over there, your wang wired up to the piss-bag for ten hours while you watch the Pentagon geek squad calibrating the kill ratio and the Guatanamorons in their plastic chains, suitless and bootless, bagging up body parts.

Chrome was telling us how some bug hacker got into the helmet frequency one day and flooded their gourds with Donny Osmond songs. Four hours of it. What could you do? You couldn’t take the helmet off or you’d over-geiger like the morons. Nearly drove them crazy. “And they call it puppy love.” Chrome was crooning, laughing, riding high. He’d just bagged Laila, the one who used to be on TV here – half a week’s pay, but they said get her now because some wheel at CentComm was about to privatize her. Then he stepped outside with Dietrich and was gone.

Four more guys got shipped out this week for going burqa. Bent their knee to the bug god. It’s the damnedest thing. Officially, it’s not happening and there’s no punishment for it either. The Press Office gave us soundbite cards on it for media days: “Faith and freedom go together; each makes the other stronger. The Forces of Liberation welcome all faiths within our ranks.” Non-denial denial. But everybody knows it’s spreading like the clap, and they’ll rotate you back to Homeland or Eurodisney the first time you step inside a mosque.

I guess I can understand it. I mean, personally, I don’t see the point of trading one load of lies and fairy tales for another. But we’re all wading through a cesspit here, you feel it on your skin all the time. You can’t wash it off, you can’t buy it off, you can’t drink it away. For some guys, the bug-god bullshit looks new, pure. However hokey it is, it’s not the same thing that led them into this stinking mire. So they snap, they turn – they shut off their brains and submit. Hell, isn’t that what they teach us to do in basic training? But I feel sorry for the suckers. It’s gonna go hard for them when they realize the bug god is just like all the others: one big rotting empty skull, staring down at you with those black holes, those no-eyes that see nothing and give back nothing.

I tried talking about it with Captain Davis the other night; he’s about the only officer who doesn’t strut around here like a Wal-Mart floor manager among the peons. I’d just come off night patrol in Deep-City Zone, hardcore bugland, backing up some Special Ops doing a Guantanamo run on terrorperp suspects. Banging down doors, barrel in the face of some shrieking bug-woman in her black bag, children scuttling in the dark like rats, the perp calling down an airstrike from Allah on our heads. You know the drill. You know the jangle. Not even the new meds can keep you blanked out completely.

So there’s always the overstep somewhere. Woman’s cheekbone cracking from a backhand, some kid stomped or booted out of the way. Some perp putting his hand in one of those damned dresses they wear, going for who knows what – Koran? Mosquito bite? Scimitar? Czech special? – and you open up. More shrieking, more screaming – and then the splatter on the wall.

Is this what we’re here for? I said to Davis. These bulging eyeballs, these reeking guts, this splatter? And the deals, the grease: the trade in whores, the pipeline siphons, the warlord bribes, CentComm and DefSec and BigVeep cutting their buddies a slice of the pie? Mr. Homeland Headboy talks about Jesus and Jefferson all the time – is this what Jesus really wants us to do? Is this what Jefferson had in mind?

Davis shook his head. Don’t go all Gandhi on us, Jim, he says. Ideals are fine, but you’ve got to make an accommodation with reality. You can’t have civilization without power. Nothing will hold together if you can’t back it up with force. That splatter – those guts – that dead girl in the ditch over there, with the flies and the dogs – that’s what power is. That’s the foundation, the base, of civilization. It ain’t pretty, but I just have to believe that we’re a special nation, and now that we hold this dreadful power, we’ll use it wisely, so that one day we’ll make those ideals real. I’ve got to believe that– because otherwise, Jim, it’s just nothing but crap. Crap, chaos, murder and noise. And what the hell can you build on that?

So that’s the answer then. We’re special. Our grease is special. Our bunkerbusters are special. Our pissbags are special. Our splatter is the most special thing of all.

May No-Eyes have mercy on us all.

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